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Dominique Achille

was born to Marguerite Raymonne Ferdinand and Philéas Gustave Louis Achille on 31 August 1909 in Fort-de-France, Martinique, then a French colony. His father was the first man of color who passed “agrégation” (the highest teaching diploma in France) in the English language in 1905. Achille’s family history can be traced back to slaves who were freed in 1794. He spent his childhood and teenage years in Martinique, in an upper-middle-class family.

In 1926 he began studying English at Louis-le-Grand High School and at the Sorbonne in Paris, where Georges Pompidou and Léopold Sedar Senghor were among his peers. In the 1930s he contributed to La Revue du Monde Noir The Review of the Black World issued in Paris by his cousins Paulette and Jane Nardal This publication addressed cultural links between colored writers poets and thinkers through the world because at that time no specific review ...

Article

Charles Orson Cook

one of the most prolific white scholars of African American history in the twentieth century. Herbert Aptheker was born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1915 and was educated at Columbia University in the 1930s, where he took an undergraduate degree in geology and an MA and a PhD in history. His first important publication, American Negro Slave Revolts (1943), was based on his doctoral dissertation and challenged the prevailing wisdom that slaves were largely passive victims of white masters. In part an outgrowth of Aptheker's master's thesis on Nat Turner, American Negro Slave Revolts immediately became a controversial work and has remained so since. He was befriended by the influential African American historian Carter G. Woodson and the legendary black intellectual W. E. B. Du Bois, both of whom encouraged his interest in Negro history. Aptheker's other writings include a seven-volume Documentary History of the Negro People ...

Article

Lesley S. Curtis

from a prominent Haitian family of both European and African ancestry. Céligny’s date of birth is listed as 1801 on a birth certificate filed in 1805, which has created some confusion as to his real age. His father was Alexis Antoine Ardouin and his mother was Lolotte Félix Galez. Birth certificates of his younger siblings reveal that he grew up in close contact with his father, his father’s wife, Suzanne Léger Ardouin, and their seven children, including the famous historian Beaubrun Ardouin and the poet Corolian Ardouin. Céligny married Marie Angélique Liautaud in 1823 and had six children.

Céligny’s most significant work, Essais sur l’histoire d’Haïti (Essays on the History of Haiti) was written and published in sections in the late 1830s. It appeared as a revised collection in 1841, but was only published in its entirety in 1865 sixteen years after the author s death Beaubrun ...

Article

Jeremy D. Popkin

an ambitious free man of color in the French colony of Saint-Domingue at the time of the Haitian Revolution, played a role in that group’s revolt against white rule in the 1790s, and was involved in all the major episodes of Haitian politics in the country’s first decades of independence. According to the memoirs published by his son Edmond Bonnet in France in 1864, Bonnet was born in Léogane, a few miles west of the present day capital, Port-au-Prince in 1775; other sources put his birth in 1772 or 1773. His paternal grandfather was a merchant from Nantes; his mother, who was responsible for his education, was a négresse libre. Employed as a clerk in a French merchant’s office, he followed the events of the French Revolution in the newspapers that reached the colony and was inspired by the ideals of liberty and equality.

Bonnet joined ...

Article

Elvin Holt

teacher, historian, and folklorist, was born in Goliad, Texas, one of five children of John Henry Brewer, a cattle drover, and Minnie Tate Brewer, a teacher. John Mason grew up with his three sisters, Jewel, Marguerite, Gladys, and his brother Claude in a household that provided a fertile environment for his imagination. His father told exciting stories about his adventures on the cattle drives from the Media Luna Ranch in Texas to the cattle market in Kansas. His mother, a teacher in Texas for over forty years, read the poetry of Paul Laurence Dunbar to John Mason during his early childhood. As an adult poet, Dr. Brewer would write dialect verse in the manner of Dunbar. Dr. Brewer's love for the oral tradition in African American culture was also nurtured by his grandfathers, Joe Brewer and Pinckney Mitchell, who told him folktales. John Mason ...

