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Julia A. Clancy-Smith

Tunisian labor activist, women’s rights activist, and journalist, was born in the town of Gabes in southern Tunisia. Adda rose to prominence owing to her mother’s emphasis upon female education, although her parents were of modest means. One branch of Adda’s family, who are North African Jews, was originally from Batna in Algeria; her maternal grandfather had left French Algeria to seek his fortune in Tunisia, where he managed a small hotel in the south. For her parents’ generation, it was somewhat unusual for women to attend school; to achieve the “certificate of study,” as Adda’s mother did, was a noteworthy achievement. Gladys Adda’s life trajectory illustrated a number of important regional and global social and political currents: nationalism and anticolonialism, organized labor and workers’ movements, socialism and communism, women’s emancipation, and fascism and anti-Semitism against the backdrop of World War II.

In primary school Adda attended classes with Muslim ...

Article

John Garst

the inspiration for the “Frankie and Johnny” song, was born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri. Her parents were Cedric Baker and his wife Margaret (maiden name unknown), and she had three brothers: Charles, Arthur, and James. Charles, who was younger than Frankie, lived with her on Targee Street in 1900. In 1899 Baker shot and killed her seventeen-year-old “mack” (pimp), Allen “Al” Britt. St. Louis pianists and singers were soon thumping and belting out what would become one of America's most famous folk ballads and popular songs, “Frankie and Johnny,” also known as “Frankie and Albert,” “Frankie Baker,” and “Frankie.”

At age sixteen or seventeen Baker fell in love with a man who, unknown to her, was living off the earnings of a prostitute (this kind of man was known as an “easy rider,” a term made famous by W. C. Handy in his ...

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Tiffany M. Gill

Black is beautiful This familiar cry of the Black Power movement was revolutionary in its celebration of the culture style politics and physical attributes of peoples of African descent Symbols of the black is beautiful aesthetic most notably the Afro not only conjured up ideas about black beauty but also highlighted its contentious relationship with black politics and identity This tension between beauty standards and black politics and identity however did not first emerge in the late twentieth century with the Afro or the Black Power movement In fact blacks particularly black women have been struggling to navigate the paradoxical political nature of black identity and beauty since their enslavement in the Americas Despite this strained relationship black women have actively sought to define beauty in their lives and in the process created and sustained one of the most resilient and successful black controlled enterprises in America the black beauty ...

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Anne K. Driscoll

blues singer and pianist, was born Gladys Alberta Bentley in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the eldest of four children of George L. Bentley and Mary C. Mote, a native of Trinidad. The Bentley family was very poor. Later a lesbian, Bentley acknowledged that even as a child she felt more comfortable in boys' clothing than in girls' clothing; however, it was when Bentley developed a long-term crush on one of her female schoolteachers that her classmates began to ridicule her and her parents began to take Bentley from doctor to doctor in an effort to “fix” her. Finally at age sixteen Bentley left Philadelphia and traveled to Harlem, New York, where she quickly became immersed in the Harlem Renaissance and its “don't ask, don't tell” attitude about sexuality. Bentley became just one of many homosexual or bisexual celebrities, joining the likes of Langston Hughes, Ethel Waters, Bessie Smith ...

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Terri DiFazio

Despite how common it was for many of them to have more children than they desired, women of color were suspicious of the early birth control movement. This may be attributed, in part, to its association with the eugenics movement. Francis Galton, a British scientist and distant relative of Charles Darwin, coined the word “eugenics” and founded the Eugenics Society in 1907. Galton’s ideas fueled fear of “race suicide” in the white community and followers advocated birth control as a way to prevent American-born whites from being outnumbered by immigrants and blacks.

Margaret Sanger a public health nurse known for her tireless advocacy of the modern contraceptives movement was not in agreement with Galton s approach to eugenics although she used its terms to win support for the birth control movement Her complex role in this controversial matter raises questions about whether she was a racist ...

