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Frank R. Levstik

Edwin C. Berry was born in Oberlin, Ohio, on December 10, 1854, the son of free parents who were born in Gallia County, Ohio. In 1856 his family moved to Athens County, where Berry remained for the rest of his life. In Athens County Berry attended Albany Enterprise Academy, one of the earliest educational institutions in the United States that was conceived, owned, and operated by blacks. The Berry family took in boarders, two of whom were to gain fame in their own right: Medal of Honor winner Milton M. Holland and his brother, William H. Holland, Texas legislator and educator.

Berry first found employment in Athens manufacturing bricks for the state mental hospital that was being constructed in town. In 1868 he secured work in a local restaurant as an apprentice cook for five years. On October 18, 1877 Berry married Mattie Madra of Pomeroy ...

Article

Linda M. Carter

domestic and restaurateur, was born on the Farrin plantation near Clayton, Alabama. She was the daughter of the Farrins' female cook and the male owner of a plantation located approximately two miles away from the Farrin plantation. Burton's mistress was persistent in her attempts to get Burton's father, who was from Liverpool, England, to acknowledge his daughter, but he ignored Burton whenever she was in his presence. During the Civil War, Burton's mother left the Farrin plantation and her children after an argument with her mistress led to her being whipped. Several years later, Burton and her siblings were reunited with their mother when she returned to the plantation after the war had ended and took her children to their new home. The Farrins demanded that Burton's mother return her children to them until she threatened to go to the Yankee headquarters. In 1866 the family moved to ...

Article

Jane Brodsky Fitzpatrick

chef and the “Queen of Creole cooking,” was born Leah Lange in New Orleans, Louisiana, to Charles Robert Lange, a caulker in a Madisonville shipyard, and Hortensia (Raymond) Lange. She was the eldest girl in a family of fourteen children, eleven of whom lived to adulthood. She was raised in the small rural fishing town of Madisonville, about thirty miles north of New Orleans. The family was poor, living mainly on vegetables from her father's garden. Her mother had only a sixth-grade education. In a 2003 interview Chase said that poverty, not segregation, was the most difficult experience of her childhood.

Chase s parents instilled in her a deep religious faith as well as the importance of family and service to the community They were strict and believed strongly in education She started school at age four Her father did not want her to associate with non Catholics so ...

Article

Leslie H. Fishel

George Thomas Downing was born in New York City, the son of Thomas Downing, a restaurant owner, and Rebecca West. His father's Oyster House was a gathering place for New York's aristocracy and politicians. Young Downing attended Charles Smith's school on Orange Street and, with future black abolitionists J. McCune Smith, Henry Highland Garnet, Alexander Crummell, and Charles Reason and Patrick Reason, the African School #2 on Mulberry Street. He completed his schooling privately and in his mid-teens was active in two literary societies.

Before he was twenty Downing participated in the Underground Railroad and worked with his father to lobby the New York legislature for equal suffrage. In 1841 both were delegates to the initial convention of the American Reform Board of Disenfranchised Commissioners one of many organizations formed by African American males to fight for the elective franchise in New York ...

Article

Leslie H. Fishel

abolitionist, businessman, and civil rights advocate, was born in New York City, the son of Thomas Downing, a restaurant owner, and Rebecca West. His father's Oyster House was a gathering place for New York's aristocracy and politicians. Young Downing attended Charles Smith's school on Orange Street and, with the future black abolitionists J. McCune Smith, Henry Highland Garnet, Alexander Crummell, and Charles Reason and Patrick Reason, the African School on Mulberry Street. He completed his schooling privately and in his mid-teens was active in two literary societies.

Before he was twenty Downing participated in the Underground Railroad and worked with his father to lobby the New York legislature for equal suffrage. In 1841 both were delegates to the initial convention of the American Reform Board of Disenfranchised Commissioners one of many organizations formed by African American men to fight for ...

Article

John Howard Smith

tavern owner and innkeeper in New York City and Philadelphia, was probably born in the French West Indies. There seems to be some controversy regarding his race, as his nickname, “Black Sam,” would indicate an African American identity, while some primary sources imply that he was either white or a Mulatto. Historians are generally agreed, however, that Fraunces was African American. Much of what is known about him comes from his 1785 petition for compensation from Congress for services rendered during the American War of Independence, letters from George Washington, and an obituary in the 13 October 1795 issue of the Gazette of the United States. He owned an inn in New York City in 1755 and the following year obtained a license to operate an ordinary which was a tavern serving meals as well as the usual ales and spirits At this time he was married ...

Article

Yvonne L. Hughes

restaurant owner and chef, was born Willie Mae Johnson in Hinds County, Mississippi, outside of Crystal Springs, the only child of Zella Moncure and Oscar Johnson, farmers. Seaton grew up immersed in a rich southern tradition of hand-me-down, unwritten recipes and culinary techniques. She described her southern upbringing in an interview with Carol Wilkinson for the Observer Food Monthly in 2006. “I'm a country girl,” she said. “We used to raise a little cotton, corn, peanut, potatoes and all kinds of vegetables. We'd get it out and fix it up good and then peddle it in Jackson, the state capital. I learnt to cook in my mother's kitchen and I've been cooking all my life. We had a stove kitchen with a warm-up on top and those old iron pots” (Wilkinson).

At the young age of seventeen, she married L. S. Seaton a Mississippi sharecropper ...

Article

Anthon Davis

music producer, record-label founder, manager, publisher, promoter, restaurateur, and entrepreneur, was born in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, but raised in Chicago. Little is known about his early years. He later studied at the University of Illinois. After attending college, he served in the army and played football on a team that traveled throughout Europe.

In the late 1950s, he moved to New York and began his entry in the music business by opening a soul food restaurant, “Sapphire's,” which he claimed was “the first black-owned club south of 110th Street.” (New York Times, 2012) After the opening of Sapphire's, Sims formed a promotions company, Hemisphere, and booked the top black stars of the day, including singers Aretha Franklin and Brook Benton, and civil rights activist Malcolm X. When the singer Dinah Washington died Sims absorbed the license for her booking ...

Article

Marilyn Morgan

chef, restaurateur, and executive, was born Sylvia Pressley in Hemingway, South Carolina, the only child of midwife Julia Pressley and Van Pressley, a World War I veteran who died three days after his daughter's birth. After Sylvia's third birthday her mother placed her in the care of her grandmother while she migrated to Brooklyn, New York, in search of higher-paying work as a laundress. By Sylvia's eighth birthday her mother returned to Hemingway, having saved enough money to purchase a sizable farm and build a small home. Hardworking and determined, her mother and grandmother earned the community's respect, owning over sixty acres and serving as the town's only midwives. Their inspirational examples imbued Woods with “strength, faith and self-sufficiency” (Woods, 36).

In 1937 Sylvia met Herbert Woods and despite their youth he was twelve she was eleven they fell in love and vowed to marry ...