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Caroline M. Brown

aviation mechanic and pilot, was born in Quitman, Wood County, Texas, the youngest of three children; both of his parents were teachers. Allen's father died when Thomas was three months old. His mother, Polly, continued to teach school and to run the family farm.

Allen became interested in flying in 1918, when an airplane made a forced landing in a pasture. The pilots paid the two young Allen brothers to guard the plane overnight so that its fabric and glue would not be eaten by cows. From this experience, Thomas Allen decided to become either an aviator or a mechanic.

In 1919 when Allen was twelve the family moved to Oklahoma City where his mother resumed teaching school Allen often bicycled to a nearby airfield In his teens he persuaded the field owner to take a $100 saxophone as partial trade for flying lessons He worked off the ...

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Ayesha Kanji

entrepreneur, author, and inspirational speaker, was born Wallace Amos Jr. in Tallahassee, Florida, to Ruby (maiden name unknown), a domestic worker, and Wallace Amos a laborer at the local gasoline plant Hard work discipline and religion were the cornerstones of Wally s strict childhood The Christian faith was important to his parents and they took him to church regularly By the age of eight Wally had learned all the books of the Bible In their tight knit black community Friday nights were reserved for community dinners where hearty southern fare was served fried chicken potato salad black eyed peas and collard greens Schooling options for black children were less abundant however so Ruby and several of her Methodist church members started a school which Wally began attending at age ten Wally s entrepreneurial spirit surfaced in his childhood when he started a roving shoeshine stand and ...

Article

aviator and instructor of the Tuskegee Airmen, was born in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, to Janie and Iverson Anderson, of whom little else is known. During his early childhood, he lived with his grandmother in Staunton, Virginia. There Anderson longed for an airplane so he could fly to see what was on the other side of the mountains that surrounded Staunton and the Shenandoah Valley. He frequently left home in search of airplanes that were rumored to have crashed in the valley. His constant disappearances frustrated his grandmother, and she sent him back to his parents. Once back in Pennsylvania, however, he continued leaving home in search of airplanes.

At the age of thirteen Anderson applied to aviation school, but was denied admission because he was African American. In 1926 at the age of nineteen he used his savings and borrowed money from friends and relatives to purchase a ...

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Charles Rosenberg

an Air Force sergeant executed for a rape and murder of which he was likely innocent, was born in 1916 in Las Vegas, New Mexico, the son of Milton and Vina Burns. Milton Burns was born in Arkansas to parents from Louisiana or Mississippi; Vina Burns was a native of New Mexico. Robert's older siblings—Geraldine, Elmer, Algodona, and Clifford—were also born in New Mexico. His younger sister Francell and brother Herman were born in Spokane, Washington, where the family moved when Robert was less than two years old. In Spokane, Milton Burns found work in a wholesale grocery, and then in a meat packing plant, and Vina Burns sometimes took jobs doing general house work.

Burns enlisted in the Army as a private on 16 November 1943 in Portland Oregon Records from his enlistment and later trial and appeals show that he had three years of college and ...

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Genevieve Slomski

pioneer of abstract painting, was born Edward Clark in the Storyville section of New Orleans, Louisiana. Little is known about his family, but they moved north during the Depression, and he was raised in Chicago.

Following service in the U.S. Air Force, Clark attended the School of the Art Institute of Chicago under the G.I. Bill from 1947 to 1951. At the Art Institute, he met abstract painter Joan Mitchell, with whom he developed a lifelong friendship, and the impressionist painter Louis Ritman, who was an encouraging instructor. During this period, Clark's work was traditional and figurative. But Clark's frustration with the Institute's academic restraints, such as the directive to avoid oils during this period, led-him to create an experimental self-portrait that took two years to complete. The classic head-and-shoulders depiction was set against a Renaissance landscape consisting of subtle layers of stippled watercolors.

In 1952 Clark ...

Article

J’Vaughn Joseph and Vince J. Mack

first black police officer in Hartford, Connecticut; Tuskegee Airman; and government worker, was born in New York City to Mary and Charles Custis. Very little is known about his life as a child, except that he was the youngest child in his family. Custis attended Hartford Public Schools and graduated from Howard University. In 1939, he joined the Hartford Police Department in Connecticut, becoming the first black police officer in Hartford.

When World War II broke out, having heard of the program at Tuskegee to train black pilots, Custis joined the Army Air Corps as an Aviation Cadet and because of his outstanding background and qualifications was admitted to the first class- 42-C and graduated in 1942 Custis flew ninety two combat missions and received the Distinguished Flying Cross for his effort in the war After Custis left Hartford he was missed for several months until his ...

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Charles Rosenberg

private first class in the Air Force who was executed for a rape and murder in Guam on evidence that at best was inconclusive, was born in 1928 in Milam County, Texas. He was the oldest child of Herman and Viola Dennis, who worked a farm and had long-standing family roots in the state.

