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Sheila T. Gregory

radio and television pioneer, Masonic Christian Order founder, ordained Baptist minister, lawyer, community advocate, and business leader, was born on a sharecroppers' farm in Geneva, Kentucky, the son of Richard and Clara Banks, both tenant farmers. In June 1922 Banks graduated from the Lincoln Institute of Kentucky and moved to Detroit, Michigan, where he secured a job at the Dodge automobile main plant. He graduated from Wayne State University in 1926 and the Detroit College of Law in 1929. He briefly opened a criminal law practice, but after two years he discontinued his criminal work and invested in property during the Depression, while helping elect liberal Democrat and future Supreme Court justice Frank Murphy as Detroit's mayor in 1930.

In 1931 Banks was the head of the International Labor Defense League ILDL a legal organization known for defending numerous labor unions which at that time were ...

Article

Hassoum Ceesay

merchant, community leader, and socialite, was born Ada Jagne to Francis and Marie Jagne in Bathurst (now Banjul), Gambia. Little is known of her life before 1916, when she married Job Beigh, the richest merchant in Bathurst. Job owned choice real estate in Bathurst, many warehouses and shops, and a fleet of riverboats that transported merchandise to the ports of the Gambia River for European firms.

Job Beigh's career as a merchant exemplified the cutthroat business environment in the Gambia colony in the second half of the nineteenth century. He was born in Bathurst in 1847 and, following his secondary education in Freetown, Sierra Leone, he began his business career as a clerk with the Bathurst Trading Company, one of the six major European companies operating in Bathurst and upriver towns. Later, Job started trading on his own account in Bathurst in 1888 He was ...

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Barbara A. White

prosperous businessman, whaling captain, and community leader, whose court case against Nantucket led to the integration of the public schools, was a member of one of the largest and most influential black families on the island. His father was Seneca Boston, a manumitted slave, who was a self‐employed weaver. His mother was a Wampanoag Indian named Thankful Micah. They had four sons and one daughter. Absalom Boston, the third‐born, went to sea, as did many of Nantucket's young men, signing onto the whale ship Thomas in 1809 when he was twenty‐four. Little is known about his early education. Anna Gardner, in her memoir Harvest Gleanings, mentions him visiting her family and hints that it may have been her mother, Hannah Macy Gardner, who taught the young man to read.

Shortly before he went to sea, Boston married his first wife, Mary Spywood about whom little is ...

Article

Charles Rosenberg

business manager, journalist, entrepreneur, and political activist, was born in Knoxville, Tennessee, the son of Ulysses and Curtis Heard Boykin. The elder Ulysses Boykin was employed by the Knoxville Journal. He and his wife were natives of Georgia, where she had taught school in La Grange. Boykin had an older brother, Alfred Wade Boykin, and a sister, Eleanor. In the early 1920s the family moved to Michigan, settling first in Grosse Ile, then in Detroit, where their father found work in a foundry.

In 1934 Boykin graduated from Detroit’s Northeastern High School and began writing a column for young readers in the Detroit Tribune. He took courses at Wayne State University, but did not enter a degree program. The following year Boykin was hired as an assistant to Russell J. Cowans, tutor and secretary to boxing sensation Joe Louis Louis s career was a business managed ...

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Edward L. Lach

business executive and civic leader, was born in Washington, D.C., the son of Hayward G. Burrell and Fannie Miles. Although his parents’ occupations are unknown, both his father and his mother were natives of the District of Columbia, and Burrell's roots in the area ran deep. After graduating from Dunbar High School at the age of fifteen, he worked as a driver for a local pharmacy and apparently also drove a cab for a while. He married at age sixteen (his wife's name is unknown), and the marriage produced a son before ending in divorce seven years later.

In 1941 Burrell gained a position at the federal Bureau of Standards, where he worked in the glass section producing prisms and bombsights. He also attended nearby Howard University between 1941 and 1943 but did not graduate. He entered the U.S. Army in 1945 and rose to the rank of ...

