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Steven J. Niven

schoolgirl and terrorist bombing victim, was born in Birmingham, Alabama, the seventh of eight surviving children of Oscar Collins, a busboy in a Chinese restaurant, and Aline Collins, a domestic. Addie Mae grew up in a small four-room house on a dirt road in Sixth Court West, one of Birmingham's poorest neighborhoods. When her parents separated, making an already difficult home life even harder, Addie Mae and her sisters Janie and Sarah helped the family finances by going door to door after school, selling cotton aprons and potholders that their mother made. Interviewed by the Birmingham News in April 2001, her sisters recalled that Addie Mae was a quiet—but by no means shy or timid—child who emerged as the peacemaker whenever quarrels broke out in the family. “She just always wanted us to love one another and treat each other right,” her younger sister Sarah remembered.

In ...

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Mark Newman

civil rights activist, was born in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, the eighth of twelve children of a white father, George Dahmer, and a mother of mixed racial heritage, Ellen Kelly. Vernon Dahmer's complex heritage derived from both sides of the family. Born the illegitimate son of a German immigrant and a white American mother, George Dahmer had been raised with eight younger black siblings, the result of his mother's later marriage to a former slave. Ellen Kelly was the daughter of a white planter father, who gave Ellen and George Dahmer part of his land near Hattiesburg, Kelly Settlement. The Dahmer children looked white and three of Vernon's five brothers migrated to the North, where they married white women and passed as white. Some members of the family on both sides of the color divide were ignorant of the existence of relatives on the other. In adulthood, Vernon Dahmer ...

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F. W. De Klerk was born to an Afrikaner family with a long history of involvement in South African politics. His own political career began during adolescence, when he joined the youth section of the Afrikaner-dominated National Party.

In 1958 De Klerk received a law degree from Potchef- stroom University. He practiced law in Veereniging from 1961 until 1972, all the while serving as chairman of the local chapter of the National Party. He then abandoned his law career and became a member of Parliament in South Africa. De Klerk rose quickly through the party’s rank and file, with appointments to numerous cabinet posts. As a minister he had little patience for antiapartheid protests but was known as a conciliator within the party.

After South African president Pieter Willem Botha had a heart attack in 1989 De Klerk became the leader of the National Party Later that ...

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Steven J. Niven

lynching survivor and litigant, was born in Noxubee County, Mississippi, to parents whose names are unknown. Nothing is known of his early life, but around 1932 he married a woman named Kate, with whom he had two children. They moved a few miles south of Noxubee, to Scooba in Kemper County, where he began working as a farm laborer for Raymond Stuart, a prominent white planter. Ellington's new home county, known since Reconstruction as “Bloody Kemper” because of its reputation for racial violence, had witnessed fourteen lynchings between 1883 and 1930, all of them of African Americans. Indeed, whites in Kemper lynched blacks at twice the rate of other counties in Mississippi, the state with the nation's worst record for lynching.

On 30 March 1934 Ellington nearly became the fifteenth black man lynched in Bloody Kemper following the discovery of his employer s dead body Raymond ...

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Martin Luther King, Jr., was born on January 15, 1929, in Atlanta, Georgia, the eldest son of Martin Luther King, Sr., a Baptist minister, and Alberta Williams King. His father served as pastor of a large Atlanta church, Ebenezer Baptist, which was founded by Martin Luther King, Jr.'s maternal grandfather. King, Jr., was ordained as a Baptist minister at age eighteen.

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Manfred Berg

Baptist minister and civil rights leader. Martin Luther King Jr. is arguably the most famous and revered African American of the twentieth century. All over the world, his life and legacy epitomize the black struggle for freedom and equality. The years from King's emergence as a civil rights leader during the 1955–1956 Montgomery, bus boycott until his violent death on 4 April 1968, in Memphis, Tennessee, are widely considered as the crucial period of the civil rights movement, when the Jim Crow system was dismantled by nonviolent direct action and mass protest. In public memory, his martyrdom has made King into a larger-than-life figure. However, his elevation to the status of a worldly saint has often inhibited a clear understanding of his contribution to the black struggle. Despite four decades of research on virtually every aspect of his life, the debate over King's historical significance continues.

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Robert A. Pratt

a housewife, whose marriage in 1958 to Richard Loving sparked one of the nation's most important civil rights cases, was born Mildred Delores Jeter, of African American and Native American ancestry. Loving was one of five children born to Theoliver Jeter, a sharecropper, and Musiel Byrd, a homemaker. She also had four half brothers. She graduated from Union High School in Bowling Green, Virginia in 1957. In 1958 she married her childhood sweetheart who was white Both Jeter and Loving were born in Caroline County Virginia an area with a well known history of black white interracial sexual liaisons As was the local custom however and true for most of the South these unions occurred under cover of darkness and without legal sanction Many states had laws prohibiting interracial marriages some with restrictions dating back to the nineteenth century While enforcement of these laws ...

