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Article

Roanne Edwards

Known for her integrity and her powerful oratory skills, Shirley Chisholm is widely considered one of the foremost female speakers in the United States. With a character that she has described as “unbought and unbossed,” Chisholm became known as a politician who refused to allow fellow politicians, including the male-dominated Congressional Black Caucus, to deter her from her goals. In 1969 her first statement as a congressperson before the United States House of Representatives reflected her commitment to prioritizing the needs of the disadvantaged especially children She proclaimed her intent to vote No on every money bill that comes to the floor of this House that provides any funds for the Department of Defense While Chisholm advocated for civil rights for African Americans she regularly took up issues that concerned other people of color such as Native Americans and Spanish speaking migrants She also delivered important speeches on ...

Article

Daniel A. Dalrymple

Chisholm made a career out of breaking down barriers. She was both the first black woman to be elected to United States Congress and the first woman or African American to mount a serious run at a major party’s nomination for president. Chisholm forged a strong reputation for doing things her own way, spurning both the New York Democratic political machine and political decorum. Despite the obstacles that came with bucking the system, Chisholm always held her ground on important issues such as abortion, women’s rights, and civil rights.

Chisholm was born the eldest of three sisters to West Indian parents, Charles St. Hill and Ruby Seale in the Bedford Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn New York Shirley s father worked as a baker s helper and later a factory hand and her mother found employment as a seamstress However Hill and Seale quickly realized that their wages were insufficient ...

Article

Julie Gallagher

politician, women's rights advocate, and educator. Chisholm was born Shirley Anita St. Hill in Brooklyn, New York, to Charles St. Hill and Ruby Seale, immigrants from the Caribbean island of Barbados. During the Depression, Chisholm and her two younger sisters were sent to live with their grandmother in Barbados. They stayed there for seven years. Chisholm claimed that her sense of pride in herself and her race came largely from her father, an ardent follower of Marcus Garvey.

Chisholm attended Brooklyn College from 1942 to 1946, where she developed her oratorical skills in the Debate Society. At the same time, her membership in the Harriet Tubman Society and the Political Science Society stimulated her racial and political consciousness. Her leadership skills attracted attention, and one of her professors suggested that she consider entering politics.

Chisholm's career in early childhood education spanned nearly two decades. Between 1946 ...

Article

Patricia E. Canson

U.S. congresswoman, was born Shirley St. Hill in Brooklyn, New York, the eldest daughter of Charles St. Hill, a laborer born in British Guiana (now Guyana), and Ruby Seale, a seamstress born in Barbados. Shirley's first three years were spent in Brownsville, a predominantly Jewish area of Brooklyn. Finding the wages for unskilled factory work insufficient to care for three children properly, the St. Hills sent their three daughters to Barbados, where they lived with their maternal grandparents on the family farm. Shirley credits her grandmother Emily Seale with instilling in her a strong character and determination.

The girls returned to Brownsville in 1934 after their mother gave birth to another daughter Despite the social and financial hardships of the Depression Ruby encouraged her children to respect the values of civility thrift poise humility education and spirituality though the sisters endured a substantial amount of teasing in the ...

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Barry Kernfeld

jazz tenor saxophonist, was born Booker Telleferro Ervin Jr. in Denison, Texas, the son of Booker Ervin, a trombonist who played with the tenor saxophonist Buddy Tate; his mother's name is unknown. Booker played his father's instrument from ages eight to thirteen and then abandoned music. In 1950 he borrowed a tenor saxophone to play in an Army Air Force band, but was discharged in 1952 or 1953 and spent another period away from playing before studying in Boston at the Berklee School of Music in 1953–1954. He returned to Texas and again dropped out of music. From 1955 to 1956 he played with rhythm and blues bands in the Southwest and in Chicago, including a period with Ernie Fields's group. In 1956 he traveled to Dallas and then to Denver where he played his first jazz jobs but once again became dissatisfied with his playing ...

Article

Andrew M. Fearnley

musicologist, opera singer, and diplomat, was born Zelma Watson in Hearne, Texas, the daughter of Samuel Watson, a Baptist minister, and Lena Thomas, a domestic worker. Zelma's parents attached a great deal of importance to education. As the former principal of a boarding school, Samuel Watson instilled into each of his six children an understanding of the value of education; until sixth grade their mother taught all the Watson children at home. The Watsons were also keen musicians, and family music-making sessions were a staple of Zelma's early life. As the eldest of the children, Zelma clearly took note of both of her parents' pet projects and made scholarship and song central to her own life.

Due to her father s job as a preacher Zelma s early life was rather peripatetic At age five she moved to Palestine Texas and then to Dallas Texas at ...

