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Peter Wallenstein

educator and civil rights litigant, was born in Norfolk, Virginia, the son of William Henry “Sonnie” Alston, a drayman, and Mary Elizabeth “Lizzie” Smith, a laundress. The Alstons owned their home, and Melvin grew up in a middle-class environment. After attending Norfolk's segregated black public schools and graduating from Booker T. Washington High School, he graduated in 1935 from Virginia State College, where he was honored for his debating and for excellence in scholarship. Following graduation he began teaching math at Booker T. Washington High School. Beginning in 1937 he served as president of the Norfolk Teachers Association, and he also held local leadership positions in the Young Men's Christian Association and the First Calvary Baptist Church.

Alston played a key role in an effort by black teachers in the Norfolk city public schools to challenge racial discrimination in their salaries. In 1937 the Virginia Teachers Association VTA and ...

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Joy Gleason Carew

civil rights lawyer, community activist, editor, and publisher, was born in Winston, North Carolina, the sixth and last son of nine children of Simon Green and Oleona Pegram Atkins. His father was the founder and first president of the Slater Industrial Academy, later known as Winston‐Salem State University. Atkins graduated from the Slater Academy in 1915 and then went to Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee, graduating magna cum laude in chemistry in 1919.

When Atkins obtained his LLB cum laude at Yale University in 1922, he was the first African American to graduate with honors from that institution. While there, Atkins was a member of the debate team and served as a monitor of the Yale Law Library, where he oversaw the indexing of thirty‐one volumes of the Yale Law Journal. In 1921 he was the first African American elected to the editorial board of the Yale ...

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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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Glenn Allen Knoblock

Marine Corps soldier in the Vietnam War and‐Medal of Honor winner, was born in Nacogdoches, Texas, the son of Frank and Mildred Austin, and‐was raised in Phoenix, Arizona. A graduate of Phoenix Union High School, Austin was inducted for service in the U.S. Marine Corps during the height of the Vietnam War on 22 April 1968. Upon joining the marines, he was sent to boot camp at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego, California, and served as a member of the Third Recruit Training Battalion through July 1968. Austin subsequently received individual combat and infantryman training at Camp Pendleton, California, from August to September 1968 as part of the Second Infantry Training Regiment, following which, in October 1968, he was promoted to private first class. Later that month, on 15 October he was sent to the Republic of Vietnam for his first tour of ...

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Adam W. Green

United Statescongressman, was the third child born to Frank Winston Ballance, a sharecropper, and Alice Eason Ballance, a homemaker and care worker. Ballance was born and raised on a farm in Windsor, eastern North Carolina, part of the rural tobacco farming communities of the impoverished and segregated Bertie County. Ballance learned at an early age the import of fighting for civil rights; his mother was heavily involved in black voter registration drives when he was a child. After graduating W.S. Etheridge High School in 1959, he moved to attend North Carolina Central University in Durham.

In college, Ballance became involved in marches and sit-ins in the city, including ones aimed at larger department stores like Woolworth's. After receiving his B.A. in 1963, he remained at the university to study law. In 1965 he taught law at South Carolina State College but the following ...

Article

Lili C. Behm

politician and civil rights activist, was born in Memphis, Tennessee, the youngest son of Adlena (Gilliam) and Earnest Barbee, the latter a painting contractor and the first African American member of the Tennessee state contractor's union. Lloyd Barbee became involved with the struggle for African Americans’ civil rights when he joined the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in 1937 at age twelve. Though his family lived in poverty in the Depression‐era Jim Crow South, Barbee's father and uncles encouraged him to pursue higher education. After serving in the U.S. Navy from 1943 to 1946, Barbee earned his bachelor of arts degree at Memphis's all‐black LeMoyne College in 1949, and decided to pursue legal studies at the University of Wisconsin–Madison Law School. He had received a scholarship to the school, and sought to leave behind virulent Southern racism.

Though he suspended his studies out ...

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David A. Spatz

attorney and journalist. Ferdinand Lee Barnett was born in Nashville, Tennessee, in 1859. His father, born a slave, purchased his freedom and worked much of his life as a blacksmith. The family moved to Canada soon after Ferdinand was born and then to Chicago in 1869. Barnett was educated in Chicago schools, graduating from high school in 1874 with high honors. After teaching in the South for two years, he returned to Chicago and attended Chicago College of Law, later affiliated with Northwestern Law School.

