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Dominique Achille

was born to Marguerite Raymonne Ferdinand and Philéas Gustave Louis Achille on 31 August 1909 in Fort-de-France, Martinique, then a French colony. His father was the first man of color who passed “agrégation” (the highest teaching diploma in France) in the English language in 1905. Achille’s family history can be traced back to slaves who were freed in 1794. He spent his childhood and teenage years in Martinique, in an upper-middle-class family.

In 1926 he began studying English at Louis-le-Grand High School and at the Sorbonne in Paris, where Georges Pompidou and Léopold Sedar Senghor were among his peers. In the 1930s he contributed to La Revue du Monde Noir The Review of the Black World issued in Paris by his cousins Paulette and Jane Nardal This publication addressed cultural links between colored writers poets and thinkers through the world because at that time no specific review ...

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William E. Bankston

Hebraic scholar, author, anointed spiritual leader of the African Hebrew Israelites of Jerusalem, was born Ben Carter in Chicago, Illinois, the youngest of six children of Rena and Levi Carter. Little is known about Ben's mother and father.

As a young teenager, Carter was a gregarious person, very communicative, and he knew how to vocally motivate people. Growing up, he worked a variety of odd jobs, dusting chairs, collecting garbage, running errands, delivering groceries, and shining shoes.

Around 1959 he married Patricia Price, but nothing more has been documented about his wife or possible children. As things began to intensify during the Vietnam War, Carter joined the U.S. Army. By 1960 after serving about a year and a half of military duty he was assigned to an army missile base in Chicago Becoming more perceptive and grown up Carter began to display a working knowledge of world affairs ...

Article

Charles Orson Cook

one of the most prolific white scholars of African American history in the twentieth century. Herbert Aptheker was born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1915 and was educated at Columbia University in the 1930s, where he took an undergraduate degree in geology and an MA and a PhD in history. His first important publication, American Negro Slave Revolts (1943), was based on his doctoral dissertation and challenged the prevailing wisdom that slaves were largely passive victims of white masters. In part an outgrowth of Aptheker's master's thesis on Nat Turner, American Negro Slave Revolts immediately became a controversial work and has remained so since. He was befriended by the influential African American historian Carter G. Woodson and the legendary black intellectual W. E. B. Du Bois, both of whom encouraged his interest in Negro history. Aptheker's other writings include a seven-volume Documentary History of the Negro People ...

Article

Lesley S. Curtis

from a prominent Haitian family of both European and African ancestry. Céligny’s date of birth is listed as 1801 on a birth certificate filed in 1805, which has created some confusion as to his real age. His father was Alexis Antoine Ardouin and his mother was Lolotte Félix Galez. Birth certificates of his younger siblings reveal that he grew up in close contact with his father, his father’s wife, Suzanne Léger Ardouin, and their seven children, including the famous historian Beaubrun Ardouin and the poet Corolian Ardouin. Céligny married Marie Angélique Liautaud in 1823 and had six children.

Céligny’s most significant work, Essais sur l’histoire d’Haïti (Essays on the History of Haiti) was written and published in sections in the late 1830s. It appeared as a revised collection in 1841, but was only published in its entirety in 1865 sixteen years after the author s death Beaubrun ...

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Amalia K. Amaki

sculptor, ceramicist, and educator, was one of America's most prolific and respected three‐dimensional artists in the mid‐twentieth century. Born in Washington, North Carolina, to Elizabeth Davis and Thomas Miggett, he lived primarily with his father until the fall of 1926 when he relocated to Harlem and began living with his mother and her husband, George Artis. In New York he assumed the surname of his stepfather. He attended Haaren High School and went on to study sculpture and pottery at the Augusta Savage Studio of Arts and Crafts in the early 1930s, joining the ranks of Jacob Armstead Lawrence, Gwendolyn Knight, Romare Bearden, Norman Lewis, and other notable artists whose initial studies included instruction under Savage. Artis was also a contemporary of his fellow sculptors Selma Hortense Burke and Richmond Barthé the latter the most exhibited and honored three dimensional artist associated with ...

Article

Edward M. Burmila

soldier, author, and educator, was born in Newark, New Jersey, to Bradley Biggs, a bootlegger, and Julia DeFreece, a domestic. The couple divorced when Bradley was an infant, and he recalled his childhood as one of abject poverty. His mother struggled to earn enough to support him and his younger brother Burton, and the family lived in public housing.

In his high school years consumed by a desire to escape his harsh surroundings Biggs developed two interests that helped define his path flying and athletics As a member of the Falcon Aeronautical Club of East Orange New Jersey the first and perhaps only black flying club in the East he was exposed to the basics of flight and the mechanics of airplanes At a burly six feet three inches tall he was also able to use his athleticism to win a place on the New York Brown Bombers ...

