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Baye Yimam

Ethiopian painter, diplomat, customs director, entrepreneur, linguist, university professor, and novelist, was born in Zage, Gojjam province of Ethiopia, on 10 July 1868. His father, Gebre Iyesus Denke, was a priest serving a local church, and his mother, Fenta Tehun Adego Ayechew, was presumably a housewife. In Zage, then a center of learning, Afewerq learned the painting, poetry, church music, and liturgical dancing of the Ethiopian Orthodox Christian tradition.

Afewerq was related to Empress Taytu Betul, wife of Emperor Menilek (1844–1913 on account of which he was brought to the palace to continue what he had started in Zage He was later sent to Italy to further his studies at the Accademia Albertina di Belle Arti in Turin Upon his return from Italy he began to produce mural paintings by order of the palace and decorated the churches at Entotto then the capital city However he soon ...

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Ayesha Kanji

entrepreneur, author, and inspirational speaker, was born Wallace Amos Jr. in Tallahassee, Florida, to Ruby (maiden name unknown), a domestic worker, and Wallace Amos a laborer at the local gasoline plant Hard work discipline and religion were the cornerstones of Wally s strict childhood The Christian faith was important to his parents and they took him to church regularly By the age of eight Wally had learned all the books of the Bible In their tight knit black community Friday nights were reserved for community dinners where hearty southern fare was served fried chicken potato salad black eyed peas and collard greens Schooling options for black children were less abundant however so Ruby and several of her Methodist church members started a school which Wally began attending at age ten Wally s entrepreneurial spirit surfaced in his childhood when he started a roving shoeshine stand and ...

Article

James V. Hatch

playwright and minister, was born in Wichita, Kansas. Little is known about his parents, although his mother is said to have been an active reformer and a poet. Anderson completed four years of school (the only formal education that he ever received) before his father moved the family to California to take a job as a janitor in the post office. The following year Anderson's mother died, and at age twelve he left home to become a newsboy, selling the Telegraph Press on the corner of Third and Market streets in San Francisco.

After working as a porter on the railroad, Anderson worked for the next fifteen years as a bellhop in various San Francisco hotels. During this period he also became a temporary convert to Christian Science. One afternoon in 1924 he saw a performance of Channing Pollack's moralistic drama The Fool and knew immediately that he ...

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Born in Sanford, Florida, Claude Barnett was sent at a very young age to live with his grandparents and other relatives in suburban Chicago, Illinois. He returned to the South to study engineering at Alabama's Tuskegee Institute (now Tuskegee University), from which he graduated in 1906. Back in Chicago, he worked as a postal clerk and, exposed to a wide range of advertising journals, decided to make a career in advertising. In 1913 he produced a series of photographs of famous blacks, which he sold through the mail, furthering his interest in business.

Five years later Barnett and several other entrepreneurs formed the Kashmir Chemical Company which sold cosmetics Barnett left the post office took the job of advertising manager at Kashmir and toured the country selling cosmetics as well as his photographs In each town he visited the local black newspaper hoping to bargain for ...

Article

Robert L. Harris

entrepreneur, journalist, and government adviser, was born in Sanford, Florida, the son of William Barnett, a hotel worker, and Celena Anderson. His father worked part of the year in Chicago and the rest of the time in Florida. Barnett's parents separated when he was young, and he lived with his mother's family in Oak Park, Illinois, where he attended school. His maternal ancestors were free blacks who migrated from Wake County, North Carolina, to the black settlement of Lost Creek, near Terre Haute, Indiana, during the 1830s. They then moved to Mattoon, Illinois, where Barnett's maternal grandfather was a teacher and later a barbershop owner, and finally to Oak Park. While attending high school in Oak Park, Barnett worked as a houseboy for Richard W. Sears cofounder of Sears Roebuck and Company Sears offered him a job with the company after he graduated from high school but ...

Article

Charles Rosenberg

business manager, journalist, entrepreneur, and political activist, was born in Knoxville, Tennessee, the son of Ulysses and Curtis Heard Boykin. The elder Ulysses Boykin was employed by the Knoxville Journal. He and his wife were natives of Georgia, where she had taught school in La Grange. Boykin had an older brother, Alfred Wade Boykin, and a sister, Eleanor. In the early 1920s the family moved to Michigan, settling first in Grosse Ile, then in Detroit, where their father found work in a foundry.

In 1934 Boykin graduated from Detroit’s Northeastern High School and began writing a column for young readers in the Detroit Tribune. He took courses at Wayne State University, but did not enter a degree program. The following year Boykin was hired as an assistant to Russell J. Cowans, tutor and secretary to boxing sensation Joe Louis Louis s career was a business managed ...

