civil rights activist, educator, and businesswoman, was born Juanita Odessa Jones in Uniontown, Alabama, the youngest of eight children of Ella Gilmore Jones and Alex Jones Sr., an influential and prosperous black farmer in Perry County, Alabama. When Alabama telephone and electric companies refused to provide service to the Jones homestead, Alex Jones Sr. and his brothers installed their own telephone lines and wired their own homes for electricity. One consequence of the family's financial independence was that Juanita was able to attend boarding school from age five until she graduated from high school in Selma, Alabama, where she had older sisters in attendance at the historically black Selma University. After high school, in 1947 Jones enrolled in Tennessee State University in Nashville, Tennessee, where she majored in business education with a minor in history and social studies. She returned to Alabama after earning a BS in 1951 ...
Alma Jean Billingslea Brown
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 ...
Nell Irvin Painter
Born into slavery in Georgia in 1843 and taken to Louisiana in 1850, Henry Adams exhibited special talents at an early age. He began faith healing as a child, and that gift, together with his enterprising independence, assured him economic self-sufficiency even before his emancipation in 1865.
Immediately after the Civil War (1861–1865), Adams earned money peddling along the roads of Caddo Parish, Louisiana, but he joined the United States Army to escape the slaughter of freedpeople by local whites. Adams served in the 80th Volunteers, the 39th Infantry, and the 25th Infantry. He learned to read and write in the army. Returning to Shreveport, Louisiana, after his discharge in 1869 he found that Southern whites considered Adams and other former soldiers to be corrupting influences black soldiers threatened the uncertain and abusive social order by reading contracts to freedpeople and explaining their new civil ...
Steven J. Niven
emigrationist leader, was born Henry Houston in Newton County, Georgia, to enslaved parents whose names are not now known. Most of what is known of Henry Adams's personal life is derived from testimony he offered in 1880 to the United States Senate during a government investigation of the causes of mass African American emigration from the former states of the Confederacy.
Henry was given the surname Adams when a planter of that name brought him and his family to Desoto Parish, Louisiana, in 1850. He used that surname for the rest of his life. Upon the planter's death eight years later ownership of Henry and his family was transferred to a teenage girl, Nancy Emily Adams who hired the family out to various plantations near the Texas Louisiana border Laboring alongside his father on the plantation of a man named Ferguson in Logansport Louisiana Henry Adams was ...
Mary T. Henry
bishop, civil rights leader, and educator, was born in Columbia, South Carolina, to Rev. Eugene Avery Adams and Charity Nash Adams. He and his three siblings, Avery, Charity, and Lucy Rose, were raised in a spiritual and intellectually stimulating home. His father, an African Methodist Episcopal (AME) minister and social activist, in the 1920s organized the first African American bank in Columbia and the first modern statewide civil rights organization in South Carolina. None of these activities went unnoticed by young John and they helped to define his later focus and commitments. Adams was educated in the segregated Columbia school system and graduated from Booker T. Washington High School. His undergraduate work was completed at Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte, North Carolina, where he earned an AB degree in History in 1947 After studying at Boston University School of Theology he received a bachelor of ...
Somali novelist, short story writer, critic, journalist, and founder of cultural and literary journals and institutions, was born in Jarriiban, Mudug region, Somalia, in 1952. His name is also given as Mohamed Dahir Afrah and Maxamed Daahir Afrax. He graduated from high school in Mogadishu in 1973. When the Siad Barre government introduced the first official orthography for the Somali language in 1972, Afrax founded the first bilingual Somali-Arabic monthly magazine using the new script, Codka Jubba (“The Voice of Jubba,” 1972–1975). In 1976, Afrax’s story “Guur-ku-sheeg” (“Pseudo-marriage”) was serialized in the Somali national newspaper Xiddigta Oktoobar (“The October Star”), laying the basis for a lasting literary tradition of serialized fiction.
In this same serialized form he also first published his popular novel Maanafaay, the story of the girl Maanafaay, who, in the Mogadishu of the 1970s, strives to be modern and modest ...
Born in Trinidad, John Alcindor was among the first black West Indians to practise medicine in Britain. Winning an Island Scholarship enabled him to study medicine at Edinburgh University, from where he graduated in 1899 with first‐class honours in three subjects. He was among delegates from the Edinburgh‐based Afro‐West Indian Literary Society to the 1900 Pan‐African Conference, where he met and developed friendships with Samuel Coleridge‐Taylor and W. E. B. Du Bois. Moving to London, Alcindor practised his profession in the city's hospitals, and for several years played cricket for the Mill Hill Park club. His marriage to Minnie Alcindor (née Martin) in 1911 produced three sons. In 1917 Alcindor established his own medical practice, and also worked as a Poor Law medical officer. He published three scholarly studies on his research.
