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Charles Rosenberg

landowner, businessman, and state legislator, was born enslaved in Dallas County Alabama, to parents named Sarah and Pete, who had been born in South Carolina. David, like his parents, was the property of a family named Abner. There is some dispute as to his birth date—some giving 1826 and others 1838—but the most reliable date appears to be December 1820, as suggested by a letter from his youngest daughter. It is not known when David took the Abner surname for himself, a common but by no means universal practice for formerly enslaved persons. He was sent to Texas in 1843, driving a covered wagon for the newly married daughter (Thelma) of the man who held title to him.

Her father considered his new son in law unreliable and entrusted David to get his daughter safely to her new home and manage ...

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Antero Pietila

a teenaged numbers runner who become an important Baltimore business leader, was born into a family of sharecroppers. He was raised by his grandparents in Zebulon, North Carolina, and moved to Baltimore in 1929, during the Depression. He quickly grew tired of the city's Dunbar High School, working instead in a rag factory and fixing bicycles—a sideline he had begun at age ten. On his bicycle, he also ran errands for numbers operators; lucrative illegal lotteries thrived in the city under the protection of the Democratic machine. By the age of twenty, he was an aspiring kingpin, and the owner of three stores.

Adams's grip on numbers strengthened in 1938, after the death of the city's “Black King,” Democratic boss Tom Smith Adams filled the vacuum That year white Philadelphia gangsters firebombed his tavern He repelled the takeover attempt living up to his nickname Little Willie acquired ...

Article

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 ...

Article

Charles Vincent

Antoine was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, in 1836. His father was a veteran of the War of 1812; he had fought the British at the Battle of New Orleans. Antoine's mother was a native of the West Indies and the daughter of an African chief; her parents were taken as slaves from the shores of Africa. On his father's side (so the story goes), Antoine's grandmother Rose Antoine was a remarkable woman who purchased her freedom and acquired a small fortune through her work as a midwife.

Caesar C. Antoine spent his childhood in New Orleans and attended private schools. He was fluent in both French and English. After graduating, he entered one of the few occupations open to African Americans in the antebellum South: the barber trade. After federal troops captured Baton Rouge in 1862 Antoine organized a black company known subsequently as Company ...

Article

Steven J. Niven

Union army officer and politician, was born in New Orleans, the son of a West Indian midwife and a free black soldier who had served in the Corps d'Afrique with General Andrew Jackson in the War of 1812. His parents' names are not recorded. Family lore had it that Caesar's maternal grandfather, an African chief, had been enslaved and taken to America and that his paternal grandmother, Rose Antoine, had earned enough money from her work as a midwife to purchase her freedom. Rose Antoine also left each of her seven sons twenty thousand dollars in her will.

As a free black child in New Orleans Antoine attended private schools the public schools of the city were closed to blacks and became fluent in both English and French Upon leaving school as a teenager in the early 1850s he then apprenticed and worked as a barber one of ...

Article

Clarence Maxwell

was born on the island of Antigua in 1788. He moved to Bermuda in 1807, settling in the island’s former capital of St. George’s. Whether he arrived in Bermuda as either bond or free, he was certainly free by 1821 when he made one of his earliest appearances in the local records. The St. George’s Vestry noted him among the parish’s “free persons of colour” in 1828.

Between 1807 and 1821 Athill established himself as a shipwright a skill he may have learned living in Antigua There was a market for such in his new home Bermuda had experienced since the late 1600s a maritime and commercial economic revolution dominated by the carrying trade and including ancillary industries such as shipbuilding and boatbuilding As one of the few Bermuda residents classified as Free Coloured the 41 year old Athill purchased a freehold in St George s ...

Article

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

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 ...

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

Gail Saunders

was born in Nassau, New Providence, The Bahamas, on 11 August 1906. His father, George Butler, was a descendant of Glascow, an African slave owned by George Butler, a planter. Milo was named for his great-grandfather who was a well-off farmer in Bannerman Town, Eleuthera, one of the Bahamian Out Islands (also known as the Family Islands) 50 miles east of Nassau. Milo Butler’s mother, Frances (née Thompson), was an organizer and a community leader, and became known as “Mother Butler.” Milo’s grandfather Israel Butler acquired property in Nassau, in the Pond area where George and his wife, Frances, lived. Milo was the only surviving son of that union. He had seven sisters.

In some aspects Milo Butler was larger than life Tall and large of stature he made an imposing figure While he was fearless bold and courageous he was also gentle and usually soft spoken and always ...

Article

Rose Pelone Sisson

survivor of a lynching attempt, civil rights activist, and founder of America's Black Holocaust Museum, was born in La Crosse, Wisconsin, to James Herbert Cameron, a barber, and Vera Cameron who was employed as a laundress, cook, and housekeeper. At the age of fifteen months, James was the first African American baby ever admitted as a patient to the St. Francis Hospital in La Crosse, where he underwent an emergency operation on the abdominal cavity. By the time James started school, his parents had moved to Birmingham, Alabama, and his parents separated.

