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lawyer, businessman, and secretary of the army, was born in New York City, the only child of Clifford Leopold Sr. and Edith McAllister. Alexander's father, a Jamaican native, became an apartment building manager of Harlem's Young Christian Association. His mother was from Yonkers, New York, where she worked for a real estate firm. Later she headed the New York City welfare department. She was the first African American woman to get elected to the Democratic Party's Electoral College. In this position she became a prominent figure in the broader civil rights struggle. Both parents inspired Alexander's later work to end racial discrimination.

Alexander spent his childhood in New York City. He received his early education at the Ethical Cultural School and Fieldston Schools in the Bronx. After graduating from high school, Alexander went to Harvard University. Here he met McGeorge Bundy Harvard s Dean of Arts ...

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John Garst

the inspiration for the “Frankie and Johnny” song, was born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri. Her parents were Cedric Baker and his wife Margaret (maiden name unknown), and she had three brothers: Charles, Arthur, and James. Charles, who was younger than Frankie, lived with her on Targee Street in 1900. In 1899 Baker shot and killed her seventeen-year-old “mack” (pimp), Allen “Al” Britt. St. Louis pianists and singers were soon thumping and belting out what would become one of America's most famous folk ballads and popular songs, “Frankie and Johnny,” also known as “Frankie and Albert,” “Frankie Baker,” and “Frankie.”

At age sixteen or seventeen Baker fell in love with a man who, unknown to her, was living off the earnings of a prostitute (this kind of man was known as an “easy rider,” a term made famous by W. C. Handy in his ...

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Janice L. Greene

first African AmericanPatent Examiner, a lawyer, and author of The Colored Inventor: A Record of Fifty Years (Crisis Publishing Co., 1913) and other works on black inventors and scientists of the nineteenth and early twentieth century, was born in Columbus, Mississippi. Little is known of his parents or his early life in Columbus, except that he attended public schools and the Columbus Union Academy. Toward the end of Reconstruction, in June 1874, he was selected to attend the Annapolis, Maryland, naval academy by white Congressman Henry W. Barry R Mississippi who had commanded black troops for the union Army during the Civil War Despite government and naval policies during this period directing the military to integrate the first two African American cadets failed to survive intense hazing taunting assaults and social isolation from classmates and left before graduation Still Congressman Barry originally from New ...

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Sheila T. Gregory

radio and television pioneer, Masonic Christian Order founder, ordained Baptist minister, lawyer, community advocate, and business leader, was born on a sharecroppers' farm in Geneva, Kentucky, the son of Richard and Clara Banks, both tenant farmers. In June 1922 Banks graduated from the Lincoln Institute of Kentucky and moved to Detroit, Michigan, where he secured a job at the Dodge automobile main plant. He graduated from Wayne State University in 1926 and the Detroit College of Law in 1929. He briefly opened a criminal law practice, but after two years he discontinued his criminal work and invested in property during the Depression, while helping elect liberal Democrat and future Supreme Court justice Frank Murphy as Detroit's mayor in 1930.

In 1931 Banks was the head of the International Labor Defense League ILDL a legal organization known for defending numerous labor unions which at that time were ...

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Harold N. Burdett

jurist and civil rights activist, was born in Rocky Mount, North Carolina, the son of Thomas Bell, a construction worker, and Rosa Lee (Jordan) Bell, a health-care practitioner and the daughter of sharecroppers. In the mid-1940s Robert M. Bell, his parents, and two older brothers moved to Baltimore, Maryland, where he entered public schools.

As a sixteen-year-old student at Baltimore's Dunbar High School, Bell was recruited by the Civic Interest Group, a student integrationist organization, along with classmates and students from the historically black Morgan State College, to enter whites-only restaurants and request service. Years later Bell recalled that at the time he did not tell his mother what he was doing because he considered it a “high risk” undertaking (Cox).

On 17 June 1960 some five months after the historic sit in demonstrations at a segregated Woolworth s lunch counter in Greensboro North Carolina Bell ...

Article

Leigh Kimmel

politician and the first African American statewide elected officeholder in Illinois, was born in Centralia, Illinois, the son of Earl, a worker with the Illinois Central Railroad, and Emma Burris. His family also ran a store to supplement his father's railroad wages. Because both of his parents were busy during the day, when Burris was four years old he would often accompany his older siblings to school, where he would sit on the platform outside the door, listening to the class being conducted inside.

While he attended Centralia Township High School he was active in sports becoming an All State defensive safety in football in spite of being only five feet six inches inches tall He also became increasingly aware of racial discrimination in his community during high school and at sixteen he helped to integrate the Centralia public pool When the city unofficially designated the pool for whites only ...

