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Nancy Elizabeth Fitch

Alexander, Sadie Tanner Mossell (03 January 1898–01 November 1989), economist and lawyer, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the daughter of Aaron Mossell, an attorney and the first black graduate of the University of Pennsylvania Law School, and Mary Tanner. While a young girl her father abandoned the family, and she was raised by her mother with the assistance of relatives.

Alexander received her degrees from the University of Pennsylvania With her Ph D in economics awarded in 1921 she became the first African American woman to receive a doctorate in economics and among the first three African American women to receive a doctorate in any field in the United States Her doctoral dissertation The Standard of Living among One Hundred Negro Migrant Families in Philadelphia was a thorough social survey investigating spending patterns from 1916 to 1918 of African American migrant families newly arrived from the South ...

Article

Lia B. Epperson

attorney and civil rights activist, was born Sadie Tanner Mossell in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the youngest of three children of Aaron Albert Mossell Jr., an attorney, and Mary Louise Tanner. In 1899 Mossell's father deserted the family and fled to Wales. During elementary school Sadie and her mother divided their time between Mossell's grandparents' home in Philadelphia and an aunt and uncle's home on the campus of Howard University in Washington, D.C. When her mother returned to Pennsylvania, Mossell remained under the care of her aunt and uncle in Washington until she graduated from M Street High School.

Mossell entered the University of Pennsylvania in the fall of 1915 and majored in education Her years as a student in an institution with so few women students and even fewer African Americans were extremely challenging Yet with her family s financial and emotional support she prospered academically and graduated ...

Article

Alexander, the first black woman to earn a PhD in Economics, in a 1981 interview provided this advice for young black men and women: “Don’t let anything stop you. There will be times when you’ll be disappointed, but you can’t stop. Make yourself the best that you can make out of what you are. The very best.”

Sadie Tanner Mossell was born into a prominent Philadelphia family. Her father, Aaron Albert Mossell, had been the first African American to receive a law degree from the University of Pennsylvania. Her grandfather, Benjamin Tucker Tanner, was a well-known author, a bishop in the African Methodist Episcopal Church, and the editor of the country’s first African American scholarly journal, the African Methodist Episcopal Review. The famous painter Henry Ossawa Tanner was her uncle At the turn of the century the Tanner home was a gathering place and intellectual center ...

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 ...

Article

Teresa A. Booker

attorney, politician, and diplomat, was born in Louisville, Kentucky. He was the youngest of two children and the only son of Charles W. Anderson Sr., a physician, and Tabitha L. Murphy, a teacher.

Motivated by the high value that his parents placed on education, Charles W. Anderson Jr. entered Kentucky State College at age fifteen and attended from 1922 to 1925. He then transferred to Wilberforce University, one of the earliest universities established for African Americans. Although the reason for Anderson's transfer to Wilberforce University during the penultimate year of his undergraduate career is unclear, it is likely that he, like other black Kentuckians, was forced to pursue higher education outside of the state because of the still-standing Plessy v. Ferguson decision of 1896 authorizing separate but equal educational facilities Higher educational institutions for blacks did not exist in Kentucky and rather than wait for them ...

Article

Joy Gleason Carew

civil rights lawyer, community activist, editor, and publisher, was born in Winston, North Carolina, the sixth and last son of nine children of Simon Green and Oleona Pegram Atkins. His father was the founder and first president of the Slater Industrial Academy, later known as Winston‐Salem State University. Atkins graduated from the Slater Academy in 1915 and then went to Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee, graduating magna cum laude in chemistry in 1919.

When Atkins obtained his LLB cum laude at Yale University in 1922, he was the first African American to graduate with honors from that institution. While there, Atkins was a member of the debate team and served as a monitor of the Yale Law Library, where he oversaw the indexing of thirty‐one volumes of the Yale Law Journal. In 1921 he was the first African American elected to the editorial board of the Yale ...

Article

Julian Houston

civil rights leader, lawyer, and Boston city councilman, was born in Elkhart, Indiana, the son of Lillie Curry, a domestic, and Norse Pierce Atkins, a Pentecostal minister. At the age of five, he contracted polio. Despite a doctor's insistence that he would require crutches for the rest of his life, three years later he was walking unassisted. He attended a segregated school for the first and second grades until the derelict building collapsed. The City of Elkhart could not afford to replace it. As a result, the city's schools were integrated by default. Despite his infirmity, Atkins was elected student body president at Elkhart High School, played saxophone in the school band, and was chosen for the all-state orchestra. There he met Sharon Soash, whom he married in December 1960 As a result of Indiana s anti miscegenation laws they traveled to Michigan ...

