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Charles Vincent

Antoine was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, in 1836. His father was a veteran of the War of 1812; he had fought the British at the Battle of New Orleans. Antoine's mother was a native of the West Indies and the daughter of an African chief; her parents were taken as slaves from the shores of Africa. On his father's side (so the story goes), Antoine's grandmother Rose Antoine was a remarkable woman who purchased her freedom and acquired a small fortune through her work as a midwife.

Caesar C. Antoine spent his childhood in New Orleans and attended private schools. He was fluent in both French and English. After graduating, he entered one of the few occupations open to African Americans in the antebellum South: the barber trade. After federal troops captured Baton Rouge in 1862 Antoine organized a black company known subsequently as Company ...

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Steven J. Niven

Union army officer and politician, was born in New Orleans, the son of a West Indian midwife and a free black soldier who had served in the Corps d'Afrique with General Andrew Jackson in the War of 1812. His parents' names are not recorded. Family lore had it that Caesar's maternal grandfather, an African chief, had been enslaved and taken to America and that his paternal grandmother, Rose Antoine, had earned enough money from her work as a midwife to purchase her freedom. Rose Antoine also left each of her seven sons twenty thousand dollars in her will.

As a free black child in New Orleans Antoine attended private schools the public schools of the city were closed to blacks and became fluent in both English and French Upon leaving school as a teenager in the early 1850s he then apprenticed and worked as a barber one of ...

Article

Edward L. Lach

business executive and civic leader, was born in Washington, D.C., the son of Hayward G. Burrell and Fannie Miles. Although his parents’ occupations are unknown, both his father and his mother were natives of the District of Columbia, and Burrell's roots in the area ran deep. After graduating from Dunbar High School at the age of fifteen, he worked as a driver for a local pharmacy and apparently also drove a cab for a while. He married at age sixteen (his wife's name is unknown), and the marriage produced a son before ending in divorce seven years later.

In 1941 Burrell gained a position at the federal Bureau of Standards, where he worked in the glass section producing prisms and bombsights. He also attended nearby Howard University between 1941 and 1943 but did not graduate. He entered the U.S. Army in 1945 and rose to the rank of ...

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Nick J. Sciullo

corporate executive, United States Air Force veteran, was born to Charles H. Bush, an administrator at Howard University, and his wife, Marie. Bush grew up in the Washington, D.C. neighborhood surrounding Howard University. He attended Banneker Junior High School in D.C. where he was an honor student, as well as the Capitol Page School, a special high school for youth acting as congressional and Supreme Court pages. Bush was appointed a page in 1954 at the age of fourteen, not long after the historic Brown v. Board of Education decision. Bush was the first African American Supreme Court page and also one of the first three African American students to attend the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado. At the Air Force Academy he was a member of the debate team and rugby team, and served in student leadership as a squad commander.

Bush became the ...

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Paul Stillwell

pioneer black naval officer, was born in Washington, North Carolina, the eighth of eleven children of Edward L. Cooper, a sheet metal worker, and Laura J. Cooper a homemaker One of the eleven siblings died in infancy the remaining ten became college graduates During his upbringing in North Carolina Cooper often faced the tribulations of southern racism He went to segregated schools and learned from his parents that he had to go out of his way to avoid conflict with whites Once when Cooper was eight or nine years old he got into a fight with a white boy As he put it It was the wrong day for him to call me a nigger and we had it out Stillwell 76 Cooper s father had to smooth things over with the boy s father to avoid the incident s escalation When he worked as a bellhop in ...

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John C. Fredriksen

soldier and engineer, was born in Thomasville, Georgia, the son of Festus Flipper and Isabelle (maiden name unknown), slaves. During the Civil War and Reconstruction he was educated in American Missionary Association schools and in 1873 gained admission to Atlanta University. That year Flipper also obtained an appointment to the U.S. Military Academy through the auspices of Republican Representative James C. Freeman. He was not the first African American to attend West Point, as Michael Howard and James Webster Smith preceded him in 1870, but neither graduated. Flipper subsequently endured four years of grueling academic instruction and ostracism from white classmates before graduating fiftieth in a class of sixty-four on 14 June 1877. He was commissioned second lieutenant in the all-black Tenth U. S. Cavalry, and the following year recounted his academy experience in an autobiography, The Colored Cadet at West Point (1878 ...

Article

Jean M. Brannon

businessman and civic leader, was born in Chicago, Illinois, the son of Frank Gardner, a U.S. federal employee, and Eva. Residing in his parents' West Chesterfield home on Chicago's far South Side, Gardner attended Gillespie Elementary. In elementary school Gardner exhibited his gifts of salesmanship and initiative when he began delivering the Chicago Defender newspaper door-to-door in his neighborhood. The community contacts he developed as a newspaper boy continued long after he had given up his paper route. He and his older brother Frank were the only two African American students enrolled in Fenger High School. Edward's high school extracurricular interests were intramural sports, primarily basketball, and creative art. His artistic abilities resulted in summer scholarships to the Ray Vogue Art School. Gardner was drafted into the U.S. military after his high school graduation in 1943 Stationed in Japan and the Pacific islands in World War II ...

