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André Willis

Clifford L. Alexander Jr. was born in New York, New York. He graduated from Harvard University in 1955 and Yale Law School in 1958. Alexander worked on a number of community development initiatives in Harlem, New York, before being appointed to a series of political positions in Washington, D.C., in the 1960s and 1970s.

Alexander served as a National Security Council foreign affairs officer under President John F. Kennedy in 1963. He was appointed to three high-ranking advisory positions between 1964 and 1967, including deputy special counsel to the president, by President Lyndon B. Johnson. In 1967 Johnson named Alexander chairman of the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (EEOC), a position he filled until Richard Nixon took office in 1969.

After a brief return to private practice in Washington D C Alexander resumed a role in public life as host and producer of ...

Article

lawyer, businessman, and secretary of the army, was born in New York City, the only child of Clifford Leopold Sr. and Edith McAllister. Alexander's father, a Jamaican native, became an apartment building manager of Harlem's Young Christian Association. His mother was from Yonkers, New York, where she worked for a real estate firm. Later she headed the New York City welfare department. She was the first African American woman to get elected to the Democratic Party's Electoral College. In this position she became a prominent figure in the broader civil rights struggle. Both parents inspired Alexander's later work to end racial discrimination.

Alexander spent his childhood in New York City. He received his early education at the Ethical Cultural School and Fieldston Schools in the Bronx. After graduating from high school, Alexander went to Harvard University. Here he met McGeorge Bundy Harvard s Dean of Arts ...

Article

Charles Rosenberg

plaintiff in the 1928 case, Brown v. Board of Education of Charleston [West Virginia], was born in the Union South district of Kanawha County, West Virginia, the seventh living child and fifth son of Henry and Margaret A. Brown. Henry Brown, a farm laborer like his older brothers Charley and John, died before 1900. In addition to older brothers Fred and Enoch, and sisters Maria and Ruth, Anderson had a younger brother James, and younger sisters Della and Nina. All were born between 1865 and 1887.

Around 1900 he worked as a porter in a grocery store in Charleston, where his brothers held jobs as porters, baggage drivers, and a blacksmith, supporting their widowed mother and sisters. Brown moved in 1907 to Cambridge, Massachusetts, where his sister and brother‐in‐law were living, joined at least part of the time by the widowed Margaret Brown He ...

Article

Leigh Kimmel

politician and the first African American statewide elected officeholder in Illinois, was born in Centralia, Illinois, the son of Earl, a worker with the Illinois Central Railroad, and Emma Burris. His family also ran a store to supplement his father's railroad wages. Because both of his parents were busy during the day, when Burris was four years old he would often accompany his older siblings to school, where he would sit on the platform outside the door, listening to the class being conducted inside.

While he attended Centralia Township High School he was active in sports becoming an All State defensive safety in football in spite of being only five feet six inches inches tall He also became increasingly aware of racial discrimination in his community during high school and at sixteen he helped to integrate the Centralia public pool When the city unofficially designated the pool for whites only ...

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Shantel Agnew

lawyer, businessman, and one of the first African American chief executive officers (CEO) of a Fortune 500 company. Chenault was born on Long Island, New York. His father, Hortenius Chenault, was a dentist, and his mother, Anne Chenault, was a dental hygienist. Kenneth Chenault graduated with numerous honors from Waldorf High School, a private school in Garden City, New York. He completed one year at Springfield College before transferring to Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine. There he earned a bachelor's degree in history in 1973. He earned a JD from Harvard Law School in 1976.

After he graduated from Harvard, Chenault was hired as an associate by the law firm Rogers and Wells in New York City. In 1979 he worked as a management consultant for Bain and Company despite not having a master s degree in business administration Chenault passed the Massachusetts bar ...

