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Lisa Clayton Robinson

Delilah Isontium Beasley was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, to Margaret and Daniel Beasley. She began her career in journalism by writing for the Cleveland Gazette at age twelve; by age fifteen she had a regular column in the Sunday Cincinnati Enquirer. Following the death of her parents while she was still a teenager, Beasley looked for another full-time job to support herself, and she pursued a career as a trained masseuse. But when she followed a client to California in 1910, she resumed her original interest in journalism.

Beasley wrote a weekly column for the Sunday Oakland Tribune called “Activities Among Negroes” for the next twenty years. She spoke out against Racial Stereotypes and discrimination throughout her career. One of her most significant contributions to journalism was her campaign to stop the use of derogatory terms, such as darky and nigger to refer to African ...

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Luther Adams

civil rights activist, historian, and legal scholar. Mary Frances Berry was born in Nashville, Tennessee, one of three children of George and Frances Berry. Like many African Americans, Berry experienced racial segregation as well as poverty while growing up in the South. As children she and her older brother George were placed in an orphanage during a period of economic crisis.

At Nashville's segregated Pearl High School, Berry was encouraged by the educator Minerva Hawkins to apply herself seriously to her studies. After graduation Berry attended Fisk University and then transferred to Howard University, where she earned a BA in philosophy in 1961 and an MA in history in 1962. She continued her studies at the University of Michigan, where she earned a PhD in U.S. and constitutional history and a doctorate of jurisprudence.

As a scholar, Berry's numerous publications include Black Resistance White Law ...

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Peter Glenshaw

The second of three children born to George and Frances Berry, Mary Frances Berry was born in Nashville, Tennessee, and experienced the racial discrimination of the segregated South. Economic struggle led her parents to send her and her older brother George Jr. to an orphanage temporarily, a period Berry likened to a “horror story.”

Despite her considerable intellect, Berry remained an indifferent student until gaining the attention and support of Minerva Hawkins, one of only three black teachers at Nashville's segregated Pearl High School. According to Berry, Hawkins exhorted Berry to develop her intellectual gifts, telling her that she could do “all the things I would have done if it had been possible for me.” Thus heartened, Berry applied herself to her studies and gained a deep interest in a broad range of subjects. She attended Nashville's Fisk University studying philosophy history and chemistry before transferring ...

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John R. Howard

scholar and civil rights advocate, was born in Nashville, Tennessee, to George Berry, a laborer, and Frances Southall, a beautician. She was the middle child between two brothers. After attending public schools in Nashville, she entered Howard University where she received her bachelor of arts degree in 1961 and her master of arts degree in 1962. During the 1962–1963 academic year she was a teaching fellow at Howard University, after which she moved to Ann Arbor, Michigan, to pursue a doctorate in history at the University of Michigan. She served as a teaching assistant during the 1965–1966 academic year and, after completing work on her PhD in 1966, was appointed assistant professor in the Department of History. In 1968 she was promoted to associate professor. Simultaneously she pursued the study of law and in 1970 received her JD degree from the University of Michigan Law ...

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Genna Rae McNeil

Mary Frances Berry has to her credit a number of impressive firsts. She was the first African American woman to serve as chancellor of a major research university and the first African American woman to hold the post of the nation’s chief educational officer. Her 1984 lawsuit against President Ronald Reagan to reaffirm the independence of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, as well as her sit-in, arrest, and incarceration in protest of racial injustice in South Africa, established a place for her in the national and international press. In the twenty-first century, Berry raised the ire of Republicans and achieved a new level of prominence among defenders of democracy when she led the independent U.S. Commission on Civil Rights in an investigation of the “Voting Irregularities in Florida during the 2000 Presidential Election.”

Berry s place in history however was created not only by significant appointments and political activism ...

