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Article

Miles M. Jackson

explorer and businessman, was born a slave in German Flats, New York. He was owned by the Dougal family and spent his youth in Schenectady. It is very likely his mother was a slave (New York did not abolish slavery until 1827); his father was a freeman and a mariner. Following the death of his master, he was purchased by another owner. After gaining his freedom in 1796, Allen arrived in Boston in 1800 and went to sea just as his father had done. Indeed, many African Americans living in Boston had ties to the maritime industry in some way. Like other black mariners, Allen faced the risk of reenslavement when he traveled to Southern ports. Once he was saved from imprisonment by one of the ship's owners, who paid $300 for his release.

Allen's years at sea between 1800 and 1810 provided him with unique experiences ...

Article

Wanda F. Fernandopulle

farmer and centenarian, was born in Pamplico, South Carolina, one of six daughters of Daisy Timmons Blaine and Ben Blaine, sharecroppers. As a child she lived on the land of Joe Law, one of the richest African Americans in the state of South Carolina. Both parents worked in the fields planting and gathering cotton, tobacco, wheat, and corn, and the family attended the local St. Paul African Methodist Episcopal Church. As a youth Spears attended the McKnight School, finishing ninth grade. She would recall of her schooling that biscuits and ham were the morning school breakfast, that books were read by kerosene lamps, and classes ended at noon. Spears was then picked up by her father from school in a mule and wagon to help him set tobacco, which was tied and hung and brought to the market.

Looking back on her early life Spears recalled that she rolled ...

Article

Edward J. Robinson

evangelist, farmer, educator, postmaster, justice of the peace, and “race man,” was born Samuel in Prince William County, Virginia. Even though an oral tradition among Cassius's descendants insists that Robert E. Lee was his biological father, circumstantial evidence suggests that James W. F. Macrae, a white physician and politician and relative of Robert E. Lee, was probably his father and Jane, an enslaved African, was his mother (Robinson). After emancipation Cassius probably added the names “Robert” to commemorate Robert E. Lee's kindness of purchasing him and his mother to prevent them from being sold to the Deep South and he may have attached Cassius to honor the ancient Roman general as many slaves adopted names of famous people from classical antiquity Robinson Little is known about Samuel s mother a slave who served in the Macrae household While working for the Macrae family as a house servant ...

Article

Hassoum Ceesay

district colonial chief and master farmer, was born in Njau Village, in the Upper Saloum District of present-day Gambia in 1890. His name is also spelled Sise or Sisi. He was among the few formally educated Gambian colonial chiefs, having attended the prestigious Mohammedan School in Bathurst (now Banjul) in the 1910s before working as an interpreter for the Traveling Commissioner North Bank Province. Interpreters were central to the running of the colonial machinery. As the intermediaries between the local people who could not speak English and colonial officials, they wielded influence because of their perceived proximity to the colonial powers. European officials also did not always trust the interpreters, who were occasionally sacked or jailed for suspected treachery.

Unlike the French colonizers who completely replaced local chiefs with French officials the British in West Africa administered their colonies through preexisting traditional authorities and used local customary institutions ...

Article

clerk, farmer, historian, and scion of several chiefly Kaonde lineages was born in Chimimono in present-day northwestern Zambia in 1899. The title chibanza, first held by Jilundu's father, Kunaka Mwanza (d.1916), was brought into being when Kunaka inherited one of the names of Kasongo Chibanza, his mother's maternal uncle. Muyange (d.1901), Jilundu's mother, was a daughter of Kamimbi, son of Kabambala, holder of the kasempa title until his assassination in around 1880. Muyange's mother was Lubanjika, sister of Nsule, holder of the bufuku title. The history of these titles and his defense of their prerogatives were to dominate Jilundu's later life. By 1912 or 1913 Jilundu had moved to the center of his mother's matrilineage, the village of Nsule Bufuku, and enrolled in the South Africa General Mission's (SAGM) newly established Lalafuta boarding school. In 1916 Kunaka Mwanza Chibanza died and was succeeded ...