Article

Richard Sobel

lawyer and corporate leader, was born in Mineola, New York, to Hortenius Chenault, a dentist and a Morehouse and Howard University graduate, and Anne N. Quick, a dental hygienist and Howard alumna. The second of three brothers and one sister, Ken grew up in middle-class, mostly white Hempstead, Long Island, and attended the innovative, private Waldorf School in Garden City through twelfth grade. Although both his parents had graduated top in their classes, Kenneth was at first a middling student. He improved academically and became class president and captain of the track and basketball teams. He also avidly read biographies of famous people, including Frederick Douglass, W. E. B. Du Bois, and Winston Churchill.

Starting Springfield College on an athletic scholarship he transferred under the mentorship of Waldorf s Peter Curran to Bowdoin College in Maine There he joined two dozen black pioneers at the ...

Article

Julie Winch

writer, adventurer, and perennial litigant, was born in St. Louis, Missouri, the grandson of Jacques Clamorgan, a French entrepreneur and land speculator. Jacques died in 1814, leaving as his heirs the four children he had fathered with his various slaves whom he then emancipated. One of those children, Apoline, was Cyprian Clamorgan's mother. Apoline never married. Instead, she lived with a series of white “protectors.” A Catholic by upbringing in a deeply Catholic community, she presented each of her children for baptism at the Old Cathedral and revealed to the priest the name of the father so it could be entered in the baptismal register. However, she did not live long enough to have Cyprian baptized, and the identity of his father died with her.

Clamorgan and his siblings, Louis, Henry, and Louise, were left in the care of a white neighbor, Charles Collins ...

Article

Rayvon David Fouché

inventor, was born to Shelby Jeames and Amelia Scott Davidson in Lexington, Kentucky. He attended public school in his hometown of Lexington and then attended college in Louisville to study education. This school's program did not challenge Davidson or adequately prepare him for a career. So in the fall of 1887 he enrolled at Howard University in Washington, D.C. However, his previous academic training was not sufficient to gain admission to Howard University's college department. He spent his first two years completing the preparatory program and finally received a degree in 1896. That same year he began to study law, and by June 1896 he had completed standard readings in the law curriculum under the direction of William A. Cook.

In 1893 while Davidson completed his education he found employment as an unclassified laborer for the Treasury Department making $600 per year He secured this position through ...

Article

Marcus Shepard

lawyer, businessman, civil rights leader, and Chicago alderman, was born in Canton, Mississippi, to Edward Dickerson and Emma Garrett Fielding. Earl Dickerson's maternal grandfather, Benjamin Franklin Garrett, bought his freedom in the 1850s and owned a livery stable as well as several other properties in Canton. His business was destroyed during the Civil War, however, and by the time Earl was born the family lived in relative poverty. Edward Dickerson, who worked away from home as an upholsterer, died when Earl was five and he was raised by his mother, who did laundry for local whites, his paternal half-sister, and his maternal grandmother, who ran a small boarding house in Canton.

In 1906 Dickerson was sent to live with relatives in New Orleans where he attended the preparatory school of New Orleans University Unfortunately family finances forced him to return to Canton ...

Article

Damon L. Fordham

lawyer, entrepreneur, educator, and journalist, was born near Orangeburg, South Carolina, the son of the former slaves Benjamin Frederick and Henrietta Baxter. A Renaissance man among African Americans in South Carolina, Frederick earned a bachelor of arts degree from Orangeburg's Claflin College in 1889 and degrees in history and Latin from the University of Wisconsin in 1901. Shortly after graduating from the latter institution, Frederick moved to Columbia, South Carolina, where he began an eighteen-year career as the principal of the Howard School, one of the first public schools for blacks in that city. He rose to early prominence as an educator and served as president of the South Carolina State Teacher's Association, an organization of that state's black teachers, from 1906 to 1908. He married Corrine Carroll in 1904; they would have four children.

By 1913 Frederick was searching for ...

