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Sherri J. Norris

chemical engineer and environmental engineering entrepreneur, was born in Memphis, Tennessee, the second of four daughters of Ernest Buford Abron and Bernice Wise Abron, both educators. Abron was educated in Memphis public schools and was a member of the National Honor Society. Abron divorced and had three sons, Frederick, Ernest, and David; she is occasionally credited as Lilia Ann Abron-Robinson.

Abron stayed close to home when she attended LeMoyne College, a historically black college in Memphis, Tennessee. She considered medical school, but she was persuaded by her advisor, Dr. Beuler, to pursue a career in engineering instead. Her decision was a risky one. She did not know of any African Americans with engineering degrees who were actually working as engineers; instead, she once said in an interview, they were often working in post offices. In 1966 Abron received her BS in Chemistry from ...

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Yohan Lee

was born on 15 April 1929 in Trinidad to a Trinidadian mother, Olive Irene Barrow (née Pierre), and Barbadian father, Charles Newton Barrow. Little is known of her early life before she moved to London, but she later told the British Broadcasting Corporation that her own initial experiences with racial discrimination were the driving force behind her passion for social change.

In the 1960s Barrow trained to become a teacher at the University of London. There, she obtained an undergraduate degree in English and also earned a postgraduate degree in education. After teaching and consulting for twenty years in London, she was invited to become a senior lecturer in education at the Furzedown Teachers’ College and seconded to the London Institute of Education, a public research university in 1979 At both she eventually became a trainer of teachers paving the way for the introduction of multicultural education in the ...

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Theresa A. Hammond

business leader and educator, born in rural Fallis, Oklahoma territory, to Lester Blayton, a Baptist preacher and Mattie E. Carter, a schoolteacher. Despite having only a fourth‐grade education Mattie Blayton was a schoolteacher who continually underscored the importance of academic achievement. Blayton's father, the mixed‐race, illiterate son of a Creek Indian, was a shaman before becoming a preacher. Blayton attended federally funded elementary and high schools for Native Americans in Meridian, Oklahoma. Later in life he reported that he had been unaware of the poverty of his childhood, though he noted that the only job he had ever hated was when his parents rented him and the family mule out by the day to work in the fields.

With his parents encouragement Blayton attended Langston University working menial jobs to cover his costs His education was interrupted when he volunteered for the U S Army during World War ...

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Chuck D  

Alice Knox Eaton

rapper, educator, and music entrepreneur, was born Carlton Douglas Ridenhour in Queens, New York, to Lorenzo and Judy Ridenhour, both political activists. Lorenzo worked as a warehouse manager before starting his own trucking company at age forty. Ridenhour's home was full of the sounds of jazz and R&B, and he grew up with an acute awareness of the political events of the 1960s as they unfolded: the murder of Medgar Evers, the 1963 March on Washington, and the assassinations of the Kennedys, Black Panther leaders, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King Jr. The family, including his sister Lisa and brother Erik, moved from predominantly black Queensbridge to another largely black community in Roosevelt, Long Island, when Ridenhour was eleven. He spent the summers of 1970 and 1971 attending programs at Adelphi and Hofstra universities on the African American experience further shaping his early sense of the ...

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Claranne Perkins

teacher, educator, and entrepreneur, was born Marva Delores Nettles in Monroeville, Alabama, the daughter of Henry Knight Jr., an entrepreneur, and Bessie Maye Knight Nettles, a housewife. A child of the Depression and segregated schools, Collins recalls the talk of grown-ups about “how times were hard and there was no money” (Collins and Tamarkin, p. 32), but she remembered that the Depression had little impact on her childhood.

Her father was one of the richest black men in Monroeville Collins and Tamarkin p 32 Their house was one of the finest in the black section of Monroeville with polished wood floors and store bought furniture Her mother dressed her like a doll in ruffled ribboned dresses and crisply pleated store bought school dresses tied in back with an ironed sash Her classmates for the most part wore homemade clothes from empty twenty five pound flour ...

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Amy M. Hay

Marva Nettles Collins fought for equality by providing an education to hundreds of children in Chicago’s West Side. Collins’s methods and success attracted national attention, and she was asked several times by Presidents Ronald Reagan and the first George Bush to become secretary of education, a position she declined. Collins’s life shows the importance of the professions in achieving equal rights and the significance of education and teachers within the black community.

Henry and Bessie Knight’s first and only child together, Marva Collins was born in Monroeville, Alabama. Henry Knight worked hard and ran various businesses among them a grocery store a funeral parlor and a cattle business The Knight family lived well despite the Depression Marva spent the first twelve years of her life in Monroeville attending the Bethlehem Academy Her paternal grandmother taught her to read by reading out loud from the Bible Marva became ...

