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John Hanners

football player, social activist, author, singer-actor, and ordained minister, was born Roosevelt Grier on a farm in Cuthbert, Georgia, the seventh of Joseph and Ruth Grier's eleven children. At age thirteen he moved with his family to Roselle, New Jersey. Offered an athletic scholarship to Penn State University, he enrolled in 1950 and studied psychology, music, and education. His college athletic career was exceptional. Not only did he receive first-team All-American football honors in 1955, but he also set an Intercollegiate Association of Amateur Athletics of America shot-put record (fifty-eight feet) in track and field.

In 1965 Grier signed with the National Football League's New York Giants for a $500 bonus and a yearly salary of $6,500. During a long career that lasted from 1955 through 1968 Grier was a dominant defensive tackle in an era known for excellent defensive players His size ...

Article

Shana L. Redmond

taxi driver whose videotaped beating by police officers in March 1991 provoked international outrage, was born in Sacramento, California, to working-class parents. His father was a construction worker and cleaner, and as a child Rodney worked long hours as a cleaner along with his father. His work schedule along with a learning disability contributed to his lack of academic success, and despite considerable athletic ability, he dropped out in 1984 during his senior year of high school. Afterward King found work in construction. During his early adulthood he had two daughters and married Crystal Waters, a woman with two children of her own. Prior to 1991 King was in and out of jail for crimes ranging from robbery to intoxication.King became an international celebrity and emblem of police abuse in 1991, when a videotape, shot by the amateur cameraman George Holliday was broadcast by Los Angeles ...

Article

Charles L. Hughes

hip-hop performer, songwriter, and actor, was born James Todd Smith in New York City. Raised in the St. Albans district of Queens, Smith was the only child of James Smith Jr. and Ondrea Smith, whose turbulent, abusive relationship led to their split when Smith was four years old; the boy and his mother moved in with her parents. Unfortunately, the trouble did not end there: when Smith was four, James Smith Jr. shot his ex-wife in the back and legs as she returned to her parents' house after work, wounding her father in the attack as well. Though both survived, this escalation of violence in his family marked the young James Smith throughout his life, and—according to his 1998 autobiography he credited this early turmoil and a later unfortunate reprise when his mother became the victim of further abuse by a later boyfriend with helping ...

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RuPaul  

Monica Hairston

drag performer, singer, songwriter, and actor, was born RuPaul Andre Charles in San Diego, California, the only son of four children to Ernestine “Toni” Fontenette (a registrar) and Irving Andrew Charles (an electrician). RuPaul was close to his sisters Renae, Renatta, and Rosalind, and to his mother, particularly after his parents' bitter 1967 divorce. Shortly afterward, RuPaul moved in with Renatta and her husband in El Cajon, California, and then moved with them to Atlanta in the summer of 1976 While there RuPaul worked with his brother in law as a used car salesman but also attended the Northside School of the Performing Arts RuPaul s experiences as a drama major at Northside as well as his exposure to the liberating and bohemian climate in Atlanta fueled his desire to succeed as a performing artist RuPaul experienced his first drag queen performance ...

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O.J. Simpson was born in a poor neighborhood of San Francisco, California, the third of four children. His father left the family when Simpson was a child. At a young age Simpson wore leg braces to correct weakness in his legs, but as a teenager at Galileo High School, he was a star athlete, participating in baseball, track, and football. At the same time Simpson received several suspensions from school for misbehavior. He graduated from Galileo in 1965, but his grades kept him from attending a major university. Instead, he enrolled at City College in San Francisco, where he had a remarkable first season of football and was offered several athletic scholarships. He remained another year at City College before meeting the admissions standards for the University of Southern California (USC), which he entered in 1967. That same year, he married his first wife, Marguerite.

Article

Steven J. Niven

football player, sportscaster, and actor, was born Orenthal James Simpson in San Francisco, California, to Jimmie Simpson, a cook, and Eunice Durden, a nurse's aide. The child disliked his unusual first name, which was-given to him by an aunt who had heard of a French actor named Orenthal. Sometime during his childhood—accounts differ as to when—he began using his initials “O. J.,” which friends later adapted to “Orange Juice” and, later, to “Juice.” When O. J. was four, Jimmie Simpson abandoned his wife and family, leaving Eunice to raise four children in a two-bedroom apartment in the run-down Potrero Hill public housing projects near San Francisco's Chinatown. Eunice Simpson worked long hours to provide for her children but it was often a hard struggle When O J contracted rickets as an infant for example he was left bowlegged and in need of leg braces that his ...

Article

Karen E. Sutton

gained fame in 2003 when she revealed that she was the illegitimate, biracial daughter of the late Strom Thurmond, U.S. senator from South Carolina. America knew Thurmond as a staunch segregationist, and he was the longest-serving and oldest senator in U.S. history, dying at age one hundred in June 2003. Her mother was Carrie Butler, who had a love affair with Thurmond when she was fifteen and employed as a domestic servant in his family home. At the time of their relationship, Thurmond was a single, twenty-two-year-old schoolteacher and football coach at Edgefield High School.

Born in Aiken, South Carolina, Washington-Williams was raised by her maternal aunt, Mary Butler Washington, in Coatesville, Pennsylvania. She met her real mother in 1938, when “Aunt” Carrie came to visit and revealed their true relationship. At age sixteen, in 1941 while in Edgefield South Carolina for a family ...