Article

Charles Rosenberg

chair of the Council of 100 Black Republicans, business owner, the first teacher of African descent in the Denver, Colorado, public schools, was born in Butte, Montana, the daughter of Russell S. Brown Sr., a minister (and later general secretary) of the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church, and Floy Smith Brown. The example of her grandfather, Charles S. Smith, founder of the business school at Wilberforce University in Ohio, was a strong influence in her later life. There is no record of why the Brown family was in Butte; however, small but thriving African American communities to the northeast were centered around Union Bethel AME Church in Great Falls and St. James AME Church in Helena.

By the time Elaine Brown was three years old, the family had moved to Atlanta, Georgia, where her brother, Russell Brown Jr., was born. In 1933 the family moved to ...

Article

Devorah Lissek

diarist and entrepreneur, was born in Natchez, Mississippi, the son of William Johnson, a slaveholder, and Amy Johnson, a slave. When William was five years old his mother was emancipated and established her household in Natchez. In 1820 the eleven-year-old William was freed by the Mississippi legislature at the request of his owner. Once emancipated, he apprenticed with his brother-in-law, James Miller, in Miller's barber business in Natchez. Johnson became proprietor of the business—reportedly the most popular barbershop in Natchez—when Miller moved to New Orleans in 1830. Johnson and his African American staff ran the shop, which served a predominantly white clientele. Not only did Johnson's barbers offer haircuts and shaves, they also fitted wigs, sold fancy soaps and oils, and, beginning in 1834, operated a bathhouse at the Main Street location.

Between 1830 and 1835 Johnson frequently traveled to New Orleans and ...

Article

Devorah Lissek

Johnson, William (1809–17 June 1851), diarist and entrepreneur, was born in Natchez, Mississippi, the son of William Johnson, a slaveholder, and Amy Johnson, a slave. When William was five years old his mother was emancipated and established her household in Natchez. In 1820 the eleven-year-old William was freed by the Mississippi legislature at the request of his owner. Once emancipated, he apprenticed with his brother-in-law, James Miller, in his barber business in Natchez. Johnson became proprietor of the business—reportedly the most popular barber shop in Natchez—when Miller moved to New Orleans in 1830. Johnson and his African-American staff ran the shop, which served a predominantly white clientele. Johnson’s barbers not only offered haircuts and shaves, they also fitted wigs, sold fancy soaps and oils, and, beginning in 1834, operated a bathhouse at the Main Street location.

Between 1830 and 1835 Johnson frequently traveled to New Orleans and ...

Article

William L. Andrews

William Johnson's thirteen-volume, sixteen-year journal of life in Natchez, Mississippi, is the lengthiest and most detailed personal narrative authored by an African American during the antebellum era in the United States. Out of ordinary account books in which he tallied the daily expenditures and income of his early business ventures, Johnson's diary evolved into an extraordinary record of social, economic, and political life in his hometown of Natchez, Mississippi, as seen through the eyes of a free man of color.

Johnson was born a slave in Natchez, the son of his white master, William Johnson, and his slave, Amy. Johnson's father manumitted him in 1820. He was soon apprenticed to his free brother-in-law, Natchez barbershop proprietor James Miller At the age of twenty one Johnson purchased Miller s barbershop the first step in the young businessman s rise in the 1830s to a position of affluence as ...

Article

Sholomo B. Levy

lawyer, civil rights leader, and corporate executive, was born Vernon Eulion Jordan Jr. in Atlanta, the eldest of two sons of Vernon Jordan Sr., a postal clerk at Fort McPherson, Georgia, and Mary Belle Griggs, proprietor of a catering business, who had a child from a previous union. Jordan was descended from Georgia sharecroppers who had their roots in slavery. His maternal grandfather told young Vernon, “If I could have anything in the world, I'd want to be able to go to the bathroom indoors, in a warm place, one time before I die” (Jordan, 23).

Until the age of thirteen Jordan lived in Atlanta s University Homes the first public housing for black people built in the United States His project as such low income structures would come to be known derived its name from the black college campuses that surrounded it and provided ...

