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was born 30 December 1936 in the village of Ewouta in the southern coastal Fernan-Vaz region of Gabon, to Anina Germaine, a member of the coastal Nkomi ethnic community. Agondjo-Okawé only met his biological father when he was fourteen years old. His mother, Anina, originally came from the nearby town of Kongo, but had difficulties with having children and turned to an herbalist in Ewouta for help. She later divorced Agondjo-Okawé’s biological father and married Charles Ping, a Chinese immigrant living in Fernan-Vaz. Their son, Agondjo-Okawé’s half-brother, Jean Ping went on to become a major figure in Gabonese politics.

In 1946 Agondjo Okawé s uncle Jean Remy Ayouné decided to have him study at the Roman Catholic mission school of Sainte Anne de Fernan Vaz It was around this time that the young boy witnessed an African colonial guard assault a woman in his village Disgusted Agondjo Okawé learned ...

Article

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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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 ...

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 ...

Article

Christopher Berkeley

legal scholar and novelist, was born Stephen Lisle Carter in Washington, D.C., the second of five children to Lisle C. Carter Jr., a lawyer and educator, and Emily E. Carter, who worked as an assistant to the head of the National Urban Coalition. Carter attended public schools in Washington, New York City, and Ithaca, New York, before matriculating at Stanford University, from which he graduated in 1976. He then proceeded to Yale Law School, receiving his JD in 1979.

For the next two years Carter completed clerkships for Judge Spottswood W. Robinson III of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia (1979–1980), and Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall (1980–1981). He was admitted to the District of Columbia bar in 1981 and worked briefly as an associate at the Washington, D.C law firm of Shea and Gardner before ...

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 ...

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Sarah B. Buchanan

, Togolese filmmaker and international legal adviser for the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization, was born Ayele Folly-Reimann on 31 March 1954 in Lomé, Togo, to Amah Folly (a producer at the French world-music recording company OCORA and then at Radio France International) and Juliette Reimann. She has one sister. Folly studied law in Paris at the Université de Paris II–Panthéon-Assas. She began her career as an international legal adviser for UNESCO in 1981.

In the early 1990s Folly began making films In spired by Sarah Maldoror a French Guadeloupean filmmaker and Safi Faye a Senegalese filmmaker and ethnologist whom she has called des militantes dont le travail cinématographique est inspirant car il interroge l essence des problématiques des Africaines militants whose cinematographic work is inspiring because it interrogates the heart of the problems confronting African women Folly turned to film because she considers it similar to ...

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Peter Wallenstein

civil rights attorney, law school professor, and federal judge, was born in Knoxville, Tennessee, the son of Roberta Childs, a teacher, and William Henry Hastie, a clerk in the U.S. Pension Office (now the Veterans Administration). He was a superb student and athlete. His father's transfer to Washington, D.C., in 1916 permitted Hastie to attend the nation's best black secondary school, the Paul Laurence Dunbar High School, from which he graduated as valedictorian in 1921. He attended Amherst College, where he majored in mathematics and graduated in 1925, valedictorian, Phi Beta Kappa, and magna cum laude. After teaching for two years in Bordentown, New Jersey, he studied law at Harvard University, where one instructor adopted the custom of saying after asking a question of the class, “Mr. Hastie, give them the answer” (Ware, 30). He worked on the Law Review and earned an ...

Article

Carolyn Wedin

legal educator, civil rights advocate, judge, and governor. William Henry Hastie was born in Knoxville, Tennessee, the only child of a middle-class, college-educated black couple, Roberta Childs and William Henry Hastie, who moved to Washington, D.C., to give their son a better education. There the young Hastie graduated from Dunbar High School in 1921 and entered Amherst College in Massachusetts, where he ran track and graduated Phi Beta Kappa and magna cum laude in 1925.

