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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 ...


Linda M. Carter

state legislator, attorney, police officer, and social worker, was born Cora Mae Brown in Bessemer, Alabama, the only child of Richard and Alice Brown. Her father and mother were employed as a tailor and cook respectively. In 1922 the family moved to Detroit when Brown was seven years old. After graduating from Cass Technical High School in 1931, Brown attended Fisk University and received a degree in sociology in 1935.

Brown returned to Detroit, and until 1941, she was employed as a social worker. After working for the Children's Aid Bureau, Old Age Assistance Bureau, and the Works Progress Administration, Brown, as a policewoman in the Women's Division of the Detroit Police Department from 1941 to 1946, prepared legal cases. In 1946 Brown enrolled in Wayne State University's School of Law; she received her LL.B degree in 1948 and passed ...


Caryn E. Neumann

the first African American woman elected to the Florida legislature, grew up (and was likely born) in Miami. Cherry earned her bachelor's degree from the predominantly black Florida A & M University (FAMU) in 1946. She belonged to Sigma Gamma Rho, a black Greek-letter organization, and later served as legal counsel to the sorority from 1970 until 1970. Cherry obtained a master's degree from New York University in 1950. In the era of segregation, talented African Americans often left the South to obtain advanced degrees. Unlike many of them, Sawyer returned home to teach school, marry, and have children, before deciding to return to academic life. She earned a law degree cum laude in 1965 from FAMU, after serving as secretary of the Student Bar Association. She was the first black woman to practice law in Dade County, Florida.

A Democrat Cherry was elected to the Florida ...


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 ...


Theresa C. Lynch

activist and Democratic state legislator from Buffalo, New York, was born in Harlem to Arthur B. Eve (a maintenance worker) and Beatrice Clark Eve (a theater cashier). His parents divorced when he was five or six years old and he moved to Miami, Florida, where he was raised by his mother and grandmother in a housing project. Eve excelled in sports; he ran track and played basketball for the all-black, segregated Dorsey High School. After earning his diploma in 1951, he attended West Virginia State College for three semesters, where he played basketball and studied physical education.

In 1953 Eve headed to Buffalo with two suitcases and $9 45 in his pocket He planned to earn money perhaps working in a steel mill and then return to college in the fall But the Korean War interrupted his plans and in May he was drafted into the United States ...


Andre D. Vann

lawyer, educator, and first black chief justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court, was born in Ellerbe, North Carolina, the eighth of the twelve children of Walter Frye and Pearl Motley, farmers. In the late 1920s his father sought to ensure financial security for his family by purchasing a forty-six-acre tobacco and cotton farm with the assistance of a loan from a local bank, which made him one of only a handful of blacks who owned land in Ellerbe. Later his father purchased a small sawmill from white owners. Frye attended the segregated Mineral Springs School in Ellerbe and graduated as valedictorian in 1949. In June 1953 he earned a BS in biology with highest honors from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical College later North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University He was commissioned a second lieutenant in the U S Air Force and served ...


E. Renée Ingram

physician and surgeon who specialized in pulmonary medicine, was born in Lexington, Davidson County, North Carolina. He was the son of Henry M. and Laura Hargrave, farmers, and one of fourteen children; he attended local public schools in Lexington before attending the state normal school in Salisbury, North Carolina. Hargrave received a BS from Shaw University in 1901 and an MD from Leonard Medical School. Founded in 1885, Leonard Medical School was one of the first medical schools in the United States to have a four-year curriculum. It also was the first four-year medical school to train African American doctors and pharmacists in the South. Hargrave practiced medicine in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, from 1901 to 1903 before relocating his private medical practice to Wilson, North Carolina, where he practiced from 1903 to 1924 and established the Wilson Hospital and Tubercular Home. Hargrave married Bessie E Parker ...


Stephen L. Harris

civil rights and community activist, business leader, state legislator, and Tuskegee Airman, was born in New York state to Henry Johnson, a World War I hero and recipient of the American Distinguished Service Cross. His maternal grandfather, Herman Phoenix, was in the early 1900s a leader in organizing the Niagara, New York, branch of the NAACP. Johnson himself was thirteen when he joined the NAACP. Although he lived and worked in several cities, he was most connected with Kansas City, Missouri. He earned a bachelor's degree in economics from Cornell University in 1938 and a master's degree in business administration from the University of Chicago in 1940.

Soon after earning his master s degree Johnson was a statistician for the War Production Board During World War II he enlisted and fought with the 332nd Fighter Group known as the Tuskegee Airmen Attaining the ...


