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Kaavonia Hinton

journalist, editor, and social historian, was born in Clarksdale, Mississippi, to Lerone Bennett Sr., a chauffeur, and Alma Reed Bennett, a restaurant cook. Bennett's family later moved to Jackson, Mississippi, where Bennett went to public school. He was born into a family that emphasized the importance of education; his grandmother made college obtainable for each of her thirteen children, and it was expected that Bennett would have that option, too. Surprisingly, he failed his first year of formal schooling. With her son at her side, his mother confronted the principal and the teacher before deciding to enroll her son in a better school. This experience helped Bennett understand that education is an accessible and necessary tool needed to combat racism. An avid reader, he was inspired by his teachers, particularly Mrs. M. D. Manning, to develop an interest in history.

While in his early years ...


Amber Moulton-Wiseman

journalist and activist, was born on the Caribbean island of Nevis, the son of Marian M. Huggins, a woman of color, a plantation worker and Louis E. Briggs, a white native of Trinidad and plantation overseer. From childhood Briggs had a stutter that made verbal communication difficult, but he more than compensated through the power of his pen. Butting heads with colonial school administrators, he was dismissed from two primary schools before settling at Ebenezer Wesleyan on the island of St. Kitts; he graduated from this school in 1904. In his autobiographical writings Briggs indicated that despite its challenges, colonial education shaped his later career by introducing him to radical thinkers like the freethinking agnostic Robert Green Ingersoll. After his graduation Briggs embarked on his lifelong career in journalism by becoming a reporter for the St. Kitts Daily Express and the St. Christopher Advertiser.

Briggs ...


Charles Rosenberg

editor who held positions at the Pittsburgh Courier, the Philadelphia Bulletin, several newspapers in the Caribbean, and Jet magazine, was born in Cincinnati, Ohio. The name of his father is not documented, nor his childhood or education in his native city. His mother was Christina Brown.

Brown joined the staff of the Pittsburgh Courier in 1943, after completing journalism studies at the University of Cincinnati. He was one of the earliest staff writers to come to the paper with formal education in journalism, and quickly became known for his theatrical coverage. Brown married Helen Young 18 May 1946 in Pittsburgh they had one son Geoffrey who was born in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania During his first five years as a staff writer Brown developed a column called Record Go Round Like many writers of African descent he advocated that the dirt and smut purveyed on blues records should ...


Shirley C. Moody

writer, editor, and activist, was born Lloyd Louis Dight in St. Paul, Minnesota, the son of Ralph Dight and Magdalena (Paul) Dight. His mother, the German-American daughter of a Union army veteran, died when Brown was four. After his wife's death, Brown's father a Louisiana born African American Pullman porter placed Brown and his three siblings in St Paul s Crispus Attucks Home During his upbringing at the residence which served as both an old folks home and an orphanage for the city s poor blacks Brown experienced the desolate conditions of poverty but he also received nurturing and affirming care from members of the black community Raised largely by older members of the home many of them former slaves he gained an enduring respect and appreciation for the black folk stories and traditions shared with him by the home s elders Influenced by this early experience Brown ...


Thomas Aiello

journalist and jazz musician, was born Daniel Gardner Burley in Lexington, Kentucky, the son of James Burley, a former slave and Baptist minister, and Anna Seymour Burley, an educator who served under Booker T. Washington at the Tuskegee Institute. His father died when he was five years old, and in 1917 his mother, then remarried, moved the family to Chicago. Accounts differ as to whether Burley graduated from Wendell Phillips High School, but he attended, and his experience there cultivated a talent for writing, and his extracurricular activity taught him the jazz piano.

Burley began writing for the Chicago Defender between 1925 and 1928, according to some accounts while he was still attending high school. After leaving the weekly newspaper, Burley traveled the country, making his living through odd jobs and piano playing before returning to write for the Chicago Bee in 1932 He acted as ...


