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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

Elizabeth Heath

Ahmad Baba was one of the best-known Islamic scholars and writers of his time. Born into the prestigious Aqit family near Tombouctou (Timbuktu) in 1556, he was educated in Islamic theology and law. After completing his studies, he began writing books and treatises on theology, Islamic jurisprudence, history, and Arabic grammar. Over the course of his life he wrote more than fifty-six works. More than half of these are still in existence, and several are still used by West African ulama (scholars). Ahmad Baba also was a great collector of books; he amassed a library containing thousands of volumes. At this time, Tombouctou, ruled by the Songhai empire, was renowned throughout the Islamic world as a center of learning.

In 1591 the sultan of Morocco invaded Tombouctou. Ahmad Baba and other scholars refused to serve the Moroccan rulers and, by some accounts, instigated a 1593 rebellion against ...

Article

Jane Brodsky Fitzpatrick

first African Americanwoman legislator in Oklahoma, librarian, teacher and activist, was the fifth of six children born in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, to Mabel Kennedy and James Thackeray Diggs Sr., a contractor for Gulf Oil Company.

Both Atkins's parents graduated from Slater Industrial Academy. Her parents encouraged the children, four of whom were girls, to attend college. Her brother Edward O. Diggs was the first black to attend the University of North Carolina Medical School (1961). Atkins attended segregated public schools in Winston-Salem, and graduated as valedictorian of Atkins High School at age fifteen. She enrolled in St. Augustine's, an Episcopalian college in Raleigh, North Carolina, where she met and married Charles Nathaniel Atkins on 24 May 1943. A few days later she graduated with a B.A. in French and Biology. She was an honors student, whose advisor was the historian John Hope ...

Article

Shivohn N. García

was born on 2 February 1899 in Cidra, Puerto Rico, to Felipe Belpré and Carlota Nogueras. Belpré’s passion for stories and her desire to share the culture of Puerto Rico through storytelling and children’s literature can be traced to her childhood. In an unpublished autobiographical essay, she mused that “growing up on the island of Puerto Rico in an atmosphere of natural storytellers was fun: a father whose occupation took him all over the island; a grandmother whose stories always ended with a nonsense rhyme or song, setting feet to jump, skip, or dance; elder sisters who still remembered tales told by a mother; and finally, a stepmother whose literary taste was universal” (Pura Teresa Belpré Papers, hereafter PBP). As Belpré reached adulthood, Puerto Rico was undergoing a dramatic change: in 1917 the Jones Shafroth Act bestowed US citizenship on Puerto Ricans which triggered a migration from the island ...

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

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

Charles Rosenberg

librarian, journalist, and African Methodist Episcopal lay church leader, was born in Shannon, Mississippi, the son of William and Sarah Forbes, who had been enslaved until freed by the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863, the arrival of the United States Army in Mississippi, and the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

Working at a young age in brickyards and farms, Forbes left the state at the age of fourteen, attended Wilberforce University in Ohio for a time, then moved to Boston in the 1880s. Mr. and Mrs. Mungin of Smith Court, a forgotten couple who assisted many struggling students, assisted him in finding work as a laborer at Memorial Hall in nearby Cambridge, saving money and studying. In 1888 Forbes enrolled at Amherst College in Amherst, Massachusetts, where he was a classmate of Sherman W. Jackson later principal of M Street High School in ...

Article

Wallace McClain Cheatham

opera singer, college and music conservatory professor, composer, activist, and genealogist, the youngest of seven children, was born in Columbia, Tennessee, and reared in Louisville, Kentucky, where his family moved in search of suitable employment and better schools. Andrew's mother, Lue Vergia Esters Frierson, was a homemaker. His father, Robert Clinton Frierson, was a laborer.

At age three Frierson first dramatically showcased his musical talent. One afternoon he accompanied his mother to the home of an old family friend where there was a piano. Frierson saw the instrument, went to it, and instinctively began to play recognizable songs. Frierson's mother and her friends were astounded because he had never even seen a piano. By the age of five Frierson was playing all over the town.

After four years of piano study with William King and graduation from high school Frierson went to ...

