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Alma Jean Billingslea Brown

civil rights activist, educator, and businesswoman, was born Juanita Odessa Jones in Uniontown, Alabama, the youngest of eight children of Ella Gilmore Jones and Alex Jones Sr., an influential and prosperous black farmer in Perry County, Alabama. When Alabama telephone and electric companies refused to provide service to the Jones homestead, Alex Jones Sr. and his brothers installed their own telephone lines and wired their own homes for electricity. One consequence of the family's financial independence was that Juanita was able to attend boarding school from age five until she graduated from high school in Selma, Alabama, where she had older sisters in attendance at the historically black Selma University. After high school, in 1947 Jones enrolled in Tennessee State University in Nashville, Tennessee, where she majored in business education with a minor in history and social studies. She returned to Alabama after earning a BS in 1951 ...

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Kerima M. Lewis

The African American members of the First Baptist Church in New York City withdrew their membership in 1808 when they were subjected to racially segregated seating. With Ethiopian merchants they organized their own church, called “Abyssinian” after the merchants’ nation of origin. The church was located at 44 Anthony Street, and the Reverend Vanvelser was its first pastor. Abyssinian numbered three hundred members in 1827 when slavery ended in New York. The Reverends William Spellman, Robert D. Wynn, and Charles Satchell Morris served as pastors during the church's early history. By 1902 the church was a renowned place of worship with more than sixteen hundred members.

The appointment of the Reverend Adam Clayton Powell Sr. in 1908 ushered in a new era of the church's history. His pastorate was devoted to spiritual and financial development. In 1920 he acquired property in Harlem and then oversaw the building ...

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Rob Fink

As African Americans fought racial prejudice in the United States following the Civil War, some black leaders proposed a strategy of accommodation. The idea of accommodation called for African Americans to work with whites and accept some discrimination in an effort to achieve economic success and physical security. The idea proved controversial: many black leaders opposed accommodation as counterproductive.

Booker T. Washington served as the champion of accommodation. Born a slave in 1856 Washington received a degree from the Hampton Institute before being invited to head up the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama At Tuskegee Washington used industrial education to promote accommodation by African Americans Because of his background Washington recognized the difficulties faced by southern blacks in their quest for civil rights He knew firsthand that during the 1860s and 1870s whites in the South found it hard to accept African Americans as free No one argued against the ...

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Steven J. Niven

emigrationist leader, was born Henry Houston in Newton County, Georgia, to enslaved parents whose names are not now known. Most of what is known of Henry Adams's personal life is derived from testimony he offered in 1880 to the United States Senate during a government investigation of the causes of mass African American emigration from the former states of the Confederacy.

Henry was given the surname Adams when a planter of that name brought him and his family to Desoto Parish, Louisiana, in 1850. He used that surname for the rest of his life. Upon the planter's death eight years later ownership of Henry and his family was transferred to a teenage girl, Nancy Emily Adams who hired the family out to various plantations near the Texas Louisiana border Laboring alongside his father on the plantation of a man named Ferguson in Logansport Louisiana Henry Adams was ...

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Sandy Dwayne Martin

clergyman, community activist, denomination organizer, and black nationalist was born Albert Buford Cleage Jr., one of seven children of Pearl (whose maiden name is now unknown) and Albert Cleage Sr., in Indianapolis, Indiana. Shortly after Agyeman's birth, Cleage, Sr., a medical doctor, relocated with his family to Detroit, Michigan, where the father helped to establish the city's first African American hospital. After an undergraduate education that included a stay at Fisk University in Tennessee, Agyeman received his BA in Sociology from Wayne State University in 1937, serving as a caseworker for the Department of Public Welfare from 1931 to 1938. Subsequently Agyeman felt the call to ministry and obtained a Bachelor of Divinity degree from Oberlin College Graduate School of Theology in 1943. Also in 1943Agyeman married Doris Graham, to which union was born two children, Kris and the ...