Dennis enlisted in the Air Force on 19 February 1946 at the age of eighteen. Almost three years later, years of honorable though unexceptional military service, Dennis found himself a defendant in a high-profile capital case while stationed at an airfield in Guam. On 13 December 1948, Ruth Farnsworth an employee of the Jade Shop was found unconscious in a jungle clearing 500 yards from the shop She had been raped beaten and left out in the clearing and she died of injuries and exposure in a hospital thirteen hours after being found ...

Article

Jason Philip Miller

astronaut and pilot, was born Benjamin Alvin Drew Jr. into a middle-class home in Washington, D.C., to Muriel and Benjamin Drew Sr. Drew attended local schools and one day in class was inspired by viewing the launch of Apollo 7 (1968), the first manned space flight after the Apollo 1 disaster (1967) killed all three members of the crew. Drew later reported that from that day on, the path of his life was set. Everything he did in his education was aimed at flying in outer space. That was no simple goal. Applicants to the astronaut-training program of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) were legion, but NASA selected only a tiny fraction of them to participate. The number of successful African American applicants was fewer still.

Drew graduated from Gonzaga College High School in 1980 and from there he matriculated in the U ...

Article

Edward T. Morman

physician and advocate of reproductive rights, was born in Washington, D.C., the son of Ruby Goodwin and Benedict F. Edelin. After finishing eighth grade in the segregated Washington school system, he enrolled at the Stockbridge School, a now-defunct progressive private boarding school in western Massachusetts, from which he graduated in 1957.

Edelin earned a BA at Columbia University in 1961 and returned to Stockbridge for two years to teach science and mathematics. He then entered Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tennessee, where in 1964 he helped found the Student National Medical Association. As a medical student, Edelin assisted in treating a seventeen-year-old girl with a massive uterine infection caused by an improperly-performed, illegal abortion. The girl's death inspired him to become an advocate of safe and legal abortions.

Edelin earned his MD from Meharry in 1967, the year in which he married Ramona Hoage The couple ...

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

Michael Adams

actor, director, and educator, was born Albert Cornelius Freeman Jr. in San Antonio, Texas, to Albert Cornelius Freeman and Lottie Brisette Coleman Freeman. His parents divorced when Freeman was nine, leaving him to shuttle between his mother in San Antonio and his father, a jazz pianist, in Columbus, Ohio. Freeman later said that he regretted never getting to know his father, who died in 1968.

Freeman entered Los Angeles City College in 1951, served in the U.S. Air Force from 1951 to 1954, and returned to college in 1954, studying theater, broadcasting, and speech. He made his stage debut in a 1954 Ebony Showcase Theatre production of Sidney Kingsley'sDetective Story. Freeman also studied acting in Los Angeles with Harold Clifton, Jeff Corey, and the legendary black actor Frank Silvera. In an interview with Ebony he joked ...

Article

Pamela Lee Gray

writer, was born in Detroit, Michigan, to Joseph Leonard and Myrtle Baugh Goines, business owners. He attended parochial schools, and his parents expected him to work in the family dry cleaning and laundry business. Donnie, as he was known, first had difficulties in his studies at school in the third grade and was held back that year. He lost interest in classes, dropped out after finishing the ninth grade, and, beginning in 1952, served three years in the U.S. Air Force, having used a fake ID to enlist because he was too young to serve. It was during his overseas assignments in Japan and Korea that he became addicted to heroin.

Goines s street legend finds him returning to the United States becoming a street hustler running numbers and bootleg liquor and pimping prostitutes All of this he purportedly documented in his later autobiographical works In ...

Article

Anne K. Driscoll

painter, printmaker, and illustrator, was born in Gardens Corner, South Carolina, the second of seven children of Ruth J. Green (a home manager) and Melvin Green (occupation unknown). Green is possibly the first person of Gullah descent to train at a professional art school. The Gullah are the descendants of West African slaves who lived on and near the Sea Islands of Georgia and South Carolina.

Great things were expected of Green from the time of his birth. He was born with an inner fetal membrane covering his head and for this reason was considered a “child of the Veil” (Green). In Gullah culture the Veil marks children “touched by uncommonness and magic that will bring inordinate grace to the community.” Traveling to New York seeking employment, Green's mother left Green in the care of his maternal grandmother, Eloise Stewart Johnson Green was interested in art ...

Article

Jane Brodsky Fitzpatrick

jazz musician and Tuskegee airman, was born in Wilmington, North Carolina, to Arelethia and Percy Heath Sr. Heath was raised in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, as well as in his parents' native North Carolina, and graduated from Williston High School in Wilmington. The Heaths were a musical family; his mother, a hairdresser, sang in a church choir, and his father, an automobile mechanic, was an amateur clarinetist. Heath studied violin as a child and sang in the church choir. Both of his younger brothers, Jimmy Heath and Albert “Tootie Heath,” were also well-known accomplished jazz musicians. During World War II, Heath volunteered for the army, but was rejected (which Heath attributed to racism). He was eventually drafted into the U.S. Army Air Corps and became a fighter pilot with the Tuskegee Airmen, an elite group of black fliers, from 1943 to 1945 He did not fly combat missions ...

