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Nancy Gordon Heinl

Ebenezer Don Carlos Bassett was born in Litchfield, Connecticut, on October 16, 1833, the son of Tobias Bassett, a mulatto, and Susan (Gregory) Bassett, a Native American of the Shagticoke branch of the Pequot tribe. Ebenezer attended the Wesleyan Academy at Wilbraham, Massachusetts, and graduated with honors from the Connecticut State Normal School. While principal of a high school in New Haven, Connecticut, he continued his studies at Yale College, where he seems to have been held in wide respect. From 1857 to 1869 Bassett was principal of the Institute for Colored Youth in Philadelphia, a school founded by Quakers for the education of Colored Youth in school learning and to prepare them to become teachers In addition to his duties as principal Bassett taught mathematics natural sciences and classics he also acted as school librarian The mayor of Philadelphia referred to the school under ...

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Charles Rosenberg

in the U.S. Department of Health Education and Welfare, was born in Bogue Township, Columbus County, North Carolina, the third child of Jett and Cassy Brice. He had an older brother, James, and an older sister, Laura. Their father worked in a lumber mill.

Brice graduated in 1938 with a bachelor’s degree from Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, then completed an M.A. and Ph.D. in Education at the University of Pennsylvania. In 1940, at the age of twenty-four, Brice accepted the position of president at Clinton Normal and Industrial College, Catawba Township, near Rock Hill, South Carolina. There he met his future wife, Creola M. Lindsay, an elementary school teacher in Rock Hill. In 1942, announcing that Brice would deliver the keynote address before the Social Science Group of the Palmetto State Teachers Association, the Carolina Times described him as An untiring worker for a better standard of ...

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Thomas Clarkin

scholar and diplomat, was born Ralph Johnson Bunche in Detroit, Michigan, the son of Fred Bunch, a barber, and Olive Agnes Johnson. His grandmother added an “e” to the family's last name following a move to Los Angeles, California. Because his family moved frequently, Bunche attended a number of public schools before graduating first in his class from Jefferson High School in Los Angeles in 1922. He majored in Political Science at the University of California, Southern Branch (now University of California, Los Angeles [UCLA]), graduating summa cum laude and serving as class valedictorian in 1927. He continued his studies in political science at Harvard, receiving his MA in 1928, and then taught at Howard University in Washington, D.C., while working toward his PhD at Harvard. In 1930 he married Ruth Ethel Harris they had three children Bunche traveled to Europe and Africa researching ...

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Joseph C. Heim

scholar, university professor, diplomat, UN administrator, and Nobel Peace Prize recipient. In the 1950s and 1960s Bunche was the most visible African American on the world stage. But his accomplishments were far in the future when he was born in modest circumstances in Detroit, Michigan, the son of Fred Bunche, a barber, and Olive Bunche. His parents, however, were constantly in poor health, and after their early deaths Bunche was raised by his grandmother, Lucy Johnson, in Los Angeles.

His grandmother s diligence and inspiration guided and shaped Bunche s youth and he compiled a record of stellar achievement both in athletics he later was a guard on the basketball team of the University of California at Los Angeles UCLA and in academics This he did while holding numerous jobs from delivering newspapers to laying carpets on merchant ships His early years also ...

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Charles Rosenberg

ambassador to several west African nations and Howard University professor of Romance languages, was born Will Mercer Cook in Washington, D.C., the son of musical composer Will Marion Cook and singer Abriea Mitchell Cook, best known as Abbie Mitchell. The male line of his family had been free dating back to 1808, first in the area of Charles City, Virginia and then in Detroit, Michigan; Cook's paternal grandfather, John Hartwell Cook, graduated from Oberlin College, worked for the Freemen's Bureau in Washington, D.C., and was one of the first graduates from Howard University Law School.

Cook moved a good deal during his childhood although the details have not been well documented His parents marriage unraveled quickly He traveled overseas with his mother including a show she was working on in Berlin Germany Will Cook in addition to being a classical musician had a jazz band that played ...

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Benjamin Letzler

law professor, dean, and diplomat, was born in Wilmington, North Carolina, to the Reverend Clarence Clyde Ferguson Sr. and Georgeva Ferguson. After a childhood in Baltimore he served in the U.S. Army from 1942 to 1946, earning a Bronze Star, before attending Ohio State University on a football scholarship. He soon left the football squad to focus on his academic work, completing his AB cum laude in two and a half years. Ferguson earned his LLB cum laude from Harvard Law School in 1951, one of three black members of the class.

After a year as a teaching fellow at Harvard Law School and a year in private practice in New York, Ferguson served as assistant general counsel to the Moreland Act Commission to Investigate Harness Racing. Ferguson married the artist and sculptor Dolores Zimmerman in 1954 After her death in the late ...

