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Cynthia Hawkins

ceramist, sculptor, filmmaker, and cofounder (with her husband, James Hatch) of the Hatch‐Billops Collection, an archive of African American cultural history, was born in Los Angeles, California, to Lucius Billops, a cook and merchant seaman, and Alma Gilmore, a dressmaker, maid, and aircraft assembly worker. Billops graduated from Catholic Girls High School in 1952, and in 1954 she began her studies at the University of Southern California. She majored in occupational therapy, which included drawing, sculpture, and ceramics. She transferred to Los Angeles State College in 1956 after she became pregnant, and then she changed her major to special education. Billops worked during the day as a bank bookkeeper and maintained a full academic workload in the evening. At the end of 1956 her daughter, Christa, was born, and Billops put her up for adoption. This was an experience she would explore in her 1992 ...

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Rita Kohn

designer, businesswoman, and civic leader, was born Alpha Coles in Lynchburg, Virginia, the youngest of eight children of Alphonso Carroll Coles and Minnie Pugh Coles. Growing up, Blackburn attended a segregated school system, and went on to win a scholarship to Howard University, from which she graduated with honors, attaining a bachelor of arts in Design and a master of fine arts in painting and Art History. In 1964 she moved to Indianapolis, Indiana, with her husband, Walter Scott Blackburn, who had completed his degree in architecture at Howard. She commenced work as a freelance designer of clothing and interiors.

Blackburn's petite figure and radiant good looks created opportunities for her to model, and she accepted a steady job at the prestigious L. S. Ayres & Company in downtown Indianapolis. Concurrently, she hosted a half‐hour daily talk show from 1972 to 1978, Indy Today on WISH ...

Article

architect and civic leader, was born in Indianapolis, Indiana, the son of the Reverend Cleo W. Blackburn, executive director of Flanner House, a social service center for Indianapolis's black community, president of Jarvis Christian College, and executive director and CEO of the Board of Fundamental Education (BFE), which received a national charter in 1954. Cleo Blackburn was born in Port Gibson, Mississippi, the son of a slave. At Butler University he–earned a degree in social work and was ordained a–minister of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). After earning a master's degree in Sociology at Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee, Cleo Blackburn was director of research and records at Tuskegee Institute, Alabama. He returned to Indianapolis in 1936. In 2000 he was recognized posthumously as one of the fifty most influential people of the twentieth century in Indianapolis. Walter Blackburn's mother, Fannie Scott Blackburn a civic ...

Article

Samuel W. Black

photographer and fraternal leader, was born in Kearneysville, West Virginia, the eleventh of thirteen children of Allen Cole, a wagon maker, blacksmith, and carpenter, and Sarah Jenkins Cole. The Cole family numbered among the 4,045 African Americans in Jefferson County, West Virginia's most populous county in 1880. Although he came from a humble background, the elder Cole was able to send some of his children to Storer College in Harpers Ferry, eight miles east of Kearneysville. Allen “Allie” Cole was enrolled at Storer in October 1900, following his older brother Hughes and older sister Lucy, both of whom attended in the early 1890s. The first school of higher education for African Americans in West Virginia, Storer College was founded in Harpers Ferry in 1867 under the condition that it did not discriminate by race gender or color At Storer Cole completed courses in industrial ...

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Donovan S. Weight

entrepreneur, pioneer, and town founder, was born near the Pacolet River in Union County, South Carolina, the son of an enslaved woman named Juda. His paternity is a bit murky, but most evidence points to his owner George McWhorter. Little information exists about the West African–born Juda other than that she had been a slave to the McWhorters since 1775. Oral family tradition holds that although George McWhorter sent Juda to the woods with orders to kill the baby at birth, Juda protected Frank, preserved him, and brought him home alive the next morning. The boy who would become Free Frank spent his-formative years learning how to farm in the backwoods country of South Carolina. At eighteen Frank moved with his owner to a temporary homestead in-Lincoln County, Kentucky. In 1798 George McWhorter bought some farmland in newly formed Pulaski County Kentucky In ...

Article

Steven J. Niven

sharecropper and clubwoman, was born Cora Alice McCarroll in Greenville, Mississippi, the youngest of three children of a slave woman whose surname was Warren and an Ohio born white overseer named McCarroll In the early nineteenth century Gillam s mother and her siblings who were part Cherokee were taken from their mother s home in North Carolina and sold into slavery in Mississippi Interviewed by the Federal Writers Project in the 1930s Gillam recalled that her maternal grandmother left North Carolina and tracked her children to Greenville where she remained Gillam never met her father who died shortly before she was born His early death also denied her the opportunity of the northern education her siblings had enjoyed her brother Tom in Cincinnati and her sister at Oberlin College McCarroll had set aside funds for Cora s education but her mother s second husband a slave named Lee ...

Article

Y. Jamal Ali

trained architect, urban designer, artist, author, musician, and educator, was born Renee Ersell Kemp in Washington, D.C., the only daughter of Reverend Arthur E. Kemp and Ruby E. Dunham. After her parents divorced, she was raised by her mother and her maternal grandparents, who encouraged her early artistic talents through childhood study of piano, violin, and cello. Ruby E. Dunham later married Mohammed Id, a Lebanese neurosurgeon, whose influence provided Reneé with a broad international perspective.

