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Susan Love Brown

journalist, educator, politician, and statesman. Mervyn Malcolm Dymally, born in Cedros, Trinidad, achieved many “firsts” in American politics. His mother, Andreid Richardson, of Trinidadian descent, and his father, Hamid Dymally, of South Asian descent, educated him through high school, at Naparima College in San Fernando, Trinidad, after which he worked as a reporter for the Oilfields Workers Trade Union newspaper, The Vanguard, in Trinidad. This spurred his interest in a journalistic career, which took him to Lincoln University in Missouri at the age of nineteen. Eventually, he moved to Los Angeles State College of Applied Arts and Sciences, where he majored in education, receiving his bachelor's degree in 1954. From then on he combined education, politics, and involvement in international issues as the interests that guided his career.

While working as a science special education teacher in the Los Angeles Unified School District ...


V. P. Franklin

She was born to Benjamin Oliver Bird and Portia E. (Lovett) Bird in Princess Anne, Maryland, but was raised in Boston by her maternal aunt, Lucy Groves. There she attended public schools and was considered an outstanding student. Later in life Fauset maintained that her social and political conscience was shaped by her experiences as a child in Boston. She went on to Teachers College, Columbia University, where she earned a BS degree in 1931.

Upon graduation Crystal Bird worked as a social worker and administrator of Negro affairs for the Young Women’s Christian Association in New York City and Philadelphia. In 1931 she married the author and educator Arthur Huff Fauset. The couple separated soon after their marriage, and he divorced her in 1944. In 1933 she was named executive secretary for the Institute of Race Relations at Swarthmore College While serving in ...


Julie Gallagher

civil rights lawyer and federal judge. Constance Baker Motley was an integral member of the Legal Defense and Educational Fund (LDF) of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) through the 1950s and the early 1960s, arguing some of the era's most important cases before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Motley was born in New Haven, Connecticut, to Willoughby Alva Baker and Rachel Keziah Huggins Baker, immigrants from the Caribbean Island of Nevis. Motley's father remained a loyal Republican throughout his life, but her mother supported Franklin D. Roosevelt and the New Deal. The ninth of twelve children, Motley grew up in a strict household where education and religion were strongly emphasized. During high school she decided that she wanted to be a lawyer. Sara Lee Fleming founder of the Women s Civic League a group of influential black New Haven women encouraged young Constance ...


Monique M. Chism

As a leading figure of the era, Motley was on the ground floor of the civil rights revolution. Not only did she help to ensure the legal incorporation of African Americans, but she also was instrumental in laying the foundation for the women’s movement and the continued protection of civil liberties for other marginalized groups. As a pioneer in her profession, Motley repeatedly broke gender and racial barriers. She was the first black woman attorney to argue before the United States Supreme Court, first black woman to serve in the New York State Senate, first woman elected as president of the Manhattan Borough, and first African American woman on the federal bench.

Motley was born in New Haven, Connecticut. Her West Indian parents, Willoughby Alva and Rachel Huggins Baker migrated to the United States from the Caribbean island of Nevis Constance was the ninth child in a family ...


Edward L. Lach

Stokes, Carl (21 June 1927–04 April 1996), mayor, was born Carl Burton Stokes in Cleveland, Ohio, the son of Charles Stokes, a laundry worker, and Louise Stone Stokes, a domestic. Stokes's father died when he was a toddler, and he grew up in poverty as his mother struggled to provide for him and his older brother Louis. He attended local public schools before dropping out of East Technical High School in 1944. After a year spent as a street hustler, Stokes joined the U.S. Army, serving in post-World War II occupied Germany and rising to the rank of corporal. Following his 1946 discharge, he returned to Cleveland and finished his high school education in 1947. He was briefly enrolled at West Virginia State College (now University) before he went back home to attend Western Reserve University (now Case Western Reserve).

Still unsure of his future Stokes dropped ...


C. Ellen Connally

lawyer, mayor, broadcaster, judge, and ambassador. Carl Burton Stokes is best remembered as the first African American mayor of a major American city. He was born in Cleveland, Ohio, and was two years old when his father, Charles, died. Stokes and his older brother Louis were raised by their mother Louise Stone Stokes, who struggled to support her children by working as a domestic. During the depth of the Depression—when Stokes was growing up—the family suffered many hardships and lived in substandard tenement housing until they were able to move into the first federally funded housing projects for the poor in the city of Cleveland in 1938.

In 1944 at age eighteen Stokes dropped out of high school and worked for a short time before joining the U S Army A journey south to Fort McClellan Alabama for basic training and ...


Scott Sheidlower

politician, activist, and entrepreneur. Percy Ellis Sutton was born near Prairie View in eastern Texas. He was youngest of fifteen children born to Samuel J. and Lillian Sutton. Samuel, a freed slave, was a Texas educator and businessman. After briefly running away to Harlem in 1932, Sutton returned and continued his education, attending Prairie View College, Virginia's Hampton Institute, and Alabama's Tuskegee Institute. He also learned how to fly, earning money by performing stunts at county fairs.

After World War II began Sutton attempted to enlist in the Army Air Corps in Texas but was turned down because of Jim Crow laws. Sutton enlisted in New York City but was unable to become a pilot because of illness. Instead he became a combat intelligence officer with the Tuskegee Airmen. Discharged in 1945 Sutton returned to New York where he attended Brooklyn Law School ...


Percy Ellis Sutton was born in San Antonio, Texas. In the 1950s, after completing his education under the G.I. Bill, he opened a law firm in Harlem that specialized in civil rights cases. Sutton's political career began when he was elected to the New York State Assembly in 1964. He became president of the Manhattan Borough in 1966, a position he held through 1977. After an unsuccessful mayoral bid he retired from public office, but continued to be a prominent adviser to New York politicians, including United States Representative Charles Rangel and Mayor David Dinkins.

In 1971 Sutton began purchasing black-owned media businesses, becoming the owner and chairman of the Inner-City Broadcasting Company in 1977. Through this corporation he purchased and restored the Apollo Theater, a Harlem landmark. Sutton was awarded the Spingarn Medal for his work by the National Association for the ...


Joseph Wilson and David Addams

career Democratic legislator who made history as the first African American mayor of Chicago, Illinois. Born and raised in Chicago, Harold L. Washington was a decorated World War II veteran and graduated from Northwestern University School of Law in 1952. He practiced law as a city prosecutor and state arbitrator until being elected to the state legislature in 1965. As a state legislator, he helped lead the 1973 campaign to have the state of Illinois become the first in the United States to recognize the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday as a holiday. In 1980, he was elected to Congress, after running for mayor unsuccessfully in 1977. In Congress, Washington used his influence to ensure the reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act in 1982.

In 1983, black community activists solicited Washington to run for mayor against the incumbent Democrat, Jane Byrne ...


Aaron Myers

Harold Washington was born in Chicago, Illinois, to Bertha and Roy Lee Washington, who separated when he was young, and he was raised by his father. After dropping out of high school during his junior year, Washington earned a high school equivalency degree in the Army, after he was drafted during World War II. He graduated from Roosevelt University in 1949 with a degree in political science followed by a degree in law from Northwestern University in 1952.

Washington began his political career when he succeeded his deceased father in 1953 as a Democratic Party precinct captain. After positions as a city attorney (1954–1958) and a state labor arbitrator (1960–1964), he served in the Illinois House of Representatives (1965–1976). He then advanced to seats in the Illinois State Senate (1976–1980 and the United States House of Representatives ...