When Cameron was sixteen he was living with his mother, two sisters, and grandmother in Marion, Indiana. His stepfather Hezikiah Burden hunted and fished long distances from home so was away from his family most of the time The family lived in a segregated section of Marion Indiana which counted about four thousand blacks among its ...

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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

Juluette Bartlett Pack

Republican political activist and businessman, was born Wardell Anthony Connerly in Leesville, Louisiana, the son of Roy Connerly and Grace Soniea. Roy Connerly left the family when Ward was two years old, and Ward's mother died when he was four. After the death of his mother, Connerly was sent to live with Bertha Soniea, his maternal aunt and her husband James Louis in Sacramento, California. Later, at the age of twelve, his grandmother, Mary Soniea relocated to Sacramento and gained custody of Ward.

After graduating from Grant Union High School in 1957, Ward Connerly entered American River Junior College that same year. He transferred to Sacramento State College in 1959, one of fifty blacks out of a total of two thousand students. In 1962 he earned a BA degree with honors in Political Science At Sacramento State Connerly became the first black student to pledge ...

Article

La TaSha B. Levy

successful entrepreneur and political activist. Connerly is nationally known for his controversial campaign to prohibit the use of affirmative action in state agencies, employment, and public education.

Wardell Connerly was born in Leesville, Louisiana, and was primarily raised by his grandmother after his mother died when he was five. Connerly describes his racial ancestry as one-quarter French Canadian, three-eighths Irish, one-quarter African, and one-eighth Choctaw. However, he rejects racial categories and prefers to identify himself as simply American.

Connerly graduated from Sacramento State College with a BA in political science in 1962. He was the first black student to become the student body president and the first and only black member of Delta Phi Omega fraternity. Upon graduating from college Connerly worked for the Redevelopment Agency of the City and County of Sacramento, which spawned his interest in housing and real estate. In 1966 Connerly became the ...

Article

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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Lamont D. Thomas

Cuffe, Paul (17 January 1759–07 September 1817), entrepreneur and Pan-Africanist, was born Paul Slocum on Cuttyhunk Island near New Bedford, Massachusetts, the son of Coffe Slocum, a freedman from West Africa, and Ruth Moses, a Wampanoag Native American. Cuffe moved with his family from insular Cuttyhunk and Martha’s Vineyard to mainland Dartmouth, a bustling maritime community. After his father’s death, Cuffe shipped out on local vessels bound for the Caribbean. He was twice jailed, once in New York during the American Revolution, when the British blockade captured the vessel he was on, and later in Massachusetts, when Dartmouth selectmen ordered him and his older brother John confined for tax evasion. Unable to vote because of their color, they had unsuccessfully petitioned the Massachusetts legislature not to tax them.

Successful blockade runs to Nantucket in his own boat launched Cuffe in the maritime trade By the end of ...

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Robert Fay

At his death on September 9, 1817 Paul Cuffe had a rich life upon which to reflect He and his wife Alice had seven children His several family run businesses had earned assets worth an estimated $20 000 making him the wealthiest man in Westport Massachusetts and the wealthiest black man in the United States News of his death reached the other side of the Atlantic illustrating how far his fame and influence had spread Yet his life of accomplishment had not eliminated the racial discrimination that was built into American society ironically following his funeral at the South Friends Meeting House which his financial support had helped to build Cuffe was buried in a remote cemetery corner far away from the white Quakers Despite the material successes of his life he had not attained the goal that came to dominate his life the mass emigration of American blacks ...

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Donald R. Wright

Atlantic trader and early African colonizationist, was born on Cuttyhunk Island off southern Massachusetts, one of ten children of Kofi (later Cuffe) Slocum, a freed slave originally from West Africa's Gold Coast, and Ruth Moses Slocum, a Wampanoag Native American, both farmers. Kofi Slocum's Quaker master freed him in the mid-1740s and, although he was excluded by race from membership in the Society of Friends, Kofi and Ruth Slocum lived by Quaker principles—hard work, frugality, and honesty. This diligence paid off in the 1766 purchase of a 116-acre farm in Dartmouth, Massachusetts, on Buzzard's Bay. At his death in 1772 Kofi bequeathed the farm to his sons Paul and John.

Taking his father s African name Cuffe and respecting his dual Native American and African American identity the self educated Cuffe sought his fortune at sea Whaling was open to men of any race so Paul worked on Atlantic ...

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Scott A. Miltenberger

Paul Cuffe was born as Paul Slocum on Cuttyhunk Island, Massachusetts, the seventh child of the freed African slave Kofi and the Wampanoag Indian woman Ruth Moses. A member of the West African Ashanti tribe, Kofi had been a slave for fifteen years before the wealthy and influential Quaker John Slocum freed him. In the 1740s, spurred by the preaching of the Quaker prophet John Woolman, the Society of Friends began to question the institution of slavery. Many Quakers throughout the Eastern Seaboard started freeing their slaves and organizing in opposition to the institution. Paul Cuffe's African heritage and his experiences with Friends would decisively shape his life.

In 1746 the freed Kofi took the name Cuffe Slocum and married Moses. They moved to Cuttyhunk, where Slocum became quite prosperous. By 1766 he had earned enough money to purchase 116 acres of farmland on the continent at Dartmouth ...