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Mark A. Sanders

In 1912 Batrell published his memoir Para la historia: Apuntes autobiográficos de la vida de Ricardo Batrell Oviedo, the only account of Cuba’s final war for independence written by an Afro-Cuban. Poor and uneducated, Batrell taught himself to read and write, then composed his memoir to document the participation of Afro-Cubans in the war (approximately 60 percent of the Liberation Army was black; see Ferrer, 1999, p. 2), and to present the war from the perspective of a black soldier.

Born on the Santísima Trinidad de Oviedo sugar plantation near Sabanilla, in the province of Matanzas—Cuba’s largest sugar-producing province—Batrell worked as a field hand until the age of 15. On 2 February 1896 he joined the Liberation Army that had months earlier crossed the Spanish fortified ditch (la trocha at Puerto Píncipe and invaded the western provinces Matanzas La Habana and Pinar del Rio Serving in ...

Article

Richard A. Bradshaw

military officer, president, and emperor of the Central African Republic/Empire, was born on 22 February 1921 at Bobangui, Lobaye region, then in the French Equatorial African territory of the Middle Congo (now part of the Central African Republic) He was the son of headman Mindogon Mgboundoulou, who was murdered at the regional colonial headquarters in the Lobaye, and Marie Yokowo, who died a week after her husband. Bokassa belonged to the same Mbaka (Ngbaka) ethnic group as Central African Republic (CAR) leaders Barthélemy Boganda and David Dacko. His grandfather MʿBalanga took care of Bokassa until 1921, when he entered the Catholic missionary école Sainte-Jeanne-d’Arc at MʿBaiki. Bokassa then attended Bangui’s École de St. Louis (1928–1929), which was run by Father Charles Grüner, and an école missionnaire at Brazzaville (1929–1939). Enlisting in the French army on 19 May 1939, Bokassa became a corporal (1940 ...

Article

Eric Young

A career soldier who had endured a tragic childhood, Jean-Bédel Bokassa ruled the impoverished Central African Republic with brutal repression, used its revenues for his personal enrichment, and crowned himself emperor. He committed barbarities that caused an international outcry and led to his removal from power.

When Bokassa was six years old, his father, a village chief of the Mbaka people, was murdered. Bokassa became an orphan a week later, when his mother committed suicide. Missionaries raised him until age eighteen when, at the outbreak of World War II, Bokassa joined the French Colonial Army. He participated in the 1944 landings in Provence and later served in Indochina and Algeria, attaining the rank of captain and earning the Legion d’Honneur and the Croix de Guerre. In 1960, after Oubangui-Chari became the independent Central African Republic, Bokassa helped create its army and, in 1964 was given the rank of ...

Article

Gregory Travis Bond

athlete, football coach, college administrator, lawyer, and public servant, was born in Dabney, North Carolina, to former slaves Jesse Bullock and Amanda Sneed Bullock. Looking for better educational prospects for their seven children and perhaps seeking to escape Ku Klux Klan harassment, his parents moved the family north when Bullock was eight years old. After a brief stay in Boston, the family settled in Everett, Massachusetts, in about 1894, where Bullock first made a name for himself as an athlete. At Everett High School he excelled at football, baseball, and ice hockey, and his teammates elected him to serve as the captain of each of these teams his senior season.

After graduating in 1900 Bullock entered Dartmouth College which like many schools outside of the South admitted black students and encouraged them to participate in the life of the school Bullock took advantage of the wide range ...

Article

Trevor Hall

His father, Giovanni da Ca’ da Mosto, and mother, Giovanna Querini, married in 1428, and the couple had four sons and two daughters. Cadamosto came from a Venetian family of some standing. His reason for renown is that he was the first European to sail from Portugal to West Africa and back, to write a long travel narrative of his maritime voyages. He also described the Islamic West African kingdoms he visited during the the 1450s. Cadamosto wrote his narrative many years after the voyages to West Africa, and there is evidence that later historical events where incorporated into his narrative—a process historians call “feedback.” Thus, Cadamosto’s dates and chronology have been called into question by scholars. However, the Venetian must be taken seriously because he presented some of the first eye-witness descriptions of West Africa and Portuguese voyages to the tropics during the fifteenth century.

