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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

Charles Johnson

Born on November 25, 1861, in Port Royal, Virginia, to William and Elizabeth Hall Brooks, Arthur Brooks arrived in the District of Columbia at an early age. He was later employed as a laborer until he applied for employment in the federal government. Brooks served in several positions, but the most significant was as the custodian for the White House. Simultaneously, he was actively involved in military activities.

Enlisting in the National Guard, Brooks began his military career his in the Washington Cadet Corps under Captain Christian A. Fleetwood. Serving as a first lieutenant in Company A, he was promoted to captain when his company was reorganized into the Sixth Battalion of the District of Columbia Militia on July 2, 1887. This battalion was redesignated as the Seventh Battalion on April 22, 1889, and again as the First Separate Battalion in 1891 Brooks ...

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

Steven Leikin

diplomat, preacher, and author, was born in Atlanta, Georgia, the son of Sallie Montgomery. Nothing is known of his biological father. His mother, however, was an African American, and Dennis was of mixed race parentage. In 1897 he was adopted by Green Dennis, a contractor, and Cornelia Walker. During his youth Dennis was known as the “mulatto child evangelist,” and he preached to church congregations in the African American community of Atlanta before he was five years old. By the age of fifteen he had toured churches throughout the United States and England and addressed hundreds of thousands of people.

Despite his success as an evangelist Dennis had ambitions to move beyond this evangelical milieu. In 1913, unschooled but unquestionably bright, he applied to Phillips Exeter Academy and gained admission. He graduated within two years and in 1915 entered Harvard.

Dennis s decisions to ...

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Stephen L. Harris

soldier, politician, civil servant, and a guiding force in the establishment of the 369th U.S. Infantry Regiment, was born in Springfield, Ohio. Educated in that state, he also studied law in Ohio.

Early in his career Fillmore allied himself with Asa Bushnell, who succeeded William McKinley as governor of Ohio. Following a lynching in Urbana in 1897 Bushnell then running for reelection as governor failed to send state troops to protect a black man accused of rape Bushnell s failure to save the defenseless man outraged African Americans who believed the governor allowed the lynching fearing a backlash by white voters if he intervened At the time of the lynching Fillmore worked for Bushnell in the office of the secretary of state He was also a major in the Ninth Ohio Battalion of the Ohio National Guard then one of four black military units in ...

Article

James R. Grossman

politician, was born in Malta, Illinois, the son of William Jackson and Sarah Cooper. He spent most of his childhood in Chicago. At age nine he began selling newspapers and shining shoes in Chicago's central business district; he left school in the eighth grade to work full-time. By age eighteen Robert had garnered an appointment as a clerk in the post office, a position coveted by African Americans in this era because of its security compared to that of most other occupations open to them. He left the postal service as an assistant superintendent in 1909 to devote himself full-time to his printing and publishing business, the Fraternal Press. In partnership with Beauregard F. Mosely, in 1910 he cofounded the Leland Giants, Chicago's first African American baseball team. In 1912 Jackson won election as a Republican to the state legislature From there he moved to the ...

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

George Derek Musgrove

U.S. congressman, was born Parren James Mitchell, the ninth child of Clarence Maurice Mitchell, a waiter, and Elsie Davis in Baltimore, Maryland. The Mitchells lived in a cramped, two-story row house on one of the “alley” streets of Old West Baltimore, and the family could be considered poor. Parren attended segregated Garnet Elementary School, Booker T. Washington Junior High School, and Frederick Douglass High School, from which he graduated in 1940. In 1942 he joined the army and was immediately shipped overseas where he served in the Ninety-Second Infantry Division as a commissioned officer and company commander. Mitchell was awarded the Purple Heart in 1944 after being wounded during fighting in Italy.

After being honorably discharged from the army in 1946, Mitchell returned to Baltimore to attend Morgan State College. There he earned a BA in Sociology and graduated with honors in 1950 Immediately ...

