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James G. Spady

One of thirteen children, Robert Mara Adger was born in Charleston, South Carolina. His father, Robert Adger, was black, and his mother, Mary Ann Morong, was Native American. In 1848 the family moved to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Adger's father first found a job as a waiter in the Old Merchant's Hotel. Later, while working as a nurse, he industriously saved enough funds to open a furniture business. He was involved in many activities and was a founder of the Benjamin Banneker Institute.

Robert Mara Adger received his early training at the Bird School, an early black educational institution in the United States. During his teenage years, he worked in his father's furniture stores, which had expanded from one in 1850 to three by 1858 Serving as a manager provided him with the business experience that he later found valuable as director of the Philadelphia Building and ...

Article

Cynthia Hawkins

ceramist, sculptor, filmmaker, and cofounder (with her husband, James Hatch) of the Hatch‐Billops Collection, an archive of African American cultural history, was born in Los Angeles, California, to Lucius Billops, a cook and merchant seaman, and Alma Gilmore, a dressmaker, maid, and aircraft assembly worker. Billops graduated from Catholic Girls High School in 1952, and in 1954 she began her studies at the University of Southern California. She majored in occupational therapy, which included drawing, sculpture, and ceramics. She transferred to Los Angeles State College in 1956 after she became pregnant, and then she changed her major to special education. Billops worked during the day as a bank bookkeeper and maintained a full academic workload in the evening. At the end of 1956 her daughter, Christa, was born, and Billops put her up for adoption. This was an experience she would explore in her 1992 ...

Article

Charles Rosenberg

the first African American to manage a public library, founded a widely acclaimed program to train African Americans as library assistants in Louisville, Kentucky, where he supervised the first library department established for African Americans in an era of Jim Crow exclusion. Blue was the first person of African descent to appear in an American Library Association conference program (1922) and a founder of the Conference of Colored Librarians in 1927.

Blue was born in Farmville, Virginia, the second child of Noah and Henri Ann Crowly Blue, who had previously been enslaved. By 1870, Noah Blue was listed in the U.S. Census as a carpenter; he may have been the twelve-year-old male listed in the 1850 slave census as the property of Thomas Blue District No 24 Hampshire County Virginia now West Virginia The family included a six year old daughter Alice and a ...

Article

Krystal Appiah

educator and librarian, was born Hallie Mae Beachem in West Baden, Indiana, the youngest daughter of Mary Lucy and Hal Beachem, a businessman. Brooks's love of libraries developed when she was nine years old, and the family moved to Indianapolis allowing her to visit the well-stocked neighborhood branch every two weeks with her siblings.

Brooks began her career in librarianship as a tenth grader at Shortridge High School when she received a scholarship to attend the Indiana State Public Library Training Course. At the end of the program, Brooks received a certificate and an appointment as an assistant librarian, attending high school classes in the morning and working forty-two hours a week at the public library in the afternoon. After graduating from high school, Brooks received a bachelor of arts degree from Butler University in Indianapolis in 1934. Two years later she married Frederic Victor Brooks ...

Article

Bärbel R. Brouwers

writer, musician, journalist, and civil rights activist, was born in Kansas City, Missouri, to Myra Myrtle and Frank London Brown Sr., the eldest of their three children. In 1939, when Brown was twelve years old, the family relocated to the South Side of Chicago in hopes of better economic opportunities. Brown attended Colman Elementary School and went on to DuSable High School. His adolescence in Chicago's “Black Belt” during the 1940s, which Sterling Stuckey referred to as a “dark nether-world of crime” and “shattered idealism,” deeply influenced his artistic and writing career. In the streets of the South Side's slums he learned how to sing and soon discovered a deep passion for music, especially for jazz and blues. Brown is credited with being the first person to recite short stories (as opposed to poetry) to a jazz music accompaniment.

After graduating from high school in 1945 Brown ...

