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Article

Betti Carol VanEpps-Taylor

historian of African Americans in South Dakota, civic leader, entrepreneur, and philanthropist, was born in Yankton, South Dakota, the youngest of eleven children of Henry and Mary (Fristoe) Blakey. The large, extended Blakey clan began migrating from Missouri to South Dakota in 1904, where they acquired land and built a profitable and respected truck gardening business. Young Blakey completed eighth grade in country school and worked in the family business. Beginning in the mid‐1960s Blakey returned to school at Springfield State College (which later closed), where he obtained his GED and completed advanced training in building maintenance and pest control. On 22 October 1948 he married Dorothy Edwards in Athabaska, Alberta, Canada; the couple had three children.

Blakey was an ambitious, self‐taught businessman with a keen interest in civic activities and public service. Of his three successful businesses, Blakey's Janitorial Services, established in 1956 provided jobs for both ...

Article

Class  

Melissa N. Stein

While class has been a driving force in American history it has been particularly central to the story of both racism and African American life Throughout its history America developed a racialized class system by which African Americans were often shut out of venues of political and economic power regardless of individual circumstances Race and class have been virtually inseparable in America from its inception Furthermore as the black middle and upper classes grew following Emancipation so too did tensions among African Americans across class lines Thus the story of class for African Americans is one of blacks as a racialized class and one of class divisions among blacks Undeniably there have been instances in American history when blacks and whites have come together to protest shared economic exploitation and African Americans of different classes have fought side by side against institutional or structural racism However these fleeting moments of ...

Article

Jane E. Dabel

From the period of slavery onward, African American women have labored outside of the home in many roles, and most prominently as domestic servants. Because employment has been the key to their survival, and though racism and sexism have limited their employment opportunities, black women have always attempted to make the best of their employment situation. Throughout their wage-earning experiences, black women have always sought to control and shape their lives as laborers.

Article

Peter Eisenstadt and Graham Russell Hodges

Work has always characterized African American life in the Americas From the first arrivals in the 1610s blacks came or were brought to the New World to labor During the seventeenth century Africans in North America initially free but later largely enslaved were important workers in subsistence economies In the eighteenth century as the American economy matured enslaved blacks labored in staple crop agriculture in seaboard trades or as skilled assistants in small scale industry During the American Revolution a significant fraction toiled in the military services while most continued in their former roles After the Revolution with the massive growth of the cotton industry many blacks in the South became agricultural workers with a few in urban areas turning to the arts while in the upper South enslaved people worked in cereal agriculture Blacks in the North faced a long term crisis as rising immigration from northern Europe forced ...

Article

Gauchos  

Gauchos are generally indigenous, black, or of mixed race, including mestizo (of mixed indigenous and European descent). Bold and skillful horseback riders, they traditionally earned their livelihood on cattle ranges or by illegal horse and cattle trading at the Brazilian frontier. They captured wild horses and cattle with the lasso and the bola, a cord-and-weight type of sling thrown to entangle the legs of animals. Making leather brought them additional income. Many of them were also wandering minstrels. Politically, they played a role as revolutionaries in the history of Argentina.

The characteristic apparel of the gaucho includes a flat, brimmed hat; baggy trousers over boots; a wide belt of silver or coins; a woolen poncho; and a colorful scarf. In the latter part of the nineteenth century, the modernization of the cattle-raising business, the arrival in South America of European farmers and the portioning of the pampas ...

Article

J. C. Mutchler

Charlie Glass was apparently born in the Indian Territory (now Oklahoma). Little is known about his parents or early life. According to “The Ballad of Charlie Glass,” by William Leslie Clark, Glass was “one quarter Cherokee” (Wyman & Hart). Legend has it that Glass moved to western Colorado after shooting the man who had killed his father. What is certainly factual is that Glass was working as a cowboy for the S-Cross Ranch in western Colorado by 1909.

Glass was, by reputation, a colorful character. He was known for going to town in fancy silk shirts and enjoying the saloons, card games, and brothels of the “Barbary Coast,” the red light district of Grand Junction, Colorado.

By 1917 Glass was employed by Oscar L. Turner a cattleman with large ranch holdings in the counties of Mesa Garfield and Rio Blanca in western Colorado and Grand and Uintah ...

