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Article

Amar Wahab

Pan‐Africanistleader in Britain in the early 1900s. Born in Sierra Leone, in 1869 he was sent to Cheshire to be educated and started working for the family firm, Broadhurst and Sons, in Manchester in 1905. By 1936 he is known to have been a cocoa merchant in the Gold Coast. He was heavily involved in the realm of Pan‐Africanist politics in Britain, becoming a founder member of the African Progress Union between 1911 and 1925. He became secretary of the Union in his sixties and continued as a member of the executive committee until its end. He worked with other leading supporters such as Duse Mohamed Ali, Edmund Fitzgerald Fredericks, and ‘the Black doctor of Paddington’ John Alcindor The Union organized around issues related to the welfare of Africans and Afro Peoples worldwide and vociferously advocated self determination This involved for example protests about ...

Article

Rose Pelone Sisson

survivor of a lynching attempt, civil rights activist, and founder of America's Black Holocaust Museum, was born in La Crosse, Wisconsin, to James Herbert Cameron, a barber, and Vera Cameron who was employed as a laundress, cook, and housekeeper. At the age of fifteen months, James was the first African American baby ever admitted as a patient to the St. Francis Hospital in La Crosse, where he underwent an emergency operation on the abdominal cavity. By the time James started school, his parents had moved to Birmingham, Alabama, and his parents separated.

When Cameron was sixteen he was living with his mother, two sisters, and grandmother in Marion, Indiana. His stepfather Hezikiah Burden hunted and fished long distances from home so was away from his family most of the time The family lived in a segregated section of Marion Indiana which counted about four thousand blacks among its ...

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Elizabeth Ammons

Anna Julia Haywood Cooper was born in Raleigh, North Carolina, the daughter of a slave, Hannah Stanley Haywood, and her white master, George Washington Haywood, with whom neither she nor her mother maintained any ties. At age nine she received a scholarship to attend the St. Augustine's Normal School and Collegiate Institute for newly freed slaves, and in 1877 she married an instructor at the school, a Bahamian-born Greek teacher named George Cooper. Left a widow in 1879, she never remarried. She enrolled in 1881 at Oberlin College, where educator and activist Mary Church (later Terrell) also studied, and elected to take the “Gentleman's Course,” rather than the program designed for women. She received her bachelor's degree in 1884 and after teaching for a year at Wilberforce University and then returning briefly to teach at St Augustine s she went back to Oberlin to ...

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Lisa Clayton Robinson

“Only the Black Woman can say ‘when and where I enter, in the quiet, undisputed dignity of my womanhood, without violence and without special patronage, then and there the whole Negro race enters with me.’” In this passage from her speech “Womanhood a Vital Element in the Regeneration and Progress of a Race,” published in her 1892 work A Voice From the South: By a Black Woman of the South Anna Julia Cooper expresses one of her most important beliefs In her writings and speeches Cooper often argued that the status of the entire black race was dependent on the status of the women who run the homes and raise the children and that one of the best ways to elevate black women s status was to increase their educational opportunities As an activist and educator she spent most of her life simultaneously promoting these ideas and putting ...

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Charles Rosenberg

coal miner, leading organizer of the Black Lung Association, and officer of the United Mine Workers of America, was born near South Boston, Virginia, the son of Charles and Cora Jackson Daniel. Charles Daniel worked in a sawmill early in his marriage, then worked his own farm in the Birch Creek District of Halifax County. Levi’s older siblings included George, Charles Jr., Evzy, and Willie. Census records indicate that Levi may have been the youngest Daniel child. George C. Daniel, the children’s paternal grandfather, also lived with the family during Levi’s youth. Nothing has been published, and little found in public records, to show when, or how many of, the Daniel family moved to Raleigh County, West Virginia. In 1942 Charles Daniel was employed by the McAlpin Coal Company, and he listed his daughter Dorothy Daniel Warren on a World War II draft registration card as a ...

Article

Eric W. Petenbrink

political theorist, was born Haywood Hall in South Omaha, Nebraska, the youngest of three children of Haywood Hall, a factory worker and janitor, and Harriet Thorpe Hall. When he was fifteen, racist violence in Omaha prompted the family to move to Minneapolis, Minnesota, where Hall soon dropped out of school and began working as a railroad dining car waiter. In 1915 the family moved to Chicago, Illinois, to be near extended family, and Hall enlisted in the military in 1917. He served in World War I for a year as part of an all-black unit in France, where he grew accustomed to the absence of racism. Hall married his first wife, Hazel, in 1920, but the marriage lasted only a few months. In spite of their lengthy separation, they did not officially divorce until 1932.

Hall s experiences in World War I and defending ...

