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Elizabeth Heath

Ahmad Baba was one of the best-known Islamic scholars and writers of his time. Born into the prestigious Aqit family near Tombouctou (Timbuktu) in 1556, he was educated in Islamic theology and law. After completing his studies, he began writing books and treatises on theology, Islamic jurisprudence, history, and Arabic grammar. Over the course of his life he wrote more than fifty-six works. More than half of these are still in existence, and several are still used by West African ulama (scholars). Ahmad Baba also was a great collector of books; he amassed a library containing thousands of volumes. At this time, Tombouctou, ruled by the Songhai empire, was renowned throughout the Islamic world as a center of learning.

In 1591 the sultan of Morocco invaded Tombouctou. Ahmad Baba and other scholars refused to serve the Moroccan rulers and, by some accounts, instigated a 1593 rebellion against ...

Article

religious teacher and expert in Islamic law in Timbuktu, was born 26 October 1556 in the village of Araouane, a few days north of Timbuktu by camel caravan. His full name was Abu al-Abbas Ahmad Baba ibn Ahmad ibn Ahmad ibn ʿUmar ibn Muhammad Aqit al-Sinhaji, al-Tinbukti. His father was Ahmad (1522–1583), his grandfather al hajj Ahmad (1458–1535), and his great grandfather Umar, the son of Muhammad Aqit, the celebrated patriarch of the Masufa Tuareg clan of Aqit (one of the most powerful families of Timbuktu).

Ahmad Baba was raised in Timbuktu, where he studied the hadith and Islamic law with his father and other Aqit family members. His most influential teacher was the famous scholar and historical figure Mahmud Bagayogo, author of numerous qurʾanic commentaries, whose acts of courage are recorded in al hajj Mahmud Kati’s Tarikh al fattash Prior to the Moroccan invasion ...

Article

Andre D. Vann

lawyer and judge, was born in Smithfield, North Carolina, the youngest of the three children of Reverend Joseph C. Melton, a Baptist minister and teacher, and Alian A. Reynolds Melton. She received her early education in the public school system of Danville, Virginia, and at the age of fifteen graduated from the James B. Dudley High School in Greensboro, North Carolina. In 1937 she graduated from the neighboring North Carolina Agricultural and Technical College with a bachelor's degree in music. The following year, at the age of eighteen, she married Girardeau Alexander, a surgeon, and had a son, Girardeau Alexander III.

Alexander worked as a mathematics and history teacher and directed music in South Carolina and North Carolina for four years before deciding that music would not be her lifelong vocation Instead she longed for a career in law despite the profession s being largely ...

Article

Mary Hughes Brookhart

Born in Columbus, Ohio, Samuel Allen (also known as Paul Vesey) studied creative writing under James Weldon Johnson at Fisk where he graduated magna cum laude in 1938. He received his JD from Harvard in 1941. Until 1968 when he formally left law for literature, he was active in both fields.

He was drafted into the U.S. Armed Services in 1942 and served as an officer, though under the constraints of the segregated system, until 1946. From 1946 to 1947 he was deputy assistant district attorney in New York City. The following year he studied humanities at the New School for Social Research. In 1948 he went to Paris on the GI Bill, and after studying French, studied at the Sorbonne. He was employed variously with the U.S. Armed Forces from 1951 to 1955 as historian claims officer and civilian attorney in Wiesbaden Germany and in ...

Article

pianist, educator, and philanthropist, was born a slave in Trenton, Kentucky, to Mary Dickinson, also a slave, and Mr. Leavell, likely a scion of the white Benjamin Leavell family, pioneers of Trenton. According to family history, Josephine's father wanted to send her and her sister to Canada on the Underground Railroad, but their mother objected because of the danger and distance. Sometime between 1868 and 1875 Josephine attended the Nashville Normal and Theological Institute (also known as the Baptist Institute), a college for African Americans that was later renamed Roger Williams University. Daniel W. Phillips, a white Baptist minister, had started the school in 1864, teaching Bible classes to freed people in his home. The school was later acquired by Vanderbilt University and incorporated into its George Peabody campus, a teachers' college.