Article

Rayford W. Logan

Ben Hodges was the son of a black father and a Mexican mother Little is known about him until his arrival in Dodge City Kansas with one of the first herds of cattle from Texas Laying claim to descent from an old Spanish family he presented apparently legitimate documents to support legal action for recognition of his right to a large land grant in Kansas While his case was pending in court he also obtained a letter of credit that showed him to be the owner of thirty two sections of Kansas land Armed with this evidence he contracted for the delivery of thousands of cattle from ranges near the Beaver and Cimarron rivers Unable to secure the necessary financial banking for the purchase he obtained free railroad passes and used forged receipts in an attempt to swindle two cattlemen After his forgery was discovered he settled for a small ...

Article

Ella Howard

Since the late nineteenth century, African American homelessness has reflected the nation's persistent social, political, and economic inequality. In the decades following the Civil War, formerly enslaved people seeking work often joined the era's other “tramps” seeking employment. Traveling by foot and by rail, they performed migrant labor where possible. For the most part, hobo culture was racially integrated, and homeless African Americans were met by relative tolerance.

Article

Steven J. Niven

cook and laborer, was born in Lawrenceville, Virginia, probably in 1862 or 1863. The names of his parents have not been recorded, and it is not known whether or not they were enslaved at the time of their son's birth. Indeed, but for the discovery of a package of letters written to Channing Lewis by Alice Hanley, a white Irish American woman, his life would have been largely lost to history. The letters, enclosed in a black lace stocking, fell from the attic of a house undergoing renovation in Northampton, Massachusetts, in spring 1992. When workmen opened up a hole in the ceiling, the stocking fell. Its contents provide a unique perspective on the southern black migrant experience and on the everyday life of black and white working-class people in New England at the turn of the twentieth century.

The letters also reveal a far from ...

Article

Donna Tyler Hollie

chef, restaurant owner, author, and teacher, was born in Orange County, Virginia. She was one of eight children, three sons and five daughters, born to Eugene and Daisy Lewis. Her community, called Freetown, was established by her grandfather, Chester Lewis, a farmer, and other freedmen after the Civil War. Her grandfather's home was the site of the community's first school.

Although little is known about Lewis's formal academic education, she learned to cook by observing and assisting her mother and paternal aunt, Jennie These women cooked in the tradition of their African forebearers using seasonal ingredients frying in oil flavoring vegetables with meat improvising and relying on their senses to determine whether food was appropriately seasoned and thoroughly cooked For example whether a cake was done could be determined by listening to the sound made by the cake pan Wonderful dishes were created ...

Article

Mary F. Germond

George McJunkin was born in rural Texas. His father, a blacksmith, became free before the Civil War began in 1861. On the horse-raising ranch where he grew up, George McJunkin acquired ranch skills and—remarkably, for a rural child of that time—four years of schooling. As a boy he worked as a freighter's helper and buffalo skinner. It was his knowledge of horses and cows, however, that led to his unique place in the annals of prehistory.

At twenty one McJunkin helped herd several hundred horses up Texas trails to the Colorado New Mexico borderlands He stayed to work on those high plains for almost fifty years as a broncobuster top hand and ranch foreman While foreman at the Crowfoot Ranch near Folsom New Mexico he also homesteaded Later he traded his land for cattle that under his brand were run with those of his employer As foreman at ...

Article

Tony Gass

Pennsylvania Avenue in Baltimore, Maryland, often referred to simply as “The Avenue,” is the main entertainment and business thoroughfare in the African American community of Upton, once known as Old West Baltimore. The home of the famous Royal Theater, one of a number of entertainment venues on the famed “chitlin circuit,” Pennsylvania Avenue featured nightclubs, movie theaters, and entertainment venues that attracted African Americans nationwide. The Avenue was also the community's main shopping district and the center of African American–owned businesses, although a number of racially discriminatory white businesses operated there during the early twentieth century. Pennsylvania Avenue was also the site of a “Buy Where You Can Work” boycott against segregated businesses during the Great Depression.

The Avenue flourished from the 1920s through the 1960s, but declined in the wake of desegregation and damage caused during the April 1968 rebellions after the assassination of Dr Martin Luther King ...

Primary Source

Before Marjorie Joyner's permanent waving machine (Patent No. 1,693,515), acquiring a permanent wave (or "perm") was a tedious and often dangerous process; a stove-heated curling iron was applied to each section of the hair to impart an effect lasting no longer than a day or two. Joyner's electric-powered machine, created in 1928, featured enough individual curlers to cover the whole head and protection for the scalp. At the time of her invention, Joyner was the director of Madam C. J. Walker Beauty Colleges, a nationwide beauty school chain founded by the eponymous African American inventor and businesswoman. Since the patent was filed on behalf of Walker's corporation, Joyner received no direct compensation for her work.