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Bertis English

Like most historically black colleges and universities in the United States, Alabama State University was created in the wake of the Civil War. In 1865, a convalescing Union soldier from the North began to educate former slaves outside Marion, the county seat of Perry County, in the racially divided and often violent Black Belt subregion of Alabama. The following year, the soldier contacted the Congregationalist-headed American Missionary Association (AMA), whose leaders wanted to found black common schools in several Southern states. Consequently, AMA officials sent an agent and minister from New York named Thomas Steward to the Alabama Black Belt.

Reverend Steward arrived in Perry County in January 1867 By this time several leading blacks and a handful of prominent whites in the county had already tried to erect a black common school in Marion Following their lead Steward created a small school in a partly finished Methodist ...

Article

Rosemary Elizabeth Galli

nationalist, journalist and indigenous rights advocate, was born in Magul, Mozambique, on 2 November 1876. His father, Francisco Albasini, married the granddaughter of the head of Maxacuene clan in the Portuguese colony’s capital; her name is not recorded. João dos Santos was also known by his Ronga nickname, Wadzinguele. His grandfather João Albasini, a Portuguese trader, later established himself and a second family in the republic of the Transvaal where he became the vice-consul of Portugal. João dos Santos Albasini received a limited education at the Catholic Mission of Saint José Lhenguene; secondary education was not available in Mozambique. However, he was a keen reader especially of political tracts and gained great facility in writing both Portuguese and Ronga. Sometime around 1897 Albasini married Bertha Carolina Heitor Mwatilo but the marriage was unhappy and they divorced in 1917. They had two children.

As Albasini reached adulthood Portugal defeated ...

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Frances Smith Foster

author and activist, was born in Oglethorpe, Georgia, the daughter of slaves. Details of her life are sketchy. Little is known of her parents or her childhood beyond the date and place of her birth and the fact that she was born into bondage; thus, it is particularly intriguing that in 1870, only five years after the Thirteenth Amendment abolished slavery and one year after Atlanta University opened, seventeen-year-old Octavia was among the 170 students enrolled at that institution. Most of the little we know of her life comes from The House of Bondage (1890), the book that made her famous. From that source we learn that in 1873 she was teaching in Montezuma, Georgia, when she met her fellow teacher A. E. P. Albert. They married in 1874 and had one daughter.Sometime around 1877 Albert s husband was ordained as a Methodist ...

Article

Malca Chall

civil rights activist and community leader, was born in Mount Vernon, New York, the daughter of Lewis Redgrey, a supervisor in a factory, and Laura (maiden name unknown), a cook. Following the death of their mother when Frances was three, Frances and her baby sister were reared by their paternal grandparents, Lewis Redgrey, a Blackfoot Indian, and Johanna Bowen, a freed slave, on their fifty-five-acre farm in Tuskegee, Alabama.

Frances attended Tuskegee Institute, where she studied botany under George Washington Carver, who also advised her grandfather on productive farming techniques. In 1917 she enrolled at Howard University in Washington, D.C., studying nursing and social work. In 1920, following the death of her grandmother, Frances left college and moved to Berkeley, California, to join her father and stepmother. Two years later she married William Albert Jackson. They had three children. Jackson died in 1930 and ...

Article

Alexis D. McCoy

Originally founded as an institution to educate “Negro males,” Alcorn State University eventually evolved to become the primary coed institution of higher education for black students in the state of Mississippi. Named to honor the governor at the time of its founding, James L. Alcorn, the university is located in Lorman, Mississippi. Established on 13 May 1871 through the Morrill Land Grant Act of 1862 and an act by the Mississippi state legislature, Alcorn holds the distinctions of being the oldest land-grant university in Mississippi and the oldest historically black land-grant university in the United States. During its long history Alcorn has undergone three name changes: originally it was Alcorn University, in 1878 it became Alcorn Agricultural and Mechanical College, and then in 1974 it became Alcorn State University.

