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Peter Wallenstein

educator and civil rights litigant, was born in Norfolk, Virginia, the son of William Henry “Sonnie” Alston, a drayman, and Mary Elizabeth “Lizzie” Smith, a laundress. The Alstons owned their home, and Melvin grew up in a middle-class environment. After attending Norfolk's segregated black public schools and graduating from Booker T. Washington High School, he graduated in 1935 from Virginia State College, where he was honored for his debating and for excellence in scholarship. Following graduation he began teaching math at Booker T. Washington High School. Beginning in 1937 he served as president of the Norfolk Teachers Association, and he also held local leadership positions in the Young Men's Christian Association and the First Calvary Baptist Church.

Alston played a key role in an effort by black teachers in the Norfolk city public schools to challenge racial discrimination in their salaries. In 1937 the Virginia Teachers Association VTA and ...

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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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Trevor Hall

who defended Native American rights and promoted African slavery, only to later condemn it, was born in Seville, Spain. His father, Pedro de Las Casas, had sailed to the Americas as a merchant on Christopher Columbus’s second voyage. He was educated in law at the University of Salamanca. Las Casas is renowned because he recommended that the Spanish king purchase enslaved Africans from Portuguese merchants and ship them from Portuguese colonies in West Africa directly to the Spanish Caribbean. In 1493 Las Casas was living in Seville, where he witnessed the arrival of Columbus following his maiden voyage to the Americas. Columbus brought a number of exotic, colorful tropical birds and a dozen half-naked Native Americans back with him. To fifteenth-century Spaniards, half-naked people were savages. The experience has a profound effect on the young Spaniard.

In 1502 Las Casas boarded an armada that sailed from Spain to Hispaniola ...

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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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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 ...

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Anthony A. Lee

Born in Charleston, South Carolina during the era of Reconstruction, Louis Gregory was the son of Ebenezer George and a freed slave who was the daughter of her master. Widowed when her son was five, Gregory's mother was later married George Gregory, whose surname her son adopted. Louis Gregory attended Avery Institute in Charleston, graduating in 1891. He continued his studies at Fisk University, receiving his bachelor's degree in 1896. Gregory returned to Avery Institute as a teacher, but soon left teaching to study law at Howard University, graduating in 1902.

Gregory practiced law in Washington, D.C., until 1906, when he took a position in the U.S. Department of the Treasury. In 1909, he accepted the Baha'i faith as a result of his friendship with a white couple, Joseph and Pauline Hannen who held interracial Baha i meetings in ...

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Angelita D. Reyes

public lecturer, lawyer, and government administrator, was an early-twentieth-century champion or “race amity worker” for racial equality and social justice in America. A direct descendant of slavery, Louis George Gregory was born in Charleston, South Carolina. His mother, Mary Elizabeth, and his grandmother, Mary Bacot, had been enslaved on the George Washington Dargan plantation in Darlington, South Carolina. Louis Gregory stated that “my grandmother, wholly of African blood was without ceremony [Dargan's] slave [mistress] and my mother, his daughter” (Morrison, 12).

At an early age Gregory experienced racial oppression, poverty, and segregation. Gregory's father, Ebenezer George, died of tuberculosis in 1879, leaving Mary Elizabeth and her two sons, Louis and Theodore, in severe poverty. In 1885 Gregory s mother married George Gregory who became a devoted stepfather to Louis and his brother It is because of the older Gregory s support ...

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Greg Sidberry

civil rights leader. Benjamin Hooks was born in Memphis, Tennessee, to Robert B. Hooks Sr., a self-made businessman and co-owner of the Hooks Brothers’ Photography Studio, which closed in 1939 but reopened after the depression. His mother, Bessie White, was a stay-at-home mother of seven children. Despite the existence of institutionalized racism, Hooks's family expected him to excel without offering excuses. He learned to read at an early age and, before starting high school, had read all of the classics found in their small home library. Reading—especially newspapers—was the primary source of information and entertainment for the family. Dinnertime was family discussion time; each child had an opportunity to participate as current events and daily activities were reviewed and analyzed. Hooks says he heard repeatedly: “You got to be twice as good.”

Benjamin skipped the sixth and was promoted out of the seventh grade He started Booker T Washington High ...

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Benjamin Hooks, who was born in Memphis, Tennessee, graduated from Howard University in 1944 and received a law degree from DePaul University in 1948. He later worked as a public defender and a Baptist minister, serving from 1956 into the mid-1990s as a pastor of Memphis's Middle Baptist Church.

