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Benjamin R. Justesen

journalist and public official, was born in Louisville, Kentucky, the younger son of the Reverend Henry and Margaret Priscilla (Corbin) Adams. Their father administered a respected school in Louisville. Cyrus and his older brother, John Quincy Adams (1848–1922), received excellent educations, Cyrus graduating from preparatory school and college at Oberlin College. In 1877 Cyrus began to teach in the Louisville public schools, and soon pooled savings with his brother to open the weekly Louisville Bulletin. They ran the newspaper until 1885, when it was acquired by the American Baptist newspaper owned by William Henry Steward, chairman of trustees at State University, a black Baptist university in Louisville, where Cyrus taught German. Already a dedicated traveler, Cyrus had spent much of 1884 in Europe, and was also fluent in Italian, French, and Spanish.

Both brothers had served as Louisville correspondents for the Western Appeal ...

Article

David M. Fahey

temperance reformer, federal customs official, and educator, was born William Middleton Artrell, of one quarter African and three quarters European ancestry, at Nassau in the Bahamas. There Artrell benefited from a basic education on the British model, acquired experience as a schoolteacher, and became a staunch Episcopalian.

During the American Civil War the Bahamas prospered as a result of services to blockade runners, who transported British cargo in the short but dangerous voyage between the Bahamas and the Confederate coast. When the war ended, however, economic depression forced many Bahamians to seek work in the United States. In 1870 Artrell migrated to Key West, at that time a major port in Florida. Unlike most African Americans in the South, he had never been a slave. In 1870 Key West opened the Douglass School for African American children Artrell became its first principal and as a result he was sometimes ...

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Byron Motley

baseball player, was born in Greenville, North Carolina. As a teenager working in the tobacco fields he honed his skills as a pitcher. His first exposure to professional baseball came in 1936 when the manager of the visiting Wilson Stars from Wilson, North Carolina, spotted his burgeoning talent. After the team manager promised Barnhill's mother a dollar a day for her son's pitching duties, she consented to let her son join the team.

Barnhill barnstormed for two years with several independent teams. In 1938 he began his first of twelve Negro League seasons by joining the Jacksonville Red Caps. The following year, with the Ethiopian Clowns, Barnhill took part in the team's minstrel sideshows. Earning the nickname “Impo,” Barnhill cut up with his teammates in clown makeup and wild wigs while performing comic displays to delighted fans.

In the winter of 1940–1941 Barnhill pitched in the Puerto Rican ...

Article

Anne K. Driscoll

pilot, Tuskegee Airman, civil servant, teacher, and juvenile probation officer, was born in Atlanta, Georgia, the youngest child of Georgia Crane and Earl Bohannon, occupations unknown. Bohannon was the youngest of ten children, although only his oldest sister and a brother were alive when Bohannon was born. One of his greatest influences growing up was his mother, who taught him the importance of principles, hard work, and honesty.

Bohannon began working at eight years of age in a hardware store His next job was working on a laundry truck It was the laundry job that ultimately led Bohannon to his dream of becoming an aviator Bohannon stopped twice a week at Atlanta s Candler Field later William B Hartsfield Airport While picking up the aviators laundry he listened to the pilots discussing their flights the difficulties of flying in adverse weather conditions and other matters that inspired him to ...

Article

Alfred L. Brophy

survivor of the 1921 Tulsa, Oklahoma, riot, was one of five children born to Hood Booker, a chauffeur and mechanic, and his wife. Kinney Booker graduated from the segregated Booker T. Washington High School in Tulsa and from Xavier University in New Orleans. Though he was only seven years old when the Tulsa riot broke out on the evening of 31 May 1921, his recollections of the event were central to the Tulsa Race Riot Commission's discussions in the late 1990s and early 2000s. He was quoted extensively in media sources about it, from the New York Times to the Los Angeles Times to Nightline to National Public Radio.

The Tulsa riot began after rumors of an impending lynching of a young African American man circulated in both white and black communities in Tulsa When some African American veterans of World War I appeared at the Tulsa Courthouse ...

Article

Diane Mutti Burke

author of a slave narrative, was born to slave parents in Prince Edward County, Virginia. The Lemuel Bruce family, including Pettis and Rebecca (Bruce) Perkinson, owned Henry Bruce and his mother and siblings. Bruce's many siblings included his younger brother, Blanche Kelso Bruce, the senator from Mississippi from 1875 to 1881.

Bruce spent most of his early childhood years on plantations and farms in Virginia, Missouri, and—briefly—Mississippi. Pettis Perkinson brought Bruce, his mother, and siblings back to Chariton County, Missouri, where he permanently settled in 1850 From the age of nine Bruce was frequently hired out to other employers in the community and worked at a variety of occupations including brick making tobacco manufacturing and general farm labor Bruce had a self described desire to learn and was taught to read by his young owner and playmate William Perkinson The older Bruce children taught their younger siblings ...