Article

Eric Bennett

Bill Pickett invented and popularized “bulldogging,” a method of steer-wrestling inspired by cattle dogs. To bring a bull to the ground, Pickett would leap atop its back, twist its horns with his hands, and bite its upper lip. Pickett initially adopted “bulldogging” working as a ranch hand, but his steer-wrestling skills soon launched him into the Rodeo show business of the West.

Pickett was born near Austin, Texas. He quit school after the fifth grade and began working full time as a cowboy, developing his talents in roping and horsemanship. As a teenager he began performing at carnivals, rodeos, and county fairs throughout the southwest. Initially promoters dressed Pickett as a Mexican bullfighter, obscuring his African American descent for commercial reasons. In 1907 Pickett signed on with the Miller Brothers 101 Ranch Wild West Show based in Oklahoma s Cherokee Strip Pickett adopted the name The Dusky Demon and ...

Article

Audrey Smedley

The term “race” with reference to human beings first appeared in English literature in the sixteenth century as a classifactory term with a meaning similar to “kind” or “type,” as in “a race of bishops” or “a race of saints. ” In the eighteenth century the term was more frequently applied to the diverse populations in England's American colonies: the Native Americans, Africans, and Europeans. Here race evolved as a ranking system reflecting the dominant English attitudes toward these populations. Conquered Indians were kept separate and apart from Europeans, often exploited, or moved off their lands for new settlers. Slavery for Africans and their descendants was gradually institutionalized over the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, and most Africans were identified primarily as property and sources of wealth.

In that same century European scientists were collecting and organizing materials on the newly discovered indigenous peoples of the New World Asia ...

Article

Ari Nave

Safari, the Swahili term for an expedition, stems from the Arabic safar, “to journey.” European explorers first used the word to refer to their treks inland from places such as Zanzibar. Colonists later adopted the term to describe their organized hunting expeditions, which began in the late nineteenth century.

Initially, European settlers hunted primarily for subsistence. A few colonists, however, became professional hunters. Roualeyn Gordon-Cumming was one such Englishman. During the 1850s his widely read books described his exploits in southern Africa, where he felled countless numbers of giraffe and lion. Likewise, between 1894 and 1896 the Englishman Arthur H. Newman was reportedly the most successful elephant hunter on the continent.

By the turn of the century however the age of the great white hunter had already passed The impact of hunting began to raise concerns about the possible extinction of many species Hunting laws came into effect under the ...

Article

Claranne Perkins

entrepreneur, lifestyle expert, author, and model, was born Barbara Smith near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the daughter of William H. Smith, a steel worker, and Florence Claybrook Smith, a part-time maid. She has described her parents as the original Bob Villa and Martha Stewart referring to the television handyman and the multimedia domestic guru respectively and was greatly influenced by the home her parents established She assisted them in the family s vegetable and flower gardens While in high school Smith studied cooking sewing nutrition and fashion During the same time she took classes at the John Robert Powers modeling school in Pittsburgh on the weekend She completed her modeling studies shortly before she graduated from high school After graduation Smith moved to Pittsburgh where she worked hard to launch her modeling career It was not easy but in the late 1960s after a national ...

Article

Eunice Angelica Whitmal

daughter, wife, mother, grandmother, and devoted Christian, was the primary subject of the famed African American photographer Gordon Parks Sr. In Parks's famous photograph American Gothic, a scathing reinterpretation of Grant Woods's classic painting of that name, Ella Watson, holding a mop and broom, stands in front of an American flag hanging on a wall in a government office. The photograph is a searing representation of the discrimination and segregation that many African Americans encountered regardless of their gender or class position.Behind Watson's famous image was a woman with a challenging, albeit obscure, life story. Parks recalled several details Watson shared with him during an informal interview:

She began to spill out her life s story It was a pitiful one She had struggled alone after her mother had died and her father had been killed by a lynch mob She had gone through high school married ...

Article

Psyche Williams-Forson

huckster, vendor, and entrepreneur, was born Isabella Wallace in Louisa County, Virginia, south of the town of Gordonsville, the daughter of McKaylor Wallace and Maria (Coleman) Wallace. Little information about her background is available. She credits her mother with having used business profits to build their first house, which burned in the 1920s. Following this tragedy, Winston's mother built another home farther from the road and spent much of her life caring for her livestock and attending church. Isabella married Douglas Winston—the exact date of her marriage is not known—and was widowed by age thirty-seven with ten children.

As head of household Isabella Winston bore the responsibility for feeding her large family Following a generational tradition she made her living as a waiter carrier as they called themselves meeting local trains and serving the passengers fried chicken and other foods In later years sharing her ...