Article

Joan Marie Johnson

librarian and clubwoman, was born Susan Dart in Charleston, South Carolina, to the Reverend John Lewis Dart, pastor at Morris Street Baptist Church and Shiloh Baptist Church and editor of the Southern Reporter, and Julia Pierre, a former teacher. Dart was educated at the Charleston Institute, a school run by her father, and at his alma maters, Avery Institute and Atlanta University. She then traveled north to attend McDowell millinery school in Boston, a move which later led her to open the first millinery shop owned by an African American in Charleston when she returned home in 1913. She was successful, employing a number of women and girls and shipping hats to customers in the state and throughout the region. After five years Dart closed the shop and volunteered for the Red Cross during World War I. Following the war, in 1921 she shifted her ...

Article

Dorothy A. Washington

educator, librarian, and activist, was born Doris Hargrett in Hyde Park, Florida, the daughter of Andrew Joshua Hargrett and Delia Leana Green, both educators. Clack was the eighth of nine children born into a nurturing family and in small, tightly knit African American village. The children were “fed a constant diet of positive life-sustaining sense of values,” and she “learned many valuable lessons about community, trust, honesty, love of learning, faith in God” (Clack, 1995). Although her father died when Doris was three, his values of education, hard work, and a can-do attitude were instilled in her and her siblings by their mother. Experiencing economic hardship during the Great Depression, her mother was forced to send Doris to live with her older brother O. V. Hargrett for three years in Plant City, Florida. She rejoined the Hyde Park family at the age of nine.

Upon returning ...

Article

Melanie R. Thomas

librarian, bibliophile, and African Americana collector, was born Mayme Jewell Agnew at Van Buren, Arkansas, to Jerry and Mary Agnew. Jerry Agnew was a general store manager and the only African American merchant in town at the time. His wife Mary Knight Agnew was a homemaker. Upon graduation from high school, Mayme Agnew enrolled at-Lincoln University in Missouri and later moved to-New York. There, she met and married Andrew Lee Clayton in 1946. The couple had three sons. The-Clayton family relocated to California, where Mayme Clayton graduated from the University of-California, Berkeley, with a BA in History. She earned a master of library science degree through an external degree program run by Goddard College in Vermont in the 1970s and in 1983 was awarded a doctorate in Humanities from La Sierra University in Riverside, California.

Clayton s career led to several library positions including work at the Doheny ...

Article

Melanie R. Thomas

librarian, library director, and educator, was born Louie Zenobia Coleman to Joseph and Alice Hunter Coleman at Childersburg, Alabama. Joseph was a farm laborer, and Alice was a homemaker and helped on the family farm. Zenobia Coleman earned a BA degree in Education at Talladega College in 1921 and continued her studies in education at the University of Chicago during the mid-to late 1920s. Coleman's first professional position was at Bricks Junior College in Brick, North Carolina (later the Franklinton Center), where she worked as a teacher and librarian from 1924 to 1932. In 1936 she graduated from Columbia University Library School earning the bachelor of science degree in Library Science She received a fellowship for advanced study through the General Education Board Fellowship an academic award program funded by the Rockefeller agency The scholarship fund provided financial aid to African American and white students from rural southern ...

Article

Nicole A. Cooke

librarian and bibliotherapist, was born in Rochester, New York, the third of seven children born to Julia Frances (Hawkins) and James Johnson. Delaney's father, who worked as a valet in Poughkeepsie, New York, was a direct descendant of a woman who had escaped from slavery on the Underground Railroad. Born Sara Marie Johnson, Sadie graduated from high school and went on to attend Miss McGovern's School of Social Work, the City College of New York, and the New York Public Library's library school. She was married to Edward Louis Peterson from 1906 to 1921 and together they had one daughter, Grace Peterson Hooks, born in 1907. In 1928, she married Rudicel A. Delaney of Virginia.

In 1920 Delaney began her career as a librarian at the 135th Street Branch of the New York Public Library in Harlem where she was to become acquainted ...

