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Charles Rosenberg

college president, activist for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and Young Women's Christian Association (YWCA). Born Mary Rice in Harrisonburg, Virginia, she was the acknowledged daughter of confederate general John R. Jones and Malinda Rice, who was hired as a servant in his household at the age of seventeen in 1873. There appears to have been some enduring affection between Jones and Rice. He acknowledged paternity of Mary and her brother William, and his first wife, Sarah, ill and often confined to bed, asked to see the children and gave them presents. Mary Rice was raised in part by John Rice, Malinda's brother, and his wife Dolly. She also spent time in Jones's household, and after Sarah Jones died in 1879 the general bought a house for Malinda and her children The immediate neighborhood was racially mixed ...

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Charles Rosenberg

one of the first four graduates from Fisk University, school teacher, missionary, founder of the Tennessee and National Baptist Women's Convention, was born free in Nashville, Tennessee, to Nelson and Eliza Smart Walker. Her father had been enslaved in Virginia, but was allowed to hire his time, earning enough money to purchase both his own freedom and that of his wife. Moving to Tennessee, by 1870 he had accumulated $1,200 in real property working as a barber, while Eliza Walker worked as a dressmaker, supporting three daughters and three sons (1870 Census). Virginia was named for the state of her father's nativity, “which he never ceased to praise” (Broughton, p. 7).

At an early age she enrolled at a private school in Nashville, opened in the 1850s by Daniel Watkins, later pastor of the First Colored Christian Church. When Fisk School convened 9 January 1866 Walker ...

Article

Lisa E. Rivo

elocutionist, educator, women's and civil rights leader, and writer, was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the daughter of Thomas Arthur Brown, a riverboat steward and express agent, and Frances Jane Scroggins, an educated woman who served as an unofficial adviser to the students of Wilberforce University. Thomas Brown was born into slavery in Frederick County, Maryland, the son of a Scottish woman plantation owner and her black overseer. Brown purchased his freedom and that of his sister, brother, and father. By the time of the Civil War, he had amassed a sizable amount of real estate. Hallie's mother, Frances, was also born a slave, the child of her white owner. She was eventually freed by her white grandfather, a former officer in the American Revolution.

Both of Hallie's parents became active in the Underground Railroad. Around 1864 the Browns and their six children moved to Chatham Ontario where ...

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Vivian Njeri Fisher

Brown proclaimed, “Full citizenship must be given the colored woman because she needs the ballot for her protection and that of her children.” Brown was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the fifth of six children of Thomas Arthur Brown and Frances (Scroggins) Brown. A former slave from Frederick County, Maryland, Thomas Brown had purchased his freedom in 1834. Frances Brown, a native of Winchester County, Virginia, was freed by her white grandfather, who was her owner and an officer in the American Revolution. When Hallie was born, her father was a riverboat steward and express agent, traveling from Pittsburgh, where he owned a considerable amount of real estate prior to the Civil War, and worked actively with the Underground Railroad in assisting fugitive slaves to freedom.

Thomas Brown moved his family to Chatham, Ontario, in 1864 because of his wife s poor health and to begin farming ...

Article

Adebe DeRango-Adem

was born Barbara Theresa Christian in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, one of six children of Alphonso Christian, a judge, and Ruth (maiden name unknown).

Christian was admitted to Marquette University in Wisconsin at the age of fifteen, graduating cum laude with a B.A. in 1963. She chose to continue studying literature at Columbia University in New York City, in part because of its proximity to Harlem and resonance with the legacy of the Harlem Renaissance writers, who were still largely foreign to the American literary canon during her term of study. Harlem was also a fertile center for political activism in the 1960s civil rights era and central to the creation of a new black intellectual elite whose activities centered around the bookstore run by Lewis Micheaux, brother of black filmmaker Oscar Micheaux. Christian was also said to have met Langston Hughes personal secretary in ...

