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Octavia Victoria Rogers Albert is best known for her volume of collected slave narratives, The House of Bondage, or Charlotte Brooks and Other Slaves (1890). The collection assembles the brief narratives (as told to Albert) of seven former slaves whose earnest testimonies, Albert believed, exposed the brutality of slaveholding in general and the hypocrisy of Christian slaveholding in particular. But more importantly, the narratives demonstrated, according to Albert, the narrators’ spiritual courage and strong Christian faith.

Albert was born a slave on 12 December 1824 in Oglethorpe Georgia but neither slavery nor its far reaching effects stifled her achievements After the Civil War she attended Atlanta University and became a teacher interviewer and researcher Asserting that the complete story of slavery had not been told she invited former slaves into her home taught some to read and write sang hymns and read scriptures to others and encouraged ...

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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 ...

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Charles Rosenberg

real estate developer, publisher, insurance broker, architect, and philanthropist, was born in Stock Township, Harrison County, Ohio, the son of William Blue and Adeline L. Blue, who married in Ohio in 1863. His father, a farm laborer, was born in Virginia in 1843 and may have been at one time enslaved to Thomas Blue in Hampshire County. He may also have been related to Thomas Fountain Blue, an acclaimed librarian in Louisville, Kentucky. Blue's mother was born in Ohio in 1845, to parents also born in Virginia. He had an older brother, William Benjamin, born in 1864, and a younger brother, Richard J., born in 1871. During the 1870s the family moved to New Philadelphia in Tuscarawas County, Ohio, where William Blue worked as a teamster.

Welcome T. Blue found work in Canton Ohio around 1889 where he lived ...

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Bärbel R. Brouwers

writer, musician, journalist, and civil rights activist, was born in Kansas City, Missouri, to Myra Myrtle and Frank London Brown Sr., the eldest of their three children. In 1939, when Brown was twelve years old, the family relocated to the South Side of Chicago in hopes of better economic opportunities. Brown attended Colman Elementary School and went on to DuSable High School. His adolescence in Chicago's “Black Belt” during the 1940s, which Sterling Stuckey referred to as a “dark nether-world of crime” and “shattered idealism,” deeply influenced his artistic and writing career. In the streets of the South Side's slums he learned how to sing and soon discovered a deep passion for music, especially for jazz and blues. Brown is credited with being the first person to recite short stories (as opposed to poetry) to a jazz music accompaniment.

After graduating from high school in 1945 Brown ...

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Edward L. Lach

business executive and civic leader, was born in Washington, D.C., the son of Hayward G. Burrell and Fannie Miles. Although his parents’ occupations are unknown, both his father and his mother were natives of the District of Columbia, and Burrell's roots in the area ran deep. After graduating from Dunbar High School at the age of fifteen, he worked as a driver for a local pharmacy and apparently also drove a cab for a while. He married at age sixteen (his wife's name is unknown), and the marriage produced a son before ending in divorce seven years later.

In 1941 Burrell gained a position at the federal Bureau of Standards, where he worked in the glass section producing prisms and bombsights. He also attended nearby Howard University between 1941 and 1943 but did not graduate. He entered the U.S. Army in 1945 and rose to the rank of ...

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Kimberly A. Sisson

poet, clubwoman, and political activist, was born in Chillicothe, Ohio, the daughter of Mary Evans and Joshua T. Williams, whose occupation is now unknown. In 1870 the family moved to Columbus, Ohio, where Mary Evans opened a successful wig-making business that operated for over twenty years. Carrie Williams attended the first integrated school in Columbus; whether she pursued higher education is unknown, however it is known that during the 1880s she taught in Parkersburg, West Virginia.

In 1886, at the age of twenty-four, she married William H. Clifford, a two-term Republican state representative from Cleveland. They would have two sons. As part of the black middle class in Cleveland, Clifford and her husband socialized with other important black figures such as Charles W. Chesnutt and George A. Meyers. Booker T. Washington and W. E. B. Du Bois made frequent appearances in Cleveland joining the Cliffords ...

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Debra Jackson

writer, temperance advocate, and educator, was born Ada Augusta Newton in Brooklyn, New York, the eldest of the three children of Alexander Herritage Newton, a trained mason, and Olivia Augusta (Hamilton) Newton, who was the eldest daughter of Robert Hamilton, the radical abolitionist and owner and editor of the Weekly Anglo-African newspaper. When Ada was eight years old her mother died and shortly thereafter her father, a recently licensed preacher of the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) denomination, was directed by the AME leadership to manage the church at Pennington, New Jersey. This was the first of dozens of appointments for Newton, and Ada's early years were characterized by constant travel from city to city as her father's ministry took him to all regions of the country. Despite the incessant moving, Ada received a good elementary education.

Ada worked closely with her father on church matters Indeed she ...