Article

Louis M. Abbey

periodontist, public health specialist, and educator, was born Clifton Orin Dummett in Georgetown, British Guiana (later Guyana), the youngest of four children of Eglantine Annabella Johnson, a homemaker, and Alexander Adolphus Dummett, a pharmacist and registered dentist. Clifton attended St. Phillips Elementary School from 1924 until 1930 and Queen's College high school from 1930 until 1936, both in Georgetown, British Guiana. His values were strongly influenced by his father, mother, and uncle, Reginald Johnson, an Edinburgh-trained public health physician in Georgetown. “I came from a family that believed in the equality of man. I respected all peoples and demanded similar respect from those with whom I came in contact” (personal communication with the author).

Right after high school, in 1936 Alexander Adolphus Dummett obtained a student visa for his son to study in the United States at Howard University in Washington D ...

Article

Eric Gardner

librarian, was born in Paducah, Kentucky, to Robert H. Dunlap and Emma M. (Donovan) Dunlap. Robert Dunlap, alternately listed in censuses and directories as a laborer and a driver, was Donovan's second husband, and Mollie Dunlap was raised in a large family that eventually included three siblings, four step-siblings, and her maternal grandmother. She attended schools in Paducah until the family moved north to Kalamazoo, Michigan, about 1918. She continued her education—specifically studying English and elementary education—at Wilberforce University, apparently worked at Wilberforce in the early 1920s, and also taught in Kalamazoo, where she is listed with her family in the 1920 Federal Census (p. 6B).

Dunlap accepted a position as a teacher and librarian at Winston-Salem Teachers College in North Carolina in 1925. She returned north to take an A. B. from Ohio State University in 1928 and with the aid of a fellowship ...

Article

Constance Koppelman

library director, bibliographer, and art connoisseur, was born Belle Marion Greener, the daughter of Richard Greener, a lawyer and Republican Party activist, and Genevieve Ida Fleet Greener. Her place of birth was probably Washington, D.C., where her father held a variety of jobs. But specifics concerning Greene's childhood and education are scarce because she preferred to keep them a mystery. Apparently she attended Teachers College in New York City, where the family had relocated after Richard Greener was rewarded with a patronage job for his efforts on behalf of the Republican Party. Around 1897 Belle Marion Greener s parents separated the children staying with their mother who within a few years changed the surname to Greene and some years thereafter altered her maiden name from Fleet to Van Vliet During this time the Greenes fully passed in the white world and Belle da ...

Article

J. James Iovannone

collector, historian, author, and social personality, was born in Maryland, the son of Levi Thomas and Louisa Morris Gumby. In 1901 Gumby and his sister were sent to live with their grandparents, and it was there, at age sixteen, that Gumby began his scrapbook collection, making his first book—a practice that he would continue throughout the rest of his life—out of wallpaper, paste, and clippings of the September 1901 assassination of President McKinley. In 1902 Gumby entered Dover State College (later Delaware State University) in Delaware and began to study law. Before completing his studies Gumby withdrew from school and moved to New York City around 1906, where he would live until his death nearly sixty years later.

Gumby was immediately dazzled by life in the big city and sought to integrate himself into the urban community During his early years in New ...

Article

David Michel

librarian, was born in Chicago, the daughter of Fenton W. Harsh and Maria L. Drake Harsh, two graduates of Fisk University. Vivian attended Forrestville Elementary School and completed Wendell Phillips High School in 1908. In 1909 she took the first step toward what would become her life's career—a position, as a clerk, at the Chicago Public Library (CPL).Harsh pursued her education by matriculating at Simmons College Graduate School of Library and Information Science (Boston). In 1921 she earned a degree in Library Science and three years later was appointed the head of a local branch of the CPL becoming Chicago s first black librarian She joined the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History ASNLH which allowed her to remain abreast of literary developments in black history Thanks to a fellowship from the Rosenwald Foundation she pursued advanced studies in library science at ...