Article

Glenn Allen Knoblock

Marine Corps soldier in the Vietnam War and‐Medal of Honor winner, was born in Nacogdoches, Texas, the son of Frank and Mildred Austin, and‐was raised in Phoenix, Arizona. A graduate of Phoenix Union High School, Austin was inducted for service in the U.S. Marine Corps during the height of the Vietnam War on 22 April 1968. Upon joining the marines, he was sent to boot camp at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego, California, and served as a member of the Third Recruit Training Battalion through July 1968. Austin subsequently received individual combat and infantryman training at Camp Pendleton, California, from August to September 1968 as part of the Second Infantry Training Regiment, following which, in October 1968, he was promoted to private first class. Later that month, on 15 October he was sent to the Republic of Vietnam for his first tour of ...

Article

Lili C. Behm

politician and civil rights activist, was born in Memphis, Tennessee, the youngest son of Adlena (Gilliam) and Earnest Barbee, the latter a painting contractor and the first African American member of the Tennessee state contractor's union. Lloyd Barbee became involved with the struggle for African Americans’ civil rights when he joined the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in 1937 at age twelve. Though his family lived in poverty in the Depression‐era Jim Crow South, Barbee's father and uncles encouraged him to pursue higher education. After serving in the U.S. Navy from 1943 to 1946, Barbee earned his bachelor of arts degree at Memphis's all‐black LeMoyne College in 1949, and decided to pursue legal studies at the University of Wisconsin–Madison Law School. He had received a scholarship to the school, and sought to leave behind virulent Southern racism.

Though he suspended his studies out ...

Article

Jared A. Ball

law professor, writer, and theoretical pioneer in critical race theory, narrative scholarship, and the economic-determinist approach to race history. As a student and professor of law, Derrick Bell pioneered critical race theory as a tool to explain and challenge the centrality of an apparently immutable racism that permeates every aspect of U.S. society. Bell sees this amorphous yet unremitting racism as essential to the maintenance of the U.S. socioeconomic order. His perspective derives from his personal experience coming of age in an era marked by global struggles for liberation. In his essay “Great Expectations” he vividly describes the effect of government policies on black Americans:

If the nation s policies towards blacks were revised to require weekly random round ups of several hundred blacks who were then taken to a secluded place and shot that policy would be more dramatic but hardly different in result than the policies ...

Article

Brian Gilmore

lawyer and educator, was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to Derrick A. Bell Sr. and Ada Elizabeth Bell. Bell was born during the Great Depression and grew up in the city's black neighborhood known as “the Hill.” Bell's father was employed as a porter in a Pittsburgh department store and also earned extra money through the underground numbers racket. In 1939 Bell Sr. hit the number for $700 and at the urging of his wife purchased a three-bedroom home in a more prosperous neighborhood. Eventually, Bell's father opened his own business hauling refuse.

Throughout his early life Bell had a newspaper route that provided him with spending money and made him aware of the rich diversity of Pittsburgh s middle class black world He met lawyers doctors laborers ministers and postal workers all living and working in the same segregated neighborhoods It was at the urging of one of ...

Article

Greer C. Bosworth

attorney, was born Sherry Franchesca Bellamy in Harlem, New York, the youngest of seven children of Athelston Alhama Bellamy and Mary Elizabeth Reeves. Sherry's father, born and raised in Harlem, was a career military officer who served with the Tuskegee Airmen and eventually rose to the rank of captain in the U.S. Air Force. After retiring from the military he became a court officer and court clerk in the Civil Court of the City of New York. Sherry's mother was born and raised on a race-horse breeding farm outside Charlottesville, Virginia. Sherry grew up in Harlem and graduated from Cardinal Spellman High School, a Roman Catholic high school whose graduates include many successful minority judges, attorneys, and other professionals.

In 1974 Bellamy graduated from Swarthmore College in Swarthmore, Pennsylvania, with a BA in Political Science. She later received her juris doctor in 1977 from Yale Law School During ...

Article

Brett Gadsden

teacher, civil rights activist, plaintiff in Belton v. Gebhart (1952), a companion case to Brown v. Board of Education (1954), was born in Hazelhurse, Georgia, the daughter of Glover and Ida Hall.

Around 1948, almost a decade after her husband Louis passed away, Ethel Belton moved with her seven children to Claymont, Delaware, a suburban community northwest of Wilmington, Delaware, to join her extended family. There she taught general education in a one-room school. Her daughter, Ethel Louise Belton was eleven years old at the time of the move and was later assigned to Howard High School the only free public school for blacks in the entire state at the time Located in Wilmington it was a fifty minute nine mile commute for Ethel Louise who had a congenital heart condition Although Claymont High School the school for white children in ...

Article

George C. Wright

journalist and lawyer, was born on the island of Saint Kitts in the West Indies. Details about his early life, including the names of his parents and the nature of his education, are unknown. In the fall of 1869 he arrived in New York, where he worked as soliciting agent for the New York Star and then as city editor for the Progressive American. Benjamin apparently became a U.S. citizen in the early 1870s, and in 1876 he gave speeches in support of Rutherford B. Hayes the Republican candidate for president He was rewarded with a position as a letter carrier in New York City but quit after nine months and moved to Kentucky where he taught school While there Benjamin also took up the study of law He continued his studies after being named principal of a school in Decatur Alabama and he was admitted to ...

