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James G. Spady

One of thirteen children, Robert Mara Adger was born in Charleston, South Carolina. His father, Robert Adger, was black, and his mother, Mary Ann Morong, was Native American. In 1848 the family moved to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Adger's father first found a job as a waiter in the Old Merchant's Hotel. Later, while working as a nurse, he industriously saved enough funds to open a furniture business. He was involved in many activities and was a founder of the Benjamin Banneker Institute.

Robert Mara Adger received his early training at the Bird School, an early black educational institution in the United States. During his teenage years, he worked in his father's furniture stores, which had expanded from one in 1850 to three by 1858 Serving as a manager provided him with the business experience that he later found valuable as director of the Philadelphia Building and ...

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John N. Ingham

banker and businessman, was born in a log cabin in Clarksdale, Mississippi, the son of Daniel Banks and Sallie Ann (maiden name unknown), poor farmers. Banks grew up in extreme poverty but was educated in the local public schools and later attended Rust University in nearby Holly Springs, Mississippi. Returning to Clarksdale, he speculated in land and cotton. After marrying Trenna A. Booze of Natchez, Mississippi, in 1893 Banks engaged her brother, Eugene P. Booze, as his apprentice, teaching Booze how to trade cotton and work his general store, Banks & Co. In 1904 Banks and Booze resettled in the black-owned town of Mound Bayou, Mississippi. Temporarily leaving the merchandising business, Banks established the Bank of Mound Bayou, owning roughly two-thirds of its stock and serving as cashier as well as operating head. Several years later, in 1909 Banks and Booze founded the Farmer s Cooperative Mercantile ...

Article

Gregory S. Bell

investment banker and entrepreneur, was born in Chicago, Illinois, the third of four children of Travers Bell Sr., a clerk at a brokerage firm, and Iona St. Ange, a teaching aide. Growing up on the tough streets of Chicago's South Side could often be rough, and Bell would later credit his experiences for giving him the wherewithal to survive and succeed on Wall Street later in his life.

After graduating from high school Bell planned to go to a teachers college At the time his father was working in the backroom of Dempsey Tegeler a Midwestern brokerage firm One summer Bell needed money so his father got him a job as a messenger at the firm On Bell s first day on the job a manager asked him to deliver a briefcase to a company across the street While walking to the destination Bell peeked into the briefcase and ...

Article

John N. Ingham

Jesse Binga was born in Detroit, Michigan, the son of Robert Binga, Jr., a barber, and Adelphia Powers, a builder and real estate owner. (Nearly all sources cite William W. Binga as Jesse Binga's father, but all are based on a December 1927 article by Inez V. Cantley in Crisis, which may not be reliable. A family member, Anthony J. Binga, Sr., after conducting research in the census records from the Courts of Records of the Dominion of Canada, claimed that Jesse Binga's father was Robert Binga, Jr. Who's Who in Colored America [1928–1929] also names Robert Binga as Jesse Binga's father.) The Binga family owned and managed real estate properties, and, according to a number of sources, it was Adelphia Binga who possessed most of the family s business acumen As a youngster Binga helped his mother collect rents on the family s ...

Article

John N. Ingham

businessman, banker, and real estate investor, was born in Detroit, Michigan, the son of Robert Binga Jr., a barber, and Adelphia Powers, a builder and real estate owner. Nearly all sources cite William W. Binga as Jesse Binga's father, but all are based on a December 1927 article by Inez V. Cantley in Crisis, which may not be reliable. A family member, Anthony J. Binga Sr., after conducting research in the census records from the Courts of Records of the Dominion of Canada, claimed that Jesse Binga's father was Robert Binga Jr.Who's Who in Colored America (1928–1929) also names Robert Binga as Jesse Binga's father.

The Binga family owned and managed real estate properties and according to a number of sources it was Adelphia Binga who possessed most of the family s business acumen As a youngster Jesse helped his mother collect rents on ...

Article

Lester C. Lamon

The son of Richard Henry Boyd and Hattie Moore, Henry Allen Boyd was born in Grimes County, Texas, on April 15, 1876, and grew up in San Antonio. During the early 1870s his father, a former slave and Texas cowboy, received the call to the ministry and launched a successful career as a minister, church promoter, and entrepreneur. More than any of his eight brothers and sisters, Henry Allen identified with his father's aggressive concern for race achievement and personal initiative. While still in his teens, the younger Boyd attained a clerkship in the San Antonio post office (the first African American to hold such a position), and he held this post until he moved his wife and young daughter to Nashville, Tennessee, just before the turn of the century. Nashville remained Henry Boyd's residence until his death in 1959.

Richard Henry Boyd had become active ...

