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Article

The history of African Americans in the United States is intimately intertwined with the history of American agriculture. From the colonial era to the early nineteenth century, the labor of African Americans—enslaved ones, specifically—powered American agribusiness, producing crops such as cotton, tobacco, rice, and sugar. Although emancipation ended African Americans’ legal bondage as agricultural laborers, African Americans remained a significant portion of the Americans who made their living by agricultural labor. U.S. census statistics from 1900 through 1954 show that during that time African Americans constituted an average of 28.7 percent of the nation's farm operators. Between 1954 and 1959, the percentage of African American farmers dropped by nearly 9 points. Since 1959 the number of African American farmers—then 265,261—has continued to dwindle until in the early twenty-first century there were only about 15,000 African American farmers remaining, which is less than 0.2 percent of all American farmers.

Article

Ayesha Kanji

entrepreneur, author, and inspirational speaker, was born Wallace Amos Jr. in Tallahassee, Florida, to Ruby (maiden name unknown), a domestic worker, and Wallace Amos a laborer at the local gasoline plant Hard work discipline and religion were the cornerstones of Wally s strict childhood The Christian faith was important to his parents and they took him to church regularly By the age of eight Wally had learned all the books of the Bible In their tight knit black community Friday nights were reserved for community dinners where hearty southern fare was served fried chicken potato salad black eyed peas and collard greens Schooling options for black children were less abundant however so Ruby and several of her Methodist church members started a school which Wally began attending at age ten Wally s entrepreneurial spirit surfaced in his childhood when he started a roving shoeshine stand and ...

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Rebekah Presson Mosby

The colonial period in America was not noted for its fine arts there was little in the way of sculpture and most of the paintings that were made were stiff portraits in the manner of European mostly British art The puritanical spirit that dominated America at the time was not one that nurtured the arts in general Very little if any experimentation went on in any of the arts as most art was regarded as frivolous and a distraction from what was held to be the serious and important business of religion and work Within this context there is evidence that fine art in the form of portraits was made by Africans in colonial America However most of the known artifacts from both slave and free blacks are the work of artisans Some of this work is of exceptionally high quality and it includes just about every imaginable practical and ...

Article

Caroline M. Fannin

Despite gender and race discrimination, and despite the small numbers of black women active in aviation, black women have contributed notably to the encouragement of black Americans’ participation in aviation and to the furtherance of aerospace research.

Article

Oluwatoyin Babatunde Oduntan

Nigerian trade unionist, nationalist, and political leader, was born in Ikenne, Western Nigeria on 6 March 1909. He survived a difficult childhood following the death of his father in 1920 and the breakup of his family and completed schooling by fending for himself. Awolowo worked as a house-help, fetched firewood for sale, apprenticed as a letter writer, and worked as a typist and clerk, teacher, news reporter, contractor, transporter, and produce buyer on the way to studying for a law degree at the University of London between 1944 and 1946. Through this harsh experience, he developed self-reliance and confidence, a fearless and defiant attitude to authority, as well as skills as a community and labor organizer, qualities that were to serve him in good stead as he thrust into the stormy politics of colonial Nigeria.

The 1930s mark the high point of colonial rule in Nigeria British ...

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Article

Tiffany M. Gill

Black is beautiful This familiar cry of the Black Power movement was revolutionary in its celebration of the culture style politics and physical attributes of peoples of African descent Symbols of the black is beautiful aesthetic most notably the Afro not only conjured up ideas about black beauty but also highlighted its contentious relationship with black politics and identity This tension between beauty standards and black politics and identity however did not first emerge in the late twentieth century with the Afro or the Black Power movement In fact blacks particularly black women have been struggling to navigate the paradoxical political nature of black identity and beauty since their enslavement in the Americas Despite this strained relationship black women have actively sought to define beauty in their lives and in the process created and sustained one of the most resilient and successful black controlled enterprises in America the black beauty ...

Article

Gayle T. Tate

When most people, regardless of age, sex, or race, are asked to identify black nationalists, they may mention Marcus Garvey, El Hajj Malik El Shabazz (Malcolm X), or, more recently, Minister Louis Farrakhan of the Nation of Islam. To others, who are aware of the back-to-Africa movements of the late nineteenth century, Bishop Henry McNeal Turner frequently comes to mind. Rarely however, have black women nationalists such as Maria W. Stewart, Mary Ann Shadd Cary, Henrietta Vinton Davis, Audley “Queen Mother” Moore, or Amy Jacques Garvey been recognized for their contributions to the history of the black nationalist movement and ideology Other black women through mass movements political organizations church groups female societies and the early women s club movement fueled the movement s growth at different times in African American history Although African American men were in the foreground of the ...

