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Article

Christopher Phelps

a Philadelphia radio journalist who became an international icon in debates over race and the death penalty after he was convicted for the murder of a police officer, was born Wesley Cook to Edith and William Cook, migrants from the South. The family subsisted on welfare in the housing projects of North Philadelphia. As a boy Cook read avidly and sought enlightenment, attending services with his Baptist mother and Episcopalian father, then dabbling in Judaism, Catholicism, and the Nation of Islam. When he was about ten years old his father died of a heart attack, prompting him to assume a protective role toward his twin brother, Wayne, and younger brother, William.

The black liberation movement shaped Cook's coming of age. In a 1967 school class in Swahili, a Kenyan teacher assigned him the first name Mumia. In 1968 at age fourteen he and some friends protested ...

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Camille A. Collins

founder of MOVE, an anarchist communal organization active primarily in the Philadelphia area, was born Vincent Leaphart in the Mantua section of West Philadelphia.

Africa served in the Korean War, though little else is known about his early life. In the early 1970s, while working as a neighborhood handyman and dog walker (nicknamed “the dog man”), he began to corral followers. With the assistance of Donald Glassey a white graduate student in sociology at the University of Pennsylvania Africa a third grade dropout compiled the MOVE doctrine in a document known as The Guidelines His group was first known as The Christian Movement for Life later The Movement and finally MOVE Numerous press reports stress the fact that MOVE is not an acronym and therefore the tenets of the group can only be vaguely delineated Responding to this criticism group member Delbert Africa quipped It means what it says ...

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Joshunda Sanders

activist and sole adult survivor of a deadly bombing of a home of the MOVE organization, in one of Philadelphia's black neighborhoods, that killed 11 people and left over 250 people homeless. Africa was born Ramona Johnson in West Philadelphia, where she was raised by her mother, Eleanor Jones, and attended Catholic school from first through twelfth grade. She then attended Temple University, where she graduated with a bachelor's degree in Political Science and an associate's degree in Criminal Justice. In 1976, her last year at Temple, she was hired by Community Legal Services, the state-sponsored legal aid in Philadelphia. There she worked helping tenants with legal issues they had with their landlords, an experience that set the foundation for activism later in her life. “Prior to that I was not active in anything,” Africa said I had a general idea about injustice by police brutality and ...

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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 ...

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Vivian Njeri Fisher

musician and composer, was born in Baltimore, Maryland, to Floyd Bartz, a railroad employee and club owner, and Elizabeth E. Bartz, a club owner. Bartz grew up in West Baltimore during an era when the music scene in that city was thriving. The hub of African American entertainment in Baltimore was found on Pennsylvania Avenue, although there were numerous clubs throughout the city owned by African Americans. At the age of six Bartz heard his first Charlie Parker recording at his grandmother s house Bartz recalled this formative moment Not knowing what the music was what the instrument was or who was playing I thought it was the most beautiful thing I ever heard I said right then I want to do whatever that is Ouellette 31 When Bartz was eleven he began to play the alto saxophone influenced to take up the instrument by his love ...

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Ralph E. Luker

attorney, educator, and civil rights activist, was born in Greensboro, North Carolina, the son of Joe Blackwell and Blanche Mary Donnell. Randolph attended the city's public schools for African Americans and earned a BS in Sociology from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical University in Greensboro in 1949. Four years later he earned a JD degree from Howard University in Washington, D.C. In December 1954 Blackwell married Elizabeth Knox; the couple had one child. After teaching economics for a year at Alabama Agricultural and Mechanical College in Normal, Alabama, Blackwell became an associate professor of social sciences at Winston‐Salem State Teachers College in North Carolina.

Because of Blackwell's legal background, Wiley Branton, the director of the Voter Education Project (VEP), hired Blackwell as its field director in 1962. Secretly encouraged by the Kennedy administration, the VEP was launched in April 1962 with funding from private ...

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Jamason Pestana

policeman and community leader, was born in Corapeake, Gates County, North Carolina to Emilie P. Benton, a homemaker, and John Zebedee Booker, a farmer. He was the third child in a family of seven and attended the local segregated schools in Gates County.

Booker moved to Connecticut in 1926, where he settled in Waterbury in New Haven County. There, in about 1934, he married Addie (maiden name unknown), a woman from South Carolina, and the couple had three children: Ann, Sally, and Cicero Jr. In 1943 Booker was appointed to the City of Waterbury supernumerary police force, an informal black citizen group. By 1946 a committee was formed in the African American community to recruit one of their own to the Waterbury police force. In January 1946 Booker was appointed to the police force as a patrolman He was the first African American police officer ...

Article

Mary A. Waalkes

civil rights and voting rights activist, was born in Savannah, Georgia, the seventh of ten children born to Anna Eliza Hicks and George Platts, the latter of whom owned and operated a wood supply business for years before moving to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and engaging in real estate.