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

Courtney L. Young

was born in Tallahassee, Florida, the daughter of Colleen Dowling (Hayden), a music teacher and social worker, and Bruce Kenard Hayden, Jr., a college music professor (specializing in stringed instruments). Carla Diane Hayden was raised in Brooklyn, New York and Chicago.

In 1973 Hayden received her bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Roosevelt University in Chicago. She later received her M.A. and Ph.D. in Library Science from the University of Chicago, a program that closed in 1989. Her professional library career began in 1973 as a library associate and children’s librarian at the Chicago Public Library. In 1979 she became the young adult services coordinator, a position she held until her first departure from the library system in 1982. She set up and operated the library at Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry from 1982 to 1987 In this position Hayden became a library advocate skilled in ...

Article

Mark L. McCallon

librarian, was born Elonnie Junius Josey in Norfolk, Virginia, the son of Willie and Frances Josey. The eldest of five children, Josey attended a segregated school in Port Smith, Virginia. After studying the organ at the Hampton Institute, Josey attended Howard University's School of Music. Graduating with a bachelor's degree in 1949, he then went to Columbia University in New York and earned a master's degree in history. Unable to obtain a teaching job following graduation, Josey worked as a desk assistant in the Columbia University libraries. He developed a strong interest in libraries while working there and decided to pursue a master's degree in library science from the State University of New York at Albany.

Josey's first position was as a librarian in the Central Library of the Free Library of Philadelphia from 1953 to 1954. In 1954 Josey accepted a teaching position as ...

Article

Robert Fikes

dentist, civil rights activist, and art and book collector, was born Jack Johnson Kimbrough in Lexington, Mississippi, the son of Samuel Gulbridge Kimbrough, a blacksmith, and Mary Hoover. Jack was named after the famed African American boxer Jack Johnson. When he was seven, the Kimbroughs, intimidated by local Ku Klux Klansmen and seeking better economic opportunities, moved from Mississippi to Alameda, California, where relatives resided. After graduating from Alameda High School in 1926 Jack attended Sacramento Junior College He continued his studies at the University of California at Berkeley where he studied chemistry while working as a janitor waiter cook and landscaper His interest in science as well as the relatively shorter time that it took to earn a dentistry degree than a medical degree persuaded him enroll in the University of California Dental School in San Francisco from which he graduated with ...

Article

Paul Von Blum

art historian, educator, curator, and artist, was born Samella Sanders in New Orleans, Louisiana, the daughter of Samuel Sanders, a strawberry farm owner and Rachel (Taylor) Sanders, a seamstress. Lewis's childhood in New Orleans exposed her to black history, culture, and art—a background that informed all of her professional activities. Her early experiences with segregation catalyzed the powerful antiracist vision that influenced her entire life. For example, as a young art student, she encountered a major barrier in visiting the Delgado Art Museum, located in a municipal park reserved exclusively for whites. Her teacher, Elizabeth Catlett managed to secure a bus and had everyone in her class move directly from the bus to the museum technically avoiding the racial restrictions of the park itself Lewis began her formal art studies at Dillard University studying with Catlett who became her lifelong friend and mentor ...

Article

Adebe DeRango-Adem

was born Beatrice Murphy in Monessen, then a booming steel town near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The 1910 U.S. Census records a two-year-old Beatrice Murphy living with her father, Benjamin Murphy, her mother, Maude, and her older brother, Selmo, all of whom are listed as “Negro” in McMahan borough near Monessen. Her mother died that year and by 1914 Beatrice was living in Washington, D.C., where she would spend the rest of her life. Murphy graduated from Dunbar High School—the place where she would publish her first poem—in 1928. She worked as a columnist and book review editor at the Washington Tribune from 1933 to 1935 During this time she was also a regular columnist for the Associated Negro Press and contributed poetry and book reviews to numerous serials and collections Historian Maureen Honey notes that Murphy was evidently married in the 1930s presumably to a man named Campbell and ...

Article

Elizabeth Simoneau

librarian, bibliographical researcher, and political figure, was born in Baltimore, Maryland, the youngest son of George Murray, a free black who worked as a timber inspector, and Eliza (Wilson) Murray, a woman of mixed African and American Indian ancestry. Daniel Murray, who was named after his father's close friend, the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church bishop Daniel Alexander Payne, began school at the age of five at a small primary school in his neighborhood. He continued to study in Baltimore public schools and entered a Unitarian seminary, graduating in 1869. On 19 April 1861 he witnessed the attack on the Sixth Massachusetts Regiment in Baltimore. An early account of Murray's life in Colored American Magazine reported that as a young boy he supplied Union soldiers with water during an attack in Baltimore and earned accolades for spying a rebel soldier trying to ...

