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Alice Bernstein

carpenter, newspaper editor, and state representative during Reconstruction, was born free, of “unmixed African blood,” in New Bern, North Carolina, to Israel B. Abbott and Gracie Maria Green. His father died in 1844, and Abbott was raised by his mother and maternal grandmother, Hannah, the wife of Bristow Rue (Rhew). His mother's second husband was Nelson Brown, with whom she had a daughter, Hannah Cora, and stepsons Samuel H. Brown and George M. Brown. She married her third husband, the Reverend Joseph Green, a Methodist Episcopal Zion Church minister, in 1854. When Abbott was four, his grandmother contributed one dollar toward his education, and he attended a school taught by Mrs. Jane Stevens. He went to school regularly until age ten, when he began serving two years as apprentice to a carpenter, completing his trade with his stepfather, Joseph Green ...

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Allen J. Fromherz

was the first independent Hafsid ruler, or emir, in Tunis. Starting first as governor of Gabes and Tunis, he reigned as sole emir from 1229 to 1249. As emir he claimed a large swath of territory in central North Africa. His independence began when he broke from the Almohad caliph in Marrakech over the role of the Mahdi Ibn Tumart, the religious founder of the Almohad movement and empire that was then in decline. Abu Zakariya Yahya bin Hafs built the foundations for one of the longest-lasting ruling dynasties in the history of North Africa, the Hafsid Almohads. Born in 1203 his family came from the Atlas Mountains of Morocco His grandfather Abu Hafs al Hintati a shaykh or leader from the Hintata Berber Masmuda tribe was a great Almohad second in command to Abd al Muʾmin the first caliph of the Almohads Abu Hafs al ...

Article

Grantley Herbert Adams was born in Government Hill, Barbados, then a British colony. His father, Fitzherbert Adams, was a black man and the head teacher of one of the island's largest primary schools, Saint Giles. His mother, Rosa Frances Adams, was a coloured woman (of mixed African and European descent). By West Indian standards, the Adams family was part of the lower middle class, removed from the endemic poverty that engulfed the disenfranchised black majority.

Like his father, Adams attended Harrisons College, the colony's premier secondary school. In 1919 he won a prestigious island scholarship to Oxford University in England, where he studied law. In England he met intellectuals from the colonized world, many of whom, like himself, had joined the Fabian Society, a socialist movement that supported decolonization and the end of the British Empire. In 1925 Adams returned to Barbados working as a lawyer ...

Article

Nathan Zook

minister, civil rights leader, and member of the Louisiana House of Representatives, was born Avery Caesar Alexander in the town of Houma in Terrebonne Parish, Louisiana, to a family of sharecroppers. The names of his parents are not known. Seventeen years later, his family moved to New Orleans. Avery Alexander maintained an active life there and in Baton Rouge for the next seventy-two years.

Prior to his election to the Louisiana legislature, Alexander was employed as a longshoreman. At the same time, he pursued an education by taking night courses, receiving his high school diploma from Gilbert Academy in 1939. He became politically active by working as a labor union operative for a longshoreman's union, Local 1419. He also held the occupations of real estate broker and insurance agent.

Alexander received a degree in theology from Union Baptist Theological Seminary and became an ordained Baptist minister ...

Article

André Willis

Clifford L. Alexander Jr. was born in New York, New York. He graduated from Harvard University in 1955 and Yale Law School in 1958. Alexander worked on a number of community development initiatives in Harlem, New York, before being appointed to a series of political positions in Washington, D.C., in the 1960s and 1970s.

Alexander served as a National Security Council foreign affairs officer under President John F. Kennedy in 1963. He was appointed to three high-ranking advisory positions between 1964 and 1967, including deputy special counsel to the president, by President Lyndon B. Johnson. In 1967 Johnson named Alexander chairman of the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (EEOC), a position he filled until Richard Nixon took office in 1969.

After a brief return to private practice in Washington D C Alexander resumed a role in public life as host and producer of ...

