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Article

Aaron  

Laura Murphy

a former Virginia slave who became an antislavery lecturer, used no last name. Almost nothing is known about him outside of the record contained in his episodic, forty-eight page memoir. He did not provide any information about his parents other than that “hard work and hard usage … killed them.” (Light and Truth 6 He recorded that he had lived in Maryland and Kentucky but that for most of his time as a slave he lived in Virginia owned by a master with seven other slaves three of whom were female Aaron s owner proved especially cruel preferring to personally punish his slaves rather than send them out for a whipping During the summer he forced his three female slaves to work all day and then spend the entire night cooling him and his family with fans while they slept Aaron was forbidden to go to church although ...

Article

Robert Fay

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was born Ferdinand Lewis Alcindor Jr., in Harlem, New York. Raised in a middle-class household and educated at Catholic schools in Manhattan, the young Alcindor was introduced to Basketball at age nine and played competitively throughout elementary and high school. Alcindor was six feet eight inches (2.05 meters) tall by the time he was fourteen years old and became a star center for Power Memorial Academy, leading the high school to two city championships. He continued his dominant play at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA), where he led the university's team to three consecutive National Collegiate Athletic Association championships. He lost only two games in his college career. An outspoken political activist who was influenced by the Black Power Movement, Alcindor changed his name in 1971 after converting to Islam. A popular NBA star from 1969 to 1989 Abdul Jabbar thwarted opponents ...

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Marty Dobrow

basketball player, was born Ferdinand Lewis Alcindor, the son of Ferdinand Lewis “Al” Alcindor, a police officer with the New York Transit Authority, and Cora Alcindor, a department-store price checker. The almost thirteen-pound baby arrived in Harlem one day after the major league debut of Jackie Robinson in Brooklyn; as with Robinson, fiercely competitive athletics and the struggle against racial injustice would define much of his life.

From a young age Alcindor was introspective and intense He had an artistic sensibility drawn in part from his father a stern and silent cop who played jazz trombone and held a degree from Juilliard An only child in a strictly Catholic household he moved from Harlem at age three to the Dyckman Street projects on the northern tip of Manhattan a racially mixed middle class community In third grade he was startled to see a class photo that featured him not ...

Article

Diane Mutti Burke

fugitive slave, was born near Richmond, Virginia, on a plantation owned by the Delaney family. Despite his memories of being well treated, his father, Aleck, was sold to pay his master's debts and taken south. Rev. Delaney justified Aleck's sale by claiming that the literate slave had shared ideas about freedom with other slaves in the neighborhood. When Rev. Delaney died in 1831, Alexander's mother, Chloe, was left to Mrs. Delaney, and eighteen-year-old Alexander was left to the master's son, Thomas. Chloe Alexander died six months after Thomas Delaney took her son with him to Missouri.

Delaney settled in western St Charles County Missouri where Alexander married a local slave woman named Louisa He later sold Alexander to Louisa s master Jim Hollman when he moved from the state and the couple spent the next twenty years living with their growing family on the Hollman farm Alexander was ...

Article

Barry Marshall

singer, was born in Chicago as Delores Williams. Nothing is known about her parents. Raised by her aunt, Merline Baker, also known as the blues singer Memphis Minnie, Baker started singing almost as soon as she could walk, both in her Baptist church and in the street. She grew up in poverty and sang for change on the downtown Chicago streets from the age of three. She started singing professionally as a teenager at the Club Delisa, decked out in down-home clothes and billed as “Little Miss Sharecropper.” The “Sharecropper” sobriquet was a takeoff on the popular blues shouter “Little Miss Cornshucks,” and although it garnered her attention at the time, she was embarrassed by it later in her life. She also appeared at different venues as Bea Baker.

At the age of seventeen, Baker moved to Detroit. By 1947 she was appearing regularly at ...

Article

Sibyl Collins Wilson

journalist and Pulitzer Prize winner, was born in Muskegon, Michigan, to Ezra Douglas and Natalie VanArsdale Bell. As a youngster, Bell was such a committed reader that visits to the library were withheld from him as punishment for misbehaving. His love for reading served him well throughout his life.

Bell enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1968 and remained in the service until 1970, after which he attended the University of Michigan for a year. After relocating to New York, he attended Hofstra University for free because he worked as a custodian, maintaining classrooms in 1970. Applying those same principles of hard work in exchange for opportunity, he joined the staff at Newsday and worked his way up from custodian to Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist. According to a biography written for the Pulitzer Prize award book, he held many positions in the Newsday organization including porter clerk ...

