author and activist, was born in Oglethorpe, Georgia, the daughter of slaves. Details of her life are sketchy. Little is known of her parents or her childhood beyond the date and place of her birth and the fact that she was born into bondage; thus, it is particularly intriguing that in 1870, only five years after the Thirteenth Amendment abolished slavery and one year after Atlanta University opened, seventeen-year-old Octavia was among the 170 students enrolled at that institution. Most of the little we know of her life comes from The House of Bondage (1890), the book that made her famous. From that source we learn that in 1873 she was teaching in Montezuma, Georgia, when she met her fellow teacher A. E. P. Albert. They married in 1874 and had one daughter.Sometime around 1877 Albert s husband was ordained as a Methodist ...
Frances Smith Foster
Steven J. Niven
the first woman executed by electric chair in Georgia, was born in Cuthbert, Georgia, to Queenie Baker, a sharecropper, and a father whose name is unknown. Little is known about her early life. If typical of the African American experience in southwestern Georgia in the early 1900s Baker's childhood was probably one of long working hours and low expectations. Indeed, it was in the debt-ridden and desperate Georgia black belt of the early 1900s that W. E. B. Du Bois discovered the Negro problem in its naked dirt and penury Litwack 114 In an attempt to escape from that world of debt and desperation Baker began working at an early age at first helping her mother chop cotton for a neighboring white family the Coxes Like other black women in the community she also worked as a laundress and occasional domestic for white families in town Despite the legacy ...
Alice Knox Eaton
slave narrator, novelist, playwright, historian, and abolitionist leader, was born in Lexington, Kentucky, the son of a slave mother, Elizabeth, and George Higgins, the white half-brother of Brown's first master, Dr. John Young. As a slave, William was spared the hard labor of his master's plantation, unlike his mother and half-siblings, because of his close blood relation to the slave-holding family, but as a house servant he was constantly abused by Mrs. Young. When the family removed to a farm outside St. Louis, Missouri, William was hired out in various capacities, including physician's assistant, servant in a public house, and waiter on a steamship. William's “best master” in slavery was Elijah P. Lovejoy, publisher of the St. Louis Times, where he was hired out in the printing office in 1830 Lovejoy was an antislavery editor who would be murdered seven years later for refusing ...
William C. Harris
a slave. The identity of his father is unknown, but he took the surname of the man who owned his mother before he was born. His childhood as a slave on a small plantation, first in Virginia, then briefly in Mississippi, and finally in Missouri did not significantly differ, as he later recalled, from that of the sons of whites. This relatively benign experience in slavery perhaps owed a great deal to the fact that he was the light-skinned favorite of a benevolent master and mistress. He shared a tutor with his master's son and thus obtained the education that prepared him for later success. During the Civil War, despite the benevolence of his owner, he fled to freedom in Kansas, but after slavery was abolished he returned to Missouri, where he reportedly established the first school in the state for blacks, at Hannibal.
After the war Bruce briefly attended ...
Faye A. Chadwell
attorney, was born in Atlanta, Georgia, the daughter of the Canadian-born William Alphaeus Hunton, an executive with the Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA), and Addie Waites Hunton, a field worker with the Young Women's Christian Association (YWCA) in Europe. Carter's parents had three other children, but only Carter and her younger brother lived to adulthood. After the race riots of 1906, Carter's family left Atlanta for Brooklyn, New York, where Carter attended public schools. When her mother went to Strasbourg, which was at that time in Germany, to study at Kaiser Wilhelm University from 1909 to 1910, Carter accompanied her.
Carter attended Smith College in 1917, graduating cum laude with a BA and an MA in 1921 Her master s thesis was titled Reform of State Government with Special Attention to the State of Massachusetts Following in her parents footsteps Carter went into public ...
Eunice Roberta Hunton Carter was part of a generation of black women lawyers who actively sought positions of power in white mainstream political and civic leadership. She responded to the call for black women lawyers who would work toward racial justice and the protection of women and children. In the year 2000, the Economic Report of the President, issued each year by the White House, stated that, in her time, Eunice Roberta Hunton Carter was “a trailblazer for expanded labor market opportunities for women and minorities.” Her selection as the first black woman district attorney in the State of New York by New York County District Attorney William C. Dodge made her one of the “twenty against the underworld,” as special prosecutor Thomas E. Dewey called his prosecution team Securing the appointment also made Carter a first among black women lawyers in visible and influential civic social and ...
Abha Sood Patel
educator and humanitarian. Cooper was born Anna Julia Haywood in Raleigh, North Carolina, to Hannah Stanley Haywood and purportedly her master, George Washington Haywood. Cooper was a noted scholar at a young age. In 1868 she received a scholarship to attend Saint Augustine's Normal School and Collegiate Institute, founded to provide education to former slaves and their families. Cooper spent fourteen years at the institute, both as a pupil and as a teacher. She excelled at the humanities, as well as at math and science, and she fought for her right to take “men's” courses, such as Greek. On 21 June 1877 she married the Reverend George A. C. Cooper, her teacher in the Greek theological class. Her marriage barred her from teaching at Saint Augustine's. Her husband died two years later, and she never married again.
