escaped slave, navy landsman, and U.S. Medal of Honor recipient, was born in Natchez, Mississippi, in 1841 of unknown parentage. Brown was a slave in Mississippi on a cotton plantation, and nothing is known of his childhood or to whom he belonged. In the early 1860s, at the start of the Civil War, Brown ran away from his master on a skiff that eventually managed to reach a Union ship stationed on the Mississippi River. This encounter with the navy probably accounts for his subsequent enlistment. The navy was a likely choice for an escaped slave; many escaped slaves, as well as free blacks from the North, were often drawn to the service because of its better pay and purported fairer treatment of blacks. Brown enlisted in the Union navy on 18 March 1863 under the title 1st Class Boy and was officially described as a Contraband Negro five ...
Marlene L. Daut
scholar and diplomat, was born Ralph Johnson Bunche in Detroit, Michigan, the son of Fred Bunch, a barber, and Olive Agnes Johnson. His grandmother added an “e” to the family's last name following a move to Los Angeles, California. Because his family moved frequently, Bunche attended a number of public schools before graduating first in his class from Jefferson High School in Los Angeles in 1922. He majored in Political Science at the University of California, Southern Branch (now University of California, Los Angeles [UCLA]), graduating summa cum laude and serving as class valedictorian in 1927. He continued his studies in political science at Harvard, receiving his MA in 1928, and then taught at Howard University in Washington, D.C., while working toward his PhD at Harvard. In 1930 he married Ruth Ethel Harris they had three children Bunche traveled to Europe and Africa researching ...
Joseph C. Heim
scholar, university professor, diplomat, UN administrator, and Nobel Peace Prize recipient. In the 1950s and 1960s Bunche was the most visible African American on the world stage. But his accomplishments were far in the future when he was born in modest circumstances in Detroit, Michigan, the son of Fred Bunche, a barber, and Olive Bunche. His parents, however, were constantly in poor health, and after their early deaths Bunche was raised by his grandmother, Lucy Johnson, in Los Angeles.
His grandmother s diligence and inspiration guided and shaped Bunche s youth and he compiled a record of stellar achievement both in athletics he later was a guard on the basketball team of the University of California at Los Angeles UCLA and in academics This he did while holding numerous jobs from delivering newspapers to laying carpets on merchant ships His early years also ...
Egyptian Nobel Laureate, diplomat, international civil servant, and scholar who served as the director general (DG) of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) between 1997 and 2009, was born in Cairo. His father was Mostafa ElBaradei, a lawyer and president of the Egyptian Bar Association, who campaigned for a free press and an independent legal system. ElBaradei studied law at the University of Cairo (1962), and completed his PhD in international law at the New York University School of Law (1974).
ElBaradei joined the Egyptian Diplomatic Service in 1964; his postings included the Egyptian Permanent Missions to the United Nations (UN) in New York and Geneva. Between 1974 and 1978 he served as a special assistant to the Egyptian foreign minister Working under another Egyptian diplomat who would later leave his mark on the UN Boutros Boutros Ghali he attended the Camp David ...
writer, sailor, soldier, teacher, and minister, was one of ten children born in North Carolina to Abel Ferebee, a slave and minister of the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Zion Church, and Chloe (maiden name unknown), a slave. When London was young his mother was sold, apparently because of her unwillingness to submit to her master and her ability to beat him in a fight. She was sold to a speculator, who offered to sell her to her husband or his master, who had allowed Ferebee to hire himself out to a local farmer so that they both profited from his labor. When she was subsequently bought by one of the two men—it is unclear which—London and two of his siblings were allowed to move with her, though they all remained enslaved.
Once he was old enough to begin laboring London was immediately set to ...
activist and educator, was born in Baltimore, Maryland. Nothing is known of his parentage or youth. He was probably the James Gilliard listed in the 1860 Federal Census of Stockton, California; if this is the case, he was a barber, his wife was named Charlotte (c. 1835– ?), and had a step-daughter, Mary E. Jones (c. 1848– ?). In the late 1860s Gilliard worked as a teacher and sometime-minister in the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church and spent time in both Los Angeles and San Francisco. He wrote several short pieces for the San Francisco Elevator—sometimes under his full name and sometimes using simply “J. E. M.”—and was noted by the editor Philip Bell as one of the weekly's best contributors (along with Thomas Detter and Jennie Carter). Gilliard was even occasionally noted as the paper's “associate editor.”
Gilliard lectured throughout California in 1870 ...
Benjamin R. Justesen
lawyer, public official, legislator, and law school dean, was the youngest son of five children born in Fayetteville, North Carolina, to Matthew N. Leary, a successful saddler and a staunch abolitionist and philanthropist, and Julia A. Memorell (Menriel). Matthew Leary helped local slaves buy their freedom and often educated them, despite legal prohibitions on the practice. According to the 1850 federal census, he personally owned three slaves, though these were held for benevolent reasons.
John Leary's birth year is not certain; the 1850 census records his age as ten, although later reports indicate that he was born as late as 1849 His ethnic heritage was a blend of European Native American and African American lineage His mother a native of France migrated as a child to North Carolina from the Bahamas with her French mother His father whose family name had been shortened from ...
