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Article

Mary Ann Mahony

whose career spanned the late Brazilian Empire through the fifth decade of republican rule, was born to Maria Francisca Vitória, an unmarried, free Afro-Brazilian woman descended from rural slaves, on a small cacao farm in the emerging cacao district of Cachoeira de Itabuna in the municipality of Ilhéus, in the northeastern province of Bahia. Alves dos Reis is an example of the rapid social mobility available to ambitious and well-connected young men of African descent in the emerging cacao region of the northeast as European and US demand took off for cocoa and chocolate.

By 1887, when Alves dos Reis registered with the local National Guard unit, he was already a moderately prosperous merchant. In 1883 he and his wife lived in a one story wattle and daub thatched roof house with a door a window and a dirt floor It resembled the slave cabins on nearby local ...

Article

Mohammed Hassen Ali

pharmacist, lawyer, and Oromo nationalist and political activist in Ethiopia, was mainly responsible for the formation of the Oromo Liberation Front, which in turn transformed Oromo cultural nationalism to political nationalism. He was born in the region of Wallaga. He lost both his parents while very young, and it was his elder brother, the Reverend Gudina Tumsa, who brought him up and provided him with the best education.

While at Haile Selassie I University, Baro Tumsa immersed himself in student politics as well as risky underground Oromo political activities. From 1964 to 1966 he served as secretary and president of the union of the university students in Addis Ababa It was under his leadership that university students were radicalized and energized More than many of his contemporaries Baro Tumsa realized that the Oromo and other conquered people of southern Ethiopia were landless subjects without rights who were exploited economically ...

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Hassoum Ceesay

merchant, community leader, and socialite, was born Ada Jagne to Francis and Marie Jagne in Bathurst (now Banjul), Gambia. Little is known of her life before 1916, when she married Job Beigh, the richest merchant in Bathurst. Job owned choice real estate in Bathurst, many warehouses and shops, and a fleet of riverboats that transported merchandise to the ports of the Gambia River for European firms.

Job Beigh's career as a merchant exemplified the cutthroat business environment in the Gambia colony in the second half of the nineteenth century. He was born in Bathurst in 1847 and, following his secondary education in Freetown, Sierra Leone, he began his business career as a clerk with the Bathurst Trading Company, one of the six major European companies operating in Bathurst and upriver towns. Later, Job started trading on his own account in Bathurst in 1888 He was ...

Article

Amar Wahab

Pan‐Africanistleader in Britain in the early 1900s. Born in Sierra Leone, in 1869 he was sent to Cheshire to be educated and started working for the family firm, Broadhurst and Sons, in Manchester in 1905. By 1936 he is known to have been a cocoa merchant in the Gold Coast. He was heavily involved in the realm of Pan‐Africanist politics in Britain, becoming a founder member of the African Progress Union between 1911 and 1925. He became secretary of the Union in his sixties and continued as a member of the executive committee until its end. He worked with other leading supporters such as Duse Mohamed Ali, Edmund Fitzgerald Fredericks, and ‘the Black doctor of Paddington’ John Alcindor The Union organized around issues related to the welfare of Africans and Afro Peoples worldwide and vociferously advocated self determination This involved for example protests about ...

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

Demetria Rougeaux Shabazz

Zydeco musician and quarter-horse trainer, was born into a farming community in Dog Hill near Lake Charles, Louisiana, one of seven children, to Marceline Pete and Arthur Chavis, tenant farmers and entrepreneurs who managed a few well-known local horse circuits, or unregulated “bush” horse races. As a young boy he was given the inexplicable nickname Boozoo, which would remain his moniker throughout the entirety of his life. The first instrument Chavis learned to play was the harmonica, but he mastered the button accordion by watching his father, uncles, and Henry Martin, all well-known local musicians in southwest Louisiana. Although his parents separated when he was three years old, he remained in contact with his father and frequently attended the local house dances in Rayne and Dog Hill, where both his father and his great uncle Sidney Babineaux frequently played. At the age of twenty-one he married Leona Predium ...

Article

Sheila Hassell Hughes

Born in Chicago in 1932, Ronald L. Fair began writing as a teenager. After graduating from public school in Chicago, Fair spent three years in the U.S. Navy (1950–1953) before attending a Chicago stenotype school for two years. While supporting himself as a court reporter and stenographer for the next decade (1955–1966), he produced his first two novels. After then working briefly as an encyclopedia writer, Fair taught for a few years—at Columbia College (1967–1968), Northwestern University (1968), and Wesleyan University (1969–1970). Fair moved to Finland in 1971 and has lived in Europe since that time. He is divorced and has three children.