Through his legal and ministerial work Hooks became a prominent figure in the Civil Rights Movement and sat on the board of directors of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) from its founding in 1957 until 1977. In 1965 Hooks became the first African American to become a criminal court judge in Tennessee. He was also the first black to sit on the Federal Communications Commission.

In 1977 Hooks became executive director of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) as well as chairman of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights LCCR A nationally ...

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Seth Dowland

minister, judge, and executive director of the NAACP, was born in Memphis, Tennessee, to Robert Britton Hooks, a photographer, and Bessie White Hooks. He was the fifth of seven children. Hooks hailed from one of the most prominent African American families in Memphis; his grandmother Julia Britton Hooks was the first black to attend Berea College. At age sixteen Hooks enrolled at his father's alma mater, Le Moyne College in Memphis, but he was drafted and enlisted in the army before he could complete his degree. After serving from 1943 to 1946 in Italy, Hooks returned to the United States and enrolled at DePaul University Law School. He completed his law degree in 1948 and opened a private practice in Memphis, only the second African American to practice law in the city. Hooks married Frances Dancy, a childhood acquaintance, on 20 March 1951 ...

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Jari Christopher Honora

statesman, minister, educator, businessman, and attorney, was born on the plantation of Dr. Francois Marie Prevost near Donaldsonville, Ascension Parish, Louisiana. He is purported to have been born to Rosemond Landry, a white laborer on the Prevost plantation and Marcelite, his slave mistress. He was born with the name Caliste. According to Landry's unpublished autobiography, he resided with a free couple of color and was educated at a school conducted for free children. Despite his owner's wish that he be freed, when Dr. Prevost's estate was settled on 16 May 1854 Caliste was auctioned off to Marius St Colombe Bringier a wealthy sugar planter in Ascension Parish He was sold for $1 665 Landry continued his education on Houmas the Bringier plantation and was trusted enough to live in the mansion He served various roles on Houmas Plantation eventually earning the position of superintendent ...

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Antje Daub

Florida Republican political leader, lawyer, and African Methodist Episcopal (AME) minister, was born free in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Although the names of his parents are unknown, Lee was orphaned while an infant and was raised by Quakers. He attended Cheyney University, then known as the Institute for Colored Youth, the first black high school in the United States. After graduating in 1869, Lee moved to Washington, D.C., to begin a clerkship under the controversial “governor” of the District, Alexander Robey “Boss” Shepherd. Intermittently, Lee attended Howard University Law School in Washington, D.C., a historically black institution established in 1867. Lee attended Howard at a time when African American leaders were clamoring for black lawyers who could help in the struggle to secure the rights of African Americans. He graduated with an LLB degree in 1872.

Lee then relocated to Jacksonville Florida and was ...

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Davison M. Douglas

civil rights and women's rights activist, lawyer, poet, writer, teacher, and Episcopal priest. Anna Pauline (Pauli) Murray was born in Baltimore in 1910, the fourth of six children of Agnes Fitzgerald Murray, a nurse, and William Murray, a schoolteacher. When Murray was three years old, her mother died of a cerebral hemorrhage and she was adopted by her mother's sister, Pauline Fitzgerald Dame, a schoolteacher in Durham, North Carolina. Dame took Murray to live with her in the Durham home of Murray's maternal grandparents, Robert and Cornelia Fitzgerald. Murray would see her father only one more time before his death. In 1923, while a patient at a mental hospital in Maryland, William Murray was murdered by a white hospital guard.

After graduating from a segregated high school in Durham Murray moved to New York City to pursue additional education away from the segregated South ...

Article

A pioneer in fields previously inaccessible to women and African Americans, Pauli Murray was the first African American to be awarded a doctor of judicial science degree from Yale University. A freedom rider in the 1940s who later led student Sit-In demonstrations in Washington, D.C., restaurants, Murray graduated at the top of her class at Howard University. Nominated by the National Council of Negro Women as one of the twelve outstanding women in Negro life in 1945, Murray was the recipient of many honorary degrees and was a founding member of the National Organization for Women. In 1977 she was the first African American woman ordained as a priest of the Episcopal Church.

The daughter of a racially mixed middle-class family, Murray was born in Baltimore, Maryland, the fourth of Agnes Georgianna Fitzgerald Murray and William Henry Murray s six children When Pauli Murray was ...

