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Charles Rosenberg

spent his childhood and early adulthood in Pennsylvania, and may have been born in Philadelphia. Various censuses suggest his year of birth may have been 1818, 1820, or 1824, but a likely 1850 census entry shows his age as thirty-two.

Anderson’s parents have yet to be identified, and little is known about his life growing up in Pennsylvania. Contemporary accounts in California refer to him having worked as a waiter, and a Peter Anderson referenced as mulatto, who worked as a waiter, was recorded in the 1850 federal census living in Philadelphia’s Spruce Ward. Living with him were a woman named Mary Anderson—possibly his wife, or maybe his sister—two boys named Peter and George Anderson, and an unidentified nineteen-year-old named Elizabeth Purnell.

Anderson arrived in California in 1854, as the Gold Rush of 1849 was declining and established a tailor shop described in some directories ...

Article

Susan Bragg

tailor, store owner, and newspaper editor, was born in Pennsylvania, to parents whose names and occupations are now unknown. Little is known about Anderson's early life except that he was a member of the Masonic Fraternity, ultimately gaining appointment as Deputy Grand Master of the Grand Lodge for the State of Pennsylvania. Anderson migrated west in the waning days of the California gold rush and in 1854 set up a tailor shop and clothing store in San Francisco. There he plunged into the city's small but energetic black community, a community linked by both the mining economy and by shared protest against injustices in the new state of California.

Anderson soon became a regular contributor to political discussions at the recently organized Atheneum Institute, a reading room and cultural center for black Californians. In January 1855 he and other prominent African Americans joined together to call ...

Article

Joshunda Sanders

media mogul, model, and actress, was born Tyra Lynne Banks and grew up in Inglewood, California. Her father, Donald Banks, was a computer consultant, and her mother, Carolyn London, was a medical photographer and business manager. The couple divorced when Tyra was six years old, in 1980.

Banks attended Immaculate Heart Middle and High School, an all-girl's private school. She credited her mother's photography business and friends' encouragement with her ability to overcome a self-consciousness during her awkward adolescence that almost made her pursue another path.

“I grew three inches and lost 40 pounds in 90 days,” she told the Black Collegian in an interview about her teen years. “It was just this crazy growth spurt. I felt like a freak: people would stare at me in the grocery store.”

A friend encouraged her to try modeling during her senior year At the time several ...

Article

Robyn McGee

was born in Queens, New York, to an African American father, Jimmy Branch, who was a businessman, and a Japanese mother, Karen Matsumoto. She had one younger sister, Miko Branch, with whom she would go on to found the Miss Jessie’s brand of salons and products.

The two sisters were inspired to be hair care innovators and entrepreneurs by their paternal grandmother, Miss Jessie, after whom they named their business. Born in Edgecombe County, North Carolina to sharecroppers Ross and Gertrude Pittman, Jessie Mae Pittman married Charlie Branch in 1936 and the couple moved to Poughkeepsie, New York in 1946 They had two children a daughter Hilda and a son Jimmy Titi and Miko s father After the death of her first husband Miss Jessie had two more sons Irvin and Ricardo Dancey Miss Jessie s relationship with George Dancey ended and she wound up being a single parent ...

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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 ...

Article

Loren Schweninger

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., hawking jewelry to pay for his board and room. He also worked as an itinerant salesman in North Carolina. Coleman 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 purchasing low priced rental houses in and around Concord paying between $125 ...

Article

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 ...

Article

David Dabydeen

Journeymantailor and prominent leader of the Chartist movement. Cuffay was born in Chatham, Kent. His father, originally from St Kitts, had come to Britain as a roots on a British Warship. Cuffay became a journeyman tailor in his teens, but involvement in the strike by the Grand National Consolidated Trades Union in 1834 resulted in the loss of his job. Angered by this, he joined the movement in support of the People's Charter, advocating universal suffrage. He was militant in his left‐wing views, and in 1839 contributed to the founding of the Metropolitan Tailors' Charter Association. He also became a member of the Masters and Servants Bill Demonstration Committee, which opposed the power given to magistrates to imprison employees for two months based solely on the employer's statements. His involvement in the Chartist movement grew, and in 1842 he was elected the president of the London Chartists He ...

Article

John Garst

bootblack, barber, porter, actor, singer, and politician, was born William Henry Harrison Duncan in Columbia, Missouri, to former slaves. A close friend, Henry Massey, persuaded him to come to St. Louis, where he was a “sport, a jolly fellow, a swell dresser, a ladies' favorite, but, above all, he was a magnificent singer.” As a member of Massey's Climax Quartet Duncan gained fame for his low, smooth, rich, sure, bass voice. He was also an actor and performed regularly at the London Theatre in St. Louis.

In Clayton, Missouri, west of St. Louis, Duncan was hanged for the murder of an Irish American policeman named James Brady in Charles Starkes's saloon at 715 N. 11th Street. A popular ballad complex (“Duncan and Brady,” “Brady and Duncan,” “Brady,” “King Brady”) arose after the murder.

At about 8:30 p.m. on 6 October 1890 ...

Article

Steven J. Niven

slave, tailor, and politician, was born in Washington, in Wilkes County, Georgia, to Frances, a slave, and a white man whose surname was Finch. When William was twelve he was sent to live with another Wilkes County native, Judge Garnett Andrews, and in 1847, when he was fifteen, he apprenticed as a tailor. The following year Joseph H. Lumpkin, the chief justice of the Georgia Supreme Court, purchased William and brought him to his home in Athens, where Finch learned to read and write and also began a lifelong commitment to Christianity. Although he later joined the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church, it is likely that Finch first converted to the faith of his master, a devout Presbyterian. In 1854 Finch married Laura Wright, with whom he had five children.