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André Willis

Born and raised in Philadelphia, Alexander graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1920 and Harvard Law School in 1923, a time when very few African Americans gained admittance to Ivy League schools. Alexander enjoyed a successful career in private practice, directly challenging racism and discrimination and helping end segregation in a number of Philadelphia institutions, before becoming counsel for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).

Between 1933 and 1935 Alexander served as president of the National Bar Association and sought a federal appointment. Although the prevailing racial climate made it difficult for him to break into national politics, Alexander was appointed honorary consul to the Republic of Haiti in 1938. He was considered for an ambassadorship to Ethiopia in 1951, but although he had President Truman's support, he was not confirmed. From 1951 to 1958 Alexander committed himself to ...

Article

Charles Vincent

Allain was born on October 1, 1846, on a plantation in the Parish of West Baton Rouge, Louisiana. A wealthy white man, Sosthene Allain, owned the plantation. Like some other slaveholders, he made one of his slaves, “a pretty brown woman,” his mistress. They had a son, Théophile, who bore the improbable nickname of Soulouque, after the self-proclaimed black dictator of Haiti, Faustin Élie Soulouque. Théophile accompanied his father on trips to the North and to Europe. In 1856 Sosthene Allain sent for his son to join him in France, where he witnessed the christening of the prince imperial at Notre Dame. They journeyed also to Spain and England. Returning to the United States in 1859, young Allain entered school under a Professor Abadie in New Orleans, Louisiana. In 1868 he was enrolled in a private school in New Brunswick New Jersey He owned ...

Article

Johnie D. Smith

Macon Bolling Allen was born A. Macon Bolling in Indiana; the names of his parents and exact date of birth are unknown. He changed his name to Macon Bolling Allen by act of the Massachusetts legislature on 26 January 1844. Details of Allen's early life and education are sketchy and contradictory. His birth name is given in some sources as Malcolm B. Allen, and his birthplace as South Carolina. Evidence suggests that he lived in Maine and Massachusetts as a young man. Maine denied his initial application to the Maine bar because of allegations that he was not a state citizen, but he purportedly ran a Portland business before 1844. It is known that he read law in the Maine offices of two white abolitionist lawyers, Samuel E. Sewell and General Samuel Fessenden and that the latter promoted his admission to the Maine bar in ...

Article

Mary Hughes Brookhart

Born in Columbus, Ohio, Samuel Allen (also known as Paul Vesey) studied creative writing under James Weldon Johnson at Fisk where he graduated magna cum laude in 1938. He received his JD from Harvard in 1941. Until 1968 when he formally left law for literature, he was active in both fields.

He was drafted into the U.S. Armed Services in 1942 and served as an officer, though under the constraints of the segregated system, until 1946. From 1946 to 1947 he was deputy assistant district attorney in New York City. The following year he studied humanities at the New School for Social Research. In 1948 he went to Paris on the GI Bill, and after studying French, studied at the Sorbonne. He was employed variously with the U.S. Armed Forces from 1951 to 1955 as historian claims officer and civilian attorney in Wiesbaden Germany and in ...

Article

Peter Wallenstein

educator and civil rights litigant, was born in Norfolk, Virginia, the son of William Henry “Sonnie” Alston, a drayman, and Mary Elizabeth “Lizzie” Smith, a laundress. The Alstons owned their home, and Melvin grew up in a middle-class environment. After attending Norfolk's segregated black public schools and graduating from Booker T. Washington High School, he graduated in 1935 from Virginia State College, where he was honored for his debating and for excellence in scholarship. Following graduation he began teaching math at Booker T. Washington High School. Beginning in 1937 he served as president of the Norfolk Teachers Association, and he also held local leadership positions in the Young Men's Christian Association and the First Calvary Baptist Church.

Alston played a key role in an effort by black teachers in the Norfolk city public schools to challenge racial discrimination in their salaries. In 1937 the Virginia Teachers Association VTA and ...

