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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 ...

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Glenn Allen Knoblock

Civil War and Indian Wars soldier and Medal of Honor recipient, was born in Prince George County, Maryland. Nothing is known of his early life; he was likely born enslaved, but if so, the circumstances in which he gained his freedom are unknown. His military service began when he enlisted in the Union Army from St. Mary's County, Maryland, on 5 February 1864. Boyne served in Battery C of the 2nd U.S. Colored Light Artillery and saw action in and around Richmond, Virginia, during the last year of the Civil War at Wilson's Wharf and City Point. Boyne and his regiment were subsequently sent westward, and he ended the war stationed in Texas. In March 1866 Thomas Boyne was discharged from the army at Brownsville Texas as his regiment like all other volunteer regiments that served in the Civil War black and white was disbanded when the army ...

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Agnes Kane Callum

U.S. Navy diver, was born in Tonieville, Larue County, Kentucky, the son of McDonald and Gonzell Brashear, sharecroppers. He attended the Tonieville Elementary School until he reached the seventh grade, in 1946, when he decided to quit school and go to work as an attendant at a filling station. He was dissatisfied with that job, however, and began to explore other areas of interest. In 1948, at the age of seventeen, Carl Brashear joined the U.S. Navy. His enlistment coincided with President Harry Truman's executive order to desegregate all branches of the armed forces. Brashear felt comfortable in his new position, and, being a proud member of the U.S. Navy, went on to complete the education he had abandoned in elementary school by earning his GED in 1960. His first marriage, to Junette Wilcoxson in 1952, ended in divorce in 1972.

Upon enlisting in ...

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Janelle Harris

activist and author, was the eldest of six children born to working-class parents in Orangeburg, South Carolina. When Carson was three years old, his parents moved the family to Brooklyn, New York, where they were among the first African Americans to integrate the predominantly Irish-Italian neighborhood of Bedford-Stuyvesant. This racially charged environment and the young Carson's experience as a black student in a white school helped shape his later beliefs as an activist.

In his teenage years Carson was an excellent student but showed an equal propensity for street life He became a ranking member of a neighborhood gang the same year he entered junior high school By the time he was sixteen years old Carson had been arrested several times for petty crimes ranging from stealing cigarettes to throwing a snowball at a teacher He committed his first serious crime when he robbed a Western Union messenger of $100 ...

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Paul Stillwell

pioneer black naval officer, was born in Washington, North Carolina, the eighth of eleven children of Edward L. Cooper, a sheet metal worker, and Laura J. Cooper a homemaker One of the eleven siblings died in infancy the remaining ten became college graduates During his upbringing in North Carolina Cooper often faced the tribulations of southern racism He went to segregated schools and learned from his parents that he had to go out of his way to avoid conflict with whites Once when Cooper was eight or nine years old he got into a fight with a white boy As he put it It was the wrong day for him to call me a nigger and we had it out Stillwell 76 Cooper s father had to smooth things over with the boy s father to avoid the incident s escalation When he worked as a bellhop in ...

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Brian F. Neumann

U.S. Air Force general and commander of the Tuskegee Airmen. Born in Washington, D.C., Benjamin Oliver Davis Jr. was the son of Benjamin O. Davis Sr., the first African American general in American history, and first flew at the age of fourteen, developing a deep love of flying that defined his life and career.

After attending the University of Chicago, Davis entered the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 1932. The last African American to graduate from the academy had done so in 1880, and Davis endured four years of isolation from his fellow cadets before graduating in 1936, thirty-fifth in a class of 276. Davis's request for assignment to the Army Air Corps was denied because there were no black aviation units. After marrying Agatha Scott Davis was assigned to the all black Twenty fourth Infantry Regiment the buffalo soldiers and served as ...

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Brian F. Neumann

first African American general in American history. Evidence has been presented that Davis was born 28 May 1880 and then lied about his age to enlist in the army; the earlier date is the one on his tombstone at Arlington National Cemetery. Born to a government worker in Washington, D.C., Benjamin Oliver Davis came from a middle-class home and benefited from the educational opportunities this presented. He attended Washington's M Street High School, gaining a taste for military life in the cadet corps. After a brief stint at Howard University, he helped recruit a black company of U.S. volunteer infantry in 1898 after the outbreak of the Spanish-American War. He served in the all-black unit as a lieutenant. The unit was not sent overseas, and Davis was mustered out in 1899 Denied enrollment at the U S Military Academy at West Point he enlisted as a private in the ...

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LaNesha NeGale DeBardelaben

civil rights lawyer, U.S. civil rights commissioner, was born Marie Frankie Muse in Danville, Virginia, the oldest of eight children of William Brown Muse, a railroad postal clerk, and Maud Beatrice Smith Muse. Maud Muse, a 1911 graduate of the historically black Hampton University and her husband William who was one of the first African Americans employed as a railroad postal clerk in Danville exemplified for their children lives of dignity despite the indignities of Jim Crow life around them The Muse family and other black Danville residents had to travel forty eight miles to the nearest black movie theater Danville blacks also attended segregated schools and faced racial discrimination in public accommodations Frankie Muse learned at an early age to overcome these obstacles through self discipline and perseverance These were lessons that she and her siblings gleaned from their parents who taught them that moral ...

