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Adam W. Green

United Statescongressman, was the third child born to Frank Winston Ballance, a sharecropper, and Alice Eason Ballance, a homemaker and care worker. Ballance was born and raised on a farm in Windsor, eastern North Carolina, part of the rural tobacco farming communities of the impoverished and segregated Bertie County. Ballance learned at an early age the import of fighting for civil rights; his mother was heavily involved in black voter registration drives when he was a child. After graduating W.S. Etheridge High School in 1959, he moved to attend North Carolina Central University in Durham.

In college, Ballance became involved in marches and sit-ins in the city, including ones aimed at larger department stores like Woolworth's. After receiving his B.A. in 1963, he remained at the university to study law. In 1965 he taught law at South Carolina State College but the following ...

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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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Lisa Clayton Robinson

“I visualize a time within the next ten years when we should have fifty black congressmen … It's just a matter of time until we have a black governor and yes, a black president.” In this 1974Ebony magazine interview, Congresswoman Yvonne Braithwaite Burke outlined her hopes for the political future of African Americans—a future her own career helped bring closer to reality. Born Yvonne Watson in South Central Los Angeles, Burke attended the University of California at Berkeley and the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA). After graduating from the University of Southern California Law School in 1956, she began a private law practice, and was appointed to the 1965 commission that investigated the Watts Riot of 1965.

A year later Burke was elected to the first of three terms in the California assembly becoming the state s first black assemblywoman In the state assembly ...

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Jason Philip Miller

politician, was born George Kenneth Butterfield in Wilson, North Carolina, to Addie Davis, a schoolteacher, and George Kenneth Butterfield Sr., a dentist. The family was prominent in the local African American community, and Butterfield's father was the first African American in the twentieth century to hold a seat on the Wilson city council.

Butterfield attended local schools, including Charles H. Darden High School, from which he graduated in 1967. He matriculated to North Carolina Central University in Durham, pursuing bachelors degrees in sociology and political science, in the meantime serving in the U.S. Army for two years. Butterfield graduated from N.C. Central in 1971. He remained at that institution to earn his JD in 1974, after which he embarked on a career in law.

Following graduation Butterfield returned to Wilson and there maintained a private law practice through which he gained a reputation for ...

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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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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 ...

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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 ...

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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 ...

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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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William Lacy Clay was born in St. Louis, Missouri. He earned a bachelor's degree from St. Louis University in 1953 before serving in the United States Army (1953–1955). During military training at Fort McClellan in Alabama, Clay displayed an interest in civil rights activism, leading an effort to give blacks equal access to the swimming pool, the barbershop, and the noncommissioned officers club.

Returning to St. Louis in 1955, Clay became active in the Civil Rights Movement. He participated in both the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). In 1959 Clay was elected to the St. Louis Board of Aldermen. He remained an alderman until 1964, when he became an official in the local Democratic Party.

In 1967 Missouri s voting districts were reorganized and most of St Louis s blacks were located ...

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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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Charles Orson Cook

politician, community activist, and sixteen-term United States congressman. William Clay Sr. was one of Missouri's most successful champions of civil rights in the twentieth century. Born one of seven children to Luella Hyatt and Irving Clay in Saint Louis, Missouri, young Clay attended Roman Catholic schools, where he was academically successful despite the disadvantages inherent in a segregated education. After high school, he enrolled in Saint Louis University and graduated with a bachelor's degree in political science in 1953. Clay completed a two-year tour of duty with the U.S. Army in 1955 After a brief flirtation with a career in business he became a labor organizer a community activist and ultimately a congressman from Missouri s First Congressional District for thirty two years Clay has spoken of the racial injustices he encountered early in life He recalled initiating a movement of black servicemen to desegregate the base swimming ...

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Eva Clayton was born in Savannah, Georgia. She received a B.A. degree from Johnson C. Smith University in 1955 and a M.A. degree from North Carolina Central University in 1962. Clayton worked as director of a civil rights organization called the Soul City Foundation before she began a four-year tenure as assistant secretary for community development in the North Carolina Department of Natural Resources and Community Development in 1976. She started a management and consulting firm in 1981. In 1982 she also joined the Warren County Board of Commissioners, which she chaired for eight years.

When long-time U.S. representative Walter Jones died in September 1992, Clayton won a close primary contest against Jones's son, Walter Jones, Jr., for the Democratic nomination to fill the seat in North Carolina's First Congressional District. Her victory in the 1992 general election made her the first African ...

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Charmaine A. Flemming

As the first black woman elected to U.S. Congress from North Carolina, Eva Clayton continued to achieve “firsts” throughout her eleven years of representing the citizens of her home state. In the 103rd Congress, she became the first woman president of the Democratic Freshman Class, which was the largest such incoming group since 1948. She was also named the Most Influential Newcomer after taking her seats on the agricultural and budget committees. In addition, she was noted for frequently steering activity on both the Congressional Rural and Black Caucuses.

Eva Clayton was born in Savannah, Georgia, to Josephine Martin, who was a teacher, dressmaker, and the superintendent of a children’s home, and Thomas McPherson an insurance agent After moving to Augusta Georgia the McPhersons were very active in the Presbyterian Church which inspired Eva to work as a public servant She remembers dreaming of becoming a doctor ...

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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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Jason Philip Miller

mayor and U.S. Congressman, was born in tiny Waxahachie, Texas, into a family of preachers. He came of age in a public housing development near Wichita Falls, Texas, and attended the public schools there. For a time, he wished to pursue a life as a professional football player, but an injury prevented him from seeing that dream to fulfillment. Instead, he attended Texas A&M, from which he graduated in 1968. Falling back onto what was to some large degree the family business, Cleaver earned his Master of Divinity degree from St. Paul School of Theology in Kansas City, Missouri. There, at the behest of Ralph Abernathy he established a chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference He was assigned to St James Church and under his guidance the tiny inner city congregation fewer than thirty regular attendees when Cleaver took over soon blossomed into the one of ...

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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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LaVerne Gray

U.S.congresswoman. Cardiss Collins distinguished herself as the longest-serving African American woman in the U.S. Congress: at the time of her retirement in 1996 she had served twenty-three years (twelve terms) in office. A Democrat representing Illinois's Seventh Congressional District, Collins was the first African American woman elected from Illinois to serve in Congress. In 1973 she filled the post vacated by her late husband George W. Collins, who died in an airplane crash.

Cardiss Collins was born Cardiss Robertson in Saint Louis, Missouri, the only child of Finley Robertson, a laborer, and Rosia Mae Cardiss Robertson a nurse When Cardiss was ten the family moved to Detroit Michigan where she attended Bishop and Lincoln elementary schools and graduated from Detroit s High School of Commerce She subsequently moved to Chicago where at first she found a job at a mattress factory She then secured a position ...

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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 ...