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Mark Richardson

Half-way between Maine and Florida, in the heart of the Alleghenies,” wrote W. E. B. Du Bois in John Brown (1909), the year before he helped found the NAACP, “a mighty gateway lifts its head and discloses a scene which, a century and a quarter ago, Thomas Jefferson said was ‘worthy a voyage across the Atlantic.’ ” Whereupon he continues citing Jefferson's words from Notes on the State of Virginia (1785):

You stand on a very high point of land; on your right comes up the Shenandoah, having ranged along the foot of the mountain a hundred miles to find a vent; on your left approaches the Potomac, in quest of a passage also. In the moment of their junction they rush together against the mountain, rend it asunder, and pass off to the sea.

The place is Harpers Ferry Virginia later West Virginia where in ...

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Noralee Frankel

historian, was born in Tuskegee, Alabama, the daughter of Matthew Woods and Evadne Adams, professors. Her maternal grandfather, Lewis Adams, was born a slave and after the Civil War was instrumental in establishing the Tuskegee Normal School in 1881. Her parents both taught at Tuskegee Institute, continuing the family's commitment to education. Letitia attended Tuskegee Institute High School and graduated with a BS from Tuskegee Institute in 1935. In 1937 she completed her MA at Ohio State University. While working on an advanced degree at Radcliffe College, Letitia married Theodore E. Brown, a labor economist who later worked for the Agency for International Development in the U.S. Department of State. After raising two children and becoming involved in community projects in Mount Vernon, New York, she attended Harvard University, which awarded her a PhD in 1966.

As a historian Letitia Woods Brown sought to ...

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John C. Gruesser

Born a slave in Maryland, John Edward Bruce grew up in Washington, D.C. Developing an interest in journalism, he worked as a general helper in the office of the Washington correspondent for the New York Times in 1874. By the time Bruce was twenty he was writing for newspapers, using the pen name “Rising Sun”, and in 1879 he started his own paper, the Argus, in Washington, D.C. In 1884 Bruce began writing under the name “Bruce Grit” in the Cleveland Gazette and the New York Age, eventually becoming one of the most widely read and influential African American journalists of his era. In his writings and speeches, Bruce decried mixed-race marriages, denounced Euro-American imperialism, aggressively promoted race pride and solidarity, championed self-help, and advocated the study of black history to combat the anti-Negro rhetoric of the post-Reconstruction period.

Bruce served as a conduit linking people ...

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David Alvin Canton

John Edward Bruce was born in Piscataway, Maryland, the son of Martha Allen Clark and Robert Bruce, who were both enslaved Africans. In 1859Major Harvey Griffin, Robert Bruce's slaveholder, sold him to a Georgia slaveholder. Raised by his mother, Bruce lived in Maryland until 1861 when Union troops marching through Maryland freed him and his mother, taking them to Washington, D.C., where Bruce lived until 1892. In 1865 Bruce's mother worked as a domestic in Stratford, Connecticut, where Bruce received his early education in an integrated school. One year later they returned to Washington, where Bruce continued his education. Although he did not complete high school, he enrolled in a course at Howard University in 1872. Bruce married Lucy Pinkwood, an opera singer from Washington, D.C. They had no children. In 1895 Bruce married Florence Adelaide Bishop with whom he had ...

Article

David Alvin Canton

journalist and historian, was born in Piscataway, Maryland, the son of Martha Allen Clark and Robert Bruce, who were both enslaved Africans. In 1859Major Harvey Griffin, Robert Bruce's owner, sold Robert to a Georgia slaveholder. Raised by his mother, John lived in Maryland until 1861, when Union troops marching through Maryland freed him and his mother, taking them to Washington, D.C., where John lived until 1892. In 1865 John's mother worked as a domestic in Stratford, Connecticut, where her son received his early education in an integrated school. One year later they returned to Washington, D.C., where John continued his education. Although he did not complete high school, he enrolled in a course at Howard University in 1872. John married Lucy Pinkwood, an opera singer from Washington, D.C. In 1895 he married Florence Adelaide Bishop, with whom he had one child.