Robyn McGee

journalist, radio broadcaster, and founder of Calvin's News Service, was born in Washington,-Arkansas, to Joseph Edward and Hattie Ann (Mitchell). Calvin attended the Rural School in Clow, Arkansas, until the seventh grade. From 1916 to 1920 he attended Shover State Teacher Training College in Arkansas, and from 1920 to 1921 he was enrolled at Townsend Harris Hall, City College in New York City.

In 1922, shortly after leaving City College, Calvin was hired by the labor activist A. Philip Randolph as the associate editor of The Messenger magazine. The Messenger—the third most popular magazine of the Harlem Renaissance, after The Crisis and Opportunity—had been founded in 1917 by Randolph and the economist Chandler Owen to advance the cause of socialism to the black masses. They believed that a socialist society was the only one that would be free from racism. The Messenger contained poetry stories and ...


Christine G. Brown

writer and editor, was born in 1890; his parents’ names and his birthplace are now unknown. Little is known of his early life and education. He married Thelma Johnson, with whom he had one daughter. Carter and his wife lived in New York City at the same address, 409 Edgecombe Avenue, from the 1940s until their deaths.

A devoted New Yorker, Carter was a prolific writer and speaker for civil rights, especially concerning jobs, housing, and public office. A committed member of the National Urban League, on 23 July 1928 he delivered a speech on employment and fair housing issues during Negro Week on the Common. In September of that year he took over the editorship of Opportunity: Journal of Negro Life, the Urban League's in-house magazine, when Charles Spurgeon Johnson stepped down as editor With more than 10 000 subscribers when Carter took over the ...


Christopher Williams

scholar and activist, was born John Henry Clark in Union Springs, Alabama, the first of five children to John Clark and Willella (Willie) Mays, sharecroppers. Later Clarke changed the spelling of his name, dropping the “y” in Henry and replacing it with “ik” after the Norwegian playwright, Henrik Ibsen. He also added an “e” at the end of Clarke.

Clarke s great grandmother Mary who lived to be 108 inspired him to study history The young Clarke sat on her lap listening to stories and it was through her he later said that he first became aware of the word Africa Clarke grew up in the Baptist church and wanted to satisfy his intellectual curiosity regarding the Bible and its relationship to African people Like a detective he searched the Bible looking for an image of God that looked like him His dissatisfaction with what he found later ...


Cheryl Black

was born in Mankato, Minnesota. Although her father, Madison Jackson, was an attorney—the first black member of the South Dakota bar—he could not build a practice in the overwhelmingly white community in which they lived, so he instead became a Pullman porter. Her mother, Amy Wood, was a former cook and teacher. Her father was a socialist, and her mother was a close friend of W. E. B. Du Bois, circumstances that helped Cooke acquire an early commitment to political activism. Her political consciousness was also raised by personal experiences of overt racism. When the family moved into an all-white neighborhood, their new neighbors demonstrated outside the house. As a student Cooke qualified for a War Department job as a translator but was demoted to file clerk when her race was discovered; she wrote to her state senator, however, and was reassigned to her original position.

At ...


Kristal Brent Zook

journalist and publisher, was born in an unknown year in the latter half of the nineteenth century in Warrenton, Virginia. Little is known about her early childhood, except that the Ringwood family moved to Washington, D.C., when she was still an infant and that she attended school there. However, in her final year of studies, Julia's mother fell ill and so the young woman was obliged to look for work to help the family make ends meet. Taking a position as governess in the home of a military general, Julia was exposed to the lifestyles of a wealthy family for perhaps the first time, and she was most likely able to continue her studies.

While working as a governess Julia met William Hilary Coston who was raised in Rhode Island and Connecticut At sixteen Coston had obtained a privileged position of janitorship at Hopkins Grammar School Yale Preparatory which ...


