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Peter Valenti

baseball player and executive, was born Henry Aaron in the Down the Bay section of Mobile, Alabama, the third of eight children of Herbert Aaron and Estella (maiden name unknown). His parents had left the Selma, Alabama, area during the Depression for greater opportunity in Mobile's shipbuilding industries. In 1942, as the family grew and Down the Bay became more crowded with wartime job seekers, the Aarons moved to a rural suburb of Toulminville. Working as a boilermaker's apprentice, Herbert Aaron suffered through the frequent layoffs that plagued black shipyard workers before wartime demand dictated full employment. Ever resourceful, Herbert Aaron bought two lots in Toulminville, hired carpenters to frame out the roof and walls of a house, and set about with his family to find materials to finish the property. The Aarons continued to live in the house even as Henry achieved superstardom.

Making balls from such scavenged ...

Article

Paul Finkelman

baseball player, baseball executive, civil rights advocate, and businessman. Henry Louis “Hank” Aaron was born and raised in Mobile, Alabama, the son of Herbert and Estella Aaron. He was a member of the second generation of black baseball players to enter the major leagues following Jackie Robinson's breaking of the color line in professional baseball in 1947. Aaron began playing for the Milwaukee Braves in 1954; at about the same time Willie Mays joined the New York Giants and Ernie Banks joined the Chicago Cubs. They were among the last black players who began their careers in the Negro Leagues. In 1974 Aaron broke Babe Ruth's lifetime home run record of 714. When he retired from baseball in 1976 after twenty three seasons Aaron held the career records for most home runs 755 most runs batted in 2 297 most total bases ...

Article

Alonford James Robinson

The third of eight children, Henry Louis Aaron was born in Mobile, Alabama, to Estella and Herbert Aaron. His first experience with professional baseball came in the Negro Leagues, as he moved up through the ranks with the Pritchett Athletics, the Mobile Black Bears, and the Indianapolis Clowns. In 1952, the Boston Braves of the newly integrated major leagues signed Aaron to play shortstop in their farm system. Moving from Eau Claire, Wisconsin, to Jacksonville, Florida, Aaron made it to the majors in 1954, playing for the Milwaukee Braves (now the Atlanta Braves).

Aaron is considered by some to be the best baseball player in history. Over his twenty-three-year major league career, Aaron compiled more batting records than any other player in baseball history. He holds the record for runs batted in (RBIs) with 2,297, and was a Gold Glove Winner in 1958, 1959 ...

Article

Cajetan N. Iheka

Nigerian entrepreneur, philanthropist, politician, and publisher, was born on 24 August 1937 in the southwestern town of Egba, Abeokuta, in the present-day Ogun State, to Alhaji Salawu Adelekan Akanni Abiola and Zeliat Wuraola Ayinke Abiola (née Kassim). Although Abiola was the twenty-third child of his parents, he was their first surviving child as his older siblings had died at infancy or were stillborn. Because of several deaths that had plagued the family, Abiola was named “Kashimawo,” meaning “Let us wait and see.” It was not until his fifteenth birthday that his parents gave him a regular name, Moshood, having been convinced that the young Abiola had come to stay.

Although he was born and raised in a poor family the young Abiola exhibited some entrepreneurial tendencies when he started gathering and selling firewood at the tender age of nine With the proceeds from his business he was able to support ...

Article

On June 12 1993, the popular businessman Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola won a long-awaited presidential election in Nigeria, only to have the country's military leader, Ibrahim Babangida, annul the election results. When Abiola declared himself the country's legitimate leader a year later, Babangida's successor, General Sani Abacha, jailed him for treason. As a political prisoner, Abiola became the rallying symbol for Nigerians’ democratic aspirations.

Abiola was born into a poor, polygamous household of Yoruba-speaking Muslims in the ancient town of Abeokuta None of his parents first twenty two children had survived past infancy so Abiola the twenty third was given the middle name Kashimawo meaning Let s see if he will survive He began his education at the Islamic Nawar Ud Deen School and then transferred to the Christian run African Central School As an indigent student at the Baptist Boys High School Abiola ...

Article

Mussie Tesfagiorgis

Eritrean intellectual, businessman, and politician, was born in the village of Ma’ereba, southeast of Asmara. Abreha Tesemma is the son of one of the famous Eritrean chiefs and statesmen, Raesi Tesemma Asmerom Untura. As a young man, Abreha Tesemma attended both local church and Western school, which enabled him to become one of the most accomplished Eritrean scholars and politicians of his time, as well as a renowned agriculturalist and artist. He mastered a number of languages including Italian, Geez, and Amharic; his paintings fused Eritrean and Western themes and styles. For the greatest part of his life, he was engaged in agricultural activities, business, politics, and painting.

Abreha Tesemma s father Raesi Tesemma Asmerom served as principal chief of at least two districts in the province of Akkele Guzay Hadegti and Egella Hames Based on oral sources Raesi Tesemma was highly respected for his strategies of local conflict resolution ...