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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

Charles Rosenberg

chair of the Council of 100 Black Republicans, business owner, the first teacher of African descent in the Denver, Colorado, public schools, was born in Butte, Montana, the daughter of Russell S. Brown Sr., a minister (and later general secretary) of the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church, and Floy Smith Brown. The example of her grandfather, Charles S. Smith, founder of the business school at Wilberforce University in Ohio, was a strong influence in her later life. There is no record of why the Brown family was in Butte; however, small but thriving African American communities to the northeast were centered around Union Bethel AME Church in Great Falls and St. James AME Church in Helena.

By the time Elaine Brown was three years old, the family had moved to Atlanta, Georgia, where her brother, Russell Brown Jr., was born. In 1933 the family moved to ...

Article

Tiffany T. Hamelin

civil rights activist, was born on the Wilkin plantation in Grenada County, Mississippi. He was the grandson of a former slave who had accumulated remarkable wealth and land that was eventually lost during the Great Depression. Moore worked alongside his family as a sharecropper when his mother died unexpectedly in 1925, leaving the fourteen-year-old on his own while his father took custody of his younger brother and sister. Amzie then traveled from the hill country of his birth to the Mississippi Delta to find work picking cotton in order to provide himself food and shelter and an education. Moore attended Stone Street High School in Greenwood, Mississippi, from 1926 to 1929, before settling in Cleveland to begin his lengthy career with the U.S. Post Office, a tenure that was interrupted in 1942 when he was drafted into the U.S. Army.

Like many African American veterans of World ...

Article

Alison Nichols

bookseller and founder of Harlem's Liberation Bookstore, was born in Baltimore, Maryland, one of three children of Marie Avis Mulzac and Hugh Mulzac, the first black commander of a ship in the U.S. Merchant Marine. Hugh Mulzac, a socialist, was later investigated by the House Un-American Activities Committee and was blacklisted when he refused to testify before it.

Una Mulzac grew up in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn. She attended and graduated from that neighborhood's Girls’ High School, where she ran track while holding down a job as a secretary at Random House. That position helped to turn her interest to publishing. In the 1960s she moved to British Guiana (now Guyana) to fight for revolution and was severely injured by a bomb. Discouraged by the changing political climate in the country, in 1967 she moved to Harlem where she opened up Liberation Bookstore on what is now known as ...

Article

Ian Rocksborough-Smith

civil rights, peace, and social justice organizer, and writer, was born Hunter Pitts O'Dell on the west side of Detroit, Michigan. Jack's parents were George Edwin O'Dell and Emily (Pitts) O'Dell. His father was a hotel and restaurant worker in Detroit who later owned a restaurant in Miami, Florida. His mother had studied music at Howard University and became an adult education teacher, a classical and jazz pianist, and an organist for Bethel AME Church in Detroit. His grandfather, John H. O'Dell, was a janitor in the Detroit Public Library system and a member of the Nacirema Club, which was a club for prominent African American Detroiters. Jack O'Dell later took his grandfather's signature, “J.H. O'Dell” as his nom de plume when he became a writer.

Raised by his paternal grandparents O Dell grew up during the Great Depression and witnessed the sit down ...

Article

elected county official and Macon, Georgia, civil rights leader, was born in Valdosta, Georgia, the fourth of six children of Harry and Carrie Randall. He was reared in Macon, where his father, formerly the Valdosta manager for the Afro-American Life Insurance Company, had returned to work for his own mother's grocery wholesale and retail business. William P. Randall graduated from Hudson High School and Beda Etta Business College in Macon before going to work as a carpenter. He worked for a large construction company but after World War II went into business with his brother, a bricklayer. Eventually he became one of the major black contractors in the Southeast, working on large-scale commercial and residential projects.

In an era when Jim Crow custom forced African Americans to step aside when a white approached on the sidewalk Randall s father taught him not to give way As ...

Article

Pam Brooks

civil rights activist and community leader, was born Idessa Taylor in Montgomery, Alabama, the only child of Minnie Oliver. Other than the surname he shared with his daughter, Idessa Taylor's father's name is not recorded. Upon the early death of her mother when she was only two, Redden's maternal great grandparents, Luisa and Julius Harris, raised Redden in Montgomery until she was nine. Thereafter, her mother's brother, Robert Oliver, a railroad worker, and his wife, Dinah Beatrice Oliver a seamstress included Redden in their family of six children Redden attended St Paul s Methodist Church School Loveless School St John s Catholic School and State Normal High School in Montgomery As an elementary student on her way to school she had to endure the habitual taunts of young white boys In a videotaped interview on her ninetieth birthday Redden recounted one occasion when in retaliation for ...

Article

LaRose M. Davis

journalist, publisher, activist, and businesswoman, was born Mary Ellen Brady in Gary, Indiana, while her family was en route from their former home in New Orleans to their new home in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to parents Sedeliah Brady, a businesswoman and homemaker, and William Brady, a minister. The third of seven children, she was raised in Milwaukee and attended elementary and high school in the city. During several periods over the course of her life, Shadd took college course work, but there is no record of her having received a degree. She was awarded an honorary doctorate, however, from St. Martin's College and Seminary in 1981.

