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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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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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Joseph Wilson

Michigan politician. Born in Detroit, Charles Coles Diggs Jr. attended the University of Michigan and Fisk University and served in the U.S. Army during World War II. Following in his father's footsteps, Diggs worked as a funeral director in his family's business in Detroit, then was elected to his father's seat in the Michigan state senate in 1950. After sponsoring the state's Fair Employment Practices Commission, Diggs was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1954 as the first African American congressman from Michigan.

In the first year of his congressional career Diggs asserted leadership and became involved in the civil rights movement he spoke before ten thousand people attending a Mississippi conference organized by the largest civil rights group in the state the Regional Council of Negro Leadership Returning to Mississippi later that year he attended the notorious trial of the accused murderers of Emmett Till the ...

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SaFiya D. Hoskins

U.S. congresswoman, was born Donna F. Edwards in Yanceyville, North Carolina, one of six children of John Edwards, an officer in the Air Force, and Mary Edwards who cared for the children. Edwards grew up in a military family and moved often; traveling throughout the United States and around the world. When she was a child she had aspirations of becoming president of the United States. Edwards was a teenager when her oldest brother, John, enlisted in the Air Force during the height of the war in Vietnam. When she graduated from high school she was presented with the opportunity to enroll in the first class to admit females at the Air Force Academy; however, she chose instead pursue an undergraduate education at Wake Forest University in North Carolina, where she was one of six African American women in her freshman class. In 1980 Edwards earned a ...

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Sholomo B. Levy

minister, U.S. Congressman, educator, and business executive, was born in Los Angeles, California, the eighth of thirteen children of Robert Flake Sr., a janitor, and Rosie Lee Johnson. Shortly after Floyd's birth, the family moved into a two-bedroom home in Houston, Texas. The roots of many of Floyd's political beliefs can be traced to his southern upbringing: his family was poor, but proud; racism abounded, but faith and optimism ruled the Flake home.

Floyd s early education took place in segregated poorly equipped schools but his teachers were dedicated and took a stern interest in his academic development One teacher cared enough to make sure that Floyd spent much of his free time involved in youth programs at her African Methodist Episcopal AME Church After graduating from high school Flake entered Wilberforce University the nation s oldest private African American University in Ohio He ...

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Michaeljulius Idani

politician, was born in Memphis, Tennessee, son of Harold Ford Sr., a U.S. Congressman, and Dorothy Bowles, an employee of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Harold Jr. was the oldest of five children: brothers Jake, Isaac, and Andrew, and sister Ava. The Ford family was an institution in the Memphis area; schools, churches, roads, and buildings were named after family members. They ran a successful funeral services business and were active in the civil rights movement and the cause of social justice. Besides his father, two of Ford's uncles were also politicians: John, a local councilman, and Emmitt, who succeeded Ford's father as a member of the Tennessee state legislature.

From an early age Ford expressed an interest in politics. In 1979 Ford s family moved to Washington D C where he attended St Albans School an exclusive school for boys In ...

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Ryan J. Davis

U.S. Representative, politician, and entrepreneur, was born in Waterbury, Connecticut, the youngest of six children of Richard and Jenary Franks. Richard was a former North Carolina sharecropper with no education beyond the sixth grade. Jenary was a dietary specialist at Waterbury Hospital in Connecticut.

Franks was raised Baptist, but attended Sacred Heart High School, a Catholic school located in the heart of Waterbury. Franks was involved in many extracurricular activities at Sacred Heart. He was an all-New England basketball player and president of his senior class. In 1971 Franks completed high school and then attended Yale University Uncertain about his political views at the time Franks registered as a Democrat like many black Americans in the 1970s Franks continued his involvement in extracurricular activities by joining the Yale basketball team Although he did not receive much playing time until his senior year Franks high score ...

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Lauran Kerr-Heraly

Republican congressman. In 1990 Gary Franks became the first black Republican elected to the U.S. House of Representatives since 1935. A staunch conservative, Franks brought diversity and influence to both Congress and the Congressional Black Caucus during his time in the House of Representatives.

Gary A. Franks was born in Waterbury, Connecticut. A graduate of Yale University, he worked for three Fortune 500 companies and was a successful real estate magnate. After unsuccessfully running for Connecticut comptroller in 1986, Franks served on the state's Waterbury County board of aldermen from 1986 to 1990. He was elected to Congress in 1990 and served as Connecticut representative in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1991 to 1997. Franks lost his reelection bid to the House in 1996, and he unsuccessfully ran for a seat in the U.S. Senate in 1998 ending his career in Congress ...