Charles Rosenberg

lawyer, journalist, director of the National Negro Congress, publisher of Our World magazine, was born in Washington, DC, the son of Dr. William Henry Davis and Julia Hubbard Davis, who had moved to the capital in 1899 from Louisville, Kentucky. The elder Davis worked in several occupations; in addition to obtaining a doctorate of Pharmacology from Howard University, he developed a successful business school, became official stenographer for the National Negro Business League, and during World War I served as special assistant to Dr. Emmett Scott, special assistant to the United States secretary of war.

In 1922 the younger Davis graduated from Dunbar High School, in Washington, DC, and entered Bates College in Lewiston, Maine. He was selected as editor-in-chief of the campus newspaper The Bates Student in 1925 served as president of the debating fraternity Delta Sigma Rho and represented Bates in an international debate with ...


Stephanie Y. Evans

advertising executive, magazine publisher, and radio network founder, was born in Louisville Kentucky, to W. Leonard Evans Sr., an executive with the Urban League, and Beatrice, an executive with an insurance company. Shortly after his birth, his family moved to suburban Chicago, where he was raised. Evans attended the Chicago public schools, after which he graduated from Wilberforce Academy in Ohio in 1931. It was a family tradition to go to college at Fisk in Nashville, which he did for several years, studying sociology and learning to do research. He then transferred to the University of Illinois, where he received a degree in business in 1935. He also studied law at Chicago's Kent College of Law.

In 1943 Evans married Maudelle and the couple would go on to have two sons Evans became interested in researching the black consumer and after working for such ...


Erin A. Smith

writer, editor, and teacher, was born outside Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in Camden County, New Jersey, the daughter of Redmon Fauset, an African Methodist Episcopal minister, and Annie Seamon. Fauset was probably the first black woman at Cornell University, where she graduated Phi Beta Kappa with a degree in Classical and Modern Languages in 1905. She taught briefly in Baltimore before accepting a job teaching French and Latin at the famed all-black M Street (later Dunbar) High School in Washington, D.C. While teaching, Fauset completed an MA in French at the University of Pennsylvania (1919).

From 1912 to 1929 Fauset contributed numerous articles, reviews, poems, short stories, essays, and translations of French West Indian poems to the Crisis, the official publication of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. At the urging of its editor, W. E. B. Du Bois ...


Kimberly M. Curtis

historian and activist, was the sixth child born to Willis Hamilton Greene, a teamster, and Harriett Coleman Greene in Ansonia, Connecticut. Lorenzo Johnston Greene attended Ansonia's public schools and participated in his high school's debate team and German club. In 1917 he became Ansonia High School's first African American graduate and the first recipient of the school's History Prize.

After working several jobs to earn money for college, Greene began undergraduate studies in medicine at Howard University in Washington, D.C. During his senior year, however, he enrolled in Greek and English history courses, which inspired him to become a historian. In 1924 he received an AB from Howard and returned to New York City to attend Columbia University's Graduate School. Greene received an MA in history from Columbia in 1926 and continued graduate studies there in pursuit of a PhD in history.

From 1928 to 1933 Greene ...


Dominic J. Capeci

civil rights advocate and trade unionist, was born in Newberry County near Chappells, South Carolina, the son of Fred Grigsby and Kitty (maiden name unknown), farmers. Named for the unusual snowfall that occurred on the day of his birth, he was known throughout his life as Snow Grigsby. He learned the lesson of fending for oneself in a family of twelve children raised by religious, education-minded, politically active parents. He embraced individualism but benefited from philanthropy and endorsed government activism. Grigsby left home to receive his high school diploma in 1923 at Harbison Junior College in Irmo, South Carolina, courtesy of the Presbyterian Church. Heading north to look for what he called “rosy opportunities,” he worked menial jobs by night and attended the Detroit Institute of Technology by day. He graduated in 1927 but failed to find employment as a pharmacist Like his father a onetime federal mail ...


