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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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Adam Jones

traveler and writer from what is now southern Ghana, was born c. 1827 in or near the Asante capital of Kumasi. In contemporary documents, his name often appears as Aquassie Boachi. His father Kwaku Dua (c.1797–1867) was Asantehene (King of Asante) from 1834 to 1867. According to the “History of Ashanti,” prepared in the mid-twentieth century under the chairmanship of Asantehene Prempeh II (1892–1970), Kwasi Boakye belonged to the village of Atomfuo, 8 miles (13 km) east of Kumasi. This suggests that on his mother’s side he came from the lineage of royal blacksmiths, which may explain why, in 1837 in accordance with his father s wishes he and a close relative of the same age Kwame Poku were chosen to accompany a Dutch embassy under Major General Jan Verveer on its return to Elmina on the coast They were subsequently brought to ...

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Miriam Sawyer

aviator, nurse, and nursing home proprietor, was born Janet Harmon in Griffin, Georgia, the daughter of Cordia Batts and Samuel Harmon, a brick contractor. The Batts family had long been established in Griffin. Janet's maternal grandfather was a freed slave of Spanish descent, and her maternal grandmother was a Cherokee. Janet's grandfather had built the house in which she and her siblings were born; her mother had been born in the same house. The youngest of seven children, Janet had a happy childhood, enjoying sports and games and excelling at school. In an interview conducted at the University of Arizona as part of a project called “African Americans in Aviation in Arizona,” Bragg reminisced: “We were a very happy family. We were not a rich family, only rich in love.”

Independence was encouraged in the Harmon household The children were allowed to attend any church they chose They were ...

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Betty Kaplan Gubert

pilot and aviation educator, was born Willa Beatrice Brown in Glasgow, Kentucky, the only daughter of Hallie Mae Carpenter and Eric B. Brown, a farm owner. After 1910 the family, as part of the migration of African Americans from the rural South to northern cities, moved to Terre Haute, Indiana, hoping for greater opportunities in employment and education. There her father worked in a creosote factory. He was also pastor of the Holy Triumphant Church in 1920 and of the Free Church of God in 1929.

At Wiley High School, Brown was one of only seven black students in the hundred-member chorus. During her high school years she also did part-time domestic work. Brown graduated in 1923 and entered Indiana State Normal School a teacher training school that later became part of Indiana University She majored in business minored in French and joined the Alpha Kappa Alpha ...

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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 ...

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Richard A. Bradshaw and Juan Fandos-Rius

construction engineer in the Central African Republic (CAR), was born 17 December 1931 in Boali, a town north of Bangui known for its waterfalls and hydoelectric plants, in what is now the CAR’s Ombella Mpoko prefecture. His mother was a Banda from central Ubangi-Shari, and his father was a Gbanu, an ethnic group classified with the Gbaya-speaking peoples who constitute about one-half of the population of the CAR. Béfio is a common Gbaya name, but Béfio’s father died when he was very young and so he was raised for the most part by Banda members of his family.

After attending primary school in Boali from 1939 to 1943 and in Bangui from 1943 to 1946 and secondary school in Bangui in 1946, Dallot-Béfio became the first Central African student granted a scholarship to study in France, where he attended the Lycée de garçons in Nice from 1947 to 1952 ...

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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

Marilyn L. Geary

television journalist, was born Belvagene Davis in Monroe, Louisiana, to Florence Howard Mays and John Melton, a lumber worker. She grew up in Berkeley and Oakland, California, with her mother's family. As a child, Belva lived in housing projects, all eleven family members cramped into two small rooms. In 1951 she graduated from Berkeley High School in Berkeley, California. Although her grades were exceptional and she was accepted into San Francisco State University, she could not afford the tuition. Instead she began work in a clerical position with Oakland's Naval Supply Center.

In 1950 she married her boyfriend and next-door neighbor, Frank Davis Jr. and they moved to Washington, D.C., where Frank was stationed in the air force. Belva Davis took a job with the Office of Wage Stabilization. The couple's first child, Steven, was born in 1953 Frank s next station was Hawaii but after two ...