Article

Caryn E. Neumann

civil rights activist, member of Congress, and a founder of the Congressional Black Caucus. Parren James Mitchell, nicknamed “PJ,” was born in Baltimore, Maryland, as the ninth of ten children, three of whom died in childhood. He attended Baltimore public schools. Enlisting in the army during World War II, Mitchell won a Purple Heart while serving as a company commander in Italy.

Mitchell subsequently earned a bachelor's degree in 1950 from what is now Morgan State University and applied to the sociology graduate program at the University of Maryland. The university refused to admit Mitchell to its College Park campus because of his race and instead established a separate off-campus graduate program for him in Baltimore. Mitchell sued and became the first African American graduate student at Maryland. After earning his master's in 1952 Mitchell taught at Morgan State He headed the antipoverty program in Baltimore in ...

Article

Margaret Wade-Lewis

linguist, diplomat, and educator, was born in Nashville, Tennessee, to Raleigh Morgan Sr., a porter at Union Station, and Adrien Louise Beasley Morgan. The eldest of three children, Raleigh Jr. lived with his extended family; his mother left the household when Morgan was four years old. In addition to his father (b. 1888), Morgan's nurturers were his grandfather Jackson (b. 1865), a business owner; his-grandmother Anna (b. 1868), a homemaker; his uncle John W. (b. 1890); and his aunts Elizabeth and Adrien (both b. 1895). His younger siblings were John Edward (b. 1918) and Helen A. (b. 1919).

Morgan took his first course in Latin at age twelve and began to study German and French at ages fourteen and fifteen respectively He eventually became a contemporary Renaissance man whose life unfolded in three phases professor and ...

Article

Steven J. Niven

U.S. Army general and secretary of state, was born in Harlem in New York City to the Jamaican immigrants Luther Powell, a shipping clerk, and Maud Ariel McKoy a seamstress both of whom worked in New York City s garment district When he was six years old Powell moved with his family to Hunts Point an ethnically diverse neighborhood in the South Bronx Powell s autobiography portrays Hunts Point as a community of stable families and a certain rough hewn racial tolerance but it does not ignore the neighborhood s upsurge in drug and gang related crime particularly after World War II The Powells escaped the crumbling South Bronx tenements in the mid 1950s however a testament to his parents unstinting work ethic and shrewd housekeeping But luck also played a part Luther Powell a regular numbers player placed a twenty five dollar bet on a number ...

Article

Debra A. Reid

foreign service official, was born in New York City to Wesley Orlando Thorburn and Amy Constantine, both of whom were Jamaican natives. His mother studied music at the Juilliard School of Music, and his father studied mechanical dentistry at Pennsylvania State University. Thorburn was the youngest of their three children. He lived in Jamaica for fifteen years and graduated from Wolmer's Boys School in 1945 before returning to the United States in 1946.

In 1947 Thorburn enrolled in Agricultural Economics and Extension Education, which prepared African American men for careers in segregated agricultural extension service offices in all of the ex-Confederate states as well as in the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Federal Extension Service, at Hampton Institute, Hampton, Virginia, earning a BS in 1951 When Thorburn moved from his northern urban birthplace to prepare for a career in agriculture extension blacks employed in segregated agricultural extension service ...

Article

Carl A. Wade

poet and U.S. Army veteran, was born Henry Bertram Wilkinson in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the second of five surviving children of the Barbadians Mary Elizabeth Clarke, a seamstress, and William Lawrence Wilkinson, a carpenter, himself the son of a “colored” slave manumitted in the parish of St. Philip, Barbados, in 1834.

When Henry was four, the family departed Philadelphia's black ghetto, a district hostile to the social and economic advancement of its black citizenry (as W. E. B. Du Bois documented in 1899 in The Philadelphia Negro), and returned to Barbados. There Wilkinson received his elementary and only formal education, leaving school at age twelve to become a pupil-teacher (trainee).

In 1909 Panama beckoned Wilkinson, as it did thousands of other West Indians in search of economic opportunity. Two years later, on 24 August 1911 he left the canal zone with its deadly and debilitating tropical ...