Article

David Michel

publisher, entrepreneur, and banker, was born to Richard Henry Boyd, a publisher, and the former Harriet Moore in Grimes County, Texas, one of nine children. Henry Allen went to public school in Palestine, Texas, and attended the West Union Baptist Church. The Boyd family later moved to San Antonio and Henry found work at the local postal office. He became the first black to be hired as a postal clerk in San Antonio. He married Lula M. Smith, who bore him a daughter, Katherine. Lula did not live long after her daughter's birth. In 1908 he married again, this time to Georgia Ann Bradford. Around the early 1900s Henry Allen moved to Nashville, Tennessee, at the request of his father who had preceded him there. R. H. Boyd was making a name for himself in Nashville as founder and secretary treasurer of the National Baptist ...

Article

Eric Ledell Smith

businessman and banker, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to Robert Brown, a turnkey in the local jail, and Anne Brown, a homemaker. E. C. Brown was the eldest of three children. He attended the public schools in Philadelphia and after his high school graduation worked for three years as a mail clerk at the financial firm of Bradstreet Mercantile. He took stenography and typewriting classes at the Spencerian Business College in Philadelphia and subsequently worked as a stenographer for the National Railway Company but was soon laid off. Brown then became secretary to a Frank Thompson, who ran a catering business in Florida in the late 1890s. Around 1901 Brown left Thompson and started a real estate business in Newport News, Virginia. By 1908 he was renting more than 300 houses and had more than 800 tenants. On 27 June 1908 he opened the Crown Savings Bank ...

Article

David M. Fahey

fraternal society leader and banker, was born in Habersham County, Georgia, the son of Joseph Browne and Mariah (maiden name unknown), field slaves. As a young child he was called Ben Browne and was chosen to be the companion of his owner's son. A subsequent owner who lived near Memphis trained Browne as a jockey for race circuits in Tennessee and Mississippi. During the Civil War he plotted an escape with fellow slaves. When his owner learned of the conspiracy, he transferred Browne to a plantation in Mississippi. Despite the difficulties of tramping fifty miles without a compass, Browne persuaded three other young slaves to join him in a successful escape to the Union army at Memphis. After learning that his owner could demand his return, Browne fled upriver as a stowaway.

Browne later worked as a saloon servant in Illinois where his barroom experiences made him a teetotaler and ...

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 ...

Article

Steven J. Niven

teacher, landowner, and businessman, was born to Caroline Cox (sometimes recorded as Caroline Griffin) on the Griffin plantation near Ebenezer, in Holmes County, Mississippi, on the eastern edge of the Yazoo-Mississippi Delta. The name of Wayne's father is unknown, but several accounts suggest that his mother was widowed either shortly before or shortly after her son was born.

From an early age, perhaps as early as three or four, Cox worked in the cotton fields of the Griffith plantation alongside his mother. During the years of Reconstruction he benefited from the establishment of the first state-supported public schools for African American children in Mississippi. Though the school year was only a few weeks long, Cox displayed a precocious talent at the Holmes County School, and by age eleven he had completed all of the courses on offer in the school's rudimentary curriculum. In 1875 he won ...

Article

Steven Leikin

diplomat, preacher, and author, was born in Atlanta, Georgia, the son of Sallie Montgomery. Nothing is known of his biological father. His mother, however, was an African American, and Dennis was of mixed race parentage. In 1897 he was adopted by Green Dennis, a contractor, and Cornelia Walker. During his youth Dennis was known as the “mulatto child evangelist,” and he preached to church congregations in the African American community of Atlanta before he was five years old. By the age of fifteen he had toured churches throughout the United States and England and addressed hundreds of thousands of people.

Despite his success as an evangelist Dennis had ambitions to move beyond this evangelical milieu. In 1913, unschooled but unquestionably bright, he applied to Phillips Exeter Academy and gained admission. He graduated within two years and in 1915 entered Harvard.

Dennis s decisions to ...

Article

Charles Rosenberg

building engineer, real estate investor, chairman and majority owner of a bank, was born in Panama City, Florida, the only son of Jacoby D. Dickens, Sr. and Marie Dickens, who may also have been known as Lessie Mae. The latter name is recorded in the 1940 census, but Marie is the name Dickens gave in a 1999 interview for The History Makers Digital Archive.

Dickens had two older sisters and three younger ones. His father was a longshoreman, loading and unloading ocean vessels. In Florida he attended a racially segregated two-room schoolhouse, with two teachers each handling four grades. He had a job after school in a grocery store for $1.50 a week. After his parents divorced, he moved with his father and sisters to Chicago in 1946 where Dickens held a part time job at Goldblatt Brothers and graduated from Wendell Phillips High School ...

Article

Wall Street financier, entrepreneur, and philanthropist, was born in New London, Connecticut, the oldest of three sons of Alphonse Fletcher Sr., a technician at General Dynamics and an entrepreneur, and Bettye Fletcher Comer, an elementary school principal and doctor of education. In interviews, Fletcher frequently credited his parents' emphasis on education and discipline as the keys to his success in school and business. In 1987 Fletcher graduated as First Marshal of his class from Harvard College with a bachelor's degree in Applied Mathematics. Having cross-enrolled in the Aerospace Studies Program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology as part of the U.S. Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps, he was commissioned in 1987, and served as an officer in the U.S. Air Force Ready Reserve until his honorable discharge in 1997.

