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Amar Wahab

Pan‐Africanistleader in Britain in the early 1900s. Born in Sierra Leone, in 1869 he was sent to Cheshire to be educated and started working for the family firm, Broadhurst and Sons, in Manchester in 1905. By 1936 he is known to have been a cocoa merchant in the Gold Coast. He was heavily involved in the realm of Pan‐Africanist politics in Britain, becoming a founder member of the African Progress Union between 1911 and 1925. He became secretary of the Union in his sixties and continued as a member of the executive committee until its end. He worked with other leading supporters such as Duse Mohamed Ali, Edmund Fitzgerald Fredericks, and ‘the Black doctor of Paddington’ John Alcindor The Union organized around issues related to the welfare of Africans and Afro Peoples worldwide and vociferously advocated self determination This involved for example protests about ...

Article

Edward L. Lach

business executive and civic leader, was born in Washington, D.C., the son of Hayward G. Burrell and Fannie Miles. Although his parents’ occupations are unknown, both his father and his mother were natives of the District of Columbia, and Burrell's roots in the area ran deep. After graduating from Dunbar High School at the age of fifteen, he worked as a driver for a local pharmacy and apparently also drove a cab for a while. He married at age sixteen (his wife's name is unknown), and the marriage produced a son before ending in divorce seven years later.

In 1941 Burrell gained a position at the federal Bureau of Standards, where he worked in the glass section producing prisms and bombsights. He also attended nearby Howard University between 1941 and 1943 but did not graduate. He entered the U.S. Army in 1945 and rose to the rank of ...

Article

Lynne B. Feldman

entrepreneur, was born Arthur George Gaston in Demopolis, Alabama, the son of Tom Gaston, a railroad worker, and Rosa Gaston (maiden name unknown), a cook. He grew up in poverty in rural Alabama before he and his mother moved to Birmingham, Alabama, after his father's death. He attended, and for a good time resided at, Tuggle Institute, where he received a moral and industrial education. In 1910 he graduated from the school with a tenth grade certificate. Before and after graduation he worked at a number of part-time jobs, including selling subscriptions for the Birmingham Reporter.

Gaston served in World War I in France as a sergeant in the 317th Ammunition Train of the all black 92nd Division of the U S army Upon his return to the United States he briefly worked at a dry cleaning factory for five dollars a day before landing a job ...

Article

Erin Royston Battat

the first African American woman licensed as a pharmacist in Connecticut, was born in Hartford, Connecticut, the eighth child of Anna (Houston) and Willis Samuel James. James's father escaped from a plantation in Virginia at the age of sixteen and ventured north with the help of the Underground Railroad. In 1874 he married Anna Houston and purchased a home in the North End of Hartford the following year. As suggested by professional portraits taken in the late nineteenth century, the James family identified with the self-sufficient black middle class of Hartford. While a tiny northern black elite existed there before the Civil War, the black middle class would expand during Anna Louise James's young adulthood, peaking during the Great Migration of 1915–1919.

James lost her mother in 1894 at the age of eight and was raised by her father with the help of relatives She graduated from ...

Article

Elizabeth R. Schroeder

journalist, businessman, military leader, and diplomat, was born in Albany, Georgia, to Richard and Eliza (Brown) Jones. Richard Lee Jones, also known as Dick Jones, moved to Cincinnati, Ohio, with his family at fifteen saying

In the South, I was not the submissive kind, but I learned respect for authority. Many Negroes have not learned that yet. They come up here and try to run away with the town. I had no trouble in the South. I avoided trouble. If you see a nail, why sit on it? Much trouble could be avoided by Negroes in the South if they tried to. Get me straight! I am not for conditions down there. They are bad, but could be bettered.”

(Wilson, “Interview with Dick Jones, Manager of South Center,” Negro in Illinois Papers)

He attended the University of Cincinnati from 1912 to 1915 and later abandoned his law ...

Article

Alison Nichols

bookseller and founder of Harlem's Liberation Bookstore, was born in Baltimore, Maryland, one of three children of Marie Avis Mulzac and Hugh Mulzac, the first black commander of a ship in the U.S. Merchant Marine. Hugh Mulzac, a socialist, was later investigated by the House Un-American Activities Committee and was blacklisted when he refused to testify before it.

Una Mulzac grew up in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn. She attended and graduated from that neighborhood's Girls’ High School, where she ran track while holding down a job as a secretary at Random House. That position helped to turn her interest to publishing. In the 1960s she moved to British Guiana (now Guyana) to fight for revolution and was severely injured by a bomb. Discouraged by the changing political climate in the country, in 1967 she moved to Harlem where she opened up Liberation Bookstore on what is now known as ...

Article

Onita Estes-Hicks

secretary and administrative assistant, civil rights worker, researcher, and writer, was born Ethel Ray in Duluth, Minnesota, the youngest of four children of a racially mixed couple, William Henry Ray, a black man from North Carolina, and Inga Nordquist, a Swedish immigrant. Inga and William met and married in Minneapolis in the 1880s, settling in segregated Duluth in 1889 in an immigrant neighborhood In a city with less than two hundred African American residents the Rays faced hostility from their white neighbors prompting resistance from the defiant and proud William Henry Ray who kept his hunting rifle loaded for self defense William fortified Ethel and her siblings against racism with stark tales of racial oppression and heroic resistance he had witnessed in Raleigh where his parents and their neighbors took up guns to protect northern teachers who had come South to educate blacks ...

Article

Peter Wallenstein

lawyer, was born Lavinia Marian Fleming in Warwick County, Virginia, the daughter of Archer R. Fleming, a blacksmith and former slave, and Florence M. Carter. She grew up in Newport News, Virginia, with her parents and her brothers.

In the early 1910s she worked in Newport News as a stenographer for a black banker, notary, and real estate agent, E. C. Brown, president of the Crown Savings Bank. In 1910 she married Abram James Poe, a waiter; they had two children. For a time around 1920Marian Poe worked in the office of Joseph Thomas Newsome, a black attorney. The experience convinced Poe to become a lawyer.

Success would not come easy. The law schools in Virginia—Washington and Lee University, the University of Virginia, and the University of Richmond—excluded black applicants. Few black men in Virginia had become lawyers, and Virginia law before 1920 ...

Article

Kristal Brent Zook

pioneering pharmacist, entrepreneur, and clubwoman, was born near Berryville, Virginia. Her parents, Eliza and Hamp Phillips, were sharecroppers, but the family's lack of financial resources did not stand in the way of their daughter's academic success. Phillips was an outstanding student who won five scholarships at Storer College in Harper's Ferry, West Virginia, where she enrolled at age twelve. After graduation, at age seventeen, she married her classmate Charles Myers, and soon gave birth to a daughter, who died at the age of two.

The couple divorced following the death of their child, and Ella Phillips went to work as a bookkeeper in a Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, drugstore. Although some of her friends discouraged her, saying it had never been done by a black woman, she dreamed of attending pharmacy school. She was encouraged by a local physician who befriended her, and in 1916 she ...