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David Alvin Canton

lawyer and judge, was the third of five children born to Hillard Boone Alexander, a laborer from Mecklenburg County, Virginia, and Virginia Pace, from Essex County, Virginia. Alexander's parents were born slaves, but were freed by the Thirteenth Amendment following the Civil War. In 1880 they migrated to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where they lived in the Seventh Ward, a community that would later be made famous by W. E. B. Du Bois's seminal 1899 study The Philadelphia Negro. In 1903Alexander's mother died of pneumonia. Because his father worked long hours, Alexander and his siblings moved to North Philadelphia to live with his maternal aunt, Georgia Chandler Pace From the age of seven Alexander attended school and worked at various jobs including dockworker newspaper boy general helper at the Metropolitan Opera House in North Philadelphia Pullman porter and when he was in his early twenties ...

Article

Mayda Grano de Oro

José Celso Barbosa played a key role in the politics of the Spanish-American War, denouncing the Creoles' political aspirations. At the same time, his involvement reflected the complexities and contradictions in race issues confronted by black Puerto Ricans at the time. Barbosa's achievements were not typical of blacks in Puerto Rico at the turn of the century. He represented the “self-made man” that came from humble origins. He had the opportunity to study at the only institution of secondary education on the island, thanks to the determination of his aunt. He completed his studies in the Jesuit seminary before going to the University of Michigan Medical School in Ann Arbor, where he graduated in 1880. His experience in the United States made him an admirer of republican ideals for social equality and justice.

When Barbosa returned to Puerto Rico he started his medical practice and became a member ...

Article

Monika R. Alston

U.S. congresswoman, was born in Jacksonville, Florida, where she lived from childhood through her high school years. Brown has not made much information about her early years, her parents, or her personal life known. In 1965 she gave birth to her only daughter, Shantrel, the same year she began college. Brown received a BS in 1969 and a master's degree in Education in 1971 from Florida A&M University. She earned an education specialist degree from the University of Florida in 1974. From 1977 to 1982 Brown worked as a faculty member and guidance counselor at Florida Community College in Jacksonville.As a member of Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority Inc. at Florida A&M, Brown became close friends with her sorority sister Gwendolyn Sawyer-Cherry, who was the first African American woman to serve in the Florida state legislature. Sawyer-Cherry influenced Brown to enter politics and after Brown lost her ...

Article

Charles Rosenberg

federal Weather Bureau employee, was born in Savannah, Georgia, like his parents, Cyrus and Laura Mirault Campfield, and all four of his grandparents. Laura Mirault was descended from at least two wealthy mulatto families from the French colony of St. Domingue (now Haiti), who fled to Savannah around 1800. Although this was the most stable and prosperous period of rule by Toussaint Louverture, his administration was resented by the wealthy mulatto population, many of whom had owned slaves, and resented the political triumph of “les noirs.” In Savannah, they faced new legislation by a self-consciously “white” Anglo political establishment, beginning in 1808, to impose restrictions on free people of color. Nevertheless, Louis Mirault, born about 1780, established a prosperous tailor business, and Aspasia Cruvellier Mirault, born about 1790, opened an acclaimed pastry shop and acquired real estate.

Accordingly at least half ...

Article

Dorsia Smith Silva

physician, politician, and delegate to the U.S. Congress, was born Donna Marie Christian in Teaneck, New Jersey, to Virginia Sterling Christian and retired Chief District Court Judge Almeric L. Christian, from St. Croix. Christian-Christensen's parents wanted their daughter to understand her cultural connections to the Virgin Islands, so she spent part of her adolescence in St. Croix. This time in St. Croix had a profound influence on Christian-Christensen's career and commitment to helping others.

Christian-Christensen returned to the United States to graduate from St. Mary's College in Notre Dame, Indiana, where she earned a B.S. degree in 1966. After reading a United Negro College Fund booklet about the lack of minorities in health care, she decided to enter the medical field. She attended George Washington University Medical School and earned an M.D. degree in 1970. From 1970 to 1971 Christian Christensen worked an as ...