Since the Middle ...

Article

Connie Park Rice

newspaper editor and civil rights lawyer, was born in Williamsport, Virginia (later West Virginia), the youngest of three sons born to Isaac Clifford, a farmer, and Mary Satilpa Kent, free blacks living in Hardy County. John Robert joined the Union army on 3 March 1865, rising to the rank of corporal in the 13th U.S. Heavy Artillery. After serving in Kentucky, Tennessee, and eastern Virginia under General Ulysses S. Grant, Clifford volunteered for service at Chicago, Illinois.

After the Civil War, Clifford remained in Chicago, staying from 1865 to 1868 with the Honorable John J. Healy, an acquaintance of his father, and graduating from Chicago High School. Clifford worked as a barber before going to live with an uncle in Zeno, Muskingum County, Ohio, where he attended a school taught by Miss Effie McKnight and received a diploma from a writing school conducted by a Professor ...

Article

Jim McWilliams

was born in Noblesville, Indiana, the eldest of two children in a middle-class family. His father, James Alexander Colter, an insurance salesman, was active in the NAACP and was also an amateur actor and musician. His mother, Ethel Marietta Bassett Colter, died when he was six, and the family soon moved to Youngstown, Ohio, where Colter’s maternal grandparents helped to raise him and his sister.

Colter attended a private school in Youngstown and then matriculated into Youngstown University. He soon transferred to Ohio State University, from which he graduated in 1936. Colter then attended Chicago-Kent College of Law, from which he graduated in 1940, and soon married Imogene MacKay, and, after serving in World War II, began a distinguished career as an attorney in Chicago.

After reading deeply in Russian literature, Colter, aged fifty, published his first story, “A Chance Meeting,” in the Irish magazine Threshold in 1960 ...

Article

James Robert Payne

After careers in government service, law, the Army, and academia, Cyrus Colter began writing at fifty. Colter placed his first short story, “A Chance Meeting,” in Threshold in 1960. He went on to place stories in such little magazines as New Letters, Chicago Review, and Prairie Schooner. Fourteen of his stories are collected in his first book, The Beach Umbrella (1970). In 1990 Colter published a second collection of short fiction, The Amoralists and Other Tales.

Colter's first novel, The Rivers of Eros (1972) relates the efforts of Clotilda Pilgrim to raise her grandchildren to lives of respectability When Clotilda discovers that her sixteen year old grandaughter is involved with a married man the grandmother becomes obsessed with the idea that the girl is repeating her grandmother s own youthful mistakes Clotilda eventually kills the girl in order to stop what ...

Article

Kathryn L. Beard

attorney and co-founder of the Michigan Federated Democratic Club (MFDC), was born in British Guiana (Guyana), South America. Little is known about his life prior to his emigration from the colony. Because Craigen grew up near Spanish-speaking countries such as Venezuela, he became bilingual at an early age. During World War I he served in the United States Navy as a Spanish interpreter stationed in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. At the end of the war he migrated to Detroit where he worked in the automobile industry and became active in Marcus Garvey's Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA).

The Detroit UNIA had more than 4 000 members in the 1920s making it one of the largest divisions of the organization As was true for other northern cities where the UNIA had a considerable presence African American migrants from the South comprised much of the rank and file of the organization while ...

Article

Steven J. Niven

paramilitary leader and agrarian activist, was born of unknown parentage, perhaps in Mississippi. He appears in the historical record on two occasions. The first was in the bloody political conflict known as the “campaign of 1875,” when white Democrats used tactics ranging from fraud to intimidation to violence and assassinations to wrest control of state government from the Republican Party.

In early September 1875, Cromwell traveled to the town of Clinton in Hinds County, Mississippi, to address a gathering of at least six hundred black men—some sources claim there were more than a thousand—who had organized into armed, paramilitary political clubs to defend their families, the black community, and the few remaining white Republicans against violent intimidation by white Democrats and their allies. Like other communities in the central part of the Magnolia State, a slight majority of citizens in Clinton were African American. Black Clintonians, notably Charles ...