Article

Jane Poyner

Passenger on the Empire Windrush (1948) and key figure in London's growing immigrant community. Oswald ‘Columbus’ Denniston was the first African‐Caribbean trader in Brixton market London where he became central to a vibrant community Born in St James Montego Bay Jamaica Denniston left school at 14 to work on a sugar plantation He then trained to become a signwriter and decorator and by the time he left on a one way ticket bound for England had established his own business Arriving in Britain he publicly thanked government officials for assisting in the resettlement of the Caribbean migrants Almost straight away he was offered work as a signwriter in Balham London In the first few weeks he met his future wife Margaret at a church tea party He became a founder member of the Association of Jamaicans and the Lambeth Community Relations Council and was active in a ...

Article

Caryn Cossé Bell

businessman, Civil War veteran, and Reconstruction politician, was the son of the influential Creole New Orleanian Joseph Dumas, one of the owners of the Dumas Brothers French Quarter clothiers, a firm that specialized in imported French cloth and luxury apparel. Joseph Dumas invested his share of the firm's profits in real estate and accumulated a considerable fortune in property holdings and slaves. In 1860 African American Louisianans like François and Joseph Dumas constituted the wealthiest population of free blacks in the United States.

Joseph Dumas's import business necessitated that the Dumas family sojourn frequently in France, and it was there that François, was born, raised, and educated. François arrived in New Orleans shortly before the Civil War to manage the family business. He married Marguerite Victoria Victor, and the couple had five children, three girls and two boys. By 1860 he had become one ...

Article

Kathleen F. Esmiol

entrepreneur, philanthropist, community activist, and businesswoman, was the fourth of seven children born to Herbert and Mattie Brinson Bragg, tenant farmers in Luther, Oklahoma. Duncan's parents were hard working role models, and she learned the basics of business by watching her father manage a sprawling farm. She also gained organizational skills by helping her mother maintain an active family of nine.

Sadly, Herbert Bragg's untimely death at Thanksgiving in 1926 eventually forced the family to leave Depression-era Oklahoma, and in 1933 they sought opportunity in Colorado Springs Colorado where Duncan attended desegregated schools A focused but gregarious student she participated in extracurricular school activities but to support the family she also waitressed and worked as a housekeeper for a real estate developer Russian Count Benjamin Lefkowsky who recognized her potential and became a mentor Financially unable to pursue her goal of attending Langston College upon ...

Article

Marcella Sherfy

physiotherapist, masseuse, businesswoman, and community organizer, was born in Barker, Montana, the second child and only daughter of Mary Ann Goodlow and John Francis Gordon. Mary had been born a slave in Kentucky in 1853. John, who claimed Zulu heritage, trained to be a chef at Wilberforce University in Ohio. He traveled to Montana Territory from Illinois by steamboat in 1881 to cook on the mining frontier Mary followed a year later In the mid 1880s employed as a chef for the town s primary hotel John purchased a house in the central Montana community of White Sulphur Springs Set in a high pastoral valley White Sulphur Springs was a small commercial hub for outlying mining camps and ranches Its hot springs attracted Indian and European American settlers A decade later while working for a Canadian railroad John was killed in a train ...

Article

David E. Paterson

harness maker, state legislator, community organizer, and barber, was born on James Spier's farm, the Hurricane Place, three and a half miles from Thomaston, Upson County, Georgia, the fourth child of Guilford Speer and Viney, two of Spier's slaves. Guilford and Viney separated soon after William was born, and Guilford moved to Thomaston to operate a harness and shoe shop. William probably spent his earliest years with his mother, his three elder brothers, and several younger half siblings on the Hurricane Place, but by the late 1850s William had undoubtedly moved to the village and was learning his father's trade of harness making. In 1863 a devastating fire destroyed three-quarters of downtown Thomaston, and thereafter William probably worked in a shop organized by his father in Barnesville, Pike County, sixteen miles away.

Sometime during the Civil War, William married Lourinda presumably a slave but ...