Article

Paul Finkelman and Richard Newman

escaped slave, was born on a plantation in Louisa County, Virginia, to unknown parents. As a youth, Brown lived with his parents, four sisters, and three brothers until the family was separated and his master hired him out at age fifteen to work in a tobacco factory in Richmond, Virginia. Brown's autobiography illuminates the vicissitudes of slave life but does not recount any further major events in his own life other than his marriage around 1836 to Nancy, the slave of a bank clerk, with whom he had three children. In August 1848 Nancy's owner sold her and her three children (Brown's children) to a slave trader who took them South. Brown begged his own master to purchase them, but he refused. Brown later wrote in his autobiography: “I went to my Christian master but he shoved me away According to his autobiography Brown actually saw his wife and ...

Article

F. N. Boney

fugitive slave and slave narrative author, was born in Southampton County, Virginia, the son of slaves Joe and Nancy. For most of his life as a slave he was called Fed or Benford. When he was about ten years old he and his mother were moved to nearby Northampton County, North Carolina. Eighteen months later he was sold alone and sent to Georgia, never again to see any of his kinfolk.

Bought by the ambitious and quick-tempered Thomas Stevens, Fed grew to maturity on a farm in central Georgia near the state capital at Milledgeville. Stevens drove his slaves hard, often employing whippings and other brutal punishments. Gradually Stevens accumulated much land and more than twenty slaves, becoming a “planter” by federal census standards. In the 1820s Stevens expanded his family enterprises into DeKalb County near Cherokee territory in northwestern Georgia and when these Indians were driven west ...

Article

Marlene L. Daut

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 ...

Article

Laura M. Calkins

lawyer, was born in Richmond, Virginia, the son of slaves Richard C. and Martha A. Chiles. Immediately following the end of the Civil War a public school for blacks, known as the “Freedmen's School,” was opened in Ebenezer Baptist Church on Leigh Street in Richmond, and Chiles's family arranged for his admission to the school at the age of six. Chiles's father, Richard, had emerged by this time as a leader of the African American community in Richmond. During the Civil War Richard Chiles had worked in the War Department of the Confederate States of America (CSA), whose capital was at Richmond. On 2 April 1865, while CSA President Jefferson Davis was attending a worship service at St. Paul's Episcopal Church on Richmond's Capitol Square, Richard Chiles delivered to him a letter written by Confederate military commander General Robert E. Lee who was then at Petersburg ...

Article

Andre D. Vann

singer, writer, and socialite, was born Maria Hawkins in the Roxbury section of Boston, Massachusetts. Her father, Mingo Hawkins, was a mail carrier with the U.S. Postal Service, which at the time was considered a prestigious position for an African American; her mother, Carol Saunders, was from Bermuda. Maria was born the second of three daughters, and when she was only two years old her mother died while giving birth to her youngest sister, Carol. Immediately all three girls were sent to live with their father's sister, Dr. Charlotte Hawkins Brown, who was the founder and president of the Palmer Memorial Institute, the nation's most distinguished finishing school for blacks. There Cole was exposed to the likes of Dr. W. E. B. Du Bois, Mary McCleod Bethune, and even Eleanor Roosevelt, among other noteworthy guests.

As a student at the Palmer Memorial Institute Cole ...

Article

Julia Sun-Joo Lee

slave and minister, was born in Maryland. The names of his parents are unknown. For the first twenty-five years of his life Cooper was known as “Notly.” He escaped to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, around 1800 and took the name John Smith. Employed at a lumberyard, he married a free black woman and had four children. Around this time Cooper's identity was betrayed by a friend. He was separated from his family and sent to Washington, D.C., to be sold at auction. He managed to escape and, with the help of a friend, return to Philadelphia, where he was reunited with his family. Still in danger of recapture, Cooper concealed himself at the home of a Quaker, where he stayed for a week while his master attempted to locate him.

Cooper fled to New Jersey where he was hired by a farmer His whereabouts were again discovered and Cooper escaped by ...

Article

Zoe Trodd

Article

Caroline DeVoe

businessman, landowner, farmer, and lynching victim, was born into slavery in Abbeville, South Carolina, the youngest son of Thomas and Louisa, slaves on the plantation of Ben Crawford in Abbeville, South Carolina. After Emancipation and Ben Crawford's death, his widow Rebecca may have bequeathed land to her former slave, Thomas, Anthony's father. Thomas continued to acquire land, and in 1873 he purchased 181 acres of fertile land from Samuel McGowan, a former Confederate general and South Carolina Supreme Court Justice. Thomas Crawford's “homeplace” was located in an alluvial valley, approximately seven miles west of the town of Abbeville. The rich land was flanked on the east by Little River and on the west by Penny Creek.

While Crawford's brothers worked the family farm Anthony was sent to school walking seven miles to and from school each day Seventeen year old Anthony was ...

