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Samuel W. Black

stationary engineer, labor union president, was born John Lincoln Black in Burgin, Kentucky, the second child of Robert Lincoln Black, a laborer, and Bertha Ann Ball Boggs Black. After his birth the Black family moved to Keene, Kentucky, to live with John's paternal grandmother. Within a few years Bertha Black became ill with tuberculosis and sickle cell anemia, so young John was sent to live with his father's relatives while his older sister and younger brother remained with the family. After the death of his mother in 1934 Black continued to live with his great‐aunt Martha while his two siblings, Anna Mae and Wallace, lived with their paternal grandmother. After the death of his great‐aunt, John moved to Cincinnati and joined his father, stepmother, and siblings. John Black attended the Cincinnati public schools—the all‐black Harriet Beecher Stowe Elementary School founded by Jennie Porter Bloom Junior High and ...

Article

Clare J. Washington

pilot, who made aviation history when she became the first African American woman to fly for a major passenger airline in the United States, the first to be admitted to the U.S. Navy's flight school, and the first in U.S. military history to qualify as a pilot.

Brown was born in Millersville, Maryland. Her family had taken up aviation as a hobby, and she learned to fly small planes with her parents—Gilbert Brown, who was a former U.S. Air Force instrument mechanic and also owned a building construction business, and Elaine Brown, an art resource teacher in the Baltimore public schools—when she was seventeen years old. For her eighteenth birthday, she received a Cherokee 180D airplane. In 1967 Brown flew her first solo flight in a Piper J 3 Cub She had always dreamed of becoming a commercial pilot but her mother advised her otherwise and ...

Article

Caroline M. Fannin

combat pilot, was born Eugene James Bullard in Columbus, Georgia, the son of William Octave Bullard, a laborer and former slave, and Josephine Thomas. Both parents were of African American and Creek Indian descent. In 1906 Bullard, the seventh of ten children, ran away from home, ending his formal education. He lived for a time with a band of gypsies, who taught him to ride racehorses. He then worked as a horse handler, jockey, and laborer in several southern states. Bullard gained the respect of several employers by his quiet insistence on treatment with dignity and equality, an ethos instilled in him by his father and strengthened by his sojourn with the tolerant, English-born gypsies.

Early in 1912 Bullard made his way to Norfolk Virginia where he stowed away on a freighter bound for Europe Set ashore in Aberdeen Scotland Bullard worked his way south joining a ...

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Lolita K. Buckner Inniss

aviator, dancer, and musician, was born in Muskogee, Oklahoma, the fifth of seven children to Sarah Ragsdale and a father surnamed Jones. Official records such as census records from 1930 and the Social Security Death Index list her birth year as 1906, but family records, photographs, and anecdotal evidence indicate her birth year as between 1900 and 1903. After she was widowed Marie's mother left Muskogee for Los Angeles, California, along with Marie and some of her siblings, where they settled in a vibrant, multiracial neighborhood in East Los Angeles. When Marie's mother married David Austin, a former guitarist for the singer Sissieretta Jones (Black Patti) in 1910, Marie took her stepfather's surname, Austin.

Coker attended and graduated from Central High School in Los Angeles and was the first in her immediate family to attain a high school diploma She was a precocious child particularly ...

Article

Ted Olson

country musician, was born Frenchy Edwards near Seminole, Oklahoma, the fourth of seven children born to Bub Edwards, a farmer, and his wife Red, a music teacher.

Stoney Edwards was named Frenchy after a local bootlegger, and received his better-known nickname as an adult. His father was of African American and Irish descent and his mother of Native American heritage. His parents had abandoned their children by the time Edwards was a teenager, and so the future country singer was compelled to serve in the role of caretaker for his three younger siblings. He never attended school and did not learn to read or write.

Because of his mixed race background Edwards experienced frequent discrimination during his early years growing up in rural Depression era Oklahoma and found that playing country music offered one avenue to social acceptance His first exposure to the genre involved listening to his bootlegger ...

Article

crystal am nelson

jazz drummer and medical inventor, was born Ronald Edwin Gardiner in Westerly, Rhode Island, to Maude Hannah Francis, a homemaker, and Ralph Alton Gardiner, a chef. The youngest of four sons, Gardiner was a precocious child. At only three and a half—when he was already tap-dancing—he asked for a toy drum for Christmas. His parents obliged so that he would stop playing on his mother's pots and pans.

After graduating from high school, he remained in Westerly and played at weddings and parties. In 1951 Gardiner moved to New York City to study privately with Charlie Tappin at the Henry Adler Music School. In 1953 during one of his weekend train rides back from Westerly to New York, Gardiner played an impromptu performance with Charlie Parker one of jazz s most influential saxophonists Gardiner returned to Westerly after four years of studying to work as Westerly ...

Article

Douglas Fleming Roosa

stunt parachutist, was born Willie Jones in either Memphis, Tennessee, or Mississippi to Rebecca Lang of Memphis. Nothing is known about his father or Willie's education. Little is known about Jones's early life, but published reports suggest he began to fly in his teens. Conflicting stories describe his first airborne stunts. According to the Chicago Defender, Jones joined the Orange Flying Circus in Fort Worth, Texas, in 1923, whereas an article published in Ebony magazine reports that Jones began to fly in Saint Louis at the age of fifteen and walked his first wing in 1927 at a Missouri county fair Whatever the truth all accounts agree that Jones took to flying right away exhibiting the fearlessness that all the early stunt flyers had to have to do risky tricks with no safety equipment in the rickety wood canvas and wire World War I surplus Jenny ...

Article

Paul Stillwell

pioneer black naval officer, was born in Murphreesboro, Tennessee, one of two children of Frank E. Sr. and Rosa Sublett, who were divorced in 1931. When Sublett was about five years old, the family moved to Highland Park, Illinois, and a year later to Glencoe, Illinois, another Chicago suburb. Sublett spent most of the rest of his life in Glencoe. His education in the first eight grades was in Glencoe, and he then went to high school in nearby Winnetka. He was among the very few black students in the high school, from which he graduated in 1938, but he later recalled that he encountered no prejudice there (Stillwell, 149). As a teenager he got his first exposure to service life when he attended Citizens Military Training Camp at Fort Riley, Kansas, for two summers. He spent the 1938–1939 school year at the University of ...