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Article

Paul Stillwell

pioneer black naval officer, was born in Cotton Plant, Arkansas, a predominantly black community, one of twelve children of Tecora and Alexander Arbor. He had two sisters and nine brothers, and his ancestors had received land in the area when slavery ended. Outgoing, humorous, and loquacious by nature, Arbor possessed a typically rural southern sense of place. During an oral history interview in the mid‐1980s, he described Cotton Plant as, “A little place that only me and the Good Lord knows [with a population of] 1,661 up until the day I left, and there's never been that many since.” Like his siblings, Arbor received a private school education. During his years in Arkansas he attended Arkadelphia–Cotton Plant Academy. Around 1930 the family left the farm area and moved to Chicago as part of a northerly migration of blacks seeking employment opportunities Arbor s father worked as a carpenter ...

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Stephen Bourne

Black Londoner whose life as a working‐class seamstress was documented in Aunt Esther's Story (1991), published by Hammersmith and Fulham's Ethnic Communities Oral History Project, and co‐authored with Stephen Bourne. Aunt Esther's Story provides a first‐hand account of Bruce's life as a black Briton in the pre‐Empire Windrush years. Her father, Joseph (1880–1941), arrived in London from British Guiana (now Guyana) in the early 1900s and settled in a tight‐knit working‐class community in Fulham. He worked as a builder's labourer. When Bruce was a young child, Joseph instilled in his daughter a sense of pride in being black. After leaving school, she worked as a seamstress, and in the 1930s she made dresses for the popular African‐American stage star Elisabeth Welch. She also befriended another black citizen of Fulham: the Jamaican nationalist Marcus Garvey She told Bourne he was a nice chap ...

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Patricia Hunt-Hurst

one of the pioneers of black women in fashion modeling, was born in Texarkana, Texas; she was the seventh of eight children. Her mother was a school teacher and her father a carpenter and farmer. Dorothy studied biology at Wiley College in Marshall, Texas, where she completed her degree in 1945. She planned to study medicine, but when her mother died she moved to Los Angeles to live with family. While there she earned a master's degree in education at the University of Southern California, married, and started her modeling career.

The fashion industry in the late twentieth century included the major fashion centers of New York and Paris New York was known for its American ready to wear and Paris for its couture or made to order dresses of original designs Fashion models were vital to the display of the designs in both facets of the ...

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Loren Schweninger

Coleman, Warren Clay (25 March 1849–31 March 1904), businessman was born a slave in Cabarrus County North Carolina the son of Rufus C Barringer a white lawyer and politician and Roxanna Coleman Little is known about his parents but as a youngster he learned the shoemaker s trade and also barbering After the Civil War he briefly attended Howard University in Washington D C paying for his board and room by hawking jewelry He also worked as an itinerant salesman in North Carolina he saved his earnings and in 1869 he purchased a 130 acre farm in Cabarrus County paying $600 for the well timbered land In 1870 he was listed in the census as the proprietor of a small grocery store in the town of Concord North Carolina with a total estate of $800 in real and personal property During the same period he also began ...

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Patricia Glinton-Meicholas

was born in 1797 in the French colony of Saint-Domingue (renamed Haiti following its revolution). He was the son of Mary Catherine Esther Argo (also “Hester Argeaux”), a free woman of African descent. His father was purportedly Etienne Dillet, a French army officer. Naturalized as a British subject of The Bahamas in 1828, Stephen Dillet became a member of one of the earliest organized civil rights pressure groups in The Bahamas, and he was the first Bahamian of color to win election to the colony’s Parliament.

Dillet was a man whose character and social and political pursuits were deeply influenced by events of international import, which supplied the context for his life. His birth in 1797 six years after the outbreak of the Haitian revolution was attended by bloody conflict The chief combatants were the free people of color and enslaved blacks who had rebelled to free themselves ...

Article

Wendy A. Grossman and Sala E. Patterson

was born Casimir Joseph Adrienne Fidelin on 4 March 1915 in Pointe-à-Pitre, Guadeloupe’s largest city and economic capital. Fidelin posed for several photographers in Paris in the 1930s, including Roger Parry, Wols (Alfred Otto Wolfgang Schulze), and Man Ray. Although there is remarkably little written documentation about her, Fidelin is widely recognized as the model featured in an extensive assembly of images by Man Ray and acclaimed as the first black model to appear in a major American fashion magazine.

Fidelin emigrated with her family to France following the catastrophic September 1928 hurricane that swept the Caribbean archipelago and the South Florida peninsula killing twelve hundred people on her native island She came of age in Paris in an era in which the influx of émigrés from the French colonies in the Caribbean fueled the creation of a vibrant diasporic Antillean music and dance community that coincided with and ...

Article

Charles Rosenberg

barber, lawyer, and Cleveland's first city-council member of known African descent, was born in Meadville, Pennsylvania, to Thomas and Lavina Green Fleming. By 1880 Thomas Fleming had died, and his widow was raising seven-year-old daughter Larah, six-year-old Thomas, and four-year-old Ida on her own.