Alcorn occupies the site where Oakland College originally existed. Oakland, founded in 1828 was a Presbyterian school devoted to ...

Article

Nathan Zook

minister, civil rights leader, and member of the Louisiana House of Representatives, was born Avery Caesar Alexander in the town of Houma in Terrebonne Parish, Louisiana, to a family of sharecroppers. The names of his parents are not known. Seventeen years later, his family moved to New Orleans. Avery Alexander maintained an active life there and in Baton Rouge for the next seventy-two years.

Prior to his election to the Louisiana legislature, Alexander was employed as a longshoreman. At the same time, he pursued an education by taking night courses, receiving his high school diploma from Gilbert Academy in 1939. He became politically active by working as a labor union operative for a longshoreman's union, Local 1419. He also held the occupations of real estate broker and insurance agent.

Alexander received a degree in theology from Union Baptist Theological Seminary and became an ordained Baptist minister ...

Article

Steven J. Niven

funeral home director and civil rights leader, was born in Charlotte, North Carolina, the youngest of the five children of Zechariah Alexander, a funeral home director, and Louise B. McCullough. Zechariah Alexander, the son of slaves, was a graduate of Biddle University (later Johnson C. Smith University), fought for the North Carolina Volunteer regiment during the Spanish-American war, and had worked as the Charlotte branch manager of the nation's largest black-owned business, C. C. Spaulding's North Carolina Life Insurance Company. He also helped found the Charlotte branch of the NAACP during World War I and ran, unsuccessfully, for Charlotte city council in 1937 The Alexander home was thus one that emphasized service to the nation and to the race as well as the virtues of self discipline self reliance and Christian faith Zechariah Alexander s political independence rare in early twentieth century North Carolina ...

Article

Harold N. Burdett

physician and state legislator, was born in Beeville, Texas, the son of James and Mary Etta Whitby Allen. His parents separated when he was an infant. When Allen was six years old, his mother, feeling that he needed male guidance and discipline, sent him to San Antonio to be reared by his father a hotel bellman Even while attending elementary school he was expected to earn his keep selling newspapers delivering clothes for a local tailor and at the age of twelve serving as a hotel washroom attendant Allen excelled in the classroom through primary and junior high schools But apparently in his final year of junior high he left school after a classmate harassed him for wearing his father s clothing He was soon hired as a busboy in a hotel dining room and within two years found employment as a waiter at a San Antonio hotel ...

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Linda Allen Bryant

editor and publisher, was born in Peoria, Illinois, to Dr. Cecil Bruce Ford and Florence Henderson Ford. She was the granddaughter of Major George Ford and a great-great-granddaughter of West Ford, who may have been the African American son of George Washington. Cecil Bruce Ford, a graduate of Meharry Medical College, was Peoria's first African American dentist, while Elise's mother, Florence, was a well-known seamstress. Elise Ford was baptized at the age of three at Bethel Methodist Church and attended the Peoria public school system with her siblings Bruce, Florence, and Harrison. Later Ford acted as her grandfather's secretary when he was the president of the Springfield chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), and wrote his correspondence as his eyesight failed in his later years.

The Ford oral history, which held that she was the three-times great-granddaughter of George ...

Article

Charles Rosenberg

college president, activist for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and Young Women's Christian Association (YWCA). Born Mary Rice in Harrisonburg, Virginia, she was the acknowledged daughter of confederate general John R. Jones and Malinda Rice, who was hired as a servant in his household at the age of seventeen in 1873. There appears to have been some enduring affection between Jones and Rice. He acknowledged paternity of Mary and her brother William, and his first wife, Sarah, ill and often confined to bed, asked to see the children and gave them presents. Mary Rice was raised in part by John Rice, Malinda's brother, and his wife Dolly. She also spent time in Jones's household, and after Sarah Jones died in 1879 the general bought a house for Malinda and her children The immediate neighborhood was racially mixed ...