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Connie Park Rice

educator and club woman, was born Coralie Franklin in Lexington, Virginia, a daughter of Albert Franklin and Mary E. (maiden name unknown). During or immediately after the Civil War the family moved to Harper's Ferry, West Virginia, where Coralie attended the Normal Department at Storer College, graduating in 1872. She continued her education at Storer and graduated from the Academic Department in 1880. A gifted elocutionist she was described by John Wesley Cromwell, on a visit to Harper's Ferry in 1877, as “an elocutionist of grace, skill and power” (Journal of Negro History, July 1923). Franklin went on to attend Emerson College in Boston, the Shoemaker School of Oratory in Philadelphia, and the Martha's Vineyard Summer Institute of Oratory in Massachusetts. Franklin then returned to West Virginia and her alma mater, where she taught elocution at Storer College from 1882 to 1893 ...

Article

Charles Lemert

Anna Julia Cooper is best known for her book A Voice from the South by a Black Woman of the South (1892), a classic in the tradition known today as the woman of color standpoint in social theory. No one before, except perhaps Sojourner Truth, had so clearly defined what Cooper called “the colored woman’s office” in the moral politics of late-nineteenth-century America.

Anna Julia Cooper was born in Raleigh, North Carolina, the daughter of Hannah Stanley, a slave. Her white biological father, George Washington Haywood, was her mother’s owner. Of her biological father, Cooper once wrote: “I owe him not a sou and she [her mother] was always too shamefaced ever to mention him.” The child grew to carry herself with the mother’s sense of dignity and propriety.

Anna Julia s life began just before the outbreak of the American Civil War and ...

Article

Lisa Clayton Robinson

“Only the Black Woman can say ‘when and where I enter, in the quiet, undisputed dignity of my womanhood, without violence and without special patronage, then and there the whole Negro race enters with me.’” In this passage from her speech “Womanhood a Vital Element in the Regeneration and Progress of a Race,” published in her 1892 work A Voice From the South: By a Black Woman of the South Anna Julia Cooper expresses one of her most important beliefs In her writings and speeches Cooper often argued that the status of the entire black race was dependent on the status of the women who run the homes and raise the children and that one of the best ways to elevate black women s status was to increase their educational opportunities As an activist and educator she spent most of her life simultaneously promoting these ideas and putting ...

Article

Tiffany K. Wayne

aeronautical engineer at NASA, was born Christine Voncile Mann in Monroe, North Carolina, the youngest of five children born to two schoolteachers, Noah Horace Mann, Sr. (a former Latin teacher who later became an insurance salesman), and Desma Chaney Mann Darden credits her success and her early interest in science to her parents emphasis on their children s education She recalls that when she was just three years old her mother began taking Darden and her siblings to classes she taught at the two room schoolhouse across the street from the family home Darden began doing the schoolwork that the other children did and was soon working two grades ahead in school Her father also encouraged his daughter s interest in auto mechanics and fixing things around the house early training for an engineer Because she was younger than her classmates and therefore socially vulnerable her parents sent ...

Article

Brandi Hughes

nurse, foreign missionary, and school founder, was born to Anna L. Delaney and Daniel Sharpe Delaney in Fernandina Beach, Florida. Emma Beard Delaney came of age in the postbellum generation that witnessed the collapse of Reconstruction and the fading of the early promise of African American emancipation. Against the rising tide of segregation and racial violence, however, Delaney's family managed to sustain a measure of economic security and educational advancement. Her father, Daniel, held the distinction of being the only African American helmsman commissioned for service on the Revenue Cutter Boutwell, a federal ship that patrolled the ports of Savannah, Georgia; Jacksonville, Florida; and Charleston, South Carolina, as a forerunner of the U.S. Coast Guard. The unique benefits of her father's government employment enabled the Delaney family to support an expansive education for Emma and her sister, Annie. In 1889 shortly after completing secondary classes ...

