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Allen J. Fromherz

was the first independent Hafsid ruler, or emir, in Tunis. Starting first as governor of Gabes and Tunis, he reigned as sole emir from 1229 to 1249. As emir he claimed a large swath of territory in central North Africa. His independence began when he broke from the Almohad caliph in Marrakech over the role of the Mahdi Ibn Tumart, the religious founder of the Almohad movement and empire that was then in decline. Abu Zakariya Yahya bin Hafs built the foundations for one of the longest-lasting ruling dynasties in the history of North Africa, the Hafsid Almohads. Born in 1203 his family came from the Atlas Mountains of Morocco His grandfather Abu Hafs al Hintati a shaykh or leader from the Hintata Berber Masmuda tribe was a great Almohad second in command to Abd al Muʾmin the first caliph of the Almohads Abu Hafs al ...

Article

Grantley Herbert Adams was born in Government Hill, Barbados, then a British colony. His father, Fitzherbert Adams, was a black man and the head teacher of one of the island's largest primary schools, Saint Giles. His mother, Rosa Frances Adams, was a coloured woman (of mixed African and European descent). By West Indian standards, the Adams family was part of the lower middle class, removed from the endemic poverty that engulfed the disenfranchised black majority.

Like his father, Adams attended Harrisons College, the colony's premier secondary school. In 1919 he won a prestigious island scholarship to Oxford University in England, where he studied law. In England he met intellectuals from the colonized world, many of whom, like himself, had joined the Fabian Society, a socialist movement that supported decolonization and the end of the British Empire. In 1925 Adams returned to Barbados working as a lawyer ...

Article

Antero Pietila

political activist, born in Baltimore, Maryland, was the daughter of Joseph C. Quille, a chauffeur, and Estelle Tate Quille, a beautician. She grew up at 2426 McCulloh Street, a cramped row house just thirteen feet wide in Baltimore's Sugar Hill neighborhood.

The Quilles had moved to Sugar Hill, southwest of Druid Hill Park, in the mid-1920s, continuing a racial transformation begun in 1910. That year the future NAACP attorney William Ashbie Hawkins scorned the generally accepted line of racial demarcation by buying 1834 McCulloh Street on a largely Jewish block near Eutaw Place, a prestigious address. This “Negro Invasion,” as the Baltimore Sun called it, prompted the all-white City Council legally to prohibit blacks from moving to majority-white blocks. This was the nation's first residential segregation law, and some thirty other cities copied it, mostly in the states of the former Confederacy.

The Quilles lived among teachers postal ...

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Antero Pietila

a teenaged numbers runner who become an important Baltimore business leader, was born into a family of sharecroppers. He was raised by his grandparents in Zebulon, North Carolina, and moved to Baltimore in 1929, during the Depression. He quickly grew tired of the city's Dunbar High School, working instead in a rag factory and fixing bicycles—a sideline he had begun at age ten. On his bicycle, he also ran errands for numbers operators; lucrative illegal lotteries thrived in the city under the protection of the Democratic machine. By the age of twenty, he was an aspiring kingpin, and the owner of three stores.

Adams's grip on numbers strengthened in 1938, after the death of the city's “Black King,” Democratic boss Tom Smith Adams filled the vacuum That year white Philadelphia gangsters firebombed his tavern He repelled the takeover attempt living up to his nickname Little Willie acquired ...

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Stephen D. Glazier

African American religious, educational, and political leader, was born in Brownsville, Pennsylvania, the son of Samuel G. Arnett and Mary Louisa (maiden name unknown). Benjamin Arnett was a man of “mixed Irish, Indian, Scots, and African ancestry” (Wright, Eighty‐seven Years, 79). He was educated in a one‐room schoolhouse in Bridgeport, Pennsylvania. Arnett worked as a longshoreman along the Ohio and Mississippi rivers and worked briefly as a hotel waiter. His career as a longshoreman and waiter ended abruptly in 1858 when a cancerous tumor necessitated the amputation of his left leg. He turned to teaching and was granted a certificate on 19 December 1863. At that time he was the only African American schoolteacher licensed in Fayette County, Pennsylvania. For ten months during the academic year 1884–1885, Arnett served as a school principal in Washington, D.C. He returned to Brownsville in 1885, teaching there until 1887 ...

Article

Benjamin William Arnett, Jr., was born in Brownsville, Pennsylvania. He was entirely self-taught. After working as a waiter and a dockworker, he became certified as a teacher in Brownsville in 1864, but he moved to Washington, D.C., and decided to become a minister in the African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME). After receiving his license to preach in 1865, he was assigned his first pastorate in 1867 in Walnut Hills, Ohio, near Cincinnati; Arnett also taught school there. First ordained as a deacon in the AME church in 1868, he became an elder in 1870. He served the AME General Conference as its secretary in 1876 and its financial secretary in 1880. In addition, he established close connections to the AME church's center for learning, Wilberforce University in Ohio.

