civil rights activist, educator, and businesswoman, was born Juanita Odessa Jones in Uniontown, Alabama, the youngest of eight children of Ella Gilmore Jones and Alex Jones Sr., an influential and prosperous black farmer in Perry County, Alabama. When Alabama telephone and electric companies refused to provide service to the Jones homestead, Alex Jones Sr. and his brothers installed their own telephone lines and wired their own homes for electricity. One consequence of the family's financial independence was that Juanita was able to attend boarding school from age five until she graduated from high school in Selma, Alabama, where she had older sisters in attendance at the historically black Selma University. After high school, in 1947 Jones enrolled in Tennessee State University in Nashville, Tennessee, where she majored in business education with a minor in history and social studies. She returned to Alabama after earning a BS in 1951 ...
Alma Jean Billingslea Brown
master printer, artist, educator, and founder of the Printmaking Workshop, was born in Summit, New Jersey, the son of Jeannette Chambers Blackburn and Archibald Blackburn of Jamaica, West Indies. Robert, also known as Bob, had a younger sister, Gertrude, and a half brother. His father, although trained as a minister, found employment with the Lackawanna Railroad in Summit. When Blackburn was two, the family moved to rural Elmira, New York. Blackburn fondly recalled his early childhood in the rural town, where he listened to the train whistle from his bedroom window, attended church every Sunday, and won a toy car as a prize for a drawing he had done. During the Depression, when Blackburn was seven, his family moved to Harlem, where he attended public schools from 1932 to 1936.
At Frederick Douglass Junior High School, Blackburn was influenced by his teacher, the poet Countée Cullen who sparked ...
Theresa A. Hammond
business leader and educator, born in rural Fallis, Oklahoma territory, to Lester Blayton, a Baptist preacher and Mattie E. Carter, a schoolteacher. Despite having only a fourth‐grade education Mattie Blayton was a schoolteacher who continually underscored the importance of academic achievement. Blayton's father, the mixed‐race, illiterate son of a Creek Indian, was a shaman before becoming a preacher. Blayton attended federally funded elementary and high schools for Native Americans in Meridian, Oklahoma. Later in life he reported that he had been unaware of the poverty of his childhood, though he noted that the only job he had ever hated was when his parents rented him and the family mule out by the day to work in the fields.
With his parents encouragement Blayton attended Langston University working menial jobs to cover his costs His education was interrupted when he volunteered for the U S Army during World War ...
educator and community activist, was born Uvelia Atkins in Middlesex County, Virginia. She attended public elementary schools in Middlesex County, and in 1940 she graduated from the Rappahannock Industrial Academy, a private high school in Essex County. Atkins graduated in 1945 from Virginia Union University, in Richmond, where she majored in English and was vice president of the YWCA, secretary of Kappa Gamma Chi, and a member of the NAACP. She married the Reverend Walter Duncan Bowen, a Presbyterian pastor, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1954. The couple did not have any children, and throughout their lives they worked with inner‐city young people. She received a master of social service degree from Bryn Mawr College in 1957.
From 1951 to 1965 Bowen worked in Philadelphia for the United Neighbors Association a multi program agency that provided services to city residents she was the association s first woman ...
teacher, farmer, and entrepreneur, was born Frances Marion Boyer in Pelham, Georgia, the son of Henry Boyer, a former slave and one-time teamster for the U.S. Army. Nothing is known of Boyer's mother. In 1846 the elder Boyer passed through the Pecos Valley region of -New Mexico. Impressed by the -spaces the elder Boyer returned to his home in Georgia and reportedly spoke regularly about returning to New Mexico with his family and friends. Henry Boyer was never able to realize his dream, but his youn son Frank, one of eight children, probably went well beyond anything his father had thought of doing when he later founded Blackdom, one of the first -towns in New Mexico, albeit one of the last founded in -America. Frank Boyer was educated at the Atlanta Baptist Seminary and later received his bachelor s degree in teacher s education from ...
Dorothy A. Washington
museum cofounder, college equity officer, educator, and community volunteer, was born Fredi Mae Sears in Bradenton, Florida. She was the only daughter of three children born to Mary Miller, a laundress, and Oscar C. Sears Sr., a laborer at a trailer park operated by the local Kiwanis Club. She grew up in a deeply religious community that valued family, friends, and the church, and her father was a deacon and a founding member of St. Mary Baptist Church. Such lived experiences prepared Sears for a life of service.
In 1939 she graduated as valedictorian of her class at Lincoln High School in Bradenton. Upon graduation, she enrolled at Florida A&M College (later University) in Tallahassee, Florida, where in 1944 she earned a bachelor of science degree in Home Economics with minors in Science and English While at Florida A M Sears wrote for the student newspaper and her ...