Bruce began ...

Article

Thomas Clarkin

scholar and diplomat, was born Ralph Johnson Bunche in Detroit, Michigan, the son of Fred Bunch, a barber, and Olive Agnes Johnson. His grandmother added an “e” to the family's last name following a move to Los Angeles, California. Because his family moved frequently, Bunche attended a number of public schools before graduating first in his class from Jefferson High School in Los Angeles in 1922. He majored in Political Science at the University of California, Southern Branch (now University of California, Los Angeles [UCLA]), graduating summa cum laude and serving as class valedictorian in 1927. He continued his studies in political science at Harvard, receiving his MA in 1928, and then taught at Howard University in Washington, D.C., while working toward his PhD at Harvard. In 1930 he married Ruth Ethel Harris they had three children Bunche traveled to Europe and Africa researching ...

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Ben Keppel

Born in Detroit, the son of a barber, Bunche graduated summa cum laude from the University of California at Los Angeles in 1927 and went on to earn a Ph.D. in government from Harvard in 1934. His dissertation, French Administration in Togoland and Dahomey, won an award as the best political science dissertation produced at Harvard that year. Bunche founded the political science department at Howard University, where he taught from 1928 to 1950. His book A World View of Race (1936) saw racial conflict as a product of class conflict. He was an influential adviser to the Swedish social scientist Gunnar Myrdal on his classic 1944 study of U.S. race relations, An American Dilemma. Bunche married Ruth Ethel Harris, a Washington, D.C., schoolteacher, in 1930. They had three children.

During World War II Bunche served in the Office of Strategic Services ...

Article

Lawrie Balfour

Born in Detroit, Michigan, Ralph Johnson Bunche spent his early years with his parents in Detroit and in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He attributed his achievements to the influence of his maternal grandmother, Lucy Johnson, with whom he lived in Los Angeles, California, after he was orphaned at age thirteen. Johnson not only insisted that her grandson be self-reliant and proud of his race, but also that he, a high school valedictorian, go to college.

Bunche enrolled at the University of California at Los Angeles, and after graduating summa cum laude in 1927, he entered graduate school at Harvard University in Massachusetts. He was the first black American to earn a Ph.D. degree in political science from an American university. Bunche won the prize for the outstanding doctoral thesis in the social sciences in 1934 He conducted his postdoctoral research on African colonialism He did his research ...

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Joseph C. Heim

scholar, university professor, diplomat, UN administrator, and Nobel Peace Prize recipient. In the 1950s and 1960s Bunche was the most visible African American on the world stage. But his accomplishments were far in the future when he was born in modest circumstances in Detroit, Michigan, the son of Fred Bunche, a barber, and Olive Bunche. His parents, however, were constantly in poor health, and after their early deaths Bunche was raised by his grandmother, Lucy Johnson, in Los Angeles.

His grandmother s diligence and inspiration guided and shaped Bunche s youth and he compiled a record of stellar achievement both in athletics he later was a guard on the basketball team of the University of California at Los Angeles UCLA and in academics This he did while holding numerous jobs from delivering newspapers to laying carpets on merchant ships His early years also ...

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Brenna Sanchez

Englishprofessor, civil rights activist, and scholar of African American literature, was born Mary Fair and raised in Montgomery, Alabama. Little information is available about her family. Burks bucked the Jim Crow system of segregation even as a child in the 1930s, using whites-only elevators, restrooms, and other facilities in what she later called “my own private guerilla warfare” (Bolden, 241). At age eighteen she earned a bachelor's degree in English Literature from Alabama State College, and a year later earned her master's degree from the University of Michigan. She returned to Montgomery to teach English at the Alabama State Laboratory High School and, later, at Alabama State College. Burks married the principal of Alabama State Laboratory High School, Nathaniel Burks. The couple would have one son, Nathaniel W. Burks Jr.