During the American Civil War (1861–1865 Arnett had worked with Frederick Douglass s National ...

Article

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

Chandra M. Miller

dentist and politician, was born into slavery in North Carolina and was known as Samuel Nixon before his escape from bondage in 1855. Nothing is known about his parents. He was sold several times before being purchased by C. F. Martin, a dentist in Norfolk, Virginia. As Martin's slave, Nixon learned sufficient dentistry to serve as the doctor's assistant and to make dental house calls. He also developed bookkeeping skills and monitored the doctor's accounts.

In Norfolk, Nixon became involved with the Underground Railroad. Befriending the captains of many of the schooners sailing in and out of Norfolk, he often convinced them to hide fugitive slaves aboard ship and carry them north, usually to Philadelphia or to New Bedford, Massachusetts. After conducting many other slaves through the Underground Railroad, Nixon decided to become a passenger himself in March 1855 He and three other slaves disguised themselves and ...

Article

Theresa W. Bennett-Wilkes

politician and human relations advocate. In November 1993 Sayles Belton made history as the first African American and first female elected mayor of Minneapolis, Minnesota. A native of Minneapolis, she was born Sharon Sayles, the daughter of Bill Sayles, the city's first African American car salesman, and Marian Sayles. After her parents divorced, Sayles Belton lived briefly with her mother. Marian Sayles moved to Cleveland, and Sayles Belton then lived with her father and stepmother. During her high school years she volunteered as a candy striper, that is, a nurse's assistant, an experience that exposed her to human suffering.

Sayles Belton attended Macalester College in Saint Paul Minnesota She continued to do volunteer work registering African Americans to vote in Jackson Mississippi She became pregnant during her senior year and her daughter was born with brain damage Unmarried and unemployed Sayles Belton dropped out of school and was ...

Article

Born in Mobile, Alabama, Bishop received a bachelor's degree in 1968 from Morehouse College in Atlanta. After graduating from Emory Law School in Atlanta in 1971 he practiced civil rights law in Columbus Georgia He built his reputation as a member of the Georgia State House of Representatives ...

Article

David Michel

politician, was born the son of Thomas Williams Blackwell, a grocery store owner, and Mary Ellen Blackwell in Whitsett, Pennsylvania. Blackwell was one of eleven children. After completing high school in 1949 he matriculated at St. Joseph's College in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He left college and worked as a dock worker. In 1953 he joined the U.S. Army and served in the Korean War. After a year he was discharged and returned to his previous job on the waterfront. He participated in labor activities and served as trustee, vice president, and business agent of Local 1332 of the International Longshoremen's Association (ILA). In 1973 he became president of the local chapter of the ILA, a position he retained until 1991.

Blackwell married Jannie L. Blackwell, a former schoolteacher, around 1973 At the time he was a single father with six children from a previous marriage Blackwell s ...

Article

Tayren Woodard

lawyer, politician, missionary, and diplomat, was born in Ohio to Rebecca and Billy Bowser in 1831, the year of the Nat Turner Revolt in Virginia. To avoid being sold into slavery, the Bowsers, who were free-born black natives of Virginia, left the state soon after the revolt, in which over sixty whites were killed. The Bowser family relocated to Logan County, Ohio. Rebecca, who worked as a house servant, owned about $500 worth of real estate around the time of her death. During this time, her real estate was considered impressive for a free black in Ohio. Shortly thereafter, Billy also died.

At the time Bolding was the only boy and the oldest of four children Bolding had three younger sisters Cristine Mary and Elizabeth All of the Bowser children attended school Although little is known about his early years we do know that Bolding attended school at the ...

Article

Joseph P. Reidy

Reconstruction politician, was born in Edgefield District, South Carolina, the son of unknown slaves on the plantation of Francis Pickens, a prominent politician. Little is known of Bradley's youth and early manhood other than that he was a shoemaker for a time in Augusta, Georgia, and that he escaped slavery and made his way to the North, apparently during the 1830s. He lived for a time in New York and in Boston. In Boston he not only met abolitionists but also studied the law and eventually became a practicing attorney.

The Civil War opened new horizons. Bradley returned south late in 1865 and settled in Savannah, Georgia, intending, it seems, to open a law practice and a school. Drawn inexorably to the public arena, he began to champion the cause of freed people who were resisting President Andrew Johnson's policy of restoring plantation land to its antebellum owners Bradley ...

Article

James W. Riddlesperger

disability advocate and cabinet secretary, was born in Detroit, Michigan, but grew up in Chicago. He attended Catholic University in Washington, D.C., and Roosevelt College in Chicago. He graduated from Chicago City College and subsequently enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps in 1963, serving in the Vietnam War. There he was seriously wounded when an enemy bullet shattered his right arm while he was on patrol in Da Nang, leaving him partially paralyzed. In a real sense, that injury defined the rest of Brown's career.

