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Charles Edward Wiles

first black marine officer and distinguished educator, was born in Hamlet, North Carolina, the son of a Methodist minister. Little is known of his parents or his early education, but he was educated in New York state public schools and attended Temple University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, until he was drafted into the U.S. Marine Corps in 1943 Branch completed basic training at the segregated Marine Corp Recruit Depot for black recruits known as Montford Point located on a desolate portion of Camp Lejeune in North Carolina Following basic training Branch served overseas as part of the Fifty first Defense Battalion a supply unit stationed on a Pacific island near the International Dateline While in the Pacific Branch applied to the navy s V 12 commissioning program for college draftees and was accepted After participating in the V 12 program he attended the Sixteenth Platoon Leaders Class at the Marine ...

Article

Jim McWilliams

was born in Noblesville, Indiana, the eldest of two children in a middle-class family. His father, James Alexander Colter, an insurance salesman, was active in the NAACP and was also an amateur actor and musician. His mother, Ethel Marietta Bassett Colter, died when he was six, and the family soon moved to Youngstown, Ohio, where Colter’s maternal grandparents helped to raise him and his sister.

Colter attended a private school in Youngstown and then matriculated into Youngstown University. He soon transferred to Ohio State University, from which he graduated in 1936. Colter then attended Chicago-Kent College of Law, from which he graduated in 1940, and soon married Imogene MacKay, and, after serving in World War II, began a distinguished career as an attorney in Chicago.

After reading deeply in Russian literature, Colter, aged fifty, published his first story, “A Chance Meeting,” in the Irish magazine Threshold in 1960 ...

Article

James Robert Payne

After careers in government service, law, the Army, and academia, Cyrus Colter began writing at fifty. Colter placed his first short story, “A Chance Meeting,” in Threshold in 1960. He went on to place stories in such little magazines as New Letters, Chicago Review, and Prairie Schooner. Fourteen of his stories are collected in his first book, The Beach Umbrella (1970). In 1990 Colter published a second collection of short fiction, The Amoralists and Other Tales.

Colter's first novel, The Rivers of Eros (1972) relates the efforts of Clotilda Pilgrim to raise her grandchildren to lives of respectability When Clotilda discovers that her sixteen year old grandaughter is involved with a married man the grandmother becomes obsessed with the idea that the girl is repeating her grandmother s own youthful mistakes Clotilda eventually kills the girl in order to stop what ...

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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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Brian F. Neumann

first African American general in American history. Evidence has been presented that Davis was born 28 May 1880 and then lied about his age to enlist in the army; the earlier date is the one on his tombstone at Arlington National Cemetery. Born to a government worker in Washington, D.C., Benjamin Oliver Davis came from a middle-class home and benefited from the educational opportunities this presented. He attended Washington's M Street High School, gaining a taste for military life in the cadet corps. After a brief stint at Howard University, he helped recruit a black company of U.S. volunteer infantry in 1898 after the outbreak of the Spanish-American War. He served in the all-black unit as a lieutenant. The unit was not sent overseas, and Davis was mustered out in 1899 Denied enrollment at the U S Military Academy at West Point he enlisted as a private in the ...

Article

Kaavonia Hinton

poet, critic, and teacher, was born James Andrew Emanuel in Alliance, Nebraska, the fifth of seven children of Cora Ann Mance and Alfred A. Emanuel, a farmer and railroad worker. Emanuel's early years were spent listening to his mother read the Bible, the poetry of Paul Laurence Dunbar, the Saturday Evening Post, and Booker T. Washington's Up from Slavery. An avid reader, Emanuel borrowed Western, adventure, and mystery stories from the public library. He also memorized contemporary poems. By junior high school he was writing his own detective stories and poetry. During his young adult years he worked various jobs—elevator operator, baling machine operator, and weighmaster—before being named the class valedictorian and graduating from high school in 1939.

By age twenty Emanuel was working in Washington, D.C., as the confidential secretary to Gen. Benjamin O. Davis assistant inspector general of ...