In 1880 Cooper won a scholarship to Oberlin College ...
educator, writer, and activist, was born Anna Julia Haywood in Raleigh, North Carolina, to Hannah Stanley, a slave. There is no consensus regarding her father, although he was most likely her mother's owner, Dr. Fabius J. Haywood, or his brother, George Washington Haywood. Anna exhibited a love of books and a gift for learning early in her childhood. Hannah was hired out as a nursemaid to a successful local lawyer, whose family most likely assisted her daughter in learning to read and write. Most important, however, was Anna's mother herself, who although illiterate, encouraged her daughter's education.
In 1867 Anna was one of the first students admitted to St Augustine s Normal School and Collegiate Institute a recently founded Episcopal school for newly freed slaves At age nine she found herself tutoring students older than herself and decided to earn her teaching credentials At St Augustine s ...
Linda M. Perkins
When Fanny Jackson became principal of Philadelphia’s Institute for Colored Youth in 1869, she held the highest educational appointment of any black woman in the nation at the time. While most of her attention, both before and after her marriage in 1881, was given to the institute, she was also active in the African Methodist Episcopal Church, the National Association of Colored Women, and, in later life, as a missionary to Africa.
Fanny Jackson Coppin was born a slave in Washington, DC, in 1837. Her freedom was bought during her early childhood by a devoted aunt, Sarah Orr. Jackson moved to New Bedford, Massachusetts, and, by the early 1850s, to Newport, Rhode Island, to live with relatives. While in Newport, Jackson worked as a domestic in the home of George Henry Calvert, great-grandson of Lord Baltimore settler of Maryland Calvert s wife Mary was ...
Frederick Douglass was more than a great African American leader. He was, in the words of his biographer William S. McFeely, “one of the giants of nineteenth-century America.” He was a man driven by his anger at injustice, McFeely observed, a man who “never ran away from anything”—except the bondage of slavery. Even in that, he took flight not simply to escape but to engage. After gaining his freedom, the former slave turned in his tracks and confronted the institution head-on.
Douglass played a prominent role in nineteenth-century reform movements, not only through his abolitionism but also in his support for women's rights and black suffrage. Unlike many of his contemporaries, he stayed true to his principles, remaining steadfast in his commitment to integration and civil rights. Douglass was militant but never a separatist. He rejected the nationalist rhetoric and latter-day conservatism of black abolitionist Martin Robison Delany ...
Kathleen F. Esmiol
entrepreneur, philanthropist, community activist, and businesswoman, was the fourth of seven children born to Herbert and Mattie Brinson Bragg, tenant farmers in Luther, Oklahoma. Duncan's parents were hard working role models, and she learned the basics of business by watching her father manage a sprawling farm. She also gained organizational skills by helping her mother maintain an active family of nine.
Sadly, Herbert Bragg's untimely death at Thanksgiving in 1926 eventually forced the family to leave Depression-era Oklahoma, and in 1933 they sought opportunity in Colorado Springs Colorado where Duncan attended desegregated schools A focused but gregarious student she participated in extracurricular school activities but to support the family she also waitressed and worked as a housekeeper for a real estate developer Russian Count Benjamin Lefkowsky who recognized her potential and became a mentor Financially unable to pursue her goal of attending Langston College upon ...
Sandra D. Harvey
Jewish businessman, convicted of murder and lynched by vigilantes in Georgia. It is believed that his case contributed to the rebirth of the Ku Klux Klan in 1915.
Leo Max Frank was born in Texas but soon moved with his parents, Rudolph and Rachel Frank, to Brooklyn, New York. After graduating from Cornell University in 1906, Frank apprenticed in his uncle's factory. In 1907 Frank was given a supervisory position with the National Pencil Company in Atlanta, which had a sizable Jewish population. He met Lucille Selig there, and on 30 November 1910 they were married. Frank and his wife lived in an upscale Jewish neighborhood and were prominent members of the Jewish community.
On 27 April 1913, Atlanta police discovered the strangled and possibly raped body of a thirteen-year-old National Pencil Company factory worker, Mary Phagan. Authorities arrested the night watchman, Newt Lee ...
Ryan J. Davis
U.S. Representative, politician, and entrepreneur, was born in Waterbury, Connecticut, the youngest of six children of Richard and Jenary Franks. Richard was a former North Carolina sharecropper with no education beyond the sixth grade. Jenary was a dietary specialist at Waterbury Hospital in Connecticut.
Franks was raised Baptist, but attended Sacred Heart High School, a Catholic school located in the heart of Waterbury. Franks was involved in many extracurricular activities at Sacred Heart. He was an all-New England basketball player and president of his senior class. In 1971 Franks completed high school and then attended Yale University Uncertain about his political views at the time Franks registered as a Democrat like many black Americans in the 1970s Franks continued his involvement in extracurricular activities by joining the Yale basketball team Although he did not receive much playing time until his senior year Franks high score ...
professional football player and entrepreneur, was born in Fort Dix, New Jersey, to an African American father, Cad Harris, and an Italian mother, Gina Parenti. Franco, one of eight children, had three brothers (Mario, Kelly, and Pete, who played safety at Pennsylvania State University in 1977–1978, when he was named a first-team All American, and in 1980) and four sisters (Daniela, Alvara, Marisa, and Luanna). His parents met in Italy near the end of World War II and eventually settled in the United States. Harris was a star running back at Rancocas Valley Regional High School in Mount Holly, New Jersey. Graduating in 1968 Harris attended Pennsylvania State University on a football scholarship As a freshman at Penn State Harris who was 6 feet 2 inches and 220 pounds earned playing time primarily as a ...