Barnett graduated from law school and was admitted to the Illinois bar in 1878. Rather than immediately practicing law, he founded the Conservator, Chicago's first African American newspaper. The Conservator was a radical voice for justice and racial solidarity as means to equal rights for African Americans. The Conservator also drew national attention to Barnett He served as Chicago ...

Article

Jared A. Ball

law professor, writer, and theoretical pioneer in critical race theory, narrative scholarship, and the economic-determinist approach to race history. As a student and professor of law, Derrick Bell pioneered critical race theory as a tool to explain and challenge the centrality of an apparently immutable racism that permeates every aspect of U.S. society. Bell sees this amorphous yet unremitting racism as essential to the maintenance of the U.S. socioeconomic order. His perspective derives from his personal experience coming of age in an era marked by global struggles for liberation. In his essay “Great Expectations” he vividly describes the effect of government policies on black Americans:

If the nation s policies towards blacks were revised to require weekly random round ups of several hundred blacks who were then taken to a secluded place and shot that policy would be more dramatic but hardly different in result than the policies ...

Article

Brian Gilmore

lawyer and educator, was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to Derrick A. Bell Sr. and Ada Elizabeth Bell. Bell was born during the Great Depression and grew up in the city's black neighborhood known as “the Hill.” Bell's father was employed as a porter in a Pittsburgh department store and also earned extra money through the underground numbers racket. In 1939 Bell Sr. hit the number for $700 and at the urging of his wife purchased a three-bedroom home in a more prosperous neighborhood. Eventually, Bell's father opened his own business hauling refuse.

Throughout his early life Bell had a newspaper route that provided him with spending money and made him aware of the rich diversity of Pittsburgh s middle class black world He met lawyers doctors laborers ministers and postal workers all living and working in the same segregated neighborhoods It was at the urging of one of ...

Article

Harold N. Burdett

jurist and civil rights activist, was born in Rocky Mount, North Carolina, the son of Thomas Bell, a construction worker, and Rosa Lee (Jordan) Bell, a health-care practitioner and the daughter of sharecroppers. In the mid-1940s Robert M. Bell, his parents, and two older brothers moved to Baltimore, Maryland, where he entered public schools.

As a sixteen-year-old student at Baltimore's Dunbar High School, Bell was recruited by the Civic Interest Group, a student integrationist organization, along with classmates and students from the historically black Morgan State College, to enter whites-only restaurants and request service. Years later Bell recalled that at the time he did not tell his mother what he was doing because he considered it a “high risk” undertaking (Cox).

On 17 June 1960 some five months after the historic sit in demonstrations at a segregated Woolworth s lunch counter in Greensboro North Carolina Bell ...

Article

Brett Gadsden

teacher, civil rights activist, plaintiff in Belton v. Gebhart (1952), a companion case to Brown v. Board of Education (1954), was born in Hazelhurse, Georgia, the daughter of Glover and Ida Hall.

Around 1948, almost a decade after her husband Louis passed away, Ethel Belton moved with her seven children to Claymont, Delaware, a suburban community northwest of Wilmington, Delaware, to join her extended family. There she taught general education in a one-room school. Her daughter, Ethel Louise Belton was eleven years old at the time of the move and was later assigned to Howard High School the only free public school for blacks in the entire state at the time Located in Wilmington it was a fifty minute nine mile commute for Ethel Louise who had a congenital heart condition Although Claymont High School the school for white children in ...

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 ...

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J. D. Jackson

civil rights attorney and political activist, was born in Birmingham, Alabama. One of three sons, he attended Birmingham public schools, including the city's first and oldest, and, at one time, the South's largest African American high school, Industrial (A. H. Parker) High.

After graduating from high school Billingsley attended two highly respected, historically black institutions of higher learning. The first was Talladega College, a private liberal arts college located in Alabama, fifty miles east of Birmingham. He graduated with high honors in 1946 and headed for Washington, D.C., where he attended Howard University School of Law. He earned his law degree there in 1950. Afterward, he returned to Alabama, where he was admitted to the Alabama state bar in 1951, one of the first ten African Americans to do so.

Instantly Billingsley threw himself behind the post World War II fight for full black citizenship in America Always ...

Article

Adam W. Green

politician, was born in Mobile, Alabama, to Sanford Dixon Bishop, an educational administrator and first president of Bishop State Community College, and Minnie Bethany Slade Bishop, a librarian. When he was seven years old, the family moved to Toulminville, a transitional neighborhood in Mobile for poor and working-class whites, where a black subdivision had been built. The Deep South's segregation and hostility were not foreign to Bishop growing up: The Ku Klux Klan had been active with cross-burnings in the district, and the new black community began a neighborhood watch. As a youth, Bishop was heavily involved with the Boy Scouts, later becoming an Eagle Scout and member of the Order of the Arrow, the Scouts' honor society.

