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James G. Spady

One of thirteen children, Robert Mara Adger was born in Charleston, South Carolina. His father, Robert Adger, was black, and his mother, Mary Ann Morong, was Native American. In 1848 the family moved to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Adger's father first found a job as a waiter in the Old Merchant's Hotel. Later, while working as a nurse, he industriously saved enough funds to open a furniture business. He was involved in many activities and was a founder of the Benjamin Banneker Institute.

Robert Mara Adger received his early training at the Bird School, an early black educational institution in the United States. During his teenage years, he worked in his father's furniture stores, which had expanded from one in 1850 to three by 1858 Serving as a manager provided him with the business experience that he later found valuable as director of the Philadelphia Building and ...

Article

Onita Estes-Hicks

librarian, Harlem Renaissance cultural worker, and playwright, was born Regina Anderson in Chicago, the daughter of Margaret (Simons) Anderson, an artist, and William Grant Anderson, a prominent criminal attorney. She was reared in a black Victorian household in Chicago's Hyde Park district, amply provided for by a father who counted W. E. B. Du Bois, Theodore Roosevelt, and Adlai Stevenson among his friends and clients. Regina attended normal school and high school in Hyde Park, studying later at Wilberforce University and the University of Chicago, and eventually receiving a degree in Library Science from Columbia University's School of Library Science.

The Chicago of her youth and early adulthood struck her as provincial, yet it was flavored by migrants from the deep South and enlivened by the voice of Ida B. Wells whose writings on lynching gave Anderson an understanding of the link between race and violence ...

Article

Georgette Mayo

teacher, librarian, and community leader, was born Ethel Evangeline Veronica Martin in Charleston, South Carolina, the only girl of four children born to Thomas Jerry Martin, a laborer, and Ethel Sinkler Martin, a schoolteacher. Martin's youth was spent in constant transition because of family loss. Her father relocated to Chicago in search of employment and died in a streetcar accident. In 1927 her mother died of natural causes while working at the Fairwold School for Colored Girls in Columbia, South Carolina. Having lost both parents by the age of six, Martin was initially reared by her paternal grandmother, Sara Martin, who was an educator at Saint Simon Episcopal Mission in Peak, South Carolina. Ethel Martin later lived with her aunt, Dora Dillard, a seamstress in Columbia, South Carolina. Both women had a lasting influence on Martin. Her grandmother exposed her to books and Paul Laurence Dunbar ...

Article

Joan Marie Johnson

librarian and clubwoman, was born Susan Dart in Charleston, South Carolina, to the Reverend John Lewis Dart, pastor at Morris Street Baptist Church and Shiloh Baptist Church and editor of the Southern Reporter, and Julia Pierre, a former teacher. Dart was educated at the Charleston Institute, a school run by her father, and at his alma maters, Avery Institute and Atlanta University. She then traveled north to attend McDowell millinery school in Boston, a move which later led her to open the first millinery shop owned by an African American in Charleston when she returned home in 1913. She was successful, employing a number of women and girls and shipping hats to customers in the state and throughout the region. After five years Dart closed the shop and volunteered for the Red Cross during World War I. Following the war, in 1921 she shifted her ...

Article

Dorothy A. Washington

educator, librarian, and activist, was born Doris Hargrett in Hyde Park, Florida, the daughter of Andrew Joshua Hargrett and Delia Leana Green, both educators. Clack was the eighth of nine children born into a nurturing family and in small, tightly knit African American village. The children were “fed a constant diet of positive life-sustaining sense of values,” and she “learned many valuable lessons about community, trust, honesty, love of learning, faith in God” (Clack, 1995). Although her father died when Doris was three, his values of education, hard work, and a can-do attitude were instilled in her and her siblings by their mother. Experiencing economic hardship during the Great Depression, her mother was forced to send Doris to live with her older brother O. V. Hargrett for three years in Plant City, Florida. She rejoined the Hyde Park family at the age of nine.

Upon returning ...

Article

Nicole A. Cooke

pioneering librarian and community advocate, was born in St. Louis, Missouri, the fourth of five children born to Etta James Stanton and Ralph Herbert Stanton. Ralph Stanton worked as an insurance supervisor with several African American insurance companies and was the son of a former slave and grandson of a slave owner in Natchez, Mississippi. Etta James, also the descendant of slaves, was born in St. Geneve, Missouri, and worked as a teacher and amateur pianist and organist. The Stanton family was very close-knit and placed a high priority on education and community involvement. Clara Stanton attended the segregated public schools of St. Louis and went on to attend Milwaukee State Teachers College for a year. She then transferred to Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia, where she graduated with an A.B. degree in English and History in 1934 All five Stanton children graduated from college and ...

Article

Patricia Williamson Nwosu

founder, librarian, and civic leader, was the only child born to Corrina Smith Huston and Rolla Soloman Huston, a businessman and politician in Columbus, Ohio. Lee received her early education in Ohio's public school system. Books were plentiful in the Huston's household; as a youth, Lee learned the value of reading books. This belief helped shape her career in which she encouraged African Americans to become more knowledgeable about their heritage through reading, and provided the means for them to do so.

In 1929 Lee earned a BA degree from Howard University in Washington, D.C. As a student, she developed a keen interest in Howard's African American collection, serving as a library assistant under Edward Christopher Williams. Later, Lee matriculated at Columbia University in pursuit of a library science degree that she received in 1934.

Lee began her career at Shaw University in Raleigh ...