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Alice Bernstein

journalist, editor, and commentator, was born in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, the eldest of four children and the only son of Martha Brownlee Curry, a domestic worker, and Homer Lee Curry, an automobile mechanic. Curry's parents divorced when he was a boy, and he and his sisters were raised in public housing by their stepfather, William Henry Polk, a dumptruck driver. Polk, an avid reader of black newspapers with a deep interest in current events beyond the South, was a major influence in Curry's life. Other important influences were his neighbors, including Miss Bessie and Miss Dot, and his high school principal McDonald Hughes, who encouraged children to pursue higher education and to overcome the hardships of segregation. Curry was also inspired by the civil rights leaders Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Jesse Louis Jackson Sr., Ralph Abernathy, Cordy Tindell (C. T.) Vivian, Fred ...

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Brittney L. Yancy

actress, writer, philanthropist, activist. Ruby Dee was born Ruby Ann Wallace in Cleveland, Ohio. Her parents, Marshall and Emma Wallace, worked as a Pullman porter and a schoolteacher, respectively. As a baby, Ruby along with her family moved to Harlem at the height of the Harlem Renaissance. Ruby's parents supplemented her education with exposure to the arts. Ruby married Frankie Dee Brown, a promoter for Schenley Distiller's Corporation. Frankie dropped his surname because Ruby preferred the name Dee. They divorced in 1945. Ruby began acting in the 1940s through an apprenticeship with the American Negro Theatre—which included Hilda Simms, Harry Belafonte, Sidney Poitier, and her future husband, Ossie Davis. Dee's first stage performance was in On Strivers Row in 1940 Dee acted in a series of plays and made her Broadway debut at the Cort Theater in a ...

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Gwendolyn S. Jones

poet, essayist, educator, and social worker, was born Clarissa Mae Scott in Tuskegee, Alabama, the third of five children born to Emmett Jay Scott and Elenor Baker Scott. Her father served as secretary to Booker T. Washington, the founder of Tuskegee Institute; secretary-treasurer at Howard University; and special adviser on African American Affairs to President Woodrow Wilson. Scott spent her early years in Tuskegee, where she had access to intellectual, social, and cultural activities available to students, faculty, and staff at Tuskegee Institute; she was educated in New England, entering Bradford Academy in 1916, then Wellesley College in 1919.

At Wellesley Scott was an active competitive student who earned scholarship honors participated on the debate team and earned a letter in field hockey She was also a talented singer and pianist and held memberships in various social groups and religious organizations Delany ...

Article

Constance B. Williams

English and drama teacher, poet, and civil rights leader, was born in Trenton, New Jersey. Her father was a headwaiter in a hotel and her mother a homemaker. Lottie was the youngest of three children. Her parents sacrificed immensely to send her to Howard University, the university that her mother considered the best and most prestigious of colleges.

Dinkins entered Howard University in September 1925 and earned a bachelor of arts degree in education in June 1929. Her first choice for a career was journalism, but administrators at Howard discouraged her in this. Instead, Dinkins's first job after graduation was teaching at Leland College in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. After four years there, she returned to Trenton. She met and married William Harvey Dinkins, the father of Mayor David N. Dinkins (the first African American mayor of New York City, 1989–1993 William Dinkins was a ...

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Leigh Fought

Helen Pitts was born in Honeoye, New York, the daughter of the white abolitionists Gideon and Jane Wills Pitts. Her father began working with the renowned abolitionist and escaped slave Frederick Douglass in 1846. Thus, from an early age Helen knew of Douglass and his work. Her parents, wealthy enough to pursue their progressive ideals, ensured that she and her sisters, Eva and Jane, received a better education than most girls of the era. Although few institutions of higher learning accepted women students, Eva attended Cornell and Helen and Jane both attended Mount Holyoke College. Helen graduated in 1859.

Reconstruction offered Helen the opportunity to combine her education with her activism. She moved to Norfolk, Virginia, to teach in a school for freed slaves in 1863 The swampy climate there took its toll on her health and the violent hostility faced by the African American ...

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Mary Krane Derr

community activist, social service worker, and history conserver, was born Alfreda Marguerita Barnett in Chicago, Illinois. She was the youngest child of Ida B. Wells-Barnett, the journalist, suffragist, and anti-lynching crusader, and Ferdinand Barnett, the attorney, civil rights activist, and founder of Chicago's first black newspaper. Along with her three full siblings—Ida, Herman, and Charles Aked—Alfreda had two half-brothers, Albert and Ferdinand Jr., from her father's first marriage. Duster recalled her childhood as happy and both her parents as kind, dedicated people of integrity. She described her father as gentle and quiet, her mother as outspoken and firm. Other activists like Carter G. Woodson, William Monroe Trotter, and Hallie Quinn Brown regularly visited the Barnett home.

The Barnetts lived in a largely middle class interracial sometimes racially tense area on Chicago s South Side A bright student who handled herself confidently among ...

Article

Joyce A. A. Camper

sociologist, social worker, writer, and teacher, was born Ophelia Settle in Red River County, Texas, one of seven children of Sarah Garth, who died when Settle was four years old, and Green Wilson Settle, a teacher and later principal at the Deaf, Dumb, and Blind Institute in Raft, Oklahoma. The emphasis the Settle family placed upon education influenced Settle's aspiration to become a teacher. She graduated from Howard University with an AB in English in 1925 and taught at the Orange County Training School in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, for a year. She then completed a master's degree in Sociology in 1928 at the University of Pennsylvania.