Article

Orquídea Ribeiro

Portuguese soldier, chronicler, and historian, was born in Vila Viçosa, Portugal, the son of the New Christian family of António de Cadornega e Oliveira and Antónia Simões Correia (“New Christian” referring to Iberian Jews who had converted to Catholicism). His mother and sister, Violante de Azevedo, were accused of continuing to practice Judaism, however, and incarcerated during the Spanish Inquisition.

Cadornega and his brother Manuel studied Latin and Portuguese with the Friars of St. Augustine in Vila Viçosa. In 1639 when the boys were of age to enter university their father wanted them to pursue further studies Instead they decided to go to Angola and volunteered for the military They asked the Duke of Braganza the future king John IV to write a letter of recommendation to be presented to the newly appointed Governor General Pedro César de Menezes The brothers boarded the same ship as the Governor General ...

Article

Benjamin Letzler

law professor, dean, and diplomat, was born in Wilmington, North Carolina, to the Reverend Clarence Clyde Ferguson Sr. and Georgeva Ferguson. After a childhood in Baltimore he served in the U.S. Army from 1942 to 1946, earning a Bronze Star, before attending Ohio State University on a football scholarship. He soon left the football squad to focus on his academic work, completing his AB cum laude in two and a half years. Ferguson earned his LLB cum laude from Harvard Law School in 1951, one of three black members of the class.

After a year as a teaching fellow at Harvard Law School and a year in private practice in New York, Ferguson served as assistant general counsel to the Moreland Act Commission to Investigate Harness Racing. Ferguson married the artist and sculptor Dolores Zimmerman in 1954 After her death in the late ...

Article

Adele N. Nichols

sailor, clerk, attendant, author, and mason, is believed to have been born in Westmoreland County, Virginia, even though there is no substantial proof of that location. Various sources cite the District of Columbia or Maryland as his possible birthplace; nevertheless, it seems more probable that he was born in Virginia due to his family background. Grimshaw's parents were Juliet Grimshaw, a slave, and Robert Tyler, a slave owner. Even though there are limited facts on his personal childhood and education, a historical essay, “Winney Grimshaw, A Virginia Slave, and Her Family” by Richard Dunn, provides a detailed history on the Grimshaw family's enslavement and life on the Mount Airy plantation in Virginia. Grimshaw's surname, which was unusual in nineteenth-century Virginia, may have come from Samuel Grimshaw, who immigrated to Virginia in 1795 from England or from Thomas Grimshaw who lived near Alexandria and later ...

Article

Leon F. Litwack

educator and historian, a leading scholar in the field of African American studies, was born in Chicago. Huggins was the son of an African American father, Winston J. Huggins, a waiter and railroad worker, and a Jewish mother, Marie Warsaw. When his father left the family, his mother moved her two children to San Francisco. Two years later she died, and fourteen-year-old Nathan and his sister were on their own. He divided his time between attending high school and working as a warehouseman, longshoreman, and porter. Drafted near the end of World War II, he completed high school in the army and used the GI Bill of Rights to enter the University of California.

His studies at Berkeley, particularly the classes in the history of the South, slavery, and Reconstruction taught by Kenneth M. Stampp exposed him to a revisionist view of the past that demolished ...

Article

Benjamin R. Justesen

lawyer, public official, legislator, and law school dean, was the youngest son of five children born in Fayetteville, North Carolina, to Matthew N. Leary, a successful saddler and a staunch abolitionist and philanthropist, and Julia A. Memorell (Menriel). Matthew Leary helped local slaves buy their freedom and often educated them, despite legal prohibitions on the practice. According to the 1850 federal census, he personally owned three slaves, though these were held for benevolent reasons.

John Leary's birth year is not certain; the 1850 census records his age as ten, although later reports indicate that he was born as late as 1849 His ethnic heritage was a blend of European Native American and African American lineage His mother a native of France migrated as a child to North Carolina from the Bahamas with her French mother His father whose family name had been shortened from ...