Article

Trevor Hall

was born Thommaso Parentucelli in the Ligurian region of Italy, around Genoa in 1397. The son of an unknown physician, he received a classical education at the University of Bologna. He was a learned man who read the thousands of books in his extensive private libraries.

Although he was not a member of the Italian aristocracy, he used his intellect and diplomatic skills to navigate through the complex maze of Vatican politics, which culminated with his papacy in 1447. His reason for renown in the history of transatlantic slavery is that in 1455 he issued the papal bull Romanus pontifex giving Portugal the right to reduce West Africans to a status of perpetual slavery.

Pope Nicholas V came from a humble background and after his father died he left university to support himself He worked as a tutor for rich Italian families who brought teachers and professors into ...

Article

Jeff Bloodworth

librarian, civil rights activist, state senator, and congressman, was born in Collierville, Tennessee, one of the eight children of Ezekiel Owens and Hannah Owens. During Owens's childhood his family moved to Memphis, where Owens graduated from Hamilton High School in 1952 at the age of sixteen. After graduation and upon the receipt of a Ford Foundation scholarship, Owens attended Morehouse College in Atlanta, where he majored in mathematics, earning his bachelor's degree in 1956. In 1957 Owens earned a master's degree in Library Science from Atlanta University.

After earning his master's degree Owens married Ethel Werfel, whom he met at Morehouse College, and moved to New York City. Employed in the Brooklyn Public Library system, Owens also became active in politics and civil rights in the early to mid-1960s. In 1964 he was named community coordinator for a federal program to encourage ...

Article

C. M. Winston

artist, curator, art historian, filmmaker, writer, and activist, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the only child of Howard Pindell and Mildred, both educators. By the age of eight Pindell already aspired to be an artist, and she attended Saturday drawing classes at the Fleischer Art Memorial.

Pindell graduated cum laude with a BFA from Boston University and earned an MFA from Yale University's School of Art and Architecture in 1967. She moved to New York City in 1967 after graduating from Yale and she worked primarily as a painter of nonobjective and figurative works during the early years of her career That year she landed a job at the Museum of Modern Art MoMA as an exhibition assistant in the department of national and international circulating exhibitions At MoMA she rose through the ranks from curatorial assistant to associate curator in ...

Article

David Christopher Brighouse

historian, curator, writer, and educator, was born in Jacksonville, Florida. He graduated magna cum laude, probably majoring in history, from the historically black Fisk University in 1932, where he studied under African American scholars Charles S. Johnson, Horace Mann Bond, and with white history professor Theodore Currier, who is perhaps best known as the undergraduate mentor of historian John Hope Franklin. Reddick went on to receive a MA in History from Fisk the following year and then pursued doctoral work at the University of Chicago, receiving his PhD in History in 1939 under the direction of Avery Craven, a prominent historian of the South. Reddick's dissertation, a study of four antebellum New Orleans newspapers and their depiction of African Americans (especially slaves), was entitled “The Negro in the New Orleans Press, 1850–1860: A Study in Attitudes and Propaganda.” In 1939 ...

Article

Barbara McCaskill

and muse and confidante to Harlem Renaissance intellectuals and literati. Anne Spencer was born inauspiciously on a Virginia plantation. Yet the combination of loving, though irreconcilable, parents and an unorthodox, isolated youth formed her extraordinary independence, introspection, and conviction.

Her father, Joel Cephus Bannister of African American white and Native American descent and her mother Sarah Louise Scales the mulatta daughter of a slaveholder separated when Spencer was six While her mother worked as an itinerant cook Spencer roomed with foster parents in Bramwell West Virginia where no other black children lived In insular and parochial Bramwell she was groomed for the African American bourgeoisie Her mother dressed her in the finest frocks she could afford and withheld her from an outlying school that enrolled working class children until she could attend Lynchburg s Virginia Seminary with socially suitable African American students Spencer entered the seminary at age eleven ...