Article

Bill McCulloch and Barry Lee Pearson

blues singer and songwriter, was born in Forest, Mississippi, between Jackson and Meridian, the son of Minnie Louise Crudup, an unmarried domestic worker. His father was reputed to be a musician, but Crudup recalled seeing him only twice. Raised by his mother in poverty, Crudup began singing both blues and religious music around age ten. In 1916 he and his mother moved to Indianapolis. After she became ill, Crudup dropped out of school and took a job in a foundry at age thirteen.

According to his own account Crudup did not start playing guitar until around 1937, by which time he had returned to the South, married and divorced his first wife, Annie Bell Reed and taken work as a farmhand Supposedly he found a guitar with only two strings and one by one added the other four while picking up rudimentary chords from a local musician ...

Article

Laura A. Lewis

was born in 1923 in San Antonio Ocotlán, a small town north of Pinotepa Nacional, Oaxaca, Mexico. His mother was an indigenous Amuzgo woman from Cacahuatepec, Oaxaca, and his father was of African descent, from San Nicolás Tolentino on the Costa Chica of Guerrero state. Melquiades was a sickly child, and when his parents separated, soon after his birth, his father brought him back to San Nicolás, where his paternal grandmother and aunt raised him. His paternal grandmother was Zapotec. Thus, Domínguez is indigenous on both his mother’s and his father’s side. He is also one of the most well-known residents of the African-descent community of San Nicolás.

Domínguez’s paternal grandmother and grandfather never married. The Costa Chica is a strongly patrilineal region, but in the tradition of the era, “illegitimate” children—who were said to be “of the wilderness” (del monte inherited their mothers surnames Domínguez s father ...

Article

Karen E. Sutton

one of about 635 African American males involved in the Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis (TSUS), was the son of Wiley West and Mae Burke, born in Tuskegee, Macon County, Alabama. His parents put him up for adoption at an early age, and Sam's adoptive parents raised him. Sam had at least one sibling, Willie Doner A lifelong resident of Macon County Doner attended Cooper Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church most of his life His favorite adult pastime was serving there as a deacon until he became too ill to attend services Local churches served as recruiting centers for the Tuskegee study Doner worked as a school bus driver and a farmer and owned over ten acres of land He married Emily Chambliss Though there were no children born to that union they adopted a son Willie M Doner After his wife died Doner developed a relationship ...

Article

Harmony O'Rourke

Cameroonian politician, educator, and farmer, was born Ngu Foncha in the fondom (similar to the concepts of kingdom or chiefdom) of Nkwen, of the colonial Southern Cameroons, to Foncha, a prince of the fondom, and his fourth wife, Ngebi. Though his father never became the fon (king or chief) of Nkwen, the boy Ngu grew up in the Nkwen palace precincts. He attended a Christian mission at Big Babanki, where he was baptized in 1924 and took the name John. In 1926 he went to the Bamenda Government School, where he impressed a Nigerian teacher, who enrolled him in Calabar’s St. Michael’s School. In 1934, Foncha returned to Cameroon to serve as a teacher but headed back to Nigeria in 1936 to seek further training at the Saint Charles’ Teachers Training College at Onitsha. From 1939 to 1947 Foncha taught in Njinikom Cameroon a stint that was ...

Article

Hassoum Ceesay

also called Tamba Jammeh, a Gambian colonial chief, farmer, and political figure, was born probably in 1880, to Jatta Selung Jammeh, a Serere-Mandinka, and Awa Job, a Wollof in the Baddibu district of Gambia. He retired in 1964 and died on 13 October 1987. When the British colonialists declared a colonial protectorate in Gambia in 1893, Jatta Selung was allowed to become the first chief of the Illiasa district. His son, Mama Tamba, attended the Muhammedan School in Bathurst (now Banjul) from 1905 to 1913. Soon after, he was employed as a scribe in his father’s court. In 1925, he was appointed deputy chief, as his father was infirm. Mama Tamba Jammeh became chief of Illiasa on 28 February 1928.

