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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 ...

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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 ...

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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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Jennifer Curry

president and CEO of the NAACP and telecommunications executive, was born in Camden, New Jersey, one of five children of Walter Gordon, a school administrator, and Violet, a teacher. His father cofounded and served as secretary-treasurer of the Camden chapter of the NAACP, and starting at the age of eight, Gordon accompanied his father to meetings. Because both of his parents were educators, he aspired to enter the field as well. Gordon attended Gettysburg College in Pennsylvania, where he majored in anthropology and sociology (liberal arts and sociology according to some sources), earning his bachelor's degree in 1968.

After meeting with an on-campus recruiter, Gordon accepted a management-trainee post with the local phone company, Bell of Pennsylvania. Completing the training program in 1970, he signed on as a business office manager and stayed with the company until his retirement. On 20 February 1970 Gordon married Genie Alston ...

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Elizabeth K. Davenport

businesswoman and civil leader, was born in Washington, D.C., the daughter of Harold “Hal” B. Jackson, a radio personality, and Julia (Hawkins) Jackson, a businesswoman. Her father was a pioneer in the broadcasting industry, whose work in radio and television eventually took the family to New York City.

As a child, Jackson was drawn to the performing arts, especially dance. She studied classical ballet and jazz and was eventually admitted to New York City's High School of the Performing Arts. She continued her dance studies at Bard College from 1961 until 1963. She left the college in 1964 prior to her graduation to get married at age nineteen to Frederick Ward, an advertising copywriter. The marriage ended in divorce in 1967. Jackson McCabe later married Eugene McCabe, president of North General Hospital in New York City, in 1974 That marriage ended in ...

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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 ...

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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

Theodore W. Eversole

U.S. ambassador and successful businessman. Born in Arkansas City, Kansas, Delano Eugene Lewis Jr. received a BA in political science from the University of Kansas in 1960 and a JD from Topeka's Washburn University School of Law in 1963. Following law school Lewis initially worked as an attorney in the Justice Department and with the U.S. Equal Opportunities Commission.

From 1965 to 1969 Lewis expanded his experience by serving in the Peace Corps, first as an associate country director in Nigeria and later as director in Uganda. Upon returning from overseas he remained with the Peace Corps as director of the East and South African divisions, a post that gave him particular insights into political conditions inside Africa.

After the Peace Corps, Lewis joined the staff of the District of Columbia's representative in the U.S. House of Representatives, Walter Fauntroy, and remained there until 1973 This introduction to ...

Article

Robert "Bob" Davis

one of the four North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University freshmen who initiated the sit-in movement in Greensboro, North Carolina, was born Franklin Eugene McCain in Union County, North Carolina, the son of Warner and Mattie McCain. McCain grew up in Washington, D.C., and graduated from Eastern High School in 1959. After graduating, he returned to his native North Carolina to attend college at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University (A&T). During his time as an undergraduate student at A&T, McCain roomed with David Richmond and lived around the corner from Ezell Blair Jr. and Joseph McNeil on the second floor of Scott Hall. These four men challenged public accommodation customs and laws in North Carolina on 1 February 1960 launching a sit in movement that became an important catalyst for much of the modern civil rights movement They decided to sit at an all ...

Article

Eunice Angelica Whitmal

entrepreneur and civic leader. Henry Green Parks Jr. was born in Atlanta, Georgia. His family later moved to Ohio for better economic opportunities. Parks majored in marketing at Ohio State University, where he shared a room with Jesse Owens. Before Parks graduated, an Ohio State counselor suggested that he “go to South America, where you will have a real chance.” Parks recalled saying that “he would not run from anything, least of all himself.”

In 1939 Parks graduated from Ohio State and took a job working as a manager and trainer for the Resident War Production Training Center in Wilberforce, Ohio. There he trained hundreds of youths for jobs in business. His interest in management led him to work in various capacities, including beverage marketer, advertisement representative, drugstore owner, cider block plant manager, and co-owner of Crayton Sausage Company. In 1944 he moved to Baltimore Maryland where ...

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James Kates

lawyer, political operative, and corporate executive. Richard Dean Parsons rose to the highest ranks in corporate America as head of Time Warner, the world's largest media company at the time. From modest beginnings, Parsons became a protégé of New York's Rockefeller family and won fame as a political strategist, negotiator, and consensus builder.

Parsons was born in Brooklyn, New York. From Brooklyn's Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood, the Parsons family moved to the New York City borough of Queens, where young Richard went to school in an ethnically mixed setting that included Jews and Italian Americans. His father was a technician for Sperry Rand Corporation, and his mother was a homemaker; his grandfather had worked as a groundskeeper for the Rockefellers. A precocious student, Parsons skipped two grades and entered the University of Hawaii at age sixteen. He graduated from Albany Law School in 1971 achieving the highest score ...