She became head of the Alabama State College English department and later earned her doctorate from Columbia ...

Article

Joseph Wilson and David Addams

a central figure in the civil rights and human rights movement in the United States as an activist, attorney, and scholar. Born in New York City in 1940, William Haywood Burns helped integrate the swimming pool in Peekskill, New York, at fifteen years of age and was a leader in the struggle for human rights and civil rights over the next four decades. He graduated from Harvard College in 1962. As a law student at Yale University, he participated in the 1964 Freedom Summer in Mississippi. He already had authored The Voices of Negro Protest (1963), which critiqued the leadership and mass character of the civil rights movement, and throughout his career he contributed chapters to other books. He was assistant counsel to the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund in the late 1960s. Later he served as general counsel to Martin Luther King Jr.'s ...

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Michael Mizell-Nelson

poet, historian, civil rights activist, college instructor, and small businessman, was born in Houma (Mechanicsville), Louisiana, to Emanuel Banks Christian and Rebecca Harris. Christian was born into a family of teachers; both his father and grandfather had taught in rural Louisiana. The latter was a former slave who served as a director of the Lafourche Parish public school system during Reconstruction. Christian's mother died when he was three, and his father, who had tutored him, died ten years later. Little else is known of his early education. He moved with his siblings to New Orleans in 1919, where he worked as a chauffeur before opening his own dry cleaners business. During the 1920s he started writing and publishing poetry, and he studied in the evening division of the New Orleans public school system. The publication of more than a dozen of Christian's poems in Opportunity during the ...

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Dianne Dentice

teacher, home economist, administrator, and civil rights activist, was born in Harrison, Texas, to Jeff D. and Meddie Lillian Estelle Allen. She was the oldest of their three children. Jeffie's father was an early graduate of Prairie View State Normal and Industrial College, established in 1876, and both her mother and maternal grandmother were teachers. When Jeffie was eleven years old her parents sent her to Mary Allen Seminary in Crocket, Texas, a school founded by Presbyterians in 1886 for the education of black girls. Her mother, an alumna of the school, considered it superior to the segregated public schools of the time. After two years at the seminary Jeffie scored exceedingly high marks on her entrance exams for Prairie View and began college as a thirteen-year-old sophomore in 1912. In 1914, at the age of fifteen, she graduated with a teaching certificate.

Conner began her ...

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Patricia Glinton-Meicholas

was born in 1797 in the French colony of Saint-Domingue (renamed Haiti following its revolution). He was the son of Mary Catherine Esther Argo (also “Hester Argeaux”), a free woman of African descent. His father was purportedly Etienne Dillet, a French army officer. Naturalized as a British subject of The Bahamas in 1828, Stephen Dillet became a member of one of the earliest organized civil rights pressure groups in The Bahamas, and he was the first Bahamian of color to win election to the colony’s Parliament.

Dillet was a man whose character and social and political pursuits were deeply influenced by events of international import, which supplied the context for his life. His birth in 1797 six years after the outbreak of the Haitian revolution was attended by bloody conflict The chief combatants were the free people of color and enslaved blacks who had rebelled to free themselves ...

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Lawrie Balfour

The son of a Baptist minister from Barbados and a Virginia schoolteacher, John Gibbs St. Clair Drake grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and Staunton, Virginia. As a student at Hampton Institute (now Hampton University) in Virginia from 1927 to 1931, he majored in biology, but his study of anthropology with Professor W. Allison Davis defined Drake's future.

After graduating Hampton, Drake worked as a high school teacher in rural Virginia and continued his interest in anthropology. His contributions to a social survey of life in a Mississippi town were published as part of Davis's study titled Deep South: A Social Anthropological Study of Caste and Class (1941). Drake also became involved in the peace movement, spending his summers with Quaker activists. Reflecting on the “peace caravan” that took him and other demonstrators through the South during the summer of 1931 Drake commented that he just ...