Chouki El Hamel
Moroccan scholar, diplomat, and traveler, was born al-Hasan b. Muhammad ibn Ahmad al-Wazzan al-Fasi al-Gharnati (hereafter, al-Wazzan) in Granada, Spain, to a wealthy family (some sources place the date of his birth between 1488 and 1496). In 1492, Granada fell into the hands of the Spanish Castilians, after which Iberian Muslims were forced to migrate to North Africa. In this context, the al-Wazzan family moved to Morocco and settled in the city of Fez. They were able to preserve their socioeconomic status and participated in diplomatic and commercial activities. In his book Description of Africa al Wazzan mentions that after his family settled in the region of Fez he used to accompany his father on business trips to the Rif region and the Middle Atlas mountains to collect taxes on behalf of the Wattasi sultan He also accompanied his uncle on a diplomatic mission to Timbuktu at age ...
Dorothy C. Woodson
South African teacher, Zulu chief, political leader, and Nobel Peace Prize winner, was born in Rhodesia around 1898 of South African (Zulu) parentage. His mother, Mtonya Gumede, was born and raised in the Royal Kraal of Cetshewayo, the Zulu king. His father, John Luthuli, was the elected chief of Groutville, home of the Umvoti Mission, an American Board of Commissioners station near Stanger, north of Durban, in what is now Kwa-Zulu Natal. He attended various local schools and was later awarded a two-year teacher-training scholarship at Adams College. Luthuli remained at Adams as a teacher, becoming one of only two African teachers at the school, the other being Z. K. Matthews (1901–1968). He married Nokukhanya Bhengu in 1927, and they had seven children.
In 1936 Luthuli reluctantly left Adams College and returned to Groutville after being elected to the chieftainship of the Umvoti Mission Reserve during which time he ...
short story writer and essayist, was born in Savannah, Georgia, to James Allen McPherson, a master electrician, and Mable Smalls McPherson, a domestic servant.
McPherson grew up attending segregated public schools and sometimes played hooky from school to read at the “colored” branch of the local Carnegie library. As a teenager, he worked as a dining car waiter on passenger trains—an exclusively African American profession that figures prominently in some of his work. “The well-known short story, ‘A Solo Song: For Doc’ (from his first collection, 1969's Hue and Cry), for example, is a character study of two railroad waiters of different generations. McPherson continued to work on the trains of the Great Northern Railroad while attending Morris Brown College, a private, predominately African American institution in Georgia” (in “James Alan McPherson,” Contemporary Black Biography, no. 70 [2009 He was able to ...
writer and editor. Born Chloe Anthony Wofford in 1931, Toni Morrison grew up in Lorain, Ohio, and had an older sister and two younger brothers. Her parents, George and Ramah Wofford, who had migrated to the steel-mill town from the South, provided Morrison with a background in African American folklore as well as an understanding of the importance of maintaining black community. After graduating from high school, Morrison left Lorain in 1949 to attend Howard University, a historically black university in Washington, D.C.; during her time as an undergraduate, Morrison had the opportunity to travel throughout the South with the Howard University Players. After changing her first name to Toni, Morrison graduated from Howard in 1953 with a BA in English and a minor in classics. By 1955 Morrison had completed her MA degree at Cornell University and begun teaching at Texas Southern University Two years ...
From “Quiet as it's kept,” the phrase that begins the narrative of The Bluest Eye(1970), her first novel, to “Look where your hands are. Now,” the final phrase of Jazz (1992), her sixth novel, Toni Morrison has distinguished herself as an author, editor, and critic who has transformed the American literary landscape with her presence in the African American literary tradition. When she won the 1993 Nobel Prize in Literature, the Swedish Academy referred to her as one “who, in novels characterized by visionary force and poetic import, gives life to an essential aspect of American reality.” Indeed, in her Nobel lecture, delivered on 7 December 1993 in Stockholm she eloquently demonstrated that the visionary force and poetic import of her novels reflect her worldview and understanding of how language shapes human reality Through her own use of the spoken and written word she ...
Carolyn C. Denard
Born Chloe Anthony Wofford in Lorain, Ohio a steel mill town on the shore of Lake Erie Morrison was the second of four children Her father was a welder in the steel mills and her mother was a homemaker Morrison s parents and maternal grandparents migrated to Lorain from the South in the early 1900s Her maternal grandparents were sharecroppers in Greenville Alabama who had lost their land in the late 1890s and were never able to get out of debt Her father s family had been sharecroppers in Cartersville Georgia and his painful memoirs of racial strife left him with a bitter attitude toward whites Morrison was thus brought up with a strong distrust of whites and an understanding that the only tangible or emotional aid on which she could depend would come from her own community Group loyalty was among the earliest values she was taught as ...
journalist and editor, was born in Okolona, Mississippi, to James Lee Raspberry, a school shop teacher, and Willie Mae Tucker an English teacher and amateur poet Both parents were intensely interested in education and in seeing to it that their children were the beneficiaries of good educations They prodded their six youngsters to achieve instilling in them a passion for reading a positive approach to life and a desire for logical thinking From his mother Raspberry said that he learned to care about the rhythm and grace of words and from his father he recalled learning that neither tables nor arguments are worthwhile unless they stand solidly on four legs Raspberry went north first moving to live with an older sister in Indianapolis In a few years the rest of the family left the South to become residents of Indianapolis where Raspberry and the rest of his ...