J. James Iovannone

collector, historian, author, and social personality, was born in Maryland, the son of Levi Thomas and Louisa Morris Gumby. In 1901 Gumby and his sister were sent to live with their grandparents, and it was there, at age sixteen, that Gumby began his scrapbook collection, making his first book—a practice that he would continue throughout the rest of his life—out of wallpaper, paste, and clippings of the September 1901 assassination of President McKinley. In 1902 Gumby entered Dover State College (later Delaware State University) in Delaware and began to study law. Before completing his studies Gumby withdrew from school and moved to New York City around 1906, where he would live until his death nearly sixty years later.

Gumby was immediately dazzled by life in the big city and sought to integrate himself into the urban community During his early years in New ...


Claudia Tate

and leading proponent of activist black journalism during the post-Reconstruction era. Pauline Elizabeth Hopkins was born to William A. Hopkins, a veteran of the Civil War, and Sarah A. Allen in Portland, Maine, in 1859. The family moved to Boston when Hopkins was an infant. She graduated from the renowned Boston's Girls’ High School and shortly thereafter pursued stenography for a livelihood. In 1892 she worked for Henry Parkman and Alpheus Sanford, prominent Boston-area Republicans, and in 1895 she was appointed stenographer in the Bureau of Statistics for the Massachusetts Decennial Census. When she died in 1930, she was working as a stenographer for the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Although Hopkins wrote essays, poetry, and musical dramas before she was twenty, she did not try her hand at fiction until 1900 probably because there were few African American outlets for this genre until the advent ...


Lisa Clayton Robinson

Pauline Elizabeth Hopkins was the most prolific African American woman writer at the turn of the twentieth century. During her career as an editor and writer, she used essays, editorials, fiction, and biographies to promote her views on racial uplift and pride.

Hopkins was born in Maine and raised in Boston, Massachusetts. She won her first essay contest at the age of fifteen; the veteran abolitionist and writer William Wells Brown presented her with the ten-dollar prize. As a young woman, Hopkins became a playwright, actress, and singer with a family theatrical troupe, the Hopkins Colored Troubadors. But she eventually decided to take the government's civil service exam in order to have a steady income, and during the 1890s she worked as a stenographer. Her professional career as a writer and editor began in 1900 with the founding of Colored American magazine.

The journal was published by the Colored ...


Hopkins, Pauline Elizabeth (1859–13 August 1930), editor and author, was born in Portland, Maine, the daughter of Northrup Hopkins and Sarah Allen. During her childhood, Hopkins moved with her family to Boston, a city whose rich abolitionist history would provide her fictive milieu. She attended and graduated from Girls High School. A grandniece of poet James Whitfield, she displayed literary talent as a fifteen year old, winning first prize in an essay contest titled “Evils of Intemperance and Their Remedies.” The contest’s sponsor, abolitionist and author William Wells Brown, would subsequently influence Hopkins’s works.

Hopkins’s first artistic endeavors were two musical dramas, Colored Aristocracy (1877) and Peculiar Sam; or, The Underground Railroad (1879). Eventually, Hopkins trimmed Peculiar Sam to three acts, and it opened as Slaves’ Escape; or, The Underground Railroad in July 1880 Presented at the Oakland Garden in Boston by the Hopkins ...


Alice Knox Eaton

novelist, journalist, and editor, was born in Portland, Maine, the daughter of Northrup Hopkins and Sarah Allen. She grew up in Boston and graduated from Girls High School. At age fifteen Hopkins won the first prize of ten dollars in gold for her essay, “The Evils of Intemperance and Their Remedy,” in a contest sponsored by William Wells Brown. At twenty Hopkins wrote the play Slaves' Escape; or, The Underground Railroad and played the lead role alongside other family members in the Hopkins Colored Troubadours. The production received favorable reviews; in tours around the northeastern United States, the play varied in length from four acts to three and was sometimes titled Peculiar Sam; or, The Underground Railroad The Colored Troubadours also put on a variety of musical performances and Hopkins was noted for her singing indeed she was once referred to as Boston s ...