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Steven J. Niven

funeral home director and civil rights leader, was born in Charlotte, North Carolina, the youngest of the five children of Zechariah Alexander, a funeral home director, and Louise B. McCullough. Zechariah Alexander, the son of slaves, was a graduate of Biddle University (later Johnson C. Smith University), fought for the North Carolina Volunteer regiment during the Spanish-American war, and had worked as the Charlotte branch manager of the nation's largest black-owned business, C. C. Spaulding's North Carolina Life Insurance Company. He also helped found the Charlotte branch of the NAACP during World War I and ran, unsuccessfully, for Charlotte city council in 1937 The Alexander home was thus one that emphasized service to the nation and to the race as well as the virtues of self discipline self reliance and Christian faith Zechariah Alexander s political independence rare in early twentieth century North Carolina ...

Article

Joseph Wilson

Michigan politician. Born in Detroit, Charles Coles Diggs Jr. attended the University of Michigan and Fisk University and served in the U.S. Army during World War II. Following in his father's footsteps, Diggs worked as a funeral director in his family's business in Detroit, then was elected to his father's seat in the Michigan state senate in 1950. After sponsoring the state's Fair Employment Practices Commission, Diggs was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1954 as the first African American congressman from Michigan.

In the first year of his congressional career Diggs asserted leadership and became involved in the civil rights movement he spoke before ten thousand people attending a Mississippi conference organized by the largest civil rights group in the state the Regional Council of Negro Leadership Returning to Mississippi later that year he attended the notorious trial of the accused murderers of Emmett Till the ...

Article

Daryl A. Carter

United StatesCongressman, was born in Detroit, Michigan, to Charles Diggs Sr., a mortician, and Mamie Ethel Jones Diggs, a homemaker. As the product of a middle-class family, he learned politics at the knee of his father. Charles Sr. owned a mortuary, an insurance company, and an ambulance company. More importantly, Charles Sr. was very active politically, eventually serving in the Michigan State Senate. Detroit was also a major destination for African Americans escaping the South during the Great Migration, and thousands relocated to Detroit in the search for jobs and security. The combination of his father and the tectonic shifts taking place in Detroit seemed to have prompted the younger Diggs to excel academically. He graduated from Miller High School in 1940 and briefly attended the University of Michigan He transferred however to Fisk University after a couple of years While he was at Fisk ...

Article

elected county official and Macon, Georgia, civil rights leader, was born in Valdosta, Georgia, the fourth of six children of Harry and Carrie Randall. He was reared in Macon, where his father, formerly the Valdosta manager for the Afro-American Life Insurance Company, had returned to work for his own mother's grocery wholesale and retail business. William P. Randall graduated from Hudson High School and Beda Etta Business College in Macon before going to work as a carpenter. He worked for a large construction company but after World War II went into business with his brother, a bricklayer. Eventually he became one of the major black contractors in the Southeast, working on large-scale commercial and residential projects.

In an era when Jim Crow custom forced African Americans to step aside when a white approached on the sidewalk Randall s father taught him not to give way As ...

Article

Shennette Garrett-Scott

undertaker and insurance executive, was born Robert Crafton Scott in Richmond, Virginia, to Alpheus Scott, a skilled, self-employed shoemaker, and homemaker Angela Wilson Scott. When a teacher asked seven-year-old Robert Scott what he wanted to be when he grew up, he surprised the class by saying that he wanted to be an undertaker. Undertakers represented one of the most lucrative, highly respected, and socially significant professions in the African American community, rivaled perhaps by the ministry. Undertakers’ essential role in the burial rite reflected the critical cultural and spiritual importance blacks placed on the transition to the afterlife. The class was likely surprised at young Scott's choice because, despite advances in mortuary science necessitated by the Civil War, at the turn of the twentieth century undertaking remained a gruesome mix of science, ritual, and mystery.

In 1897 Scott's mother died, and his father sent his sister Cleopatra ...