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Jeffrey R. Yost

physicist and engineer, was born in Newark, New Jersey. He was one of four children. His father worked at various maintenance and painting jobs and his mother was a teletype operator. After classes at Brooklyn Technical High School, Gourdine often worked long hours with his father on cleaning and painting jobs. This experience led him to focus on his studies as well as athletics in hopes of an easier life.

His talent in swimming earned him a scholarship offer from the University of Michigan but he instead chose to attend Cornell University He paid his own tuition early in his college career working for a radio and telegraph firm prior to receiving a scholarship for track and field Gourdine competed in sprints low hurdles and the long jump The six foot tall 175 pound Gourdine earned the nickname Flash as a result of both his speed and his favorite ...

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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

Theresa A. Hammond

consumer markets specialist and business school professor, was born in Chesterfield County, Virginia, to Thomas D. Harris Jr. and Georgia Laws Carter. Thomas Harris was a messenger for the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad and also worked as an embalmer, and Georgia Carter Harris was a homemaker. Thomas stressed the importance of education for his three children, tutoring them in math, anatomy, and English after dinner. Harris attended Kingsland Elementary School (one of the black primary and secondary schools funded by Sears, Roebuck philanthropist Julius Rosenwald to improve education for black southerners) in Chesterfield County, Virginia, and D. Webster Davis High School, the Virginia State College laboratory school, in Petersburg, Virginia. While in high school, Harris earned a certificate in barber practice and science. He cut soldiers' hair on the nearby Fort Lee army base to help pay for his education at Virginia State College.

Harris s education ...

Article

Lisa M. Bratton

Tuskegee Airman, was born in Amherst, Virginia, where he lived with his paternal grandfather until the age of five. The federal judge A. Leon Higginbotham was his distant cousin. In Amherst, Mitchell Higginbotham went to school with his older aunts and uncles and learned the alphabet multiplication and division before he entered kindergarten At the age of five he was taken to live with his parents in Sewickley Pennsylvania His parents worked in the steel mills but during the Great Depression the mills closed and they entered domestic service Schools in Sewickley were integrated but the YMCA the theaters and many of the sports programs were closed to African Americans When Higginbotham enrolled in school in Sewickley he was so advanced that he skipped first grade There were six African Americans out of the 106 students in Higginbotham s high school graduating class He motivated his fellow African ...

Article

Amanda Harmon Cooley

businessperson, corporate executive, and educator. Dennis Fowler Hightower, the son of Marvin W. Hightower and Anna Virginia Hightower, was born in Washington, D.C., and grew up in LeDroit Park, a neighborhood in the District of Columbia in which many other prominent African Americans, from Duke Ellington to the Reverend Jesse Jackson, have lived. As a child Hightower spent time at Camp Atwater in North Brookfield, Massachusetts, which was established in 1921 by William N. DeBerry with the mission to help African American children. After graduating from McKinley High School at age sixteen, Hightower continued his studies at Howard University, earning a bachelor of science degree in 1962.

Then Hightower enlisted in the U S Army beginning an eight year military career that included active service in the Vietnam War His leadership advanced him to the rank of major by the age of twenty seven ...

Article

Stephen L. Harris

civil rights and community activist, business leader, state legislator, and Tuskegee Airman, was born in New York state to Henry Johnson, a World War I hero and recipient of the American Distinguished Service Cross. His maternal grandfather, Herman Phoenix, was in the early 1900s a leader in organizing the Niagara, New York, branch of the NAACP. Johnson himself was thirteen when he joined the NAACP. Although he lived and worked in several cities, he was most connected with Kansas City, Missouri. He earned a bachelor's degree in economics from Cornell University in 1938 and a master's degree in business administration from the University of Chicago in 1940.

Soon after earning his master s degree Johnson was a statistician for the War Production Board During World War II he enlisted and fought with the 332nd Fighter Group known as the Tuskegee Airmen Attaining the ...

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Patricia Carter Sluby

inventor, entrepreneur, businessman, and nuclear engineer, was born and raised in Mobile, Alabama, the third of six children of David Johnson a driver for the Air Force and Arline Washington Johnson a nurse s assistant Johnson attended W H Council Elementary School and Williamson High School in his segregated hometown Guided by tolerant and patient parents who encouraged him during his early creative years when he fiddled with junk Johnson was painfully aware of racial inequities but that did not deter his curiosity about how things worked His mother ingrained in him and his siblings the importance of knowledge emphasizing what one puts in the brain counts in life Likened to a child prodigy nosy young Johnson habitually tinkered with his siblings toys to see how they functioned In project after project he monkeyed with old jukeboxes plastic pipes compression motors and explosive rocket fuel ...