Alcindor was a founder member of the African Progress Union over which he was elected president in ...
LaNesha NeGale DeBardelaben
physician and public health provider, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the fourth of five children of Hillard Boone Alexander, a horse trainer, and Virginia Pace Alexander. Born enslaved in 1856 to James and Ellen Alexander in Mecklenburg, Virginia, Alexander's father migrated to Philadelphia in 1880. Alexander's mother was born enslaved in 1854 to Thomas and Jenne Pace in Essex County, Virginia. She and her brother migrated to Philadelphia in 1880. In 1882 Hillard and Virginia were married. A working-class but respectable family, the Alexanders lived in the city's Seventh Ward with their three boys, Raymond Pace Alexander, Milliard, and Schollie, and two girls, Irene and Virginia. Strong family values were instilled in the Alexander children at an early age. Church, education, and a solid work ethic were emphasized in the home. Shortly after the birth of the youngest child in 1903 ...
Geraldine Rhoades Beckford
physician, educator, and community worker, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She was the eldest daughter of the abolitionist movement leaders William Still and Letitia George Still. In 1850William Still became the head of the Philadelphia Underground Railroad and Vigilance Committee. He would later chronicle his experiences in the best-selling 1872 account, The Underground Railroad.
After completing primary and secondary education at Mrs. Henry Gordon's Private School, the Friends Raspberry Alley School, and the Institute for Colored Youth, Anderson entered Oberlin College. Although she was the youngest member of the graduating class of 1868, Anderson presided over the annual Ladies' Literary Society, a singular honor that had never been awarded to a student of African ancestry.
After graduating from Oberlin, Anderson returned home to teach drawing and elocution, and on 28 December 1869 she married Edward A. Wiley a former slave and fellow ...
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 ...
actor, director, educator, and artist advocate, was born Osceola Marie Macarthy in Albany, Georgia, of black, white, and Native American racial heritage. The daughter of a life insurance executive, Archer attended Fisk University Preparatory School in Nashville, Tennessee. She then enrolled at Howard University in Washington, D.C., in 1909, where she was a pupil of Alain Locke and the sociologist Kelly Miller. Self‐defined as a suffragette, in 1913, her senior year at Howard, Archer and twenty‐one fellow female students cofounded one of the largest black fraternal organizations in the United States, Delta Sigma Theta, a sorority dedicated to community service and the mutual support of African American women. That same year Archer began to pursue her interest in drama by performing the title role in the Howard University Dramatics Club production of The Lady of Lyon a Victorian romantic comedy known as a showcase for actors ...
carpenter, insurance agent, contractor and activist, was born in Edgefield, South Carolina in 1885. As a young boy, Artemus saw that discrimination and oppression was still very much alive in the South, even following Emancipation in 1865 His parents were sharecroppers thus they were subject to subordination through this system because it ultimately favored the owners of the land not the workers Although there were many important benefits to this agricultural arrangement the sharecropping system was ultimately oppressive Landlords exploited their positions by extending credit to the workers during times of bad weather and poor quality of crop and market price The interest rates were often so high that workers were unable to pay them Often this meant landlords and sharecroppers were in much the same relationship as master and slave had been It was precisely for this reason that Artemus grew up determined to fight for his ...
first African American elected to political office in Brooklyn, New York, and a leader in the mid-twentieth century effort to integrate American tennis, was born on the Caribbean island of Nevis, then part of the British West Indies. His mother was Lillian de Grasse Baker, whose family had successful retail businesses on the island; his father was the Reverend Alfred B. Baker, a Wesleyan Methodist minister.
Tragedy struck in 1900 when Lillian Baker died of consumption. Bertram, an only child, would find comfort in the care of his maternal grandmother, Eliza de Grasse. In 1905 Baker's father left Nevis, accepting an offer to become founding pastor of the Ebenezer Wesleyan Methodist Church in Brooklyn. The Reverend Baker would later also found the Beulah Wesleyan Methodist Church in Manhattan.
In 1915 the Reverend Baker returned to Nevis to pick up his seventeen year old son Bertram who ...
Jennifer Jensen Wallach
civil rights activist who was instrumental in founding the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). Ella Josephine Baker grew up in Littleton, North Carolina, listening to her grandparents’ stories about slavery and their struggle to support themselves and their families after Emancipation. Her maternal grandparents were farmers who had managed to acquire their own land, whereas her paternal grandparents, like many former slaves, were landless tenant farmers. Baker's parents, Blake and Georgianna Ross Baker, met in secondary school and were determined to use their educations to establish better lives for themselves and their children. Blake Baker worked as a waiter on a steamship, a job that required frequent travel away from his wife and three children. Before her marriage in 1896 Georgianna Baker worked as a schoolteacher Later she worked as a housewife occasionally taking in boarders to earn extra income and she was actively involved in the local Baptist ...
