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Kenyatta D. Berry

engineer, machinist, and inventor, was born in Washington, D.C., the son of the free blacks Thomas and Hannah Baltimore. Though his father was a Catholic, Jeremiah followed his mother's influence and adopted the Methodist religion. As a child Jeremiah was fascinated with engineering and science. He was known to have experimented often with such utilitarian things as tin cans, coffeepots, stovepipes, and brass bucket hoops.

Jeremiah was educated at the Sabbath School of the Wesley Zion Church in Washington, D.C., which was located on Fourth Street near Virginia Avenue and was founded in 1839 after black members left the Ebenezer Church. As part of his education Jeremiah also attended the school of Enoch Ambush, which had begun operation in about 1833 in the basement of the Israel Bethel Church and remained open until 1864 Despite his attendance Jeremiah left unable either to read or to ...

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Brad S. Born

Benjamin Banneker was born 9 November 1731in Baltimore County, Maryland, the first child of free African American parents Mary Banneker and Robert, a former slave whose freedom she had purchased and who took her surname upon marriage. Growing up on their tobacco farm, Benjamin received little formal schooling, learning to read and write from his grandmother and attending for several seasons an interracial school where he first developed his lifelong interest in mathematics. Following his parents’ deaths and three sisters’ departures from home, Banneker remained on the farm, working the crops and cultivating his intellect in relative seclusion.

In 1771, he befriended George Ellicott a Quaker neighbor whose family had developed a large complex of mills on the adjoining property With astronomical texts and instruments borrowed from Ellicott he trained himself to calculate ephemerides tables establishing the positioning of the sun moon and stars for each day ...

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Aaron Myers

Born in Baltimore County, Maryland, Benjamin Banneker was one of several children born to Robert, a freed slave from Guinea, and Mary Banneker. Mary's mother, Molly Welsh, came to the American colonies as an indentured servant from England and later married one of her slaves, an African of royal descent named Bannaka or Banneky. Banneker and his sisters were born free and grew up on a self-sufficient tobacco farm of 40 hectares (100 acres). Banneker received the equivalent of an eighth-grade education at a local integrated school and was also tutored by his grandmother. Growing up, he spent much of his free time devising and solving mathematical puzzles. He took over the farm after his father's death in 1759.

In the eighteenth century clocks and watches were rare devices constructed in metal by skilled artisans At the age of twenty two Banneker created a ...

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Silvio A. Bedini

farmer and astronomer, was born near the Patapsco River in Baltimore County in what became the community of Oella, Maryland, the son of Robert, a freed slave, and Mary Banneky a daughter of a freed slave named Bannka and Molly Welsh a freed English indentured servant who had been transported to Maryland Banneker was taught by his white grandmother to read and write from a Bible He had no formal education other than a brief attendance at a Quaker one room school during winter months He was a voracious reader informing himself in his spare time in literature history religion and mathematics with whatever books he could borrow From an early age he demonstrated a talent for mathematics and for creating and solving mathematical puzzles With his three sisters he grew up on his father s tobacco farm and for the rest of his life Banneker continued to ...

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Frank Towers

Benjamin Banneker was born on a farm near Elkridge Landing, Maryland, on the Patapsco River, ten miles southwest of Baltimore. His mother, Mary Banneky, was a freeborn African American. Her parents were Molly Welsh, an English indentured servant, and Bannaka, a Dogon nobleman captured in the slave trade and bought by Molly Welsh. In 1700 Welsh freed Bannaka, and they married. Benjamin's father, was born in Africa and transported to America as a slave, where he was known as Robert. In Maryland, Robert purchased his freedom and married Bannaka and Molly's daughter, Mary Banneky, whose surname he adopted and later changed to Banneker. Robert's success in tobacco farming enabled him to buy enough land (seventy-two acres) to support his son and three younger daughters.

Benjamin Banneker was intellectually curious especially about mathematics and science but he had little formal education Scholars disagree about claims that he attended school for ...

Article

Roland Barksdale-Hall

inventor, was born in Jefferson County, Alabama, the son of Milton Beard and Creasey Tatum, both former slaves on the Beard family plantation. He adopted the name of his former master at age fifteen after he was liberated by Union forces. A year later, he married Edie Beard, about whom nothing else is known. The couple raised three children: John, Jack, and Andrew Jr.; the latter died following graduation from high school. Like most former slaves, however, Beard was illiterate and remained so throughout his life.

After the Civil War, Beard worked as a sharecropper on his former master's farm until he was about eighteen years old and then moved to St. Clair County, Alabama. In 1872 he made a three week journey from Birmingham to Montgomery on an oxcart that carried fifty bushels of apples which he sold for approximately two hundred dollars He eventually ...

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Barbara A. White

fugitive slave, Baptist minister, and abolitionist leader on Nantucket Island, Massachusetts, was born the son of his wealthy white owner and Mary, one of his father's slaves on a plantation in Virginia. No account has been found yet which reveals his father's name or how James Crawford himself was named. Though stories about how and when he escaped slavery are in conflict, all of them agree that his white half brother broke his promise to their dying father to free Crawford. Instead, Crawford was sent into the fields to work. His obituary in the Nantucket Inquirer and Mirror claimed that he escaped the first time by running to Florida to live among the Seminole Indians for two years as a preacher The same account claimed that his half brother then the master of the plantation spent a fortune to recapture him and then strung him up by the thumbs ...

