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David Alvin Canton

lawyer and judge, was the third of five children born to Hillard Boone Alexander, a laborer from Mecklenburg County, Virginia, and Virginia Pace, from Essex County, Virginia. Alexander's parents were born slaves, but were freed by the Thirteenth Amendment following the Civil War. In 1880 they migrated to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where they lived in the Seventh Ward, a community that would later be made famous by W. E. B. Du Bois's seminal 1899 study The Philadelphia Negro. In 1903Alexander's mother died of pneumonia. Because his father worked long hours, Alexander and his siblings moved to North Philadelphia to live with his maternal aunt, Georgia Chandler Pace From the age of seven Alexander attended school and worked at various jobs including dockworker newspaper boy general helper at the Metropolitan Opera House in North Philadelphia Pullman porter and when he was in his early twenties ...

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

J. D. Jackson

civil rights attorney and political activist, was born in Birmingham, Alabama. One of three sons, he attended Birmingham public schools, including the city's first and oldest, and, at one time, the South's largest African American high school, Industrial (A. H. Parker) High.

After graduating from high school Billingsley attended two highly respected, historically black institutions of higher learning. The first was Talladega College, a private liberal arts college located in Alabama, fifty miles east of Birmingham. He graduated with high honors in 1946 and headed for Washington, D.C., where he attended Howard University School of Law. He earned his law degree there in 1950. Afterward, he returned to Alabama, where he was admitted to the Alabama state bar in 1951, one of the first ten African Americans to do so.

Instantly Billingsley threw himself behind the post World War II fight for full black citizenship in America Always ...

Article

Jamason Pestana

policeman and community leader, was born in Corapeake, Gates County, North Carolina to Emilie P. Benton, a homemaker, and John Zebedee Booker, a farmer. He was the third child in a family of seven and attended the local segregated schools in Gates County.

Booker moved to Connecticut in 1926, where he settled in Waterbury in New Haven County. There, in about 1934, he married Addie (maiden name unknown), a woman from South Carolina, and the couple had three children: Ann, Sally, and Cicero Jr. In 1943 Booker was appointed to the City of Waterbury supernumerary police force, an informal black citizen group. By 1946 a committee was formed in the African American community to recruit one of their own to the Waterbury police force. In January 1946 Booker was appointed to the police force as a patrolman He was the first African American police officer ...

Article

Edelman was born Marian Wright, the youngest of Arthur and Maggie Wright's five children. When blacks in her hometown of Bennettsville, South Carolina, were forbidden to enter city parks, her father, a Baptist minister, built a park for black children behind his church. Edelman would later credit him with instilling in her an obligation to right wrongs. She attended Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia, and spent her junior year in France, Switzerland, and Eastern Europe. Returning to Spelman in 1959, she helped organize protests for the developing Civil Rights Movement. The following year she graduated from college as valedictorian of her class, then entered Yale University, where she received a degree in law.

By 1964 the young law graduate was working as a lawyer in Mississippi where volunteers for the Civil Rights Movement were often beaten and jailed on phony charges While representing these volunteers ...

Article

Rosetta E. Ross

civil rights attorney and founder of the Children's Defense Fund, was born Marian Wright in Bennettsville, South Carolina, to Arthur Jerome Wright, a Baptist minister, and Maggie Leola Bowen, an active churchwoman. Both parents were community activists who took in relatives and others who could no longer care for themselves, eventually founding a home for the aged that continued to be run by family members in the early twenty-first century. The Wrights also built a playground for black children denied access to white recreational facilities, and nurtured in their own children a sense of responsibility and community service. As soon as Marian and her siblings were old enough to drive, they continued the family tradition of delivering food and coal to the poor, elderly, and sick. Arthur Wright also encouraged his children to read about and to revere influential African Americans like Mary McLeod Bethune and Marian Anderson ...

Article

William C. Hine

Edelman was born in Bennettsville, South Carolina, one of five children of Arthur Jerome Wright and Maggie Leola Bowen Wright. She was named in honor of the singer Marian Anderson. Her father was the pastor of Shiloh Baptist Church, and her mother was the choir director and organist.

After graduation from all-black Marlboro Training High School, she enrolled at Atlanta’s Spelman College, where she intended to major in music. She changed her major to history after coming under the influence of the historian Howard Zinn and of President Benjamin E. Mays of Morehouse College. As an undergraduate she joined thousands of black high school and college students in the burgeoning civil rights movement. She was among several hundred people arrested at sit-ins in Atlanta in March 1960. She graduated from Spelman in 1960 and planned to pursue a scholarly career in Russian and Soviet studies But ...

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 ...

