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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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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

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

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

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

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 ...

Article

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 ...

Article

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 ...

Article

Pamela Blackmon

orthodontist, educator, and U.S. Army colonel, was born in Chicago, the son of Eugene Renfroe and Bertha. A 1921 graduate of Austin O. Sexton Grammar School, Renfroe attended James H. Bowen High School, where he was the first African American student in the school's history to achieve the rank of cadet commander in the Reserve Officers Training Corp (ROTC). This was one of many “firsts” that characterized his life.

Renfroe next enrolled at Crane Junior College, then he was admitted to the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) College of Dentistry. While there, he became the first student to tackle a full course load while also working full-time outside of the college. Undaunted by the difficulties of such a feat, he still managed to graduate first in a class of 127 dental students in 1931.

By the time Renfroe joined the Illinois National Guard in ...

Article

Joann Buckley

was born in Davidson County, Tennessee. There is little known of Henry H. Walker’s family or early life, but his college years were spent at Walden University in Nashville. He then went on to earn his medical degree from Meharry Medical College, one of the nation’s leading historically black colleges in the Jim Crow era. He spent the majority of his adult life in Nashville, Davidson County’s most important city.

After graduation in 1913 Walker served as surgical assistant to John H. Hale at Hale Hospital until 1917 Dr Hale was a notable surgeon who worked studied and traveled to the prestigious Mayo and Crile clinics to advance his knowledge which he passed on to Walker Walker joined the Meharry faculty teaching anatomy as well as minor and orthopedic surgery During these prewar years he married Elizabeth a local music teacher The two of them were active in the ...

Article

Charles Johnson

James Walker was born in Albermarle County, Virginia, one of two children of former slaves Peter and Lucy Ella Walker. About 1881 the family moved to Washington, D.C., where James's father obtained employment. This enabled James to attend the Preparatory High School for Colored Youth (renamed the M Street High School in 1891). Completing the requirements at M Street in 1893, he graduated a year later from Miner Normal School and began teaching in Division Thirteen of the Washington public school system. As teacher, principal of the Syphax and Banneker schools, and supervising principal of the division, Walker spent twenty-four years in the public schools. In 1906 he married Beatrice Louise Johnson, who had attended the same schools and also taught at the Banneker School.

Walker is best known for his service in the army Originally enlisted as a noncommissioned staff officer he was commissioned ...

Article

Adam R. Hornbuckle

was born in Connellsville, Pennsylvania, the second youngest of twelve children, some of whom had died in infancy, of Silas Edward Woodruff, a coal miner, and Sarah Henry Woodruff, a laundress. His parents, the children of former Virginia slaves, had migrated to Pennsylvania from Pulaski County, Virginia, where they had married in 1894. Born John Youie Woodruff, he was an avid reader as a child, impressing his second-grade teacher by finishing books several years beyond his reading comprehension level. At the age of sixteen he dropped out of Connellsville High School in the hope of finding work in the factories that had employed many of his white classmates. After being rejected by employers because of his race, Woodruff returned to school and later recalled the experience as the only time discrimination worked in his favor.

During his junior year at Connellsville High School Woodruff played football until his mother ...