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Sheila T. Gregory

radio and television pioneer, Masonic Christian Order founder, ordained Baptist minister, lawyer, community advocate, and business leader, was born on a sharecroppers' farm in Geneva, Kentucky, the son of Richard and Clara Banks, both tenant farmers. In June 1922 Banks graduated from the Lincoln Institute of Kentucky and moved to Detroit, Michigan, where he secured a job at the Dodge automobile main plant. He graduated from Wayne State University in 1926 and the Detroit College of Law in 1929. He briefly opened a criminal law practice, but after two years he discontinued his criminal work and invested in property during the Depression, while helping elect liberal Democrat and future Supreme Court justice Frank Murphy as Detroit's mayor in 1930.

In 1931 Banks was the head of the International Labor Defense League ILDL a legal organization known for defending numerous labor unions which at that time were ...

Article

Richard Saunders

lawyer and minister, was born James Frank Estes to Melvoid Estes and Bertha Lee Walker Estes in Jackson, Tennessee. Graduated from Lane College in 1942, Estes captained the football team and married a friend and classmate, Frances D. Berry. Enlisting in the Army the same year, he served on active duty in Europe and was one of the few African Americans accepted to Officer Candidate School. Estes was commissioned a second lieutenant in 1943 for the racially segregated 1317th Engineers General Service Regiment. The 1317th engaged in the Normandy landings on D-Day, as well as the Allied Forces Rhineland Campaign and battle for Central Europe. At his discharge in 1945 Estes remained in the reserves and enrolled at Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, which conferred on him an LL.B. degree in 1948 Returning to Tennessee Estes opened a law office on Beale Street the economic center ...

Article

Greg Sidberry

civil rights leader. Benjamin Hooks was born in Memphis, Tennessee, to Robert B. Hooks Sr., a self-made businessman and co-owner of the Hooks Brothers’ Photography Studio, which closed in 1939 but reopened after the depression. His mother, Bessie White, was a stay-at-home mother of seven children. Despite the existence of institutionalized racism, Hooks's family expected him to excel without offering excuses. He learned to read at an early age and, before starting high school, had read all of the classics found in their small home library. Reading—especially newspapers—was the primary source of information and entertainment for the family. Dinnertime was family discussion time; each child had an opportunity to participate as current events and daily activities were reviewed and analyzed. Hooks says he heard repeatedly: “You got to be twice as good.”

Benjamin skipped the sixth and was promoted out of the seventh grade He started Booker T Washington High ...

Article

Benjamin Hooks, who was born in Memphis, Tennessee, graduated from Howard University in 1944 and received a law degree from DePaul University in 1948. He later worked as a public defender and a Baptist minister, serving from 1956 into the mid-1990s as a pastor of Memphis's Middle Baptist Church.

Through his legal and ministerial work Hooks became a prominent figure in the Civil Rights Movement and sat on the board of directors of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) from its founding in 1957 until 1977. In 1965 Hooks became the first African American to become a criminal court judge in Tennessee. He was also the first black to sit on the Federal Communications Commission.

In 1977 Hooks became executive director of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) as well as chairman of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights LCCR A nationally ...

Article

Seth Dowland

minister, judge, and executive director of the NAACP, was born in Memphis, Tennessee, to Robert Britton Hooks, a photographer, and Bessie White Hooks. He was the fifth of seven children. Hooks hailed from one of the most prominent African American families in Memphis; his grandmother Julia Britton Hooks was the first black to attend Berea College. At age sixteen Hooks enrolled at his father's alma mater, Le Moyne College in Memphis, but he was drafted and enlisted in the army before he could complete his degree. After serving from 1943 to 1946 in Italy, Hooks returned to the United States and enrolled at DePaul University Law School. He completed his law degree in 1948 and opened a private practice in Memphis, only the second African American to practice law in the city. Hooks married Frances Dancy, a childhood acquaintance, on 20 March 1951 ...

Article

Bill McCulloch and Barry Lee Pearson

blues artist, was born Nehemiah James in Yazoo County, outside Bentonia, Mississippi, the son of Eddie James and Phyllis Jones. His father, reputed to be a musician and a bootlegger, moved north to Sidon, near Greenwood, to evade the law, leaving Skip with his mother on the Woodbine plantation, where she worked as a cook. After an attempt to reunite the family in Sidon failed, Skip and his mother returned to Bentonia, where he attended St. Paul School and Yazoo High School. At the age of eight or nine, inspired by local musicians—particularly the guitarist Henry Stuckey—Skip persuaded his mother to buy him a guitar. At the age of twelve he took one piano lesson from a cousin. Unable to pay for more lessons, he continued learning on an organ owned by an aunt.

After dropping out of high school at about age fifteen James went to ...

Article

John A. Kirk

Martin Luther King Jr. was born in Atlanta, Georgia, 15 January 1929. He attended Morehouse College in Atlanta from 1944 to 1948. Following in the footsteps of his father and his maternal grandfather, King decided to enter the ministry, and he completed his divinity degree at the predominantly white Crozer Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania in 1951. King went on to complete his PhD at the also predominantly white Boston University in June 1955. King took up his first post as a Baptist minister at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama, in 1955, while writing his doctoral thesis. In December 1955, King became involved in a boycott of the city’s buses to protest segregation. The thirteen-month boycott ended in December 1956 after the U.S. Supreme Court ordered buses to desegregate.

The Montgomery bus boycott launched King’s civil rights leadership. In 1957 he helped ...