Article

Mary Krane Derr

singer, actor, and comedian, was born Nell Ruth Hardy in Birmingham, Alabama, one of nine children. Nell's parents were Edna Mae Humphrey, a homemaker, and her second husband Horace Hardy, an Army sergeant. At age two, Nell witnessed his accidental electrocution death. Deeply affected by Dinah Washington, B. B. King, and Elvis Presley records, Nell began singing in her church choir, on a local radio show called the “Y-Teens,” and on the gospel circuit. She never grew taller than four feet eleven inches but had a large, commanding voice and presence. Her show business ambitions made her a “weirdo” in a social environment where “most kids wanted to be teachers or nurses” (CNN.com, Entertainment, 23 Jan. 2003). At age 13, the Presbyterian-raised Nell discovered that one of her grandfathers probably had Jewish ancestry. Although not converting until 1983 she started ...

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Barbara Bair

writer, educator, and feminist, was born Adelaide Smith on 27 June 1868 in Freetown, Sierra Leone. Of mixed Hausa, Fanti, West Indian, and British heritage, she was born into the social world of the Creole professional elite, the daughter of court registrar William Smith and his second wife, Anne. Adelaide Smith moved with her family to England at the age of four (in 1872), and grew to adulthood in Britain. She was educated at the Jersey Ladies’ College, which her father had helped to found. The leaders of the school served as role models for the young Adelaide, who carried the message of female ability she learned at the college into her own adult life. The experience also influenced her lifelong dedication to education as a medium of social change for African women and girls.

Adelaide studied music in Germany for two years before her family s financial circumstances ...

Article

Agnes Leslie

first Botswana female to serve as a cabinet minister and member of parliament in Botswana, was born in Serowe, when Botswana was called the Bechuanaland Protectorate. She was the daughter of Moruti Tibe Chiepe and S. T. Chiepe (née Sebina). Her father died when she started primary school. Her father’s cousins wanted her to leave school and get married, but her mother insisted that she stay in school. Chiepe attributes her success to her mother’s determination to see her educated. She attended Serowe primary school near her home, finishing in the late 1930s with high honors She was the best student in the country and was offered a scholarship to study at Tiger Kloof Post Secondary School near Vryburg in the Cape Colony South Africa Chiepe was one of the first girls to attend the school which was three hours from her home The scholarship lessened the financial pressure ...

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Sharla M. Fett

The history of African American women’s childbearing is one of cultural resilience and profound structural oppression. Far more than a mere biological event, childbirth has been an important social and religious experience in African American communities. At the same time, slavery, poverty, and discrimination have strongly shaped the social realities of childbearing for many black women. Despite important changes in birth practices over the last three centuries, the experiences of pregnancy and childbirth continue to be closely connected to the broader political and economic struggles of African American women.

From the many cultures of West and Central Africa captive women carried their understandings of birth into the slave societies of the New World Though widely varied African gender systems emphasized the importance of motherhood and fertility to women s social identity and family lineage Captivity by slave traders brought African social institutions of childbirth into a collision with slavery s ...

Article

Wilma King

A variable social construction, the concept of childhood barely existed in early America. In fact, this special period of growth and development experienced before accepting adult responsibilities was not an entrenched American institution until the twentieth century. The time at which this protected segment of the lifecycle ends is debatable. Some scholars and public officials have used twelve as the cutoff while others set it at age sixteen or eighteen. Still others claim childhood lasts until twenty-one years of age.

Age limits aside, other factors, including color, class, status, and the embracing shield of loved ones, are significant in determining if girls enjoy a protected period in their formative years. There are also concerns about their psychological well-being and freedom from emotional devastation, which may mature girls beyond their chronological years.