Article

Elvin Holt

teacher, historian, and folklorist, was born in Goliad, Texas, one of five children of John Henry Brewer, a cattle drover, and Minnie Tate Brewer, a teacher. John Mason grew up with his three sisters, Jewel, Marguerite, Gladys, and his brother Claude in a household that provided a fertile environment for his imagination. His father told exciting stories about his adventures on the cattle drives from the Media Luna Ranch in Texas to the cattle market in Kansas. His mother, a teacher in Texas for over forty years, read the poetry of Paul Laurence Dunbar to John Mason during his early childhood. As an adult poet, Dr. Brewer would write dialect verse in the manner of Dunbar. Dr. Brewer's love for the oral tradition in African American culture was also nurtured by his grandfathers, Joe Brewer and Pinckney Mitchell, who told him folktales. John Mason ...

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Suzanne Cloud

jazz trumpeter, composer, arranger, and educator, was born Cecil Vernon Bridgewater in Urbana, Illinois, into a family of musicians. His mother, Erma Pauline Scott Bridgewater, was the daughter of Ramon Mack Scott, who sang, played saxophone, piano, and drums, and led a band called Mack Scott and the Foot Warmers, in which Erma played piano for a time. Bridgewater's father, Cecil Bernard Bridgewater, played trumpet in the U.S. Navy band during World War II, and he was stationed at Great Lakes Naval Base with other African American musicians such as Clark Terry, Marshall Royal, Jerome Richardson, and others. Bridgewater's grandfather, Preston Bridgewater, played trumpet and cornet professionally with the circus.

When Cecil Bridgewater was a student at Marquette Grade School in Champaign Illinois the school s band director noticed his potential and encouraged his parents to find a private trumpet teacher for ...

Article

Genevieve Skinner

Civil War veteran, preacher, and teacher, was born free to an English sea captain and an African American mother on a ship sailing on the Atlantic Ocean. When Angus was two years old, his father died, and Angus and his mother were sold into slavery in Virginia, and later taken to Kentucky. He spent a majority of his early years in Virginia and learned how to read prior to the outbreak of the Civil War, an illegal pursuit for slaves. In 1864, now enslaved in Kentucky, at the age of sixteen Burleigh ran away from his master and enlisted in the Union Army at Frankfort, Kentucky. Upon enlisting Burleigh was trained at Camp Nelson in Kentucky, which was one of the largest areas for gathering African American soldiers during the Civil War. Burleigh became a sergeant with Company G 12th United States Colored Troops U ...

Article

Sholomo B. Levy

writer and educator, was born in Petersburg, Virginia, to parents about whom little is known but who were only briefly married before Harold's father took his young son to New York City during the black migration to the North. The elder Cruse found work as a custodian with the Long Island Railroad; however, he soon realized the he could not care for a small child alone and placed Harold with a foster family in Queens. During the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s his foster mother, Aunt Henrietta, instilled a love for the black theater in the young Harold, frequently taking him to performances. With the coming of the Depression the family lost their home and was forced to move into an apartment in Harlem, where Cruse became more deeply immersed in black culture. There he would witness performances by Duke Ellington, Cab Calloway, Bill Robinson, and Florence ...

Article

Fred Lindsey

writer, editor, educator, artist, and intellectual, best known as a social critic. Cruse defined the relationships between African Americans and American society. His 1967 book The Crisis of the Negro Intellectual: A Historical Analysis of the Failure of Black Leadership energized activists intellectually, both within the United States and in a few black nations, and thus contributed to the roots of the so-called black revolution.

Harold Wright Cruse was born in Petersburg, Virginia; his father was a railroad porter. During Cruse's childhood his father and his stepmother divorced, and he was taken to New York to live with his father's sister in Queens. Before graduating from high school, Cruse was introduced to what remained of the Harlem Renaissance, to the country's radicalism of the 1930s, and to a lecture given by the scholar W. E. B. Du Bois all of which provoked his thinking about ...

Article

Richard A. Bradshaw

teacher, soldier, businessman, and politician in colonial Ubangi-Shari and later in the Central African Republic and in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (Congo-Kinshasa), was born Georges Mandalo on 5 January 1920, in Kouango, Ouaka prefecture, in what is now the Central African Republic. His mother, Elisabeth Mandalo, was of the Banziri ethnic group, and his father, Joseph Darlan, was either French or Portuguese. Georges later changed his last name to that of his father, Darlan. The politician Antoine Darlan was his brother.

Georges Darlan went to primary school at Bambari, attended the École urbaine (“city school”) in Bangui, then entered École Édouard Renard (1935–1939) in Brazzaville, Middle-Congo, the federation of French Equatorial Africa’s first teacher training school. After Darlan graduated with its first class in 1939 he was sent as a teacher to Libreville Gabon 1939 1941 but was then drafted into the army He rose to ...