The firm of Bear Stearns Co Inc recruited Fletcher directly out of college ...

Article

Alphonse Fletcher, Jr., known by the nickname Buddy, was born in Waterford, Connecticut. He attended Harvard University, graduating in 1987 with a bachelor's degree in applied mathematics. In his senior year, his fellow students chose him marshal, or president, of his class.

After graduating, Fletcher worked as an investment manager for the Wall Street firm of Bear, Stearns & Company before joining Kidder, Peabody & Company as a senior vice president managing an equity arbitrage group. Although he was among its most successful traders, the relationship ended poorly, with Fletcher's resignation in 1991. He subsequently sued the firm over a disputed bonus. Citing racial discrimination, he alleged that the company underpaid him approximately $2 million. His suits resulted in an arbitration award to him of $1.3 million in 1992, although a separate arbitration found no evidence of discrimination.

Immediately after Fletcher left Kidder Peabody he founded Fletcher ...

Article

Lynne B. Feldman

entrepreneur, was born Arthur George Gaston in Demopolis, Alabama, the son of Tom Gaston, a railroad worker, and Rosa Gaston (maiden name unknown), a cook. He grew up in poverty in rural Alabama before he and his mother moved to Birmingham, Alabama, after his father's death. He attended, and for a good time resided at, Tuggle Institute, where he received a moral and industrial education. In 1910 he graduated from the school with a tenth grade certificate. Before and after graduation he worked at a number of part-time jobs, including selling subscriptions for the Birmingham Reporter.

Gaston served in World War I in France as a sergeant in the 317th Ammunition Train of the all black 92nd Division of the U S army Upon his return to the United States he briefly worked at a dry cleaning factory for five dollars a day before landing a job ...

Article

Michael Adams

professional football player, was born in Clover, Virginia. Information about his parents is unknown. He played football at Maggie Walker High School in Richmond, Virginia, becoming a linebacker during his senior season. After graduating in 1963, Lanier originally planned to attend Virginia State University to study business administration. Yet he decided to seek a more racially tolerant environment farther north and enrolled at Morgan State University in Baltimore. He contacted Morgan State football coach Earl “Papa Bear” Banks about the possibility of playing, but Lanier was told there were no scholarships. Scoring in the top 10 percent of his incoming class on his college entrance exam, Lanier had not expected to be a scholarship athlete. Instead, he acquired a student loan and found a work-study job on campus.

Initially making the team as a walk on Lanier quickly established himself as an outstanding linebacker and eventually received a ...

Article

Jason Philip Miller

businessman and politician, was born in Kaufman County in the eastern part of Texas to George McDonald, a native Tennessean who had once (reportedly) been owned by the Confederate officer and founder of the Ku Klux Klan, Nathan Bedford Forrest. George was a farmer by trade. McDonald's mother, Flora Scott, was either a former slave or a freewoman, depending on the source. What appears certain is that she was from Alabama and died when McDonald was still very young. His father soon married a woman named Belle Crouch. Education in the family was a matter of great importance; McDonald was in fact named after William Shakespeare and the former U.S. president James Madison. He attended local schools and graduated from high school around 1884 As a young man he took work from a local cattle rancher and lawyer named Z T Adams who discussed the law ...

Article

Travis Boyce and Winsome Chunnu-Brayda

civil-rights activist, soldier, commercial banker, and stock broker, was born Joseph Alfred McNeil on 25 March 1942 in Wilmington, North Carolina. Even prior to entering college, civil-rights activism was not new to McNeil. As a youth in Wilmington, he participated in a boycott of Pepsi-Cola for discriminatory hiring practices. By attending a segregated school, McNeil was shielded from the hostility that one would otherwise experience at an integrated school. His teachers constantly emphasized to him and his classmates that they are entitled to the same rights and opportunities as their white counterparts.

McNeil graduated from Wilmington's Williston High School in 1959 and that fall entered North Carolina Agriculture and Technical College in Greensboro on an alumni association scholarship. An engineering-physics major, McNeil was also a cadet in the Air Force ROTC program. During his freshman year, McNeil befriended Franklin McCain, David Richmond, and Ezell Blair (later Jibreel Khazan ...

Article

Willard B. Gatewood

newspaper editor and banker, was born near Richmond, Virginia, on the estate of James Lyons, where his parents, John Mitchell and Rebecca maiden name unknown were house slaves After gaining their freedom the Mitchells were employed by Lyons as servants in his mansion in the city where their son performed various chores and became a keen observer of the rituals of polite society practiced there Mitchell s mother exerted a decisive influence on him during his formative years she instilled in him a fierce sense of racial pride instructed him in the ways of gentlemanly conduct and insisted on his regular attendance at the First African Baptist Church where he was baptized at the age of fourteen Over the objections of her white employer Rebecca Mitchell arranged for her son s education first in a private school and later in public schools An intensely competitive student with ...