Article

Gregory Travis Bond

athlete, football coach, college administrator, lawyer, and public servant, was born in Dabney, North Carolina, to former slaves Jesse Bullock and Amanda Sneed Bullock. Looking for better educational prospects for their seven children and perhaps seeking to escape Ku Klux Klan harassment, his parents moved the family north when Bullock was eight years old. After a brief stay in Boston, the family settled in Everett, Massachusetts, in about 1894, where Bullock first made a name for himself as an athlete. At Everett High School he excelled at football, baseball, and ice hockey, and his teammates elected him to serve as the captain of each of these teams his senior season.

After graduating in 1900 Bullock entered Dartmouth College which like many schools outside of the South admitted black students and encouraged them to participate in the life of the school Bullock took advantage of the wide range ...

Article

Kathryn L. Beard

attorney and co-founder of the Michigan Federated Democratic Club (MFDC), was born in British Guiana (Guyana), South America. Little is known about his life prior to his emigration from the colony. Because Craigen grew up near Spanish-speaking countries such as Venezuela, he became bilingual at an early age. During World War I he served in the United States Navy as a Spanish interpreter stationed in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. At the end of the war he migrated to Detroit where he worked in the automobile industry and became active in Marcus Garvey's Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA).

The Detroit UNIA had more than 4 000 members in the 1920s making it one of the largest divisions of the organization As was true for other northern cities where the UNIA had a considerable presence African American migrants from the South comprised much of the rank and file of the organization while ...

Article

Patricia Glinton-Meicholas

was born in 1797 in the French colony of Saint-Domingue (renamed Haiti following its revolution). He was the son of Mary Catherine Esther Argo (also “Hester Argeaux”), a free woman of African descent. His father was purportedly Etienne Dillet, a French army officer. Naturalized as a British subject of The Bahamas in 1828, Stephen Dillet became a member of one of the earliest organized civil rights pressure groups in The Bahamas, and he was the first Bahamian of color to win election to the colony’s Parliament.

Dillet was a man whose character and social and political pursuits were deeply influenced by events of international import, which supplied the context for his life. His birth in 1797 six years after the outbreak of the Haitian revolution was attended by bloody conflict The chief combatants were the free people of color and enslaved blacks who had rebelled to free themselves ...

Article

Vernon J. Williams

lawyer and social scientist, was born in Weston Platt County, Missouri, the son of George Ellis, a farmer, and Amanda Jane Trace. George Ellis left home after completing elementary school, primarily because Weston Platt County could not provide him with the education or training he desired. He moved to Kansas City, Missouri, where he found greater educational opportunities but increased racial hostilities. As a consequence, he soon moved to Atkinson, Kansas, where he completed high school in 1891. Ellis continued his education at the law school at the University of Kansas, receiving an LLB in 1893. While practicing law Ellis pursued a BA at Kansas; it is not known, however, if he completed the requirements for the degree. While at the University of Kansas he was active in Republican politics and debated in Kansas's McKinley Club.

Ellis moved to New York City in 1897 where ...

Article

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

Douglas Wheeler

Angolan writer, journalist, lawyer, civil servant, and nationalist, a mestico, was born in Luanda, Angola, in 1823, the offspring of a marriage between a Portuguese father and an African mother. Like many generations of the assimilated Afro-Portuguese elite in the Portuguese colony’s capital, he was raised and educated a Catholic; self-taught in the law, he acquired a license to practice law and served as a government law clerk. His principal legacies came in decades of combative, reformist journalism and in his advocacy of Angolan nationalism.

His generation witnessed an increased pace of economic and social change, political upheaval, and new international pressures on Portugal’s sometimes tenuous rule over Angola. By 1866, when Fontes Pereira was forty-three, he had witnessed the long-delayed process of the abolition of Angola’s slave trade (1842–1850 efforts to replace the slave trade with legitimate trade agriculture and manufacturing the struggle including a ...

Article

David H. Anthony

North Carolinapolitical activist, journalist, civil servant, and publicist, was born into slavery in Raleigh, North Carolina, around 1851, the son of enslaved artisan Osborne Hunter and Mary Hunter, also enslaved. From about age four, Charles Hunter was trained to be a house servant in the home of their slave master, William D. Haywood. Somewhat later Hunter became a servant for Richard H. Battle. However, his intimate relationship with the Haywood family remained a feature of his life well after slavery.

When freedom came, Hunter and many fellow former North Carolina slaves faced profound changes. By 1867, young Hunter allied himself with prominent black Union League politicians George W. Brodie and James H. Harris and like them was gradually able to gain clout through affiliation with the Republican Party He worked as a temperance advocate in the late 1860s and ...