Margaret E. M. Tolbert
organic chemist and educator, was born in the Bronx, New York, the only child of Ada May Fox, a homemaker, and Freddie Brown, a maintenance worker who later became a postal worker. Brown's education was obtained in various schools of New York, and she received her high school diploma from New Dorp High School, Staten Island, NewYork; in 1952. Upon completing high school, she continued her educational pursuits by enrolling at Hunter College of the City University of New York, which was free to eligible high school graduates. In 1956 she graduated with a BA in Chemistry and two years later earned her MS at the University of Minnesota, where she was the first African American woman to receive any degree in chemistry. In her two years at the university, she conducted research titled “A Study of Dye and Ylide Formation in Salts of 9-(p ...
Jamal Donaldson Briggs
economist, philanthropist, and educator was born to William H. Brown, a government employee, and Julia Brown (maiden name unknown), a homemaker, in Chicago, Illinois. He was the youngest of three children. William's employment with the City of Chicago afforded Browne a middle-class upbringing on the city's Southside, which was home to a large African American community. His family lived just a few blocks south of Washington Park, an area where the well-off, but not the most elite, residents lived.
Browne became fascinated with economics while attending the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana in the early 1940s. He was the only African American economics major at that university to graduate with honors in 1944 Despite his own relatively comfortable middle class background his research focused on those less privileged than himself particularly on the lack of economic opportunity among African Americans during the Great Depression After graduating ...
Kenneth F. Thomas
labor activist, journalist, and educator, was born in Heberton, West Virginia, the son of Ernest Calloway Sr.; his mother's name is unknown. The family moved to the coalfields of Letcher County, Kentucky, in 1913, where Calloway's father, “Big Ernest,” helped organize the county's first local chapter of the United Mine Workers of America. The Calloways were one of the first black families in the coal-mining communities of eastern Kentucky, and Ernest was, by his own description, “one of those unique persons … a black hillbilly.” Calloway attended high school in Lynchburg, Virginia, but ran away to New York in 1925 and arrived in the middle of the Harlem Renaissance. He worked as a dishwasher in Harlem until his mother fell ill, when he returned to Kentucky at age seventeen and worked in the mines of the Consolidated Coal Company until 1930 During the early 1930s he traveled ...
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 ...
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 ...
Steven J. Niven
teacher, landowner, and businessman, was born to Caroline Cox (sometimes recorded as Caroline Griffin) on the Griffin plantation near Ebenezer, in Holmes County, Mississippi, on the eastern edge of the Yazoo-Mississippi Delta. The name of Wayne's father is unknown, but several accounts suggest that his mother was widowed either shortly before or shortly after her son was born.
From an early age, perhaps as early as three or four, Cox worked in the cotton fields of the Griffith plantation alongside his mother. During the years of Reconstruction he benefited from the establishment of the first state-supported public schools for African American children in Mississippi. Though the school year was only a few weeks long, Cox displayed a precocious talent at the Holmes County School, and by age eleven he had completed all of the courses on offer in the school's rudimentary curriculum. In 1875 he won ...
Theresa A. Hammond
educator and the first African American Certified Public Accountant (CPA), was born in the District of Columbia to John Wesley Cromwell Sr. and Lucy A. McGuinn. His grandfather, Willis H. Cromwell, had purchased his family's freedom from slavery and moved from Virginia to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1851. Cromwell's father was a leader in the African American community, an 1874 graduate of Howard University School of Law, the publisher of the People's Advocate newspaper, one of the first two African American clerks in the federal government, a prolific writer, and a public school teacher and principal in Washington, D.C.
John Jr. absorbed his family's values of education, achievement, and responsibility to the black community. He attended the preparatory high school at Howard University and entered Dartmouth College in 1902 at a time when fewer than a dozen African Americans had graduated from that latter institution. In 1900 ...
Brandon K. Wallace
educator, community leader, and business leader, was the ninth child born to John Archie Bradson DeRamus and Sadie Mae Goodson DeRamus, a farming couple, in Joffre Community, Prattville, Alabama. He was given the name DePriest in honor of Oscar DePriest, the first African American elected to Congress in the twentieth century. Educated in the segregated Autauga County School System in Autauga County, Alabama, he finished high school in 1947. He received his B.S. Degree in Elementary Education from Alabama State University in 1955. He later married Vernetta Clarke, a teacher, and settled in Enterprise, Alabama. They had one son, Lawrence DeRamus Jr.
Lawrence DeRamus enlisted in the army and served in the Korean Conflict receiving the Korean Service Medal Good Conduct Medal three bronze stars and the Distinguished Unit Citation and Occupational Medal Returning from military service DeRamus finished his degree and began ...