Mary Krane Derr
physician and community leader, was born Edith Mae Irby in Conway, Arkansas, to Mattie Irby, a domestic worker, and her husband Robert, a sharecropper. Several childhood experiences—some traumatic—shaped Edith's early choice of medicine as her profession and the relief of racial health disparities as her special focus. When she was only five, an illness rendered her unable to walk for eighteen months. At six she lost her thirteen-year-old sister and almost lost an older brother in a typhoid fever epidemic. She noticed that people who could afford more medical care fared better with the disease. When she was eight a horse-riding accident fatally injured her father.
The year of her father s death a white doctor and his family hired Edith to help care for their eighteen month old child They told Edith that she was highly intelligent and encouraged her to consider a medical career Members ...
Sholomo B. Levy
lawyer, civil rights leader, and corporate executive, was born Vernon Eulion Jordan Jr. in Atlanta, the eldest of two sons of Vernon Jordan Sr., a postal clerk at Fort McPherson, Georgia, and Mary Belle Griggs, proprietor of a catering business, who had a child from a previous union. Jordan was descended from Georgia sharecroppers who had their roots in slavery. His maternal grandfather told young Vernon, “If I could have anything in the world, I'd want to be able to go to the bathroom indoors, in a warm place, one time before I die” (Jordan, 23).
Until the age of thirteen Jordan lived in Atlanta s University Homes the first public housing for black people built in the United States His project as such low income structures would come to be known derived its name from the black college campuses that surrounded it and provided ...
slave, dressmaker, abolitionist, and White House memoirist, was born Elizabeth Hobbs in Dinwiddie County, Virginia, the daughter of Armistead Burwell, a white slaveholder, and his slave Agnes Hobbs. Agnes was the family nurse and seamstress. Her husband, George Pleasant Hobbs, the slave of another man, treated “Lizzy” as his own daughter, and it was not until some years later, after George had been forced to move west with his master, that Agnes told Lizzy the identity of her biological father. While her mother taught her sewing, the skill that would make her name and fortune, it was George Hobbs who first instilled in Lizzy a profound respect for learning. Ironically, it was Armistead Burwell, who repeatedly told Lizzy she would never be “worth her salt,” who probably sparked her ambition to succeed and prove him wrong.
As a young girl Hobbs lived in ...
Robert "Bob" Davis
one of the four North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University freshmen who initiated the sit-in movement in Greensboro, North Carolina, was born Franklin Eugene McCain in Union County, North Carolina, the son of Warner and Mattie McCain. McCain grew up in Washington, D.C., and graduated from Eastern High School in 1959. After graduating, he returned to his native North Carolina to attend college at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University (A&T). During his time as an undergraduate student at A&T, McCain roomed with David Richmond and lived around the corner from Ezell Blair Jr. and Joseph McNeil on the second floor of Scott Hall. These four men challenged public accommodation customs and laws in North Carolina on 1 February 1960 launching a sit in movement that became an important catalyst for much of the modern civil rights movement They decided to sit at an all ...
Gregory S. Bell
corporate executive and lawyer, was born in Brooklyn, New York, the second of five children of Lorenzo Parsons, a technician, and Isabelle Judd. When Richard was five years old, the family moved to a middle-class neighborhood in Queens. He later recalled his father as “intellectual and gentle” and his mother as “full of steely determination and grit” (Clarke, 153). In his childhood, academic excellence was far from Richard's top priority, and at John Adams High School he did well but always with as little effort as possible. Still, his talents propelled him to graduate early, at the age of sixteen. In 1964 he applied to the University of Hawaii primarily because he had been attracted to his Hawaiian-born high school physics lab partner, who had constantly told him stories about the exotic state.
Parsons worked at various odd jobs including at a parking garage and gas company ...
Caryn E. Neumann
Pinckney Benton Stewart Pinchback, who became the first black governor in the United States and the only African American to hold a governorship during Reconstruction, was born in Macon, Georgia, to William Pinchback, a Mississippi plantation owner, and Eliza Stewart, a former slave of mixed ancestry who had been freed just before her son's birth. In 1847 Pinchback and his older brother moved to Cincinnati to attend boarding school. Upon William Pinchback's death, his heirs threatened Eliza with reenslavement, and she fled Georgia to join her sons in Ohio. The family was denied any inheritance and soon found themselves in financial straits.
At the age of twelve with his elder brother unable to cope with the sudden responsibility Pinchback became the chief supporter of his family He worked as a cabin boy on canal boats in Ohio and later as a steward on several Mississippi riverboats He learned the ...