Article

Ntewusu Aniegye

Ghanaian lawyer, diplomat, politician, was born on 7 December 1950 in Bimbilla in the Northern Region of Ghana. His father, Alhaji Alhassan Chambas, was a district commissioner in Kwame Nkrumah’s government from the 1950s to mid-1960s. He was educated at Mfantispim School, Cape Coast (the former Wesleyan High School whose alumni include John Mensah Sarbah, Dr. K. A. Busia, and Kofi Annan), and Tamale Secondary School, Tamale. He is a graduate from the University of Ghana, where he read political science, obtaining his BA in 1973. He then travelled to the United States, where he obtained his MA and PhD degrees at Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, in 1977 and 1980, respectively. He later earned a law degree from Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio.

Having briefly taught and practiced law in America he returned to Ghana where he became a school administrator He later joined the military ...

Article

Shantel Agnew

lawyer, businessman, and one of the first African American chief executive officers (CEO) of a Fortune 500 company. Chenault was born on Long Island, New York. His father, Hortenius Chenault, was a dentist, and his mother, Anne Chenault, was a dental hygienist. Kenneth Chenault graduated with numerous honors from Waldorf High School, a private school in Garden City, New York. He completed one year at Springfield College before transferring to Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine. There he earned a bachelor's degree in history in 1973. He earned a JD from Harvard Law School in 1976.

After he graduated from Harvard, Chenault was hired as an associate by the law firm Rogers and Wells in New York City. In 1979 he worked as a management consultant for Bain and Company despite not having a master s degree in business administration Chenault passed the Massachusetts bar ...

Article

Richard Sobel

lawyer and corporate leader, was born in Mineola, New York, to Hortenius Chenault, a dentist and a Morehouse and Howard University graduate, and Anne N. Quick, a dental hygienist and Howard alumna. The second of three brothers and one sister, Ken grew up in middle-class, mostly white Hempstead, Long Island, and attended the innovative, private Waldorf School in Garden City through twelfth grade. Although both his parents had graduated top in their classes, Kenneth was at first a middling student. He improved academically and became class president and captain of the track and basketball teams. He also avidly read biographies of famous people, including Frederick Douglass, W. E. B. Du Bois, and Winston Churchill.

Starting Springfield College on an athletic scholarship he transferred under the mentorship of Waldorf s Peter Curran to Bowdoin College in Maine There he joined two dozen black pioneers at the ...

Article

Julie Winch

writer, adventurer, and perennial litigant, was born in St. Louis, Missouri, the grandson of Jacques Clamorgan, a French entrepreneur and land speculator. Jacques died in 1814, leaving as his heirs the four children he had fathered with his various slaves whom he then emancipated. One of those children, Apoline, was Cyprian Clamorgan's mother. Apoline never married. Instead, she lived with a series of white “protectors.” A Catholic by upbringing in a deeply Catholic community, she presented each of her children for baptism at the Old Cathedral and revealed to the priest the name of the father so it could be entered in the baptismal register. However, she did not live long enough to have Cyprian baptized, and the identity of his father died with her.

Clamorgan and his siblings, Louis, Henry, and Louise, were left in the care of a white neighbor, Charles Collins ...

Article

Charles Rosenberg

a minister who helped consolidate the African Methodist Episcopal Zion (AMEZ) Church in the postbellum South, was born Jesse B. Colbert in Cedar Creek township, Lancaster County, South Carolina, the son of farm laborers Tillman Colbert and Mariah House Colbert. Neither of his parents could read, but they made sure their children attended school (1870 and 1880 Census, Kentucky Death Certificate). Colbert attended county schools until the age of eighteen and then entered Lancaster High School, originally called the Pettey High School after its founder and principal, Rev. (later Bishop) Charles Calvin Pettey, pastor of the Lancaster Courthouse AMEZ church.

After teaching school himself in South Carolina, Colbert entered Livingstone College in Salisbury, North Carolina, in January 1883, shortly after it was established by Dr. Joseph Charles Price, who served as president from 1882 to 1888. Bishop James Walker Hood recorded that Colbert ...

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Charles Rosenberg

lawyer, journalist, director of the National Negro Congress, publisher of Our World magazine, was born in Washington, DC, the son of Dr. William Henry Davis and Julia Hubbard Davis, who had moved to the capital in 1899 from Louisville, Kentucky. The elder Davis worked in several occupations; in addition to obtaining a doctorate of Pharmacology from Howard University, he developed a successful business school, became official stenographer for the National Negro Business League, and during World War I served as special assistant to Dr. Emmett Scott, special assistant to the United States secretary of war.

In 1922 the younger Davis graduated from Dunbar High School, in Washington, DC, and entered Bates College in Lewiston, Maine. He was selected as editor-in-chief of the campus newspaper The Bates Student in 1925 served as president of the debating fraternity Delta Sigma Rho and represented Bates in an international debate with ...

Article

Winifred W. Thompson

Anita L. DeFrantz is one of the most influential people in sports in the early twenty-first century. She became involved in the Olympic field as a competitor when she won a bronze medal on the U.S. women’s eight-oared shell at the 1976 Montreal Olympics. She was the first woman to represent the United States on the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in 1986 and, in 1997, she became the first woman, as well as the first African American, to be vice president of the IOC. DeFrantz has worked on the Los Angeles, Salt Lake City, and Atlanta Olympic Games as a member of the United States Olympic Executive Committee.

