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Nathan Zook

minister, civil rights leader, and member of the Louisiana House of Representatives, was born Avery Caesar Alexander in the town of Houma in Terrebonne Parish, Louisiana, to a family of sharecroppers. The names of his parents are not known. Seventeen years later, his family moved to New Orleans. Avery Alexander maintained an active life there and in Baton Rouge for the next seventy-two years.

Prior to his election to the Louisiana legislature, Alexander was employed as a longshoreman. At the same time, he pursued an education by taking night courses, receiving his high school diploma from Gilbert Academy in 1939. He became politically active by working as a labor union operative for a longshoreman's union, Local 1419. He also held the occupations of real estate broker and insurance agent.

Alexander received a degree in theology from Union Baptist Theological Seminary and became an ordained Baptist minister ...

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Harold N. Burdett

physician and state legislator, was born in Beeville, Texas, the son of James and Mary Etta Whitby Allen. His parents separated when he was an infant. When Allen was six years old, his mother, feeling that he needed male guidance and discipline, sent him to San Antonio to be reared by his father a hotel bellman Even while attending elementary school he was expected to earn his keep selling newspapers delivering clothes for a local tailor and at the age of twelve serving as a hotel washroom attendant Allen excelled in the classroom through primary and junior high schools But apparently in his final year of junior high he left school after a classmate harassed him for wearing his father s clothing He was soon hired as a busboy in a hotel dining room and within two years found employment as a waiter at a San Antonio hotel ...

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Wanda F. Fernandopulle

politician, was born a slave in Richmond, Virginia. His parents' names are not known. In 1837 Allen was taken to Harris County in Texas and was owned by J.—J. Cain until the end of the Civil War in 1865. Allen married soon after the notification of his emancipation. He and his wife Nancy went on to have one son and four daughters. As a slave Allen was known to be a skilled carpenter; he is credited with designing and building a Houston mansion occupied by Mayor Joseph R. Morris. In 1867 Allen entered the political world as a federal voter registrar, and in 1868 he served as an agent for the Freedmen's Bureau and as a supervisor of voter registration for the Fourteenth District of Texas. Although he had not received a formal education, he was literate by 1870.

After attending several Republican Party meetings and in ...

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Teresa A. Booker

attorney, politician, and diplomat, was born in Louisville, Kentucky. He was the youngest of two children and the only son of Charles W. Anderson Sr., a physician, and Tabitha L. Murphy, a teacher.

Motivated by the high value that his parents placed on education, Charles W. Anderson Jr. entered Kentucky State College at age fifteen and attended from 1922 to 1925. He then transferred to Wilberforce University, one of the earliest universities established for African Americans. Although the reason for Anderson's transfer to Wilberforce University during the penultimate year of his undergraduate career is unclear, it is likely that he, like other black Kentuckians, was forced to pursue higher education outside of the state because of the still-standing Plessy v. Ferguson decision of 1896 authorizing separate but equal educational facilities Higher educational institutions for blacks did not exist in Kentucky and rather than wait for them ...

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Jane Brodsky Fitzpatrick

first African Americanwoman legislator in Oklahoma, librarian, teacher and activist, was the fifth of six children born in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, to Mabel Kennedy and James Thackeray Diggs Sr., a contractor for Gulf Oil Company.

Both Atkins's parents graduated from Slater Industrial Academy. Her parents encouraged the children, four of whom were girls, to attend college. Her brother Edward O. Diggs was the first black to attend the University of North Carolina Medical School (1961). Atkins attended segregated public schools in Winston-Salem, and graduated as valedictorian of Atkins High School at age fifteen. She enrolled in St. Augustine's, an Episcopalian college in Raleigh, North Carolina, where she met and married Charles Nathaniel Atkins on 24 May 1943. A few days later she graduated with a B.A. in French and Biology. She was an honors student, whose advisor was the historian John Hope ...

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Ron Howell

first African American elected to political office in Brooklyn, New York, and a leader in the mid-twentieth century effort to integrate American tennis, was born on the Caribbean island of Nevis, then part of the British West Indies. His mother was Lillian de Grasse Baker, whose family had successful retail businesses on the island; his father was the Reverend Alfred B. Baker, a Wesleyan Methodist minister.

Tragedy struck in 1900 when Lillian Baker died of consumption. Bertram, an only child, would find comfort in the care of his maternal grandmother, Eliza de Grasse. In 1905 Baker's father left Nevis, accepting an offer to become founding pastor of the Ebenezer Wesleyan Methodist Church in Brooklyn. The Reverend Baker would later also found the Beulah Wesleyan Methodist Church in Manhattan.

In 1915 the Reverend Baker returned to Nevis to pick up his seventeen year old son Bertram who ...

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Florence M. Coleman

slave, Civil War soldier, politician, and Baptist minister, was born Peter Barnabas Barrow, a Virginia slave. The month and day of his birth are unknown. It is believed that he was born near Petersburg, Virginia, and may have been taken to Mississippi or Alabama with his owner. In 1864 Barrow joined Company A, 66th U.S. Colored Infantry and in 1865 became a sergeant. A year later Barrow was discharged because of an injury he received. He went on to teach school at Vicksburg, Mississippi.