Article

LaVerne Gyant

actress, activist, and elocutionist, was born in Baltimore, Maryland, to Mansfield Vinton Davis, a musician, and Mary Ann (Johnson) Davis. Davis's talents as an actress and elocutionist were apparently inherited from her father, while her inclination toward activism came from her stepfather, George A. Hackett, who was a recognized leader within the African American community in Baltimore. Both Mansfield Davis and George Hackett died while she was still young After her stepfather s death Davis and her mother moved to Washington D C where she had the advantage of attending the best schools and with her fondness for books made rapid progress in her studies At the age of fifteen she passed the necessary exams to become a teacher and began teaching in the Maryland school district During this time she was recruited by the Louisiana State Board of Education who tendered her ...

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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

JoAnna Wool

dancer and vaudevillian was born in Covington, Kentucky, in 1872. According to her husband, Charles E. Johnson, Dean was born Dora Babbige, and her brother, Clarence Babbige, served as a judge in Kentucky during the Reconstruction period. By the mid-1880s her family moved to Indiana, and Dean found employment as a nursemaid in nearby Ohio.

Dean entered show business as a “statue girl” in The Creole Show, a popular touring production staged by Sam T. Jack. Dean possessed a striking figure, a pleasing smile, and a quality of warmth and personal charm that she was able to project from the stage; billed as “The Black Venus,” she struck dramatic poses during musical numbers and made a hit with the audience. Paired with talented soft-shoe dancer Charles E. Johnson Dean also became known for her performance of the cakewalk a dance developed by blacks ...

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Kahiudi C. Mabana

Congolese writer and chemist, was born on 14 July 1941 to a Congolese father and a central African mother. He was nineteen when Congo-Brazzaville achieved independence, which allowed him to refine his views on history and the surrounding world.

After secondary school in the Congo, Dongala embarked for the United States, where he obtained a BA in chemistry at Oberlin College and an MA at Rutgers University. He completed a doctorate in organic chemistry in France. Returning to his country, he worked as a chemistry professor at the Université Marien Ngouabi in Brazzaville, where he passed a large part of his life. But he spent most of his time on literature and theater. For years he ran the Théâtre de l’Éclair in Brazzaville, until the political troubles that arose in the Congo forced him into exile in 1998 First he went to France where to the surprise of all involved ...

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Ralph Sr. Reckley

Ralph Ellison is recognized nationally and internationally as one of America's most prominent literary personalities. Best known as a novelist, he was also a scholar who taught at many of America's most prestigious colleges and universities and a literary and social critic who prodded America to recognize the humanity of its minorities. And like Nick Aaron Ford, Alain Locke, Hugh M. Gloster, and other Black scholar-critics before him, he was not afraid to chide Black literary artists for not living up to their creative potential. An Uncle Tom to some, a literary father figure to others, Ralph Ellison has secured his niche in the canon of African American and American letters.

Named after another literary giant, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Ralph Waldo Ellison was born in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, on 1 March 1914. His father, Lewis Alfred Ellison originally from Abbeyville South Carolina was a ...

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Stephanie Y. Evans

advertising executive, magazine publisher, and radio network founder, was born in Louisville Kentucky, to W. Leonard Evans Sr., an executive with the Urban League, and Beatrice, an executive with an insurance company. Shortly after his birth, his family moved to suburban Chicago, where he was raised. Evans attended the Chicago public schools, after which he graduated from Wilberforce Academy in Ohio in 1931. It was a family tradition to go to college at Fisk in Nashville, which he did for several years, studying sociology and learning to do research. He then transferred to the University of Illinois, where he received a degree in business in 1935. He also studied law at Chicago's Kent College of Law.

In 1943 Evans married Maudelle and the couple would go on to have two sons Evans became interested in researching the black consumer and after working for such ...

Article

Denise Burrell-Stinson

writer and professor, was born Percival Leonard Everett II, the elder of the two children of Percival Leonard Everett, a dentist, and Dorothy (Stinson) Everett, who assisted her husband in his practice for thirty years. The younger Percival was born on a U.S. Army base in Fort Gordon, Georgia, while his father was assigned a post as a sergeant and communications specialist. Shortly after his birth, the family moved to Columbia, South Carolina, where he spent his childhood, eventually graduating from A. C. Flora High School in 1974.