Amelia Platt's childhood was idyllic; she was raised in Savannah and its outskirts in an affectionate middle-class family and community that encouraged her aspirations. She graduated from Tuskegee Institute (later Tuskegee University) in 1927 later adding course work from colleges in Tennessee Virginia and Georgia She briefly taught school in Georgia before being named home demonstration agent for the Dallas County Alabama Cooperative Extension Service In the early 1930s she served alongside Samuel William Bill Boynton who was the county agent for Dallas County The Cooperative Extension Service at that time was segregated by both race and gender in the South ...

Article

Jamal Donaldson Briggs

lawyer, activist, and first African American mayor of Los Angeles. Thomas J. Bradley was born to Lee and Crenner Bradley in Calvert, Texas. The Bradleys moved to Los Angeles in 1924; there his father worked as a porter on the railroad and his mother worked as a maid. His father abandoned the family shortly after they all moved out West.

Bradley excelled in athletics at Polytechnic High School in Los Angeles, serving as captain of the track team and making the all-city football team. Bradley graduated in 1937 and attended the University of California at Los Angeles on a track scholarship. He dropped out during his junior year to join the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) in 1940 as a lieutenant; at the time he was the highest-ranking African American police officer in Los Angeles. In 1941 he married his childhood sweetheart, Ethel Mae Arnold The ...

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SaFiya D. Hoskins

former gang enforcer, social and political activist, was born Wallace Bradley in Chicago, Illinois, the third of eleven children of Wallace Sr. and Eddie Mae Bradley. His father was a general labor foreman, and his mother was a homemaker. Bradley grew up in the Racine Courts housing project on Chicago's Southside in the Morgan Park community made famous by Lorraine Hansberry in her play, A Raisin in the Sun. He earned the moniker “Gator” from close friends and family, after the cartoon character “Wally Gator,” a name he preferred to Wallace. Bradley attended John D. Shoop Elementary School (now John D. Shoop Academy of Math, Science, and Technology) and had early aspirations of becoming an attorney. Upon graduating from Shoop he enrolled at Morgan Park High School, but was expelled in 1968 when, after the assassination of civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. ...

Article

Teishan Latner

radical activist and political exile, was born in segregated Franklin, Louisiana, the son of Cora Mitchell, a cotton picker, and Manson Brent, a laborer and occasional preacher. The young Brent's sister, Elouise, was born little more than a year later, and Mitchell and her children soon moved to Beaumont, Texas. In 1943, when Brent was thirteen years old, he and his mother relocated again, this time to Oakland, California, enticed by the promise of plentiful wartime jobs and less racism.

Oakland proved to be no paradise however and Brent soon became involved in the hardscrabble street life that was the city s other thriving economy Brent s first encounter with the law occurred after some white youths shot at him while he was picnicking in an all white section of Berkeley A judge convicted Brent of beating his assailants and he was sent to a juvenile ...

Article

George White

lawyer, politician, and writer. Born and raised in Woodrow Wilson's Washington, D.C., Edward William Brooke III proved to be a trailblazer who built a legal and political career that exceeded the socially imposed limits on blacks in America. At the height of his career, Brooke represented a social justice wing of the Republican Party that has disappeared. Even in his retirement he continues to be a pioneer as an advocate for cancer detection in men.

Brooke grew up in a middle-class household; his father was a lawyer for the Veterans Administration. Brooke attended the segregated public schools of Washington, graduating from Dunbar High School in 1936 and from Howard University in 1941 Shortly thereafter the U S Army drafted Brooke During his tenure in the military he served with the 366th Combat Infantry Regiment and defended enlisted men in military court cases Following the deployment of ...

Article

Cary D. Wintz

law enforcement officer, mayor, cabinet secretary, and professor. Lee Brown is best known as a high-profile law enforcement officer who held the position of chief of police or its equivalent in four major U.S. cities, served in President Bill Clinton's cabinet as drug czar, and was the first black mayor of Houston, Texas.

Lee Patrick Brown was born in Wewoka, Oklahoma, on 4 October 1937 to Andrew and Zelma Brown, who worked as farm laborers. When Brown was five the family moved to Fowler, California, about ten miles south of Fresno. As a child Brown often joined his parents in the fields, picking crops. But he also stayed in school, and he attended Fresno State University on a football scholarship, studying sociology and criminology.

In 1960 one semester before graduation Brown left college and took a job as a patrolman with the San Jose ...

Article

John Herschel Barnhill

reform police commissioner and politician, was born in Wewoka, Oklahoma, the son of sharecroppers Andrew Brown and Zelma Brown. By the 1940s the Browns were in California, picking grapes, watermelon, and cotton. Lee worked the fields, but he was a high school athlete. An athletic scholarship to Fresno State University and a 1960 Fresno State B.S. in criminology enabled him to pursue police work. He became a San Jose police officer in 1960 even before graduation. In 1964–1965 he was head of the San Jose police union.