Men of African descent had a prominent role in civic life in Meadville during Fleming's childhood. At the age of six, he transferred from a racially segregated school to a school open to students from all local families. He had a job at a bakery when he was eleven. The bakery owner, also of African descent, was elected to the city council. A year later he quit school to work as a barber, helping support his mother and two sisters.

Fleming moved to Cleveland in 1893, opening his own barber shop within a year. On 9 July 1894 he married Mary Ingels Thompson like ...

Article

Mohamed Adhikari

South African trade unionist and political activist, was the only son of David Gomas and Elizabeth Erasmus. John Stephen Gomas was raised in Abbotsdale near Cape Town. After his father abandoned the family, Elizabeth moved with her son to Kimberley in 1911. Here Gomas entered an apprenticeship at a tailor’s workshop in 1915, where his employer, Myer Gordon, a Russian immigrant, introduced him to socialist ideas. In 1919 Gomas joined the International Socialist League, the African National Congress (ANC), and the Industrial and Commercial Workers Union (ICU). Toward the end of that year his participation in a successful clothing workers’ strike transformed the quiet, bookish youth into a vociferous champion for workers’ rights.

In 1920 Gomas moved to Cape Town where he worked privately from home as a tailor He was active in the ICU the ANC and the Tailors Industrial Union Attracted by its militancy and ...

Article

Frank N. Schubert

William Jefferson Hardin was born in Russellville, Logan County, Kentucky, of unknown parents. He was raised and educated by Shakers in South Union, Kentucky, until he was able to teach school to free African American children. Hardin migrated to California during the Gold Rush of 1849 and remained there for four years. He then lived for brief periods in Canada, Wisconsin, Iowa, and Nebraska before moving to Colorado in 1863. Hardin operated a barbershop in Denver for ten years and established a reputation as a Republican politician and public speaker. During his years in Denver he was a close associate and friend of African American political activist Barney Ford in the struggle for political rights for African Americans in Colorado. He also served as a delegate at several Republican conventions in Colorado Territory. Hardin left Denver in 1873 after a short stint as gold weigher and clerk ...

Article

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

Dennis Gouws

teacher, model, dramatist, and collector of African American artifacts, was born in London to a West Indian mother and a British father, of whom little is known. It is believed that his mother was black and his father was white. Nor is it known when Jackman came to the United States, but he was raised in Harlem, New York, and graduated from DeWitt Clinton High School, where he befriended the poet Countée Cullen. Jackman earned a BA degree from New York University in 1923 and an MA from Columbia University in 1927. For more than three decades he taught social studies in the New York Public Schools.

Aptly described as the non writer whom everyone adored Jackman inspired tributes from those prominent Harlem Renaissance personalities with whom he socialized Griffin 494 Cullen for example dedicated an early version of his poem Advice to Youth ...

Article

Beth Kraig

model, singer, performance artist, and actress, was born in Spanishtown, Jamaica, the daughter of Marjorie and Robert Jones. Her mother was a clothing maker whose design skills influenced her daughter's eventual reputation as a fashion trendsetter. Her father was a minister whose charismatic preaching influenced his daughter's sense of drama. Jones, a twin, was one of seven children, and the large family shared an enthusiasm for music that shaped her childhood ambition of becoming a singer.

Like thousands of people of African descent from the Caribbean, the family relocated to the United States to seek more opportunities. They settled in Syracuse, New York, in the 1960s, with the parents preceding their children to the United States and then reuniting the family in 1964 in their new home. Jones continued her education in Syracuse and enrolled in Syracuse University in 1968 where she focused on ...

Article

Leyla Keough

Elizabeth Hobbs Keckley was born in Dinwiddie Court House, Virginia, to Agnes, a slave of the Burgwell family, and George Pleasant, who was owned by a man named Hobbs. When Elizabeth was in her teens, the Burgwells sold her to a slaveowner in North Carolina by whom she was raped and had one child, George. Shortly thereafter, a Burgwell daughter, Anne Burgwell Garland, bought Elizabeth and her son. They were taken to St. Louis, where Elizabeth married James Keckley. She later found he had deceived her by claiming to be a free man, and the couple separated.

To support her owner's household, Keckley worked as a seamstress. She acquired many loyal customers, one of whom loaned Keckley $1,200 to buy her freedom in 1855. In 1860, Keckley relocated to Baltimore, Maryland, and then to Washington D C where she opened a successful ...

Article

Anne Bradford Warner

Elizabeth Keckley became a center of public controversy with the 1868 publication of Behind the Scenes, or Thirty Years a Slave and Four Years in the White House.

Born a slave in Dinwiddie Court House, Virginia, Keckley became such an accomplished seamstress that she was able to purchase her own freedom and her son's. After manumission she moved from St. Louis to establish herself in Washington, D. C., in 1860, becoming modiste first to the wife of Mississippi Senator Jefferson Davis and finally to Mary Todd Lincoln during Abraham Lincoln's first term. Two-thirds of Behind the Scenes concerns Keckley's life with the Lincolns and the difficult period following the president's assassination, especially Mary Lincoln's desperate attempt to raise money through what became known as the “Old Clothes Scandal.” A misplaced trust in her editor, James Redpath and the sensationalist marketing of Carleton and Company culminated ...