Article

Leyla Keough

Elizabeth Coleman, later known as Bessie, was born in Atlanta, Texas. Her mother, Susan Coleman, was African American, and her father, George Coleman, was one-quarter African American and three-quarters Choctaw Indian. While Coleman was still an infant her family moved to Waxahachie, Texas, but a few years later her father returned to an Indian reservation in the Oklahoma Territory. Coleman's mother was left to care for the large family by picking cotton and doing domestic work. Susan Coleman enlisted Bessie's help in these jobs; in return, Bessie was allowed to save the wages she earned to help finance her college education.

Coleman finished high school, but the money she had saved was only enough to pay for one semester at the Colored Agricultural Normal University in Langston, Oklahoma (later Langston University). Coleman left the university for Chicago, Illinois where two of her brothers lived There ...

Article

Elizabeth Ammons

Anna Julia Haywood Cooper was born in Raleigh, North Carolina, the daughter of a slave, Hannah Stanley Haywood, and her white master, George Washington Haywood, with whom neither she nor her mother maintained any ties. At age nine she received a scholarship to attend the St. Augustine's Normal School and Collegiate Institute for newly freed slaves, and in 1877 she married an instructor at the school, a Bahamian-born Greek teacher named George Cooper. Left a widow in 1879, she never remarried. She enrolled in 1881 at Oberlin College, where educator and activist Mary Church (later Terrell) also studied, and elected to take the “Gentleman's Course,” rather than the program designed for women. She received her bachelor's degree in 1884 and after teaching for a year at Wilberforce University and then returning briefly to teach at St Augustine s she went back to Oberlin to ...

Article

Rayford W. Logan

Julia Ringwood Coston was born on Ringwood Farm, in Warrenton, Virginia, and this is apparently the origin of her maiden name. At an early age she was brought to Washington, D.C., where she attended public school. Though she almost completed school, she had to withdraw when her mother's health failed. She became the governess in the family of a Union general and continued her studies. In the spring of 1886 she married William Hilary Coston, then a student at Yale University. He had published A Freeman and Yet a Slave (1884), a pamphlet of eighty-four pages, and may have broadened her formal education. A longer version of the same book was published in 1888 in Chatham, Ontario, Canada, which may suggest that they lived there at the time.

The Costons settled in Cleveland Ohio where William Coston became the pastor of Saint Andrew s Church and ...

Article

Caroline DeVoe

businessman, landowner, farmer, and lynching victim, was born into slavery in Abbeville, South Carolina, the youngest son of Thomas and Louisa, slaves on the plantation of Ben Crawford in Abbeville, South Carolina. After Emancipation and Ben Crawford's death, his widow Rebecca may have bequeathed land to her former slave, Thomas, Anthony's father. Thomas continued to acquire land, and in 1873 he purchased 181 acres of fertile land from Samuel McGowan, a former Confederate general and South Carolina Supreme Court Justice. Thomas Crawford's “homeplace” was located in an alluvial valley, approximately seven miles west of the town of Abbeville. The rich land was flanked on the east by Little River and on the west by Penny Creek.

While Crawford's brothers worked the family farm Anthony was sent to school walking seven miles to and from school each day Seventeen year old Anthony was ...

Article

Debra A. Varnado

educator, was born in Jacksonville, Texas, the fifth of seven children of George W. Crouch, a Methodist minister, and Mary Ragsdale Crouch. Known by the nickname “Red,” Crouch graduated from Frederick Douglass High School in Jacksonville in 1923, but his family would relocate twenty-six miles to the north in Tyler, Texas, which he considered his hometown.

In Tyler, the Crouches lived in a home with a view of Texas College, a historically black school run by the Colored Methodist Episcopal Church (later known as the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church). In 1927 Crouch earned a BA in Biology from Texas College His father an elder in the church wanted him to teach at the school after graduation Instead Crouch left for Dallas for a brief but lucrative stint selling insurance Crouch would later forgo insurance sales for a future in science and education applying to graduate school ...