Article

Paul A. Minifee

The second of eight children born to Caroline and Jermain Loguen, Helen Amelia Loguen grew up in Syracuse, New York, where her parents were heavily involved in the abolitionist movement. Educated by her mother and local public schools, Amelia studied chemistry, French, and trigonometry. Her father was a bishop of the American Methodist Episcopal (AME) Zion Church and a prominent abolitionist, who employed their home as a depot for fugitive slaves on the Underground Railroad and opened schools for African Americans in Utica and Syracuse. Amelia's mother came from a prosperous family of farmers in Busti, New York. Caroline's father, William Storum was a free black and one of three citizens in Chautauqua County to vote for abolitionists evidencing his politics and prosperity since New York required blacks to own at least $250 of property in order to vote An active abolitionist himself Storum utilized his farm as ...

Article

Charles Rosenberg

school teacher, was born in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, the second child and only daughter of the intellectual, activist, and editor, W. E. B. Du Bois, and Nina Gomer Du Bois. She was born at the home of her father's uncle, James Burghardt, while her already famous father was on his way home from the first Pan-African Conference in London.

Nina Yolande Du Bois spent her infant years in Atlanta, where her father was a professor at Atlanta University, and her parents came to loathe the city for the pervasive and virulent racism taking an unprecedented grip on daily life. During the 1906 Atlanta Riot in which whites destroyed black property and killed several African Americans her father rushed home from New York W E B Du Bois sat with a shotgun on the steps of South Hall where the family lived protecting Yolande and her ...

Article

Joycelyn Elders was born Minnie Joycelyn Jones in Schaal, a poor, remote farming village of southwestern Arkansas. Her parents, Haller and Curtis Jones, were sharecroppers, and all eight of their children—Joycelyn was the oldest—worked with them in the cotton fields. The family shared a three-room cabin with no electricity, and the children walked several miles to attend an all-black school. At the age of fifteen, Elders received a scholarship to Little Rock's Philander Smith College, also a school for blacks. There, she met a doctor for the first time in her life and Edith Jones, the first black woman to attend the University of Arkansas Medical School (UAMS). Elders later credited these experiences with inspiring her to become a doctor.

Elders received a bachelor's degree in 1952 and spent the better part of the next two decades advancing in the medical profession First she served in the ...

Article

Michelle D. Commander

educator and civic activist, was born Mary Elizabeth Garvin in Charleston, South Carolina. Her parents, George Washington Garvin, a carpenter, and Rebecca Mary Logan Bellinger, a seamstress, had seven other children, four of whom died in childhood. As a young girl, Fields was enthralled with learning new ideas, and she began attending Shaw School in her neighborhood when she was just three years old. Her mother's side of the family, particularly the Middleton branch, was regarded as middle class, and many of her relatives were formally educated beyond high school in preparation for professional careers. Fields and her siblings were encouraged by their parents to attend Avery Institute, a private school renowned for the excellent education that it offered middle- and upper-class African American youth. While Herbert, Harriet, and Ruth accepted their parents prodding a defiant Mamie refused to be educated at a school ...

Article

Rayford W. Logan

Born in Queens County, Long Island, New York, Garnet was the first of eleven children of Sylvanus and Annie (Springfield) Smith, both of mixed Native American and black ancestry. Her parents were landholders and successful farmers. During her childhood there were public schools in New York City, but there seem to have been none on Long Island. For that reason Sarah received her early education from her paternal grandmother, Sylvia Hobbs. At the age of fourteen Sarah began studying in and around New York City at normal schools (training schools for teachers), the first of which was established about 1853. She taught in an African Free School established by the Manumission Society in Williamsburgh, which later became a part of Brooklyn. On April 30, 1863, Garnet became the first black woman to be appointed principal in the New York public school system. Violinist Walter ...