Article

Gregory S. Bell

corporate executive and lawyer, was born in Brooklyn, New York, the second of five children of Lorenzo Parsons, a technician, and Isabelle Judd. When Richard was five years old, the family moved to a middle-class neighborhood in Queens. He later recalled his father as “intellectual and gentle” and his mother as “full of steely determination and grit” (Clarke, 153). In his childhood, academic excellence was far from Richard's top priority, and at John Adams High School he did well but always with as little effort as possible. Still, his talents propelled him to graduate early, at the age of sixteen. In 1964 he applied to the University of Hawaii primarily because he had been attracted to his Hawaiian-born high school physics lab partner, who had constantly told him stories about the exotic state.

Parsons worked at various odd jobs including at a parking garage and gas company ...

Article

Millery Polyné

World War II pilot, entrepreneur, and airline executive, was born in Westfield, New Jersey, the son of a Jamaican dental technician. His parents' names are unknown. A driven and determined student at Lincoln University in Pennsylvania, where he graduated with a bachelor of arts in 1935, Plinton was a solid student-athlete who participated on the varsity soccer, wrestling, tennis, and track teams. He was also a member of the dramatic society and the glee club and was president of the German society. An accomplished musician, he played the piano and organ well and one summer played the organ at Tuskegee Institute. With the encouragement and unbending rearing of his father, it was evident that the black college experience was critical to his development as a future leader and visionary who would defy the odds against systematic racial injustice. In a 1973 interview Plinton revealed Going ...

Article

Theodore W. Eversole

business executive. The son of janitors, Franklin Delano Raines was born and raised in Seattle, Washington, and attended Harvard University, where he received a BA in government, magna cum laude, in 1971. He then studied at Magdalen College, Oxford, as a Rhodes Scholar. Following his Oxford studies Raines went to Harvard Law School, where he received his JD in 1976.

After leaving Harvard his career advancement was meteoric: in short order he achieved important public offices within the Jimmy Carter administration, initially serving as associate director for economics and government in the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and then serving from 1977 to 1979 as assistant director of White House domestic policy staff.

At the end of his White House tenure Raines joined the investment firm of Lazard, Freres, and Company, where he stayed for eleven years and became a partner. In 1991 he left the ...

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Gregory S. Bell

corporate executive and government official, was born Franklin Delano Raines in Seattle, Washington, the fourth of seven children of Delno Thomas Raines, a custodian, and Ida Mae Raines, a cleaning woman. He was named after his uncle Frank and his father, but the hospital misspelled his middle name as “Delano.”

The Raines family eventually moved into a house that Delno Raines had built himself over the course of five years The household was constantly fighting economic challenges When Raines was a young boy his father was hospitalized for an illness and lost his job As a result the family received welfare for two years Eventually Delno Raines got full time work as a custodian for the city of Seattle Ida Raines added to their income by working as a cleaning woman for the aircraft company Boeing But Raines would always remember the lessons of being on the ...

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Gregory S. Bell

lawyer, government official, and entrepreneur, was born Percy Ellis Sutton in San Antonio, Texas, the youngest of fifteen children of Samuel J. Sutton and Lillian Smith, both schoolteachers. Education was a top priority in Sutton's household. All of the twelve surviving children finished college, and six of Sutton's siblings became teachers. Sutton was exposed to business early as well, since his family owned a funeral home.

After stints at Prairie View A&M College in Texas, Hampton Institute in Virginia, and Tuskegee Institute in Alabama without earning a degree, Sutton decided to enlist in the military and joined the Army Air Corps in New York, shortly after the U.S. entered the war in 1941. In the summer of 1943, walking through Times Square, he met Leatrice O'Farrel. They married in December of that year and would have two children, Pierre and Cheryl Lynn ...

Article

Scott Sheidlower

politician, activist, and entrepreneur. Percy Ellis Sutton was born near Prairie View in eastern Texas. He was youngest of fifteen children born to Samuel J. and Lillian Sutton. Samuel, a freed slave, was a Texas educator and businessman. After briefly running away to Harlem in 1932, Sutton returned and continued his education, attending Prairie View College, Virginia's Hampton Institute, and Alabama's Tuskegee Institute. He also learned how to fly, earning money by performing stunts at county fairs.

After World War II began Sutton attempted to enlist in the Army Air Corps in Texas but was turned down because of Jim Crow laws. Sutton enlisted in New York City but was unable to become a pilot because of illness. Instead he became a combat intelligence officer with the Tuskegee Airmen. Discharged in 1945 Sutton returned to New York where he attended Brooklyn Law School ...

Article

Percy Ellis Sutton was born in San Antonio, Texas. In the 1950s, after completing his education under the G.I. Bill, he opened a law firm in Harlem that specialized in civil rights cases. Sutton's political career began when he was elected to the New York State Assembly in 1964. He became president of the Manhattan Borough in 1966, a position he held through 1977. After an unsuccessful mayoral bid he retired from public office, but continued to be a prominent adviser to New York politicians, including United States Representative Charles Rangel and Mayor David Dinkins.

In 1971 Sutton began purchasing black-owned media businesses, becoming the owner and chairman of the Inner-City Broadcasting Company in 1977. Through this corporation he purchased and restored the Apollo Theater, a Harlem landmark. Sutton was awarded the Spingarn Medal for his work by the National Association for the ...