Article

Robert L. Gale

educator, army officer, and author, was born in Washington, D.C., the son of Ulysses Lee, a businessman and grocery store owner, and Mattie Spriggs. He graduated from Dunbar High School in Washington in 1931, attended Howard University in Washington, joined the Reserve Officers' Training Corps, earned his BA in 1935, and was also a commissioned graduate and a U.S. Army reservist. Remaining at Howard, Lee taught as a graduate assistant in English in 1935 and 1936 and earned his MA in 1936. Lee also studied briefly at the University of Pennsylvania and became a member of the faculty as an instructor and then as an assistant professor of English at Lincoln University in Pennsylvania from 1936 to 1948. During these years he was twice on leave.

From 1936 to 1939 Lee was a research assistant a consultant and an editor ...

Article

Melanie R. Thomas

educator, university librarian, and historian, was born in Texarkana, Texas, to Early Marshall, a carpenter and railroad worker, and Muskogee, Oklahoma, native Mary (Bland) Marshall. Little is known about Marshall's early life, but his father died when “A.P.” was still a boy, and the family moved to Kansas City, Missouri. There Marshall began his library work experience at one of the public library branches while he attended high school. Marshall prepared himself for a professional career by attending Lincoln University at Jefferson City, Missouri (1934–1938), earning a BA in English and History. He continued his studies at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana, receiving a BS degree in Library Science in 1939.

His foremost contribution to the field of library services was A Guide to Negro Periodical Literature (vols. 1–4, Nov. 1941–Dec. 1946 which he began while working as a library ...

Article

colonel in the Nigerian army and first president of the breakaway Republic of Biafra, was born in the town of Zungeru, near Kaduna in Nigeria. The son of Louis Odumegwu Ojukwu, a prolific businessman and first president of the Nigerian Stock Exchange, Ojukwu was educated at King’s College in Lagos and Epsom College in Surrey before earning a master’s degree in history from Lincoln College, Oxford University.

After returning to Nigeria in 1955, Ojukwu joined the civil service and was initially stationed at Udi, a small village near Enugu, and later at Umuhaia and Aba. After a transfer to Calabar was scuttled, allegedly by interference from his influential father, Ojukwu left the civil service in 1957 and joined the fledgling Nigerian army After a tumultuous start he was given a commission as an officer cadet and sent to Eaton Hall the National Service Officer Cadet School near Chester ...

Article

Eddie Enyeobi Okafor

Although he was born in northern Nigeria, Emeka Odumegwu Ojukwu is an Igbo; he hails from Nnewi in Anambra State in eastern Nigeria. His father, a knight of the British empire, Sir Louis Philippe Odumegwu Ojukwu (1908–1966 , was a multimillionaire and one of the richest African businessmen of his day, who sent his son to the best school in Nigeria, King’s College, Lagos, and later sent him to Epson College in Surrey, England.

The young Ojukwu received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Oxford University. At the age of twenty-two, he returned to Nigeria. Contrary to his father’s wish, he joined the colonial government service as a district admistrative officer in a rural Igbo village. In 1957 he joined the Nigerian army as a private. However, after attending the Officer Cadet School in England in 1958 he rose rapidly to higher military ranks lieutenant in ...

Article

Kelli Cardenas Walsh

military officer and historian, was born Martha Settle, the fifth of eight children born to Ida Baily, a homemaker and Oliver Settle, a laborer, in Norristown, Pennsylvania. Martha Settle attended Norristown public school in an integrated school system, where she excelled in Latin. Graduating from high school in 1935, she attended Howard University in Washington, D.C., on a scholarship. There she majored in history and education earning a bachelors degree in 1939 and a masters degree in history the following year.

After graduation Putney went to work for the U.S. Civil Service Commission and then the War Manpower Commission, before joining the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC) on 1 February 1943 Her decision to join the WAAC was met with family approval Like many of the early African American WAAC recruits she took her basic training at Fort Des Moines in Iowa While at basic training ...