Giving up opportunities to study at Oxford University or the University of Paris, Hastie instead taught for two years at the New Jersey Manual Training and Industrial School for Colored Youth. In 1927 he continued his education at Harvard Law School, studying under the future Supreme Court justice Felix Frankfurter and earning his bachelor of laws (LLB) degree in 1930 Hastie moved to Washington D C and both worked ...

Article

Leyla Keough

Anita Hill was born in Morris, Oklahoma, to Irma Hill and Albert Hill. She was valedictorian of her high school class. She completed a B.S. degree in psychology at Oklahoma State in 1977 and was one of 11 black students out of 160 graduates of Yale Law School in 1980. Her first position as a lawyer was in 1981 at Ward, Harkrader and Ross, a Washington, D.C., firm. Later that year she became an assistant to Clarence Thomas, who was head of the Office of Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Education. In 1982 she joined him when he became chairman of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

In 1983 Hill left her job with the EEOC to join the faculty of Oral Roberts University as a law professor. In 1986 she accepted a position at the University of Oklahoma where she received ...

Article

Genna Rae McNeil

lawyer and professor, was born in the District of Columbia, the son of William LePre Houston, a lawyer, and Mary Ethel Hamilton, a hairdresser and former schoolteacher. Houston graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Amherst College in 1915. After a year of teaching English at Howard University in Washington, D.C., he served during World War I as a second lieutenant in the 351st Field Artillery of the American Expeditionary Forces. Having experienced racial discrimination while serving his country, Houston “made up [his] mind that [he] would never get caught … without knowing … [his] rights, that [he] would study law and use [his] time fighting for men who could not strike back.” He entered Harvard Law School in 1919, where he became the first African American elected as an editor of the Harvard Law Review, and in 1922 he earned an LLB cum laude ...

Article

Kate Tuttle

At Charles Hamilton Houston's 1950 memorial service, his cousin, federal judge William H. Hastie, eulogized him as “the Moses of our journey.” Referring to the hard-won victory against segregation, Houston's protégé and successor as National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) chief counsel, Thurgood Marshall, described him as “the engineer of it all.” In his work at both the NAACP and at Howard University Law School, which, according to historian Richard Kluger, Houston made into “a living laboratory where civil-rights law was invented,” Houston was one of the most influential American lawyers of the twentieth century.

Houston was born in Washington, D.C., the only child of William and Mary Houston, and was raised in an atmosphere of racial and family pride. He graduated from the M Street School, the most academically rigorous black high school in the nation, and in 1911 entered ...

Article

Thomas E. Carney

attorney and civil rights activist. Born in Washington, D.C., Charles Hamilton Houston was the son of Mary Hamilton Houston and William LePre Houston, an attorney in Washington. The young Houston graduated from M Street High School and received his bachelor's degree in 1915 from Amherst College, where he graduated Phi Beta Kappa. For two years after graduating he taught English at Howard University, and in 1917 he was commissioned a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army. He was sent to Europe but arrived just months before the armistice that ended World War I.

Houston left the military in 1918 and thereafter applied and was admitted to Harvard Law School. Houston was an outstanding student. He studied under Professor (later U.S. Supreme Court Justice) Felix Frankfurter and became the first African American editor of the Harvard Law Review. He received his bachelor of law degree in 1922 and ...

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

Sabelo J. Ndlovu-Gatsheni

, Zimbabwean politician and academic who came to the limelight through an active life in student politics, civil society activity, and mainstream national politics in 1999, was born on 7 July 1961. His father was Gideon Gidi Mathonsi Ncube, who was killed by the Fifth Brigade in the 1980s. The Fifth Brigade was a brutal wing of the Zimbabwe National Army that was answerable to President Robert Mugabe and that targeted all those, especially the Ndebele-speaking minority, that supported the Patriotic Front–Zimbabwe African People’s Union (PF-ZAPU) led by Dr. Joshua Nkomo. His mother was Lydia Diya Ncube (née Nyathi). Ncube grew up in Lower Gwelu (now known as Lower Gweru) under Chief Sogwala in a rural communal village called Maboleni.

