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Article

Christopher Phelps

a Philadelphia radio journalist who became an international icon in debates over race and the death penalty after he was convicted for the murder of a police officer, was born Wesley Cook to Edith and William Cook, migrants from the South. The family subsisted on welfare in the housing projects of North Philadelphia. As a boy Cook read avidly and sought enlightenment, attending services with his Baptist mother and Episcopalian father, then dabbling in Judaism, Catholicism, and the Nation of Islam. When he was about ten years old his father died of a heart attack, prompting him to assume a protective role toward his twin brother, Wayne, and younger brother, William.

The black liberation movement shaped Cook's coming of age. In a 1967 school class in Swahili, a Kenyan teacher assigned him the first name Mumia. In 1968 at age fourteen he and some friends protested ...

Article

Camille A. Collins

founder of MOVE, an anarchist communal organization active primarily in the Philadelphia area, was born Vincent Leaphart in the Mantua section of West Philadelphia.

Africa served in the Korean War, though little else is known about his early life. In the early 1970s, while working as a neighborhood handyman and dog walker (nicknamed “the dog man”), he began to corral followers. With the assistance of Donald Glassey a white graduate student in sociology at the University of Pennsylvania Africa a third grade dropout compiled the MOVE doctrine in a document known as The Guidelines His group was first known as The Christian Movement for Life later The Movement and finally MOVE Numerous press reports stress the fact that MOVE is not an acronym and therefore the tenets of the group can only be vaguely delineated Responding to this criticism group member Delbert Africa quipped It means what it says ...

Article

Joshunda Sanders

activist and sole adult survivor of a deadly bombing of a home of the MOVE organization, in one of Philadelphia's black neighborhoods, that killed 11 people and left over 250 people homeless. Africa was born Ramona Johnson in West Philadelphia, where she was raised by her mother, Eleanor Jones, and attended Catholic school from first through twelfth grade. She then attended Temple University, where she graduated with a bachelor's degree in Political Science and an associate's degree in Criminal Justice. In 1976, her last year at Temple, she was hired by Community Legal Services, the state-sponsored legal aid in Philadelphia. There she worked helping tenants with legal issues they had with their landlords, an experience that set the foundation for activism later in her life. “Prior to that I was not active in anything,” Africa said I had a general idea about injustice by police brutality and ...

Article

Jeffrey Green

Black‐rights group active in 1918–27, formed in London under the leadership of Liverpool‐born John Archer. From 1921 to 1924 the Trinidadian Dr John Alcindor led it, then the Ghanaian Kwamina Tandoh. Its activities were broader than the reports in West Africa (London) and the Sierra Leone Weekly News (Freetown) suggest. It requested the government to include a black delegate at the post‐war peace discussions in Versailles; it subsidized the lawyer Edward Nelson, who defended Blacks on trial after the Liverpool riots of 1919; and it participated in the American‐led Paris Pan‐African Congress (1919) and the London congresses of 1921 and 1923. The Union sought justice when a Kenyan settler murdered a farmhand, alerted by an African‐British Guianan barrister residing in that colony, and also provided practical help for students. Alcindor's committee included the merchant Robert Broadhurst, the American composer Edmund Jenkins ...

Article

Glenn Allen Knoblock

Revolutionary War sailor, is known for his service on the Continental navy sloop Ranger under Captain John Paul Jones. A story passing as truth has been written about Scipio Africanus stating that he was a slave owned by Jones and accompanied him on the ships he commanded. In fact virtually nothing is known about Africanus except for the fact that he was a free man when he enlisted to serve on board the eighteen-gun Ranger for one year while she was building at Portsmouth, New Hampshire, sometime between March and July 1777.

While we know little about Scipio Africanus the man some guesses as to his servitude and character may be ventured That he was a slave prior to his naval service as suggested by his first name is likely Classical Roman names such as Scipio Cato and Caesar were commonly given at birth by owners to slaves ...

Article

William H. Brown

The Afro-American Council was one of the earliest national African American political organizations in the United States. The council was essentially a rebirth of the Afro-American League, which existed from 1890 to 1893. The purpose of the Afro-American League, and later the Afro-American Council, was to provide a national forum for African Americans, to respond to the growing level of white violence against blacks in the southern United States, and to fight increasing legal segregation.

In its initial existence as the Afro American League the organization advocated five principal goals or points of protest to fight the suppression of black suffrage in the southern United States to fight legal and social support for lynching to equalize funding for white and black schools to end the system of chain gangs in the South which were used to provide cheap labor to white business owners and to remove discrimination in railroad ...

Article

Bridget Brereton

was born in Port of Spain, Trinidad, on 30 September 1860, into a light-skinned, mixed-race family of the upper middle class. His parents’ names were John and Pauline (née Durand de Beauval). He was educated at the Roman Catholic high school, St. Mary’s College, in Port of Spain, and qualified as a barrister at Gray’s Inn, London, being called to the Bar in Trinidad in 1882.

