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Leyla Keough

Diane Abbott, a working-class Cambridge University graduate, made history on June 11, 1987, by becoming the first black female member of the British Parliament. Her outspoken criticism of racism and her commitment to progressive politics have made her a controversial figure in Britain's Labour Party.

Diane Abbott was born in 1953 in the working-class London neighborhood of Paddington. Her mother (a nurse) and father (a welder) had moved there in 1951 from Jamaica. Later they moved to lower-middle-class Harrow, where Abbott was the only black student at the Harrow County School for Girls. Graduating among the top in her class, she applied and was accepted into Newnham College at Cambridge University, despite a high school teacher's comment that attendance there would give her ambitions that were above her social status.

She began work after graduation at the home office a government department responsible for a broad range ...

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André Willis

Born and raised in Philadelphia, Alexander graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1920 and Harvard Law School in 1923, a time when very few African Americans gained admittance to Ivy League schools. Alexander enjoyed a successful career in private practice, directly challenging racism and discrimination and helping end segregation in a number of Philadelphia institutions, before becoming counsel for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).

Between 1933 and 1935 Alexander served as president of the National Bar Association and sought a federal appointment. Although the prevailing racial climate made it difficult for him to break into national politics, Alexander was appointed honorary consul to the Republic of Haiti in 1938. He was considered for an ambassadorship to Ethiopia in 1951, but although he had President Truman's support, he was not confirmed. From 1951 to 1958 Alexander committed himself to ...

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Jane Brodsky Fitzpatrick

first African American member of the Oklahoma City Council, family physician, and civic leader, was born in Trinidad, West Indies, to Gertrude St. John, a domestic worker, and John Atkins. He had one younger sister. Charles Atkins immigrated to the United States, arriving at Ellis Island in March 1929. He was required to attend Dewitt Clinton High School in the Bronx, New York City, because the United States did not accept his education credentials from Trinidad. One of the first black students at DeWitt, he graduated in 1933. Aided by the Urban League, he worked as a summer counselor to earn money for college. Although he took some classes at City College of New York, he moved to North Carolina to attend St. Augustine's, an Episcopalian historically black college in Raleigh. He graduated in 1941 with a bachelor's degree in Chemistry. On 27 March 1943Atkins ...

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Julian Houston

civil rights leader, lawyer, and Boston city councilman, was born in Elkhart, Indiana, the son of Lillie Curry, a domestic, and Norse Pierce Atkins, a Pentecostal minister. At the age of five, he contracted polio. Despite a doctor's insistence that he would require crutches for the rest of his life, three years later he was walking unassisted. He attended a segregated school for the first and second grades until the derelict building collapsed. The City of Elkhart could not afford to replace it. As a result, the city's schools were integrated by default. Despite his infirmity, Atkins was elected student body president at Elkhart High School, played saxophone in the school band, and was chosen for the all-state orchestra. There he met Sharon Soash, whom he married in December 1960 As a result of Indiana s anti miscegenation laws they traveled to Michigan ...

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Charles F. Casey-Leninger

first black mayor of Cincinnati, Ohio, was born in Maysville, Kentucky, to a white farmer whom he never knew and Cora Berry. When he was a toddler, Berry's mother brought him to Cincinnati, where they settled in the emerging African American community in the city's West End. Severely hearing impaired and with difficulty speaking, his mother earned little as a domestic, and Berry's sister Anna, fifteen years his senior, eventually assembled the family in her own household.

Berry attended the segregated Harriet Beecher Stowe Elementary School and graduated from the racially mixed Woodward High School in 1924 as valedictorian, the first black student in Cincinnati to achieve that honor in an integrated high school. Berry received his bachelor of arts degree from the University of Cincinnati in 1928 and his juris doctorate from the UC College of Law in 1931 He worked his way through school by selling ...

Article

politician, was born on Cincinnati's segregated west side, the older of two brothers born to George Blackwell, a meatpacker, and Dana Blackwell, a part-time nurse. Until he was six years old, the family lived in the Laurel Homes housing project. Blackwell would later attribute his character to his father's work ethic, his mother's reading and lessons from the Bible, and the parents' strong promotion of education. He graduated from Hughes High School in 1966, and attended Cincinnati's Xavier University on a football scholarship. A well-regarded and physically imposing athlete—he stood at 6 feet 4 inches, 220 pounds—Blackwell was also seen by his peers as a radical black campus leader, donning daishikis and wearing his hair in an Afro, serving as president of the black students association, and lobbying the administration in civil rights issues.