Ronald Fair's first novel, Many Thousand Gone: An American Fable (1965), both fantastic tale and “protest novel,” is a satiric re-vision of the South, where, in the mythical Jacobs County slaves were never ...

Article

Hassoum Ceesay

Gambian merchant and the first Gambian woman to enter active politics, was born Hannah Johnson on 14 January 1893 in Bathurst (present-day Banjul) to C. C. Johnson, a Krio civil servant on postings from Freetown, Sierra Leone, and Elizabeth Johnson, a schoolteacher. Forster attended St. Mary’s Primary School in Banjul, and in 1907 she proceeded to Freetown to attend high school, as there was no secondary school in Gambia. The death of her mother forced her to cut short her schooling in 1911 to become a teacher in her former school in Banjul. She married in 1913.

When her husband died leaving her with two children Forster left her teaching job to venture into trading She owned shops in Banjul and in the Gambia River ports of Kaur Kuntaur and Kartong Unlike other Banjul merchants who traded upriver only during the five months of the groundnuts trade season from December ...

Article

Hassoum Ceesay

merchant and teacher, was born Maryann Benjamin Gabbidon in Bathurst, the daughter of Charles Benjamin, a successful groundnuts trader in the protectorate, and Julia, a kindergarten teacher. Later affectionately known as “Mammy” Gabbidon, Maryann received a sound education in the 1880s, when very few Gambian girls attended school. She attended St. Mary's School in Bathurst, and the famous Annie Walsh Secondary School in Freetown, Sierra Leone, where she was top of her class in the Senior Cambridge Examinations. She returned home in 1888 to teach at her alma mater.

Like many women of the day, Gabbidon engaged in petty trading in order to supplement her meager teacher's salary. From humble beginnings selling cooked food in the Bathurst Albert Market in the 1890s, Gabbidon soon saved enough money to import kola nuts from Portuguese Guinea (now Guinea Bissau) and Sierra Leone. By 1911 she was the ...

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

Lynne B. Feldman

Gaston, A. G. (04 July 1892–19 January 1996), 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 variety 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 Ninety second Division of the U S Army On returning to the United States he briefly worked at a dry cleaning factory ...

Article

Michelle D. Hord

footwear industry executive and humanitarian, was born in Kokomo, Indiana, to Reverend Noel Ernest Hord and Jessie Mae (Tyler) Hord. Noel was the fourth of five children with one older brother, Fred, two older sisters, Katherine and Gloria, and one younger brother, Ken.

Noel graduated from Wiley High School in 1964 and began his career in footwear as a teenaged stock boy in Terre Haute Indiana In the early 1960s there were few opportunities for a young black man to advance in retail industries Many whites were still uncomfortable with the idea of a black man waiting on a white woman in a venue like a shoe store However Noel s likeability and popularity opened doors He was initially given permission by a progressive employer to sell shoes to men Once he was on the sales floor former white classmates from his integrated high ...

Article

Erin Royston Battat

the first African American woman licensed as a pharmacist in Connecticut, was born in Hartford, Connecticut, the eighth child of Anna (Houston) and Willis Samuel James. James's father escaped from a plantation in Virginia at the age of sixteen and ventured north with the help of the Underground Railroad. In 1874 he married Anna Houston and purchased a home in the North End of Hartford the following year. As suggested by professional portraits taken in the late nineteenth century, the James family identified with the self-sufficient black middle class of Hartford. While a tiny northern black elite existed there before the Civil War, the black middle class would expand during Anna Louise James's young adulthood, peaking during the Great Migration of 1915–1919.

James lost her mother in 1894 at the age of eight and was raised by her father with the help of relatives She graduated from ...

Article

Elizabeth R. Schroeder

journalist, businessman, military leader, and diplomat, was born in Albany, Georgia, to Richard and Eliza (Brown) Jones. Richard Lee Jones, also known as Dick Jones, moved to Cincinnati, Ohio, with his family at fifteen saying

In the South, I was not the submissive kind, but I learned respect for authority. Many Negroes have not learned that yet. They come up here and try to run away with the town. I had no trouble in the South. I avoided trouble. If you see a nail, why sit on it? Much trouble could be avoided by Negroes in the South if they tried to. Get me straight! I am not for conditions down there. They are bad, but could be bettered.”