Article

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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Edward Morrow

Edward Orval Gourdin was born on August 10, 1897, in Jacksonville, Florida, the son of Walter Holmes and Felicia Garvin Gourdin. As a child, Gourdin demonstrated such athletic and scholarly excellence that his family sacrificed and took him to Massachusetts to realize his potential. He prepared at Stanton and Cambridge Latin high schools for Harvard College and graduated in 1921 with a B.A. degree; he completed Harvard Law School in 1924 with an LL.B. degree. On May 10, 1923, he married Amalia Ponce of Cambridge, Massachusetts, who became the mother of their four children: Elizabeth, Ann Robinson, Amalia Lindal, and Edward O., Jr.

Gourdin gained fame as an athlete during his college and university career, passed the bar, practiced law in Boston, Massachusetts, and joined the National Guard in 1925. During World War II he served as lieutenant colonel and later ...

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

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

Adam R. Hornbuckle

was born George Lawrence James in Mount Pleasant, New York, the son of Martha James; his father’s name is unrecorded. James began participating in track and field in seventh grade and continued at White Plains High School in White Plains, New York. Coached by Ed Kehe, he demonstrated all-around ability in the sport, especially in the 180-yard low hurdles, 330-yard intermediate hurdles, 220- and 440-yard dashes, and the triple jump. In 1966 James won the 180-yard low hurdles at the New York Public School State Championships and belonged to the 880-yard and mile-relay teams which established national high school records of 1:24.5 and 3:12.7 respectively.

After graduating high school in 1966, James entered Villanova University near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Ineligible to compete as a freshman, he debuted as a sophomore indoors at the 1968 Millrose Games in New York City s Madison Square Garden James won the 500 yard ...

Article

Isabel Shipley Cunningham

research botanist and plant collector, was born in Washington, D.C., the second son of Edward Wilson Jefferson and Bernice Cornelia Bond, both U.S. government employees. Although his father held two jobs to support his family during the Depression, he found the time to carefully tend a flower garden, the pride of his neighborhood. A six-year-old Roland watched with interest as seeds his father planted sprouted and grew. When his family visited Potomac Park to see the famous Japanese cherry trees in bloom, Roland came to love the trees, not imagining that he would become an international authority on flowering cherries. After attending public schools in Washington, Jefferson served in the U.S. Army Air Corps during World War II. Following his discharge, he entered Howard University under the G.I. Bill of Rights and received his BS degree in Botany in 1950 and then pursued graduate study Searching for ...

Article

Barbara B. Tomblin

army general, nurse, and educator, was born Hazel Winifred Johnson, the daughter of Clarence L. and Garnett Johnson, in Malvern, Pennsylvania. One of seven children, she grew up in a close-knit family on a farm in West Chester, Pennsylvania. Although she was rejected from the local nursing program because of racial prejudice, Johnson persisted in her childhood dream of becoming a nurse and received a nursing diploma in 1950 from Harlem Hospital School of Nursing in New York City. Following graduation, she worked as a beginning-level staff nurse at Harlem Hospital's emergency ward and in 1953 went to the Veterans Administration Hospital in Philadelphia, quickly becoming the head nurse on a ward.

Two years later Johnson decided to join the army because she said the Army had more variety to offer and more places to go Bombard 65 She was commissioned as a second lieutenant ...

Article

Glenn Allen Knoblock

World War II veteran and U.S. naval officer, was born in Hamilton, Ohio, the son of Posey Kimmons and Mary Whitaker. He attended Hamilton High School and graduated in 1939. Afterward Kimmons, like so many other young men at the time, joined the Civilian Conservation Corps and was housed at a local camp, sending home a portion of his earnings on a regular basis. However, he also had another interest sparked by watching the 1937 black and white movie Submarine D-1 as a teenager. Eager to join the navy, Kimmons's interest was further piqued when another African American from Hamilton, George Morris came home from the service A tough looking submariner dressed in a navy uniform covered with medals and standing over six feet tall Morris made an indelible impression on Kimmons who later joked that Morris didn t tell us how hard it really was ...