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Mary Krane Derr

U.S.Congresswoman, was born Cardiss Hortense Robertson in Saint Louis, Missouri. She was the only child of Rosie and Finley Robertson, a domestic worker and a manual laborer, respectively. Cardiss's parents came from two different families with the same surname of Robertson. Rosie Robertson grew up on the Whiteville, Tennessee, farm of her great-grandfather, an ex-slave named Erastus White. Cardiss's parents separated during her infancy. Cardiss and her mother were so poor that their two-room apartment lacked a gas stove and refrigerator. They moved to Detroit when Cardiss was ten.

After graduating from the Detroit High School of Commerce, Cardiss moved to her maternal grandmother's home in Chicago. Initially a mattress factory seamstress, she eventually worked as stenographer for a carnival equipment business and then the Illinois Department of Labor. Attending night school courses at Northwestern University for twelve years, she achieved a business certificate in 1966 ...

Article

Benjamin R. Justesen

physician and diplomat, was born near Bennettsville, South Carolina, to parents whose names are not recorded, and who may have been slaves or freed slaves. At an early age, he moved with his parents to St. Joseph, Missouri, where he was educated in that city's public schools.

A gifted student, Crossland later graduated from Shaw University in Raleigh, North Carolina, before completing his medical studies at Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tennessee. He practiced medicine and surgery for twelve years in both Missouri and Kingstree, South Carolina, where he also served for a brief period as assistant postmaster. He also served as city physician for several years in St. Joseph.

Crossland also became active in Republican Party politics in Missouri, and by 1901 had become a member at large of that state s Republican central committee He was also elected president of the Negro Republican State League As ...

Article

Rayford W. Logan

William Demos Crum was born near Orangeburg, South Carolina, the youngest of seven children. His grandfather, a German, had settled in South Carolina early in the nineteenth century. His father, Darius, owned a sizable plantation; little is known about his African ancestry. In 1875 he graduated from the Avery Normal Institute, a school sponsored by the American Missionary Association in Charleston. Crum studied briefly at the University of South Carolina, which was integrated at the time, and received his M.D. degree from Howard University in 1880. In 1883 he married Ellen Craft, the daughter of Ellen and WilliamCraft, who had escaped from slavery to Boston in 1848. Dr. Crum practiced medicine in Charleston, headed the local hospital for blacks, and served as a trustee of the Avery Normal Institute.

In addition to engaging in various business enterprises Crum was active in Republican politics He ...

Article

Floyd Jr. Ogburn

physician and politician, was born near Orangeburg, South Carolina. Born free and the youngest of seven children in a family with German African ancestry, he matured on an Orangeburg plantation, which his father, Darius, had inherited from his German father, who had settled in South Carolina in the early nineteenth century. The Crums owned and used forty-three slaves to farm their plantation, yet the close of the Civil War marked the death of Darius and their fortune.

The dissolution of the family fortune drove Crum's older brothers north in search of employment, but they helped him get an education. He graduated in 1875 from Avery Normal Institute in Charleston, South Carolina, and briefly attended the University of South Carolina shortly thereafter. In 1881 he obtained an MD degree from Howard University, establishing a medical practice in Charleston two years later. After setting up his medical practice Crum married Ellen ...

Article

Donna M. Wells

photographer, journalist, and diplomat, was born on the campus of Atlanta University (later Clark Atlanta University), in Atlanta, Georgia. He attended Oglethorpe Laboratory Elementary School, a practice school on the campus. Davis's professional career began in high school and continued until his retirement in 1985. He was first introduced to photography by William (Bill) Brown, an instructor at the Atlanta University Laboratory High School where Davis was a student. Throughout high school and later as a student at Morehouse, Davis supported himself through photography assignments from local newspapers and public relations firms.