Article

Hayward Woody Farrar

By the end of the nineteenth century a number of black journalists had learned enough from their predecessors to be able to keep normally short-lived black newspapers running. Among these pioneers were W. Calvin Chase of the Washington Bee, T. Thomas Fortune of the New York Age, John Mitchell of the Richmond Planet, Chris Perry of the Philadelphia Tribune, and John H. Murphy Sr. of the Baltimore Afro-American. As of this writing, two of these papers, the Tribune and the Afro-American, are still in existence.

Article

Barbara C. Behan

For three centuries, Americans of African descent have at times sought to establish communities where they could live in partial or complete isolation from the dominant culture. Settlements of formerly enslaved African Americans existed on the East Coast after the Revolutionary War. All-black settlements also developed among the Seminole Nation in Florida as early as the eighteenth century. As the nation industrialized, segregated company towns also were built in various locations.

The phrase “all-black towns” usually refers to the period of self-segregation and town-building that began after Reconstruction and continued into the early twentieth century. Historians estimate that at least seventy-five to one hundred all-black towns were founded during this time, mainly in the South and the West.

Article

Jim Haskins

entertainer and nightclub operator, was born in Alderson, West Virginia, the daughter of Thomas Smith, a barber, and Hattie E. (maiden name unknown), a domestic worker. Christened Ada Beatrice Queen Victoria Louise Virginia, because her parents did not wish to disappoint the various neighbors and friends who offered suggestions for naming her, Bricktop received her nickname because of her red hair when she was in her late twenties from Barron Wilkins, owner of a nightclub called Barron's Exclusive Club in Prohibition-era Harlem.

Bricktop's father died when she was four, and her mother moved with the children to Chicago to be near relatives. Hattie Smith worked as a domestic in Chicago, and her children attended school. Bricktop showed early musical talent and interest in performing. She made her stage debut as a preschooler, playing the part of Eliza's son Harry in a production of Uncle Tom's Cabin at ...

Article

The broadcast industry in the United States was born in the early 1920s as a result of the mass production of radios. It expanded significantly in the 1950s with the addition of television and has since become a constant presence in American life. From the birth of broadcasting, African Americans have played a vital part in the industry as performers, executives, and consumers.

In the 1920s recorded music found its first widespread audience through airplay on the earliest radio stations. Although jazz music, which was pioneered and usually performed by blacks, was popular at the time, angry whites quickly denounced what they considered to be the decadence and lewdness inherent in the music. As a result, black jazz musicians found themselves receiving less airplay than their white counterparts did—even though these counterparts often performed the same material. Still, African American musicians like Fletcher Henderson, Louis Armstrong, and Duke ...

Article

Founded in 1925 by A. Philip Randolph, the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters (BSCP) was instrumental in securing better wages and hours for the porters of the Pullman Company, but its significance goes beyond such accomplishments. The BSCP became an integral part of the fight for fair employment practices in other industries and helped bring black workers into the realm of organized labor. Under Randolph's leadership, the BSCP became an advocate for civil rights, providing the philosophical seed that bore fruit in the 1963 March on Washington.

The Pullman Palace Car Company was established in 1867 to provide luxurious service to train passengers By the 1920s the company was the largest employer of African Americans in the United States According to historians Pullman favored black men as porters not only because they could be paid less than white men but also because white customers enjoyed being served ...

Article

Thomas Jessen Adams

Organized in New York in 1925, the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters (BSCP) was the largest and most effective predominantly African American union in the years before the civil rights movement. Led by A. Philip Randolph and Milton P. Webster, the BSCP succeeded in becoming the first African American–led union to gain American Federation of Labor (AFL) recognition in 1935 and succeeded in negotiating its first contract in 1937. Through its organizing, the BCSP vaulted many working-class African Americans into relative financial security for the first time and launched the career of Randolph, perhaps the most important civil rights leader between W. E. B. Du Bois and the rise of the Southern Freedom movement, as well as countless other civil rights leaders and organizers.