While at the Baptist Institute Josephine studied music particularly piano and ...

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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

Sibyl Collins Wilson

lawyer, State Supreme Court Justice, mayor of Detroit, Michigan, and president of the American Bar Association, was born in Detroit to Ernest and Frances Archer, and was raised in Cassopolis, Michigan. Determined to raise himself from poverty, and encouraged by his parents to value education, Archer was steadfast in his studies. He graduated from Cassopolis High School in 1959 and entered Western Michigan University that fall. While attending Western Michigan he pledged Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, the first black collegiate fraternal organization. He graduated in 1965.

Archer had a desire to teach, so he relocated to Detroit and took a position in the Detroit schools teaching and assisting emotionally disturbed students. He met Trudy Duncombe, another young teacher, during this tenure, and they married on 17 June 1967 Although dedicated to education Archer began to prepare himself for another level of public service when he entered ...

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A member of the Igbo people of western Nigeria, Nnamdi Azikiwe was educated at mission schools in the city of Lagos. He worked briefly as a clerk for the national treasury at Lagos, but in 1925 he left Nigeria in 1925, a stowaway on a ship bound for the United States. There, he studied history and political science while supporting himself as a coal miner, casual laborer, dishwasher, and boxer. As a graduate student at the University of Pennsylvania, Azikiwe became familiar with black activist Marcus Garvey and the Back to Africa movement.

In 1934 Azikiwe moved to Ghana, became editor of the Africa Morning Post, and published Liberia in World Affairs, a book about another West African nation. He published Renascent Africa in 1937 That same year he returned to Nigeria where he joined the executive committee of the Nigerian Youth ...

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

Nancy Gordon Heinl

Ebenezer Don Carlos Bassett was born in Litchfield, Connecticut, on October 16, 1833, the son of Tobias Bassett, a mulatto, and Susan (Gregory) Bassett, a Native American of the Shagticoke branch of the Pequot tribe. Ebenezer attended the Wesleyan Academy at Wilbraham, Massachusetts, and graduated with honors from the Connecticut State Normal School. While principal of a high school in New Haven, Connecticut, he continued his studies at Yale College, where he seems to have been held in wide respect. From 1857 to 1869 Bassett was principal of the Institute for Colored Youth in Philadelphia, a school founded by Quakers for the education of Colored Youth in school learning and to prepare them to become teachers In addition to his duties as principal Bassett taught mathematics natural sciences and classics he also acted as school librarian The mayor of Philadelphia referred to the school under ...

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

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

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

Born in Nashville, Tennessee, Julian Bond grew up in the North where his father, Horace Mann Bond, was president of Lincoln University in Pennsylvania. In 1957 Julian Bond enrolled at Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia, where he cofounded the Committee on Appeal for Human Rights (COAHR) and organized Sit-Ins at the Atlanta City Hall cafeteria in 1960. That year he left direct campaigns to engage in communications work for COAHR when it joined several other groups to form the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). After helping found SNCC, Bond became its director of communications.

In 1965 Bond won a seat in the Georgia House of Representatives in a newly created black district in Atlanta. However, his statements against the Vietnam War led the House to bar him from his seat. In December 1966 the Supreme Court of the United States ruled in his favor and he ...

Article

Jennifer Jensen Wallach

civil rights activist, politician, and television host. The son of the prominent educator Horace Mann Bond, Horace Julian Bond spent his early years in Philadelphia, where his father was the president of Lincoln University. In 1957 the family relocated to Atlanta, where Horace Mann Bond accepted a faculty position at Atlanta University. Julian Bond attended a Quaker preparatory high school and then enrolled at Morehouse College. Although his family hoped that he would follow in his father's footsteps and become a scholar, Julian was far more interested in political protest than in his academic coursework. In 1961 he dropped out of school to work full-time in the civil rights movement, not completing his BA in English at Morehouse until 1971.

Eager to fight for desegregation in Atlanta, Bond cofounded the Committee on Appeal for Human Rights (COHAR). On 15 March 1960 he was arrested ...

