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Crystal Renée Sanders

civil rights activist, was born in Palmers Crossing, an all-black community in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, to Mack and Annie Mae Jackson. After the death of Adams's mother when she was three years old, she lived with her grandparents. Adams earned her high school diploma from Depriest Consolidated School in 1945 and subsequently enrolled at Wilberforce University, but was forced leave school after one year because she lacked the money for tuition. She later studied at the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama and at Jackson State College (now Jackson State University) in Mississippi and eventually became a teacher. Adams also served as a campus minister at Virginia State University in Petersburg, Virginia. Her first marriage was to Tony West Gray and they had three children—Georgie, Tony Jr., and Cecil Gray was in the U S Army and his military career took the family to Germany and Fort ...

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Antero Pietila

political activist, born in Baltimore, Maryland, was the daughter of Joseph C. Quille, a chauffeur, and Estelle Tate Quille, a beautician. She grew up at 2426 McCulloh Street, a cramped row house just thirteen feet wide in Baltimore's Sugar Hill neighborhood.

The Quilles had moved to Sugar Hill, southwest of Druid Hill Park, in the mid-1920s, continuing a racial transformation begun in 1910. That year the future NAACP attorney William Ashbie Hawkins scorned the generally accepted line of racial demarcation by buying 1834 McCulloh Street on a largely Jewish block near Eutaw Place, a prestigious address. This “Negro Invasion,” as the Baltimore Sun called it, prompted the all-white City Council legally to prohibit blacks from moving to majority-white blocks. This was the nation's first residential segregation law, and some thirty other cities copied it, mostly in the states of the former Confederacy.

The Quilles lived among teachers postal ...

Article

Alonford James Robinson

Built by African Americans in 1806 on Joy Street in Boston, Massachusetts, the African Meeting House (AMH) served as the focal point for the political, social, religious, and educational activities of the black community throughout New England. The AMH also served as a place for speeches by such leading abolitionists as Frederick Douglass, William Lloyd Garrison, and Maria Miller Stewart. Over the years, the AMH has had several names, including the First African Baptist Church, the Abolition Church, and the Black Faneuil Hall.

Using funds raised by the Free African Society, a black organization dedicated to improving the lives of African Americans, the African Meeting House was erected as a place of worship for blacks who were denied admission in Boston's white Baptist congregations. The building also contained an apartment for the minister and a classroom for black children.

By the late 1820s the church ...

Article

In 1786, Richard Allen, an African American Methodist, began serving as a lay preacher at St. George's Methodist Episcopal Church, a Philadelphia congregation where both whites and blacks worshiped. Allen was a former slave from Delaware who had joined the Evangelical Wesleyan movement because of its work against slavery and he eventually became a licensed Methodist preacher. The efforts of Allen—along with those of Absalom Jones, another African American lay preacher—brought a large influx of blacks to the church, and a balcony was constructed to accommodate the growing congregation. In November 1787 (some sources indicate a date of 1792 Allen Jones and other black worshipers were directed toward the newly built seating gallery but unknowingly sat in the lower section During a prayer a white trustee told Jones to move immediately to the balcony When Jones asked to finish the prayer he was refused Jones Allen ...

Article

Since Methodism first emerged in colonial America, it has consistently attracted African American adherents. According to religious scholar Alfred J. Raboteau, “the direct appeal, dramatic preaching, and plain doctrine of the Methodists, their conscious identification with the ‘simpler sort,’ and especially their antislavery beliefs” drew blacks to the church. Indeed, African Americans had been members of New York City's John Street Methodist Church since its founding in 1768. By 1793 black membership increased to 40 percent of John Street's congregation.

Still, African Americans within the John Street Church—and within American Methodism in general—were treated as second-class citizens. They were denied ordination, forced to sit in segregated pews, and limited in their access to the Methodist itinerant clergy and the Communion table. Frustrated by such treatment, two black John Street members, Peter Williams, and William Miller, founded the African Chapel in 1796 The chapel was later ...

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Kerima M. Lewis

When Methodism arrived in New York State in 1766, it welcomed blacks into its Christian fellowship. As the Methodist Church expanded it became increasingly discriminatory toward African Americans. After years of ill treatment, in 1796 the 155 black members of the John Street Methodist Episcopal Church in New York City formed a separate church. Although incorporated in 1821 under the name African Methodist Episcopal Church in America, the church was never affiliated with the denomination of the same name organized in 1816 by Richard Allen in Philadelphia. Zion was the name of the New York denomination's first chapel, built in 1801. The AME Zion Church adhered to the doctrines of the Methodist Episcopal Church and adopted an episcopal form of government.

The AME Zion denomination grew as churches were added in Connecticut, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. Their affiliation with the Methodist Episcopal Church ended when James Varick ...