Article

Michaeljulius Idani

conservative activist, diplomat, and radio personality, was born in Long Island, New York, the youngest of the five children of Allison L. Keyes, a U.S. Army sergeant, and Gerthina Quick Keyes, a homemaker. Keyes spent the majority of his childhood on various military bases. He developed a close relationship with his mother, whom he admired greatly for raising a family under difficult circumstances. Both parents instilled in Keyes a strong sense of faith, which would underpin his later political activism.

From an early age Keyes displayed a talent for public speaking viewing it as an effective means of influencing others particularly in regards to moral issues While attending Robert G Cole High School in San Antonio Texas Keyes became active in debating clubs and civic organizations He competed in numerous speech contests winning the majority of them His oratorical skills aided in his elections to ...

Article

Wesley Borucki

diplomat, political commentator, and Republican presidential and U.S. Senate candidate. Alan Keyes was born in the U.S. Naval Hospital in Long Island, New York. His father, Allison Keyes, was a U.S. Army sergeant major who served in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam. Young Alan moved often, completing his high school education at Robert G. Cole High School in San Antonio, Texas. At age sixteen he was the first African American president of the American Legion Boys Nation. In a 2001 interview on C-SPAN, Keyes stated that the civil rights movement's “deep questions of justice” moved him toward public service.

Keyes attended Cornell in 1969. While at Cornell, he developed a relationship with the conservative philosopher Allan Bloom. Bloom described Keyes (though not by name) in his book The Closing of the American Mind in an anecdote about an African American student who received death threats from ...

Article

Mohammed Badrul Alam

one of the most articulate and progressive black politicians of the latter half of the twentieth century. Mfume was born Frizzell Gerald Gray in Baltimore, Maryland, on 24 October 1948. He was educated first at the Community College of Baltimore and later at Morgan State University, where he graduated magna cum laude in 1976. Even as a young man, Mfume showed his leadership skills through his election as head of the Black Student Union at the Baltimore college. Mfume earned a master's degree in liberal arts with a concentration in international studies at Johns Hopkins University. For a brief period he was also an adjunct professor at Morgan State University, teaching political science and communications. During the early 1970s he legally changed his name to Kweisi Mfume—a Ghanaian name meaning “conquering son of kings.”

Mfume s political career started when he won a seat on the Baltimore City ...

Article

Alonford James Robinson

The eldest of four children, Kweisi Mfume (born Frizzell Gray) was raised in a poor community just outside Baltimore, Maryland, by his mother and stepfather, Mary and Clifton Gray. After years of physical abuse, Mary Gray left her husband in 1960 and moved the family to a neighborhood closer to the city. Four years later she was diagnosed with cancer and within a short time learned the disease was terminal. Mfume and his sisters were devastated by the news and suffered another traumatic blow when she died, literally, in the arms of her only son. In his autobiography, No Free Ride, Mfume recalls just how difficult it was losing his mother. Mfume quit high school after his mother died and worked to support his three sisters. Disillusioned, he also began hanging out on the streets, becoming a gang leader and fathering several illegitimate children.

Disappointed with ...

Article

Prudence D. Cumberbatch

television and radio host, U.S. congressman, and president and chief executive officer of the NAACP, was born Frizzell Gray, the first of four children of Mary Elizabeth Willis in Turners Station, Maryland. His mother worked at several occupations, including as an elevator operator and as a domestic, while Clifton Gray his stepfather was employed as a truck driver Gray was raised believing that he shared the father of his three sisters only later did he learn that he was not Clifton Gray s biological son Gray spent his early childhood in Turners Station a small rural black community thirteen miles south of Baltimore City wedged between predominantly white Dundalk and Sparrows Point home to Bethlehem Steel the largest employer in the area Founded in the late 1880s by an African American doctor Turners Station was isolated on the western shore of the Chesapeake Bay In ...

Article

Elizabeth Shostak

Theodor Michael grew up in Germany, in one of only about sixty black families living there in the early twentieth-century. His father, Theophilus Wonja Michael, had emigrated from Cameroon in the late 1800s after studying theology at Oxford University and deciding against a career as a pastor in Cameroon He settled in the German capital of Berlin and married a white German woman with whom he had four children Although black families were rare in Germany at that time Theodor Michael has stated that his early years were free from racial discrimination When the Nazi Party came to power in the 1930s however the government instituted new policies based on the assumption of Aryan racial superiority These policies deemed blacks to be intellectually inferior to whites and incapable of receiving training for any profession Nazi laws forbade Michael and other blacks from attending school His siblings managed to ...

