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Primary Source

Following their defeat in the Civil War, whites in the former Confederacy found themselves suddenly living among some four million new citizens, who—because of the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution—might soon demand equal access to public accommodations. Though attempts to regulate the freedom of black people began to appear shortly after the first slaves arrived in the New World in the form of “slave codes,” the black codes, or Jim Crow laws, that followed Emancipation created laws around an entire array of activities, services, and public institutions to which slaves had had no access. Most typically, these Jim Crow statutes (named after Jump Jim Crow, a popular minstrel figure of the time) sought to regulate or severely limit the employment, property, marital, and voting rights of African Americans.

All black codes were of course noxious to the values of an enlightened liberal democracy but particularly so ...

Article

Paul S. Boyer and Matthew Dallek

The term “affirmative action” first appeared in a legislative context in the 1935 National Labor Relations Act and was later written into state laws prohibiting racial discrimination in employment. But the phrase, implying simply that government agencies should try to prevent discrimination against African Americans, initially attracted little notice. Prior to the 1960s, virtually no one saw affirmative action as a way of giving minorities preferential treatment in hiring, promotions, and admissions.

More than anything else, the civil rights movement helped change the meaning of affirmative action. In 1964, after years of black protest, Congress passed the landmark Civil Rights Act, which among other things created new agencies run by officials eager to bring minorities into the mainstream of American life. By 1965 with the passage of the Voting Rights Act the legal barriers to integration began to crumble and government and civil rights leaders began to ...

Article

Bertis English

Like most historically black colleges and universities in the United States, Alabama State University was created in the wake of the Civil War. In 1865, a convalescing Union soldier from the North began to educate former slaves outside Marion, the county seat of Perry County, in the racially divided and often violent Black Belt subregion of Alabama. The following year, the soldier contacted the Congregationalist-headed American Missionary Association (AMA), whose leaders wanted to found black common schools in several Southern states. Consequently, AMA officials sent an agent and minister from New York named Thomas Steward to the Alabama Black Belt.

Reverend Steward arrived in Perry County in January 1867 By this time several leading blacks and a handful of prominent whites in the county had already tried to erect a black common school in Marion Following their lead Steward created a small school in a partly finished Methodist ...

Primary Source

If the forces of racism and segregation lauded the U.S. Supreme Court's 1896 decision in Plessy v. Ferguson as the final word on the status of black people living in America, their reaction to another Supreme Court holding, Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas from 1954 and 1955, was sharply different. After Brown segregationists had only objections to, or excuses for delaying compliance with, or wanted deferrals from the high court's orders. Federally mandated integration plans were either indefinitely stalled or defied outright. Some districts simply closed down their public school systems, adopting instead a system of “private academies” (whites-only, of course), which in some cases forced African American students either to find schools in other states or forgo their educations entirely.

Though the Supreme Court heard numerous cases and issued numerous decrees seeking to ameliorate this situation (notably Griffin v County School Board of Prince Edward County ...

Article

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

LaNesha NeGale DeBardelaben

physician and public health provider, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the fourth of five children of Hillard Boone Alexander, a horse trainer, and Virginia Pace Alexander. Born enslaved in 1856 to James and Ellen Alexander in Mecklenburg, Virginia, Alexander's father migrated to Philadelphia in 1880. Alexander's mother was born enslaved in 1854 to Thomas and Jenne Pace in Essex County, Virginia. She and her brother migrated to Philadelphia in 1880. In 1882 Hillard and Virginia were married. A working-class but respectable family, the Alexanders lived in the city's Seventh Ward with their three boys, Raymond Pace Alexander, Milliard, and Schollie, and two girls, Irene and Virginia. Strong family values were instilled in the Alexander children at an early age. Church, education, and a solid work ethic were emphasized in the home. Shortly after the birth of the youngest child in 1903 ...

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

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

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

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

Luther Adams

civil rights activist, historian, and legal scholar. Mary Frances Berry was born in Nashville, Tennessee, one of three children of George and Frances Berry. Like many African Americans, Berry experienced racial segregation as well as poverty while growing up in the South. As children she and her older brother George were placed in an orphanage during a period of economic crisis.

At Nashville's segregated Pearl High School, Berry was encouraged by the educator Minerva Hawkins to apply herself seriously to her studies. After graduation Berry attended Fisk University and then transferred to Howard University, where she earned a BA in philosophy in 1961 and an MA in history in 1962. She continued her studies at the University of Michigan, where she earned a PhD in U.S. and constitutional history and a doctorate of jurisprudence.

As a scholar, Berry's numerous publications include Black Resistance White Law ...

Article

Leyla Keough

Mary McLeod Bethune was born near Mayesville, South Carolina. In 1885 she enrolled at Trinity Presbyterian Mission School. With the aid of her mentor Emma Jane Wilson, she moved on to Scotia Seminary in 1888, a missionary school in Concord, North Carolina. There she was given what was known as a head-heart-hand education, which emphasized not only academic but also religious and vocational training. Her dream was to become a missionary to Africa, so Bethune entered the missionary training school now known as Moody Bible Institute. After a year of study she applied for service but was rejected because Presbyterian policy did not permit blacks to serve in Africa.

Following this rejection Bethune began teaching, first in 1896 at Haines Institute in Augusta, Georgia, and a year later at the Presbyterians' Kendall Institute in Sumter, North Carolina. In 1900 Bethune moved to Palatka Florida where she ...

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

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

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 ...

Article

Paul Finkelman

In Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, 347 U.S. 483 (1954), the U.S. Supreme Court held that legally mandated racial segregation in the public schools was unconstitutional. Decided on the last day of the Supreme Court's term in May 1954, the Court found that segregation denied African American children the “equal protection of laws” in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution. Speaking for a unanimous Supreme Court, Chief Justice Earl Warren explained that “in the field of public education, the doctrine of ‘separate but equal’ has no place. Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal.”

Brown is unquestionably the most important legal case affecting African Americans in the twentieth century and one of the most important Supreme Court decisions in American constitutional history The case technically involved only segregation in the public schools Chief Justice Warren carefully limited the scope his decision to ...

Primary Source

While the first challenge to segregation in the public schools was brought by an African American father in 1849 in the case of Roberts v. City of Boston little progress was made for almost a century In 1896 the Supreme Court ruled in a case concerning transportation that separate but equal accommodations fulfilled constitutional requirements and that precept was applied to education as well Then the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People NAACP decided to launch a legal war against all forms of discrimination choosing to focus on public schools Under the guidance of Charles Hamilton Houston a team of lawyers that included Thurgood Marshall and Constance Baker Motley began to bring a variety of suits during the late 1940s charging that the separate education provided to African Americans was not in fact equal The team won a number of victories but had not yet proved that ...