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Article

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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David Alvin Canton

lawyer and judge, was the third of five children born to Hillard Boone Alexander, a laborer from Mecklenburg County, Virginia, and Virginia Pace, from Essex County, Virginia. Alexander's parents were born slaves, but were freed by the Thirteenth Amendment following the Civil War. In 1880 they migrated to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where they lived in the Seventh Ward, a community that would later be made famous by W. E. B. Du Bois's seminal 1899 study The Philadelphia Negro. In 1903Alexander's mother died of pneumonia. Because his father worked long hours, Alexander and his siblings moved to North Philadelphia to live with his maternal aunt, Georgia Chandler Pace From the age of seven Alexander attended school and worked at various jobs including dockworker newspaper boy general helper at the Metropolitan Opera House in North Philadelphia Pullman porter and when he was in his early twenties ...

Article

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 ...

Article

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

Charles Rosenberg

attorney, was born in or near Cambridge, Massachusetts, but raised after 1913 in Charleston, West Virginia. He was a Charleston city council member, real estate agent, lead lawyer for the West Virginia NAACP in preparing the Brown v. Board of Education case for presentation to the United States Supreme Court, and the first American of African descent to sit as a judge in a court of record in West Virginia.

His parents, Anderson Hunt Brown and Nellie Lewis Brown were both natives of West Virginia. They married in Massachusetts in June 1910, where Anderson Brown had moved in 1907, and managed the stock room at Manhattan Market, Central Square, Cambridge. Their only son was born the following year. Between 1918 and 1920, Nellie Brown died in childbirth. Anderson Brown remarried to Captolia Monette Casey, and had one daughter, Della Louise later Della Louise Brown Taylor Hardman ...

Article

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

H.R. Costello

Early Liverpudliansolicitor. He was born in Kingston, Jamaica, the son of a wealthy white member of the plantocracy and his mixed‐race mother, Hannah Woodcock. On his father's death, William and his sisters were brought back to Liverpool by their uncle, John Daggers, a prominent and respected gentleman. William's family connections and his social class apparently helped to ease his entry into Liverpudlian society because he appears to have been accepted into the highest social circles.

William Daggers was a contemporary of Joshua Lace, founder of the Liverpool Law Society, set up in 1824. Daggers followed Lace into the legal profession, and in 1819 gained his certificate as a solicitor Though he seldom appeared in court he was widely sought after and consulted for his brilliant knowledge of equity and conveyancing He acquired a reputation with the Council for his work on issues affecting the ...

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 ...

Article

Charles Rosenberg

barber, lawyer, and Cleveland's first city-council member of known African descent, was born in Meadville, Pennsylvania, to Thomas and Lavina Green Fleming. By 1880 Thomas Fleming had died, and his widow was raising seven-year-old daughter Larah, six-year-old Thomas, and four-year-old Ida on her own.

Men of African descent had a prominent role in civic life in Meadville during Fleming's childhood. At the age of six, he transferred from a racially segregated school to a school open to students from all local families. He had a job at a bakery when he was eleven. The bakery owner, also of African descent, was elected to the city council. A year later he quit school to work as a barber, helping support his mother and two sisters.

Fleming moved to Cleveland in 1893, opening his own barber shop within a year. On 9 July 1894 he married Mary Ingels Thompson like ...

Article

Jeannette Elizabeth Brown

chemist, patent attorney, and legislator, was born Esther Arvilla Harrison in Stamford, Connecticut, the only daughter of George Burgess Harrison and Esther Smalls Harrison Her father was a chauffeur and custodian at a church and her mother worked in domestic service Neither of her parents had an advanced education her father had some high school education and her mother attended only primary school She started school at the same time as her older brother having tested into kindergarten at the age of three and a half She and her brother continued to go to school together through elementary school In high school Esther was on the pre college track taking all the science courses available to her She had determined to become a brain surgeon after meeting a female brain surgeon in one of the offices her father cleaned She was impressed by this woman and ...