Shortly after graduating from high school, Shadd married Jesse Jones. From this union, two sons were born: Douglas in 1938 and Jerrel in 1939. Her marriage to Jesse Jones was brief, ending soon after the birth of their second son. In 1942 ...

Article

Christine Schneider

laborer, machine operator, carpenter, contractor, and administrator, was born in Pike County, Mississippi, the second oldest son of six children. Jesse attended a rural, one-room school that typically had seventy-five to one hundred students per teacher ranging across seven grade levels. Because teaching everyone at one time was impossible, students were given weekly assignments to learn and perform on each Friday for the community. As a young boy Jesse had a knack for public speaking and looked forward to making speeches to the community.

Thomas s family lived comfortably despite the fact his mother was ill and often bedridden While the family could not be considered wealthy they always had more than enough to eat Thomas had always believed that his family owned the land they worked on but when they were suddenly evicted he learned that his father was actually a sharecropper not a ...

Article

Steven J. Niven

banker, lawyer, and political activist, was born on the campus of Kittrell College in Vance County, North Carolina. He was the younger of two children born to John Leonidas Wheeler, the president of Kittrell College, and Margaret Hervey. Shortly after John was born, his father left Kittrell to work for the North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company in nearby Durham. The family moved again in 1912 to Atlanta, Georgia, where John’s father took a position as a regional supervisor for the North Carolina Mutual. The move ensured that John Hervey Wheeler enjoyed a relatively comfortable childhood among Atlanta’s black elite. He was a member of the prestigious Big Bethel African Methodist Episcopal church, attended public school in Atlanta up to the seventh grade, earned local fame as an accomplished violinist, and completed his high school education at Morehouse College. Wheeler graduated summa cum laude from Morehouse in 1929 ...

Article

Marilyn Elizabeth Perry

social welfare and community leader and businesswoman, was born in Jacksonville, Florida, the daughter of Mollie Chapman, a former slave, and an unnamed white man of means. She was adopted shortly after birth by freed slaves Lafayette White, a drayman and Civil War veteran, and Clara English, a domestic and cook. Lafayette White died when Eartha was five. Throughout her childhood Clara made Eartha feel as though God had chosen her for a special mission. Listening to stories of hardships that Clara endured as a slave and watching her mother's humanitarian contributions to Jacksonville's “Black Bottom” community convinced Eartha White that she too would someday make a difference in the African American community.

When yellow fever struck Jacksonville in 1893, White went to New York City, where she studied hairdressing and manicuring and attended Madame Thurber's National Conservatory of Music. During the 1895–1896 season White toured worldwide ...

Article

Shennette Garrett-Scott

hotelier and entertainment entrepreneur, was born William Nathaniel Wilson in Columbia, South Carolina. His mother, Rebecca (Butler) Wilson, worked as a cook and maid, and his father, William Wilson, whom Sunnie barely knew, worked as a Pullman porter and hotel waiter. As a young child, Rebecca moved Sunnie and his older sister Irene to live with his maternal grandparents. His grandfather's status as a doctor allowed him entrée into Columbia's elite black society. While in high school, he worked several odd jobs. One summer he went with his uncle to New York. His outgoing personality and a bit of good fortune landed him a job as a bellboy at the exclusive Lotus Club, a private millionaires' club. When he returned to South Carolina, he completed high school with the help of a private tutor and went on to study drama at Allen University in Columbia.

Wilson struggled ...

Article

Shennette Garrett-Scott

civic leader and modeling-school owner, was born Artha Mae Bugg in Atlanta, Georgia. Her parents’ names are not known. She was the eldest of six children and moved with her family to Cleveland, Ohio, before she began public school. She graduated as class valedictorian from the city's Central High School. After graduation, Woods attended, on a full merit scholarship, Western Reserve School of Education (now Case Western University), in Cleveland, where she trained to become an elementary-school teacher. In her spare time she took courses in a variety of interests, including modeling and shorthand.

In 1941 bowing to recent demonstrations by the Future Outlook League of Cleveland which were supported by the local Urban League and the NAACP the Ohio Bell Telephone Company hired nearly twenty African Americans including Woods But the victory was hollow since none of the women were given positions as telephone operators or clerks in ...

Article

Kathryn L. Beard

founder of the Detroit division of the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA), was born in Belmont, Port-of-Spain, Trinidad, in the British West Indies. His mother, Matilda Cadett, was from a French-speaking family of bakers. Little is known about his father. Charles, as he was known, attended a Catholic primary school in Trinidad and a local public high school, and enrolled at St. Mary's College, a Catholic secondary institution on the island.

Zampty's early career exemplifies the experience of thousands of migrant workers in the colonial Caribbean. For a brief period in 1909 he secured employment as a mechanic with the Trinidad Oil Company He left the company to work for the Trinidad Sanitary Inspection Corporation which sent him to Lagos Nigeria He asked the company to send him back to Trinidad when he discovered his wages were significantly less than those specified in the labor contract he had ...