Article

Elizabeth L. Ihle

educator and suffragist, was born Minisarah J. Smith in Queens County, New York, the daughter of Sylvanus Smith and Ann Eliza Springsteel, farmers who were of mixed Native American, black, and white descent. Although Garnet's great-grandmother had established a school that her father attended, little is known about Garnet's own early schooling other than that she was taught by her father. However, she was a teacher's assistant at age fourteen with a salary of twenty dollars per year while she studied at various normal schools in the Queens County area. By 1854 Garnet (known as Sarah) was teaching in the private African Free School in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn. In 1863 she became the first African American principal appointed by the New York Public School System, serving at the all-black P.S. 80 from her appointment until her retirement in 1900.

The annual closing exercises at Garnet ...

Article

Sophia D. West

Angelina Emily Grimké was born in Charleston, South Carolina, the youngest daughter of John and Mary Grimké. Her father was a well-known South Carolina judge as well as a powerful planter and slaveholder. Grimké owed much of her early upbringing and education to her sister, Sarah Moore Grimké (1792–1873), who was thirteen years her senior and her godmother. Maintaining their close relationship throughout their lives, the sisters often collaborated on and influenced each other's writing. They traced their abhorrence of slavery to their earliest memories of the struggles of slaves in their own home. The sisters were remarkable not only for their positions on slavery and women's rights but also because they turned their backs on an affluent slaveholding lifestyle, choosing instead a life of poverty without slaves and working for the freedom of slaves and the emancipation of women.

Eventually the Grimké sisters moved north to ...

Article

Olivia A. Scriven

feminist scholar and educator, was born Beverly Lynn Guy in Memphis, Tennessee. The oldest of three daughters, Beverly was raised in a traditional African American extended-family household. Her mother, Ernestine Varnado Guy, separated from husband, Walter P. Guy Jr., when Beverly was eleven and moved with the children to live with Beverly's stay-at-home grandmother and her Baptist-minister grandfather. Hard work, education, independence, and self-reliance were central principles in the Guy household. “Every tub sits on its own bottom,” Beverly recalls being told by her mother. She supported the three girls by working as a public school math teacher and later as an accountant at two black colleges. Beverly credits her mother with developing her earliest sense of “feminist consciousness,” often urging Beverly and her sisters Francine and Carmella to respect the dignity of all women that irrespective of marriage a woman should always have resources or ...

Article

Lisa Clayton Robinson

Born to former slaves in Lowndes County, Alabama, Elizabeth Ross Haynes became a pioneering urban sociologist. Haynes graduated valedictorian of the State Normal School (now Alabama State University) in 1900. She received an A.B. from Fisk University in 1903, and later received an M.A. in sociology from Columbia University in 1923.

After graduation from Fisk, Haynes taught school and worked for segregated branches of the Young Women's Christian Association (YWCA). In 1910, she married George Haynes, a sociologist and cofounder of the National Urban League; their son was born in 1912. After her marriage, Haynes continued to work in unsalaried positions.

From 1918 to 1922, Haynes worked for the U.S. Department of Labor, and from 1920 to 1922 she served as domestic service secretary for the U S Employment Service Throughout her career Haynes was especially concerned with black women ...

Article

Steven J. Niven

historian, was born Evelyn Titania Brooks in Washington, D.C., the younger of two daughters of Dr. Albert Neal Dow Brooks, a high school principal and historian, and Alma Elaine Campbell, a high school history teacher who later served as the supervisor for history in the Washington, D.C., public school system. The teaching and writing of history played a central role in the Brooks household. Albert N. D. Brooks served as the secretary-treasurer of the Association for the Study of Afro-American Life and History and as the editor of that organization's Negro History Bulletin. Albert Brooks was the youngest of ten children of the Reverend Walter Henderson Brooks, born a slave in Virginia in the 1850s and still alive at his granddaughter Evelyn's birth. A prominent Baptist minister and poet, Walter H. Brooks published an article in one of the earliest volumes of Carter Godwin Woodson ...