In 1929 Settle embarked on a journey that culminated in the project that became her lifelong passion. Charles Spurgeon Johnson then director of the newly formed Department of Social Science at Fisk University hired Settle as ...

Article

John E. Fleming and Rayford W. Logan

Born in Weston, Platte County, Missouri, George Washington Ellis was the son of George and Amanda Jane (Drace) Ellis. He studied in the Weston elementary schools and the high school in Atchison, Kansas. He received his bachelor of law degree from the University of Kansas in 1893 and was admitted to the Kansas bar. From 1893 to 1897 he practiced law in Kansas to defray the expenses of four years in the university's collegiate department, and received his bachelor of arts degree in 1897. In that same year, he moved to New York City, where he took a two-year course in the Gunton Institute of Economics and Sociology.

After passing the examination of the United States Census Board in 1899, Ellis received an appointment in the Census Division of the Department of the Interior in Washington, D.C. where he remained two years Here his spare ...

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Theresa C. Lynch

activist and Democratic state legislator from Buffalo, New York, was born in Harlem to Arthur B. Eve (a maintenance worker) and Beatrice Clark Eve (a theater cashier). His parents divorced when he was five or six years old and he moved to Miami, Florida, where he was raised by his mother and grandmother in a housing project. Eve excelled in sports; he ran track and played basketball for the all-black, segregated Dorsey High School. After earning his diploma in 1951, he attended West Virginia State College for three semesters, where he played basketball and studied physical education.

In 1953 Eve headed to Buffalo with two suitcases and $9 45 in his pocket He planned to earn money perhaps working in a steel mill and then return to college in the fall But the Korean War interrupted his plans and in May he was drafted into the United States ...

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Richard Watts

Born in Fort-de-France on the island of Martinique into a conventional, bourgeois family, Frantz Fanon grew up with assimilationist values that encouraged him to reject his African heritage. This influence was countered by one of Fanon’s high school teachers, Aimé Césaire, who introduced Fanon to the philosophy of Négritude and taught him to embrace the aspects of self that the colonizer had previously forced him to reject. The encounter with Césaire proved to be a turning point in Fanon’s intellectual development. In 1940 following France s capitulation to the Germans in World War II the part of the French Navy that had declared its allegiance to the collaborationist Vichy regime began the occupation of Martinique As a result 5 000 French soldiers commandeered the resources of the island leaving the resident population to fend for itself It was in this context that Fanon first experienced the full force ...

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Donna Tyler Hollie

educator, social worker, community activist, and poet, was born in Port Deposit, Maryland, the fourth child of Caleb Alexander and Mary Jane Driver Collins, free African Americans. By 1870 the family was living in Baltimore, where her father worked in a lumberyard and her mother, as did many African American women of the era, worked as a laundress in her home. Collins may have attended a public school, which Baltimore established for African Americans in 1867, or one of numerous private schools that had served Baltimore's black community since the early nineteenth century. She enrolled in the Hampton Institute at age fourteen and graduated in 1882 as salutatorian. At New York University she earned a degree in social work sometime around 1904. She probably chose NYU because African Americans could not enroll in professional schools in the segregated Maryland–Washington, D.C., area.

Collins like most ...

Article

Aaron Myers

Gilberto Freyre was born into an upper-class family in Brazil's northeastern state of Pernambuco. The son of a law professor, he was educated in his hometown, Recife, and studied social and political sciences at Baylor University in Texas and Columbia University in New York. At Columbia, Freyre was influenced by the pioneering anthropologist Franz Boas, who led the academic challenge against theories of racial determinism. After a brief imprisonment in 1930 on federal charges that he was “a leftist agitator,” Freyre traveled to Portugal and then back to the United States, where he taught a course on the development of Brazilian society at Stanford University. This led to his most famous book, Casa grande e senzala, published in 1933 (The Masters and the Slaves, 1946). In 1934 he helped organize the Primeiro Congresso Afro-Brasileiro First Afro Brazilian Congress in Recife A political conservative Freyre served ...

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Elizabeth Doerfler

journalist, educator, social worker, activist, and community leader was born in Hartford, Connecticut, in or around 1901 to John T. Goodman, a laborer, and Harriet Goodman. Both of his parents were born in Virginia as were his siblings, David and Esther. This indicates that the Goodmans were part of the early African American migration from the South to the urban North, a process that increased greatly during the Great Migration that began in World War I. By 1920, when Goodman was nineteen, the family—which included his parents, his sister, Margaret, her husband, Floyd Davis, and their daughter, Marjorie—lived at 290 Garden Street, part of an African‐American neighborhood in Hartford.

Goodman graduated from Hartford Public High School in 1922 He was one of the very few African Americans to graduate in his class During high school Goodman was on the debate team the football team and ...