Article

Terri L. Norris

radio and television broadcasting entrepreneur and entertainment personality, was born Catherine Elizabeth Woods in Omaha, Nebraska, the eldest of four children of William Alfred Woods and Helen Jones Woods. Both of Hughes's parents had notable accomplishments. William Woods was the first African American to receive an accounting degree from Nebraska's Creighton University. Helen Woods was a trombonist with Mississippi's Piney Woods orchestra at Piney Woods Country Life School, an African American boarding school founded by her father, Laurence C. Jones, in 1909. This female orchestra, called the International Sweethearts of Rhythm, famously ran away from Piney Woods in pursuit of musical creative freedom; they sought to play swing music, not gospel. Her mother also earned a master's degree in Social Work.

Hughes spent her childhood in a low income housing project She was the first African American to attend Omaha s Duchesne Academy of the Sacred ...

Article

David B. McCarthy

was born Oliver Toussaint Jackson in Oxford, Ohio, the fifth of six children of Caroline Chavons and Hezekiah Jackson. His parents named him after Toussaint Louverture, leader of the Haitian slave revolution of 1791.

At age fourteen Jackson moved to Cleveland, Ohio to work as a steward and caterer at the Vendome Hotel. In 1887 he moved to Colorado and ran catering businesses in Denver and Idaho Springs. On 5 September 1889 he married Sarah “Sadie” Cook, whose sister Jennie was married to Oliver’s older brother James; Sadie was the aunt of composer Will Marion Cook. Census records report that they had one child, who apparently did not survive early childhood.

In December 1892 Jackson began to operate the Stillman Cafe and Ice Cream Parlor in Boulder, Colorado. He and Sadie bought a house on Pine Street in 1893, and in 1894 they bought a farm just ...

Article

Stephen L. Harris

civil rights and community activist, business leader, state legislator, and Tuskegee Airman, was born in New York state to Henry Johnson, a World War I hero and recipient of the American Distinguished Service Cross. His maternal grandfather, Herman Phoenix, was in the early 1900s a leader in organizing the Niagara, New York, branch of the NAACP. Johnson himself was thirteen when he joined the NAACP. Although he lived and worked in several cities, he was most connected with Kansas City, Missouri. He earned a bachelor's degree in economics from Cornell University in 1938 and a master's degree in business administration from the University of Chicago in 1940.

Soon after earning his master s degree Johnson was a statistician for the War Production Board During World War II he enlisted and fought with the 332nd Fighter Group known as the Tuskegee Airmen Attaining the ...

Article

Mary Krane Derr

physician and community leader, was born Edith Mae Irby in Conway, Arkansas, to Mattie Irby, a domestic worker, and her husband Robert, a sharecropper. Several childhood experiences—some traumatic—shaped Edith's early choice of medicine as her profession and the relief of racial health disparities as her special focus. When she was only five, an illness rendered her unable to walk for eighteen months. At six she lost her thirteen-year-old sister and almost lost an older brother in a typhoid fever epidemic. She noticed that people who could afford more medical care fared better with the disease. When she was eight a horse-riding accident fatally injured her father.

The year of her father s death a white doctor and his family hired Edith to help care for their eighteen month old child They told Edith that she was highly intelligent and encouraged her to consider a medical career Members ...

Article

Melanie R. Thomas

businessman, American Revolutionary War soldier, community leader, property owner, and freedman, was born free in Westersfield, Connecticut, to parents who have not yet been identified. Physical descriptions in early documents suggest that Lattimore (sometimes spelled Latimer) was of mixed racial origin. His family worked on a farm in Lower Ulster County, New York, and ran a ferry service. Benjamin Lattimore was one of only a handful of African American heads of households identified by name as a free person of color during the Colonial era.

The contributions of the black community of early Albany are often forgotten in the context of American history. Many, such as Lattimore, made valuable contributions to the military, to community organizations, and to commerce. In 1776 at the age of fifteen Benjamin Lattimore joined New York s Third Regiment of the Continental army The British captured him and forced ...