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Brian J. Daugherity

pastor, educator, civil rights activist, was born Calvin Coolidge Green at Laneview, Essex County, Virginia, the son of James H. Green and Levalia C. Green. One of eleven children, Green spent most of his youth and adolescent years in Middlesex County, Virginia, graduating from high school in Stormont (later Saluda), Middlesex County, in 1950. Green's father worked a variety of different jobs, often as a lumberman, but also as a farm laborer and general laborer. His mother was a homemaker. Green himself worked many of the same jobs, supplementing the family income until he left Middlesex after high school.

In 1950 Green attended Virginia State College (later Virginia State University) for a semester, before leaving for financial reasons, and joined the military, spending the next two years overseas. In 1951 he fought and earned commendations in the Korean War with the First Cavalry Division ...

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Flint Whitlock

the first African American commercial passenger airline pilot, was born in El Dorado, Arkansas, the son of McKinley Green, a domestic servant for a wealthy El Dorado dentist and oilman, and Lucy Longmyre. In 1944, due to the influence of a charismatic priest, the five Green siblings, with the exception of one brother, converted from Baptism to Roman Catholicism. Green later earned a scholarship to complete his senior year of high school at the Xavier Preparatory School, affiliated with Xavier University in New Orleans, Louisiana.

At Xavier Prep Green did well academically graduating at the top of his class His goal was to attend Epiphany Apostolic College a Josephite seminary in Newburgh on the Hudson New York and study for the priesthood However during his first semester he was wrongly diagnosed with a medical condition and was dismissed from the school Seeking a new direction for his ...

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Françoise N. Hamlin

civil rights activist, was born to sharecroppers in Coahoma County in the Mississippi Delta. When Henry was five years old, his birth parents died, and he went to live with his maternal uncle and his wife, Ed and Mattie Henry, whom he considered his parents thereafter. He spent his early years on the Flowers Plantation in Coahoma County before the family moved to Clarksdale and he could attend the black Coahoma Agricultural High School, graduating in 1943.

As with many men who played major roles in the civil rights movement, including his fellow Mississippians Medgar Evers and Amzie Moore Henry s World War II experience in the segregated military affected him profoundly He remembered that his fellow black servicemen knew little about the rich African American history crediting his teachers for supplementing the curriculum with black history lessons When he returned home from his station in ...

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Brian J. Daugherity

NAACP attorney, politician, and civil rights activist, was born Oliver White in Richmond, Virginia, the son of William Henry White Jr. and Olivia Lewis White, both resort employees. His parents divorced in 1911, and when his mother married Joseph C. Hill, Oliver took his stepfather's last name.

Oliver Hill spent much of his youth and adolescent years in Roanoke, Virginia. For most of these years he lived with friends of his family—the Pentecosts—while his mother and stepfather lived and worked in Hot Springs, Virginia, and then in Washington, D.C. Hill went to school in Roanoke until the eighth grade, when he moved to Washington, D.C., to join his mother and stepfather. He then went to Dunbar High School there, which enjoyed a reputation for academic excellence.

Hill obtained his bachelor's and law degrees from Howard University, completing his studies in 1933 He was ...

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Kitty Kelly Epstein

civil rights activist and school board president, was one of six boys born in Montrose, Arkansas, to Chester and Maggie Hodges. His family moved from Arkansas to Oakland, California, in 1946. Sylvester attended Prescott Elementary, Lowell Junior High School, and McClymonds High School. He married Lola Ingram in 1965, and the couple had one son.

Hodges became a passionate reader while serving in the U.S. military. He was influenced by The Autobiography ofMalcolm X and was particularly interested in the changes in Malcolm's strategic thinking that took place immediately before his death in 1965.

Hodges s first foray into electoral politics occurred when he attended Merritt College in Oakland during the late 1960s the same school at which the Black Panthers were organizing at the time There were no African Americans in student government positions although African Americans made up a large portion of ...

Article

James Bethea

inventor and educator, was born in Macon, Missouri, to Philip Alexander Hubbard, a draftsman, and Rosa Belle (Wallace) Hubbard, a teacher who later worked as an elevator operator and freelance dressmaker. Hubbard's parents selected his middle name in recognition of Warren Gamaliel Harding's inauguration as U S president on the day he was born Hubbard s father died eighteen days after he was born and his mother was left to care for him and his three brothers The family was close knit and Hubbard and his siblings were cared for by relatives while his mother taught school When he was four years old his mother sacrificed her teaching career and moved the family to Des Moines Iowa in hopes of better educational opportunities for her sons An avid reader from an early age Hubbard thrived at Nash Elementary School where he won a spelling bee competition ...