Article

Julia A. Clancy-Smith

Tunisian labor activist, women’s rights activist, and journalist, was born in the town of Gabes in southern Tunisia. Adda rose to prominence owing to her mother’s emphasis upon female education, although her parents were of modest means. One branch of Adda’s family, who are North African Jews, was originally from Batna in Algeria; her maternal grandfather had left French Algeria to seek his fortune in Tunisia, where he managed a small hotel in the south. For her parents’ generation, it was somewhat unusual for women to attend school; to achieve the “certificate of study,” as Adda’s mother did, was a noteworthy achievement. Gladys Adda’s life trajectory illustrated a number of important regional and global social and political currents: nationalism and anticolonialism, organized labor and workers’ movements, socialism and communism, women’s emancipation, and fascism and anti-Semitism against the backdrop of World War II.

In primary school Adda attended classes with Muslim ...

Article

Paul Finkelman

Depending on the situation, minorities might include any underrepresented group, especially one defined by race, ethnicity, or gender. Generally, affirmative action has been undertaken by governments, businesses, or educational institutions to remedy the effects of past discrimination against a group, whether by a specific entity, such as a corporation, or by society as a whole.

Until the mid-1960s, legal barriers prevented blacks and other racial minorities in the United States from entering many jobs and educational institutions. While women were rarely legally barred from jobs or education, many universities would not admit them and many employers would not hire them. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibited discrimination in public accommodations and employment A section of the act known as Title VII which specifically banned discrimination in employment laid the groundwork for the subsequent development of affirmative action The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission EEOC created by the Civil Rights ...

Article

Paul S. Boyer and Matthew Dallek

The term “affirmative action” first appeared in a legislative context in the 1935 National Labor Relations Act and was later written into state laws prohibiting racial discrimination in employment. But the phrase, implying simply that government agencies should try to prevent discrimination against African Americans, initially attracted little notice. Prior to the 1960s, virtually no one saw affirmative action as a way of giving minorities preferential treatment in hiring, promotions, and admissions.

More than anything else, the civil rights movement helped change the meaning of affirmative action. In 1964, after years of black protest, Congress passed the landmark Civil Rights Act, which among other things created new agencies run by officials eager to bring minorities into the mainstream of American life. By 1965 with the passage of the Voting Rights Act the legal barriers to integration began to crumble and government and civil rights leaders began to ...

Article

The story of African American federal government workers is an important narrative that expands our understanding of the development of a stable black middle class—a sector that did not exist en masse within urban areas prior to World War II. African American workers hold both a practical and symbolic function of evidencing American federalist principles of inclusion, opportunity, and participation. Likewise federal employment embodied the nation's constitutional pledge to insure equality under the law more so than any other industry. The collective experiences of African American federal government workers over time illustrate persistent gaps between federal theories and the actual practice of democracy for all regardless of race, creed, or color.

Article

The history of African Americans in the United States is intimately intertwined with the history of American agriculture. From the colonial era to the early nineteenth century, the labor of African Americans—enslaved ones, specifically—powered American agribusiness, producing crops such as cotton, tobacco, rice, and sugar. Although emancipation ended African Americans’ legal bondage as agricultural laborers, African Americans remained a significant portion of the Americans who made their living by agricultural labor. U.S. census statistics from 1900 through 1954 show that during that time African Americans constituted an average of 28.7 percent of the nation's farm operators. Between 1954 and 1959, the percentage of African American farmers dropped by nearly 9 points. Since 1959 the number of African American farmers—then 265,261—has continued to dwindle until in the early twenty-first century there were only about 15,000 African American farmers remaining, which is less than 0.2 percent of all American farmers.

Article

Candace Cardwell

choreographer and dancer. Born in Rogers, Texas, Alvin Ailey was raised in a single-parent home headed by his mother, Lula Elizabeth Cooper. Ailey and his mother earned money by picking cotton and doing domestic work for local families. In 1942 Ailey moved to Los Angeles; he attended George Washington Carver Junior High School and Jefferson High School, where he developed an interest in music and literature. After graduation he went on to study literature at the University of California at Los Angeles.

Ailey's dance training began in 1949 when a friend, Carmen DeLavallade, introduced him to Lester Horton, founder of the Lester Horton Dance Theater. Horton was one of the few dance instructors who accepted black students, and he became Ailey's first dance coach. When Horton died in 1953 Ailey became the director of the company The following year Ailey moved to New York City where ...

Article

Alaska  

Nick J. Sciullo

The United States' northernmost state has always had a low black population, one of the lowest in the United States. The 2000 U.S. Census lists Alaska as having 21,787 black residents who make up 3.5 percent of its population. This is likely as much an effect of geographical boundaries as societal forces. After the Civil War, blacks migrated to Alaska in search of new economic opportunities; they became seafarers and worked in the whaling and fur industries and were better able to find meaningful work than many of those who stayed in the American South. The Alaska Gold Rush in the 1890s brought many from the contiguous United States to Alaska, African Americans among them, and many stayed—some for profit and some for adventure's sake.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt authorized the building of the Alaska Highway in February 1942 and more than three thousand black engineers worked on the ...