He received his M.A. in sociology from San Jose State University in 1964 and became an assistant professor there in 1968, the same year he earned his master's degree in criminology from the University of California, Berkeley. Brown moved to Portland State University in 1968 as chair of the Department of Administration of Justice He received his Ph D from ...

Article

Joseph Wilson and David Addams

a central figure in the civil rights and human rights movement in the United States as an activist, attorney, and scholar. Born in New York City in 1940, William Haywood Burns helped integrate the swimming pool in Peekskill, New York, at fifteen years of age and was a leader in the struggle for human rights and civil rights over the next four decades. He graduated from Harvard College in 1962. As a law student at Yale University, he participated in the 1964 Freedom Summer in Mississippi. He already had authored The Voices of Negro Protest (1963), which critiqued the leadership and mass character of the civil rights movement, and throughout his career he contributed chapters to other books. He was assistant counsel to the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund in the late 1960s. Later he served as general counsel to Martin Luther King Jr.'s ...

Article

Bret A. Weber

law enforcement officer, community organizer, and mayor, was born in Stamps, Lafayette County, Arkansas, but lived most of his life and built his career in the state capital, Little Rock. His mother, Annie Bussey, lived in Stamps, with his father Charlie Bussey, who worked at the local sawmill. A childhood friend of Maya Angelou's, Bussey and his sister, Delvira Bussey, who became a schoolteacher, shared a deep concern for the welfare and future of children. He moved to Little Rock in the 1940s and opened an appliance shop and on 11 October 1945 married Maggie Clark. Though unsuccessful in the appliance business, by 1950 he had become the state s first black deputy sheriff and was later assigned to the prosecuting attorney s office as an investigator As deputy sheriff he founded the Junior Deputy Baseball program and many of those ...

Article

Rose Pelone Sisson

survivor of a lynching attempt, civil rights activist, and founder of America's Black Holocaust Museum, was born in La Crosse, Wisconsin, to James Herbert Cameron, a barber, and Vera Cameron who was employed as a laundress, cook, and housekeeper. At the age of fifteen months, James was the first African American baby ever admitted as a patient to the St. Francis Hospital in La Crosse, where he underwent an emergency operation on the abdominal cavity. By the time James started school, his parents had moved to Birmingham, Alabama, and his parents separated.

When Cameron was sixteen he was living with his mother, two sisters, and grandmother in Marion, Indiana. His stepfather Hezikiah Burden hunted and fished long distances from home so was away from his family most of the time The family lived in a segregated section of Marion Indiana which counted about four thousand blacks among its ...

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Boyd Childress

lawyer, jurist, and ardent civil rights activist who has worked for equal rights since high school. Carter was born in Careyville, Florida, but his family moved to Newark, New Jersey, soon after his birth. When Carter was one year old, his father died, leaving his mother (who worked as a domestic) to raise eight children. As a senior at East Orange High School, Carter successfully ended segregation of the school's swimming pool (a hollow victory as the school closed the pool rather than integrate). Although encounters with racism did not discourage the youthful Carter, he admitted that he was delusional to think that race was irrelevant. Graduating from historically black Lincoln University in 1937 and Howard Law School in 1940, Carter earned a master's degree in law from Columbia (1941). At Howard, Carter met Dean William Hastie who was a mentor to Carter later ...

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Larvester Gaither

Prior to 1955, civil rights activists relied heavily on lobbying and litigation as the primary means of advancing their agenda of social change. Such efforts eventually led to the Supreme Court decision in 1954 in Brown v. Board of Education, which held that the “separate but equal” doctrine from the Plessy v. Ferguson decision of 1896 was unconstitutional. The Brown decision implied that African Americans were entitled to equal access not only in education but also in other areas of public life In response to this ruling however the most racist and virulently violent elements of the South gained influence on the wave of a massive backlash Membership increased dramatically in organizations such as the Ku Klux Klan and White Citizens Councils and state and local governments law enforcement agencies and business communities joined forces to mobilize the white population around the segregated way of life that ...

Article

Daniel Donaghy

lawyer. Johnnie L. Cochran Jr. was born in Shreveport, Louisiana, to Johnnie L. Cochran, an insurance company executive, and Hattie Cochran. The great-grandson of a slave, Cochran grew up in an affluent and loving family that moved to California when his father accepted a position at Golden State Mutual Life Insurance Company. Cochran was an exceptional student in high school as well as at the University of California at Los Angeles, where he earned a bachelor's degree in 1959. While an undergraduate, he sold insurance policies for his father's company to support himself.

In 1963 Cochran graduated from Loyola Marymount University Law School and passed the California bar exam He took his first job as a lawyer that year as a deputy city criminal prosecutor for the city of Los Angeles After two years he joined the private practice of a criminal attorney named Gerald Lenoir before ...