Article

Teresa A. Booker

attorney, politician, and diplomat, was born in Louisville, Kentucky. He was the youngest of two children and the only son of Charles W. Anderson Sr., a physician, and Tabitha L. Murphy, a teacher.

Motivated by the high value that his parents placed on education, Charles W. Anderson Jr. entered Kentucky State College at age fifteen and attended from 1922 to 1925. He then transferred to Wilberforce University, one of the earliest universities established for African Americans. Although the reason for Anderson's transfer to Wilberforce University during the penultimate year of his undergraduate career is unclear, it is likely that he, like other black Kentuckians, was forced to pursue higher education outside of the state because of the still-standing Plessy v. Ferguson decision of 1896 authorizing separate but equal educational facilities Higher educational institutions for blacks did not exist in Kentucky and rather than wait for them ...

Article

Charles Vincent

Antoine was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, in 1836. His father was a veteran of the War of 1812; he had fought the British at the Battle of New Orleans. Antoine's mother was a native of the West Indies and the daughter of an African chief; her parents were taken as slaves from the shores of Africa. On his father's side (so the story goes), Antoine's grandmother Rose Antoine was a remarkable woman who purchased her freedom and acquired a small fortune through her work as a midwife.

Caesar C. Antoine spent his childhood in New Orleans and attended private schools. He was fluent in both French and English. After graduating, he entered one of the few occupations open to African Americans in the antebellum South: the barber trade. After federal troops captured Baton Rouge in 1862 Antoine organized a black company known subsequently as Company ...

Article

Sibyl Collins Wilson

lawyer, State Supreme Court Justice, mayor of Detroit, Michigan, and president of the American Bar Association, was born in Detroit to Ernest and Frances Archer, and was raised in Cassopolis, Michigan. Determined to raise himself from poverty, and encouraged by his parents to value education, Archer was steadfast in his studies. He graduated from Cassopolis High School in 1959 and entered Western Michigan University that fall. While attending Western Michigan he pledged Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, the first black collegiate fraternal organization. He graduated in 1965.

Archer had a desire to teach, so he relocated to Detroit and took a position in the Detroit schools teaching and assisting emotionally disturbed students. He met Trudy Duncombe, another young teacher, during this tenure, and they married on 17 June 1967 Although dedicated to education Archer began to prepare himself for another level of public service when he entered ...

Article

Joy Gleason Carew

civil rights lawyer, community activist, editor, and publisher, was born in Winston, North Carolina, the sixth and last son of nine children of Simon Green and Oleona Pegram Atkins. His father was the founder and first president of the Slater Industrial Academy, later known as Winston‐Salem State University. Atkins graduated from the Slater Academy in 1915 and then went to Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee, graduating magna cum laude in chemistry in 1919.

When Atkins obtained his LLB cum laude at Yale University in 1922, he was the first African American to graduate with honors from that institution. While there, Atkins was a member of the debate team and served as a monitor of the Yale Law Library, where he oversaw the indexing of thirty‐one volumes of the Yale Law Journal. In 1921 he was the first African American elected to the editorial board of the Yale ...

Article

Julian Houston

civil rights leader, lawyer, and Boston city councilman, was born in Elkhart, Indiana, the son of Lillie Curry, a domestic, and Norse Pierce Atkins, a Pentecostal minister. At the age of five, he contracted polio. Despite a doctor's insistence that he would require crutches for the rest of his life, three years later he was walking unassisted. He attended a segregated school for the first and second grades until the derelict building collapsed. The City of Elkhart could not afford to replace it. As a result, the city's schools were integrated by default. Despite his infirmity, Atkins was elected student body president at Elkhart High School, played saxophone in the school band, and was chosen for the all-state orchestra. There he met Sharon Soash, whom he married in December 1960 As a result of Indiana s anti miscegenation laws they traveled to Michigan ...