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Benjamin R. Justesen

teacher, farmer, public official, and three-term state legislator, was born a slave in Granville County, North Carolina, near the county seat of Oxford, to unnamed unknown parents. Little is known of his childhood, except that he received a limited education before the Civil War, probably because of his preferred status as the property, and possibly the son, of a prosperous white planter named Benjamin Crews. One account of Crews's early life says he was taken from his slave mother “at the age of two years and reared by a white family whose name he bore” (Edmonds, 102). He is also said to have attended both private and public schools in Oxford, where he grew up.

By 1870 Crews's education had enabled him to begin work as a schoolteacher in Oxford, even as he also ran his own farm and worked as a carpenter. Beginning in 1874 Crews embarked ...

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Pamela Lee Gray

television personality and disc jockey, was born in Covington, Tennessee, into a family of twelve children. His mother died during his birth and his father passed away when Holmes was five, so his older brother Clinton and his wife raised Holmes on the South Side of Chicago. Daylie attended John D. Shoop Elementary School. He was an excellent athlete at Morgan Park High School, and after graduation he played basketball in the professional Negro League for the Harlem Yankees and the Globetrotters. After a few years of touring with the teams, Daylie wanted to settle in one place. He joined the Beige Room staff tending bar at the Pershing Hotel in Chicago in the 1940s and quickly developed a loyal clientele that enjoyed the verbal patter he used while he worked.

Daylie became known as Daddy O while tending bar at various bars in Chicago He was well known for ...

Article

Scott A. Miltenberger

James Forten was born into a free black family in Philadelphia. When he was eight he began working alongside his father at a sail loft owned by Robert Bridges. While working with his father, Forten attended the Quaker abolitionist Anthony Benezet's school for free blacks. With the death of his father, Forten, at age ten, ended his formal schooling and worked in a grocery store to support his mother.

When the Revolutionary War broke out, Forten convinced his mother to let him fight. He joined the crew of the American privateer vessel Royal Louis as a powder boy Captured by the British he languished on a prison ship for several months before being released Following the war he spent a year in England and upon returning to Philadelphia worked as a sailmaker s apprentice for Bridges s firm There he invented and perfected gear that made ...

Article

Diane Todd Bucci

journalist, author, editor, and professor, grew up in Yonkers, New York. Her parents were Curtis G. Giddings and Virginia Stokes Giddings, and both were college educated. Her father was a teacher and guidance counselor, and her mother was employed as a guidance counselor as well. The family's neighborhood was integrated, and Giddings was the first African American to attend her private elementary school, where she was the victim of racial attacks. Even now, Giddings regrets that she allowed herself to be silenced by these attacks. This, no doubt, is what compelled her to develop her voice as a writer. Giddings graduated from Howard University with a BA in English in 1969, and she worked as an editor for several years. Her first job was as an editorial assistant at Random House from 1969 to 1970 and then she became a copy editor at Random ...

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Steven J. Niven

sharecropper and clubwoman, was born Cora Alice McCarroll in Greenville, Mississippi, the youngest of three children of a slave woman whose surname was Warren and an Ohio born white overseer named McCarroll In the early nineteenth century Gillam s mother and her siblings who were part Cherokee were taken from their mother s home in North Carolina and sold into slavery in Mississippi Interviewed by the Federal Writers Project in the 1930s Gillam recalled that her maternal grandmother left North Carolina and tracked her children to Greenville where she remained Gillam never met her father who died shortly before she was born His early death also denied her the opportunity of the northern education her siblings had enjoyed her brother Tom in Cincinnati and her sister at Oberlin College McCarroll had set aside funds for Cora s education but her mother s second husband a slave named Lee ...

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Steven J. Niven

blacksmith and politician, was born a slave in Hardin County, Tennessee. It is unknown whether he was still living there in April 1862, during the battle of Shiloh, one of the bloodiest of the Civil War. By 15 September 1863 he was living in Little Rock, Arkansas, more than 250 miles west of his birthplace. On that day, five days after Little Rock fell to the Union army, Gillam enlisted in Company I, Second Regiment, Arkansas Infantry, which was later renamed Company I, Fifty-fourth Regiment, U.S. Colored Infantry. Since he immediately assumed the rank of sergeant, he probably knew how to read and write (noncommissioned officers in the Union army were expected to be able to read orders and file reports). After serving for three years, primarily in Arkansas and Kansas, he left the army in 1866, having reached the rank of first sergeant.

Gillam settled in ...

