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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 ...

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Melina Abdullah

politician and attorney, was born Perle Yvonne Watson, the only child to James Watson, a janitor, and Lola (maiden name unknown), a real estate broker, in Los Angeles, California. Her parents migrated to Los Angeles in 1921 from Paris, Texas, where her father had been a farmer and her mother worked as a teacher. Difficulties in Texas caused her parents to move west. Upon arrival in California her father took up work as a janitor for Metro Goldwyn Mayer (MGM) Studios and later became a labor organizer. Her mother left her teaching career to become a real estate broker.

Throughout her life Burke was exposed to art, drama, and music, developing a deep appreciation for culture. It was her father's work as a labor organizer, however, that helped to politicize her. James Watson was a charter member of the Building Service Employees International Union later the Service ...

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Rose Pelone Sisson

U.S. congresswoman, was born Julia May Porter in Louisville, Kentucky, to Velma Porter, a maid, and Clifford McGuire. In 1939 Velma and Julia moved to Indianapolis, Indiana. In 1955 Carson graduated from Crispus Attucks High School in Indianapolis. She attended Indiana Central Business College and went on to complete three years of college over her lifetime. She attended Indiana University–Purdue University from 1970 to 1972, St. Mary of the Woods College from 1976 to 1978, and Martin University in Indianapolis from 1994 to 1995.

As a youth Carson delivered newspapers, waited tables, and did summer farm labor to earn money. After high school she was a secretary, working for the United Auto Workers Local #550 until 1965. She married Sammy Carson, a laborer, in 1956. She sought a divorce that was granted in 1963 and was given custody of her two ...

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Leonard Schlup

Henry Plummer Cheatham was born near Henderson, Granville (now Vance) County, North Carolina, the son of a house slave about whom little is known. He attended local public schools and worked on farms during the 1860s and 1870s before graduating with honors from Shaw University in 1882. He became principal of the Plymouth Normal School for Negroes, a state-supported institution, and held this position from 1882 until 1884. He returned to Henderson and, after the retirement of the white Republican incumbent, won election as Vance County registrar of deeds, serving in this capacity from 1885 to 1888. During this time he also studied law, though he never established a practice.

Cheatham's career in national politics began in 1888. Unable to agree on a single candidate, delegates to the Republican convention for the Second Congressional District, the so-called “Black Second,” nominated both Cheatham and George A Mebane ...

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Leonard Schlup

congressman and public official, was born near Henderson, Granville (later Vance) County, North Carolina. All that is known of his parents is that one was a house slave. He attended local public schools and worked on farms during the 1860s and 1870s before graduating with honors from Shaw University in 1882. He became principal of the Plymouth Normal School for Negroes, a state-supported institution, and held this position from 1882 until 1884. He returned to Henderson and, after the retirement of the white Republican incumbent, won election as Vance County registrar of deeds, serving in this capacity from 1885 to 1888. During this time he also studied law, though he never established a practice.

Cheatham's career in national politics began in 1888 Unable to agree on a single candidate delegates to the Republican convention for the Second Congressional District the so called Black Second nominated both ...

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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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politician, was born in St. Louis, Missouri, the fourth of seven children born to Irving Clay, a welder, and Luella (Hyatt) Clay, a homemaker. Growing up in a run-down tenement house with no indoor toilet, Clay would later note that a severe lack of basic facilities were afforded to the disenfranchised in the heavily black city, where thousands of residents lived in abject squalor, “just blocks from the downtown business district” (Clay, A Political Voice, p. 11).

While Clay attended St. Nicholas Catholic School, a black parochial school near his house, he worked as well, delivering newspapers at eight years old and selling scrap metal during World War II. By the time he was twelve, he was working at the Good Luck Store, a downtown retail men's clothing store, full-time during the summer and part-time during the school year.

Clay attributed his political awakening and activism to ...

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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 ...

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Benjamin T. Zeigler

Congressman from South Carolina's Sixth District, was born in Sumter County, South Carolina, the son of Enos Lloyd Clyburn and Almeta (Dizzley) Clyburn. Clyburn's parents met while his mother was attending Mather Academy, a private secondary school for African Americans in Camden, South Carolina. Clyburn's father was a minister in the Church of God, and, after marrying James's mother Almeta, he accepted the pastorate of a church in Sumter, South Carolina, which would allow both him and his wife to attend Morris College in Sumter. Clyburn would later describe both his parents as having a “tremendous thirst for education,” and he would credit their commitment to learning and their struggles to obtain college degrees as the inspiration behind his lifelong dedication to seeking equal opportunities for South Carolinians and Americans in general (interview with James Clyburn, 20 Nov. 2006).

Clyburn s mother finished Morris College in three years ...

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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 ...

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Adam W. Green

United States congressman, was born in the poor North Side Chicago neighborhood of what would later be known as Cabrini-Green to Washington and Leanna Collins. Collins graduated from Waller High School in 1943, and immediately entered the armed forces as a private. He served for three years in the army, stationed with the Engineer Corps in the South Pacific until he was discharged as a sergeant in 1946. Upon returning to the states, Collins entered Central Y.M.C.A. College in Chicago, and graduated in 1954, going on to receive his business law degree from Northwestern University three years later.

Collins began his career in civil service and involvement in the Chicago Democratic Party machine in the 1950s while still in graduate school. He was appointed precinct captain in 1954 for Chicago s 24th Ward on the West Side and later served as deputy sheriff of Cook ...