Article

Elizabeth R. Schroeder

journalist, businessman, military leader, and diplomat, was born in Albany, Georgia, to Richard and Eliza (Brown) Jones. Richard Lee Jones, also known as Dick Jones, moved to Cincinnati, Ohio, with his family at fifteen saying

In the South, I was not the submissive kind, but I learned respect for authority. Many Negroes have not learned that yet. They come up here and try to run away with the town. I had no trouble in the South. I avoided trouble. If you see a nail, why sit on it? Much trouble could be avoided by Negroes in the South if they tried to. Get me straight! I am not for conditions down there. They are bad, but could be bettered.”

(Wilson, “Interview with Dick Jones, Manager of South Center,” Negro in Illinois Papers)

He attended the University of Cincinnati from 1912 to 1915 and later abandoned his law ...

Article

Minna Zeesy Philips

was born in Eastman, Georgia to Connie Nappier, Sr. and Lutha Ophelia (Jones) Nappier. Public school was permitted only for white children, so Nappier was first educated by a Ms. Rose, a black woman in Eastman who taught in her own home. His family moved to Hartford, Connecticut before he was five years old, where he attended preschool on Wooster Street. At age six Nappier was walking with his father in Hartford’s North End when he heard a plane flying overhead. At that moment he decided he wanted to be a pilot. Nappier enjoyed golf and music, and studied guitar and alto saxophone at the Drago School of Music in his middle school years. He joined the Clyde Board Band, and traveled up and down the East coast playing music. By age fourteen he was being paid as a musician.

In 1939 Nappier started ninth grade at Hartford s ...

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Millery Polyné

World War II pilot, entrepreneur, and airline executive, was born in Westfield, New Jersey, the son of a Jamaican dental technician. His parents' names are unknown. A driven and determined student at Lincoln University in Pennsylvania, where he graduated with a bachelor of arts in 1935, Plinton was a solid student-athlete who participated on the varsity soccer, wrestling, tennis, and track teams. He was also a member of the dramatic society and the glee club and was president of the German society. An accomplished musician, he played the piano and organ well and one summer played the organ at Tuskegee Institute. With the encouragement and unbending rearing of his father, it was evident that the black college experience was critical to his development as a future leader and visionary who would defy the odds against systematic racial injustice. In a 1973 interview Plinton revealed Going ...

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Jacob Ganoe

janitor, Connecticut National Guard lieutenant, and founder of the first African American Boy Scout troop in Connecticut, was born in Nova Scotia, Canada. Little is known about his parents except that he was the second of four children. He had one older and younger sister, Alice and Martha, respectively, and one younger brother, Stephen. In the year 1887, at the age of ten, he, his mother, and his three siblings emigrated to America on the steamer Linda, arriving at Boston Harbor. His mother's name is listed as S. Saunders on the ship's manifest, so her real name is unknown. There is no record of his father. Saunders moved to New Haven, Connecticut, in 1892.

Saunders met his wife, Linna, who was born in January 1865, in Pennsylvania; the two married in 1890 They then settled down at 28 Hazel Street in New Haven Their ...

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Paul Stillwell

pioneer black naval officer, was born in Murphreesboro, Tennessee, one of two children of Frank E. Sr. and Rosa Sublett, who were divorced in 1931. When Sublett was about five years old, the family moved to Highland Park, Illinois, and a year later to Glencoe, Illinois, another Chicago suburb. Sublett spent most of the rest of his life in Glencoe. His education in the first eight grades was in Glencoe, and he then went to high school in nearby Winnetka. He was among the very few black students in the high school, from which he graduated in 1938, but he later recalled that he encountered no prejudice there (Stillwell, 149). As a teenager he got his first exposure to service life when he attended Citizens Military Training Camp at Fort Riley, Kansas, for two summers. He spent the 1938–1939 school year at the University of ...

Article

Kelli Cardenas Walsh

military officer, was born in Kansas City, Missouri. Waddy was raised by her maternal grandmother after the death of her mother; her father raised her only sibling, a brother, separately. Waddy had no further contact with her father but did occasionally correspond with her brother. When she was fourteen years old, Waddy wrote a letter to her grandmother that read, “I intend to make something of myself.”

In 1920Waddy attended Kansas State College of Agriculture and Applied Science in Manhattan, Kansas, for at least two years, earning a degree in secretarial skills. Waddy was married during this time, but it was quickly annulled for unknown reasons. In the 1930s she moved to Chicago and worked as a secretary to the director of medical services at Provident Hospital. It was there that she met orthopedic surgeon John Chenault; Waddy and Chenault were married on 4 November 1933 ...