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Adam W. Green

academic and writer, was born in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, to Oliver John Golden, an African American agronomist, and Bertha Bialek, an English teacher of Polish-Jewish descent. Communist sympathizers who found life in America as an interracial couple extremely difficult, Oliver and Bertha led an expedition of sixteen African American agricultural experts to the Soviet Union in 1931 in an attempt to assist the USSR's agricultural development, specifically the cotton industry in Uzbekistan. Shortly after Golden's birth, her parents were offered work at universities in Tashkent, capital of the then-named Uzbek Soviet Socialist Republic. In 1937 the family was given an ultimatum by the Soviet government to leave the country or renounce their American citizenship As Golden later wrote Neither my father nor my mother was inclined to take their newly born child back to the racism and intolerance that they had experienced in the United States p 15 ...

Article

Gloria Grant Roberson

With the support of the Harvard-affiliated educator George Herbert Palmer, Greener participated in a program to expose an African American to a Harvard education. Although poor grades resulted in his repeating his first year, Greener went on to win the Boylston Prize for Oratory in his sophomore year and the inaugural Bowdoin Prize for Research and Writing for his senior dissertation on Irish culture. Greener apparently recognized the advantages of repeating his first year at Harvard, because later, as a professor of mental and moral philosophy at the University of South Carolina, he was instrumental in adding a “subfreshman” class to the curriculum for scholarship students struggling with Latin and Greek.

The only child of Richard Wesley Greener, a seafaring man with an adventurous spirit, and Mary Ann Le Brune, Greener was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania His mother was thrust into single parenthood when her husband failed to ...

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Olive Hoogenboom

Richard Theodore Greener was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of Richard Wesley Greener, a seaman who was wounded during the Mexican War while serving aboard the USS Princeton, and Mary Ann Le Brune. When he was nine, Greener and his parents moved to Boston but soon left for Cambridge, where he could attend “an unproscriptive school.” Greener's father, as chief steward of the George Raynes, had taken his son on a voyage to Liverpool but then abandoned the sea in 1853 for the California gold fields He was taken sick met with losses and was never heard from again When Greener was twelve years old he left school to help support his mother Although he quit one of his positions after an employer struck him those whom he met while knocking around in different occupations often helped educate him sharing their libraries and tutoring ...

Article

Olive Hoogenboom

educator, lawyer, and diplomat, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of Richard Wesley Greener, a seaman who was wounded during the Mexican War while serving aboard USS Princeton, and Mary Ann Le Brune. When he was nine, Greener and his parents moved to Boston but soon left for Cambridge, where he could attend “an unproscriptive school.” Greener's father, as chief steward of the George Raynes, had taken his son on a voyage to Liverpool but then abandoned the sea in 1853 for the California gold fields He was taken sick met with losses and was never heard from again When Greener was twelve years old he left school to help support his mother Although he quit one of his positions after an employer struck him those whom he met while knocking around in different occupations often helped educate him sharing their ...

Article

Dickson D. Jr. Bruce

scholar and activist, was born in Colleton County, South Carolina, near Charleston, the eldest of three sons of Henry Grimké, a lawyer and member of one of South Carolina's leading families, and Nancy Weston, a slave owned by Grimké. He was also a nephew, on his father's side, of the noted white southern abolitionists Sarah Grimké and Angelina Grimké Weld. Although Archibald was born a slave, Henry acknowledged him as his son. After Henry's death in 1852 his mother took him to Charleston, where, even though he was still legally a slave, he attended a school for free blacks.

This condition was to change with the coming of the Civil War, when, in 1860, one of Henry's adult white sons, from an earlier marriage, forced the Grimké brothers—Archibald, John, and Francis J. Grimké—to work as household slaves. Archibald escaped in 1863 hiding in ...

Article

Patricia Roberts Harris was born and raised in a working-class suburb of Chicago, Illinois. She accepted a scholarship from Howard University in Washington, D.C., where in 1943 she participated in one of the country's first student sit-ins, at a whites-only cafeteria in a black neighborhood. She later attended law school at Washington's George Washington University, from which she graduated first in her class. In 1961, she joined the faculty of Howard Law School.

A lifelong member of the Democratic Party, Harris served on several federal commissions concerned with minority rights. In 1965, largely on the strength of this work, President Johnson appointed her U.S. ambassador to Luxembourg. After a brief and noncontroversial posting, she returned to Howard in 1967 and in 1969 was named dean of the law school Immediately after her appointment students protested for greater power in university decisions Harris took a strong ...

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Kenneth J. Blume

clergyman, politician, educator, and diplomat, was born a slave on the plantation of Thomas Jones in Elbert County, Georgia. William's mother died when he was nine, and he was obligated to rear his younger siblings while working as a plowboy. His education during his last years of enslavement (1860–1865) was in Sunday school in Elberton, Georgia. Legally prohibited from learning to read or write, he learned largely by memorizing Bible passages. But when he was fifteen the Civil War ended, and Union troops appeared. As he wrote in his memoir, From Slavery to the Bishopric in the A.M.E. Church (1924): “Freedom had come, and I came to meet it” (28). Freedom also meant the end of his Sunday school education, but Heard's father had earned enough money as a wheelwright to pay for William's lessons in spelling, reading, and arithmetic. From 1865 ...

Article

Robert L. Harris

educator, diplomat, and administrator, was one of thirteen children born to Robert and Viola Bagsby Holland in Auburn, New York. Most of the children did not survive childhood. One of his younger siblings affectionately called him “Brudder,” later shortened to “Brud,” which he was called by relatives and friends throughout his life. His father was a gardener and handyman for several families in Auburn. “Brud” Holland began to work with his father at age eight to support their poor family. He determined early in life that education was the key to success.