As a barrister engaged in private practice in Trinidad from 1882 to his death in 1930, he enjoyed the largest such practice in Trinidad in the first decades of the twentieth century, with important companies among his clients. He was appointed Queen’s (later King’s) Counsel—that is, he was recognized as a senior member of the Trinidad Bar—at the unusually young age of 37 (1897).

Alcazar entered the public life of colonial Trinidad as a young man He was elected ...

Article

Paula Cochran

On 22–24 September 1906, white mobs killed dozens of blacks, wounded many others, and caused considerable property damage across the city of Atlanta. This race riot was the result of racial tensions, political rage, and dramatized newspaper reports of black men assaulting white women.

By the early twentieth century, Atlanta was a center of regional commerce. The booming economy brought people from the South and other parts of the United States to the Atlanta area. The city's population soared almost 70 percent between 1900 and 1910. The rapid growth and prosperity rekindled racial and class tensions; competition for a limited number of jobs resulted in new tensions between blacks and poor whites. Georgia's 1906 gubernatorial campaign heightened these tensions by promoting the ideas that black prosperity took jobs from white men and that blacks gained social advances at the expense of whites Newspapers ran dramatized reports ...

Article

Steven J. Niven

the first woman executed by electric chair in Georgia, was born in Cuthbert, Georgia, to Queenie Baker, a sharecropper, and a father whose name is unknown. Little is known about her early life. If typical of the African American experience in southwestern Georgia in the early 1900s Baker's childhood was probably one of long working hours and low expectations. Indeed, it was in the debt-ridden and desperate Georgia black belt of the early 1900s that W. E. B. Du Bois discovered the Negro problem in its naked dirt and penury Litwack 114 In an attempt to escape from that world of debt and desperation Baker began working at an early age at first helping her mother chop cotton for a neighboring white family the Coxes Like other black women in the community she also worked as a laundress and occasional domestic for white families in town Despite the legacy ...

Article

Carmen Rosario

was born on 4 July 1897 in Bayamón, Puerto Rico, one of twelve children of José Celso Barbosa, among the most prominent Puerto Rican politicians of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and Belen Sanchez. Pilar received her primary and secondary education in her hometown, where early on she was immersed in politics. Her father, a black man who graduated first in his class at the University of Michigan, was a leader of the autonomist movement that demanded autonomy for Puerto Rico from the Spanish government at the end of the nineteenth century as well as the founder of the Partido Republicano (Republican Party) in 1899, which advocated statehood for Puerto Rico following the American invasion of the island the prior year. After graduating from high school, Pilar attended the University of Puerto Rico. While still an undergraduate, in 1921 she became the first woman and certainly ...

Article

David A. Spatz

attorney and journalist. Ferdinand Lee Barnett was born in Nashville, Tennessee, in 1859. His father, born a slave, purchased his freedom and worked much of his life as a blacksmith. The family moved to Canada soon after Ferdinand was born and then to Chicago in 1869. Barnett was educated in Chicago schools, graduating from high school in 1874 with high honors. After teaching in the South for two years, he returned to Chicago and attended Chicago College of Law, later affiliated with Northwestern Law School.

Barnett graduated from law school and was admitted to the Illinois bar in 1878. Rather than immediately practicing law, he founded the Conservator, Chicago's first African American newspaper. The Conservator was a radical voice for justice and racial solidarity as means to equal rights for African Americans. The Conservator also drew national attention to Barnett He served as Chicago ...

Article

Pedro L V Welch

was born to the Reverend Reginald Grant Barrow and his wife, Ruth Alberta Barrow (née O’Neal), in St. Lucy Parish, Barbados, on 21 January 1920. His family lineage provided some of the strong influences that would eventually lead him to local and Caribbean prominence. His father was certainly not averse to using the pulpit to challenge the prevailing racist social and economic order. Indeed, in 1922 he was deported from St. Croix for his radical comments in a local newspaper. He eventually migrated to the United States, leaving his children behind. There can be little doubt that Reverend Barrow’s radical stance played an important role in the later development of Errol Barrow’s political philosophy.

Errol Barrow s uncle Charles Duncan O Neal was another pivotal influence in the young Barrow s life O Neal a medical doctor who was trained at Edinburgh University in Scotland returned to the Caribbean ...

Article

Vivian Njeri Fisher

musician and composer, was born in Baltimore, Maryland, to Floyd Bartz, a railroad employee and club owner, and Elizabeth E. Bartz, a club owner. Bartz grew up in West Baltimore during an era when the music scene in that city was thriving. The hub of African American entertainment in Baltimore was found on Pennsylvania Avenue, although there were numerous clubs throughout the city owned by African Americans. At the age of six Bartz heard his first Charlie Parker recording at his grandmother s house Bartz recalled this formative moment Not knowing what the music was what the instrument was or who was playing I thought it was the most beautiful thing I ever heard I said right then I want to do whatever that is Ouellette 31 When Bartz was eleven he began to play the alto saxophone influenced to take up the instrument by his love ...