The climate of Everett s youth was stimulating nurturing a strong intellect The senior Everett was part of a long family legacy in the field of medicine his own father and two brothers were all doctors and he was also a voracious reader filling the family home with books The younger Everett inherited his father s literary ...

Article

Rhonda D. Jones

civil rights activist, philanthropist, and expert in child education, was born in Cleveland, Ohio, to Dan and Robert Fairfax and Inez Wood Fairfax.

Fairfax inherited a strong belief in the importance of education from her parents, who both earned their college degrees at the turn of the century. She received her bachelor's degree from the University of Michigan in 1941, and completed her master's degree in Comparative Religion at Union Theological Seminary and Columbia University in 1944. Fairfax later attended Harvard University as a Radcliffe visiting scholar, from 1984 to 1986.

Her professional career in education began as dean of women at Kentucky State College from 1942 to 1944, and at Tuskegee Institute from 1944 to 1946 In addition to education her parents who were members of the Congregational Church instilled in her a strong set of core values that interwove faith ...

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Frank Martin

artist, writer, illustrator and educator, was born Elton Clay Fax, the son of Mark Oakland and Willie Estele Fax in Baltimore, Maryland. Fax initially matriculated at the historically black institution Claflin University, in Orangeburg, South Carolina, but completed his studies and received a BFA at Syracuse University in Syracuse, New York, in 1931. On 12 March 1929, Fax married the former Grace Elizabeth Turner, and their union produced three children.

In 1934 Fax painted a well-received mural, commissioned by the Public Works of Art Projects (PWAP) at Baltimore's Dunbar High School, depicting the incorporation of southern, black agrarians into the urban, industrial north. Fax's representation of the Great Migration and a pluralistic American workforce was an ideal example of the American Social-Realist art that was supported by Franklin Delano Roosevelt's New Deal projects Social Realism was a popular style in the 1930s ...

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James N. Leiker

soldier, engineer, and author. Although Flipper is best remembered as the first African American graduate of West Point, he later had an important career as an authority on the border between the United States and Mexico. Born into slavery in Thomasville, Georgia, Henry was the son of Festus and Isabella Flipper. His father, a slave and local shoemaker, and his mother, the slave of a Methodist minister, believed in the importance of formal education, and this was a value they passed on to their sons during the heady optimism of Reconstruction. While attending Atlanta University, Flipper attracted the attention of a local congressman, who appointed him to attend the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. The social atmosphere at West Point proved difficult and demanding for its handful of young black cadets, but Flipper persevered and graduated in 1877 A prolific writer he chronicled this ...

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John Hanson Mitchell

photographer and naturalist, was born in Natural Bridge, Virginia. His parents' names and occupations are unknown. In 1881, after attending primary schools in Lexington, Virginia, Gilbert was taken by his family to Lynchburg, Virginia, to complete his education. In 1886 he followed his brother William north to Boston, where he found employment as a porter on the Portland Boston steamship line. He would work various odd jobs until 1896, when psychologist James Chadbourne hired him to help with laboratory rats. Gilbert, as he was generally known in the Boston white community, also took a temporary job setting up a bird museum in Cambridge, Massachusetts, with the renowned nineteenth-century ornithologist William Brewster. Brewster subsequently hired Gilbert as a full-time manservant, field assistant, factotum, and, as some of the early private journal records state, “friend,” to the well-respected Brewster.

Under Brewster s tutelage Gilbert learned how to develop ...

Article

Eric Gardner

activist and educator, was born in Baltimore, Maryland. Nothing is known of his parentage or youth. He was probably the James Gilliard listed in the 1860 Federal Census of Stockton, California; if this is the case, he was a barber, his wife was named Charlotte (c. 1835– ?), and had a step-daughter, Mary E. Jones (c. 1848– ?). In the late 1860s Gilliard worked as a teacher and sometime-minister in the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church and spent time in both Los Angeles and San Francisco. He wrote several short pieces for the San Francisco Elevator—sometimes under his full name and sometimes using simply “J. E. M.”—and was noted by the editor Philip Bell as one of the weekly's best contributors (along with Thomas Detter and Jennie Carter). Gilliard was even occasionally noted as the paper's “associate editor.”

Gilliard lectured throughout California in 1870 ...