Article

J. James Iovannone

writer, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the daughter of Ella (Benson) Johnson and George William Johnson. Johnson was an only child and her parents separated shortly after her birth, resulting in her never knowing her father or her paternal grandparents. Johnson's maternal grandparents, Benjamin Benson and Helen Pease Benson (after whom Johnson was named), were born in slavery in South Carolina. Johnson's first cousin was the novelist and short story writer Dorothy West and the pair grew up together in the Brookline section of Boston, spending most of their summers in Oak Bluffs, Massachusetts, on a Martha's Vineyard Island property owned by Benjamin Benson From an early age both Johnson and West showed an interest in writing which their families helped to foster by sending them to prestigious schools as well as by providing them with a supplemental literary education Together the pair attended Boston s Lafayette ...

Article

Gregory Travis Bond

athlete, lawyer, soldier, and civil servant, was born in Washington, D.C., to Alexander Marshall, an employee of the Treasury Department, and Leatha Marshall, a homemaker. He attended the M Street High School, then prepped for a year at New Hampshire's Phillips Exeter Academy, where he was editor-in-chief of the Phillips Exeter Literary Monthly and a member of the track team. In 1893 he entered Harvard and immediately joined the Crimson track squad, on which he represented the college for four consecutive seasons, specializing in the 440-meter and quarter-mile runs. In 1894 he finished third in the quarter-mile at the Inter-Collegiate Amateur Athletic Association of America national championships. He competed for three more seasons and became the school's second black varsity athlete behind the football player William Henry Lewis Marshall was also an active member of the Harvard Union debating club and was well ...

Article

Robert Jr. Johnson

astrophysicist, was born in Ore City, Texas. His father, Luther McAfee, was a Colored Methodist Episcopal (CME) minister and graduate of Texas College. His mother, Susie (Johnson) McAfee, taught at the Wiley College Normal School, which Walter would attend years later. The family of nine children stayed in the rural community of Upshure County for about three months after Walter's birth before moving to Marshall, Texas.

Walter McAfee graduated with honors from high school and counted his chemistry and physics teacher Freeman Prince Hodge among his earliest influences. In 1930 he received a scholarship to Wiley College, where Charles Anthony McCain (who later taught at Howard University) would be his professor for general physics and sophomore mechanics. It was McCain whom McAfee credited with advising him to choose physics rather than engineering. In 1934, the nineteen-year-old Walter McAfee graduated magna cum laude from Wiley College.

Unable ...

Article

Glenn Allen Knoblock

Tuskegee aircraft mechanic and Negro League baseball player, was born in San Antonio, Texas. His parents' names are unknown, as are details of his childhood. He was nicknamed “Sonny Boy” in high school, where he played baseball and graduated in 1940. He went on to play basketball while a student at St. Phillips Junior College in San Antonio.

Miles left home for Tuskegee, Alabama, in 1943 He attended Tuskegee Institute and was trained as a civilian aircraft sheet metal worker Miles would later say about his time at Tuskegee As soon as I heard about Tuskegee I knew it was what I wanted to do I really wanted to learn a trade and work with my hands It sounded like a once in a lifetime opportunity so I jumped on the chance Maurice 1 At the time Tuskegee Institute was part of a new experiment ...

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Donald A. Ritchie

a Pentagon employee who became a celebrated witness during Senator Joseph McCarthy's investigation of Communism in the government, was born in Chester, South Carolina. One of six children of Katie and Clemon Crawford, tenant farmers, she began picking cotton at the age of five. While in her teens, she moved with her parents to Salisbury, North Carolina, where she attended but did not graduate from high school. At twenty-one she married Ernest Moss, a worker at a tobacco factory in Durham, North Carolina. They had one son.

Moss moved to Washington, D.C., in 1941, where her husband took a construction job and she ironed at a laundry. In 1943 she became a dessert cook for the Welfare and Recreation Association which assigned her to the Pentagon cafeteria As a condition of employment she joined the Washington Cafeteria Workers union a local chapter of the United Federal ...

Article

Selwyn Cudjoe

John Jacob Thomas, a man of “pure African descent,” as Donald Wood described him, was born in Trinidad around 1840, six years after slavery was abolished. He attended the ward schools that were set up by Lord Harris, governor of the island, to educate the children there. In 1858, he entered a normal school designed to train teachers, and in 1859 he was awarded a government scholarship to teach in one of the model, or demonstration, schools. By 1860, he became the principal of the ward school at Savonetta.

After teaching at Savonetta for five years Thomas was transferred to Couva where he began his romance with his people and their language Later he was transferred to Cedros in the south of the island Not satisfied with his work in these schools Thomas sat for the newly instituted examination for the civil service placed first in ...

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John Gilmore

Linguisticsscholar and polemicist born in Trinidad, the son of former slaves. Little is known of his early life, but he did well as a pupil at the Woodbrook Normal School (which would now be called a teacher training college), which was then on the outskirts of Port of Spain. In 1860 he was placed in charge of a remote rural school. He moved to another school on an increased salary in 1865, but in 1867 success in a recently introduced system of competitive examinations secured him a place in the local Civil Service. He rose through a succession of posts until he was forced by ill health to retire in 1879.

As a rural schoolmaster, Thomas came into close contact with and made a special study of the French Creole which was then the vernacular of most Trinidadians while at the same time studying French and ...