Article

Robert L. Gale

educator, army officer, and author, was born in Washington, D.C., the son of Ulysses Lee, a businessman and grocery store owner, and Mattie Spriggs. He graduated from Dunbar High School in Washington in 1931, attended Howard University in Washington, joined the Reserve Officers' Training Corps, earned his BA in 1935, and was also a commissioned graduate and a U.S. Army reservist. Remaining at Howard, Lee taught as a graduate assistant in English in 1935 and 1936 and earned his MA in 1936. Lee also studied briefly at the University of Pennsylvania and became a member of the faculty as an instructor and then as an assistant professor of English at Lincoln University in Pennsylvania from 1936 to 1948. During these years he was twice on leave.

From 1936 to 1939 Lee was a research assistant a consultant and an editor ...

Article

Paul Stillwell

naval officer, was born in Tobacco Port, Tennessee, the son of Charles, a tobacco farmer, and Carrie Martin; he had two sisters and one brother. For the first few years of his life, Martin lived on a farm in Tennessee, near the Cumberland River. When Martin was about five or six years old, his father died. Because she was unable to keep up the farm, his mother moved to Indianapolis, Indiana, where she became a seamstress. Graham Martin, by then seven or eight, went with his mother, while his siblings remained in Tennessee. He attended segregated public schools and had to deal with the Jim Crow practices of his new home city. For instance, blacks had to sit in the balconies of movie theaters, and the sports teams on which Martin played were not allowed to compete against teams from local all-white schools.

As he recalled in ...

Article

Caryn E. Neumann

civil rights activist, member of Congress, and a founder of the Congressional Black Caucus. Parren James Mitchell, nicknamed “PJ,” was born in Baltimore, Maryland, as the ninth of ten children, three of whom died in childhood. He attended Baltimore public schools. Enlisting in the army during World War II, Mitchell won a Purple Heart while serving as a company commander in Italy.

Mitchell subsequently earned a bachelor's degree in 1950 from what is now Morgan State University and applied to the sociology graduate program at the University of Maryland. The university refused to admit Mitchell to its College Park campus because of his race and instead established a separate off-campus graduate program for him in Baltimore. Mitchell sued and became the first African American graduate student at Maryland. After earning his master's in 1952 Mitchell taught at Morgan State He headed the antipoverty program in Baltimore in ...

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Chasity Bailey-Fakhoury

educator and founder of the National Alliance of Black School Educators, was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, to James Nathaniel Moody and Rosetta Ella Hall. Moody's parents were both educators, his mother a teacher and his father a supervisor of rural, black schools for the Jeanes Fund. The Jeanes Fund was created by Anna T. Jeanes a Quaker from Philadelphia Pennsylvania who used her wealth to provide educational assistance to black schools and students across the rural South As the youngest of eight children Moody insisted upon coming out from underneath the shadow of his brothers and sisters Instead of attending Southern University in his hometown of Baton Rouge he ventured to Central State University in Wilberforce Ohio a place where he knew no one and no one knew him There Moody s accomplishments or failures were his own not measured against those of his siblings While ...

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Margaret Wade-Lewis

linguist, diplomat, and educator, was born in Nashville, Tennessee, to Raleigh Morgan Sr., a porter at Union Station, and Adrien Louise Beasley Morgan. The eldest of three children, Raleigh Jr. lived with his extended family; his mother left the household when Morgan was four years old. In addition to his father (b. 1888), Morgan's nurturers were his grandfather Jackson (b. 1865), a business owner; his-grandmother Anna (b. 1868), a homemaker; his uncle John W. (b. 1890); and his aunts Elizabeth and Adrien (both b. 1895). His younger siblings were John Edward (b. 1918) and Helen A. (b. 1919).

Morgan took his first course in Latin at age twelve and began to study German and French at ages fourteen and fifteen respectively He eventually became a contemporary Renaissance man whose life unfolded in three phases professor and ...