Article

Anne K. Driscoll

activist, writer, and author, was born Cleotha Payne Lucas in Spring Hope, near Rocky Mount in eastern North Carolina. One of fourteen children born to James Russell Lucas and Minnie Hendricks, Lucas worked from an early age shining shoes and picking cotton. Activism came early to Lucas, who became a member of the NAACP during his junior year of high school. Lucas became a youth representative and eventually organized a voter registration campaign in Spring Hope, at a time when few African Americans in eastern North Carolina were able to vote.

Following graduation from C. C. Spaulding High School in 1951, Lucas began classes at Maryland State College, now the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, in Princess Anne, Maryland. In 1953 Lucas left college and joined the U S Air Force serving as a radio technician for four years and achieving the rank of ...

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Angela M. Gooden

pastor, community organizer, and activist, was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, the son of Damon Lynch Jr., a pastor and store owner, and Barbara (Davis) Lynch, a former American Airlines reservations supervisor. As a somewhat rebellious and easily bored teen at a boys' parochial school, Lynch ran into opposition when the priests insisted that he shave his facial hair. Lynch bounced from high school to high school before eventually graduating from Woodward High School. Summer jobs in his father's store gave Lynch important entrepreneurial experience that he later drew upon to establish nonprofit organizations in low-income communities. After graduation Lynch held several jobs, including a stint at the United Parcel Service (UPS) where he was taught a serious work ethic. At Burke Marketing and Research, Lynch met his future wife, Johanna Bolden, who also happened to be his on-the-job trainer. The couple married on 3 ...

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Fiona J. L. Handley

slave, wealthy landowner, and community leader was born in Natchitoches, in the Spanish colony of Louisiana. His mother was Marie-Thérèse Coincoin, a slave who became a free woman and a successful agriculturalist, and his father was Claude Thomas Pierre Metoyer, a wealthy French merchant and planter with whom his mother had a nineteen-year liaison. Marie-Thérèse was enslaved when Louis was born, and he was subsequently bought by his father on 31 May 1776 from Madame de St Denis along with three of his siblings for 1 300 livres Louis Metoyer s upbringing was unusual for its day His parents shared a household in a scarcely disguised fashion and unlike most other mixed race families in the Louisianan upper classes there was no white family to compete for the financial and emotional affection of the father Pierre Metoyer reunited his children with Marie Thérèse under one ...

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Debra Foster Greene

newspaper publisher, editor, community leader, and entrepreneur, was born Joseph Everett Mitchell in Coosa County, Alabama, one of eight children of Henry Mitchell, a farmer and sawmill owner, and his wife, Cassana. In 1898 Mitchell left Alabama for work in Atlanta, Georgia, but when President William McKinley called for volunteers for the Spanish American War, he enlisted and became a member of the Twenty-fourth Infantry Regiment, one of the six African American regiments in the U.S. Army. The regiment served in the Philippine Islands from 1899 until August 1902, during the Philippine Insurrection. After his honorable discharge Mitchell returned to Alabama to marry Mattie Elizabeth Thomas on 20 January 1901 at Cottage Grove, Alabama. On 2 June 1940, two years after Mattie's death, he married Edwina Wright, daughter of Richard Robert Wright Sr. thirty year president of Georgia State College ...

Article

Pam Brooks

civil rights activist and community leader, was born Idessa Taylor in Montgomery, Alabama, the only child of Minnie Oliver. Other than the surname he shared with his daughter, Idessa Taylor's father's name is not recorded. Upon the early death of her mother when she was only two, Redden's maternal great grandparents, Luisa and Julius Harris, raised Redden in Montgomery until she was nine. Thereafter, her mother's brother, Robert Oliver, a railroad worker, and his wife, Dinah Beatrice Oliver a seamstress included Redden in their family of six children Redden attended St Paul s Methodist Church School Loveless School St John s Catholic School and State Normal High School in Montgomery As an elementary student on her way to school she had to endure the habitual taunts of young white boys In a videotaped interview on her ninetieth birthday Redden recounted one occasion when in retaliation for ...