Article

Daryle Williams

alias Paula Brito, pardo writer, translator, and publishing entrepreneur, often called the father of the Brazilian black press. Born on 2 December 1809 to Jacinto Antunes Duarte, a carpenter, and Maria Joaquina da Conceição Brito, Paula Brito took the surname of his maternal grandfather, Martinho Pereira de Brito (c. 1730–1830), commander of a pardo (colored) militia regiment and a disciple of famed mulato sculptor Mestre Valentim. He spent his early childhood in Rio de Janeiro, a bustling Atlantic port-city undergoing tremendous changes following the arrival of the Portuguese Court in 1808, before settling in Suruhy, near the upper reaches of Guanabara Bay. The young boy learned to read and write in the household of his older sister.

Returning to the capital in 1824 Paula Brito entered the burgeoning world of print culture first as an apprentice in the national printing office and then as an editor for ...

Article

Broteer  

Matthew L. Harris

slave, entrepreneur, and autobiographer, was born in Guinea, Africa, to Saungm Furro, a West African prince with three wives. Broteer was the eldest son of the first wife. When he was six years old an “army supplied by whites” captured him and marched him to the coast (Smith, 544). During the capture Broteer had seen his father tortured and killed, a haunting memory that stayed with him for the rest of his life. After being imprisoned for two years Broteer was one of 260 Africans sold into slavery to a Rhode Island slaver named Robertson Mumford, who purchased Broteer for four gallons of rum and a piece of calico cloth. It was Mumford who gave Broteer his American name, Venture, a result, as Broteer recalled in his memoir, of his master “having purchased me with his own private venture” (Smith, 545).

With new slaves in tow Mumford s first ...

Article

Edward L. Lach

business executive and civic leader, was born in Washington, D.C., the son of Hayward G. Burrell and Fannie Miles. Although his parents’ occupations are unknown, both his father and his mother were natives of the District of Columbia, and Burrell's roots in the area ran deep. After graduating from Dunbar High School at the age of fifteen, he worked as a driver for a local pharmacy and apparently also drove a cab for a while. He married at age sixteen (his wife's name is unknown), and the marriage produced a son before ending in divorce seven years later.

In 1941 Burrell gained a position at the federal Bureau of Standards, where he worked in the glass section producing prisms and bombsights. He also attended nearby Howard University between 1941 and 1943 but did not graduate. He entered the U.S. Army in 1945 and rose to the rank of ...

Article

Geraldine Rhoades Beckford

physician, businessman, and writer, was born in Madison County, Kentucky, the youngest of fifteen children of Eliza and Edwin, who were slaves. Burton and his mother remained on the plantation after Emancipation as paid laborers, and he continued working at the “old homestead” after her death in 1869 until he was sixteen, at which time he left following an altercation with the owner.

In 1880 Burton was “converted to God” and subsequently experienced an insatiable desire for learning. Despite discouraging comments from those who thought that twenty was too old to start school, Burton was not dissuaded and determined that nothing was going to prevent him from getting an education except sickness or death. Burton worked for one more year as a farmhand in Richmond, Kentucky. One January morning in 1881 he put a few items in a carpetbag and nine dollars and seventy five cents in his ...

Article

Robyn McGee

journalist, radio broadcaster, and founder of Calvin's News Service, was born in Washington,-Arkansas, to Joseph Edward and Hattie Ann (Mitchell). Calvin attended the Rural School in Clow, Arkansas, until the seventh grade. From 1916 to 1920 he attended Shover State Teacher Training College in Arkansas, and from 1920 to 1921 he was enrolled at Townsend Harris Hall, City College in New York City.

In 1922, shortly after leaving City College, Calvin was hired by the labor activist A. Philip Randolph as the associate editor of The Messenger magazine. The Messenger—the third most popular magazine of the Harlem Renaissance, after The Crisis and Opportunity—had been founded in 1917 by Randolph and the economist Chandler Owen to advance the cause of socialism to the black masses. They believed that a socialist society was the only one that would be free from racism. The Messenger contained poetry stories and ...

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David Killingray

Pan‐Africanist and Africantraveller. Born in Kingston, Jamaica, of black and white parents, Campbell began his working life as a printer's apprentice but gained some formal education and became a teacher. In the 1850s he emigrated to the United States, via Central America, where he worked as a teacher at an African‐American institute in Philadelphia. Campbell, ambitious for further education, was largely self‐taught.

In 1858 Martin R. Delany invited him to become a member of the Niger Valley Exploring Party, to find a site in southern Nigeria for an African‐American farm colony. ‘Return to Africa’ was controversial and divided African‐American opinion; many argued that, even with its pervasive racism, America was their home and not Africa; a further problem was that black emigration was supported by the white African Civilization Society. Campbell came to Britain in 1859 and although he failed to gain the support of missionary and ...