Susan Gushee O'Malley
civil rights organizer, was born Ella Josephine Baker in Norfolk, Virginia, the daughter of Blake Baker, a waiter on the ferry between Norfolk and Washington, D.C., and Georgianna Ross. In rural North Carolina where Ella Baker grew up, she experienced a strong sense of black community. Her grandfather, who had been a slave, acquired the land in Littleton on which he had slaved. He raised fruit, vegetables, and cattle, which he shared with the community. He also served as the local Baptist minister. Baker's mother took care of the sick and needy.
After graduating in 1927 from Shaw University in Raleigh, North Carolina, Baker moved to New York City. She had dreamed of doing graduate work in sociology at the University of Chicago, but it was 1929 and times were hard Few jobs were open to black women except teaching which Baker refused to do because this was ...
Born in Norfolk, Virginia, the granddaughter of slaves, Ella Baker began her career as an activist early. As a student at Shaw University in Raleigh, North Carolina, Baker challenged school policies that she found demeaning. After graduating from Shaw as class valedictorian in 1927, she moved to New York City.
Baker responded to the suffering she witnessed in Harlem during the Great Depression by enlisting in a variety of political causes. In 1930 she joined the Young Negroes Cooperative League and was elected its first national director a year later. The league, founded by writer George Schuyler, aimed to develop blacks' economic power through collective planning. Baker also became involved with several women's organizations and, as an employee of the Works Progress Administration, offered literacy and consumer education to workers while educating herself about radical politics.
Baker began her affiliation with the National Association for ...
a pivotal behind-the-scenes figure in progressive African American political movements from the 1930s until her death in 1986. She helped to organize black cooperative campaigns in Harlem during the Great Depression; worked as a grassroots organizer and national leader of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in the 1940s; and served as the first interim director of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) in the 1950s. She was a colleague and critic of Martin Luther King Jr. and one of the founders and chief sources of inspiration for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), which was founded in 1960. Baker’s life, which spanned more than eighty years, was immersed in political activity. She was affiliated with nearly three dozen organizations and coalitions over the course of her life and thus left an indelible mark on twentieth-century African American political history.
Although Baker is best ...
educator, lecturer, and activist, was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the oldest daughter of Peter L. Baldwin, a Haitian mariner who became a Boston postman, and Mary E. Baldwin, a Baltimore native whose maiden name is now unknown. Baldwin was educated in Cambridge public schools, attending Sargent Primary School, Allston Grammar School, and Cambridge High School. After graduating from high school in 1874 she attended the Cambridge Teachers' Training School. Initially refused a job by the Cambridge school district, she looked elsewhere for employment and eventually took a position teaching elementary school in Chestertown, Maryland. Within a few years, however, she was back in Cambridge. Reportedly under pressure from the African American community, the Cambridge school district decided to offer her a job. In 1881 Baldwin accepted a teaching position at the Agassiz Grammar School on Oxford Street where she would spend the remainder of ...
Civil servant and author born in British Guiana (now Guyana). He became postmaster at Victoria‐Belfield in the 1890s, where he organized a black self‐help group with social and agricultural ambitions. He transferred to the Gold Coast (now Ghana) Post Office in 1902. With his wife, Caroline, and five children he settled in Acton, west London. Three more children were born, but five (and their mother) were dead by 1919, and in 1920, in London, he married Edith Goring (who was born in Barbados and had taught in the Gold Coast, 1906–20).
Barbour‐James'sAgricultural and Industrial Possibilities of the Gold Coast was published in London in 1911. In 1917 he retired from the colonial postal service, and he worked with the African Progress Union from 1918 (his friend Kwamina Tandoh was president from 1924 to 1927 accompanied South African delegates to meet the Prime Minister ...
Janie Porter Barrett was born in Athens, Georgia, the daughter of Julia Porter. Various biographical accounts indicate that Janie's parents were former slaves, while others speculate that her father was white. Little is known about either parent. During her early childhood, Janie resided in the home of the Skinners, a white family whom her mother served as housekeeper. After her mother's marriage to a railway worker, Janie remained with the Skinners, who encouraged her to further her education.
Though the Skinners suggested that she move North, Janie, at her mother's urging, attended Hampton Institute (now Hampton University) in Virginia, graduating in 1884. While at Hampton, she became convinced that it was her duty as an educated black woman to assiduously work for the betterment of all African Americans. That belief led her to teach in Dawson, Georgia, and at Lucy Craft Laney s Haines Normal and ...