Article

Eric R. Jackson

was born on February 13, 1945 in Washington, DC, to Leslie and Bernice Gaines. The family then moved to Sandy Spring, in Montgomery County, Maryland, where his father worked as a custodian at one of the city’s African American high schools. From the time that he was a child, Gaines believed that one day he would be a community activist or become a member of the legal profession. For example, despite being told by a high school counselor that he should quit school and find a manual laboring job, Gaines’ journey to the legal profession started as soon as he finished his undergraduate degree at Maryland State College, an HBCU in Princess Anne (now the University of Maryland Eastern Shore) in 1967.

In 1968 he entered Howard Law School in Washington DC without the submission of any LSAT scores which Gaines proclaimed many years later is the system ...

Article

James Thomas III Jones

chairman of the Chicago branch of the Black Panther Party (BPP) for Self-Defense, was born in Chicago, Illinois, and raised in Maywood, a suburban community located to the east of the city. Hampton's parents, migrants from Louisiana, had secured work at the Argo Starch Company. Hampton was an excellent athlete, and his athletic accomplishments were exceeded by his academic prowess. The Chicago area youth displayed his mental prowess via his matriculation from high school with honors in 1966.

Coming of age in the racially charged crucible of Chicago politics Hampton a prelaw student at Triton Junior College witnessed the civil rights movement in the South as a potential solution to his worsening urban environs As a teen Hampton adopted a posture of nonviolent civil disobedience and assumed leadership of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People s West Suburban Branch Youth Council in Chicago However by the ...

Article

Barbara Bair

Baltimore attorney, civic leader, political activist, and champion of legal challenges to racial segregation laws, was born in Lynchburg, Virginia, the son of Susan Cobb Hawkins and Robert Hawkins, a minister. Hawkins graduated in 1885 from the Centenary Biblical Institute (later Morgan College). In March of the same year he married his first wife, Ada McMechen (1867–?) of Virginia, in a Baltimore service led by the Reverend Benjamin Brown, a church activist and pastor of the Sharp Street Memorial Methodist Episcopal Church, of which Hawkins was a lifelong member. William and Ada Hawkins had two daughters, Aldina Hawkins (Haynes) (1885–1940) and Roberta Hawkins (West) (1891–?).

Hawkins worked as an educator while studying law at the University of Maryland but he was forced to leave the college when white students petitioned to exclude blacks He graduated from the Howard ...

Article

Erin D. Somerville

English lawyer and Victorian novelist whose examination of Indian indentured labourers influenced post‐abolition politics. The son of a Wesleyan missionary, Jenkins was born in Bangalore, India. He was educated in Canada before moving to Britain in the 1860s and qualifying as a barrister in 1864.

Jenkins became involved with the National Association for the Promotion of Social Science after starting his law practice. His involvement with the Association nurtured the link between domestic public health and international social policy that would dominate his later political writing. In 1870 the Aborigines Protection Society and the Anti‐Slavery Society commissioned Jenkins to travel to British Guiana and investigate injustices within the indentureship system. His criticism of the plantocracy focused on the medical, legal, and labour mistreatment of Indian and Chinese indentured workers and was documented in The Coolie: His Rights and Wrongs (1871 Half travelogue and half legal report the ...

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H. Zahra Caldwell

Harlem gangster, was born Ellsworth Raymond Johnson in Charleston, South Carolina. He acquired the nickname “Bumpy” as a boy when his parents discovered a small marble-sized bump on the back of his head. This bump was simply an accident of birth, but it would provide Ellsworth with the nickname by which he would be known throughout his life. Little is known of Johnson's parents or childhood; however, by the age of fifteen he had moved to Brooklyn, New York, to live with an aunt. He finished high school and at sixteen he moved to Harlem to live on his own. He was soon involved in a life of petty crime. By sixteen he could already be described as a stickup gunman and a second-story burglar.

At the age of seventeen Johnson was sent to a reformatory in Elmira NewYork This stay would serve as the beginning of nearly half ...

Article

Charles Rosenberg

attorney, Detroit area civic leader, and nominee for the sixth circuit federal court of appeals, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, to Wade Hampton McCree Jr. and Dores B. McCrary McCree, and grew up in Detroit, Michigan.

Her father served as a Michigan circuit judge for Wayne County, 1954–1961, and as a federal U.S. district judge 1961–1966, and U.S. sixth circuit court of appeals judge from 1966 to 1977, when he was appointed solicitor general of the United States by President Jimmy Carter. He was the first African American to serve on the sixth circuit court, and the second (after Thurgood Marshall) as solicitor general. Kathleen Lewis attended Detroit public schools, graduating from Cass Technical High School in 1965, then entered Fisk University (Jet, 24 Mar. 1966, 39), where Judge McCree was an alumnus and later a ...