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Michele Valerie Ronnick

Latinphilologist, school administrator, and educational reformer, was born in Greenville, South Carolina, to Vincent Henry Bulkley and his wife Madora, freeborn African Americans. He was the couple's firstborn son, and as a child he saw his father make important contributions to the establishment of Claflin University in 1869 in Orangeburg, South Carolina. He matriculated at Claflin in 1878 and graduated four years later on 6 June 1882. The school's catalog for the academic year 1881–1882 lists him as the only member of the senior class, and he and Nathaniel Middleton were among the first students that Claflin's college program produced. Prior to graduation he taught Greek, Latin, and German at his alma mater, and from 1886 to 1899 he held the title of professor. He served as secretary of Claflin's faculty in 1895, and from 1896 to 1899 was the school's vice president.

In ...

Article

Ulrich Adelt

rap artist and entrepreneur, was born in Miami Beach, Florida. His father, Stanley Campbell, who emigrated from Jamaica, was a janitor, and his mother, Yvonne Campbell, worked as a beautician. Campbell grew up in the impoverished Liberty City area of Miami and had to share a bedroom with his four brothers. Although his family was relatively stable and able to send his three older brothers to college, Campbell had to learn to survive in a dangerous environment. In a gang-related incident in Campbell's neighborhood, for instance, a fourteen-year-old male shot to death his best friend in 1986. Campbell developed his entrepreneurial skills early on by selling ice cream and lemonade from his mother's kitchen to children from the neighborhood. He went to predominantly white schools on football scholarships and started disc-jockeying for school dances.

Before Campbell became a member of the rap group 2 Live Crew in ...

Article

Carolyn Wedin

naturalist, agricultural chemurgist, and educator. With arguably the most recognized name among black people in American history, George Washington Carver's image is due in part to his exceptional character, mission, and achievements; in part to the story he wanted told; and in part to the innumerable books, articles, hagiographies, exhibits, trade fairs, memorials, plays, and musicals that have made him a symbol of rags-to-riches American enterprise. His image has been used for postage stamps, his name has been inscribed on bridges and a nuclear submarine, and he even has his own day (5 January), designated by the United States Congress in 1946.

Thanks in large part to Linda O. McMurry's 1981 book, George Washington Carver: Scientist and Symbol it is now possible to separate legend from fact and discover the remarkable child youth and man behind the peanut McMurry concludes that Carver ...

Article

Marian Aguiar

In July 1919Chicago, Illinois, erupted in a race riot that left 23 blacks and 15 whites dead, 537 people injured, and more than a million dollars of property damage. One of twenty-five race riots that swept through the country during the “Red Summer” of 1919, the conflict in Chicago was galvanized, as historian William M. Tuttle Jr. pointed out, by “gut-level animosities” between the city's white and black residents, for whom competition for residential housing and good union jobs had inflamed racial tensions.

Between 1910 and 1920, the population of the Black Belt on the South Side of Chicago had almost tripled, while the perimeter of the neighborhood had remained relatively the same. Under the pressure of the Great Migration a mass movement of blacks from the South to the North the conditions and quality of inner city living declined drastically with the black newcomers ...

Article

Class  

Graham Russell Hodges

Class as a factor in the lives of African Americans in the twentieth century created mixed reactions. In a society that in some ways generally regards itself as classless, many Americans regard economic inequality as a social problem that needs fixing—through government programs or, preferably, individual initiative. For African Americans, the massive impact of race and racism seemed to render all blacks victims of white prejudice. W. E. B. Du Bois's dictum that the color line would be the major problem of the twentieth century had the effect of underscoring that African Americans were behind a racial veil apart from white Americans: material conditions made this analysis convincing. Until the late twentieth century, few African Americans could be described as wealthy, and fewer owned the means of production.

By the early twenty first century for the first time there were significant numbers of blacks with money and power In addition ...

Article

Charles L. Hughes

singer, songwriter, producer, and leader of Parliament-Funkadelic, was born in Kannapolis, North Carolina, the eldest of Julia Keaton's nine children. His father's name is unknown, but Clinton had moved to Plainfield, New Jersey, by the time he was a teenager. While straightening hair at a local barbershop, Clinton began singing doo-wop in the back room with a group called the Parliaments. Formed in 1955, they modeled themselves after the hit makers Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers, and they spent the next decade on the competitive R&B circuit. Although they recorded sparingly during this period, the group's repeated trips to Detroit helped Clinton establish himself as a producer and songwriter with the Motown Records subsidiary Jobete. In 1964 the Parliaments themselves signed with Motown, but it was for Revilot Records that the group scored an R&B hit in 1967 with the gospel-drenched “(I Wanna) Testify,” sung by Clinton.In the ...