Davis's college education was suspended in 1944 when he joined the armed forces during World War II and fought with the Ninety-second Infantry Division in Italy. After his tour, Griffith returned to Atlanta in 1946 and continued his college studies. He befriended writer and professor Langston Hughes and civil rights activist and ...

Article

Alexander J. Chenault

the first black popularly elected governor of the United States Virgin Islands, Delegate to the United States House of Representatives, and ambassador, was born in Christiansted, St. Croix, Virgin Islands, to Charles and Maude (Rogiers) Evans. He attended the Christiansted Public Grammar and Junior High schools and completed his secondary education at the Charlotte Amalie High School in St. Thomas, where he graduated as valedictorian of his class.

At the age of nineteen, Evans moved to Washington, D.C., and studied at Howard University, where he graduated magna cum laude in 1940. In 1944 he received his medical degree with honors from the Howard University Medical School. Evans married Mary Phyllis Anderson, a nurse he met while completing his medical internship at Harlem Hospital in New York City in 1945, and they had four sons together: Melvin Herbert Jr., Robert Rogiers, William Charles and ...

Article

Benjamin Letzler

law professor, dean, and diplomat, was born in Wilmington, North Carolina, to the Reverend Clarence Clyde Ferguson Sr. and Georgeva Ferguson. After a childhood in Baltimore he served in the U.S. Army from 1942 to 1946, earning a Bronze Star, before attending Ohio State University on a football scholarship. He soon left the football squad to focus on his academic work, completing his AB cum laude in two and a half years. Ferguson earned his LLB cum laude from Harvard Law School in 1951, one of three black members of the class.

After a year as a teaching fellow at Harvard Law School and a year in private practice in New York, Ferguson served as assistant general counsel to the Moreland Act Commission to Investigate Harness Racing. Ferguson married the artist and sculptor Dolores Zimmerman in 1954 After her death in the late ...

Article

Benjamin R. Justesen

physician and diplomat, was born in Brooklyn, New York, the older son of William Henry and Mary Elizabeth (Williams) Furniss. As a child he lived in Jackson, Mississippi, where his father served as assistant secretary of state under Secretary of State James R. Lynch, and later on the staff of the new Alcorn University. His sons were educated in the public schools of Indianapolis, Indiana, where William Furniss became superintendent of special delivery for the U.S. Post Office Department after 1877.

Henry Furniss began his professional studies at the medical department of the University of Indianapolis in 1887, transferring in 1890 to Howard University in Washington, DC, where he worked as a clerk for the U.S. Bureau of the Census to finance his studies. In 1891 he graduated from the Howard medical department, and later received a doctoral degree in pharmacy from Howard (1895 ...

Article

Glenn Allen Knoblock

Civil War soldier and Medal of Honor recipient, was born in Austin, Texas, the son of slaves Jack and Emily Holland. Milton had three known brothers, Toby, William, and James, all part of “the third generation of African-Americans born as slaves” on the Holland Family Plantation run by Bird Holland later the Texas secretary of state Arlington National Cemetery Perhaps because of his light complexion and the fact that he was later freed and sent to school in the North Bird Holland may have been the real father of Milton as well as his brothers William and James a fact speculated upon by some historians Bird Holland would later free Milton William and James and send them north to Ohio in the late 1850s Here Milton Holland attended the Albany Manual Labor Academy an educational institution that accepted blacks and women This school was ...

Article

Daryl A. Carter

politician and director of the Environmental Protection Agency, was born in Philadelphia. Two weeks after birth, she was adopted by Benjamin and Marie Perez and relocated to New Orleans. She was raised in the Lower Ninth Ward, near the Pontchartrain Park section of New Orleans. Her father, who died when she was in tenth grade, was a postal worker, and her mother occasionally did secretarial work. During high school Perez distinguished herself academically, graduating as valedictorian at Saint Mary's Dominican High School in 1979. Perez subsequently took her talents to Tulane University, where she majored in chemical engineering. After earning her B.S. degree in 1983, Perez was admitted to Princeton University. There she continued her studies in chemical engineering and earned her M.S. degree in 1986 one of only two women in that year s engineering class Following graduation Perez was hired by the Environmental Protection Agency ...