In his sophomore year, Blackwell married his childhood girlfriend, Rosa whom ...

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Aaron L. Day

recreation commissioner, PTA president, and community advocate, was born Mary Dell Byrd in Greenville, Texas, to Eliza Henderson and George Byrd, who worked as a porter for the railroad. Mary had a twin sister named Adele—the only children in the family—and attended grade school and high school in Greenville. After high school, Byrd married Charlie Joe Christian and had two daughters, Georgia and Beverly. The marriage lasted only a few years, and at age twenty-one, she moved to Long Beach, California, with her two daughters. There she met Richard Butler, and the two were married in 1948. The couple had six sons: Anthony, Reginald, Douglas, Stanley, Timothy, and Eric. It was because of her children that Butler became engaged in school and civil rights activism.

The 1954 Supreme Court ruling in Brown vs. Board of Education declared segregation in public schools to be unconstitutional and that ...

Article

was born on 1 September 1939 in San Pedro de Macorís, Dominican Republic, to Hipólito Jacobo, a sugar mill worker, and Oliva Adriana Carty Schmunth, a midwife. Stories surrounding his birth presaged the ups and downs in Carty’s prestigious career as a major league player. Rumor had it that the newborn Carty weighed 13 pounds and had spent thirteen months in his mother’s womb, the long gestation allegedly the evil work of a woman who had cursed his mother that she would never give birth.

Carty grew up in the Guachupita neighborhood of Consuelo, sometimes listed as his “hometown” in biographical sketches. Consuelo was a sugar mill town founded largely by Anglo-Caribbean cane cutters from the Tortola islands. Carty’s grandfather, Gastón, had left his native San Martin for opportunities in the Consuelo mills and became part of the community known today in the Dominican Republic as cocolos. The cocolos ...

Article

labor leader and human rights activist, was the fourth of five children born in Seattle, Washington, to Susie Sumner Revels Cayton, a newspaper editor and community activist, and Horace Roscoe Cayton Sr., a journalist and publisher of the Seattle Republican. He was named after his grandfather, Hiram Revels (1827–1901), the first U.S. senator of African descent (1870–1871). Revels's brother Horace Cayton Jr. became a prominent sociologist.

Unlike his father who detested and distrusted labor unions because of their record of racially discriminatory practices Revels became involved with the labor movement early in his life in the belief that unions offered all workers the best chance to better their condition He rose through the union ranks and was at one time secretary treasurer of the Bay Area District Council of the Maritime Union of the Pacific He also joined the Communist Party and wrote ...

Article

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 ...

Article

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 ...

Article

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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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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Kenneth J. Hreha

activist, attorney, community organizer, police reformer, and Detroit City Councilman, was born Kenneth Vern Cockrel in predominantly black Royal Oak Township, Michigan, to Sye Cockrel, an automobile assembly worker, and Cynthia, (maiden name unknown). Sye Cockrel left school after the sixth grade, while his wife was the first African American female to graduate from Lincoln High School, in the suburban Detroit community of Ferndale, Michigan.

Kenneth was the second eldest of five siblings (along with Sye, Jesse, Novella, and Shirley) and after the children lost both of their parents in late 1950—within one month of each other—his siblings were then separated as a family unit and each sent to live with different relatives. Ken was sent off to live with his uncle and aunt, Golden and Beatrice Kennedy in Detroit s Jefferies Housing Projects his early teenage years ...

Article

Paul Stillwell

pioneer black naval officer, was born in Washington, North Carolina, the eighth of eleven children of Edward L. Cooper, a sheet metal worker, and Laura J. Cooper a homemaker One of the eleven siblings died in infancy the remaining ten became college graduates During his upbringing in North Carolina Cooper often faced the tribulations of southern racism He went to segregated schools and learned from his parents that he had to go out of his way to avoid conflict with whites Once when Cooper was eight or nine years old he got into a fight with a white boy As he put it It was the wrong day for him to call me a nigger and we had it out Stillwell 76 Cooper s father had to smooth things over with the boy s father to avoid the incident s escalation When he worked as a bellhop in ...