Article

Adebe DeRango-Adem

was born Beatrice Murphy in Monessen, then a booming steel town near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The 1910 U.S. Census records a two-year-old Beatrice Murphy living with her father, Benjamin Murphy, her mother, Maude, and her older brother, Selmo, all of whom are listed as “Negro” in McMahan borough near Monessen. Her mother died that year and by 1914 Beatrice was living in Washington, D.C., where she would spend the rest of her life. Murphy graduated from Dunbar High School—the place where she would publish her first poem—in 1928. She worked as a columnist and book review editor at the Washington Tribune from 1933 to 1935 During this time she was also a regular columnist for the Associated Negro Press and contributed poetry and book reviews to numerous serials and collections Historian Maureen Honey notes that Murphy was evidently married in the 1930s presumably to a man named Campbell and ...

Article

Born in Monessen, Pennsylvania, Beatrice Murphy lived most of her life in Washington, D.C. In 1928 she graduated from Dunbar High School and published her first poem. From 1933 to 1935 she was a columnist and for the next two years an editor at the Washington Tribune. Converting to Catholicism in 1938, she also became book review editor that year for the Afro-American and published her first poetry anthology, Negro Voices. She was also a secretary at Catholic University and part owner of a circulating library and stenography shop. She became a regular columnist for the Associated Negro Press and contributed poetry and reviews to numerous serials and collections. In the 1940s and 1950s she worked for the Office of Price Administration and then the Veterans Administration. In 1954 she was suspended without pay from her job as procurement clerk for supposedly having joined a subversive ...

Article

Charles Rosenberg

journalist, compositor at the Government Printing Office, collector of books and manuscripts on African American history, was born in Louisville, Kentucky, to Charles Henry and Sarah Smith Slaughter. Since Proctor is not his mother's family name, his parents may have chosen to name him after the one-time Kentucky governor of the same name, who died in 1830. Charles Henry Slaughter died when his son was six years old. Slaughter sold newspapers to support himself and his mother. She often heard him read aloud from printed descriptions of slave life, which, having been enslaved at birth, she knew were untrue, and told him so. The existence and frequency of slave uprisings were among the many details she exposed.

Slaughter graduated from Louisville Central High School in keeping with Kentucky law at the time students considered white were sent to other schools He was salutatorian of his class and ...

Article

Dorothy B. Porter

Henry Proctor Slaughter was born in Louisville, Kentucky, the son of Sarah Jane Smith and Charles Henry Slaughter. When he was six years old his father died, leaving his mother with two boys and a girl. He sold newspapers to help support his mother, and as he worked his way through school he became the main support of his family. After graduating as salutatorian from Central High School, he served his apprenticeship as a printer on the Louisville Champion. There he became associate editor with Horace Morris, who in 1894 was deputy grand master of the Prince Hall Masons of Kentucky. Slaughter also began to write feature articles for local daily newspapers.

By 1893 Slaughter was foreman of Champion Publishing Company, and in 1894 he became associate editor of the Lexington Standard. Shortly afterward, as manager of the Standard he was described as making ...

Article

Alma Dawson

Smith was university librarian and William and Camille Cosby Professor in the Humanities at Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee. The author of more than fifty publications, which include books, edited works, contributions to books, articles, and research reports, Smith has been most celebrated for her contributions to African American scholarship and to ethnic studies. In an interview, she indicated that her goal has “always been to develop and enhance black and ethnic studies librarianship.” The pursuit of this endeavor was made evident by the kind of publications and activities that she initiated, pursued, and developed during her professional career. Rich in resources, Fisk University provided Smith with the tools to educate others about the contributions of African Americans. However, Smith felt that one should enhance scholarship wherever one is located.

Jessie Carney was born in Greensboro, North Carolina, one of four children born to James Ampler Carney and Vesona ...

Article

Connie Park Rice

fraternal and community leader, was born in Kanawha County, West Virginia, the son of Lewis Starks, a cooper, and Mary Starks. While attending the public schools in Charleston, West Virginia, Starks worked as a cooper's apprentice, making and repairing wooden barrels, and later worked in shops along the Elk River.

Dissatisfied with the cooper s trade he took a job as janitor in the offices of the Kanawha Michigan Railroad The constant clicking of the telegraph apparatus intrigued Starks so he bought a minimal amount of telegraph equipment to practice on and convinced one of the operators to teach him how to operate it Soon he was taking the place of absent operators becoming the first black telegraph operator for the Kanawha Michigan Railroad A railroad official a Colonel Sharp soon noticed the ambitious young man and employed him to work as a telegraph operator at the ...

Article

Vanessa J. Morris

academic and international librarian, educator, and scholar, was born Thelma Horn to Daniel Horn, a farmer and a minister, and Cora Ingram, a housewife. She was raised in the rural town of Coatopa, Alabama, with her brother Herman Horn and sister Mattie James (née Horn). Tate majored in history, education, and library science to earn her bachelor's degree from Alabama State University in Montgomery in 1957. She received a master's degree in Library Science from the University of Illinois– Urbana Champaign, in 1961. Thelma Horn Tate began her career in education with the Chicago Public Library system, where she directed a K-12 school library during the early days of the civil rights movement. She was head librarian at the Mississippi Valley State University in Itta Bena, Mississippi, before she joined the Rutgers University library system in New Brunswick, New Jersey, in 1970 ...

Article

Mark L. McCallon

librarian, was born in Ennis, Texas, the son of Robert and Jimmie Wedgeworth, who both passed away when he was a teenager. He was raised with his six siblings in Kansas City, Missouri, where he attended the all-black Lincoln High School. During the summers he worked as a library page.

After graduation Wedgeworth received a scholarship to attend Wabash College in Indiana. Although he intended to pursue a career as a language interpreter, Wedgeworth worked as an assistant to the librarian, Don Thompson, whom he found to be an influential role model. After earning a bachelor's degree in English, Wedgeworth enrolled in the master's program in library science at the University of Illinois in 1959. Following graduation in 1961, his first job was as a cataloger at the Kansas City Library. He joined the American Library Association (ALA) in 1962 and helped to create the ...