Article

J. D. Jackson

civil rights attorney and political activist, was born in Birmingham, Alabama. One of three sons, he attended Birmingham public schools, including the city's first and oldest, and, at one time, the South's largest African American high school, Industrial (A. H. Parker) High.

After graduating from high school Billingsley attended two highly respected, historically black institutions of higher learning. The first was Talladega College, a private liberal arts college located in Alabama, fifty miles east of Birmingham. He graduated with high honors in 1946 and headed for Washington, D.C., where he attended Howard University School of Law. He earned his law degree there in 1950. Afterward, he returned to Alabama, where he was admitted to the Alabama state bar in 1951, one of the first ten African Americans to do so.

Instantly Billingsley threw himself behind the post World War II fight for full black citizenship in America Always ...

Article

Ralph E. Luker

Blackwell, Randolph Talmadge (10 March 1927–21 May 1981), attorney, educator, and civil rights activist, was born in Greensboro, North Carolina, the son of Joe Blackwell and Blanche Mary Donnell. He attended the city’s public schools for African-American youth and earned a B.S. in sociology from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical University in Greensboro in 1949. Four years later Blackwell earned a J.D. degree from Howard University in Washington, D.C. In December 1954 he married Elizabeth Knox. The couple had one child. After teaching economics for a year at Alabama Agricultural and Mechanical College in Normal, Alabama, near Huntsville, Blackwell became an associate professor of social sciences at Winston-Salem State Teachers College in North Carolina.

Because of his legal background Wiley Branton the director of the Voter Education Project VEP hired Blackwell as its field director in 1962 Secretly encouraged by the Kennedy administration VEP was launched in ...

Article

Ralph E. Luker

attorney, educator, and civil rights activist, was born in Greensboro, North Carolina, the son of Joe Blackwell and Blanche Mary Donnell. Randolph attended the city's public schools for African Americans and earned a BS in Sociology from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical University in Greensboro in 1949. Four years later he earned a JD degree from Howard University in Washington, D.C. In December 1954 Blackwell married Elizabeth Knox; the couple had one child. After teaching economics for a year at Alabama Agricultural and Mechanical College in Normal, Alabama, Blackwell became an associate professor of social sciences at Winston‐Salem State Teachers College in North Carolina.

Because of Blackwell's legal background, Wiley Branton, the director of the Voter Education Project (VEP), hired Blackwell as its field director in 1962. Secretly encouraged by the Kennedy administration, the VEP was launched in April 1962 with funding from private ...

Article

Mason R. Hazzard

police officer, civil rights activist, and litigant, was born in Waterbury, Connecticut, to Cicero B. Booker Sr., the first African American police officer in the town of Waterbury, and Addie Booker, a homemaker.

Booker attended and graduated from the local public schools before going on to further his education, earning an associate's degree in Police Science and Administration from Mattatuck Community College, now known as Naugatuck Valley Community College, in Waterbury in 1978. He also attended Western Connecticut State University. In 1955, at the age of seventeen, Booker enrolled in the US Marine Corps as a private, remaining on active duty for three years until he left the military in 1958 at the rank of corporal.

Booker then joined the police department in his hometown of Waterbury in 1961. He quickly ascended to the rank of patrol officer, but by 1985 his ...

Article

Charles Rosenberg

attorney who represented entertainers, political prisoners, and targets of police misconduct, was born in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, the oldest child of Leo Andrew Branton and Pauline Wiley Branton. His younger brothers Wiley, Sterling, and Paul were born at two-year intervals, and sister Julia about five years after Paul. His father and grandfather owned a taxi company which they had established in 1915, after moving to Pine Bluff from Mississipi. Pauline Branton was a public school teacher.

Branton family tradition holds that he was jailed as a teenager for defending himself when struck by a white man and that the charges were later dropped Little has been detailed in any published biography but retired California Court of Appeals presiding justice Vaino Spencer recalled Branton telling her that his father sent him to Chicago after the incident having been informed that some men were planning to hurt ...

Article

Erin L. Thompson

lawyer and civil rights activist. Wiley Austin Branton was born in Pine Bluff, Arkansas. His father, Leo Branton, owned and operated a prosperous taxicab business, and his mother, Pauline Wiley, was a schoolteacher and a graduate from the Tuskegee Institute. Branton's education at the Arkansas Agricultural, Mechanical, and Normal College (now the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff) was interrupted in 1943, when he was drafted into the U.S. Army and fought in World War II, working in intelligence and bridge construction.

Branton returned to Pine Bluff to inherit his father's business. Horrified by the discrimination he had witnessed in the segregated army, Branton became active in civil rights, joining the Arkansas State Conference of NAACP Branches. His efforts to instruct local African Americans how to mark election ballots during a 1948 voter registration drive resulted in a misdemeanor conviction for teaching the mechanics of ...