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Kristal Brent Zook

journalist and historian of the early West, was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, the eldest of five children of Daniel Beasley, an engineer, and Margaret (Heines) Beasley, a homemaker. Although little is known about her childhood, at the age of twelve Beasley published her first writings in the black-owned newspaper, the Cleveland Gazette. By the time she was fifteen she was working as a columnist for the Cincinnati Enquirer, becoming the first African American woman to write for a mainstream newspaper on a regular basis.

Beasley lost both parents as a teenager and was forced to take a full-time job working as a domestic laborer for the family of a white judge named Hagan. Her career then took several unusual turns as Beasley, who was described by biographer Lorraine Crouchett as short well proportioned and speaking in a shrill light voice perhaps because of a chronic hearing ...

Article

Mary Krane Derr

slave and later servant, was born in Baltimore, Maryland, to Perry Blake, a free African American, and his wife Charlotte, a slave in the household of a prominent merchant, Jesse Levering. The couple had several other children. In 1897 Jesse's daughter Sarah R. Levering published a booklet about Margaret Jane Blake's life through the Press of Innes & Son in Philadelphia. As of 2011 other sources concerning Blake s life were unknown Thus we should read this account with care recognizing that it provides only one perspective on Blake s life and that it comes from a member of the family who once owned her It nonetheless offers several insights on the life of an urban African American woman in slavery and freedom Levering designated the proceeds from the booklet s sale to a Presbyterian affiliated manual labor school for the benefit of the ...

Article

Yasmine Ali

a literate domestic servant, grew up in Philadelphia and in New York City with her family. While her parents' names remain unknown, in one of her 1859 letters, she revealed that her father owned a restaurant. Brown severed ties with her family after her father's death in October 1862. In her letters to Rebecca Primus, her beloved friend, she discussed how her mother had remarried a man whom Addie described as often present in her nightmares.

Brown is known today primarily because of her relationship to Rebecca Primus of Hartford, Connecticut. Primus was the only African American among the five teachers selected by the Freedman's Society in 1865 to head to the south and start schools for freed blacks. She relocated to Royal, Maryland, and founded a school there, working until 1869 She was an inspirational figure and a close friend to Addie Brown and seems ...

Article

Linda M. Carter

domestic and restaurateur, was born on the Farrin plantation near Clayton, Alabama. She was the daughter of the Farrins' female cook and the male owner of a plantation located approximately two miles away from the Farrin plantation. Burton's mistress was persistent in her attempts to get Burton's father, who was from Liverpool, England, to acknowledge his daughter, but he ignored Burton whenever she was in his presence. During the Civil War, Burton's mother left the Farrin plantation and her children after an argument with her mistress led to her being whipped. Several years later, Burton and her siblings were reunited with their mother when she returned to the plantation after the war had ended and took her children to their new home. The Farrins demanded that Burton's mother return her children to them until she threatened to go to the Yankee headquarters. In 1866 the family moved to ...

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Kimberly A. Sisson

poet, clubwoman, and political activist, was born in Chillicothe, Ohio, the daughter of Mary Evans and Joshua T. Williams, whose occupation is now unknown. In 1870 the family moved to Columbus, Ohio, where Mary Evans opened a successful wig-making business that operated for over twenty years. Carrie Williams attended the first integrated school in Columbus; whether she pursued higher education is unknown, however it is known that during the 1880s she taught in Parkersburg, West Virginia.

In 1886, at the age of twenty-four, she married William H. Clifford, a two-term Republican state representative from Cleveland. They would have two sons. As part of the black middle class in Cleveland, Clifford and her husband socialized with other important black figures such as Charles W. Chesnutt and George A. Meyers. Booker T. Washington and W. E. B. Du Bois made frequent appearances in Cleveland joining the Cliffords ...