Ncube started his schooling at Makhulambila Primary School in a neighboring village called Makhulambila some 5 kilometers from his parents homestead In this school he attended grades one ...

Article

Matthew J. Smalarz

was born in Merced, California. Originally from Arkansas and Mississippi, his parents, Charles and Willie Mae Ogletree, migrated to central California and worked as seasonal workers in the San Joaquin Valley's cotton, almond, and peach fields in the 1950s and 1960s. Ogletree and his family lived in impoverished circumstances in South Merced and relied on welfare assistance programs. Economic and residential segregation existed within Merced's town boundaries, with South Merced containing poor African American and Chicano households and North Merced comprising affluent, white residents, the town's commercial enterprises, and its educational entities. Although his parents lacked educational opportunities in the Jim Crow South in the 1930s and 1940s and socioeconomic mobility in California in the 1950s, they still encouraged Ogletree and his siblings to strive for educational advancement amid the structural obstacles surrounding them.

Performing well academically in high school Ogletree applied and gained admission to Stanford University just as ...

Article

Russell Hopley

jurist, was born in the Tunisian city of al-Qayrawan to a family originally from the region of Qabis (modern- day Gabès). His full name was Abu ʾl-Hasan ʿAli b. Muhammad b. Khalaf al-Maʿrifi al-Qabisi.

A close companion and cousin of Ibn Abi Zayd al-Qayrawani (d. 996), al-Qabisi received his early education at the hand of several Maliki scholars from al-Qayrawan, including Abu ʾl-Abbas al-Ibyani (d. 971), Ibn Masrur al-Dabbagh (d. 969), and Darras al-Fasi (d. 967). Of these, it was perhaps Ibn Masrur who played the greatest role in al-Qabisi’s intellectual formation. Ibn Masrur was himself a disciple of the eminent Maliki jurist Abu Said al-Tanukhi Sahnun, and he thus represents an important link in the transmission of orthodox Malikism between its early forebears in al-Qayrawan and its subsequent articulation by figures such as Ibn Abi Zayd and al-Qabisi.

Al Qabisi undertook the journey to the cultural and intellectual capitals ...

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Russell Hopley

North African jurist, was born Shihab al-Din Abu al-ʿAbbas Ahmad b. Idris b. ʿAbd al-Rahman b. Yallin in the Deir al-Tin quarter of Cairo to a family with origins among the Sanhaja Berbers of North Africa. He received the sobriquet “al-Qarafi” as a young boy because he was often seen approaching his primary school from the direction of the Qarafah neighborhood in old Cairo.

Widely regarded as one of the great theoreticians of the Maliki school of Islamic jurisprudence, al-Qarafi appears to have studied with only a small number of scholars. Among these were Shams al-Din b. ʿAli b. Surur (d. 1277), an expert in hadith who came to Egypt from Jerusalem. Al-Qarafi’s training in the various branches of Islamic law came at the hand of al-Sharif al-Karaki (d. 1290 or 1291 a Moroccan who is said to have mastered both the Maliki and Shafiʿi schools of jurisprudence ...

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Russell Hopley

777 855 jurist and religious scholar was born in al Qayrawan in southern Tunisia to an Arab family that originated in Syria His full name was Abu Saʿid ʿAbd al Salam ibn Saʿid ibn Habib ibn Hassan ibn Hilal ibn Bakkar ibn Rabiʿa al Tanukhi He received the nickname Sahnun while a young boy apparently in reference to a certain type of bird known for its cleverness His father most probably emigrated to North Africa in the mid eighth century as a soldier in the Muslim army that brought Ifriqiya the region encompassed by present day Tunisia and northwestern Libya under the control of the ʿAbbasid caliphate of Baghdad In return for his military service he was granted a small tract of land to live on and cultivate in the Sahel region of Tunisia and it was to this agrarian lifestyle that Sahnun would remain attached throughout his life ...