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Article

Leyla Keough

Mary McLeod Bethune was born near Mayesville, South Carolina. In 1885 she enrolled at Trinity Presbyterian Mission School. With the aid of her mentor Emma Jane Wilson, she moved on to Scotia Seminary in 1888, a missionary school in Concord, North Carolina. There she was given what was known as a head-heart-hand education, which emphasized not only academic but also religious and vocational training. Her dream was to become a missionary to Africa, so Bethune entered the missionary training school now known as Moody Bible Institute. After a year of study she applied for service but was rejected because Presbyterian policy did not permit blacks to serve in Africa.

Following this rejection Bethune began teaching, first in 1896 at Haines Institute in Augusta, Georgia, and a year later at the Presbyterians' Kendall Institute in Sumter, North Carolina. In 1900 Bethune moved to Palatka Florida where she ...

Article

Benjamin Hooks, who was born in Memphis, Tennessee, graduated from Howard University in 1944 and received a law degree from DePaul University in 1948. He later worked as a public defender and a Baptist minister, serving from 1956 into the mid-1990s as a pastor of Memphis's Middle Baptist Church.

Through his legal and ministerial work Hooks became a prominent figure in the Civil Rights Movement and sat on the board of directors of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) from its founding in 1957 until 1977. In 1965 Hooks became the first African American to become a criminal court judge in Tennessee. He was also the first black to sit on the Federal Communications Commission.

In 1977 Hooks became executive director of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) as well as chairman of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights LCCR A nationally ...

Article

Jewel LaFontant-Mankarious expanded the parameters of tokenism to produce tangible effects for women and African Americans. Often the first woman or African American to hold leadership positions in several arenas, LaFontant-Mankarious challenged discrimination as an activist and lawyer and used her legal acumen and negotiating skills to broker deals in corporate America and the world of Republican politics, all while balancing the often difficult responsibilities of career and family.

Born in Chicago, Illinois, to Cornelius Francis and Aida Carter Stradford, Jewel Carter Stradford was the daughter of an attorney father and artist mother who raised their daughter to believe that unlimited possibilities were available to her. Both her grandfather and her father graduated from Oberlin College in Ohio and entered the legal profession. In 1943 Stradford continued the family tradition when she received a BA from Oberlin, and in 1946 she became the first black woman to ...

Article

Kate Tuttle

By the time Juanita J. Mitchell had received her law degree in 1950, she had already spent nearly twenty years working for civil rights on the local and national levels. Born to racially conscious parents—her mother, Lillie Mae Carroll Jackson, was president of the state conference of NAACP branches—Mitchell earned a degree in education from the University of Pennsylvania in 1931. Upon graduation she returned to her native Baltimore to help African Americans struggling with both the economic devastation of the Great Depression and the persistence of Lynching and other racist violence. Hoping to alleviate some of their suffering, Mitchell founded the City-Wide Young People's Forum of Baltimore in 1931 and served as its president until 1934. In 1935Walter White, then executive secretary of the NAACP, recruited Jackson to head that organization's newly created youth program, a position she held until her 1938 ...

Article

Robert Fay

Eleanor Holmes Norton was born in Washington, D.C., and graduated from Yale University Law School. In the 1960s she became active in the Civil Rights Movement, joining the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party. From 1965 to 1970 she was a highly visible lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union in New York City, where she specialized in controversial free speech cases. She represented Vietnam War protesters, Ku Klux Klan members, and politicians, most notably Alabama's segregationist Governor George Wallace, then a presidential candidate who had been denied a permit to hold a rally.

Norton s activist credentials led to her appointment as chair of the New York City s Human Rights Commission HRC in 1970 an agency charged with ending discriminatory practices in the workplace and schools Her seven year HRC record which ranged from reforming workmen s compensation ...

Article

Kennetta Hammond Perry

Eleanor Holmes Norton has established a stellar career as one of the most influential black women in politics in the United States. A tenured professor of law at Georgetown University, she serves in the U.S. House of Representatives as the congressional representative for the District of Columbia. Combining a quest for social justice with a belief in the principles of American democracy, Norton has actively worked to further the struggle for freedom and equality for all Americans.

Born in Washington, DC, to Vela Lynch, a schoolteacher, and Coleman Holmes, a government worker, Eleanor Holmes Norton could never have imagined as a child that one day she would represent her birthplace in national politics. During Norton’s early years, Washington was one of the most vibrant centers of the early civil rights legal campaign, which was led by Howard University-trained lawyers, including Thurgood Marshall Growing up there shaped ...

Article

Robert Fay

Born in Newport News, Virginia, Hazel O'Leary was raised by her father, Russell E. Reid, a physician, and by her stepmother. She earned a B.A. degree from Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee in 1959, and a J.D. degree from Rutgers University Law School in 1966.

From 1974 to 1980, O'Leary worked in the Federal Energy Administration (later part of the Department of Energy), reaching the position of chief of the Economic Regulatory Administration. She worked at her own energy consulting firm from 1980 to 1989. She was president of Northern States Power Company in 1993, when President Bill Clinton appointed her secretary of energy, a position she held until 1996.

In addition to her position as president of O Leary and Associates a consulting firm O Leary also serves as trustee on several boards including those of Morehouse College Africare the AES ...

Article

Donald Payne was born in Newark, New Jersey, and received a bachelor's degree from Seton Hall University in 1957. He was a community affairs executive at the Prudential Insurance Company, and he served as national president of the Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA) in 1970. From 1972 to 1978, Payne was a member of the Essex County Board of Freeholders. He became vice president of Urban Data Systems Incorporated in 1975, and served on the Newark Municipal Council from 1982 to 1988.

Payne made two unsuccessful bids for Congress against incumbent Democrat Peter Rodino in 1980 and 1986. When Rodino retired in 1988, Payne easily won the seat representing New Jersey's Tenth Congressional District. A member of the Congressional Black Caucus, he was reelected to an eighth term in 2002. In 2003 he was appointed a Congressional delegate to ...

Article

Jaime McLean

Edith Spurlock Sampson was the first black woman to serve as a judge in Illinois and the first African American to be appointed to represent the United States at both the United Nations (UN) and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Although her career spanned the globe, she maintained a concern for children’s rights and family welfare. Her commitment to these causes determined the path of her career and defined her professional goals throughout her life.

Sampson was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to Louis and Elizabeth Spurlock Sampson s father worked as a shipping clerk for seventy five dollars a month a sum her mother supplemented by making hat frames and twisting switches of artificial hair Between them Elizabeth and Louis were able to purchase a house and offer a comfortable if not extravagant life for their children Sampson attended Lincoln and Larimer Elementary Schools but took a ...

Article

Lisa Clayton Robinson

Channing Heggie Tobias received bachelors' degrees from Paine College (then Paine Institute) and Drew University. In 1911, he became secretary of the National Council of the Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA) in Washington, D.C. Tobias remained with the YMCA for the next three decades and was a strong ...

Article

After graduating from the New York public school system, Franklin Williams acquired a bachelor's degree from Lincoln University and a law degree from Fordham Law School. Following service in World War II, he worked as an assistant to Thurgood Marshall, then assistant counsel to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), until 1950. Williams served as West Coast director of the NAACP until 1959.

After conducting voter registration dinners that helped elect John F. Kennedy president, Williams was selected to head the African branch of the newly created Peace Corps. Part of his job entailed traveling throughout Africa with Peace Corps director Sargent Shriver to plan the organization's future. His experiences in a wide range of foreign nations primed him for a diplomatic post. In 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson appointed Williams to serve on a delegation to the Economic and ...