Article

Connie Park Rice

educator and club woman, was born Coralie Franklin in Lexington, Virginia, a daughter of Albert Franklin and Mary E. (maiden name unknown). During or immediately after the Civil War the family moved to Harper's Ferry, West Virginia, where Coralie attended the Normal Department at Storer College, graduating in 1872. She continued her education at Storer and graduated from the Academic Department in 1880. A gifted elocutionist she was described by John Wesley Cromwell, on a visit to Harper's Ferry in 1877, as “an elocutionist of grace, skill and power” (Journal of Negro History, July 1923). Franklin went on to attend Emerson College in Boston, the Shoemaker School of Oratory in Philadelphia, and the Martha's Vineyard Summer Institute of Oratory in Massachusetts. Franklin then returned to West Virginia and her alma mater, where she taught elocution at Storer College from 1882 to 1893 ...

Article

Born and raised in the Queensbridge Housing Projects in Long Island City, Julie Dash stumbled into filmmaking at age seventeen, when she enrolled with a friend in a workshop at the Studio Museum in Harlem. By the age of nineteen she had made her first film, shot with a Super 8 camera using pictures from Jet magazine attached to pipe cleaners. Dash majored in psychology at the City College of New York but graduated in film production. In 1973 she wrote and produced a documentary, Working Models of Success.

After graduation Dash moved to Los Angeles, California, gaining experience working on many film crews. In Los Angeles, she became the youngest fellow ever at the Center for Advanced Film Studies. During her two-year fellowship, Dash adapted an Alice Walker short story, Diary of an African Nun (1977 An experimental dance film that she conceived ...

Article

Kelly Boyer Sagert

Born in Philadelphia, Anna Elizabeth Dickinson was the youngest of five children of the devoted Quakers John and Mary Edmondson Dickinson. When Anna was two years old, her father died shortly after giving an antislavery speech. Although it is unlikely that Dickinson remembered her father, she may have been inspired by his legacy.

After John's death the family struggled financially, but Anna still received a quality education, attending the Friends' Select School in Philadelphia and the Greenwood Institute in New Brighton, Pennsylvania; at the latter she was known as an avid reader and questioner. She showed early promise, publishing her first article at age fourteen in the Liberator, the newspaper that served as a platform for the radical reformer and abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison.

Following her 1860 address to the Pennsylvania Anti-Slavery Society and her 1861 speech entitled Women s Rights and Wrongs Dickinson began receiving ...

Article

Lisa Clayton Robinson

Alice Nelson was born into a mixed Creole, African American, and Native American family in New Orleans, Louisiana. She graduated from the two-year teacher training program at Straight College (now Dillard University) in 1892 and taught school at various times throughout her life. Dunbar-Nelson published her first book, a collection of poetry, short stories, essays, and reviews called Violets and Other Tales in 1895. Paul Laurence Dunbar, the well-known poet, began to correspond with her after admiring her poetry (as well as her picture) in a Boston, Massachusetts, magazine. They married on March 8, 1898.

The Dunbars moved to Washington, D.C., where they were lionized as a literary celebrity couple. Dunbar-Nelson's second collection of short fiction, The Goodness of St. Rocque, was published in 1899 as a companion to her husband's Poems of Cabin and Field While Dunbar was known for his ...

Article

Rayford W. Logan

Born in Warwick, Rhode Island, Elleanor Eldridge believed that her paternal grandfather had been born in Zaire (the ancient name of the current Democratic Republic of the Congo) and had been brought to America on a slave ship. One of his sons, Robin Eldridge, was Elleanor Eldridge's father. Robin and his two brothers had fought in the American Revolution (1775–1783) and been promised 80 hectares (198 acres) of land apiece in the Mohawk River Valley in New York. Since they received pay in the almost worthless Continental currency (notes issued by the Continental Congress to finance the war), they had been unable to take possession of the land. It is not clear how Robin Eldridge was able to purchase a lot and a house in Warwick, where he settled with his wife, Hannah Prophet, whom he had married before entering military service.

Elleanor was ...