Article

Robin Jones

art educator and art collector, was born in Chicago to Eugene Renfroe and Bertha Wiley and grew up on the South Side with her brothers Everett and Earl. She graduated from Bowen High School and received a teacher's certificate from Chicago Normal College, becoming an elementary art teacher in the Chicago public schools. African American teachers were a rarity in mainstream public schools, and Huggins broke into a segregated teaching field, advancing from teacher to district supervisor of arts. To enhance her qualifications for the supervisor position, she returned to school to obtain her bachelor's degree, graduating from the University of Chicago in 1933. In 1956 she received her master's degree in art education from the Illinois Institute of Technology.

When Huggins entered the teaching profession American public schools were barely one hundred years old and still in the developmental stages Indeed art and music were not ...

Article

Amalia K. Amaki

painter, graphic artist, and archivist, was born William Richard Hutson in San Marcos, Texas, to Mattie Lee (Edwards) Hudson, a homemaker and employee at Texas State University, and Floyd Waymon Hudson, a laborer, bandleader, and pianist. He grew up with three siblings, Floyd Waymon Jr., Ellen Ruth, and Clarence Albert. When his father died in 1942 his family moved in with his grandmother. In 1949 he entered San Marcos Colored High School. With no art classes at school or in the segregated community, he took a drawing correspondence course in 1951 from Art Instruction, Inc. of Minneapolis, Minnesota, working odd jobs to cover costs. His mother died in 1952 at thirty-nine following a long illness, and Hutson moved to San Antonio with his siblings to live with aunts Jewel Littlejohn and Milber Jones in the East Terrace Housing Project, his uncle Wilbur ...

Article

Sharon Howard

librarian, archivist, bibliophile, and college professor, was born Jean Blackwell in Summerfield, Florida, to Paul O. Blackwell and Sarah Myers. Her father was a commission merchant who operated a farm, buying and shipping produce. Her mother taught elementary school. At age four she moved to Baltimore, Maryland, her mother's hometown. Paul Blackwell remained in Florida and visited the family over the years. Blackwell was a very precocious child and a voracious reader. She graduated as valedictorian from Baltimore's Frederick Douglass High School in 1931. The prestigious secondary school gave her a love of black history, which was taught by Yolande Du Bois and May Miller, daughters of two famous black leaders, W. E. B. Du Bois and Kelly Miller. She met the poet and writer Langston Hughes, with whom she shared a lifelong friendship, and the composer and pianist Eubie Blake ...

Article

Jennifer Wood

composer, performer, and anthologist, was born in Jacksonville, Florida, to Helen Dillet, the first black public schoolteacher in Florida, and James Johnson, the headwaiter at a local restaurant. He and his younger brother, James Weldon Johnson, were raised in a cultured and economically secure home, a rarity for African Americans in the South in this era. Their mother read Dickens novels to them every night before bed, and they received music lessons from an early age. Indeed, John began playing the piano as a toddler. He went on to attend Atlanta University in Georgia, and his brother followed eight years later.

When Johnson graduated in 1899 from the New England Conservatory in Boston where he had studied classical music he realized that he wanted to explore the realm of musical comedy He became a vocalist with Oriental America an African American opera company ...

Article

Nicole A. Cooke

pioneering librarian and community advocate, was born in St. Louis, Missouri, the fourth of five children born to Etta James Stanton and Ralph Herbert Stanton. Ralph Stanton worked as an insurance supervisor with several African American insurance companies and was the son of a former slave and grandson of a slave owner in Natchez, Mississippi. Etta James, also the descendant of slaves, was born in St. Geneve, Missouri, and worked as a teacher and amateur pianist and organist. The Stanton family was very close-knit and placed a high priority on education and community involvement. Clara Stanton attended the segregated public schools of St. Louis and went on to attend Milwaukee State Teachers College for a year. She then transferred to Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia, where she graduated with an A.B. degree in English and History in 1934 All five Stanton children graduated from college and ...