M. Lois Lucas

educator and state legislator, was born in Glen Ferris, West Virginia, the only child of Solomon and Luvenia Galloway Smallwood. The Smallwoods had moved from North Carolina during the early 1900s and settled in Fayette County in southeastern West Virginia. They later relocated to Glen Ferris in Raleigh County. Growing up in Glen Ferris during the Jim Crow era, Meadows experienced racial discrimination firsthand. She attended a poorly equipped, two-room elementary school for black children. Although a high school was only two miles from her parents' home, she had to travel twenty-five miles to attend Simmons High School for blacks.

After high school Meadows enrolled in West Virginia State College, where she earned a BA in Education in 1939. Her first teaching assignment came in 1941 at Summerlee Elementary School in Fayette County She recalled that often black schools were one room structures with no running ...


Sadye L. Logan

minister, civil rights activist, and state senator, was born in Darlington County, South Carolina. He was the youngest child of Charlotte Morris, a schoolteacher, and Milton C. Newman, an itinerant minister. Newman, who had three older sisters, was raised in the home of his paternal grandmother in Hartsville, South Carolina, after his mother died when he was six years old. His father's second wife, Serena a member of the Hamilton family of Charleston South Carolina was also a teacher Eleven children were born to this union Newman s white paternal grandmother and his biracial paternal grandfather owned a mill and two plantations in Hartsville South Carolina Unlike many other less privileged rural black families the Newmans held a vision of hope and progress and tenaciously clung to the goal of attaining higher education As a youngster Newman attended public school in Williamsburg County and ...


Karen Cotton McDaniel

politician, was born Georgia Montgomery, the second of nine children and the only girl to Frances (Walker), a homemaker, and Ben Montgomery, a farmer. She was always determined to rise above the discrimination her gender and interracial heritage weighed upon her. Beginning life in Springfield, Kentucky, she grew up to be the first female (and first African American) state senator in Kentucky history. In 1925 the Montgomery family moved to Louisville, Kentucky, where Georgia received most of her education. She attended Virginia Avenue Elementary School (1929–1934), Madison Junior High School (1934–1937), Central High School (1937–1940), and Louisville Municipal College, which she attended until 1942. She earned certificates from the Central Business School and the U.S. Government IBM Supervisory School. A year after she left the Louisville Municipal College, she married Norman F. Davis in 1943 and the two had ...


Debra A. Reid

educator, politician, and reformer, was born to Francis A. and Mary H. (Talbot) Smith, free black schoolteachers in Charleston, South Carolina. Little is known about his childhood, other than that at some point he lost his right arm, presumably in an accident. It can be assumed, moreover, given his parents' occupations, that the household was a cultured one. Smith pursued education as a career, following in his parents' footsteps. He studied at Avery Normal Institute and then enrolled in the University of South Carolina in 1875, but he had to transfer to Atlanta University in 1877 after South Carolina legislators closed the university to black students. Smith finished his bachelor's degree in 1879 and taught in public schools in Georgia and South Carolina before relocating to rural Colorado County, Texas, in 1885 It is not certain what subjects he taught but it is believed ...


activist, black history collector, and first elected black state legislator in Maine, was born in Bangor, Maine to Arvella (McIntyre) and Wilmot Edgerton Talbot. He is the oldest of their six children. Talbot's mother was a caterer in Bangor and his father had a long career as head chef at the Bangor House, one of Maine's premier restaurants in the mid-1900s.

Gerald E. Talbot is an eighth-generation Mainer. His paternal ancestors migrated to Maine from Bridgewater, Massachusetts, in the late eighteenth century, and at least one, Abraham Talbot, served in the American Revolutionary War. He owned a brickyard in China, Maine, where a family cemetery in the woods was uncovered in the 1970s.

Talbot s maternal ancestors have deep roots in New Brunswick Canada as did the majority of black families in Bangor The migration from New Brunswick to Bangor began in the late nineteenth ...


Clarence G. Contee

The only child of Eliza and David Walker, Edward Walker was born in Boston after his father's death. His mother, known as Miss Eliza, was probably a fugitive slave. His father was the author of the supposedly subversive David Walker's Appeal … to the Colored Citizens of the World, published in Boston in 1829. Walker's exact birth date is uncertain. An obituary, which called him Edwin, listed the date as September 28, 1835. However, since the father is said to have died in 1830, Edward must have been born in either 1830 or 1831.

Walker attended public schools in Boston and earned his living as a leather worker and owner of his own shop with as many as fifteen workers The heritage of his father and the Boston abolition atmosphere led Walker to aid in the release of the slave Shadrach from capture in ...