Although still legally enslaved the Finch family enjoyed a fairly high degree of ...

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

Theresa Vara-Dannen

seamstress, washerwoman, and founder of a New Haven home for the indigent, first appears in public records as a resident of New Haven, Connecticut in a City Directory in 1848. Nothing is known for certain about her birthplace or her parentage. In 1848 she was listed simply as “Miss Hannah Gray, col’d,” of 5 Winter Street.” In 1850, she was boarding with two white women, but on the census form, her place of birth seems to be deliberately illegible.

Although little is known about her origins, it is clear that she saved money and generously supported Connecticut's Underground Railroad and “poor strangers from slavery” (Black Women of Connecticut, p. 31) seeking freedom. The Yale University Divinity School community patronized her laundry and sewing business. Over time she saved enough to purchase a modest four-room home at 158 Dixwell Avenue in New Haven. In the 1860 ...

Article

David E. Paterson

harness maker, state legislator, community organizer, and barber, was born on James Spier's farm, the Hurricane Place, three and a half miles from Thomaston, Upson County, Georgia, the fourth child of Guilford Speer and Viney, two of Spier's slaves. Guilford and Viney separated soon after William was born, and Guilford moved to Thomaston to operate a harness and shoe shop. William probably spent his earliest years with his mother, his three elder brothers, and several younger half siblings on the Hurricane Place, but by the late 1850s William had undoubtedly moved to the village and was learning his father's trade of harness making. In 1863 a devastating fire destroyed three-quarters of downtown Thomaston, and thereafter William probably worked in a shop organized by his father in Barnesville, Pike County, sixteen miles away.

Sometime during the Civil War, William married Lourinda presumably a slave but ...

Article

Eric Gardner

activist and entrepreneur, was born to free parents in Washington, D.C. Nothing is known of his parents or his early life. However, although he trained as a barber, Hall reportedly spent two years at Oberlin College and considered the ministry before moving to New York in 1845, where he ran a restaurant called the “El Dorado” on Church Street, and became active in both black Masonic organizations and the fight for black suffrage. However, at the end of the decade, like many other Americans, Hall headed west to seek gold in California.

He had some success as both a miner and a merchant and returned to New York in late 1851. He married Sarah Lavina Bailey in New York City on 16 March 1852 in a ceremony whose “splendor,” according to an item copied in the 1 April 1852Frederick Douglass's Paper was without parallel in ...

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

George A. Thompson

actor and singer, is a person about whom little early information is known. He told an interviewer in 1825 that he had been born in Rockaway, Long Island, New York, but James McCune Smith who had known the Hewlett boy suggested that he might have been born in the West Indies. The 1830 census indicated that he was older than thirty-six, and the 1825 interviewer states that he had been a servant to a well-known actor who died in 1812. This all suggests that he was born in the early- or mid-1790s. It also is not known whether he was born slave or free. A number of his ancestors were Euro-Americans, however, as his light skin tone was frequently remarked upon.

As a young man Hewlett worked on boats as a steward acting as servant to the officers and passengers probably out of New York City He also ...

Article

Charles Rosenberg

an enslaved barber in Yorktown, Virginia, who later was able to run his own business in Richmond, was born in Africa, captured and enslaved, transported across the Atlantic, sold in Virginia, and given the name of Caesar. He was first registered as a slave for tax purposes in York County on 17 August 1743 by Benjamin Catton, at which time his age was estimated as ten. He last owner of record was the widowed Susan or Susanna Riddell. He may or may not have been owned by others in between.

He learned and practiced skills as a barber for thirty years, before Riddell petitioned the Virginia legislature in 1779 to emancipate him submitting that he has set so good an Example to all in his circumstance and conducted himself with so much Industry Sobriety and Honesty as to engage the approbation of all who know him She may have ...

Article

Graham Russell Hodges

Born in rural Deptford Township, near Woodbury, New Jersey, Isaac Tatem Hopper was raised on a farm. His parents, Levi and Rachel Tatem Hopper, split between the Presbyterian and Quaker faiths, Levi practicing the former, Rachel the latter. Isaac joined the Society of Friends at the age of twenty-two. He became a staunch Whig after observing British looting of farms and resolved to fight servitude after hearing sad tales from black men of the slave trade and of flight from slavery.

Hopper married Sarah Tatum, a neighboring farm girl, in 1795. That same year he joined the Pennsylvania Abolition Society and taught black children and adults in a Quaker-sponsored school. In 1797 he began advising blacks about legal opportunities for emancipation in Pennsylvania as well as hiding runaways from southern states He combated slave kidnappers and struggled against the practice of buying them running by which agents ...

Article

Colleen Cyr

barber, orator, and activist, was born in Middletown, Connecticut, the son of Mary Ann (Campbell) and George W. Jeffrey. George's father was one of the first trustees of the Cross Street African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Zion Church of Middletown that was formed in 1828. Middletown's small black activist community shaped the life and work of George S. Jeffrey. There were several intermarriages between the Jeffrey family and the family of the Reverend Jehiel C. Beman, Cross Street AME Zion's first minister. Jeffrey's maternal aunt Clarissa Marie Campbell Beman founded the Middletown Colored Female Anti-Slavery Society. Citizens of color of Middletown, including his grandparents, uncles, and father, petitioned the Connecticut state legislature seven times between 1838 and 1843 over such issues as repealing the “Canterbury Law” (which effectively restricted young women of color from attending the boarding school founded for them by Prudence Crandall ...

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 ...