Article

Rosemary Reed

Elizabeth Keckley used her needlework skills to purchase her freedom and went on to have such a flourishing business that she became dressmaker to Mary Todd Lincoln. Fortunately for posterity, she also wrote a book about her life, her sewing work, and her experience as someone closely connected to the Lincoln White House. Behind the Scenes; or, Thirty Years as a Slave, and Four Years in the White House (1868) has been a source of historically significant information ever since.

Elizabeth was born Elizabeth Hobbs, the only child of a slave couple, Agnes and George Pleasant Hobbs, in Dinwiddie, Virginia Her mother was a housemaid and excellent seamstress owned by the Burwells a prominent family of central Virginia Her father lived on a neighboring farm and was allowed to visit his family twice a year until he was sold away from them As a ...

Article

Gertrude Woodruff Marlowe

Keckley, Elizabeth Hobbs (1820?–26 May 1907), White House dressmaker during the Lincoln administration and author, was born in Dinwiddie Court House, Virginia, the daughter of George Pleasant and Agnes Hobbs, slaves. Her birth date is variously given from 1818 to 1824 based on different documents that report her age. The identity of her father is also uncertain; in later life Keckley reportedly claimed that her father was her master, Colonel A. Burwell. George Pleasant, who was owned by a different master, was allowed to visit only twice a year and was eventually taken west.

Elizabeth s life as a slave included harsh arbitrary beatings to subdue her stubborn pride frequent moves to work for often poor family members and being persecuted for four years by Alexander Kirkland a white man by whom she had a son Her life improved when she was loaned to a Burwell daughter ...

Article

Jennifer Fleischner

slave, dressmaker, abolitionist, and White House memoirist, was born Elizabeth Hobbs in Dinwiddie County, Virginia, the daughter of Armistead Burwell, a white slaveholder, and his slave Agnes Hobbs. Agnes was the family nurse and seamstress. Her husband, George Pleasant Hobbs, the slave of another man, treated “Lizzy” as his own daughter, and it was not until some years later, after George had been forced to move west with his master, that Agnes told Lizzy the identity of her biological father. While her mother taught her sewing, the skill that would make her name and fortune, it was George Hobbs who first instilled in Lizzy a profound respect for learning. Ironically, it was Armistead Burwell, who repeatedly told Lizzy she would never be “worth her salt,” who probably sparked her ambition to succeed and prove him wrong.

As a young girl Hobbs lived in ...

Article

Elena Bertoncini Zúbková

Swahili poet, scribe, calligrapher, woodcarver, performer, tailor, musician, and dance master, was born in Lamu on the northern coast of Kenya. Nicknamed Kijum(w)a, “little slave,” by his mother at his birth (hoping this nickname would be auspicious), his full name was Muhammad bin Abubekr bin Omar Kijumwa (also Muhamadi bin Abu Bakari, Mohamed Abubakar Kijumwa, and other possible transliterations from the Arabic script). He studied at the qurʾanic school, made the pilgrimage to Mecca three times, and became a renowned and versatile artist, who handed to his son Helewa the craft of carving the beautifully ornamented doors in Lamu. Among other skills, he made musical instruments and was a famous player of the kibangala a seven stringed lute He passed most of his life in Lamu but in the 1890s he worked as a scribe in the small protectorate of Witu inland from the Kenyan coast which was part ...

Article

Noliwe Rooks

entrepreneur and philanthropist, was born Annie Minerva Turnbo on a farm in Metropolis, Illinois, the tenth of eleven children of Robert Turnbo and Isabella Cook, both farmers. Robert and Isabella owned the land they farmed and were able to provide comfortably for themselves and their children. After her parents died of yellow fever in 1877, Turnbo went to live with an older sister in Peoria, Illinois.

As a young woman Turnbo grew dissatisfied with the hair grooming methods then in use by African American women which often involved the use of goose fat soap and harsh chemicals for straightening purposes Stronger products to straighten naturally curly hair generally damaged the hair follicles or scalp One of the methods recommended by such products advised users to wash their hair and lay it out flat while using a hot flatiron to apply the solutions Even washed and laid out ...

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Mary K. Dains

Malone, Annie Turnbo (09 August 1869–10 May 1957), African-American businesswoman, manufacturer, and philanthropist was born in Metropolis Illinois the daughter of Robert Turnbo and Isabella Cook farmers Little is known of the early childhood of Annie Turnbo Malone except that she was second youngest of eleven children Her parents were former slaves in Kentucky Her father joined the Union army during the Civil War and her mother escaped to Illinois with her small children After the war Robert Turnbo joined his family at Metropolis where he became a farmer and landowner Following the death of both parents Annie went to live with older brothers and sisters in Metropolis and later Peoria and Lovejoy Illinois She completed public school education in Metropolis and attended high school in Peoria Because of ill health she did not complete her high school education In these early years Malone dreamed of making ...