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Born in Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), Albert John Luthuli was educated at the mission school in which he later taught (1921–1936). The son of well-respected Zulu parents, Luthuli was elected chief of the Zulu Abasemakholweni ethnic group in Groutville in 1936. He joined the African National Congress, a black political group, in 1946 and took an increasingly active role in campaigns to abolish Apartheid, the system of racial segregation in South Africa. In 1952 he was removed as chief by the South African government, which opposed his activities, and was forbidden to enter major South African cities and towns for one year. That same year he was elected president-general of the African National Congress. Because of his continued political activities, he was restricted to his farm in Groutville for two years in 1953, and again in 1959 for five years For ...

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Janelle Harris

civil rights activist, was born the eldest daughter in a family of eight children and reared in a tight-knit, segregated community near downtown Mobile, Alabama. From early in her childhood, her father, Willie Malone, a carpenter and maintenance man, and her mother, Bertha Malone, a maid at Brookley Air Force Base, impressed upon Malone and her siblings two basic but lasting principles: love God and value education.

As a student at Central High School in Mobile Malone excelled academically and blossomed socially As graduation approached Malone turned her attention to the future and began making plans for a college education Her first choice was the University of Alabama UA the state s oldest university a sprawling picturesque campus in Tuscaloosa more than 200 miles away from her home To the frustration of many would be students and the chagrin of white empathizers the University of Alabama was ...

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The first black president of South Africa, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela became a worldwide symbol of resistance to the injustice of his country’s Apartheid system. Imprisoned for more than twenty-seven years, and before that banned from all public activity and hounded by police for nearly a decade, Mandela led a struggle for freedom that mirrored that of his black compatriots. After his 1990 release from Victor Verster prison, his work to end apartheid won him the 1993 Nobel Peace Prize (which he shared with South African president F. W. de Klerk) and then the presidency itself a year later.

Mandela’s father, Chief Henry Mandela, was a member of the Thembu people’s royal lineage; his mother was one of the chief’s four wives. Mandela was born in Mvezo, Umtata, but grew up in Qunu, a small village in what is now the Eastern Cape Province At the age of ...

Article

Robert "Bob" Davis

one of the four North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University freshmen who initiated the sit-in movement in Greensboro, North Carolina, was born Franklin Eugene McCain in Union County, North Carolina, the son of Warner and Mattie McCain. McCain grew up in Washington, D.C., and graduated from Eastern High School in 1959. After graduating, he returned to his native North Carolina to attend college at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University (A&T). During his time as an undergraduate student at A&T, McCain roomed with David Richmond and lived around the corner from Ezell Blair Jr. and Joseph McNeil on the second floor of Scott Hall. These four men challenged public accommodation customs and laws in North Carolina on 1 February 1960 launching a sit in movement that became an important catalyst for much of the modern civil rights movement They decided to sit at an all ...

Article

Steven J. Niven

schoolgirl and terrorist bombing victim, was born Carol Denise McNair in Birmingham, Alabama, the first child of Christopher McNair, a freelance photographer, and Maxine Pippen McNair, a schoolteacher. Denise or Niecie as her friends called her enjoyed a relatively comfortable somewhat sheltered upbringing as part of Birmingham s small but growing African American middle class Chris McNair s photography business prospered and teachers like Maxine Pippen McNair had long been the backbone of the city s tight knit black bourgeoisie Denise s parents both graduates of the Tuskegee Institute believed strongly in the importance of education and encouraged their daughter s early interest in poetry music and dance Active in the Brownies a dedicated student of the piano and a keen softball player Denise emerged as one of the most popular children in her neighborhood and at Birmingham s Center Street Elementary School Absorbing at an ...

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Angelita D. Reyes

cause célèbre, was born Alice Beatrice Jones, the daughter of a white mother and supposedly “black” father, both of whom had emigrated from England to the United States in 1891. While the race of her mother Elizabeth Jones was familiar and recognizable enough for Americans to classify as white, the racial background of George Jones, her father, was not as clearly determined. While general references considered him to be British of West Indian descent, he was distinctly not African American according to an array of witnesses and census documentation in the United States.

Various newspapers of the period described Alice Jones as “dusky,” “a tropical beauty,” or of a “Spanish complexion” (Lewis and Ardizzone, 63–66, 163). Not considering herself black in the American rhetorical denotation of race, Alice Jones Rhinelander affirmed during the annulment trial of the interracial marriage to Leonard Rhinelander (1903 ...

Article

Steven J. Niven

schoolgirl and terrorist bombing victim, was born Carole Rosamond Robertson in Birmingham, Alabama, the third child of Alvin Robertson, a music instructor, and Alpha Anderson Robertson, a teacher and librarian. Both Carole's mother and her maternal grandmother, Sallie Anderson, were prominent in the civic affairs of black Birmingham. Alpha Robertson helped found the city's chapter of Jack and Jill, Inc., a black women's national organization dedicated to the educational, cultural, and recreational enrichment of African American children, in which Carole was an active participant. When their Saturday morning chores were completed Carole attended weekly dance classes at a Smithfield recreation center, where she received lessons in both tap and ballet. A dedicated Girl Scout, she was also interested in music; she sang in the choir at the Wilkerson Elementary School in Birmingham and later joined the marching band at the city's Parker High School.