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Douglas R. Egerton and Judith Mulcahy

[This entry contains two subentries dealing with the American Colonization Society from its establishment in1817 through 1895. The first article discusses reactions and controversy related to the society until1830, while the second article includes discussion of debates within the free black community and attacks on ...

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L. Diane Barnes

Founded in December 1816, the American Colonization Society (ACS) was the first national organization to take on the problem of slavery in the United States. The ACS proposed an expatriation scheme to rid the nation of slavery and of free African Americans. The prominent founders Charles Fenton Mercer, Henry Clay, Daniel Webster, and others secured federal funding and in 1822 founded the colony of Liberia on Africa's west coast as the destination for America's blacks.

Even before the founding of the ACS, the colonization of African Americans was an issue that divided both whites and blacks. Some African Americans supported colonization, arguing that free blacks would never be fully included in the white-dominated society of the United States. Others argued just as forcibly that blacks were entitled to full rights as American citizens and should remain to fight on behalf of their race.

The ACS drew ...

Article

Jane Brodsky Fitzpatrick

first African American member of the Oklahoma City Council, family physician, and civic leader, was born in Trinidad, West Indies, to Gertrude St. John, a domestic worker, and John Atkins. He had one younger sister. Charles Atkins immigrated to the United States, arriving at Ellis Island in March 1929. He was required to attend Dewitt Clinton High School in the Bronx, New York City, because the United States did not accept his education credentials from Trinidad. One of the first black students at DeWitt, he graduated in 1933. Aided by the Urban League, he worked as a summer counselor to earn money for college. Although he took some classes at City College of New York, he moved to North Carolina to attend St. Augustine's, an Episcopalian historically black college in Raleigh. He graduated in 1941 with a bachelor's degree in Chemistry. On 27 March 1943Atkins ...

Article

Ron Howell

first African American elected to political office in Brooklyn, New York, and a leader in the mid-twentieth century effort to integrate American tennis, was born on the Caribbean island of Nevis, then part of the British West Indies. His mother was Lillian de Grasse Baker, whose family had successful retail businesses on the island; his father was the Reverend Alfred B. Baker, a Wesleyan Methodist minister.

Tragedy struck in 1900 when Lillian Baker died of consumption. Bertram, an only child, would find comfort in the care of his maternal grandmother, Eliza de Grasse. In 1905 Baker's father left Nevis, accepting an offer to become founding pastor of the Ebenezer Wesleyan Methodist Church in Brooklyn. The Reverend Baker would later also found the Beulah Wesleyan Methodist Church in Manhattan.

In 1915 the Reverend Baker returned to Nevis to pick up his seventeen year old son Bertram who ...

Article

Caryn E. Neumann

four-time mayor of Washington, D.C., was born on a cotton plantation near the Delta hamlet of Itta Bena in northwestern Mississippi to sharecroppers Marion Barry Sr. and Mattie Barry. In 1940 Barry Sr. died, and in 1944 Barry, his mother, and his sister moved to Memphis, Tennessee, where Mattie worked as a maid and married Dave Cummings a butcher The combined family which eventually included nine members lived in a narrow wooden shotgun house in South Memphis one of four black enclaves in the city Barry slept on the couch and rose early each morning to chop wood for the stove He stuffed cardboard in his shoes to fill the holes and sold his sandwiches to other kids at school for pocket money A bright industrious child he eventually became one of the first African American Eagle Scouts in Memphis In the summer he traveled with his mother ...

Article

John R. Howard

scholar and civil rights advocate, was born in Nashville, Tennessee, to George Berry, a laborer, and Frances Southall, a beautician. She was the middle child between two brothers. After attending public schools in Nashville, she entered Howard University where she received her bachelor of arts degree in 1961 and her master of arts degree in 1962. During the 1962–1963 academic year she was a teaching fellow at Howard University, after which she moved to Ann Arbor, Michigan, to pursue a doctorate in history at the University of Michigan. She served as a teaching assistant during the 1965–1966 academic year and, after completing work on her PhD in 1966, was appointed assistant professor in the Department of History. In 1968 she was promoted to associate professor. Simultaneously she pursued the study of law and in 1970 received her JD degree from the University of Michigan Law ...

Article

Charles F. Casey-Leninger

first black mayor of Cincinnati, Ohio, was born in Maysville, Kentucky, to a white farmer whom he never knew and Cora Berry. When he was a toddler, Berry's mother brought him to Cincinnati, where they settled in the emerging African American community in the city's West End. Severely hearing impaired and with difficulty speaking, his mother earned little as a domestic, and Berry's sister Anna, fifteen years his senior, eventually assembled the family in her own household.