Article

Greta Koehler

politician and mayor of New Orleans, was born Marc Haydel Morial in New Orleans, Louisiana, as the second of five children to Sybil Haydel Morial, a teacher, and Ernest N. “Dutch” Morial, a lawyer and New Orleans's first African American mayor. Morial graduated from New Orleans's all-male Jesuit High School in 1976 and went on to complete a Bachelor's degree in Economics and African American Studies at the University of Pennsylvania in 1980. During this time he served as coordinator for his father's mayoral campaign. After receiving a Juris Doctor from Georgetown University in 1983, Morial worked for two years in a law firm in New Orleans before opening his own in 1985. During this time he served as board member for the Louisiana American Civil Liberties Union and received the Louisiana State Bar Association's Pro Bono Publico Award in 1988 for his ...

Article

Maceo Crenshaw Dailey

politician, attorney, and businessman, was born on the western outskirts of Nashville, Tennessee. His parents, William C. Napier and Jane E. (maiden name unknown), were slaves at the time of his birth but were freed in 1848. After manumission and a brief residency in Ohio William Napier moved his family to Nashville, where he established a livery stable business. James attended the black elementary and secondary schools of Nashville before entering Wilberforce University (1864–1866) and Oberlin College (1866–1868), both in Ohio.

James Napier began his career as a race leader and politician during the Reconstruction era in Tennessee as Davidson County commissioner of refugees and abandoned lands in the Freedmen's Bureau. In 1870 he led a delegation of black Tennesseans to petition President Ulysses S. Grant and Congress for relief from politically motivated violence aimed at nullifying black voting strength for ...

Article

Jeffrey Green

Lawyer in Lancashire and Cheshire born in British Guiana (now Guyana). The son of a Georgetown builder, Nelson studied at St John's College, Oxford (1898–1902), where he was an officer of the Oxford Union under Prime Minister Asquith's son Raymond. He was called to the Bar at Lincoln's Inn in 1904, and established his legal practice in Manchester and his home at Bowdon, then Hale, Cheshire. He married, had a daughter, played cricket, and was elected to Hale Council from 1913 to his death. He chaired the Council in 1937.

Nelson achieved fame following the murder of George Storrs at Stalybridge in 1909. As defence lawyer, Nelson secured the acquittal of Mark Wilde, who had been accused of the crime. The Yorkshire Herald called him ‘the coloured barrister’ (29 October 1910) but the Stalybridge Reporter of that date just published his ...

Article

Steven J. Niven

author, U.S. senator, and first African American president. Born Barack Hussein Obama in Honolulu, Hawaii, he was the only son of Barack Obama Sr., a native of Kenya, and Ann Dunham, a white Kansan, who met and married while they were both students at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. Obama Sr. grew up herding goats with his father, who was a domestic servant for British colonial officials in the small Kenyan village of Nyangoma-Kogelo. Obama Sr. arrived in Hawaii in 1959 as part of a program initiated by the Kenyan nationalist politician Tom Mboya to educate promising young African students in the United States. Mboya's program aimed to prepare an African-born elite for government service after the end of British colonial rule, and he secured scholarship funds from a number of African Americans active in the civil rights movement, including Jackie Robinson, Harry Belafonte, and Sidney Poitier ...

Article

LaRose M. Davis

was born Velvalea Hortense Rodgers, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the second of three daughters of Thelma Etha Payne Rodgers, a homemaker, and Russell Lowell Rodgers, a small business owner. Her mother’s side of the family included an African Methodist Episcopal (A.M.E.) bishop as well as African missionaries. From an early age Phillips demonstrated an intellectual prowess that would be the hallmark of her academic career. After graduating from North Division High School in 1942, she won an Elks Scholarship that allowed her to study at Howard University and graduate in 1946. In 1947 she met and married fellow student W. Dale Phillips. After two years of working as a social worker, Phillips enrolled in the University of Wisconsin Madison law school. In 1951 she became the first African American woman to earn a law degree from the UW.

After her graduation the couple moved to Milwaukee where Phillips immediately ...

Article

Donnamaria Culbreth

circuit court judge, was born in Birmingham, Alabama, the third of four children born to William and Eva Poole. In 1918 the family moved to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, when Poole was four years old.

In 1932 Poole entered the University of Michigan, graduating in 1936 and earning a law degree in 1938. A year later Poole went on to earn a master of law degree from Harvard University. In 1940 Poole passed the Pennsylvania bar, and in 1941 he obtained a job as an attorney for the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), which investigates unfair labor practices. Poole studied federal laws covering labor and labor relations and advised the NLRB board members on cases.

Poole was drafted into the army in 1942 and married Charlotte Crump that same year Poole s experiences in the segregated army were harsh From Poole s experience the duties of black soldiers ...