Article

Christine Rauchfuss Gray

playwright, was born in Wilmington, North Carolina, the only child of Willis Wilder, a laborer, and Agnes Ann Harper. In 1898, when Richardson was nine years old, a white mob burned down the newspaper offices of a Wilmington newspaperman named Alexander Manly and precipitated a coup d'état in North Carolina's largest city, which resulted in the deaths of at least sixteen blacks. Many African Americans left Wilmington in the months that followed, among them Richardson and his family, who moved to Washington, D.C., because of the riots and the threats made on his father's life. Richardson would live in Washington until his death in 1977.

After completing elementary school, Richardson attended the M Street School (later Dunbar High School) from 1906 until 1910. At the school, Richardson had contact with people who would later be important in his development as a dramatist. Carter G ...

Article

Helen R. Houston

Willis Richardson's interest in the theater was encouraged when he viewed a production of Angelina Weld Grimké's Rachel and by his belief that African American life was richer in theme and character than was being portrayed on the stage in musicals, comedies, and “serious” plays by whites. These were limited to stereotypical roles and one-dimensional representations. Added to this, theatrical groups were without plays by African American writers. With Richardson, all of this changed.

He began to write one-act plays; his early plays presented heroes such as Crispus Attacks, Antonio Maceo, and Simon the Cyrenian for children's edification and were published in The Brownie's Book. In 1920, he published his first adult play, The Deacon's Awakening, in the Crisis. In 1923, he became the first African American playwright to have a nonmusical production on Broadway: The Chip Woman's Fortune; and in 1924 ...

Article

Kadar Ali Diraneh

Somali poet, was born William Joseph Faarax Siyad in Djibouti. His parents were Christians from British Somaliland. Siyad was the only boy in a family of four children that included Marie-Françoise, who would marry the Somali lawyer and future leader of the independence movement, Michael Mariano; Carmelle; and Shamis, who was the mother of the writer Patrick Erouart-Syad. His father, Faarax Joseph, owned a bakery and was an interpreter at the French colonial court in Djibouti. He died in 1938 when Siyad was only seven years old.

Siyad attended the primary school of the Charles de Foucauld Fathers, then went to Aden from 1940 to 1945 to attend Saint-Joseph College, where he learned English. After a brief return to Djibouti, he traveled to France in 1946 with a view to acquiring a bachelor s degree and then go on to graduate studies During a year s stay in Marseilles ...

Article

Richard Pankhurst

Ethiopian Minister of Posts, Telephones and Telegraphs, musician, singer, poet, and wit, was born in Minjar in eastern Ethiopia in 1876. He was the son of Ato Eshete Gobe, a servant of Ras Mekonnen, Emperor Menilek II’s governor of Harar, and Weyzero Woleteyes Habtu. Young Tesemma spent his early childhood in Harar, where he learned reading and writing in a church school, but upon his father’s death he moved to Addis Ababa. Later in 1908, at the age of thirty-one, he was chosen by Menilek to go to Germany with two other Ethiopians. They accompanied a departing German visitor, Arnold Holz, who in the previous year had driven to Addis Ababa in a Nache motor car, the second car to reach the Ethiopian capital—the first, a Wolseley driven by Bede Bentley, had arrived in the Ethiopian capital only a few months earlier.

While in Germany where he spent ...

Article

Cheryl Black

actress, was born in Lawrenceville, Virginia, but grew up, from the age of one, in Boston. No information about her parents is available. At the age of sixteen she married Lloyd Thomas, the owner of a custom tailoring business. It is not known when the couple left Boston, but by 1918 they were living in Harlem, where Edna Thomas performed in a benefit performance for Rosamond Johnson's music school at the Lafayette Theatre. The elegant Thomas, who looked much younger than her thirty-two years, was pursued by the Lafayette manager Lester Walton to become a member of the stock company. Despite her husband's objections, Thomas finally succumbed, making her professional debut in Frank Wilson'sConfidence at the Putnam Theatre in Brooklyn. Thomas quickly became a Lafayette favorite, appearing over the next several years in Turn to the Right, The Two Orphans, Nothing But the Truth ...

Article

Betty Kaplan Gubert

Walton, Lester A. (20 April 1882–16 October 1965), diplomat, journalist, civil rights activist, and theater producer, was born Lester Aglar Walton in St. Louis, Missouri, the son of Benjamin A. Walton, Sr., and Olive May Camphor Walton. After graduation from Sumner High School, Walton began his career as a journalist at the Globe-Democrat. He worked as a court reporter, covered general stories, and wrote a column on golf for the St. Louis Star Sayings, later the St. Louis Star-Time, from 1902 to 1906. Walton was thus the first African American to write for a white daily, and he was an active member of the St. Louis Press Club. For a time he also wrote for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, under Herbert Bayard Swope.

During these years Walton and Ernest Hogan a well known entertainer were copyrighting the words and music respectively ...