(Wilson, “Interview with Dick Jones, Manager of South Center,” Negro in Illinois Papers)

He attended the University of Cincinnati from 1912 to 1915 and later abandoned his law ...

Article

Lisa K. Thompson

writer, educator, professional speaker. Marilyn Willingham was born in Toledo, Ohio, but moved to Kosciusko, Mississippi, in 1955 with Jimmie Kern, a housepainter, and Manella Kern, a schoolteacher, who adopted her six years later. The couple had raised ten children of their own (their youngest child was a junior in high school) when they began caring for Marilyn. A very ambitious and high achieving student at Tipton Street High School, Kern hosted a radio program and served as editor-in-chief of the school newspaper, The Tipton Gazette. In 1971, Kern and a white student delivered valedictory addresses, after her senior class was forced by a Supreme Court order to integrate the city's white school.

Kern enrolled at Jackson State University (JSU) in August 1971 after receiving a four year scholarship Her mother feared for her daughter s safety after the Mississippi State Guard ...

Article

Glen Pierce Jenkins

obstetrician and community leader, was born near Moncks Corner, South Carolina, the son of the former slaves John Lambright and Mary Gelzer, farmers. Middleton was one of thirteen children, and although he was born free, more than half his siblings were born into slavery. As a young man he often accompanied his father to Charleston for supplies. Their route took them by the Medical College of South Carolina, and Lambright questioned his father about the young men in white coats walking on the campus. This experience established in him the notion of studying medicine. When a life-threatening accident brought him into personal contact with a physician for a period of several months, he became convinced of his life's ambition. With the support of his family, Lambright eventually graduated from Claflin College in Orangeburg, South Carolina, with an AB degree. In 1898 he received his MD from the ...

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Barbara Kraley Youel

bookseller and black nationalist, was born in Newport News, Virginia, the son of Henry Michaux and Blanche Pollard. Some uncertainty about his birth date exists because his death certificate from the New York Vital Records Department lists it as 23 August 1884. Before coming to New York, Michaux worked variously as a pea picker, window washer, and deacon in the Philadelphia, church of his brother, Lightfoot Solomon Michaux. According to Edith Glover, his secretary when he was a deacon, Michaux started selling books in Philadelphia with an inventory of five. When he founded his bookstore in 1932 in Harlem, he still had only a few books with him, including Up from Slavery, plus a bust of its author, Booker T. Washington. Michaux initially sold books from a wagon, then moved to a store on Seventh Avenue (later renamed Adam Clayton Powell Jr Boulevard ...

Article

Barbara Kraley Youel

Michaux, Lewis H. (04 August 1885–25 August 1976), bookseller and black nationalist, was born in Newport News, Virginia, the son of Henry Michaux and Blanche Pollard. Some uncertainty about his birthdate exists because his death certificate from the New York Vital Records Department lists it as 23 August 1884. Before coming to New York, Michaux worked variously as a pea-picker, window-washer, and deacon in the Philadelphia church of his brother, Solomon Lightfoot Michaux. According to Edith Glover, his secretary while a deacon, Michaux started selling books in Philadelphia with an inventory of five. When he founded his bookstore in 1932 in Harlem, he still had only a few books with him, including Up from Slavery, plus a bust of Booker T. Washington. Michaux initially sold books from a wagon, then moved to a store on seventh Avenue (later renamed Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard).

Sleeping ...

Article

Alison Nichols

bookseller and founder of Harlem's Liberation Bookstore, was born in Baltimore, Maryland, one of three children of Marie Avis Mulzac and Hugh Mulzac, the first black commander of a ship in the U.S. Merchant Marine. Hugh Mulzac, a socialist, was later investigated by the House Un-American Activities Committee and was blacklisted when he refused to testify before it.

Una Mulzac grew up in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn. She attended and graduated from that neighborhood's Girls’ High School, where she ran track while holding down a job as a secretary at Random House. That position helped to turn her interest to publishing. In the 1960s she moved to British Guiana (now Guyana) to fight for revolution and was severely injured by a bomb. Discouraged by the changing political climate in the country, in 1967 she moved to Harlem where she opened up Liberation Bookstore on what is now known as ...