Article

Marcus Shepard

lawyer, businessman, civil rights leader, and Chicago alderman, was born in Canton, Mississippi, to Edward Dickerson and Emma Garrett Fielding. Earl Dickerson's maternal grandfather, Benjamin Franklin Garrett, bought his freedom in the 1850s and owned a livery stable as well as several other properties in Canton. His business was destroyed during the Civil War, however, and by the time Earl was born the family lived in relative poverty. Edward Dickerson, who worked away from home as an upholsterer, died when Earl was five and he was raised by his mother, who did laundry for local whites, his paternal half-sister, and his maternal grandmother, who ran a small boarding house in Canton.

In 1906 Dickerson was sent to live with relatives in New Orleans where he attended the preparatory school of New Orleans University Unfortunately family finances forced him to return to Canton ...

Article

Richard Saunders

lawyer and minister, was born James Frank Estes to Melvoid Estes and Bertha Lee Walker Estes in Jackson, Tennessee. Graduated from Lane College in 1942, Estes captained the football team and married a friend and classmate, Frances D. Berry. Enlisting in the Army the same year, he served on active duty in Europe and was one of the few African Americans accepted to Officer Candidate School. Estes was commissioned a second lieutenant in 1943 for the racially segregated 1317th Engineers General Service Regiment. The 1317th engaged in the Normandy landings on D-Day, as well as the Allied Forces Rhineland Campaign and battle for Central Europe. At his discharge in 1945 Estes remained in the reserves and enrolled at Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, which conferred on him an LL.B. degree in 1948 Returning to Tennessee Estes opened a law office on Beale Street the economic center ...

Article

Michael L. Krenn

boxer, was born in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Little is known of Foster's life before he began boxing. Foster himself admitted that he got into numerous fights as a child and a high school student and was once taken to court for fracturing the skull of another young man with one punch. With few options open to him and a close scrape with the law motivating him, Foster signed up for the U.S. Air Force in 1957, shortly after graduating from high school.

Foster's tremendous punching power soon became evident to his air force commanders during informal inter- and intra-unit boxing matches, and they put him on the service's boxing team. For four years Foster traveled with the team all over the United States and the world. He engaged in well over one hundred fights, losing only three. In 1960 he won the light heavyweight title at the ...

Article

Twinette L. Ackerson

educator, activist, and lawyer, was born in Lafayette, Louisiana, one of five children. Francis's father, Joseph A. Francis, a barber who owned his own business, was known around town as “Mr. Joe the Barber.” Though his father and mother, a homemaker, provided the necessities for their children, they were considered poor for the times. In what could be considered a foreshadowing of Francis's lifelong career path, his parents believed strongly in the benefits and importance of education for their children. They expressed that belief by sending their children to Catholic schools and making sure they kept up with their studies.

Francis attended Saint Paul Catholic High School in Lafayette, Louisiana. He was the class president and valedictorian. After graduating from Saint Paul in 1948, Francis entered Xavier University of New Orleans. In 1952 he earned his BA degree from Xavier and enrolled in Loyola ...

Article

LaNesha NeGale DeBardelaben

civil rights lawyer, U.S. civil rights commissioner, was born Marie Frankie Muse in Danville, Virginia, the oldest of eight children of William Brown Muse, a railroad postal clerk, and Maud Beatrice Smith Muse. Maud Muse, a 1911 graduate of the historically black Hampton University and her husband William who was one of the first African Americans employed as a railroad postal clerk in Danville exemplified for their children lives of dignity despite the indignities of Jim Crow life around them The Muse family and other black Danville residents had to travel forty eight miles to the nearest black movie theater Danville blacks also attended segregated schools and faced racial discrimination in public accommodations Frankie Muse learned at an early age to overcome these obstacles through self discipline and perseverance These were lessons that she and her siblings gleaned from their parents who taught them that moral ...