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Thaddeus Russell

congressman, was born in Albany, Georgia, the son of Levi Dawson, a barber, and Rebecca Kendrick. Dawson received his early education in Albany, then attended Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee, and received a bachelor's degree in 1909.

In 1912 Dawson joined thousands of other African Americans migrating to Chicago. Hoping to become one of the few black professionals in the city, he enrolled at the Kent School of Law. In 1917 he interrupted his law studies to volunteer for military service in World War I. He served as a first lieutenant with the 365th Infantry in France, where he was wounded in the shoulder and gassed during the Meuse-Argonne campaign.

After the war Dawson resumed his legal studies at Northwestern Law School and was admitted to the Illinois bar in 1920. Two years later he married Nellie Brown with whom he had two children He ...

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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 ...

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Kristie Miller

politician, was born in Florence, Alabama, the son of Martha Karsner, a part-time laundress, and Neander R. De Priest, a teamster and farmer. His father, a former slave, joined the Republican Party. After a neighbor's lynching, the family moved to Salina, Kansas, in 1878. Young Oscar had sandy hair, blue eyes, and a light complexion and often fought over racial slurs made in his presence. After two years at Salina Normal School, he left home at seventeen, settling in Chicago. He apprenticed as a house painter and by 1905 had a successful contracting and real estate business. In 1898 he married Jessie L. Williams; they had one child.

De Priest was elected Cook County commissioner in 1904 and 1906 because he delivered a bloc of African American voters from the city s Second and Third wards for the Republican Party He educated his constituency about ...

Article

Timothy P. McCarthy

Robert Carlos DeLarge was born in Aiken, South Carolina. His father was a free black tailor, and his mother was a cloak maker of Haitian descent; their names are unknown. Though several records claim that DeLarge was born into slavery, it is more likely that his parents were free blacks who owned slaves. This peculiar and paradoxical designation surely inspired the dual sensibilities that later characterized his political and social life as both an advocate for universal black enfranchisement and a member of South Carolina's propertied, often exclusionist, mulatto elite. Fortunate to receive the benefits of the prewar education available to free black children, DeLarge attended primary school in North Carolina and Wood High School in Charleston. For a short time he was employed as a tailor and farmer, and some sources indicate that he was also a part-time barber. During the Civil War he amassed some money ...

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Daryl A. Carter

United StatesCongressman, was born in Detroit, Michigan, to Charles Diggs Sr., a mortician, and Mamie Ethel Jones Diggs, a homemaker. As the product of a middle-class family, he learned politics at the knee of his father. Charles Sr. owned a mortuary, an insurance company, and an ambulance company. More importantly, Charles Sr. was very active politically, eventually serving in the Michigan State Senate. Detroit was also a major destination for African Americans escaping the South during the Great Migration, and thousands relocated to Detroit in the search for jobs and security. The combination of his father and the tectonic shifts taking place in Detroit seemed to have prompted the younger Diggs to excel academically. He graduated from Miller High School in 1940 and briefly attended the University of Michigan He transferred however to Fisk University after a couple of years While he was at Fisk ...

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Susan J. McWilliams

congressman, lawyer, and activist, was born in Washington, D.C., the son of a postal worker. He attended the District of Columbia public schools in his middle-class black neighborhood until he was eleven, at which time he and his mother moved to Los Angeles. Raised to have a strong sense of loyalty, Dixon would remain committed to both Washington and Los Angeles throughout his life.

After graduating from Los Angeles's Dorsey High School, Dixon served in the army. He continued his education after his military service, receiving his BS from Los Angeles State College (later California State University in Los Angeles) in 1962 and going on to obtain his LLB from Southwestern University in Los Angeles in 1967. Dixon practiced law from 1967 to 1973, concomitantly serving as an aide to-the California state senator Mervyn Dymally It was while he was working in this capacity ...

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Howard N. Rabinowitz

Robert Brown Elliott was born probably in Liverpool, England, of unknown West Indian parents. Elliott's early life is shrouded in mystery, largely because of his own false claims, but apparently he did receive an English public school education (but not at Eton as he claimed) and was trained as a typesetter. It is likely also that in 1866 or 1867, while on duty with the Royal Navy, he decided to seek his fortune in America and jumped ship in Boston harbor, without, however, taking out citizenship papers. All that is known for certain is that by March 1867 Elliott was associate editor of the South Carolina Leader, a black-owned Republican newspaper in Charleston. Shortly thereafter he married Grace Lee Rollin, a member of a prominent South Carolina free Negro family. The couple had no children.

During Reconstruction South Carolina s population was 60 percent ...

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Howard N. Rabinowitz

Reconstruction politician and U.S. Congressman, was born probably in Liverpool, England, of West Indian parents whose names are unknown. Elliott's early life is shrouded in mystery, largely because of his own false claims, but apparently he did attend a private school in England (but not Eton as he claimed) and was trained as a typesetter. It is likely also that in 1866 or 1867, while on duty with the Royal Navy, he decided to seek his fortune in America and jumped ship in Boston Harbor, without, however, taking out citizenship papers. All that is known for certain is that by March 1867 Elliott was associate editor of the South Carolina Leader, a black-owned Republican newspaper in Charleston. Shortly thereafter he married Grace Lee Rollin, a member of a prominent South Carolina free Negro family. The couple had no children.

During Reconstruction South Carolina s population was ...

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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 ...