Upon leaving the Marine Corps in 1966 Brown joined the Disabled American Veterans (DAV), an advocacy group supporting the cause of veterans injured while in military service. The organization had been founded in 1920 and given a congressional charter in 1932 and was the official voice of America s service connected disabled veterans representing all of America s disabled veterans their families and ...

Article

Ronald Walters

Democratic Party activist and cabinet secretary, was born Ronald Harmon Brown at Freedmen's Hospital in Washington, D.C., the son of William Brown, who worked for the Federal Housing and Home Finance Agency, and Gloria Elexine Carter. The Browns moved to Harlem, New York, in 1947, and Ron grew up in the famed Theresa Hotel, where his father was manager. Joe Louis was a frequent guest, and gave young Ron the nickname “Little Brown.” Ron showed his entrepreneurial skills at an early age by getting autographs of Louis, Sugar Ray Robinson and other celebrity guests at the Theresa and selling them for five dollars each to his friends His parents both graduates of Howard University set Ron on a solid path to join the black middle class which became in many ways the social network that would make possible many of his achievements As a child he ...

Article

Mohammed Badrul Alam

the first African American secretary of commerce and the first African American chairman of a national political party. Ron Brown was born in Washington, D.C., on 1 August 1941 and was raised in the Harlem section of New York City. He attended Middlebury College, where he was the first African American member of Sigma Phi Epsilon, a national men's collegiate fraternity that for a long time had accepted only white Christians. Upon graduation from Middlebury, Brown joined the U.S. Army in 1962 and served with distinction in Europe and South Korea. After being honorably discharged in 1967, he joined the National Urban League, one of the premier groups in the United States espousing equality. He also earned a law degree from St. John's University in 1970.

Because of his organizational and oratorical skills, Brown was appointed deputy campaign manager for Senator Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts who ...

Article

Alonford James Robinson

Born in Washington, D.C., Ron Brown grew up in Harlem, New York. He graduated from Middlebury College in Vermont in 1962, after becoming the first black student to pledge a fraternity there. He enlisted in the United States Army. After his service, Brown worked for the National Urban League in New York while earning his law degree at night from St. John's University in 1970. He held several positions in the Urban League from 1968 to 1979, including general counsel, chief Washington spokesperson, deputy executive director, and vice president of Washington operations.

In Washington, D.C., Brown became active in the Democratic Party, and in 1979 he served as deputy manager of U.S. Senator Edward Kennedy's presidential campaign. A year later Kennedy appointed him the chief counsel to the Senate Judiciary Committee. In 1982 Brown resigned from the senate committee to become deputy ...

Article

Robert Fay

Blanche Kelso Bruce's professional career followed the arc of Reconstruction history. Bruce escaped from slavery during the Civil War (1861–1865). He moved south after the war to capitalize on opportunities for economic and political advancement that were newly available to African Americans there. His political fortunes waned after the late 1870s, when Southern Democrats regained control of politics and blacks were again relegated to second-class status socially and politically.

Bruce was born a slave in rural Farmville, Virginia, but his childhood differed from that of most other slave children. His owner, Pettus Perkinson regarded him more as a son than as a slave A favored playmate of Perkinson s son Bruce was educated by the Perkinson tutor and rarely worked in the fields He lived in Missouri at the outbreak of the Civil War and escaped to Lawrence Kansas There he tried to enlist in the Union ...

Article

William C. Harris

a slave. The identity of his father is unknown, but he took the surname of the man who owned his mother before he was born. His childhood as a slave on a small plantation, first in Virginia, then briefly in Mississippi, and finally in Missouri did not significantly differ, as he later recalled, from that of the sons of whites. This relatively benign experience in slavery perhaps owed a great deal to the fact that he was the light-skinned favorite of a benevolent master and mistress. He shared a tutor with his master's son and thus obtained the education that prepared him for later success. During the Civil War, despite the benevolence of his owner, he fled to freedom in Kansas, but after slavery was abolished he returned to Missouri, where he reportedly established the first school in the state for blacks, at Hannibal.

After the war Bruce briefly attended ...

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Lois Kerschen

from Mississippi. Blanche Kelso Bruce, the son of a black mother and white planter father, was born into slavery in Prince Edward County, Virginia. He escaped in 1861 while in St. Louis and in 1869 went to Mississippi, where over time he served as a supervisor of elections, the tax collector, the superintendent of schools, the sergeant-at-arms of the Mississippi State senate, the county assessor, and a member of the Board of Levee Commissioners of the Mississippi River. His public service brought him sufficient wealth to buy a large plantation in Floreyville. Bruce sided with other prominent blacks in their belief that freedmen should earn the money to buy land rather than receive acreage as a form of compensation.

When asked in 1873 to head the Republican ticket as a candidate for governor because of his popularity as sheriff of Bolivar County Bruce declined Instead he was elected ...