Article

Marcus Shepard

lawyer, businessman, civil rights leader, and Chicago alderman, was born in Canton, Mississippi, to Edward Dickerson and Emma Garrett Fielding. Earl Dickerson's maternal grandfather, Benjamin Franklin Garrett, bought his freedom in the 1850s and owned a livery stable as well as several other properties in Canton. His business was destroyed during the Civil War, however, and by the time Earl was born the family lived in relative poverty. Edward Dickerson, who worked away from home as an upholsterer, died when Earl was five and he was raised by his mother, who did laundry for local whites, his paternal half-sister, and his maternal grandmother, who ran a small boarding house in Canton.

In 1906 Dickerson was sent to live with relatives in New Orleans where he attended the preparatory school of New Orleans University Unfortunately family finances forced him to return to Canton ...

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SaFiya D. Hoskins

politician, was born Sheila Ann Dixon in Baltimore, Maryland, one of three children of Phillip Sr. and Winona Adelaide Dixon. Her father was a car salesman, and her mother was a teacher's aide and community activist; both of her parents were active members of the African Methodist Episcopal church. Dixon grew up in the solidly middle-class Ashburton neighborhood of West Baltimore and attended city public schools. At an early age she had been imbued by her parents with the ideals of public service. Upon graduating from Northwestern High School, a select, all-girls school, she enrolled at Towson University in suburban Baltimore, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Elementary Education in 1976 Dixon went to work in her hometown first as kindergarten teacher at Stuart Hill Elementary and then as an adult education instructor with the Head Start Program Meanwhile she attended Johns Hopkins University ...

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Sandra Kelman

community activist, city councilwoman, and ordained minister, was born Beatrice Frankie Fowler in Wake Forest, North Carolina, to Maude Fowler, a domestic worker, and to a father who left when she was a toddler. In a 1989Baltimore Sun Magazine article, Gaddy recalled “many days” that she and her four siblings (Mottie Fowler, Pete Young, Tony Fowler, and Mabel Beasly) “didn't eat because when my mother didn't work and couldn't bring home leftover food, there was nothing to eat. And, even when there was food, if my stepfather had been drinking, he'd come home and throw our plates out in the back yard or through the window.” A high school dropout, Gaddy was divorced twice by her early twenties. As a single mother, she struggled for years to make a living for herself and her children (Cynthia, Sandra, John, Michael, and Pamela ...

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Sherri J. Norris

chief of police and security director, was born Beverly Joyce Bailey in Macon, Georgia, the youngest of seven children. She attended school in Macon, where she was an excellent student. In 1972 Harvard earned a BA in Sociology with a minor in psychology from Morris Brown College in Atlanta. In 1973 she married Jim Harvard, whom she had met while they were both students at Morris Brown. They would have one daughter, Christa. Harvard graduated from the Federal Bureau of Investigation's (FBI) National Executive Institute. She held two honorary doctor of law degrees from Morris Brown and University of South Carolina.

After graduation from college Harvard worked in communications Out of this work she developed a genuine interest in law enforcement but her career as a police officer was the result of a bet she made with her husband According to Harvard her husband agreed with a friend ...

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Akilah S. Nosakhere

former Atlanta chief of police. Beverly Joyce Bailey Harvard, a native of Macon, Georgia, became the first African American woman to head a major U.S. police department when she was appointed Atlanta police chief in 1994 by Mayor Bill Campbell. Harvard led the Atlanta Police Department for almost eight years through exciting and controversial events. A twenty-one-year veteran of the police force, Chief Harvard was responsible for twenty-three hundred police officers and civilian employees, five divisions, and an annual budget of more than $100 million.

Described as a petite woman with a calm demeanor, Harvard became a police officer on a bet to prove to her husband that she, then a twenty-two-year-old woman with a sociology degree, could serve as a police officer. In 1973, Harvard's first assignment was night patrol in a high-crime area. She served as a patrol officer through 1979 when she was promoted ...