Article

Jerry Gershenhorn

historian, was born in Durham, North Carolina, the son of Eural Endris Thorpe, cotton and tobacco mill worker, and Vina (Dean) Thorpe. Thorpe's mother died before his fourth birthday. In 1932 Eural Thorpe married Bessie Love, who raised Eural's three children with Vina as well as Eural and Bessie's own three children. The Thorpes, who were Baptists, valued religion and education. Despite the limited family income all six children completed college.

Thorpe graduated from Durham's Hillside High School in 1942; he earned a scholarship to attend North Carolina College for Negroes (NCCN), the first state-supported liberal arts college for African Americans, founded in 1910 by James E. Shepard Thorpe attended NCCN for one year before he was drafted into the segregated U S Army during World War II He served in the Ninety second Infantry Division initially assigned to Fort Huachuca Arizona where he ...

Article

Robert Stevenson

(b Grand Gulf, MS, Nov 8, 1842; d Hyde Park, Boston, Feb 26, 1892). American music historian. He was the son of a slave owner, Richard S. Trotter, and a black slave named Leticia. He studied music with William F. Colburn in a school for Negroes in Cincinnati run by the Methodist minister Hiram S. Gilmore, working between terms as a cabin boy on a steamer plying the Cincinnati–New Orleans run. About 1856 he moved to Hamilton, Ohio. Between 1857 and 1861 he attended Albany Manual Labor University near Athens, Ohio, and then taught in Muskingum and Pike Counties, Ohio. After service in the Civil War he worked in the Boston post office (1866–83), and on 3 March 1887 President Cleveland appointed him Recorder of Deeds in Washington this being the highest office in the nation reserved by custom for Negroes ...

Article

Stephen R. Fox

James Monroe Trotter was born on February 7, 1842, in Grand Gulf, Mississippi, the son of a white man, Richard S. Trotter, and his slave Letitia. When Richard Trotter was married in 1854, Letitia, her son, and two younger daughters from the union were sent to live in the free city of Cincinnati. Here Trotter attended the Gilmore school for freed slaves and worked as a hotel bellboy and as cabin boy on a riverboat. Later he briefly attended academies in Hamilton and Athens, Ohio, but according to his son he was largely self-educated. When the Civil War came, he was a schoolteacher in Pike County, southwestern Ohio.

In 1863 Trotter was recruited by black lawyer and activist John Mercer Langston and traveled to Boston to join the Fifty fifth Massachusetts Regiment a black unit with mostly white officers Trotter rose through the ranks ...

Article

Eric S. Yellin

soldier, music historian, and government officeholder, was born to a slave woman named Letitia and her white owner, Richard S. Trotter, in Grand Gulf, Mississippi, near Vicksburg. After escape or manumission, Letitia settled with her children in the free city of Cincinnati around 1854. Trotter completed his secondary school education and attended the Albany Manual Labor University, near Hamilton, Ohio, where he majored in art and music. During his school vacations and summers he worked as a cabin boy on shipping boats running on the Ohio and Mississippi rivers. After graduating from Albany, Trotter taught school in Chillicothe, Ohio, until June 1863.

In that year Negro regiments were created for the Union army and he enlisted in Company K of the Fifty fifth Regiment of the Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry While in the army Trotter continued to teach holding class sessions for his fellow soldiers ...

Article

Stephen Gilroy Hall

Born in Bedford Springs, Pennsylvania, to Thomas and Ellen Rouse Williams on 16 October 1849, George Williams was the oldest son of five siblings. Given the lack of educational opportunities for African Americans in western Pennsylvania, Williams received little formal schooling. In 1863, at the age of fourteen, he enlisted in the Union army. After leaving the army in 1868, Williams applied for admission and was accepted at Howard University in Washington, D.C., in 1869. He dropped out, however, and entered Wayland Seminary, also in Washington. In 1870 Williams entered Newton Theological Institution outside of Boston. Upon graduation from Newton, Williams was ordained and then offered the pastorate of a prominent African American congregation in Boston, the Twelfth Street Baptist Church, in 1875.

While pastor at Twelfth Street Baptist Church, Williams wrote a monograph, History of the Twelfth Street Baptist Church He left ...