Article

Peter Wallenstein

lawyer, writer, and minister, was born Anna Pauline Murray in Baltimore, Maryland, the daughter of William Henry Murray, a public school teacher, and Agnes Fitzgerald, a nurse. She had African, European, and Native American ancestry. Her parents both died when she was a child (her mother had a cerebral hemorrhage in March 1914; her father was murdered in a state hospital in June 1923), and she grew up from age three in North Carolina with her maternal grandparents and her mother's oldest sister, Pauline Fitzgerald Dame, a public school teacher who adopted her.

Murray graduated in 1926 from Hillside High School (which went only through grade eleven) in Durham, North Carolina, and then lived with relatives in New York City and graduated in 1927 from Richmond Hill High School After working for a year in Durham for a black newspaper and ...

Article

Born in Baltimore, Pauli Murray was orphaned at age three and raised by her mother's sister in the home of her maternal grandparents (the Fitzgeralds) in Durham, North Carolina. The Fitzgerald family had a profound influence on Murray throughout her life. The aunt who raised her was a teacher, and Murray learned to read and write at a very early age. Her grandfather, wounded in the Civil War as a Union soldier, and among those who set up the first schools for free blacks in North Carolina and Virginia, and her grandmother, daughter of a prominent white North Carolinian and a slave woman, served as strong examples of fortitude. Education, equal rights, and personal faith and courage are themes connecting the various spheres of Murray's work and life.

Murray received her BA from Hunter College in New York in 1933 with an English major and a minor in history ...

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Susan M. Hartmann

Anna Pauline Murray led and contributed to the most important social movements transforming American life in the middle third of the twentieth century. She was born in Baltimore, Maryland, the fourth of six children of Agnes Fitzgerald, a graduate of the Hampton Training School for Nurses, and William H. Murray, a Howard University graduate and teacher and principal in Baltimore’s segregated schools. Murray’s light skin reflected the mixed racial heritage of both parents. Her mother’s death when she was three and her father’s ill health caused her to be sent to Durham, North Carolina, in 1914. There she was adopted by her aunt Pauline Fitzgerald Dame, a schoolteacher, and grew up in the modestly middle-class household of her maternal grandparents and another aunt. After graduating from high school, determined to attend an integrated college, she moved to New York City in 1928 and enrolled ...

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Christopher Harrison Payne was born of free parents near Red Sulphur Springs, Monroe County, Virginia (now West Virginia). His mother was the slave daughter of James Ellison, who instructed her and set her free. When Christopher was two years old, his father, Thomas Payne, a cattle drover, was stricken with smallpox, and he died while taking a herd over the mountains to market. Payne's mother taught him to read so early that he could not remember when he had not read. By the age of ten, Payne had read through the New Testament.

During the American Civil War (1861–1865) Payne was compelled to serve in the Confederate Army as a valet, but in 1864 he returned to Monroe County to work on a farm. In 1866 Payne married Delilah Ann Hargrove (also given as Hargo by whom he had six children He worked on an ...

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Connie Park Rice

minister, educator, editor, and West Virginia's first black legislator, was born near Red Sulfur Springs in Monroe County, Virginia. His father, Thomas Payne, was freeborn, and his mother, Bersheba, was a former slave who was set free by her owner and rumored father, James Ellison, before her marriage. Christopher was their only child; Thomas died from smallpox after taking a drove of cattle to Baltimore, Maryland, when Christopher was still young.

Payne's mother provided his early education. He worked as a farmhand, but when the Civil War began, Payne—as a free, unprotected black in a slave state—found himself forced to become a servant in the Confederate army. He left the service in 1864 and went to the southern part of Monroe County (later Summers) and worked for Mr. Vincent Swinney until the war ended It was there that he met and married his ...

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Katie McCabe

lawyer, minister, Army veteran, and activist, was born Dovey Mae Johnson in Charlotte, North Carolina, the second oldest of four daughters of James Eliot Johnson, an AME Church printer, and Lela Bryant Johnson, a seamstress and domestic servant. The primary formative influence of Roundtree's childhood was her maternal grandmother, Rachel Bryant Graham, who took the family to live with her and her husband, the Rev. Clyde Graham, an AME Church minister, after the death of Roundtree's father in the 1919 influenza epidemic. While Roundtree's burning academic ambition derived largely from her mother and her grandfather, who refused to see the family's poverty as an obstacle to the children's educational advancement, her “Grandma Rachel's courage and sense of justice shaped Roundtree spiritually A woman with only a third grade education Rachel Graham was nevertheless an influential and highly respected figure in the ...