Article

Richard L. Aynes

World War II veteran, city councilman, and judge, was born in Lake City, Florida, the youngest of fifteen children of William and Hattie (Howard) Jackson. He spent his early years in Orlando, Florida. Courage was his touchstone for life. When he was seven, an armed mob with torches came to his home looking for one of his older brothers on trumped-up charges. His mother sent him out the back door into the darkness to call together armed family members while she led the mob by a circuitous route to the brother's home. The family members Jackson brought escorted the brother to jail and successfully prevented the brother's lynching.

Jackson earned a BA from Morehouse College in 1943 and an MA in Business Administration from Atlanta University in 1946. On 7 September 1945 he married his college sweetheart Gilberta Jackson in Atlanta Georgia They had ...

Article

Charles Rosenberg

attorney, Detroit area civic leader, and nominee for the sixth circuit federal court of appeals, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, to Wade Hampton McCree Jr. and Dores B. McCrary McCree, and grew up in Detroit, Michigan.

Her father served as a Michigan circuit judge for Wayne County, 1954–1961, and as a federal U.S. district judge 1961–1966, and U.S. sixth circuit court of appeals judge from 1966 to 1977, when he was appointed solicitor general of the United States by President Jimmy Carter. He was the first African American to serve on the sixth circuit court, and the second (after Thurgood Marshall) as solicitor general. Kathleen Lewis attended Detroit public schools, graduating from Cass Technical High School in 1965, then entered Fisk University (Jet, 24 Mar. 1966, 39), where Judge McCree was an alumnus and later a ...

Article

Christopher Phelps

outspoken Philadelphia civil rights leader, attorney, and city councilman, was born in Yukon, West Virginia, to Alexander Moore, a physician, and Beulah Moore, a teacher whose maiden name is now unknown. A student during the Great Depression, he attended West Virginia State College from 1933 to 1934 and Bluefield State College from 1935 to 1939. He failed the final literature class needed to graduate from Bluefield State, but considered himself its alumnus ever after and took part in its alumni association.

After working in Athens, Georgia, as an insurance salesman, Moore enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1942. He saw combat against the Japanese during World War II in the Pacific. His time in the Marines imbued Moore with discipline, toughness, and command experience, emboldening him to insist on his rights.

In 1946 Moore married Theresa Wyche Lee a Howard University graduate ...

Article

Jeffrey Green

Lawyer in Lancashire and Cheshire born in British Guiana (now Guyana). The son of a Georgetown builder, Nelson studied at St John's College, Oxford (1898–1902), where he was an officer of the Oxford Union under Prime Minister Asquith's son Raymond. He was called to the Bar at Lincoln's Inn in 1904, and established his legal practice in Manchester and his home at Bowdon, then Hale, Cheshire. He married, had a daughter, played cricket, and was elected to Hale Council from 1913 to his death. He chaired the Council in 1937.

Nelson achieved fame following the murder of George Storrs at Stalybridge in 1909. As defence lawyer, Nelson secured the acquittal of Mark Wilde, who had been accused of the crime. The Yorkshire Herald called him ‘the coloured barrister’ (29 October 1910) but the Stalybridge Reporter of that date just published his ...

Article

Simon Topping

prominent New York City judge, was born in Kansas City, Kansas, the son of the Reverend David Foote Rivers, the last African American member of the Tennessee state legislature during Reconstruction, and Silene Gale Rivers. In 1898 his family moved to Washington, D.C., where he completed elementary and high school. He had considered becoming an athlete, but an attack of gout prevented this. He began studying law at Howard University, but in 1911 he entered Yale, where he graduated with Phi Beta Kappa distinction in economics and history in 1915. In 1916 he went to Harvard Law School but left to become an inspector for Winchester Firearms, a post he kept until the United States declared war on Germany in 1917 During the war he attended the segregated officer training school in Des Moines Iowa and served as a first lieutenant with New York s 367th ...