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Sara Bagby

Baptist minister, and activist, was born in Mashulaville, Mississippi, to Allen and Julia (Ruth) Jernigan. He married Willie A. Stennis on 15 October 1889, with whom he had four children: Lottie R., Rosabell, Gertrude J., and Mattie. He married a second wife upon the death of the first. Jernigan attended school at Meridian Academy, and then taught in the public schools for five years. Jernigan received a BA degree from Jackson College in Mississippi.

In 1906, Jernigan became the pastor of Tabernacle Baptist Church in Oklahoma City, where he served until 1912. Jernigan actively opposed the institution of Jim Crow laws dictating segregation in the newly formed state of Oklahoma in 1907. As a result of Jernigan and others' efforts, the U.S. Supreme Court decided in the case of Quinn v. United States in 1915 to outlaw the ...

Article

Paul Devlin

professional musician and soldier in the French and Indian War and War of Independence, was the freeborn progenitor of a large Groton, Massachusetts, family. The family later spent time in Dracut and Pepperell, where they owned land. His father, Primus Lew, was a skilled artisan (a cooper, or barrel maker) and it is unclear if he was ever a slave and later freed, or was himself freeborn. The historian Benjamin Quarles claimed that Barzillai Lew was also a cooper, and it has been claimed that Primus was also a musician. His mother was named Margret; nothing else about her is known. Father and son both served in the French and Indian War, with Barzillai (also known as “Zeal”) serving for thirty-eight weeks in 1760 under the command of Thomas Farrington. In 1768 he married Dinah Bowman whose freedom he bought for $400 They later had at ...

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J. Todd Moye

military pilot and veteran, was born in Cleveland, Ohio, to Lewis Allen McGee Sr., a World War I veteran, teacher, social worker, and African Methodist Episcopal minister, and Ruth Elizabeth Lewis. Ruth McGee died in 1921, leaving three small children. Almost constantly in search of work, Lewis McGee Sr., a graduate of Wilberforce College, moved his family at least nine times before Charles finished high school. Charles was introduced to the Boy Scouts of America as a youngster, and he thrived under the scouts' program rewarding loyalty, discipline, and service.

In spring 1938 McGee graduated ninth out of a class of 436 from DuSable High School in Chicago and took a job with the Civilian Conservation Corps in northern Illinois. He entered the University of Illinois at Champaign in 1940 studied engineering enrolled in the ROTC and pledged Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity He worked in ...

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Cecily Jones

Nickname of Rahasya Rudra Narayan (1938–1998), barrister and civil rights activist. He was born in British Guiana (now Guyana), the ninth of ten children of Indo‐Guianan parents. He arrived in Britain in 1953, and after a series of menial jobs enlisted in the Royal Army Ordnance Corps, where he served until 1965, before leaving with the rank of sergeant. He then read for the Bar, at Lincoln's Inn, where he helped to found the Bar Students' Union, and later also became the Union's first president. He was called to the Bar in 1968, a year before his marriage to Dr Naseem Akbar, with whom he had two daughters.

When, in 1973, Narayan and Sighbat Kadric QC founded the Association of Commonwealth Lawyers (the predecessor to the Immigrant Lawyers' Group, which became the Society of Black Lawyers in 1981 the chairman of the ...

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Chesya Burke

social advocate and civil rights activist, was born in Desha County, Arkansas, to the sharecroppers Pearl Barnes Perry and Ivory Perry Sr. Soon after his father left them, the family moved to Pine Bluff, Arkansas. When Perry was sixteen, his mother contracted bronchial pneumonia, had a stroke, and died at the age of forty-two. After his mother's death, Perry dropped out of school and joined the U.S. Army on 2 November 1948. He was assigned to Japan with the all-black Twenty-fourth Infantry Regiment. However, Perry found that racism still existed all those miles away from home. White soldiers made life almost unbearable for the blacks.

During a visit home in 1951 Perry realized just how little things had changed in American race relations When he and two white soldiers entered a restaurant the owner offered them a table in the broom closet next to the kitchen Perry ...

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Millery Polyné

World War II pilot, entrepreneur, and airline executive, was born in Westfield, New Jersey, the son of a Jamaican dental technician. His parents' names are unknown. A driven and determined student at Lincoln University in Pennsylvania, where he graduated with a bachelor of arts in 1935, Plinton was a solid student-athlete who participated on the varsity soccer, wrestling, tennis, and track teams. He was also a member of the dramatic society and the glee club and was president of the German society. An accomplished musician, he played the piano and organ well and one summer played the organ at Tuskegee Institute. With the encouragement and unbending rearing of his father, it was evident that the black college experience was critical to his development as a future leader and visionary who would defy the odds against systematic racial injustice. In a 1973 interview Plinton revealed Going ...