Article

Lois Bellamy

baritone, choral conductor, and Tuskegee Airman, was born in New York City, the eighth of eleven children of Samuel Alexander Henderson of St. Kitts in the Caribbean and Ruth Rebecca Waites of Florence, South Carolina. Both of Ruth Henderson's grandmothers were slaves. Samuel Henderson worked for the New York City subway system, and Ruth was a piano teacher and a seamstress. Henderson said that his mother insisted that the children learn to play the piano or find somewhere else to live. His early education was in the New York City public schools.

In 1940 Henderson graduated from Stuyvesant High School in New York City Afterward he went to school at night to learn typing and stenography For one semester he attended Alabama State Teachers College in Montgomery Alabama against his mother s wishes The discrimination in Alabama was so intense that Henderson could not withstand it ...

Article

Amalia K. Amaki

painter, graphic artist, and archivist, was born William Richard Hutson in San Marcos, Texas, to Mattie Lee (Edwards) Hudson, a homemaker and employee at Texas State University, and Floyd Waymon Hudson, a laborer, bandleader, and pianist. He grew up with three siblings, Floyd Waymon Jr., Ellen Ruth, and Clarence Albert. When his father died in 1942 his family moved in with his grandmother. In 1949 he entered San Marcos Colored High School. With no art classes at school or in the segregated community, he took a drawing correspondence course in 1951 from Art Instruction, Inc. of Minneapolis, Minnesota, working odd jobs to cover costs. His mother died in 1952 at thirty-nine following a long illness, and Hutson moved to San Antonio with his siblings to live with aunts Jewel Littlejohn and Milber Jones in the East Terrace Housing Project, his uncle Wilbur ...

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Thomas E. Carney

jurist and civil rights activist. Judge Nathaniel R. Jones was born in 1926, the son of a steelworker and the grandson of a slave. He grew up on the south side of Youngstown, Ohio, a major steel-producing town during the twentieth century. His mother and J. Maynard Dickerson, a family friend, prominent local attorney, and local NAACP leader, inspired the young Jones to pursue his education. After serving in the U.S. Army Air Force during World War II, he attended Youngstown College (now Youngstown State University), where he received his bachelor's degree in 1951 and his law degree in 1956.

Jones began his legal career as the executive director of the city of Youngstown's Fair Employment Practices Commission. He held that position until 1959, when he went into private practice. He returned to the public sector in 1962 to accept the position of assistant U ...

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Donald F. Tibbs

federal judge, was born to Nathaniel B. and Lillian J. (Rafe) Jones in Youngstown, Ohio. His father worked at a mill and as a janitor, while his mother worked numerous domestic jobs to help support their family. Coming from humble beginnings Jones used his circumstances of poverty and discrimination to motivate him through South High School in Youngstown, and through his service in the U.S. Air Force during World War II. In 1946 Jones returned home to attend Youngstown College (later Youngstown State University). As an undergraduate, he embarked on his lifelong association with the NAACP by joining the Youngstown College Chapter.

Jones had many positive influences in his life during his tenure at Youngstown, notably black community leaders such as the attorney Clarence Robinson and the businessman J. Maynard Dickerson. As an undergraduate, Jones worked as a reporter on the Buckeye Review an African American weekly ...

Article

Willie Hobbs

visual artist and educator, was born in Los Angeles, California, the son of Alyce and Edward Love, about whom little is known. After attending Manual Arts High School, Love, a baseball standout, was slated to be recruited by the San Francisco Giants. The U.S. Air Force proved more attractive to Love than baseball. While serving a five-year stint in the military that ultimately took him to Japan, Love became deeply influenced by Japanese culture. He also developed an affinity for the music of Charlie Parker and Miles Davis and the discourse of the Black Arts Movement, as well as a fascination with architectural design.

After an honorable discharge, Love earned a BFA in Sculpture in 1966 and an MFA in Design in 1967 from California State University Los Angeles A postgraduate fellowship to study humanities and fine arts at Uppsala University in Sweden soon followed While there ...

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Anne K. Driscoll

activist, writer, and author, was born Cleotha Payne Lucas in Spring Hope, near Rocky Mount in eastern North Carolina. One of fourteen children born to James Russell Lucas and Minnie Hendricks, Lucas worked from an early age shining shoes and picking cotton. Activism came early to Lucas, who became a member of the NAACP during his junior year of high school. Lucas became a youth representative and eventually organized a voter registration campaign in Spring Hope, at a time when few African Americans in eastern North Carolina were able to vote.

Following graduation from C. C. Spaulding High School in 1951, Lucas began classes at Maryland State College, now the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, in Princess Anne, Maryland. In 1953 Lucas left college and joined the U S Air Force serving as a radio technician for four years and achieving the rank of ...