Article

Pamala S. Deane

actor, was born in Richmond, Virginia, the youngest of fourteen children of Peter Gilpin, a steel mill laborer, and Caroline (White) Gilpin, a trained nurse who worked at Richmond City Hospital. Gilpin attended St. Francis Catholic School for Colored Children, where, through the encouragement of his teachers, he performed in school theatricals. He left school at age twelve to apprentice himself in the print shop of the Richmond Planet newspaper, but left Richmond in 1896 to pursue a career on stage. While earning a living in a series of odd jobs, Gilpin appeared in minstrel shows, reviews, and vaudeville. He joined the Big Spectacular Log Cabin Company and, after this troupe went bust, he was picked up by the Perkus & Davis Great Southern Minstrel Barnstorming Aggregation. This company, too, went bankrupt and so Gilpin supported himself with jobs as a barber and trainer of prizefighters.

In 1903 ...

Article

Pamela C. Edwards

inventor and entrepreneur, blazed a path for black female inventors, yet little is known of her early life. Neither her parents' names nor her exact date or place of birth are known one biographer indicates that she was born in the 1850s and grew up in slavery. After the Civil War ended and former slaves in the South were emancipated, Goode, like thousands of African Americans, made her way north, taking up residence in Chicago by the early 1880s. In Chicago, she owned and operated a furniture store, and her entrepreneurial endeavors led to her become the first African American woman to receive a patent from the United States Patent Office. On 14 July 1885 Goode received her patent for a Folding Cabinet Bed comparable to modern sofa or hideaway beds The first of five black women to patent new inventions in the nineteenth century she was a ...

Article

Leyla Keough

Whether bought by Russians at the slave markets of Constantinople, or by the tsar himself in the Netherlands, scholars agree that Abram, who was born in Eritrea and asserted that he was the son of an Ethiopian prince, entered Russia in 1700 and began his service with the Royal Court in 1705. Within two years Abram, who later adopted the surname Hannibal, had won the favor of Tsar Peter I, known as Peter the Great, who became his godfather when he joined the Russian Orthodox Church. The newly baptized Abram Petrov served as the tsar's personal valet both in Russia and away from it during his military campaigns.

After nine years in service to the court, the tsar sent Hannibal to Paris for further education. In 1718 he joined the French army to gain access to the best military engineering program and during his service he was ...

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Lawana Holland-Moore

educator, organizer, and fund-raiser, was born Susie Catherine Miller in Goshen, Albemarle County, Virginia, to the Reverend and Mrs. R. L. Miller. Educated in the Virginia public schools, she completed her high school training and received her bachelor's degree in Sociology with honors at Virginia Theological Seminary in Lynchburg, Virginia. She later studied guidance and sociology at Atlanta University. Holley married the Reverend R. L. Holley, dean of languages at Virginia Theological Seminary; they would have two children.

The couple moved to Birmingham, Alabama, where the Reverend Holley was a pastor, then relocated to Live Oak, Florida, where he became dean of religion, then president, of Florida Baptist Institute in 1926 (later Florida Memorial College), a high school and junior college operated by the Baptist General Convention of Florida since 1879 Susie Holley taught sociology there and served as field director and promotional secretary ...

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Mary L. Young

educator, writer, and publisher, was born William Henry Harrison Tecumseh Zachary Taylor Holtzclaw in Roanoke, Alabama, the oldest of twelve children born to Jerry Holtzclaw, a farmer, and Addie Holtzclaw, a food preparer. Despite their poverty the Holtzclaw family had a strong craving for education. Although Holtzclaw's father had little education, he taught him the basic principles of reading, writing, and arithmetic. Knowledge of arithmetic enabled Holtzclaw to calculate his daily pay for picking cotton. Before he was old enough to attend school himself, Holtzclaw often followed his older sister to school, where he so impressed the teacher that he was invited to become a kind of honorary student. Much later, at his father's urging, Holtzclaw applied for admission to Tuskegee Institute and was accepted in 1889.

There he established a close relationship with Booker T. Washington the Institute s famed director and ...

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Verity J. Harding

gunsmith and engraver, was born in Raleigh, North Carolina, the eldest son of Allen Jones, a slave and a blacksmith, and Temperance Jones, a slave. He was one of eight children, a daughter and seven sons, born into a long line of slavery. His paternal grandfather, Charles Jones, was born in Africa around 1770 and brought to America to be sold into slavery some years later. Although born a slave, Gunsmith Jones was freed in 1829 when his father purchased liberty for his entire family Allen Jones was a skilled blacksmith who labored intensely for himself and his family while simultaneously performing his slave duties to earn the vast sum of money necessary to buy his family s freedom After saving the extraordinary amount of $2 000 he was cheated out of the money by his master and left with nothing With admirable determination he ...

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Rayvon David Fouché

engineer and inventor, was born in Chelsea, Massachusetts, the son of George W. Latimer, a barber, and Rebecca Smith, both former slaves who escaped from Norfolk, Virginia, on 4 October 1842. When not attending Phillips Grammar School in Boston, Latimer spent much of his youth working in his father's barbershop, as a paperhanger, and selling the abolitionist newspaper the Liberator. Latimer's life changed drastically when his father mysteriously disappeared in 1858. His family, placed in dire financial straits, bound out Latimer and his brothers George and William as apprentices through the Farm School a state institution in which children worked as unpaid laborers Upon escaping from the exploitation of the Farm School system Latimer and his brothers returned to Boston to reunite the family During the next few years Latimer was able to help support his family through various odd jobs and by ...