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Born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, William H. Gray III was the son of William H. Gray Jr., a Baptist minister and president of two Florida colleges, and Hazel Yates Gray, a high school teacher. In 1949 his father became the pastor of the large and powerful Bright Hope Baptist Church in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and moved the family north. In 1963 Gray graduated from Franklin and Marshall College and became an assistant pastor in Montclair, New Jersey. He earned a master of divinity degree from Drew Theological School in 1966, became senior minister at his church the same year, and earned a degree in theology from the Princeton Theological Seminary in 1970 As a minister Gray tried to help his poor parishioners by promoting fair housing programs He also set an important precedent by successfully suing a landlord who refused to rent an apartment to him ...

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Amber Moulton-Wiseman

minister, congressman, businessman, philanthropist, was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, the son of William H. Gray Jr., a minister and university president, and Hazel Yates Gray, a university dean. During Gray's early childhood, his father was president of both Florida Memorial College and Florida A&M University, and his mother was dean of students at Southern University in Baton Rouge. However, the family then moved to Philadelphia in 1949. There, Gray's father took a position as pastor of the Bright Hope Baptist Church. William H. Gray Jr.'s own father had held that post since 1925.

Gray was educated in the public school system and graduated from Philadelphia's Simon Gratz High School in 1959. Upon graduation, Gray enrolled at Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and pursued his joint interest in religion and politics, even taking an internship with Democratic Congressman Robert ...

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Kerry Pimblott

politician and trade unionist, was born in Cairo, Illinois, the eldest son of Nevada Bell and Charles Hayes Sr., the latter a farm laborer. Charles Arthur Hayes spent his formative years in Cairo, graduating from that city's Sumner High School in 1935.

After high school, Hayes took a job stacking lumber at E. L. Bruce Company, a leading manufacturer of hardwood flooring. Hayes quickly rose to the more skilled position of machine operator and became active in efforts to organize a union. In 1939, these efforts resulted in the founding of Local 1424 of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America. A few months later, Hayes was elected president, marking the beginning of a long career as a labor organizer.

During World War II, Hayes, like thousands of African Americans, migrated north to Chicago in search of better employment opportunities. In 1942 Hayes ...

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Susan E. O'Donovan

radical Republican, labor leader, Georgia state representative, and carpenter, was born a slave in Mecklenburg County, Virginia. Little is known of Joiner's mother, Lucy Parker, except that she bore at least four other children (Lucy Ann Joiner, Betsey Gill, and Carter and George Murray). Even less is known of Joiner's father, a man Philip never met. One of an estimated 3 million enslaved men and women who were forcibly transported from the upper to the lower South between 1790 and 1860, Joiner was sold away from most of his Virginia kin in 1847. Accompanied by his mother, Joiner arrived as an eleven-year-old in southwest Georgia, an area of the cotton South later made famous by W. E. B. Du Bois in Souls of Black Folk (1903 Most likely coming of age on one of the plantations that ...

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Zinga A. Fraser

politician. Barbara Lee was born in El Paso, Texas. Her introduction to politics occurred well before she entered the halls of Congress. Influenced by the student movement of the 1970s and her connection to Oakland's Black Panther Party, Lee began to question the political and economic disfranchisement of people of color and women. Lee's political journey began after hearing a speech at Mills College by the former congresswoman Shirley Chisholm from New York (the first African American woman elected to Congress and the first woman to run for president). As a recently divorced and single mother of two boys, Lee served as a volunteer for Chisholm's 1972 presidential campaign. Upon her graduation from Mills College in 1973, Lee landed an internship in Washington, D.C., for Congressman Ronald V. Dellums who represented California s Ninth District Dellums would eventually serve as Lee s political mentor and adviser After ...

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Theodore W. Eversole

U.S. ambassador and successful businessman. Born in Arkansas City, Kansas, Delano Eugene Lewis Jr. received a BA in political science from the University of Kansas in 1960 and a JD from Topeka's Washburn University School of Law in 1963. Following law school Lewis initially worked as an attorney in the Justice Department and with the U.S. Equal Opportunities Commission.

From 1965 to 1969 Lewis expanded his experience by serving in the Peace Corps, first as an associate country director in Nigeria and later as director in Uganda. Upon returning from overseas he remained with the Peace Corps as director of the East and South African divisions, a post that gave him particular insights into political conditions inside Africa.

After the Peace Corps, Lewis joined the staff of the District of Columbia's representative in the U.S. House of Representatives, Walter Fauntroy, and remained there until 1973 This introduction to ...