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

Eric Gardner

entrepreneur, activist, and politician, was born in New Haven, Connecticut, to Prince and Adeline Duplex. His middle name is sometimes given as Park and sometimes as Parker. His paternal grandparents were Prince Duplex, a slave of the Reverend Benjamin Chapman and a War of Independence veteran who later gained his freedom, and Lement Parker. The younger Prince Duplex, who was active in New Haven's first black church, died when his son Edward was a child, and Adeline, who briefly married a second husband surnamed Whiting, reared Edward, his elder brother Elisha C., and his sister Adeline Frances. Both Edward and his brother trained as barbers and moved west in 1852.

Though Elisha and Edward seem to have mined briefly, they both settled in Yuba County, California, in 1855 and returned to barbering Elisha died of consumption but Edward established the Metropolitan Shaving ...

Article

Xiomara Santamarina

businesswoman, was born in Warwick, Rhode Island, the last of seven daughters of Robin Eldridge, son of African slaves and a Revolutionary War veteran, and Hannah Prophet, a Native American and African American woman. Elleanor Eldridge was a skilled worker and businesswoman and at one point was the wealthiest African American in Providence, Rhode Island. Almost everything known about her is derived from a memoir produced by a collaboration between Eldridge and a white amanuensis, Frances Harriet Whipple. Whipple, who was related to one of Eldridge's former employers, Captain Benjamin Greene, wrote and published the Memoirs of Elleanor Eldridge (1838) to raise funds for Eldridge after she had been defrauded by two white men. The text ran into several printings (between 1838 and 1845 and a second edition that brought Eldridge much needed funds after losing a lawsuit against the two men who ...

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

Vivian Njeri Fisher

She excelled in her crafts and business ventures, and as an amateur lawyer she assisted her brother, George, in securing an acquittal of charges that he “horsewhipped and otherwise barbarously treated a man on the highway.”

Elleanor Eldridge was born in Warwick, Rhode Island. Her father, Robin Eldridge, was an African who was captured with his entire family and brought to America on a slave ship. Her mother, Hannah Prophet, was a Native American. Eldridge was born free in part because of the “gradual emancipation” law passed in Rhode Island in 1784 Robin Eldridge and two of his brothers had fought in the American Revolution They were promised their freedom and two hundred acres of land apiece in return for their service When the war ended they were pronounced free but because they had been paid in worthless old Continental currency they were unable to take ...

Article

Stacey Pamela Patton

Elleanor Eldridge was the last of seven daughters of Robin Eldridge, an African native, and Hannah Prophet, a Native American. The young Robin Eldridge was captured along with his entire family and brought to the United States to be sold as a slave. Later, in exchange for service in the American Revolution, he and his brothers were promised their freedom and two hundred acres of land. Though they were granted their freedom as promised, they were paid for their services in the worthless old continental currency and were therefore never able to claim any land. They did, however, eventually save enough money to purchase a small plot in Warwick, Rhode Island, where they built a house. Elleanor Eldridge was born free in Warwick.

When Eldridge was ten her mother died and against her father s wishes she went to work for her mother s employers Joseph and Elleanor Baker ...

Article

was born in South Carolina to an African American mother and a white father from France. Based on her biracial ethnic heritage and the racial dynamics of the antebellum South, some historians have claimed that Fisher was most likely enslaved, but that conclusion remains a matter of speculation. Fisher became a cook, and she eventually made her way to Mobile, Alabama. There she met and married Alexander C. Fisher—another person with a biracial heritage (African American and white). The Fishers stayed married the rest of their lives, and they had eleven children. As an adult Fisher continued to work as a cook.

After Emancipation the Fishers sought their fortune in the western United States and moved to San Francisco, California. City records from that era indicate that Abby’s husband, Alexander, arrived sometime during 1878 Abby may have been with him but she is not explicitly listed as a city ...

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Julie Winch

abolitionist, businessman, and Civil War soldier, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the fifth of nine children of James Forten, a sailmaker and Revolutionary War veteran, and Charlotte Vandine. He was named for the white craftsman who befriended his father and gave him his start in business. Of his siblings, Margaretta Forten, Harriet Forten Purvis, Sarah Forten Purvis, James Forten Jr., and William Forten became active in the antislavery movement. Robert Forten received his early education at a school his parents and other affluent black Philadelphians established because of the failure of the city's board of education to provide adequate schooling for their children. Eventually Robert and his brothers transferred to the Pennsylvania Abolition Society's Clarkson School, although they may also have studied with the private tutors their parents hired to teach their sisters at home.

Growing up Forten developed a wide range ...