Article

Emily M. Lewis and Keith D. Miller

Martin Luther King, Jr., was born in Atlanta, Georgia, on 15 January 1929, the child of Rev. Martin Luther King, Sr., and Alberta Williams King. Alberta King's father, Rev. A. D. Williams, helped found the Atlanta chapter of the NAACP and pastored Ebenezer Baptist Church, which King, Sr., commanded after Williams's death. Both preachers rocked the Ebenezer walls with their thunderous folk sermons while Alberta King played the organ and organized the choir. King, Jr., grew up immersed in the doctrine of Christian love and in the music and oratory of African American Baptist worship.

In 1948 King, Jr., earned a bachelor's degree from Morehouse College, where he heard Benjamin Mays, his father's friend and president of the college, preach during chapel services. Electing to become a minister, King studied at Crozer Theological Seminary and at Boston University where he received a PhD in ...

Article

Timothy B. Tyson

Born in Atlanta, Georgia, the son and namesake of a prominent Baptist minister, King entered Atlanta's Morehouse College at age fifteen. After graduation he enrolled at Crozer Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania, where he encountered Walter Rauschenbusch's Social Gospel theology, Reinhold Niebuhr's justifications for the use of coercion to combat evil, and Gandhi's philosophy of nonviolent direct action. Enrolling at Boston University, he earned a Ph.D. in systematic theology (1955). He married Coretta Scott in 1953; they had four children.

In 1954, King was appointed pastor of Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama. On 1 December 1955, the arrest of Rosa Parks for violating the city s racial segregation ordinances sparked a bus boycott and local organizers selected the twenty six year old King to lead it It happened so fast King remembered that I did not even have time to think ...

Article

Clayborne Carson

King gained national prominence as a black civil rights leader and, during his final years, as a critic of American military involvement in Vietnam. In his memoir, Stride Toward Freedom (1958), King recalled that when initially exposed to pacifism, he concluded that war “could serve as a negative good in the sense of preventing the spread and growth of an evil force.” Only after becoming familiar with Gandhian notions of nonviolent resistance was he convinced that “the love ethic of Jesus” could be “a potent instrument for social and collective transformation.” As the president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), King became a nationally known advocate of civil disobedience. He led protest movements in Montgomery (1955–56), Birmingham (1963), and Selma (1965), Alabama, that demonstrated the effectiveness of nonviolent tactics in spurring passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1965 ...

Article

Martin Luther King, Jr., was born on January 15, 1929, in Atlanta, Georgia, the eldest son of Martin Luther King, Sr., a Baptist minister, and Alberta Williams King. His father served as pastor of a large Atlanta church, Ebenezer Baptist, which was founded by Martin Luther King, Jr.'s maternal grandfather. King, Jr., was ordained as a Baptist minister at age eighteen.

Article

Manfred Berg

Baptist minister and civil rights leader. Martin Luther King Jr. is arguably the most famous and revered African American of the twentieth century. All over the world, his life and legacy epitomize the black struggle for freedom and equality. The years from King's emergence as a civil rights leader during the 1955–1956 Montgomery, bus boycott until his violent death on 4 April 1968, in Memphis, Tennessee, are widely considered as the crucial period of the civil rights movement, when the Jim Crow system was dismantled by nonviolent direct action and mass protest. In public memory, his martyrdom has made King into a larger-than-life figure. However, his elevation to the status of a worldly saint has often inhibited a clear understanding of his contribution to the black struggle. Despite four decades of research on virtually every aspect of his life, the debate over King's historical significance continues.

Article

Clayborne Carson

Baptist minister and civil rights leader, was born Michael King Jr., in Atlanta, Georgia, the son of the Reverend Michael King (Martin Luther King Sr.) and Alberta Williams. Born to a family with deep roots in the African American Baptist church and in the Atlanta black community, the younger King spent his first twelve years in the home on Auburn Avenue that his parents shared with his maternal grandparents. A-block away, also on Auburn, was Ebenezer Baptist Church, where his grandfather, the Reverend Adam Daniel Williams, had served as pastor since 1894. Under Williams's leadership, Ebenezer had grown from a small congregation without a building to become one of Atlanta's prominent African American churches. After Williams's death in 1931, his son-in-law became Ebenezer's new pastor and gradually established himself as a major figure in state and national Baptist groups. In 1934 ...

Article

Christopher Harrison Payne was born of free parents near Red Sulphur Springs, Monroe County, Virginia (now West Virginia). His mother was the slave daughter of James Ellison, who instructed her and set her free. When Christopher was two years old, his father, Thomas Payne, a cattle drover, was stricken with smallpox, and he died while taking a herd over the mountains to market. Payne's mother taught him to read so early that he could not remember when he had not read. By the age of ten, Payne had read through the New Testament.

During the American Civil War (1861–1865) Payne was compelled to serve in the Confederate Army as a valet, but in 1864 he returned to Monroe County to work on a farm. In 1866 Payne married Delilah Ann Hargrove (also given as Hargo by whom he had six children He worked on an ...

Article

Connie Park Rice

minister, educator, editor, and West Virginia's first black legislator, was born near Red Sulfur Springs in Monroe County, Virginia. His father, Thomas Payne, was freeborn, and his mother, Bersheba, was a former slave who was set free by her owner and rumored father, James Ellison, before her marriage. Christopher was their only child; Thomas died from smallpox after taking a drove of cattle to Baltimore, Maryland, when Christopher was still young.

Payne's mother provided his early education. He worked as a farmhand, but when the Civil War began, Payne—as a free, unprotected black in a slave state—found himself forced to become a servant in the Confederate army. He left the service in 1864 and went to the southern part of Monroe County (later Summers) and worked for Mr. Vincent Swinney until the war ended It was there that he met and married his ...