Article

Alexis D. McCoy

lawyer, civil rights activist, and political powerbroker. In his lifetime Jordan has assumed many roles, the most famous being adviser to President Bill Clinton. Born in Atlanta, Georgia, Vernon Eulion Jordan Jr. was the second of three sons of Vernon Eulion Jordan, a postal clerk, and Mary Griggs Jordan, a successful caterer. The family lived in public housing until they purchased a house when Vernon was thirteen. Jordan graduated from David T. Howard High School with honors in 1953. After graduation he attended DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana, one of five blacks in the entire student body. Graduating from DePauw in 1957 with a BA, Jordan attended Howard University Law School in Washington, D.C., graduating with his law degree in 1960.

While at Howard Law, Jordan met and married Shirley Yarbrough on 13 December 1958 The couple returned to Georgia where ...

Article

One of the most powerful, well-connected lawyers in the United States, Vernon Eulion Jordan Jr. has had a long, sometimes contradictory career. Few civil rights spokespeople of his generation have attained the kind of corporate and political influence Jordan has, an achievement that was enhanced by his position as a top adviser to and close friend of President Bill Clinton. Yet some critics charged that the former National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) field secretary and Urban League president lost touch with his original goals: to improve the economic lives of African Americans.

Jordan was born in Atlanta, Georgia The middle son of a postal clerk and his wife a caterer he was deeply influenced by his mother s drive and business sense As a child he sometimes accompanied her to catering jobs where he observed Atlanta s white establishment especially the Lawyer s Club ...

Article

Kissette Bundy

lawyer and arbitrageur who was the first African American to own a Fortune 500 business. Reginald Francis Lewis was born in Baltimore, Maryland, to Clinton Lewis, a restaurateur, and Carolyn Cooper Lewis, who was seventeen at the time of her son's birth. Lewis and his mother lived with his grandparents, Sue and Sam Cooper, after his parents divorced. The Cooper clan resided in the segregated working-class neighborhood of East Baltimore. Reginald's grandfather held several service positions, while his wife raised their eight children and two of her nieces and labored as a domestic. The values of family, work ethic, and enjoyment of the finer things in life would balance Lewis's bullish rise to the financial elite.

In 1951, Reginald's mother married Jean S. Fugett Sr. an army soldier who purchased the family home in West Baltimore through the GI Bill Lewis soon had five brothers ...

Article

Although he disliked the term, Reginald Lewis was often called the “Jackie Robinson of Wall Street” and was considered “the man who broke the color barrier in large-scale mergers and acquisitions and leveraged buyouts.” In 1987, with his firm TLC, Lewis orchestrated the largest offshore leveraged buyout in business history, paying $985 million for Beatrice International Foods. With subsidiaries on almost every continent, the renamed TLC-Beatrice International became the largest black-owned firm in the United States, and TLC's acquisition of Beatrice Foods made Lewis one of the most prominent African American businessmen.

Lewis was born in Baltimore, Maryland. His parents separated when he was nine, but he grew up in a supportive, middle-class atmosphere in Baltimore. By the age of ten, Lewis had gotten a job delivering the Baltimore Afro-American newspaper and he stored the money he earned in a tin can he labeled Reggie s ...

Article

Saul Engelbourg

arbitrager and business executive, was born in Baltimore, the son of Clinton Lewis, a skilled worker and small-businessman and Carolyn Cooper. Lewis was strongly influenced by his mother, especially because his parents divorced during his childhood. His mother married Jean S. Fugett Sr. in 1951. An elementary school teacher, Fugett was a graduate of Morgan State College and had five sons and daughters.

Lewis attended a Catholic grade school but was not admitted to a Catholic high school because of low test scores and discrimination against blacks Instead he attended the black public Paul Laurence Dunbar High School where he starred in three sports football baseball and basketball Academically below average because of his weakness in the sciences Lewis received a football scholarship from Virginia State College in Petersburg a black public institution After his freshman year Lewis withdrew from football because of a shoulder injury ...