Article

Wanda F. Fernandopulle

politician, was born a slave in Richmond, Virginia. His parents' names are not known. In 1837 Allen was taken to Harris County in Texas and was owned by J.—J. Cain until the end of the Civil War in 1865. Allen married soon after the notification of his emancipation. He and his wife Nancy went on to have one son and four daughters. As a slave Allen was known to be a skilled carpenter; he is credited with designing and building a Houston mansion occupied by Mayor Joseph R. Morris. In 1867 Allen entered the political world as a federal voter registrar, and in 1868 he served as an agent for the Freedmen's Bureau and as a supervisor of voter registration for the Fourteenth District of Texas. Although he had not received a formal education, he was literate by 1870.

After attending several Republican Party meetings and in ...

Article

Peter Wallenstein

educator and civil rights litigant, was born in Norfolk, Virginia, the son of William Henry “Sonnie” Alston, a drayman, and Mary Elizabeth “Lizzie” Smith, a laundress. The Alstons owned their home, and Melvin grew up in a middle-class environment. After attending Norfolk's segregated black public schools and graduating from Booker T. Washington High School, he graduated in 1935 from Virginia State College, where he was honored for his debating and for excellence in scholarship. Following graduation he began teaching math at Booker T. Washington High School. Beginning in 1937 he served as president of the Norfolk Teachers Association, and he also held local leadership positions in the Young Men's Christian Association and the First Calvary Baptist Church.

Alston played a key role in an effort by black teachers in the Norfolk city public schools to challenge racial discrimination in their salaries. In 1937 the Virginia Teachers Association VTA and ...

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Kerima M. Lewis

The long and illustrious history of the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church dates back to the eighteenth century. The founder Richard Allen, a former slave who had been able to purchase his freedom and was an ordained Methodist minister, was assigned to Saint George's Methodist Episcopal Church in Philadelphia, where he was allowed to preach to blacks. When in November 1787 several black church members, including Absalom Jones, were pulled from their knees while praying, all the black worshippers left Saint George's to form a church of their own. The Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church was established in Philadelphia in 1793 and opened in July 1794. In 1816 Richard Allen united black Methodist congregations from the greater Philadelphia area founding the African Methodist Episcopal Church he was elected the first bishop during the new church s first General Conference The Book of Discipline Articles of Religion ...

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Kerima M. Lewis

When Methodism arrived in New York State in 1766, it welcomed blacks into its Christian fellowship. As the Methodist Church expanded it became increasingly discriminatory toward African Americans. After years of ill treatment, in 1796 the 155 black members of the John Street Methodist Episcopal Church in New York City formed a separate church. Although incorporated in 1821 under the name African Methodist Episcopal Church in America, the church was never affiliated with the denomination of the same name organized in 1816 by Richard Allen in Philadelphia. Zion was the name of the New York denomination's first chapel, built in 1801. The AME Zion Church adhered to the doctrines of the Methodist Episcopal Church and adopted an episcopal form of government.

The AME Zion denomination grew as churches were added in Connecticut, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. Their affiliation with the Methodist Episcopal Church ended when James Varick ...

Article

aviator and instructor of the Tuskegee Airmen, was born in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, to Janie and Iverson Anderson, of whom little else is known. During his early childhood, he lived with his grandmother in Staunton, Virginia. There Anderson longed for an airplane so he could fly to see what was on the other side of the mountains that surrounded Staunton and the Shenandoah Valley. He frequently left home in search of airplanes that were rumored to have crashed in the valley. His constant disappearances frustrated his grandmother, and she sent him back to his parents. Once back in Pennsylvania, however, he continued leaving home in search of airplanes.

At the age of thirteen Anderson applied to aviation school, but was denied admission because he was African American. In 1926 at the age of nineteen he used his savings and borrowed money from friends and relatives to purchase a ...