The new chief of Illiasa embodied tradition modernity sagacity and innovation At a time when only European colonial officials could afford cars Mama Tamba ...

Article

R. Iset Anuakan

barber, entrepreneur, and inventor was born in Greene County, Alabama, the oldest of Holly and Olean (Jordan) Morrow's seven children. As a child, Willie worked on a farm planting corn and cotton. He worked in the fields before going to school, and he learned to cut hair by practicing on the children there. He became a barber at the age of seventeen when his mother took him to meet Jim Pierson, the owner of the Oak City Barber Shop in Tuscaloosa. Pierson employed him for three years and gave him a set of Oster clippers that replaced the rudimentary clippers he had used. Barbering became his lifelong vocation and would lead him into the beauty business—a world in which many African Americans had made their fortunes.

In 1959 Morrow took a train to San Diego, California, to work with his uncle, barber Spurgeon Morrow and to ...

Article

Donald A. Ritchie

a Pentagon employee who became a celebrated witness during Senator Joseph McCarthy's investigation of Communism in the government, was born in Chester, South Carolina. One of six children of Katie and Clemon Crawford, tenant farmers, she began picking cotton at the age of five. While in her teens, she moved with her parents to Salisbury, North Carolina, where she attended but did not graduate from high school. At twenty-one she married Ernest Moss, a worker at a tobacco factory in Durham, North Carolina. They had one son.

Moss moved to Washington, D.C., in 1941, where her husband took a construction job and she ironed at a laundry. In 1943 she became a dessert cook for the Welfare and Recreation Association which assigned her to the Pentagon cafeteria As a condition of employment she joined the Washington Cafeteria Workers union a local chapter of the United Federal ...

Article

Sabelo J. Ndlovu-Gatsheni

Zimbabwean schoolteacher and farmer, one of the early colonially educated elite in present-day Zimbabwe, was born on 17 July 1920 in Matshetsheni at a place called Mgwanda near Mgwanda Mountain west of the Shake ward and east of the Lumene River in the district of Gwanda His full name was Phinda Mfakazi Sayimana Ndlovu Gatsheni His father Sayimana Simpa Ndlovu Gatsheni traced his historical roots from the Zulu people of South Africa owned a large herd of cattle and was a successful peasant farmer His mother Mnqgibanto Nale Moyo hailed from the Kalanga people of the Matopo area Ndlovu Gatsheni s father was born during precolonial times and experienced the colonial conquests of the 1890s during which white settlers appropriated the land of many Africans Ndlovu Gatsheni was born into a hardworking family that fought fiercely for grazing land for their cattle To this family which treasured its large ...

Article

Susan M. Reverby and Elizabeth Sims

farmer, civil rights activist, and lead plaintiff in the lawsuit against the government in the Tuskegee Syphilis Study, was born in Notasulga, Alabama, the third child of six children of Lucius and Alma Pollard. The Pollard family owned and farmed their land in the Notasulga area, just outside of Tuskegee, for generations after the Civil War. As with many farmers, they often needed to secure liens, with their animals as the collateral, in order to complete their crop. In the early 1900s the family began to buy more acreage, and by 1908 Pollard s father was farming 160 acres and was the first black man in the county to own a mechanical cotton picker Pollard learned early how to horse and cattle trade and to build upon his family s farming skills He was educated in the Shiloh School one of the earliest Rosenwald schools built ...

Article

Pedro de Weever

was born Lionel Bernard Scott in Cul de Sac, St. Maarten (the Dutch half of the island of St. Martin), on 28 January 1897, the son of Eliza Constance Gerot and John Francis Scott. Born into a poor, working-class family, Scott, also called Brother Bo, had six brothers and ten sisters. He attended the Cul de Sac School until the age of 14, after which he began to learn the trade of carpentry and, like many of his peers, entered the workforce to help his family make ends meet.