Article

Lisa Clayton Robinson

The daughter of former slaves, Julia Foote attended a segregated white Methodist church with her family during her childhood in Schenectady, New York. When she was a teenager her family moved to Albany, New York, and joined the local African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME). Foote had a conversion experience in that church in 1838.

The next year she married George Foote and moved with him to Boston. Before her conversion, Foote had agreed with the conventional opinion that women should not preach. But after her arrival in Boston, she felt the call to preach and pray in public. Despite the disapproval of her parents, husband, and minister, and the threat of excommunication from her church, Foote began a career as an evangelist. During the next four decades, Foote traveled and preached throughout New England and the mid-Atlantic states, and as far away as Detroit, Michigan San Francisco ...

Article

Kathleen Thompson

It would be difficult to overestimate the importance of the writer and educator Paula Giddings to the study of black women’s history. Possibly even more important is the role she played in disseminating that history to the American public. A rigorous scholar, graceful writer, and committed advocate of black women, Giddings was a writer of history who made history herself.

Paula Giddings was born in Yonkers, New York. Her father, Curtis G. Giddings, was a teacher and guidance counselor and, later, the first black firefighter in Yonkers. Her mother, Virginia I. Giddings, was also a guidance counselor. In an interview in Essence in 1995 Giddings said of her parents My father was the race conscious person in my family but it was my mother who gave me my voice She did this I know now by clearing a space where mywords could fall grow then find ...

Article

Adele N. Nichols

enslaved African American, mother, yarn spinner, weaver, and housekeeper, was born on the Mount Airy plantation in Virginia to Bill Grimshaw, a carpenter, and to Esther Jackson, a textile worker and cotton spinner, who were married in the early 1820s. Grimshaw's grandparents were Henry and Winney Jackson, domestic workers. Grimshaw's parents named her after her grandmother. By the time Grimshaw was born, their family was owned by William Henry Tayloe. Grimshaw had five siblings: Elizabeth (b. 1824), Anna (b. 1827), Juliet (b. 1929), Charlotte (b. 1834), James (b. 1831), and Henry (b. 1837). Charlotte died when she was young, but the remainder of her siblings survived into adulthood. At the time, most African American slaves were listed in records by their first name or a nickname. It was not until 1862 that Grimshaw was documented by her ...

Article

Vanessa Agard-Jones

culinary anthropologist, poet, performing artist, and journalist, was born Verta Mae Smart in Fairfax, South Carolina, the daughter of Frank Smart. She grew up in Monk's Corner, South Carolina, and as a teenager moved to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where she attended Kensington High School. Grosvenor married twice, first to Robert S. Grosvenor and later to Ellensworth Ausby, and had two children.

Grosvenor's early life in the South Carolina Lowcountry was enormously influential in her later career, grounding her in a cultural milieu that was thoroughly Geechee (or Gullah) in language (her first language was the Creole known as Gullah), in ritual, and perhaps most importantly to her later work, in food. Geechee communities of the American South have retained African linguistic and cultural practices.

At the age of thirty-two, in 1970, Grosvenor published her culinary memoir Vibration Cooking or The Travel Notes of a ...

Article

Lisa Clayton Robinson

Born to former slaves in Lowndes County, Alabama, Elizabeth Ross Haynes became a pioneering urban sociologist. Haynes graduated valedictorian of the State Normal School (now Alabama State University) in 1900. She received an A.B. from Fisk University in 1903, and later received an M.A. in sociology from Columbia University in 1923.

After graduation from Fisk, Haynes taught school and worked for segregated branches of the Young Women's Christian Association (YWCA). In 1910, she married George Haynes, a sociologist and cofounder of the National Urban League; their son was born in 1912. After her marriage, Haynes continued to work in unsalaried positions.

From 1918 to 1922, Haynes worked for the U.S. Department of Labor, and from 1920 to 1922 she served as domestic service secretary for the U S Employment Service Throughout her career Haynes was especially concerned with black women ...