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Paul Stillwell

pioneer black naval officer, was born in Washington, North Carolina, the eighth of eleven children of Edward L. Cooper, a sheet metal worker, and Laura J. Cooper a homemaker One of the eleven siblings died in infancy the remaining ten became college graduates During his upbringing in North Carolina Cooper often faced the tribulations of southern racism He went to segregated schools and learned from his parents that he had to go out of his way to avoid conflict with whites Once when Cooper was eight or nine years old he got into a fight with a white boy As he put it It was the wrong day for him to call me a nigger and we had it out Stillwell 76 Cooper s father had to smooth things over with the boy s father to avoid the incident s escalation When he worked as a bellhop in ...

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Peter Fraser

Pioneering black businesswoman and one of the founders of the Notting Hill Carnival. Born Carmen Maingot in Port of Spain, Trinidad, she came to England in 1931 to attend the Royal Academy of Music, studying piano and violin. Among her friends in England were C. L. R. James and Eric Williams. She stayed in England, pursuing her musical career, until 1938, when she returned to Trinidad, playing the piano in public concerts, teaching music, and starting a hairdressing business. She returned to England in 1946, travelling with one of her pupils, Winifred Atwell.

She met and married the impresario Paul England but unlike Atwell decided not to continue her career in music Instead she continued hairdressing setting up a salon in a Forces club managed by her husband and beginning to produce hair products for her black customers an example imitated by Atwell in ...

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Yves Chemla

was born on 24 May 1941 in Jérémie, Haiti. His family origins date back to colonial times. On his father’s side, the Fignolés originated from the Perpignan region of France and participated in the revolution that led to independence. Fignolé’s family members have included landowners, industrialists, and even a president of the Republic (Daniel Fignolé, for a brief period in 1957). On his mother Alice Polycarpe’s side, there were Arawak Indians, as well as Haitian Liberation Army officer Saint-Gourdin, who was an aide-de-camp to President General Pétion (in office, 1806–1818). The latter granted him the Nan Jouissant estate, which was part of the Schpeerbach domain that served as the setting for the novel Aube tranquille As landowners in the course of successive generations the Polycarpes often served as mayors and justices of the peace in the Abricots commune There Jean Claude Fignolé lived out his childhood on ...

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Ayesha Kanji

marketing executive and educator, was born in Washington, D.C., to William H. Fitzhugh, a messenger for the Department of Agriculture, and Lillian (maiden name unknown), a counselor at one of the local junior high schools. Both of his parents were involved in the community, his mother in civic affairs and his father through his membership in the Order of the Elks, a fraternal organization whose mission is to cultivate good fellowship and community spirit. In the 1920s, Fitzhugh attended a predominantly black high school, Dunbar High School, during a period of racial segregation in the United States.

Graduating from high school at the age of 16, Fitzhugh distinguished himself with a scholarship to Harvard University, where he was one of only four black students in the entering class. He was not allowed to live in the campus dormitories, but Fitzhugh excelled and graduated with honors in 1931 ...

Article

LaVerne Gray

minister, politician, educator, and writer. After serving as a U.S. representative from New York, Flake became the minister and leader of New York City's largest African American church, the Greater Allen African Methodist Episcopal Cathedral in Queens. He elevated the membership to over eighteen thousand and assisted the economic growth of the church through concentrated efforts in community development. In 2002 Flake became president of Wilberforce University, one the oldest historically black colleges, in Ohio. He worked in the private, educational, and government sectors while simultaneously serving in the church.

Floyd Harold Flake was born in Los Angeles, the third of thirteen children born to Robert Flake, a janitor, and Rosie Lee Flake a homemaker When Flake was still small the family relocated to Houston Texas Growing up Flake was resourceful and his parents stressed a strong work ethic He was always working delivering ...

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Sholomo B. Levy

minister, U.S. Congressman, educator, and business executive, was born in Los Angeles, California, the eighth of thirteen children of Robert Flake Sr., a janitor, and Rosie Lee Johnson. Shortly after Floyd's birth, the family moved into a two-bedroom home in Houston, Texas. The roots of many of Floyd's political beliefs can be traced to his southern upbringing: his family was poor, but proud; racism abounded, but faith and optimism ruled the Flake home.

Floyd s early education took place in segregated poorly equipped schools but his teachers were dedicated and took a stern interest in his academic development One teacher cared enough to make sure that Floyd spent much of his free time involved in youth programs at her African Methodist Episcopal AME Church After graduating from high school Flake entered Wilberforce University the nation s oldest private African American University in Ohio He ...

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Steven J. Niven

educator and nonprofit executive, was born in Chicago, Illinois, the son of William Foster and Ruth (Alexander) Foster, who were both missionaries in the Bahá’í faith. He was named after Badí’ (1852–1869), an important early Persian Bahá’í martyr whose Arabic name translates as “wonderfulness” in English. That William Foster was African American while Ruth Foster was white would have made their marriage illegal in most American states, though not Illinois, at the time their son was born. The couple met in the 1930s in Chicago through their common interest in radical, left-wing politics and gravitated toward the pluralistic Bahá’í faith, which teaches the unity of humankind and promotes racial and gender equality.

