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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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Eric Gardner

politician and activist, was born into slavery in North Carolina. Both he and his mother, Susan, were owned by the wealthy Thomas Burke Burton, who moved to Fort Bend County, Texas, from Halifax County, North Carolina, in the 1850s. Most accounts claim that the slaveholder favored Burton, taught him to read and write, and, after the Civil War, sold land to him; some accounts claim that Burton supported his former owner's wife when she was widowed during Reconstruction.

On 28 September 1868 Burton married Abba Jones (sometimes listed as Abby and sometimes as Hattie). The couple had three children, Horace J., Hattie M., and an unnamed child who died in infancy. Susan Burton lived with the young family until her death c. 1890.

Propertied, literate, and articulate, Burton quickly became active in the local Republican Party, the local Union League, and larger Reconstruction efforts. In 1869 ...

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Agnes Kane Callum

slave, farmer, teacher, Reconstruction-era state legislator and lawyer, was born in South Carolina's famed Edgefield District. He was literate and the favored slave of Major Thomas Carwile the commissioner in equity of Edgefield Cain was probably raised much like other slave children on Edgefield plantations they would be cared for by an elderly lady while their mothers worked in the fields until the children were about six or seven years old when they were sent to work in the fields many serving as water carriers or weed pullers In some instances they were sent to work by the side of an adult Generally the children were called quarter workers since they produced about one fourth as much labor as an adult It is not known exactly how Cain learned to read and write but it is likely that he was taught by his owner as he was known as ...

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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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Benjamin R. Justesen

teacher, farmer, public official, and three-term state legislator, was born a slave in Granville County, North Carolina, near the county seat of Oxford, to unnamed unknown parents. Little is known of his childhood, except that he received a limited education before the Civil War, probably because of his preferred status as the property, and possibly the son, of a prosperous white planter named Benjamin Crews. One account of Crews's early life says he was taken from his slave mother “at the age of two years and reared by a white family whose name he bore” (Edmonds, 102). He is also said to have attended both private and public schools in Oxford, where he grew up.

By 1870 Crews's education had enabled him to begin work as a schoolteacher in Oxford, even as he also ran his own farm and worked as a carpenter. Beginning in 1874 Crews embarked ...

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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 ...

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Andree Layton Roaf

Virginia state legislator, brick mason, plasterer, contractor, and educator, was born free in Manchester (later South Richmond), Chesterfield County, Virginia, the son of Edward Bradbury Edwards Jr. and Mary Trent Edwards. Edwards's family, of black, white, and American Indian ancestry, had been free landowners since the early 1700s. His father was a carpenter and his mother a teacher. Edwards was taught to read and write at an early age by his mother and learned the construction trades from his father. In 1850 Edwards married Sara Ann Coy, also a teacher, and together they had thirteen children.

Throughout his life Edwards was a prominent member of the historic First Baptist Church in South Richmond, which was established by free blacks as the African Baptist Church of Manchester in 1821 Edwards s family was among the founding members of the church which his father ...

Article

Andre D. Vann

lawyer, educator, and first black chief justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court, was born in Ellerbe, North Carolina, the eighth of the twelve children of Walter Frye and Pearl Motley, farmers. In the late 1920s his father sought to ensure financial security for his family by purchasing a forty-six-acre tobacco and cotton farm with the assistance of a loan from a local bank, which made him one of only a handful of blacks who owned land in Ellerbe. Later his father purchased a small sawmill from white owners. Frye attended the segregated Mineral Springs School in Ellerbe and graduated as valedictorian in 1949. In June 1953 he earned a BS in biology with highest honors from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical College later North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University He was commissioned a second lieutenant in the U S Air Force and served ...

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Richard D. Starnes

Thomas Oscar Fuller was born in Franklinton, North Carolina, the son of J. Henderson Fuller and Mary Elizabeth (maiden name unknown). Fuller's father was a former slave who had purchased his freedom and later his wife's with money earned as a skilled wheelwright and carpenter. While a slave, the elder Fuller taught himself to read, and after the Civil War he became active in Republican politics. During Reconstruction he served as a delegate to the 1868 state Republican convention and as a local magistrate.

Fuller completed his primary education in local schools and subsequently attended the Franklinton Normal School, an institution founded to educate black teachers. He graduated from Shaw University in 1890 and received a Master of Arts from the same institution in 1893. After graduation, Fuller simultaneously pursued careers in education and the ministry. Raised in a devoutly religious family, he was ordained as a Baptist ...