Article

Alfred L. Brophy

survivor of the 1921 Tulsa, Oklahoma, riot, was one of five children born to Hood Booker, a chauffeur and mechanic, and his wife. Kinney Booker graduated from the segregated Booker T. Washington High School in Tulsa and from Xavier University in New Orleans. Though he was only seven years old when the Tulsa riot broke out on the evening of 31 May 1921, his recollections of the event were central to the Tulsa Race Riot Commission's discussions in the late 1990s and early 2000s. He was quoted extensively in media sources about it, from the New York Times to the Los Angeles Times to Nightline to National Public Radio.

The Tulsa riot began after rumors of an impending lynching of a young African American man circulated in both white and black communities in Tulsa When some African American veterans of World War I appeared at the Tulsa Courthouse ...

Article

Katya Leney-Hall

Egyptian diplomat, jurist and scholar who, during 1992–1996, served as the sixth Secretary-General (SG) of the United Nations (UN), the first African and Arab to hold the position, was born in Cairo on 14 November 1922 into a distinguished Coptic Christian family. His grandfather, Boutros-Ghali Pasha, was the Egyptian minister for finance and, from 1894, foreign affairs. He was prime minister from 1908 to 1910 when he was assassinated by a nationalist angered with his advocacy of the extension of the Suez Canal Company s concession Boutros Boutros Ghali pointed out in an interview that the reality was that the population was happy to get rid of a Christian and his grandfather s assassination set off a wave of Coptic Muslim clashes Although not overtly religious himself his family s history status and influence on the Coptic Church were to form Boutros Ghali who would later perceive ...

Article

Robert Fay

Boutros Boutros-Ghali was born to a prominent Coptic Christian family in Egypt. His grandfather, Boutros Pasha Boutros-Ghali, served as prime minister of Egypt under the British protectorate from 1908 until his assassination in 1910. The younger Boutros-Ghali graduated from the University of Cairo in 1946 with a bachelor’s degree, and went on to earn a doctorate in international law in 1949 from the Sorbonne in Paris. Boutros-Ghali pursued postdoctoral work at Columbia University in New York City, and then assumed a post as professor of international law and international affairs at the University of Cairo. He worked as a journalist, writing for the daily Al Ahram. He also held teaching posts at Princeton University in the United States, and at universities in India, Poland, and Tanzania. In October 1977 Boutros-Ghali left his academic career to serve in the government of Egyptian President Anwar al-Sadat as ...

Article

Eric Gardner

politician and activist, was born into slavery in North Carolina. Both he and his mother, Susan, were owned by the wealthy Thomas Burke Burton, who moved to Fort Bend County, Texas, from Halifax County, North Carolina, in the 1850s. Most accounts claim that the slaveholder favored Burton, taught him to read and write, and, after the Civil War, sold land to him; some accounts claim that Burton supported his former owner's wife when she was widowed during Reconstruction.

On 28 September 1868 Burton married Abba Jones (sometimes listed as Abby and sometimes as Hattie). The couple had three children, Horace J., Hattie M., and an unnamed child who died in infancy. Susan Burton lived with the young family until her death c. 1890.

Propertied, literate, and articulate, Burton quickly became active in the local Republican Party, the local Union League, and larger Reconstruction efforts. In 1869 ...

Article

Martha King

Born a member of the royal family of Wenchi, Kofi Abrefa Busia attended the Kumasi Methodist and Mfantsipim Secondary Schools and Wesley College. He received a B.A. degree in politics, philosophy, and economics and then an M.A. degree in social anthropology from the University of Oxford. Busia wrote his doctoral thesis, titled The Position of the Chief in the Modern Political System of Ashanti, in 1951. He held teaching positions at the Ghana University College at Legon in the African studies and sociology departments.

Busia left the university to devote himself to politics in 1956. In the fall of 1957, he formed the United Party, composed of different parties in opposition to President Kwame Nkrumah He was outspoken in opposition to Nkrumah s government Busia fled to England in fear of the increasingly repressive government In exile Busia maintained his opposition to the Nkrumah regime ...