Article

Lisa E. Rivo

physicist, chair of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and educator was born in Washington, D.C., the second of four children to George Jackson, a post office employee, and Beatrice Cosby, a social worker. In elementary school Shirley was bused from the Jacksons' largely white neighborhood in northwest Washington to a black school across town. After the 1954Brown v. Board of Education desegregation ruling and several years of “white flight” transformed the area into a predominantly black neighborhood, she attended the local Roosevelt High School, where she participated in an accelerated program in math and science. Jackson took college-level classes in her senior year, after completing the high school curriculum early, and she graduated as valedictorian in 1964 As I was growing up she recalled I became fascinated with the notion that the physical world around me was a world of secrets and that science as ...

Article

Robert Fay

Shirley Jackson grew up in Washington, D.C., where her parents, Beatrice and George Jackson, encouraged her interest in science by helping her to prepare school science projects. After graduating first in her class at Roosevelt High School, Jackson was one of only thirty women to enter the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1964. She earned a B.S. degree in 1968 and a Ph.D. in 1973 from MIT, making her the first African American woman to earn a Ph.D. in physics and the first black woman to earn a doctorate in any subject from MIT.

After graduating from MIT, Jackson joined the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Batavia, Illinois, as a research associate (1973–1974, 1975–1976), and was a visiting scientist at the European Center for Nuclear Research in Geneva, Switzerland (1974–1975). From 1976 to 1991 Jackson researched theoretical physics ...

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Sowande' Mustakeem

At the young age of twenty-six, Shirley Ann Jackson became not only the first African American woman to receive a PhD from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), but also one of the first two women to receive a degree in theoretical physics from any university in the United States. In 1995, Jackson became both the first African American and first woman appointed to head the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which oversees nuclear power plants in the United States. Additionally, in 1999, Jackson became the first African American president of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) in New York, the oldest university in the United States dedicated to research in science and engineering.

The second daughter of George and Beatrice Jackson, Jackson was born in Washington, DC She benefited greatly from the strong foundation her parents provided Her mother Beatrice a social worker regularly read to her often choosing the ...

Article

Daniel Donaghy

American physicist and president of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Shirley Ann Jackson was born in Washington, D.C., to Beatrice and George Jackson, who instilled in her, as well as in her sister, Alicia, a strong interest in school, especially the study of science. Her parents encouraged Jackson to think for herself from an early age. As a result, she excelled academically throughout elementary and middle school and at Roosevelt High School, where she participated in accelerated math and science programs and from which she graduated in 1964 as valedictorian. She moved on that fall to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), where she was one of the few African American students and the only one pursuing a career in theoretical physics. She graduated in 1968 after completing her senior thesis on solid state physics and was accepted into many of the nation s most prestigious graduate programs ...

Article

Michaeljulius Idani

nurse and U.S. Congresswoman, was born in Waco, Texas, the daughter of Edward Johnson, a Navy veteran and civil servant for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, and Lillie Mae White Johnson, a homemaker and church organizer. Johnson was one of four children—sisters Ruth and Lee and brother Carl. The Johnsons were a tight-knit Christian family with a large extended family rooted in the Waco community. Johnson's parents instilled in their children a deep appreciation for education. Johnson's mother was an honor's graduate of AJ Moore High School in Waco, where Johnson would later attend and graduate in 1952.

By the early 1950s many segregationist laws had been enacted against African Americans and Hispanics Texas maintained separatist policies related to education and public and residential areas and few opportunities existed for Johnson to pursue higher education locally After graduation from high school she attended St ...