Article

Jacqueline M. Jones

The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, founded in 1958 by Alvin Ailey, is an internationally renowned modern dance company emphasizing Western and Afrocentric concert dance. Ailey was born in Rogers, Texas, in 1931. While attending the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA), he received formal training in the Lester Horton technique, which was inspired by Horton's knowledge of the cultures of Native Americans, Asians, and the African diaspora. The Horton company stressed theatrical components, including storytelling, music, and stage design. After Horton's death in 1953, Ailey served as artistic director until 1954, when he moved to New York City to study dance with Charles Weidman, Hanya Holm, Martha Graham, and Doris Humphrey. In March 1958 Ailey formed his own company Over the years the company has enjoyed financial support from many sources including the U S Department of State and ...

Article

Gunnar Myrdal, the Swedish economist, was selected by the Carnegie Corporation to lead a study of race in America because, as a citizen of “a non-imperialistic country with no background of domination of one race over another,” they felt he would “approach the situation with an entirely fresh mind.” Myrdal assembled a team of scholars that included a number of African Americans: Ralph Bunche, Allison Davis, St. Clair Drake, E. Franklin Frazier, Charles S. Johnson, and Kenneth Clark. He also sought advice from W. E. B. Du Bois.

An American Dilemma s major contribution involves three interconnected themes The first posits that what was called the Negro problem is actually a white problem Myrdal relates that when he began the project he thought he would be studying African Americans which is what such investigations usually did But he quickly realized that ...

Article

In 1955, the American Federation of Labor (AFL) and the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) merged to form the AFL-CIO. The new union's first actions under the leadership of George Meaney were to set up a Committee on Civil Rights and to announce that “the merged labor movement would not tolerate racial or religious discrimination.” Vowing to lead a crusade to secure equality of employment opportunity, the AFL-CIO publicly committed itself to supporting the desegregation of public facilities, advocating the prosecution of Lynching as a federal crime, and abolishing the poll tax for voting.

The swiftness with which the newly formed union made these statements revealed the troubled history of the relationship between blacks and unions in the United States Throughout the early twentieth century blacks had been caught in a double bind excluded from unions because of their color but reviled as strike breakers when they agreed to ...

Article

Kate Tuttle

The roots of Americo-Liberian society can be traced to modern Liberia's settlement by free American blacks. From their arrival on the coast of West Africa in 1821, the settlers and their sponsors at the American Colonization Society (ACS), a white abolitionist group, had a complex relationship with the people who were already living there. The settlers brought with them American social, political, and economic values (as expressed in the first constitution of the Commonwealth, later the Republic, of Liberia). They were also strongly influenced by the ACS's ties to the Christian missionary movement. The motives of both white abolitionists and African American colonizers were challenged by critics such as the nineteenth-century African American writer Martin Delany, who charged that the ACS, in “deporting” free blacks, was helping to sustain the practice of Slavery in the United States Furthermore these critics noted the black settlers were establishing a ...

Article

Sanya Osha

Egyptian economic theorist, was born in Egypt to an Egyptian father and a French mother, both of whom were medical doctors. Amin had his early schooling at Port Said and then proceeded to France, where he obtained degrees in political science and statistics before finally earning a doctorate in economics from the University of Paris in 1957. He joined the French Communist Party (FCP) but later broke away and eventually became involved with Maoist organizations. After his studies in France, Amin returned to Egypt to work for the government, but eventually had to leave the country for his antigovernment stance. He then worked for the Ministry of Planning in Mali between 1960 and 1963. Amin was later offered a research position at the Institut Africain de Développement Économique et de Planification (IDEP). In addition, he held professorships in Poitiers, Dakar, and Paris. In 1970 he was appointed ...

Article

Frank A. Salamone

In 1909—the same year that W. E. B. Du Bois helped found the NAACP and that the African American Matthew Henson went with Robert Peary on what became the first successful journey to the North Pole—James Henry Anderson from South Carolina established the New York Amsterdam News. Anderson was born soon after the Civil War. At the age of twelve he left South Carolina, a runaway who worked an assortment of jobs, finally settling in New York City. He came up with the idea of establishing a newspaper aimed directly at the needs of an African American audience. This was a brave move on his part: at the time, there were only about fifty such newspapers in the entire country.

Anderson's small investment led to the Amsterdam News a newspaper that grew to have a strong influence in the black community He named the newspaper after ...

Article

Lisa Clayton Robinson

The Atlanta Mutual Insurance Association was founded in 1905 by Alonzo Herndon, a former slave who owned and operated a successful Atlanta barbershop. Herndon, a close associate of black leaders W. E. B. Du Bois and Booker T. Washington, was influenced by Washington's emphasis on black economic progress. He sought to establish an African American entrepreneurial empire, dabbling in real estate development as well as insurance. Although Atlanta was home to a growing black middle class in the early 1900s, Herndon's new company served a largely impoverished clientele and at first offered only industrial insurance for weekly premiums of just a few cents. Despite early difficulties, the Atlanta Mutual Insurance Association experienced rapid growth by taking a grassroots approach to winning clients (company agents ventured into black communities selling insurance like door-to-door salesmen) and by pushing a “buy black” promotional campaign. By 1906 the company had attracted ...