Article

Nicole Sealey

intellectual, feminist, educator, cultural critic, social activist, and poet, was born Gloria Jean Watkins in Hopkinsville, Kentucky, to Veodis Watkins, a custodian, and Rosa Bell Watkins, a housekeeper. One of seven children, hooks grew up in a poor family in which poetry was a well-respected art form. On stormy nights the Watkins family would host talent shows in their living room. As a youth, hooks would recite poems by such authors as Langston Hughes and James Weldon Johnson. By the age of ten, hooks was already writing and reading her own work.

Hooks attended Booker T. Washington Elementary, a segregated black school. Her teachers, mostly single black women, nurtured and fostered her young mind. With the integration of public schools in the 1960s, however, black students were bused to white schools. Hooks soon learned that the white teachers at Crispus Attucks ...

Article

Roanne Edwards

Cited in Booklist as a “formidable feminist social and cultural critic,” bell hooks is widely known for her pioneering and provocative scholarship on racism and sexism in the United States. A prolific essayist and the author of nearly twenty books, she has written on a range of issues, including feminist politics and the representation of race in Film, Television, and advertising.

In a 1995 interview with Carl Posey of Essence magazine, hooks affirmed that “fundamentally, my life is committed to revolutionary Black liberation struggle, and I don't ever see Black liberation and feminism as being separate.” She has criticized both white, middle-class feminists and black liberation activists for neglecting women of color, and has encouraged African American women to “claim a critique of sexism” based on the black experience. Seeing class divisions among blacks as a principal obstacle to racial justice, she wrote, in her 1996 book Killing Rage ...

Article

Amy Grant

The intrepid bell hooks has been one of America’s premier social critics, although often incorrectly categorized as merely a black feminist. It would be more accurate to characterize her as a public intellectual engaged in the arts of literary, film, and popular cultural criticism and committed to the struggle against racism, sexism, classism, and homophobia. Many of her writings, interviews, and public speeches identified these dominant discourses as serious impediments designed to inhibit people from realizing a fuller understanding of themselves and their fellow human beings. Hooks sought to dismantle these dominant political discourses by exposing their use in art, literature, and film. Meanwhile, hooks encouraged those most damaged by these ideas, such as black women, to join this struggle, believing strongly that the elevation of black womanhood will result in the liberation of blacks and American society itself.

Bell hooks was born Gloria Jean Watkins in Hopkinsville, Kentucky ...

Article

Charles Rosenberg

best known for her many years as society columnist and women's editor for the nationally distributed Pittsburgh Courier, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the daughter of Theodore O. Schalk and Mary Wilkerson Schalk, both of whom worked as waiters at a local hotel. Her father was a native of either North or South Carolina, and her mother born in Massachusetts to parents from Virginia.

Literary critics have inferred that Gertrude Schalk and her sister, Lillian, were the same person, using two different names, but census records show that they were members of the same family, born two years apart. Family life was a bit unstable. In 1910 their parents were lodgers in the home of in-laws Charles and Nora Harris at 240 West Canton Street, the children perhaps living elsewhere, or simply overlooked by the census. In 1920 the family was reunited in one of three flats at ...

Article

Leyla Keough

Elizabeth Hobbs Keckley was born in Dinwiddie Court House, Virginia, to Agnes, a slave of the Burgwell family, and George Pleasant, who was owned by a man named Hobbs. When Elizabeth was in her teens, the Burgwells sold her to a slaveowner in North Carolina by whom she was raped and had one child, George. Shortly thereafter, a Burgwell daughter, Anne Burgwell Garland, bought Elizabeth and her son. They were taken to St. Louis, where Elizabeth married James Keckley. She later found he had deceived her by claiming to be a free man, and the couple separated.

To support her owner's household, Keckley worked as a seamstress. She acquired many loyal customers, one of whom loaned Keckley $1,200 to buy her freedom in 1855. In 1860, Keckley relocated to Baltimore, Maryland, and then to Washington D C where she opened a successful ...