Berry attended the segregated Harriet Beecher Stowe Elementary School and graduated from the racially mixed Woodward High School in 1924 as valedictorian, the first black student in Cincinnati to achieve that honor in an integrated high school. Berry received his bachelor of arts degree from the University of Cincinnati in 1928 and his juris doctorate from the UC College of Law in 1931 He worked his way through school by selling ...

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

Jeffrey O. Ogbar and Jeffrey O. G.

Black nationalism is the belief system that endorses the creation of a black nation state It also supports the establishment of black controlled institutions to meet the political social educational economic and spiritual needs of black people independent of nonblacks Celebration of African ancestry and territorial separatism are essential components of black nationalism Though not fully developed into a cogent system of beliefs the impulse of black nationalism finds its earliest expression in the resistance of enslaved Africans to the Atlantic slave trade from the sixteenth century Various groups of Africans who felt no particular organic connection as black people were forced into a new racialized identity in a brutal and dehumanizing process of enslavement The transportation and forced amalgamation of hundreds of different African nationalities resulted in Creolized communities in the Americas enslaved Africans revolted and established new societies which functioned autonomously on the outskirts of colonial towns and ...

Article

William L. Van Deburg

An important ideology in African American history black nationalism is grounded in the belief that efforts to operate within a political system deemed racist and unresponsive to black needs are doomed to failure Adapting traditional nationalist tenets to their own situation as members of a racially defined minority population most African American nationalists have equated racial with national identities and goals Joined by ties of history kinship and culture they have viewed themselves as wholly differentiated from competing social and ethnic groups These common racial ties have been manifested in political movements arguing for the creation of an autonomous nation state or a transnational union of states in the creation of race based economic educational and religious entities and in the promotion of distinctive cultural productions Seeking to turn alleged racial deficits skin color cultural traits into wellsprings of strength black nationalists have worked to enhance in group values while ...

Article

Barbara C. Behan

For three centuries, Americans of African descent have at times sought to establish communities where they could live in partial or complete isolation from the dominant culture. Settlements of formerly enslaved African Americans existed on the East Coast after the Revolutionary War. All-black settlements also developed among the Seminole Nation in Florida as early as the eighteenth century. As the nation industrialized, segregated company towns also were built in various locations.

The phrase “all-black towns” usually refers to the period of self-segregation and town-building that began after Reconstruction and continued into the early twentieth century. Historians estimate that at least seventy-five to one hundred all-black towns were founded during this time, mainly in the South and the West.

Article

Lisa Clayton Robinson

For nearly 200 years clubs, mutual aid societies, sororities, and organizations established by African American women have played active and positive roles in communities across the United States and throughout the diaspora. In 1818 members of the Colored Female Religious and Moral Society of Salem, Massachusetts, declared that they had formed their organization to “be charitably watchful over each other.” This phrase captures the spirit of cooperative work that has characterized most of these organizations, which often made available needed social services to black women, children, and families. At the same time, members of these organizations have frequently been middle- and upper-middle-class women seeking to provide role models and opportunities for less fortunate sisters—in the words of one well-known slogan, “Lifting As We Climb.”

The Salem society was one of many small local associations that existed during the nineteenth century Most of the earliest ones were located in free black ...

Article

Paul T. Murray

civil rights activist, was born in Cleveland, Mississippi, the son of Sam Block, a cotton compress laborer, and Alma Shacklefoot Block, a domestic worker. After graduating from high school, Block enlisted in the Air Force but was discharged for medical reasons. He attended Marlboro College in Vermont for two years, then returned to Mississippi and enrolled at Mississippi Vocational College (later Mississippi Valley State University). When he was expelled for civil rights activities, the veteran National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) activist Amzie Moore encouraged Block to set up citizenship education classes around Cleveland. Robert Moses, leader of Mississippi voter registration efforts, then recruited Block to work for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC).

On 17 June 1962 Block arrived alone in Greenwood, a stronghold of the segregationist White Citizens' Council. In an interview with Joe Sinsheimer in Southern Exposure Block described his ...

Article

Christopher Phelps

autoworker, Black Power militant, and community activist, was born in Marion Junction, Alabama, a small town near Selma in the highly segregated Dallas County. James was the youngest of four children born to Ernest Boggs, a blacksmith and iron ore worker who died when James was eight, and Leila Boggs, a domestic worker and cook. He attended elementary school in Marion Junction and throughout his life proudly retained his “Alabamese” diction. After graduating in 1937 from Dunbar High School in Bessemer, near Birmingham, he hopped a freight train to Detroit, pursuing his brothers William and Jesse, and hoping to find a job like his uncle's at Budd Wheel. When no work materialized, Boggs rode the rails to the Pacific Northwest before returning South in 1938 to marry his childhood sweetheart Annie McKinley with whom he fathered seven children That year he returned permanently to Detroit securing ...