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Sholomo B. Levy

minister, U.S. Congressman, educator, and business executive, was born in Los Angeles, California, the eighth of thirteen children of Robert Flake Sr., a janitor, and Rosie Lee Johnson. Shortly after Floyd's birth, the family moved into a two-bedroom home in Houston, Texas. The roots of many of Floyd's political beliefs can be traced to his southern upbringing: his family was poor, but proud; racism abounded, but faith and optimism ruled the Flake home.

Floyd s early education took place in segregated poorly equipped schools but his teachers were dedicated and took a stern interest in his academic development One teacher cared enough to make sure that Floyd spent much of his free time involved in youth programs at her African Methodist Episcopal AME Church After graduating from high school Flake entered Wilberforce University the nation s oldest private African American University in Ohio He ...

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Elizabeth K. Davenport

businesswoman and civil leader, was born in Washington, D.C., the daughter of Harold “Hal” B. Jackson, a radio personality, and Julia (Hawkins) Jackson, a businesswoman. Her father was a pioneer in the broadcasting industry, whose work in radio and television eventually took the family to New York City.

As a child, Jackson was drawn to the performing arts, especially dance. She studied classical ballet and jazz and was eventually admitted to New York City's High School of the Performing Arts. She continued her dance studies at Bard College from 1961 until 1963. She left the college in 1964 prior to her graduation to get married at age nineteen to Frederick Ward, an advertising copywriter. The marriage ended in divorce in 1967. Jackson McCabe later married Eugene McCabe, president of North General Hospital in New York City, in 1974 That marriage ended in ...

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Sholomo B. Levy

lawyer, civil rights leader, and corporate executive, was born Vernon Eulion Jordan Jr. in Atlanta, the eldest of two sons of Vernon Jordan Sr., a postal clerk at Fort McPherson, Georgia, and Mary Belle Griggs, proprietor of a catering business, who had a child from a previous union. Jordan was descended from Georgia sharecroppers who had their roots in slavery. His maternal grandfather told young Vernon, “If I could have anything in the world, I'd want to be able to go to the bathroom indoors, in a warm place, one time before I die” (Jordan, 23).

Until the age of thirteen Jordan lived in Atlanta s University Homes the first public housing for black people built in the United States His project as such low income structures would come to be known derived its name from the black college campuses that surrounded it and provided ...

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Robert "Bob" Davis

one of the four North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University freshmen who initiated the sit-in movement in Greensboro, North Carolina, was born Franklin Eugene McCain in Union County, North Carolina, the son of Warner and Mattie McCain. McCain grew up in Washington, D.C., and graduated from Eastern High School in 1959. After graduating, he returned to his native North Carolina to attend college at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University (A&T). During his time as an undergraduate student at A&T, McCain roomed with David Richmond and lived around the corner from Ezell Blair Jr. and Joseph McNeil on the second floor of Scott Hall. These four men challenged public accommodation customs and laws in North Carolina on 1 February 1960 launching a sit in movement that became an important catalyst for much of the modern civil rights movement They decided to sit at an all ...

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Eunice Angelica Whitmal

entrepreneur and civic leader. Henry Green Parks Jr. was born in Atlanta, Georgia. His family later moved to Ohio for better economic opportunities. Parks majored in marketing at Ohio State University, where he shared a room with Jesse Owens. Before Parks graduated, an Ohio State counselor suggested that he “go to South America, where you will have a real chance.” Parks recalled saying that “he would not run from anything, least of all himself.”

In 1939 Parks graduated from Ohio State and took a job working as a manager and trainer for the Resident War Production Training Center in Wilberforce, Ohio. There he trained hundreds of youths for jobs in business. His interest in management led him to work in various capacities, including beverage marketer, advertisement representative, drugstore owner, cider block plant manager, and co-owner of Crayton Sausage Company. In 1944 he moved to Baltimore Maryland where ...

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Gregory S. Bell

corporate executive and lawyer, was born in Brooklyn, New York, the second of five children of Lorenzo Parsons, a technician, and Isabelle Judd. When Richard was five years old, the family moved to a middle-class neighborhood in Queens. He later recalled his father as “intellectual and gentle” and his mother as “full of steely determination and grit” (Clarke, 153). In his childhood, academic excellence was far from Richard's top priority, and at John Adams High School he did well but always with as little effort as possible. Still, his talents propelled him to graduate early, at the age of sixteen. In 1964 he applied to the University of Hawaii primarily because he had been attracted to his Hawaiian-born high school physics lab partner, who had constantly told him stories about the exotic state.

Parsons worked at various odd jobs including at a parking garage and gas company ...

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Millery Polyné

World War II pilot, entrepreneur, and airline executive, was born in Westfield, New Jersey, the son of a Jamaican dental technician. His parents' names are unknown. A driven and determined student at Lincoln University in Pennsylvania, where he graduated with a bachelor of arts in 1935, Plinton was a solid student-athlete who participated on the varsity soccer, wrestling, tennis, and track teams. He was also a member of the dramatic society and the glee club and was president of the German society. An accomplished musician, he played the piano and organ well and one summer played the organ at Tuskegee Institute. With the encouragement and unbending rearing of his father, it was evident that the black college experience was critical to his development as a future leader and visionary who would defy the odds against systematic racial injustice. In a 1973 interview Plinton revealed Going ...

Article

Gregory S. Bell

corporate executive and government official, was born Franklin Delano Raines in Seattle, Washington, the fourth of seven children of Delno Thomas Raines, a custodian, and Ida Mae Raines, a cleaning woman. He was named after his uncle Frank and his father, but the hospital misspelled his middle name as “Delano.”

The Raines family eventually moved into a house that Delno Raines had built himself over the course of five years The household was constantly fighting economic challenges When Raines was a young boy his father was hospitalized for an illness and lost his job As a result the family received welfare for two years Eventually Delno Raines got full time work as a custodian for the city of Seattle Ida Raines added to their income by working as a cleaning woman for the aircraft company Boeing But Raines would always remember the lessons of being on the ...

Article

Gregory S. Bell

lawyer, government official, and entrepreneur, was born Percy Ellis Sutton in San Antonio, Texas, the youngest of fifteen children of Samuel J. Sutton and Lillian Smith, both schoolteachers. Education was a top priority in Sutton's household. All of the twelve surviving children finished college, and six of Sutton's siblings became teachers. Sutton was exposed to business early as well, since his family owned a funeral home.

After stints at Prairie View A&M College in Texas, Hampton Institute in Virginia, and Tuskegee Institute in Alabama without earning a degree, Sutton decided to enlist in the military and joined the Army Air Corps in New York, shortly after the U.S. entered the war in 1941. In the summer of 1943, walking through Times Square, he met Leatrice O'Farrel. They married in December of that year and would have two children, Pierre and Cheryl Lynn ...

Article

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 ...

Article

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 ...

Article

Bill Dickens

economist, educator, businessman, and diplomat, was born Clifton Reginald Wharton Jr. in Boston, Massachusetts, one of four children of Clifton Reginald Wharton, an ambassador, and Harriette B., a social worker in Boston and a French and Latin teacher at Virginia State University. His father was the first African American to pass the Foreign Service examination and became the first black career ambassador.

Wharton attended the prestigious Boston Latin School and graduated in 1943. The precocious Wharton enrolled at Harvard University at age sixteen. At the age of nineteen he served as an army aviation cadet and was stationed in Tuskegee, Alabama. However, with five weeks remaining to earn his aviator wings, he decided to return to Harvard to complete his undergraduate degree. He earned his AB in History in 1947 Wharton was the first African American to enroll in the Johns Hopkins School ...