Article

Eric Bennett

The son of the first African American professor at Princeton University, Anthony Davis studied classical music as a child in New York and as an undergraduate at Yale University he played free-jazz with Anthony Braxton. After earning his B.A. at Yale in 1975, Davis moved to New York City, where he supported himself as a Jazz pianist. As Davis developed musically, his compositions deviated from traditional jazz. He often abandoned improvisation and drew elements from Western classical music and African and South Asian rhythms. His recordings from this period include Hidden Voices (1979) and Lady of the Mirrors (1981). In 1981 Davis formed an eight-piece ensemble, Episteme, whose repertoire included a combination of improvised and scored music, blurring the distinction between jazz and classical music.

In the 1980s Davis began focusing much of his work on historical subjects. Middle Passage (1984 ...

Article

Delia  

John Garst

woman whose murder is described in the ballad “Delia,” also known as “Delia('s) Gone” and “One More Rounder Gone,” was born Delia Green in Savannah, Georgia. Nothing is known about her early life except that in 1900 she lived with her mother at 113 Ann Street. Moses “Cooney” (or “Mose”) Houston (pronounced “HOUSE-tun”) was also born in 1886. In 1900 he lived with his mother at 123 Farm Street, five blocks west of Delia's home. Two blocks southeast of her home was 509 Harrison Street, where Delia worked for Emma West. These addresses are all in Yamacraw, a famed African American neighborhood in Savannah.

By Christmas Eve 1900 Cooney and Delia had been seeing each other for about four months. Around 7 p.m. Cooney went to the West house looking for Delia Emma s husband Willie sent Cooney out to get beer and whiskey and to pick up ...

Article

Malini Johar Schueller

author, runaway slave, traveler, and public speaker, was born a slave in 1827 or 1828 in New Orleans. No information is available about his parents except that they were presumably of mixed-racial heritage because Dorr referred to himself as a “quadroon” and was light enough to pass for white. His owner was Cornelius Fellowes, a lawyer, with whom Dorr traveled around Europe and the Near East from 1851 to 1854. Fellowes promised to manumit Dorr upon their return to the United States but reneged on his promise, at which time Dorr escaped to Cleveland. There he decided to publish an account of his travels based upon the diary he had kept. In 1858 his book A Colored Man Round the World was privately printed and attracted enough attention to be reviewed in a number of important Cleveland newspapers.

A Colored Man Round the World ...

Article

William S. McFeely

“Anna Murray-Douglass” was how Rosetta Douglass Sprague referred to her mother in a reminiscence that tells almost all that is known about her. Determined to give the woman an identity separate from that of her husband, Sprague did not have an easy task. Of all the American women eclipsed by famous, articulate husbands, few have been subsumed more totally than Anna Douglass. Like Deborah Franklin, the wife of Benjamin Franklin, Anna was married to a successful, self-taught man who announced himself to the world with a famous autobiography that says virtually nothing about his wife.

Murray was born near the town of Denton in remote, interior Caroline County on Maryland’s eastern shore. Her parents, Mary and Bambarra Murray were manumitted a month before she was born so she was born free the eighth of twelve children At seventeen she like many free black people and former slaves ...

Article

Mark G. Emerson

Born in Lynn, Massachusetts, Charles Remond Douglass was the third and youngest son of Frederick and Anna Murray Douglass. Named for his father's friend and fellow black antislavery speaker Charles Lenox Remond, Charles attended the public schools in Rochester, New York, where the family moved in late 1847. As a boy, he delivered copies of his father's newspaper, North Star.

As a young man, Charles became the first black from New York to enlist for military service in the Civil War, volunteering for the Fifty-fourth Massachusetts Infantry Regiment. Unlike his brother Lewis, who also served in the Fifty-fourth and became a sergeant major in that regiment, Charles was unable to deploy with his fellow troops owing to illness. As late as November 1863 Charles remained at the training camp in Readville Massachusetts He ultimately joined another black regiment the Fifth Massachusetts Cavalry rising to ...

Article

Mark G. Emerson

As the second son and namesake of his father, Frederick Douglass Jr. was born in New Bedford, Massachusetts. He attended public schools in Rochester, New York, where he also helped his brothers, Lewis and Charles, to aid runaway slaves who were escaping to Canada on the Underground Railroad. While he did not serve in the Civil War as his brothers did, Frederick acted as a recruiting agent for the Fifty-fourth and Fifty-fifth Massachusetts Infantry regiments, as did his father. Following the war, Frederick attempted to enter the typographical workers' union. When that plan failed, he went with his brother Lewis in 1866 to Colorado, where Henry O. Wagoner, a longtime family friend, taught him the trade of typography. While he was in Colorado, Frederick worked with his brother Lewis in the printing office of the Red, White, and Blue Mining Company. In the fall of 1868 Frederick returned ...