Ignatius Sancho was born on a slave ship en route to the West Indies; both of his parents died during the journey, casualties of the Middle Passage. Never having lived in Africa, Sancho was in many ways a product of Western civilization. His letters, written between 1768 and 1780, and published posthumously in 1782, proved to the English public that an African could not only master the language and literature of England but become a discriminating reader and a discerning critic.
Upon arriving in Britain, Sancho was bought by three sisters in Greenwich who treated him poorly and denied him education. But the sisters' neighbors, the Duke and Duchess of Montague, were impressed by Sancho's curiosity about books and his quick mind and secretly lent him materials to read. In 1749 when the sisters threatened to sell him into American slavery Sancho fled to the ...
Maceo Crenshaw Dailey
private secretary and influential assistant to Booker T. Washington, advocate of racial uplift who displayed a lifelong commitment to the goals of the Tuskegee Institute–based educational and political machine and was a prominent black representative in Republican politics. Born in Houston, Texas, in 1873 to Horace and Emma Kyle Scott, Emmett Scott was surrounded with parents, relatives, and later friends who knew the horrors of enslavement either through experience, folklore, or history and were determined to rise in the American order. Scott was thus reared in a community that focused on establishing uplift institutions and organizations to enable them to realize and enjoy first-class American citizenship and life. After attending Houston's Gregory Institute, Emmett enrolled at Wiley College from 1887 to 1889 The economic circumstances of his family he was one of eight siblings did not afford Scott the opportunity to complete his college education Upon his ...
Emmett Scott was born in Houston, Texas, and worked first as a journalist with the Houston Post. In 1894 he founded and edited the weekly Houston Freeman. The views therein largely agreed with those of Booker T. Washington, who hired Scott as his personal secretary at the Tuskegee Institute (now Tuskegee University) in 1897. In 1912 he became Tuskegee's secretary, where, as part of the “Tuskegee Machine,” he spread Washington's self-help and accommodationist political and social message, which he expounded on in Tuskegee and Its People (1910) and Builder of a Civilization (1916), a biography of Washington. From 1900 to 1922, Scott served as the chief administrator of Washington's economic self-help organization, the National Negro Business League. Scott left Tuskegee after Washington's death in 1915 and was special assistant to the U.S. secretary of war during World War I ...
Edgar Allan Toppin
educator and publicist, was born in Houston, Texas, the son of Horace Lacy Scott, a civil servant, and Emma Kyle. Scott attended Wiley College in Marshall, Texas, for three years but left college in 1890 for a career in journalism. Starting as a janitor and messenger for a white daily newspaper, the Houston Post, he worked his way up to reporter. In 1894 he became associate editor of a new black newspaper in Houston, the Texas Freeman. Soon he was named editor and built this newspaper into a leading voice in black journalism in its region. Initially, he tied his fortune to the state's preeminent black politician, Norris Cuney, and was his secretary for a while.
When Cuney retired, Scott turned to Booker T. Washington, the founder of the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama. Scott greatly admired Washington, praising his 1895 Atlanta Compromise ...
Jennifer Jensen Wallach
widow of Malcolm X and educator. Born Betty Jean Sanders in Detroit, Michigan, Shabazz was raised there in a middle-class family by her adoptive parents Lorenzo Don and Helen Malloy. As a youth she was active in the African Methodist Episcopal Church. She briefly attended the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama before enrolling in nursing school at the Brooklyn State Hospital in New York. While studying nursing Shabazz taught a class in women's health at the Nation of Islam's Temple Number 7 in Harlem. There she met the charismatic civil rights leader and Nation of Islam minister Malcolm X.
In 1958 she completed her nursing studies, converted to Islam, and married Malcolm X. They broke with the Nation of Islam in 1964, joining mainstream Islam and adopting the name “Shabazz.” The couple had six daughters, Atallah, Qubilah, Ilyasah, Gamilah, Malikah, and Malaak ...
There is some uncertainty about Betty Shabazz's origins and early life. Reportedly the daughter of Shelman Sandlin and a woman named Sanders, she was born Betty Sanders and grew up as a foster child in the Detroit, Michigan, home of a black family named Malloy. As a youth she was active in her local African Methodist Episcopal Church. She briefly attended Tuskegee Institute (now Tuskegee University) in Alabama but moved to New York City to escape Southern racism and to study at the Brooklyn State Hospital School of Nursing. During her junior year, she attended the Nation of Islam's Temple No. 7 in Harlem. There she taught a women's health and hygiene class and was noticed by Malcolm X, who was a minister at the temple. He proposed to her by telephone from Detroit, and they were married in 1958.
Shabazz converted to Islam ...