Graduating Theodore Roosevelt High School, Washington, D.C., in 1970, Kemp-Rotan studied architecture at Syracuse University in Syracuse, New York. The recipient of an American Institute of Architects (AIA)/Ford Foundation Minority Scholarship, she became the first black female to earn a degree in architecture at Syracuse, graduating cum laude in 1975. Syracuse exposed her to European design masters, and immersed her in the German Bauhaus ...

Article

Born in Lafayette, Alabama, Sister Gertrude Morgan became an evangelist and moved to New Orleans, Louisiana, in 1939. She took the title “Sister” in the 1950s when, with two other street missionaries, she founded a church and an orphanage.

Morgan began painting in 1956, concentrating primarily on religious visions and biblical scenes. She believed that she was mystically married to Jesus Christ which she symbolized by dressing entirely in white Her paintings frequently depicted her with Jesus as bride and groom often with herself in black before and in white after the marriage As a street preacher Morgan eschewed the formal art world preferring to make folk art with any material at hand including Styrofoam cardboard lamp shades and jelly jars Her work frequently includes calligraphy which communicates a spiritual message or a biblical verse All her inspiration she felt came from God saying He moves ...

Article

Carole Watterson Troxler

slave, entrepreneur, civic leader, and murder victim, probably was born in Alamance County, North Carolina. His mother gave her name as Jemima Phillips; she may have been a member of a free African American family named Phillips who lived in Caswell County, North Carolina, in the early nineteenth century. His father is unknown. Some of Outlaw's contemporaries thought he was the son of Chesley Farrar Faucett, a merchant with agricultural and tanning operations in northern Alamance County who served in the state legislature from 1844 to 1847 and from 1864 to 1865.

The judge and writer Albion Tourgée knew both Outlaw and Faucett and characterized them fictionally in Bricks without Straw (1880 Tourgée depicted Faucett sympathetically as an aged justice of the peace known for kindness as a slaveholder quiet wartime Unionism and cooperation with the Union League during Reconstruction Outlaw ...

Article

Dorothy B. Porter

Patrick Henry Reason was born in New York City, one of four children of Michel and Elizabeth Melville Reason. He was baptized on April 17, 1816, as Patrice Rison. His father, Michel Rison, was from Sainte-Anne, Guadeloupe, and his mother, Elizabeth Melville, was from Santo Domingo (in what is now the Dominican Republic). Patrick's young sister, Policarpe, died in 1818 at age four. His brother Elver (or Elwer) did not attain the prominence that Patrick or his brother Charles Lewis did. All three brothers received their early education at the New York African Free School, established on Mulberry Street by the New York Manumission Society. Patrick Reason's skill as an engraver was recognized at age thirteen when he made an engraving of the African Free School that was printed as a frontispiece of Charles C. Andrews's History of the New York African ...

Article

Theresa Leininger-Miller

printmaker and abolitionist, was born in New York City, the son of Michel Reason of St. Anne, Guadeloupe, and Elizabeth Melville of Saint-Dominique. Reason was baptized as Patrick Rison in the Church of St. Peter on 17 April 1816. While it is not known why the spelling of his name changed, it may have been an homage to the political leader Patrick Henry. While he was still a student at the African Free School in New York, his first engraving was published, the frontispiece to Charles C. Andrews's The History of the New York African Free-Schools (1830). It carried the byline “Engraved from a drawing by P. Reason, aged thirteen years.” Shortly thereafter, Reason became apprenticed to a white printmaker, Stephen Henry Gimber and then maintained his own studio at 148 Church Street in New York where he offered a wide variety of engraving ...

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

J. Deborah Johnson Sterrett

painter and sculptor, was born in Gloster, Mississippi, the fourth of six children to Reverend James W. Washington, a cabinetmaker and an associate minister at the Gloster Baptist Church, and Lizzie, a homemaker. The birth year for Washington has been reported between 1909 and 1911 Washington made a futile effort to obtain a birth certificate and is reported to have rejected the notion of chronological age In the rural segregated town of Gloster Washington endured poverty unequal education and racially fueled terrorism that propelled him into a lifetime fight for social justice As a boy of six he saw his father under threats from the Ku Klux Klan forced to flee town in the trunk of a white friend s car Wasington never saw him again Without his father Washington forged a greater bond with his mother whom he credits for nurturing his natural talents in the ...

Article

Jonette O'Kelley Miller

artist and sculptor, was born on a farm near Frankfort, Ohio. Woodard was the youngest of three children of William P. Ecton. A former slave, he had fought in the Civil War and later became a successful businessman in Ohio and California. Little is known of his wife, Woodard's mother. Several of Woodard's relatives were artists; one of her grandmothers was an expert weaver and a male relation (either her grandfather or uncle) was a sculptor. While Woodard was still an infant, her family moved to Vernon, California. Her passion for studying Africa's history and cultures began at the age of twelve when her family was introduced to a visitor from Africa.

As a student at Polytechnic High School Woodard studied architectural drawing After graduation she found a job in a café and began to experiment with clay in her free time She went on to study sculpture ...