In 1917 at the age of 20 Scott married his first wife Louisa Mathilda Proctor That same year he left for the Dominican Republic to work in the sugarcane fields and to find work as a carpenter Economic opportunities on his home island were limited in the 1920s and many people from St Martin were forced to seek work ...

Article

Susan M. Reverby

farmer, mill worker, and the spokesman for the survivors of the Tuskegee Syphilis Study at the formal federal apology at the White House on 16 May 1997, was born in Tallassee, Alabama, the second of four children of Frank Shaw, a farmer. After his mother's death, Shaw's father moved the family to Plano, Texas, in search of a better life. Shaw excelled in his studies at the local segregated grammar schools, remembering always his lessons on the ancient world. When the farmland in Texas proved unyielding, Shaw returned to Tallassee and farming. The depression years proved difficult on the land, and Shaw was hired as the first black man to run a cord machine in a nearby textile mill. He would stay at the mill for forty-four years, while continuing to grow cotton, corn, and collard greens that were prized by his neighbors. He married Fannie ...

Article

Harold S. Forsythe

farmer and sharecroppers union activist, was born Ned Cobb in rural east-central Alabama. Shaw was one of six children of former slaves Hayes and Liza Culver Shaw. Ned Cobb is best known under the pseudonym Nate Shaw, because of the magnificent oral autobiography Shaw shared with Theodore Rosengarten. The book, All God's Dangers: the Life of Nate Shaw (1974), was perhaps the best single source for the consciousness and politics of the millions of illiterate black women and men who struggled in the decades after Emancipation to create a life in freedom. The fictionalized names of people and places in All God's Dangers are the best guide to this rich story.

Nate Shaw s father Hayes put Nate to work at farming tasks while he was a still a young boy Shaw s mother Liza died when he was nine years old and although he ...

Article

Diane Austin-Broos

a leading Jamaican Pentecostal bishop for more than thirty years, was born at Alston in the far north of Clarendon Parish, Jamaica, to a family who were successful small-scale farmers. At 14, Smith ran away to Kingston and worked as a waiter. He lived with his sister in the Kingston area of Allman Town. Drawn to a group of Pentecostal missionaries from the United States, Smith was converted and baptized in 1921. These missionaries included Nina Stapleton, who, according to oral accounts, may have arrived in Jamaica as early as 1917. Later, in 1923, she was joined by George F. Walters. Both were associated with the Church of God based in Cleveland, Tennessee.

Smith returned to north Clarendon as an independent missionary and established a Trinitarian Pentecostal church at Main Ridge. He evangelized widely and built congregations in numerous Clarendon villages. Among his early converts, in 1922 ...

Article

Richard Pankhurst

Ethiopian Minister of Posts, Telephones and Telegraphs, musician, singer, poet, and wit, was born in Minjar in eastern Ethiopia in 1876. He was the son of Ato Eshete Gobe, a servant of Ras Mekonnen, Emperor Menilek II’s governor of Harar, and Weyzero Woleteyes Habtu. Young Tesemma spent his early childhood in Harar, where he learned reading and writing in a church school, but upon his father’s death he moved to Addis Ababa. Later in 1908, at the age of thirty-one, he was chosen by Menilek to go to Germany with two other Ethiopians. They accompanied a departing German visitor, Arnold Holz, who in the previous year had driven to Addis Ababa in a Nache motor car, the second car to reach the Ethiopian capital—the first, a Wolseley driven by Bede Bentley, had arrived in the Ethiopian capital only a few months earlier.

While in Germany where he spent ...

Article

Robert Fay

In July 1940 Odell Waller, an uneducated sharecropper, shot and killed his white landlord, Oscar Davis in a dispute over the shares Davis owed to him Waller claimed self defense but the all white jury found him guilty of first degree murder and sentenced him to death Waller s ...