Holland was a stellar basketball and football player. He played four years on the varsity football team for Auburn High School and twice earned statewide honors. His high school coach years later referred to him as the best all-around athlete ever to play for Auburn. Holland entered Cornell University's College of Agriculture in 1935 ...

Article

Gregory Eiselein

In his third-person autobiography, From the Virginia Plantation to the National Capitol (1894), John Mercer Langston recounts his career as one of the most influential African American leaders of the nineteenth century. Born in Virginia and educated at Oberlin, Langston became in 1854 the first African American admitted to the Ohio bar and in 1855 the first elected to public office in the United States (town clerk of Brownhelm, Ohio). Throughout the 1850s he worked within antislavery and civil rights movements, advocating a nationalist, pro-emigration position before becoming a Republican party activist. Heading recruitment of African American soldiers in the West during the Civil War, he rose to national prominence after the war as the president of the National Equal Rights League (a forerunner of the NAACP), an educational inspector for the Freedmen's Bureau, and a Republican party organizer. In 1868 he accepted a professorship at Howard ...

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Aimee Lee Cheek and William Cheek

John Mercer Langston was born free in Louisa County, Virginia, the son of Ralph Quarles, a wealthy white slaveholding planter, and Lucy Jane Langston, a part–Native American, part-black slave emancipated by Quarles in 1806. After the deaths of both of their parents in 1834, Langston and his two brothers, well provided for by Quarles's will but unprotected by Virginia law, moved to Ohio. There Langston lived on a farm near Chillicothe with a cultured white southern family who had been friends of his father and who treated him as a son. He was in effect orphaned again in 1839, however, when a court hearing, concluding that his guardian's impending move to Missouri (a slave state) would imperil the boy's freedom and inheritance, forced him to leave the family. Subsequently, he boarded in four different homes, white and black, in Chillicothe and Cincinnati worked ...

Article

Aimee Lee Cheek and William Cheek

political leader and intellectual, was born free in Louisa County, Virginia, the son of Ralph Quarles, a wealthy white slaveholding planter, and Lucy Jane Langston, a part-Native American, part-black slave emancipated by Quarles in 1806. After the deaths of both of their parents in 1834, Langston and his two brothers, well provided for by Quarles's will but unprotected by Virginia law, moved to Ohio. There Langston lived on a farm near Chillicothe with a cultured white southern family who had been friends of his father and who treated him as a son. He was in effect orphaned again in 1839 when a court hearing concluding that his guardian s impending move to slave state Missouri would imperil the boy s freedom and inheritance forced him to leave the family Subsequently he boarded in four different homes white and black in Chillicothe and Cincinnati worked ...

Article

Thomas Adams Upchurch

Born in Virginia to a wealthy white planter and a slave mother, John Mercer Langston was one of the most influential African Americans of the nineteenth century. Widely regarded by contemporaries and historians alike as second in importance only to Frederick Douglass, Langston actually superseded the venerable Douglass in certain ways. Although Douglass enjoyed more widespread renown, Langston held more government positions and had a more varied career. The two men first met in 1848 and maintained a friendship for many years thereafter. They disagreed on some important racial issues, however, which sometimes led to hard feelings and, near the end of their lives, an intense rivalry that most observers would say made them bitter enemies.

Langston was about ten years younger than Douglass and while they were both mulattoes born to slave mothers their upbringings could hardly have been more different Whereas Douglass endured the most abhorrent circumstances ...

Article

The son of Limas and Dora Lee Brooks McHenry, Donald Franchot McHenry was born in St. Louis, Missouri. He grew up in poverty in East St. Louis, Illinois, where a public school is now named in his honor. McHenry received a B.S. degree from Illinois State University in 1957 and an M.S. degree from Southern Illinois University in 1959. As a student he was president of the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). McHenry was involved in negotiations to end segregation in area housing and restaurants.

McHenry then moved to Washington, D.C. He taught English at Howard University beginning in 1959 and entered the graduate program in international relations at Georgetown University. His public career began when he joined the U.S. Department of State in 1963. In 1968 he was made assistant to the secretary of state. From 1971 ...

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Margaret Wade-Lewis

linguist, diplomat, and educator, was born in Nashville, Tennessee, to Raleigh Morgan Sr., a porter at Union Station, and Adrien Louise Beasley Morgan. The eldest of three children, Raleigh Jr. lived with his extended family; his mother left the household when Morgan was four years old. In addition to his father (b. 1888), Morgan's nurturers were his grandfather Jackson (b. 1865), a business owner; his-grandmother Anna (b. 1868), a homemaker; his uncle John W. (b. 1890); and his aunts Elizabeth and Adrien (both b. 1895). His younger siblings were John Edward (b. 1918) and Helen A. (b. 1919).

Morgan took his first course in Latin at age twelve and began to study German and French at ages fourteen and fifteen respectively He eventually became a contemporary Renaissance man whose life unfolded in three phases professor and ...