Bishop s schools Booker T Washington Junior High for blacks and Central High School for whites were segregated and the second hand textbooks and supplements were not ideal for the son ...

Article

Ralph E. Luker

Blackwell, Randolph Talmadge (10 March 1927–21 May 1981), attorney, educator, and civil rights activist, was born in Greensboro, North Carolina, the son of Joe Blackwell and Blanche Mary Donnell. He attended the city’s public schools for African-American youth and earned a B.S. in sociology from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical University in Greensboro in 1949. Four years later Blackwell earned a J.D. degree from Howard University in Washington, D.C. In December 1954 he married Elizabeth Knox. The couple had one child. After teaching economics for a year at Alabama Agricultural and Mechanical College in Normal, Alabama, near Huntsville, Blackwell became an associate professor of social sciences at Winston-Salem State Teachers College in North Carolina.

Because of his legal background Wiley Branton the director of the Voter Education Project VEP hired Blackwell as its field director in 1962 Secretly encouraged by the Kennedy administration VEP was launched in ...

Article

Ralph E. Luker

attorney, educator, and civil rights activist, was born in Greensboro, North Carolina, the son of Joe Blackwell and Blanche Mary Donnell. Randolph attended the city's public schools for African Americans and earned a BS in Sociology from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical University in Greensboro in 1949. Four years later he earned a JD degree from Howard University in Washington, D.C. In December 1954 Blackwell married Elizabeth Knox; the couple had one child. After teaching economics for a year at Alabama Agricultural and Mechanical College in Normal, Alabama, Blackwell became an associate professor of social sciences at Winston‐Salem State Teachers College in North Carolina.

Because of Blackwell's legal background, Wiley Branton, the director of the Voter Education Project (VEP), hired Blackwell as its field director in 1962. Secretly encouraged by the Kennedy administration, the VEP was launched in April 1962 with funding from private ...

Article

Mason R. Hazzard

police officer, civil rights activist, and litigant, was born in Waterbury, Connecticut, to Cicero B. Booker Sr., the first African American police officer in the town of Waterbury, and Addie Booker, a homemaker.

Booker attended and graduated from the local public schools before going on to further his education, earning an associate's degree in Police Science and Administration from Mattatuck Community College, now known as Naugatuck Valley Community College, in Waterbury in 1978. He also attended Western Connecticut State University. In 1955, at the age of seventeen, Booker enrolled in the US Marine Corps as a private, remaining on active duty for three years until he left the military in 1958 at the rank of corporal.

Booker then joined the police department in his hometown of Waterbury in 1961. He quickly ascended to the rank of patrol officer, but by 1985 his ...

Article

Erin L. Thompson

lawyer and civil rights activist. Wiley Austin Branton was born in Pine Bluff, Arkansas. His father, Leo Branton, owned and operated a prosperous taxicab business, and his mother, Pauline Wiley, was a schoolteacher and a graduate from the Tuskegee Institute. Branton's education at the Arkansas Agricultural, Mechanical, and Normal College (now the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff) was interrupted in 1943, when he was drafted into the U.S. Army and fought in World War II, working in intelligence and bridge construction.

Branton returned to Pine Bluff to inherit his father's business. Horrified by the discrimination he had witnessed in the segregated army, Branton became active in civil rights, joining the Arkansas State Conference of NAACP Branches. His efforts to instruct local African Americans how to mark election ballots during a 1948 voter registration drive resulted in a misdemeanor conviction for teaching the mechanics of ...

Article

Judith Kilpatrick

lawyer and civil rights activist, was born in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, to Pauline Wiley and Leo Branton, who operated a taxicab company. The family was of mixed race on both sides, and Wiley Branton attended segregated public schools through the twelfth grade, benefiting from the fact that Pine Bluff was one of the few Arkansas towns offering a high school education to African Americans.

The Wiley and Branton families were prominent in the Pine Bluff African American community and were respected in the white community. Wiley's maternal grandfather was a charter member of Pine Bluff's chapter of the NAACP. His grandmother, Effa Wiley was a community activist who had a great influence on Wiley s early development He accompanied her on neighborhood visits to troubled homes and to meetings and conferences of black groups where problems of segregation and unequal treatment were discussed From her Wiley learned compassion ...

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 ...