Primary Source

Even in defeat, the states of the former Confederacy were not so willing to go gently into the new, post-slavery world. Between 1865 and 1908 so-called Black Codes began to appear in the law books of southern states—these were statutes designed to regulate the freedom, employment, and voting rights of recently freed slaves. Some codes forced blacks to seek the dispensation of a judge in the event they wanted to find work outside the realm of what whites considered proper and fitting (mostly the agricultural and domestic duties that whites commonly associated with black labor); others prevented blacks from entering certain towns without a permission slip from a white employer; still others prevented blacks from sitting on juries or from offering testimony in court against whites.

Besides infantilizing black men and women black codes also subjected them to legal punishment fines imprisonment and even flogging in the case of unemployment ...

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

Jamason Pestana

policeman and community leader, was born in Corapeake, Gates County, North Carolina to Emilie P. Benton, a homemaker, and John Zebedee Booker, a farmer. He was the third child in a family of seven and attended the local segregated schools in Gates County.

Booker moved to Connecticut in 1926, where he settled in Waterbury in New Haven County. There, in about 1934, he married Addie (maiden name unknown), a woman from South Carolina, and the couple had three children: Ann, Sally, and Cicero Jr. In 1943 Booker was appointed to the City of Waterbury supernumerary police force, an informal black citizen group. By 1946 a committee was formed in the African American community to recruit one of their own to the Waterbury police force. In January 1946 Booker was appointed to the police force as a patrolman He was the first African American police officer ...

Article

Mary A. Waalkes

civil rights and voting rights activist, was born in Savannah, Georgia, the seventh of ten children born to Anna Eliza Hicks and George Platts, the latter of whom owned and operated a wood supply business for years before moving to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and engaging in real estate.

Amelia Platt's childhood was idyllic; she was raised in Savannah and its outskirts in an affectionate middle-class family and community that encouraged her aspirations. She graduated from Tuskegee Institute (later Tuskegee University) in 1927 later adding course work from colleges in Tennessee Virginia and Georgia She briefly taught school in Georgia before being named home demonstration agent for the Dallas County Alabama Cooperative Extension Service In the early 1930s she served alongside Samuel William Bill Boynton who was the county agent for Dallas County The Cooperative Extension Service at that time was segregated by both race and gender in the South ...

Article

Jamal Donaldson Briggs

lawyer, activist, and first African American mayor of Los Angeles. Thomas J. Bradley was born to Lee and Crenner Bradley in Calvert, Texas. The Bradleys moved to Los Angeles in 1924; there his father worked as a porter on the railroad and his mother worked as a maid. His father abandoned the family shortly after they all moved out West.

Bradley excelled in athletics at Polytechnic High School in Los Angeles, serving as captain of the track team and making the all-city football team. Bradley graduated in 1937 and attended the University of California at Los Angeles on a track scholarship. He dropped out during his junior year to join the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) in 1940 as a lieutenant; at the time he was the highest-ranking African American police officer in Los Angeles. In 1941 he married his childhood sweetheart, Ethel Mae Arnold The ...

Article

Teishan Latner

radical activist and political exile, was born in segregated Franklin, Louisiana, the son of Cora Mitchell, a cotton picker, and Manson Brent, a laborer and occasional preacher. The young Brent's sister, Elouise, was born little more than a year later, and Mitchell and her children soon moved to Beaumont, Texas. In 1943, when Brent was thirteen years old, he and his mother relocated again, this time to Oakland, California, enticed by the promise of plentiful wartime jobs and less racism.

Oakland proved to be no paradise however and Brent soon became involved in the hardscrabble street life that was the city s other thriving economy Brent s first encounter with the law occurred after some white youths shot at him while he was picnicking in an all white section of Berkeley A judge convicted Brent of beating his assailants and he was sent to a juvenile ...

Article

George White

lawyer, politician, and writer. Born and raised in Woodrow Wilson's Washington, D.C., Edward William Brooke III proved to be a trailblazer who built a legal and political career that exceeded the socially imposed limits on blacks in America. At the height of his career, Brooke represented a social justice wing of the Republican Party that has disappeared. Even in his retirement he continues to be a pioneer as an advocate for cancer detection in men.

Brooke grew up in a middle-class household; his father was a lawyer for the Veterans Administration. Brooke attended the segregated public schools of Washington, graduating from Dunbar High School in 1936 and from Howard University in 1941 Shortly thereafter the U S Army drafted Brooke During his tenure in the military he served with the 366th Combat Infantry Regiment and defended enlisted men in military court cases Following the deployment of ...