Article

Antje Daub

athlete, scholar, soldier, and judge, was born in Jacksonville, Florida, one of nine children of Walter Holmes Gourdin, a meat cutter and part Seminole Indian, and Felicia Nee, an African American woman who was a housekeeper. Little is known about his early school career, other than that he was valedictorian of his high school class in 1916. Although poor, Gourdin's parents recognized their son's talents and educational potential and, following his high school graduation, moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts, to further his career. There, Gourdin attended Cambridge High and Latin, which helped prepare him for the high academic demands of an Ivy League education.

By the time he enrolled in his freshman year at Harvard in 1917 Gourdin appears to have been a conscientious and responsible student To pay tuition he supported himself by working as a postal clerk He also became a ...

Article

Edward Morrow

Edward Orval Gourdin was born on August 10, 1897, in Jacksonville, Florida, the son of Walter Holmes and Felicia Garvin Gourdin. As a child, Gourdin demonstrated such athletic and scholarly excellence that his family sacrificed and took him to Massachusetts to realize his potential. He prepared at Stanton and Cambridge Latin high schools for Harvard College and graduated in 1921 with a B.A. degree; he completed Harvard Law School in 1924 with an LL.B. degree. On May 10, 1923, he married Amalia Ponce of Cambridge, Massachusetts, who became the mother of their four children: Elizabeth, Ann Robinson, Amalia Lindal, and Edward O., Jr.

Gourdin gained fame as an athlete during his college and university career, passed the bar, practiced law in Boston, Massachusetts, and joined the National Guard in 1925. During World War II he served as lieutenant colonel and later ...

Article

Flint Whitlock

the first African American commercial passenger airline pilot, was born in El Dorado, Arkansas, the son of McKinley Green, a domestic servant for a wealthy El Dorado dentist and oilman, and Lucy Longmyre. In 1944, due to the influence of a charismatic priest, the five Green siblings, with the exception of one brother, converted from Baptism to Roman Catholicism. Green later earned a scholarship to complete his senior year of high school at the Xavier Preparatory School, affiliated with Xavier University in New Orleans, Louisiana.

At Xavier Prep Green did well academically graduating at the top of his class His goal was to attend Epiphany Apostolic College a Josephite seminary in Newburgh on the Hudson New York and study for the priesthood However during his first semester he was wrongly diagnosed with a medical condition and was dismissed from the school Seeking a new direction for his ...

Article

Daniel Donaghy

civil rights attorney. Oliver White Hill was born in Richmond, Virginia, to William Henry White Jr. and Olivia Lewis White. His parents separated when he was very young, and Hill eventually took his stepfather's surname. His family lived in Roanoke for a time and then moved to Washington, D.C., where Hill attended Dunbar High School. After graduation, he attended Howard University, where he earned his bachelor's degree in 1931 and his law degree in 1933. At Howard, Hill befriended the future Supreme Court justice Thurgood Marshall.

From the beginning of his law career, Hill was interested in civil rights work. He opened a practice in Richmond in 1939, and the next year he worked with Marshall and others to win Alston v. School Board of Norfolk, Virginia which secured equal pay for African American teachers As World War II mounted in Europe Hill enlisted he ...

Article

Brian J. Daugherity

NAACP attorney, politician, and civil rights activist, was born Oliver White in Richmond, Virginia, the son of William Henry White Jr. and Olivia Lewis White, both resort employees. His parents divorced in 1911, and when his mother married Joseph C. Hill, Oliver took his stepfather's last name.

Oliver Hill spent much of his youth and adolescent years in Roanoke, Virginia. For most of these years he lived with friends of his family—the Pentecosts—while his mother and stepfather lived and worked in Hot Springs, Virginia, and then in Washington, D.C. Hill went to school in Roanoke until the eighth grade, when he moved to Washington, D.C., to join his mother and stepfather. He then went to Dunbar High School there, which enjoyed a reputation for academic excellence.

Hill obtained his bachelor's and law degrees from Howard University, completing his studies in 1933 He was ...