Article

Elizabeth K. Davenport

community activist and lawyer, was born Margaret Wilhelmina Jackson in Portsmouth, Virginia, to Margaret and John Jackson. One of three children, she had two siblings, Gwendolyn E. Bowie, a public school teacher, and Horace Jackson, a physician. Until the seventh grade, she attended Truxon Elementary School in Truxon, Virginia, and in 1933 she graduated from J. C. Norco High School in Portsmouth.

Upon high school graduation Rolark attended Howard University from 1933 until 1937, earning bachelor of arts and master's degrees in Political Science while studying under Ralph Bunche, a civil rights leader and later a member of President Harry Truman's “black cabinet.” As a young political scientist Rolark was one of several researchers who went to the Deep South to collect data for the Swedish economist Gunnar Myrdal, for his seminal book An American Dilemma: The Negro Problem and Modern Democracy ...

Article

Arthur Matthew Holst

Philadelphia councilman and mayor, was born on 15 October 1945 in Norristown, Pennsylvania, to poor rural farmers. He was third child of James and Elizabeth Street. Street grew up without electricity or indoor plumbing and often helped his mother tend to the farm while his father was working at a brick manufacturing plant. After graduating from Conshohocken High School in suburban Philadelphia, he attended Oakwood College in Huntsville, Alabama. He worked his way through college and eventually graduated in 1964 with a degree in English. Street then attended Temple Law School and graduated with a Juris Doctor in 1975. To pay for tuition, he worked as a sidewalk vendor.

Four years later John Street was elected as a Democrat to the Philadelphia City Council For the next twenty years of his life Street would represent the Fifth Council District one of the most diverse both racially and economically ...

Article

Charles Pete Banner-Haley

journalist, lawyer, and activist, was born Robert Lee Vann in Hertford County, North Carolina, the son of Lucy Peoples, who cooked for the Albert Vann family, and an unidentified father. His mother named him following a custom from slavery times, giving the last name of her employer to her children. The paternity of Vann, according to his major biographer Andrew L. Buni, is uncertain. It is thought that his father was Joseph Hall, a field worker, but there are no birth records to this effect. There is the possibility that his father was white but not the Vann that his mother worked for.

Vann spent his childhood on the Vann and Askew farms. He entered the Waters Training School in Winston, North Carolina, at age sixteen. In 1901 he enrolled in Virginia Union University in Richmond After two years Vann moved to Pittsburgh and ...

Article

Todd Steven Burroughs

lawyer, politician, and newspaper publisher in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. As a newspaper publisher, Robert Vann's periodical, the Pittsburgh Courier, became a newspaper not ashamed to publish sensational news and not afraid to be controversial. He saw the paper as an agitation vehicle to improve all facets of black life in Pittsburgh.

Robert Vann was born in 1879 on a North Carolina farm near a town called Ahoskie. His mother, Lucy Peoples, worked for a family named Vann. When her son's father deserted them, she gave him the Vann surname. After attending the Waters Training School in Winston, North Carolina, and the Wayland Academy (the latter a preparatory school for Virginia Union University), he attended the Western University of Pennsylvania. He became the first African American to become the editor of the Courant, the campus newspaper. Vann earned his BA from Western in 1906 and his ...

Article

Rayford W. Logan

Robert Lee Vann was born on August 27, 1879, in Ahoskie, North Carolina to former slaves who eked out a living by operating a general store. As a youth, Vann enjoyed playing with boys of prominent white families in nearby Harrellsville. After graduating as valedictorian of Baptist-run Waters Training School in Winton, North Carolina, he enrolled at Wayland Academy in Richmond, Virginia in 1901. While at Wayland, Vann was influenced by John T. Mitchell, editor of the Richmond Planet, who opposed the disenfranchisement of blacks and the virulent segregation laws known as Jim Crow.

In 1903, with the aid of a $100 Charles Avery scholarship, Vann entered Western University of Pennsylvania in Pittsburgh as a sophomore There he gained a reputation as an orator and debater and served for two years as a regular contributor to the school newspaper In his senior year ...