Barrow, who was most likely self-educated, served as a member of the Mississippi House of Representatives for Warren County, Mississippi, from 1870 to 1871. From 1872 to 1875 he served in the Mississippi State Senate. He migrated to Spokane, Washington, in 1889 and settled there in the city s African American community Barrow and other African Americans were determined to thrive by establishing ...

Article

Andre D. Vann

lawyer and the first black Speaker of the North Carolina House of Representatives, was born in Lumberton, Robeson County, North Carolina, to Daniel T. Blue Sr. and Allene Morris. Blue excelled in school and later attended North Carolina Central University in Durham, North Carolina, where he earned a BS degree in Mathematics. There he emerged not only as a leader in academics but also in campus politics. Blue furthered his career by receiving his JD degree in Law from Duke University School of Law, where again he distinguished himself and graduated in 1973. He held the certification of the National Institute for Trial Advocacy and served four times as a faculty member of that institute.

When Blue was hired by the firm of Sanford Adams McCullough Beard he became one of the first blacks to integrate a major North Carolina law firm However a desire to own his ...

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Don Schanche

Georgia state legislator and civil rights activist, was born in the back seat of a car rushing from his parents' home in Warrenton, Georgia, to the “colored ward” of the hospital in neighboring Wilkes County. He was the second of three children born to Mose Brooks, a Pullman car porter, and Ruby Cody Brooks, who worked as a clerk in two white-owned Warrenton stores.

Rural Warren County in east-central Georgia was removed from the influence of Atlanta and psychologically distant even from the nearby city of Augusta. Although its population was nearly two-thirds African American at the time of Brooks's birth black residents experienced all the disadvantages of southern apartheid in the 1940s political powerlessness segregated public accommodations and an unequal share of poverty to name a few Brooks recalled that from an early age he was aware of the outside world and the social struggle going ...

Article

Linda M. Carter

state legislator, attorney, police officer, and social worker, was born Cora Mae Brown in Bessemer, Alabama, the only child of Richard and Alice Brown. Her father and mother were employed as a tailor and cook respectively. In 1922 the family moved to Detroit when Brown was seven years old. After graduating from Cass Technical High School in 1931, Brown attended Fisk University and received a degree in sociology in 1935.

Brown returned to Detroit, and until 1941, she was employed as a social worker. After working for the Children's Aid Bureau, Old Age Assistance Bureau, and the Works Progress Administration, Brown, as a policewoman in the Women's Division of the Detroit Police Department from 1941 to 1946, prepared legal cases. In 1946 Brown enrolled in Wayne State University's School of Law; she received her LL.B degree in 1948 and passed ...

Article

Gregory Travis Bond

athlete, dentist, and politician, was born in Topeka, Kansas, to Gary W. Cable, a teacher and postal worker, and Mary Ellen Montgomery Cable, a public school administrator and civil rights activist. In 1894 the family moved to Indianapolis, Indiana, where Cable attended public school and graduated from integrated Shortridge High School in 1908. He moved on to the exclusive Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire for the next school year and enrolled at Harvard University in 1909.

Cable had not participated in organized athletics in high school, but he tried out for the freshman track team at Harvard and caught the eye of Coach Pat Quinn. With Quinn's guidance, Cable developed rapidly. In the annual Harvard-Yale freshman meet, he won the hammer throw and he also performed well in the 220-yard hurdles and the broad jump (now the long jump) in intramural competitions.

He easily made ...

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Caryn E. Neumann

the first African American woman elected to the Florida legislature, grew up (and was likely born) in Miami. Cherry earned her bachelor's degree from the predominantly black Florida A & M University (FAMU) in 1946. She belonged to Sigma Gamma Rho, a black Greek-letter organization, and later served as legal counsel to the sorority from 1970 until 1970. Cherry obtained a master's degree from New York University in 1950. In the era of segregation, talented African Americans often left the South to obtain advanced degrees. Unlike many of them, Sawyer returned home to teach school, marry, and have children, before deciding to return to academic life. She earned a law degree cum laude in 1965 from FAMU, after serving as secretary of the Student Bar Association. She was the first black woman to practice law in Dade County, Florida.

A Democrat Cherry was elected to the Florida ...

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Rachel B. Reinhard

educator and lawmaker, was born Robert George Clark in Ebenezer, Mississippi, the son of a schoolteacher. Little information about his parents or early life is known. He attended Jackson State College (later Jackson State University), which at that time was an unaccredited, publicly funded post-secondary school for blacks. After graduating from Jackson State College in 1953, Clark taught at Humphreys County Training School, Lexington Attendance Center, and other secondary schools in the Mississippi Delta. In addition to teaching he coached a number of boys’ and girls’ sports teams. Inspired by the Brown v. Board of Education decision, Clark decided to further his education. He enrolled in graduate school at Michigan State University, where in 1961 he earned his master s in administration and educational services Because there were no available programs for black students in Mississippi s segregated public universities a regional program Southern Regional Education Board paid ...