Robertson s ...

Article

Leigh Fought

As the first child of Frederick Douglass and Anna Murray Douglass, Rosetta Douglass bore the responsibility of being the daughter of the most famous black man of the nineteenth century and acted as a mediator in her parents' marriage. She was born in the first year of her father's freedom, in New Bedford, Massachusetts. Rosetta spent her early years there and in Lynn, Massachusetts, helping her mother maintain the household as it grew to include three brothers (and later, in New York, a sister), as well as boarders from the abolitionist movement and such long-term guests as the fugitive slave Harriet Bailey whom Frederick Douglass adopted as his sister and whom Rosetta called aunt Rosetta s assistance was invaluable to her mother who attempted to run the household on her husband s small income as a speaker for the American Anti Slavery Society Additionally Frederick Douglass s ...

Article

Boyd Childress

(b. 30 October 1895; d. 19 March 1960), physician. Grandson of an Alabama slave and himself a prominent Detroit physician, Ossian Sweet was unwillingly at the center of one of the nation's major racial trials of the twentieth century. Born and raised in rural Florida, Sweet graduated from Wilberforce University and Howard University Medical School. He opened a successful practice in Detroit in 1921 and married the next year. Sweet and his wife traveled to Europe, where Sweet studied in Vienna and then in Paris under Marie Curie. After the birth of their daughter, the Sweets returned to Detroit in 1924.

In 1925 Sweet purchased a home on Garland Avenue in one of Detroit s white lower middle class neighborhoods Racial tension in Detroit was already high and a neighborhood Waterworks Improvement Association was formed in July for the unveiled purpose of maintaining ...

Article

Daniel Wein

physician, was born Ossian Haven Sweet in Orlando, Florida, the eldest of nine surviving children of Dora DeVaughn and Henry Sweet. In the summer of 1898 the Sweets bought a plot of land in the town of Bartow, approximately forty-five miles east of Tampa, where they ran a successful farm and lumberyard. Ossian attended Union Academy (Bartow's all-black public school) through the eighth grade. In September 1909, at the age of thirteen, he began preparatory work at Wilberforce University in Xenia, Ohio, the nation's first black college. He was initially awarded a scholarship, but it was rescinded due to lack of funds. Sweet did odd jobs around campus to help cover expenses. He started the college program in the fall of 1913 concentrating in the sciences with the goal of entering medical school Sweet earned his BS a general science degree that focused on biology chemistry ...

Article

Steven J. Niven

schoolgirl and terrorist bombing victim, was one of eight children born to a poor family in Birmingham, Alabama. When she was six she was adopted by Claude Wesley, a grade school principal, and his wife, Gertrude, a nursery school teacher. The Wesleys had waited a long time for their first child, and they did their best to provide her with a financially secure, culturally enriched childhood. Cynthia took dance and music lessons and was regarded as a promising student at both the Wilkerson Elementary School and the Ullman High School in Birmingham, where she did well in math and played saxophone in the Ullman school band. A vivacious child, Cynthia made friends easily, but she did not forget the siblings she had left behind, passing on to them books and other gifts that she received.

Claude tried to shield his daughter from the harsh reality of segregation though ...

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William M. Tuttle

was the first victim of the Chicago Race Riot of 1919. Little is known of his parents or his early life, but his death spurred an important legal precedent when the city paid compensation to his mother, Luella Williams, for her loss.

In a 1968 interview, Eugene's friend John Turner Harris recalled the tragic events of almost fifty years earlier that led to the death of Eugene Williams and rocked the city of Chicago. As Harris recounted, it was approaching 90 degrees on Sunday, 27 July 1919 when the fourteen year old Harris and four other teenage African American boys including seventeen year old Eugene Williams decided to skip church and go swimming in Lake Michigan The boys were not headed for the black patronized Twenty fifth Street beach nor did they intend to swim at the white beach at Twenty ninth Street Instead they were going ...

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Teresa A. Booker

Tulsa Race Riot participant and survivor, was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma. His parents' names are now unknown, although it is known that his father worked as a bank janitor.

In the late evening of 30 May 1921 eleven-year-old Binkley Wright was attending the 10:00 p.m showing of a play held at the Dixie Theater in downtown Tulsa with some friends The theater which was restricted to use by blacks only was nonetheless located in the white section of the town Ten minutes or so into the show Wright and the other audience members were dismissed because of disturbances outside of the theater On his way home to Greenwood in the northern part of Tulsa Wright witnessed blacks running in the streets and talking about an impending race riot When he arrived home he told his parents what had happened and asked what a race riot was While corroborating his ...