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Article

Alonford James Robinson

Born in Washington, D.C., Ron Brown grew up in Harlem, New York. He graduated from Middlebury College in Vermont in 1962, after becoming the first black student to pledge a fraternity there. He enlisted in the United States Army. After his service, Brown worked for the National Urban League in New York while earning his law degree at night from St. John's University in 1970. He held several positions in the Urban League from 1968 to 1979, including general counsel, chief Washington spokesperson, deputy executive director, and vice president of Washington operations.

In Washington, D.C., Brown became active in the Democratic Party, and in 1979 he served as deputy manager of U.S. Senator Edward Kennedy's presidential campaign. A year later Kennedy appointed him the chief counsel to the Senate Judiciary Committee. In 1982 Brown resigned from the senate committee to become deputy ...

Article

Leigh Kimmel

politician and the first African American statewide elected officeholder in Illinois, was born in Centralia, Illinois, the son of Earl, a worker with the Illinois Central Railroad, and Emma Burris. His family also ran a store to supplement his father's railroad wages. Because both of his parents were busy during the day, when Burris was four years old he would often accompany his older siblings to school, where he would sit on the platform outside the door, listening to the class being conducted inside.

While he attended Centralia Township High School he was active in sports becoming an All State defensive safety in football in spite of being only five feet six inches inches tall He also became increasingly aware of racial discrimination in his community during high school and at sixteen he helped to integrate the Centralia public pool When the city unofficially designated the pool for whites only ...

Article

Ntewusu Aniegye

Ghanaian lawyer, diplomat, politician, was born on 7 December 1950 in Bimbilla in the Northern Region of Ghana. His father, Alhaji Alhassan Chambas, was a district commissioner in Kwame Nkrumah’s government from the 1950s to mid-1960s. He was educated at Mfantispim School, Cape Coast (the former Wesleyan High School whose alumni include John Mensah Sarbah, Dr. K. A. Busia, and Kofi Annan), and Tamale Secondary School, Tamale. He is a graduate from the University of Ghana, where he read political science, obtaining his BA in 1973. He then travelled to the United States, where he obtained his MA and PhD degrees at Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, in 1977 and 1980, respectively. He later earned a law degree from Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio.

Having briefly taught and practiced law in America he returned to Ghana where he became a school administrator He later joined the military ...

Article

Monika R. Alston

first African American woman elected to the U.S. Congress from North Carolina, was born Eva McPherson in Chatham County, Georgia. The daughter of Thomas McPherson, an insurance agent, and Josephine Martin, a teacher, Eva attended Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte, North Carolina, and earned her bachelor of science degree in Biology in 1955. In 1956 she married Theaoseus Clayton, also an alumnus of Johnson C. Smith. The Claytons had four children: Joanne, Theaoseus Jr., Martin, and Reuben.

Following their marriage both Eva Clayton and her husband pursued graduate degrees at North Carolina Central University in Durham, North Carolina. Theaoseus received his law degree in 1961, and Eva earned her master's of science in Biology and General Science in 1962 The young couple moved to Warrenton North Carolina where Theaoseus established himself as a lawyer and both became active ...

Article

David A. Spatz

politician, the first African American U.S. congressman from the North. Oscar De Priest was born in Florence, Alabama, in 1871. His family migrated to Salina, Kansas, in 1878 to escape racial tensions, but only one other black family lived in Salina when the De Priests arrived. Oscar, his five sisters, and one brother faced constant discrimination. He left at seventeen and settled in Chicago in 1889. He found work as a painter, passing as white and, when discovered and fired, moved from one job to the next. Eventually, he started his own decorating and contracting business, and later enjoyed great success as a real estate broker. His only child with his wife Jessie Williams, Oscar De Priest Jr., worked with him and took over the business when the elder De Priest died.

De Priest entered politics soon after his arrival in Chicago His ability ...

Article

Ryan J. Davis

U.S. Representative, politician, and entrepreneur, was born in Waterbury, Connecticut, the youngest of six children of Richard and Jenary Franks. Richard was a former North Carolina sharecropper with no education beyond the sixth grade. Jenary was a dietary specialist at Waterbury Hospital in Connecticut.

Franks was raised Baptist, but attended Sacred Heart High School, a Catholic school located in the heart of Waterbury. Franks was involved in many extracurricular activities at Sacred Heart. He was an all-New England basketball player and president of his senior class. In 1971 Franks completed high school and then attended Yale University Uncertain about his political views at the time Franks registered as a Democrat like many black Americans in the 1970s Franks continued his involvement in extracurricular activities by joining the Yale basketball team Although he did not receive much playing time until his senior year Franks high score ...

Article

Born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, William H. Gray III was the son of William H. Gray Jr., a Baptist minister and president of two Florida colleges, and Hazel Yates Gray, a high school teacher. In 1949 his father became the pastor of the large and powerful Bright Hope Baptist Church in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and moved the family north. In 1963 Gray graduated from Franklin and Marshall College and became an assistant pastor in Montclair, New Jersey. He earned a master of divinity degree from Drew Theological School in 1966, became senior minister at his church the same year, and earned a degree in theology from the Princeton Theological Seminary in 1970 As a minister Gray tried to help his poor parishioners by promoting fair housing programs He also set an important precedent by successfully suing a landlord who refused to rent an apartment to him ...

Article

Amber Moulton-Wiseman

minister, congressman, businessman, philanthropist, was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, the son of William H. Gray Jr., a minister and university president, and Hazel Yates Gray, a university dean. During Gray's early childhood, his father was president of both Florida Memorial College and Florida A&M University, and his mother was dean of students at Southern University in Baton Rouge. However, the family then moved to Philadelphia in 1949. There, Gray's father took a position as pastor of the Bright Hope Baptist Church. William H. Gray Jr.'s own father had held that post since 1925.

Gray was educated in the public school system and graduated from Philadelphia's Simon Gratz High School in 1959. Upon graduation, Gray enrolled at Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and pursued his joint interest in religion and politics, even taking an internship with Democratic Congressman Robert ...

Article

Zinga A. Fraser

politician. Barbara Lee was born in El Paso, Texas. Her introduction to politics occurred well before she entered the halls of Congress. Influenced by the student movement of the 1970s and her connection to Oakland's Black Panther Party, Lee began to question the political and economic disfranchisement of people of color and women. Lee's political journey began after hearing a speech at Mills College by the former congresswoman Shirley Chisholm from New York (the first African American woman elected to Congress and the first woman to run for president). As a recently divorced and single mother of two boys, Lee served as a volunteer for Chisholm's 1972 presidential campaign. Upon her graduation from Mills College in 1973, Lee landed an internship in Washington, D.C., for Congressman Ronald V. Dellums who represented California s Ninth District Dellums would eventually serve as Lee s political mentor and adviser After ...

Article

The son of Limas and Dora Lee Brooks McHenry, Donald Franchot McHenry was born in St. Louis, Missouri. He grew up in poverty in East St. Louis, Illinois, where a public school is now named in his honor. McHenry received a B.S. degree from Illinois State University in 1957 and an M.S. degree from Southern Illinois University in 1959. As a student he was president of the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). McHenry was involved in negotiations to end segregation in area housing and restaurants.

McHenry then moved to Washington, D.C. He taught English at Howard University beginning in 1959 and entered the graduate program in international relations at Georgetown University. His public career began when he joined the U.S. Department of State in 1963. In 1968 he was made assistant to the secretary of state. From 1971 ...