Article

LaRay Denzer

first woman mayor of the Sierra Leonean capital of Freetown, was born into a prominent old Krio (then spelled Creole) family on 7 January 1918 in Freetown. Young Constance grew up in a household deeply involved in local politics and culture. Her parents were Johnnie William Horton, sometime city treasurer, and Regina Elizabeth (Awoonor-Wilson) Horton, a granddaughter of a recaptive from Keta, Gold Coast (now Ghana). Constance was the youngest of their three children, all girls, but she also had two half brothers, one of whom was Asadata Dafora, who won acclaim in the 1930s for introducing African dance drama to the New York theater. Her paternal family traced its ancestry back to James Beale Horton (1835–1883), better known as Africanus Horton, the son of an Igbo recaptive who was influential in the British colonial service and the outspoken author of West African Countries and Peoples (1868 ...

Article

Josephine Dawuni

Ghanaian journalist, writer, political and gender activist with ancestral roots in both Sierra Leone and Ghana, was born to Francis Thomas Dove, an accomplished barrister at law and Madam Eva Buckman, a Ga businesswoman. In 1933, Mabel Dove married Dr. J. B. Danquah, a leading figure of the anti- imperialist independence movement; the couple had one son. Mabel Dove Danquah’s formative years began in Sierra Leone, where at the early age of six, she attended the prestigious Annie Walsh Memorial School, the oldest girls’ school in Sierra Leone. After receiving her primary and secondary education in Sierra Leone, she went to England, where she attended the Anglican Covenant in Bury and then St. Michael’s College. She then proceeded to take a four-month course at Gregg Commercial College in secretarial training.

In 1926 at the age of twenty one Danquah took her first job as a shorthand typist with Elder ...

Article

Rayvon David Fouché

inventor, was born to Shelby Jeames and Amelia Scott Davidson in Lexington, Kentucky. He attended public school in his hometown of Lexington and then attended college in Louisville to study education. This school's program did not challenge Davidson or adequately prepare him for a career. So in the fall of 1887 he enrolled at Howard University in Washington, D.C. However, his previous academic training was not sufficient to gain admission to Howard University's college department. He spent his first two years completing the preparatory program and finally received a degree in 1896. That same year he began to study law, and by June 1896 he had completed standard readings in the law curriculum under the direction of William A. Cook.

In 1893 while Davidson completed his education he found employment as an unclassified laborer for the Treasury Department making $600 per year He secured this position through ...

Article

Alexis Cepeda Maule

minister and politician, served thirty-six years (1943 to 1979) in the Illinois State House of Representatives for the 22nd District and acted as associate pastor at Chicago's Quinn African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church. Corneal was born on a farm near Vicksburg, Mississippi, to a white landowner and an African American former slave named Pearl Darden. After attending primary school at Sisters of the Holy Ghost, a Roman Catholic School, Davis graduated from Magnolia Public High School. At Magnolia there had been one teacher who taught all the subjects.

Davis attended Tougaloo College, a historically black institution near Jackson, Mississippi. Established in 1869 by the Home Missionary Society of the Disciples of Christ Tougaloo offered a first class liberal education to African Americans At Tougaloo he read the newspaper almost every day and participated in the debate society which would help his oratory skills in his later ...

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Donna M. Wells

photographer, journalist, and diplomat, was born on the campus of Atlanta University (later Clark Atlanta University), in Atlanta, Georgia. He attended Oglethorpe Laboratory Elementary School, a practice school on the campus. Davis's professional career began in high school and continued until his retirement in 1985. He was first introduced to photography by William (Bill) Brown, an instructor at the Atlanta University Laboratory High School where Davis was a student. Throughout high school and later as a student at Morehouse, Davis supported himself through photography assignments from local newspapers and public relations firms.

Davis's college education was suspended in 1944 when he joined the armed forces during World War II and fought with the Ninety-second Infantry Division in Italy. After his tour, Griffith returned to Atlanta in 1946 and continued his college studies. He befriended writer and professor Langston Hughes and civil rights activist and ...