Article

Kimberly L. Malinowski

landscape and figure painter, was born in Wood County, near Parkersburg, West Virginia, to Charles T. Dodd and Senora Tibbs Dodd. Dodd attended local schools and began studying art by correspondence. In 1925 he attended the West Virginia Colored Institute (later West Virginia State College) in Institute, West Virginia. He graduated second in his class and was student body president. In 1929 he received a scholarship to study at the National Academy of Design in New York.

In 1932 Dodd returned to West Virginia and worked as an art professor at Bluefield State College in Bluefield West Virginia Dodd was a practicing artist during the years that he taught He taught numerous classes showcasing his many talents He taught introduction to art classes for public school teachers not aspiring to be practicing artists but who wished to have some art background The range of Dodd s teaching ...

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 ...

Article

Kimberly M. Curtis

politician. Arthur Allen Fletcher, the reputed “father of affirmative action enforcement,” was born in Phoenix, Arizona, and raised in Junction City, Kansas. He graduated from Junction City High School in 1943 and enlisted in the U.S. Army. He was wounded in combat in Germany and earned a Purple Heart. As a World War II veteran, Fletcher enrolled at Washburn College in Topeka, Kansas, where he studied history and political science, set football records, and participated in Republican politics. He graduated from Washburn College in 1950.

In 1954 Fletcher served as Kansas governor Fred Hall's legislative liaison agent. Fletcher was vice chairman of the Kansas Republican Party from 1955 to 1957. In 1965 he and his wife and children moved to Pasco Washington As a city councilman Fletcher developed the East Pasco Self Help Cooperative which enabled East Pasco s poor black residents to purchase stock in ...

Article

M. A. Peterson

politician, teacher, and executive director of the United Negro College Fund, was born in Phoenix, Arizona, the son of Cotton Fletcher, a buffalo soldier in the U.S. Ninth and Tenth Cavalry, and Edna Miller Fletcher, a nurse and graduate of Prairie View A&M. Arthur was raised on military bases in the American west and southwest with periods spent in central Los Angeles and Oklahoma City. In 1936 when Fletcher was in the seventh grade in Oklahoma City, he heard Mary McLeod Bethune speak. He was later inspired by the way she had persuaded Eleanor Roosevelt and Secretary of Labor Francis Perkins to convince President Franklin D. Roosevelt of the need for an executive order mandating fair employment practices in federal hiring. (Roosevelt would not implement such a plan, however, until further pressured by Bethune, the NAACP's Walter White, and A. Philip Randolph s ...

Article

Bruce Kuklick

a professional philosopher who taught for twenty years at the University of Pennsylvania, was born William Thomas Fontaine in Chester, Pennsylvania, the son of William Charles Fontaine, a steelworker, and Mary Elizabeth Boyer, who went by the name of Ballard, having been raised by her grandparents. His grandmother on his father's side, Cornelia Wilson Fontaine Smith, with whom he grew up, had been a slave. Fontaine went to an exclusively black elementary school, Booker T. Washington, and then to Chester High School. At this time he gave himself a second middle name, Valeria, a Latin name connoting physical and mental strength. At age sixteen he matriculated at Lincoln University in Pennsylvania, and received his BA there in 1930, finishing first in his class. While at Lincoln, Fontaine befriended Kwame Nkrumah, the first black leader of Ghana, and Nnamdi Azikiwe the first black ...

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Glenn Allen Knoblock

World War II veteran, Bronze Star recipient, musician, and educator was born in Anderson, South Carolina, the eldest child of Reverend Charles Francis and his wife Hermena. In 1934 the Francis family moved to Keysville, Georgia, where his father accepted an assignment to lead Boggs Academy, a Presbyterian college preparatory school for African Americans founded in 1906. Charles Francis Jr. graduated from Boggs Academy in 1936 and subsequently attended Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte, North Carolina, earning a degree in history in 1941.

Following his graduation, Francis briefly worked as a traveling salesman and also may have worked as a railroad porter, but with America's entry into World War II in 1942, Francis enlisted as a soldier in the US Army. His early military career is unknown, but by early 1943 Francis was assigned to the divisional staff of the all ...

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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 ...

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Wallace McClain Cheatham

opera singer, college and music conservatory professor, composer, activist, and genealogist, the youngest of seven children, was born in Columbia, Tennessee, and reared in Louisville, Kentucky, where his family moved in search of suitable employment and better schools. Andrew's mother, Lue Vergia Esters Frierson, was a homemaker. His father, Robert Clinton Frierson, was a laborer.

At age three Frierson first dramatically showcased his musical talent. One afternoon he accompanied his mother to the home of an old family friend where there was a piano. Frierson saw the instrument, went to it, and instinctively began to play recognizable songs. Frierson's mother and her friends were astounded because he had never even seen a piano. By the age of five Frierson was playing all over the town.

After four years of piano study with William King and graduation from high school Frierson went to ...