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Alexis Cepeda Maule

minister and politician, served thirty-six years (1943 to 1979) in the Illinois State House of Representatives for the 22nd District and acted as associate pastor at Chicago's Quinn African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church. Corneal was born on a farm near Vicksburg, Mississippi, to a white landowner and an African American former slave named Pearl Darden. After attending primary school at Sisters of the Holy Ghost, a Roman Catholic School, Davis graduated from Magnolia Public High School. At Magnolia there had been one teacher who taught all the subjects.

Davis attended Tougaloo College, a historically black institution near Jackson, Mississippi. Established in 1869 by the Home Missionary Society of the Disciples of Christ Tougaloo offered a first class liberal education to African Americans At Tougaloo he read the newspaper almost every day and participated in the debate society which would help his oratory skills in his later ...

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M. Lois Lucas

educator and the first African American woman elected to the West Virginia State Legislature, was born in Motley, Virginia, the eldest of eleven children of Katherine Douglass, a housewife, and H. Grant Simpson a barber The Simpsons were among the first wave of blacks to move north during the Great Migration Hoping to take advantage of the growing coal mining industry the family settled in Elkhorn a small coal mining town in McDowell County in southern West Virginia They were a part of the expanding black middle class of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries that adhered to a philosophy of personal advancement and racial uplift With an increase in the number of blacks working in the coal mines in West Virginia came an increase in black businesses and other professions Grant Simpson was the owner of a barbershop that catered to both blacks and whites ...

Article

Susan Love Brown

journalist, educator, politician, and statesman. Mervyn Malcolm Dymally, born in Cedros, Trinidad, achieved many “firsts” in American politics. His mother, Andreid Richardson, of Trinidadian descent, and his father, Hamid Dymally, of South Asian descent, educated him through high school, at Naparima College in San Fernando, Trinidad, after which he worked as a reporter for the Oilfields Workers Trade Union newspaper, The Vanguard, in Trinidad. This spurred his interest in a journalistic career, which took him to Lincoln University in Missouri at the age of nineteen. Eventually, he moved to Los Angeles State College of Applied Arts and Sciences, where he majored in education, receiving his bachelor's degree in 1954. From then on he combined education, politics, and involvement in international issues as the interests that guided his career.

While working as a science special education teacher in the Los Angeles Unified School District ...

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Theresa C. Lynch

activist and Democratic state legislator from Buffalo, New York, was born in Harlem to Arthur B. Eve (a maintenance worker) and Beatrice Clark Eve (a theater cashier). His parents divorced when he was five or six years old and he moved to Miami, Florida, where he was raised by his mother and grandmother in a housing project. Eve excelled in sports; he ran track and played basketball for the all-black, segregated Dorsey High School. After earning his diploma in 1951, he attended West Virginia State College for three semesters, where he played basketball and studied physical education.

In 1953 Eve headed to Buffalo with two suitcases and $9 45 in his pocket He planned to earn money perhaps working in a steel mill and then return to college in the fall But the Korean War interrupted his plans and in May he was drafted into the United States ...

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Steven J. Niven

legislator and activist, was born Crystal Dreda Bird in Princess Anne, Maryland, the daughter of Benjamin Bird, a high school principal, and Portia E. Lovett. Crystal's father died when she was only four, and her mother took over his principalship of the all-black Princess Anne Academy until her own death in 1900. An orphan by age seven, Crystal remained true to her parents' commitment to education. Ironically, her early loss probably improved the educational opportunities of a child born on Maryland's segregated Eastern Shore. Reared by an aunt in Boston, she attended public school, graduated from the city's Normal School in 1914, and taught for three years. She later earned a BS from Columbia University Teacher's College in 1931.

Her personal success notwithstanding, Crystal Bird came to realize that racial inequality was an American, rather than merely a southern, dilemma. In 1918 on ...

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V. P. Franklin

She was born to Benjamin Oliver Bird and Portia E. (Lovett) Bird in Princess Anne, Maryland, but was raised in Boston by her maternal aunt, Lucy Groves. There she attended public schools and was considered an outstanding student. Later in life Fauset maintained that her social and political conscience was shaped by her experiences as a child in Boston. She went on to Teachers College, Columbia University, where she earned a BS degree in 1931.

Upon graduation Crystal Bird worked as a social worker and administrator of Negro affairs for the Young Women’s Christian Association in New York City and Philadelphia. In 1931 she married the author and educator Arthur Huff Fauset. The couple separated soon after their marriage, and he divorced her in 1944. In 1933 she was named executive secretary for the Institute of Race Relations at Swarthmore College While serving in ...

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Kristen L. Rouse

politician and community leader, was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, the seventh of ten children. When Cleo was four years old, Isadore, his father, a dockworker, died in an accident while driving home from working a double shift, leaving his mother, Alice, alone to support the family. Unable to pay the rent, the family was evicted. Alice moved the family to a new house and worked days as a hotel maid, and in the evenings she did laundry to make ends meet.

Fields grew up in East Baton Rouge a community that had been integral in the struggle for civil rights Fields and his siblings attended McKinley High School the first secondary school for African Americans in the historically segregated city During the years that Fields attended the school the district remained embroiled in the longest running desegregation case in U S history which finally culminated in a ...