Jennifer Reed Fry
reformer, businessperson, politician, author, clubwoman, and peace activist, was born Addie Whiteman into one of the best-known families in Wilmington, North Carolina. The sixth child of John H. Whiteman, a drayman, and Hester Leonard Whiteman, she was educated at Gregory Institute and Scotia Seminary (later Barber Scotia College) in Concord, North Carolina. Before moving to Pennsylvania, she taught grammar school in North Carolina. In Philadelphia she attended classes at Temple University and the University of Pennsylvania. In 1908 Whiteman married G. Edward Dickerson, a prominent African American Philadelphia attorney. Their thirty-four-year partnership was active and prosperous. They collaborated on business pursuits, Republican politics, and a variety of civil rights efforts. They had one son, Edmund Whiteman Dickerson, who was born in 1914 but died in infancy.
Building on her time as a teacher, Dickerson actively supported education She was ...
sociologist, business manager of The Crisis, curator, and musician, was born Augustus Granville Dill in Portsmouth, Ohio, to John Jackson and Elizabeth Stratton Dill. Having finished his secondary schooling at the age of seventeen, Dill briefly taught in Portsmouth before attending Atlanta University, where he earned his BA in 1906. Dill's extracurricular interests included playing the piano for the university choir and serving on the debating team. He earned a second BA at Harvard University in 1908 and an MA from Atlanta University on his return to Atlanta in the same year. There he was mentored by W. E. B. Du Bois, whose post as associate professor of sociology Dill assumed when Du Bois left Atlanta in 1910.
In 1913 Du Bois persuaded Dill to move to New York and assume the responsibilities of business manager and editorial assistant of The Crisis ...
Augustus Dill was born in Portsmouth, Ohio, son of John Jackson and Elizabeth (Stratton) Dill. He received a B.A. in 1906 from Atlanta University, where he was a student of W. E. B. Du Bois. On Du Bois's advice, Dill went on to earn a second B.A. at Harvard University in 1908.
Dill returned to Atlanta to assist Du Bois on his sociological project of documenting all dimensions of black life in American society. From 1911 to 1915 he coedited four major studies. In 1910, Dill replaced his mentor as associate professor of sociology when Du Bois left Atlanta University to found The Crisis, the journal of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). In 1913, Du Bois hired Dill as business manager for The Crisis, a post he remained in until 1928 Arrested that year in New ...
Andree Layton Roaf
Virginia state legislator, brick mason, plasterer, contractor, and educator, was born free in Manchester (later South Richmond), Chesterfield County, Virginia, the son of Edward Bradbury Edwards Jr. and Mary Trent Edwards. Edwards's family, of black, white, and American Indian ancestry, had been free landowners since the early 1700s. His father was a carpenter and his mother a teacher. Edwards was taught to read and write at an early age by his mother and learned the construction trades from his father. In 1850 Edwards married Sara Ann Coy, also a teacher, and together they had thirteen children.
Throughout his life Edwards was a prominent member of the historic First Baptist Church in South Richmond, which was established by free blacks as the African Baptist Church of Manchester in 1821 Edwards s family was among the founding members of the church which his father ...
architect, teacher. and education administrator, was born in Belvoir, Chatham County, North Carolina, one of six children of William Gaston Snipes, a white farmer, and Mary Foushee Edwards, a black homemaker and farm worker. Some uncertainty exists as to Edwards's precise year of birth, with contradictory U.S. Census records allowing for a birth date sometime between 1874 and 1879. Census records show that his parents were legally registered as living side by side on different land parcels, because interracial marriage was illegal in North Carolina during this time. Edwards's earliest education was given at home and at local schools, and he worked during the evenings as a barber and a farmhand to help support the family.
Edwards earned enough money to attend Agricultural & Mechanical College for the Colored Race (now known as North Carolina A&T State University) at Greensboro in 1896 After amassing sufficient ...
Gail K Beil
founder of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) and father of the Freedom Rides. James Leonard Farmer Jr. was born in Marshall, Texas. At the time his father, Texas's first African American PhD, was a New Testament scholar and chairman of the Religion Department at the historically black Wiley College, founded by the Freedman's Aid Society of the northern branch of the Methodist Episcopal Church in 1873.
At the time of Farmer's birth, Wiley College was widely known for its academic quality, a reputation maintained when he entered in 1934. There he met one of his mentors, the poet, playwright, debate coach, and English professor Melvin Tolson. The debate team of 1935, which included Farmer, scheduled a debate in Los Angeles with the national champion team, the University of Southern California. Tiny Wiley College was declared the winner of that competition.
Farmer experienced the humiliation of ...