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Richard D. Starnes

educator, clergyman, and politician, was born in Franklinton, North Carolina, the son of J. Henderson Fuller and Mary Elizabeth (maiden name unknown). Fuller's father was a former slave who had purchased his freedom and later his wife's with money earned as a skilled wheelwright and carpenter. As a slave, the elder Fuller taught himself to read, and after the Civil War he became active in Republican politics. During Reconstruction he served as a delegate to the 1868 state Republican convention and as a local magistrate.

Fuller completed his primary education in local schools and subsequently attended the Franklinton Normal School, an institution founded to educate black teachers. He graduated from Shaw University in 1890 and received a Master of Arts from the same institution in 1893 After graduation Fuller simultaneously pursued careers in education and the ministry Raised in a devoutly religious family he was ordained ...

Article

Benjamin R. Justesen

teacher, physician, public official, legislator, and lay religious leader, was born in Wilmington, North Carolina, to Mary Ann Sampson, a slave, and an unnamed white father of Scottish descent. Green was raised in Wilmington by his mother, who later married Reverend Cornelius Sampson, an African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Zion clergyman. After Wilmington's fall to invading Union forces in early 1865, Green was allowed to begin his formal education at age twenty in the local Presbyterian parochial school.

For the next two years, while working as a carpenter by day, Green attended school at night. An excellent student, he supplemented his savings with loans to enter Lincoln University in May 1867 and continued to work before being granted a scholarship in his second year. He completed his bachelor's degree in 1872 taught for a year in Lincoln s normal and preparatory schools and ...

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Jorjet Harper

the first African American woman legislator in the United States, was born in the town of Winfield, Putnam County, West Virginia. The Buckinghams were a large, extended mixed-race family with roots in England and in the West Indies, and branches in West Virginia and Ohio. Harper grew up with ten brothers and sisters and was educated in the West Virginia public school system.

As a young woman, Harper, along with one of her sisters, found work as a schoolteacher. In 1916 she gave birth to a son, George Ivan Edward “Buck” Buckingham. When George was six years old, Minnie Buckingham married Ebenezer Howard Harper, a man twenty-two years her senior, who was one of the leading African American men in West Virginia.

Originally from Virginia and born during the Civil War, Ebenezer Howard Harper had graduated in 1899 from Howard University in Washington D C and had ...

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Benjamin R. Justesen

teacher, editor, public official, state legislator, and gifted orator, was born in Granville County, North Carolina, of unknown parents. Indeed, little is known for certain of his childhood. By some reports, he was born free; by others, he was freed from slavery in 1848, in connection with a trade apprenticeship. Decades later, in 1883, he listed himself in his legislative biographical sketch (Tomlinson, 70) as “self-educated,” although he may have studied at Oberlin College in Ohio as an adult.

In 1850 Harris still lived with his employer, Charles Allen, a white carpenter and upholsterer, near Oxford, North Carolina. He married Isabella Hinton in Wake County, North Carolina, on 3 December 1851 little is known of his wife and it is believed that they had no children Harris soon moved to Raleigh to open his own upholstery business but he left the ...

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Kenneth J. Blume

clergyman, politician, educator, and diplomat, was born a slave on the plantation of Thomas Jones in Elbert County, Georgia. William's mother died when he was nine, and he was obligated to rear his younger siblings while working as a plowboy. His education during his last years of enslavement (1860–1865) was in Sunday school in Elberton, Georgia. Legally prohibited from learning to read or write, he learned largely by memorizing Bible passages. But when he was fifteen the Civil War ended, and Union troops appeared. As he wrote in his memoir, From Slavery to the Bishopric in the A.M.E. Church (1924): “Freedom had come, and I came to meet it” (28). Freedom also meant the end of his Sunday school education, but Heard's father had earned enough money as a wheelwright to pay for William's lessons in spelling, reading, and arithmetic. From 1865 ...

Article

Michelle K. Massie

teacher and legislator, was born Kirkland Leroy Irvis in Saugerties, New York, the older of Francis H. and Harriet Ten Broeck Cantine Irvis's two children. Francis was self-employed, and Harriet was a homemaker. Shortly after his birth, the family moved to Albany, New York. While Irvis's father instilled in his children the value of education, his mother taught them the importance of art and human emotion. Her lessons would inspire Irvis to become a renowned wood sculptor and published poet. He graduated from Albany High School with honors in 1934 and went on to attend New York State College for Teachers (later SUNY), where he graduated summa cum laude in 1938 with an AB in History.