Article

Ron Howell

first African American elected to political office in Brooklyn, New York, and a leader in the mid-twentieth century effort to integrate American tennis, was born on the Caribbean island of Nevis, then part of the British West Indies. His mother was Lillian de Grasse Baker, whose family had successful retail businesses on the island; his father was the Reverend Alfred B. Baker, a Wesleyan Methodist minister.

Tragedy struck in 1900 when Lillian Baker died of consumption. Bertram, an only child, would find comfort in the care of his maternal grandmother, Eliza de Grasse. In 1905 Baker's father left Nevis, accepting an offer to become founding pastor of the Ebenezer Wesleyan Methodist Church in Brooklyn. The Reverend Baker would later also found the Beulah Wesleyan Methodist Church in Manhattan.

In 1915 the Reverend Baker returned to Nevis to pick up his seventeen year old son Bertram who ...

Article

Sheila T. Gregory

radio and television pioneer, Masonic Christian Order founder, ordained Baptist minister, lawyer, community advocate, and business leader, was born on a sharecroppers' farm in Geneva, Kentucky, the son of Richard and Clara Banks, both tenant farmers. In June 1922 Banks graduated from the Lincoln Institute of Kentucky and moved to Detroit, Michigan, where he secured a job at the Dodge automobile main plant. He graduated from Wayne State University in 1926 and the Detroit College of Law in 1929. He briefly opened a criminal law practice, but after two years he discontinued his criminal work and invested in property during the Depression, while helping elect liberal Democrat and future Supreme Court justice Frank Murphy as Detroit's mayor in 1930.

In 1931 Banks was the head of the International Labor Defense League ILDL a legal organization known for defending numerous labor unions which at that time were ...

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Lili C. Behm

politician and civil rights activist, was born in Memphis, Tennessee, the youngest son of Adlena (Gilliam) and Earnest Barbee, the latter a painting contractor and the first African American member of the Tennessee state contractor's union. Lloyd Barbee became involved with the struggle for African Americans’ civil rights when he joined the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in 1937 at age twelve. Though his family lived in poverty in the Depression‐era Jim Crow South, Barbee's father and uncles encouraged him to pursue higher education. After serving in the U.S. Navy from 1943 to 1946, Barbee earned his bachelor of arts degree at Memphis's all‐black LeMoyne College in 1949, and decided to pursue legal studies at the University of Wisconsin–Madison Law School. He had received a scholarship to the school, and sought to leave behind virulent Southern racism.

Though he suspended his studies out ...

Article

David A. Spatz

attorney and journalist. Ferdinand Lee Barnett was born in Nashville, Tennessee, in 1859. His father, born a slave, purchased his freedom and worked much of his life as a blacksmith. The family moved to Canada soon after Ferdinand was born and then to Chicago in 1869. Barnett was educated in Chicago schools, graduating from high school in 1874 with high honors. After teaching in the South for two years, he returned to Chicago and attended Chicago College of Law, later affiliated with Northwestern Law School.

Barnett graduated from law school and was admitted to the Illinois bar in 1878. Rather than immediately practicing law, he founded the Conservator, Chicago's first African American newspaper. The Conservator was a radical voice for justice and racial solidarity as means to equal rights for African Americans. The Conservator also drew national attention to Barnett He served as Chicago ...

Article

Alexander J. Chenault

state legislator, and fifty-eighth mayor of New Orleans, was born Sidney John Barthelemy, the third of six children of Lionel Barthelemy, an insurance businessman, and Ruth Barthelemy, a beautician, in New Orleans, Louisiana. Roman Catholic, he grew up in the largely creole and catholic Seventh Ward section of the city and attended parochial schools—Corpus Christi Elementary School and then, later, St. Augustine High School, where he won the Purple Knight Award recognizing him as the best all-around student in 1960. After high school, he attended the Epiphany Apostolic Junior College in Newburgh, New York, and then entered St. Joseph Seminary in Washington, D.C., where he received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Philosophy in 1967 and pursued graduate study in theology (though he did not finish). While in seminary, he worked summers as a laborer in a stevedoring company. In 1968 Barthelemy married Michaele ...