Badi Foster was raised on Chicago's South Side, where he was a Boy Scout patrol leader, enjoyed singing doo-wop, and earned extra money by selling Jet magazine When he was eleven Foster moved with his ...

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Anthony A. Lee

Badi Foster was born in Chicago to an interracial Baha'i family. His father (William) was black, and his mother (Ruth) was white. When Badi (which means “wonderful” in Arabic and is the name of a celebrated Baha'i martyr) was eleven, his parents moved to Morocco as pioneers (missionaries) for the Baha'i religion. He spent his adolescence in that country, learning French and Arabic. He attended the American School in Casablanca to the eighth grade, and then transferred to the American School of Tangiers where he completed his high school education in 1960.

As a consequence of learning new languages and negotiating new cultures Foster discovered that although Morocco had its own structures of inequality and oppression American notions of race were unknown there He explains that as a boy therefore he was vaccinated against racism never internalizing ideas or racial inferiority and gaining important insights even as a teenager ...

Article

Jean M. Brannon

businessman and civic leader, was born in Chicago, Illinois, the son of Frank Gardner, a U.S. federal employee, and Eva. Residing in his parents' West Chesterfield home on Chicago's far South Side, Gardner attended Gillespie Elementary. In elementary school Gardner exhibited his gifts of salesmanship and initiative when he began delivering the Chicago Defender newspaper door-to-door in his neighborhood. The community contacts he developed as a newspaper boy continued long after he had given up his paper route. He and his older brother Frank were the only two African American students enrolled in Fenger High School. Edward's high school extracurricular interests were intramural sports, primarily basketball, and creative art. His artistic abilities resulted in summer scholarships to the Ray Vogue Art School. Gardner was drafted into the U.S. military after his high school graduation in 1943 Stationed in Japan and the Pacific islands in World War II ...

Article

Amanda Harmon Cooley

businessperson, corporate executive, and educator. Dennis Fowler Hightower, the son of Marvin W. Hightower and Anna Virginia Hightower, was born in Washington, D.C., and grew up in LeDroit Park, a neighborhood in the District of Columbia in which many other prominent African Americans, from Duke Ellington to the Reverend Jesse Jackson, have lived. As a child Hightower spent time at Camp Atwater in North Brookfield, Massachusetts, which was established in 1921 by William N. DeBerry with the mission to help African American children. After graduating from McKinley High School at age sixteen, Hightower continued his studies at Howard University, earning a bachelor of science degree in 1962.

Then Hightower enlisted in the U S Army beginning an eight year military career that included active service in the Vietnam War His leadership advanced him to the rank of major by the age of twenty seven ...

Article

James Bethea

inventor and educator, was born in Macon, Missouri, to Philip Alexander Hubbard, a draftsman, and Rosa Belle (Wallace) Hubbard, a teacher who later worked as an elevator operator and freelance dressmaker. Hubbard's parents selected his middle name in recognition of Warren Gamaliel Harding's inauguration as U S president on the day he was born Hubbard s father died eighteen days after he was born and his mother was left to care for him and his three brothers The family was close knit and Hubbard and his siblings were cared for by relatives while his mother taught school When he was four years old his mother sacrificed her teaching career and moved the family to Des Moines Iowa in hopes of better educational opportunities for her sons An avid reader from an early age Hubbard thrived at Nash Elementary School where he won a spelling bee competition ...

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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 ...

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Otis Westbrook Pickett

businessman, educator, and civil rights leader, was born on Johns Island off the coast of Charleston, South Carolina, the only child of Eva (Campbell) and Peter Jenkins the latter a rice and cotton farmer Growing up on Johns Island Esau Jenkins experienced first hand the plight of African Americans on the Sea Islands of South Carolina which was one of hardship and impoverishment Jenkins s early formal education or lack thereof was common for many African American children on Johns Island in the early twentieth century Because of the death of his mother and in an effort to help with the family income Jenkins was obligated to leave Legareville Elementary School in the fourth grade He initially went to work on a boat in Charleston harbor but returned to Johns Island as a vegetable and cotton farmer in the early 1920s However his resolve to obtain ...

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Thomas Burnell Colbert

educator, was born in St. Joseph, Missouri, the oldest of four children and the only son of John Q. Jones, a hotel porter and barbershop owner, and Lydia Foster Jones, a seamstress and parlor room hostess. Laurence learned the value of hard work in his youth as he shined shoes, sold newspapers, and raised chickens. In 1898 he moved to Marshalltown, Iowa, where he worked for room and board at a hotel. In 1903 Jones became the first African American to graduate from Marshalltown High School. Local whites encouraged him to attend the University of Iowa (then the State University of Iowa) in Iowa City. Influenced by the ideas of Booker T. Washington, Jones decided to help educate poor blacks in the South when he graduated from the University of Iowa in 1907 with a bachelor of philosophy degree.

Jones joined the Utica Institute in ...