The harsh realities of racism that his parents tried to shield from him as a child would meet him head on as an adult Denied teaching positions upon graduation Irvis went back to ...

Article

Elizabeth Zoe Vicary

educator, lawyer, and politician, was born near Raleigh, North Carolina, the son of Columbus Johnson and Eliza A. Smith, slaves. He was taught to read and write by Nancy Walton, a free African American, and later attended the Washington School, an establishment founded by philanthropic northerners in Raleigh. There he was introduced to the Congregational Church and became a lifelong member. Johnson completed his education at Atlanta University in Georgia, graduating in 1883. To pay his way through college, he worked as a barber and taught in the summers. After graduation he worked as a teacher and principal, first in Atlanta at the Mitchell Street Public School from 1883 to 1885 and then in Raleigh at the Washington School from 1885 to 1891. While teaching in Raleigh, he studied at Shaw University, obtaining a law degree in 1891 He joined the faculty ...

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Elizabeth Zoe Vicary

Johnson, Edward Austin (23 November 1860–24 July 1944), educator, lawyer, and politician was born near Raleigh North Carolina the son of Columbus Johnson and Eliza A Smith slaves He was taught to read and write by Nancy Walton a free African American and later attended the Washington School an establishment founded by philanthropic northerners in Raleigh There he was introduced to the Congregational church and became a lifelong member Johnson completed his education at Atlanta University in Georgia graduating in 1883 To pay his way through college he worked as a barber and taught in the summers After graduation he worked as a teacher and principal first in Atlanta at the Mitchell Street Public School 1883 1885 and then in Raleigh at the Washington School 1885 1891 While teaching in Raleigh he studied at Shaw University obtaining a law degree in 1891 He joined the faculty shortly ...

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Benjamin R. Justesen

teacher, newspaper editor, labor activist, and state legislator, was one of five children born in Wilmington, North Carolina, to a slave mother, Eliza Mabson, and her wealthy white owner, George W. Mabson. Little is known of his early life or education before the end of the Civil War, only that he left Wilmington in 1865 to enter Lincoln University (formerly Ashmun Institute), in Pennsylvania, where he stayed for three years.

Like his older brother, George Lawrence Mabson, who was educated as a child in Massachusetts, William Mabson returned to North Carolina committed to the advancement of members of his race. There is no official record of his degree from Lincoln University, but he nonetheless became a popular teacher in a number of freedmen's schools across the state, including those in Rockingham, Abbottsburg, Rehoboth, Washington, and Leggetts. In 1870 he settled in Edgecombe County ...

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M. Lois Lucas

educator and state legislator, was born in Glen Ferris, West Virginia, the only child of Solomon and Luvenia Galloway Smallwood. The Smallwoods had moved from North Carolina during the early 1900s and settled in Fayette County in southeastern West Virginia. They later relocated to Glen Ferris in Raleigh County. Growing up in Glen Ferris during the Jim Crow era, Meadows experienced racial discrimination firsthand. She attended a poorly equipped, two-room elementary school for black children. Although a high school was only two miles from her parents' home, she had to travel twenty-five miles to attend Simmons High School for blacks.

After high school Meadows enrolled in West Virginia State College, where she earned a BA in Education in 1939. Her first teaching assignment came in 1941 at Summerlee Elementary School in Fayette County She recalled that often black schools were one room structures with no running ...

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Benjamin R. Justesen

teacher, school administrator, businessman, journalist, public official, and state legislator, was born a slave at the Hermitage, a large plantation on the Chowan River in Bertie County, North Carolina. He was the son of Allen Mebane and an unnamed mother.

George Mebane's education before the Civil War was limited by circumstance; later he attended the public schools in two Pennsylvania towns, Prentissvale and Eldred, for at least a year or more.

After much of northeastern North Carolina was occupied by Union forces in early 1862, Mebane served as a mess boy or waiter for Company A, 85th Regiment of New York State Volunteers, which was stationed at Roanoke Island. After much of the regiment surrendered to Confederate forces at Plymouth in April 1864 Mebane and his family fled North Carolina for McKean County Pennsylvania on the New York border where they remained ...