DeFrantz was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to Robert and Anita P. DeFrantz Her father directed the Community Action against Poverty organization her mother taught and eventually became a professor of Education at the University of San Francisco DeFrantz s ...

Article

Born in Mississippi, Earl Burris Dickerson moved as a teenager to Chicago, Illinois, where he attended Evanston Academy, Northwestern University, and the University of Illinois, from which he earned a B.A. degree. He served in the United States Army as a low-ranking officer during World War I (1914–1918), then returned to Illinois and took a degree in law from the University of Chicago in 1920. Dickerson was the law school's first African American graduate. The following year he became counsel for a new black-owned insurance company, Liberty Life; he continued his association with the company, later called Supreme Life, for five decades.

Dickerson soon became active in the Democratic Party and was rewarded with an appointment in 1923 as an assistant corporation counsel for Chicago. By 1933 he was an assistant attorney general for Illinois, and in 1939 he became Chicago s first black Democratic ...

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

Karen E. Sutton

one of about 635 African American males involved in the Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis (TSUS), was the son of Wiley West and Mae Burke, born in Tuskegee, Macon County, Alabama. His parents put him up for adoption at an early age, and Sam's adoptive parents raised him. Sam had at least one sibling, Willie Doner A lifelong resident of Macon County Doner attended Cooper Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church most of his life His favorite adult pastime was serving there as a deacon until he became too ill to attend services Local churches served as recruiting centers for the Tuskegee study Doner worked as a school bus driver and a farmer and owned over ten acres of land He married Emily Chambliss Though there were no children born to that union they adopted a son Willie M Doner After his wife died Doner developed a relationship ...

Article

Michaeljulius Idani

politician, was born in Memphis, Tennessee, son of Harold Ford Sr., a U.S. Congressman, and Dorothy Bowles, an employee of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Harold Jr. was the oldest of five children: brothers Jake, Isaac, and Andrew, and sister Ava. The Ford family was an institution in the Memphis area; schools, churches, roads, and buildings were named after family members. They ran a successful funeral services business and were active in the civil rights movement and the cause of social justice. Besides his father, two of Ford's uncles were also politicians: John, a local councilman, and Emmitt, who succeeded Ford's father as a member of the Tennessee state legislature.

From an early age Ford expressed an interest in politics. In 1979 Ford s family moved to Washington D C where he attended St Albans School an exclusive school for boys In ...

Article

Melissa Nicole Stuckey

attorney, freedman, father of the eminent historian John Hope Franklin, and Tulsa race riot survivor, was born Buck Colbert Franklin in the Chickasaw Nation, Indian Territory, now part of the state of Oklahoma, the son of David Franklin and Millie Colbert. David Franklin raised cattle, horses, and other livestock for sale. He also farmed. Millie Colbert taught school. The seventh of ten children, B.C. went by his initials as an adult to prevent whites from calling him by his first name. His efforts were only partially successful, as many whites called him Ben, assuming that he was named after Ben Franklin. In reality he was named Buck in honor of his paternal grandfather and Colbert to honor his mother's family name.

Franklin s parents were freedmen a term used to define the black citizens of the Cherokee Chickasaw Choctaw Creek and Seminole Nations known ...

Article

Damon L. Fordham

lawyer, entrepreneur, educator, and journalist, was born near Orangeburg, South Carolina, the son of the former slaves Benjamin Frederick and Henrietta Baxter. A Renaissance man among African Americans in South Carolina, Frederick earned a bachelor of arts degree from Orangeburg's Claflin College in 1889 and degrees in history and Latin from the University of Wisconsin in 1901. Shortly after graduating from the latter institution, Frederick moved to Columbia, South Carolina, where he began an eighteen-year career as the principal of the Howard School, one of the first public schools for blacks in that city. He rose to early prominence as an educator and served as president of the South Carolina State Teacher's Association, an organization of that state's black teachers, from 1906 to 1908. He married Corrine Carroll in 1904; they would have four children.

By 1913 Frederick was searching for ...

Article

Steven J. Niven

lieutenant‐governor of South Carolina and the leading nineteenth century African American freemason, was born in Philadelphia to parents whose names have not been recorded. His father was a free person of color from Haiti and his mother was a white Englishwoman. Gleaves was educated in Philadelphia and New Orleans, and as a young man worked as a steward on steamboats along the Mississippi River.

Gleaves first came to prominence as an organizer of Masonic lodges in Pennsylvania and Ohio. While black freemasonry had gained a foothold under Prince Hall in Massachusetts in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, by the 1840s, Pennsylvania was the center of black fraternalism, and Gleaves would become one of the Order's leading evangelists before the Civil War. In 1846 the year he was first initiated as a brother mason the Pennsylvania Grand Lodge of Prince Hall Masons appointed Gleaves a District Deputy Grand ...