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John R. Wennersten

civil rights activist, mayor, and city councilman. For more than two decades Marion Barry as a political leader of Washington, D.C., epitomized all that is good and bad about the politics of the urban South.

Born in Itta Bena, Mississippi, to a father who was a sharecropper and a mother who was a domestic, Marion Shepilov Barry was raised near Memphis, Tennessee, and experienced the twin hardships of poverty and segregation in the post–World War II South. He graduated from Booker T. Washington High School in 1954 and went on to earn a bachelor's degree at Memphis's LeMoyne College in 1958 and a master's degree in chemistry at Fisk University in Nashville in 1960. While a college student Barry led a well-publicized effort to force a white LeMoyne College trustee to retract disparaging remarks that he made about blacks during a Memphis bus-desegregation campaign.

Increasingly involved in the civil ...

Article

Marion Barry's 1994 election to a fourth term as mayor of Washington, D.C., three years after his conviction for cocaine possession, was just another twist in the turbulent career of the sharecropper's son from the Mississippi Delta. Born near the small town of Itta Bena, Mississippi, Barry moved to Memphis, Tennessee, at the age of five. Barry grew up amid poverty, segregation, and racism. Despite these circumstances, he excelled academically and became the first member of his family to attend college. At LeMoyne College, a racially mixed institution in Memphis, Barry joined the campus chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), becoming its president in his senior year.

Barry received his bachelor's degree in chemistry in 1958 and that fall began postgraduate study at historically black Fisk University in Nashville. Barry organized the campus's first NAACP chapter and helped stage nonviolent Sit-Ins ...

Article

Caryn E. Neumann

four-time mayor of Washington, D.C., was born on a cotton plantation near the Delta hamlet of Itta Bena in northwestern Mississippi to sharecroppers Marion Barry Sr. and Mattie Barry. In 1940 Barry Sr. died, and in 1944 Barry, his mother, and his sister moved to Memphis, Tennessee, where Mattie worked as a maid and married Dave Cummings a butcher The combined family which eventually included nine members lived in a narrow wooden shotgun house in South Memphis one of four black enclaves in the city Barry slept on the couch and rose early each morning to chop wood for the stove He stuffed cardboard in his shoes to fill the holes and sold his sandwiches to other kids at school for pocket money A bright industrious child he eventually became one of the first African American Eagle Scouts in Memphis In the summer he traveled with his mother ...

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Alexander J. Chenault

state legislator, and fifty-eighth mayor of New Orleans, was born Sidney John Barthelemy, the third of six children of Lionel Barthelemy, an insurance businessman, and Ruth Barthelemy, a beautician, in New Orleans, Louisiana. Roman Catholic, he grew up in the largely creole and catholic Seventh Ward section of the city and attended parochial schools—Corpus Christi Elementary School and then, later, St. Augustine High School, where he won the Purple Knight Award recognizing him as the best all-around student in 1960. After high school, he attended the Epiphany Apostolic Junior College in Newburgh, New York, and then entered St. Joseph Seminary in Washington, D.C., where he received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Philosophy in 1967 and pursued graduate study in theology (though he did not finish). While in seminary, he worked summers as a laborer in a stevedoring company. In 1968 Barthelemy married Michaele ...

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Theresa W. Bennett-Wilkes

politician and human relations advocate. In November 1993 Sayles Belton made history as the first African American and first female elected mayor of Minneapolis, Minnesota. A native of Minneapolis, she was born Sharon Sayles, the daughter of Bill Sayles, the city's first African American car salesman, and Marian Sayles. After her parents divorced, Sayles Belton lived briefly with her mother. Marian Sayles moved to Cleveland, and Sayles Belton then lived with her father and stepmother. During her high school years she volunteered as a candy striper, that is, a nurse's assistant, an experience that exposed her to human suffering.

Sayles Belton attended Macalester College in Saint Paul Minnesota She continued to do volunteer work registering African Americans to vote in Jackson Mississippi She became pregnant during her senior year and her daughter was born with brain damage Unmarried and unemployed Sayles Belton dropped out of school and was ...

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Charles F. Casey-Leninger

first black mayor of Cincinnati, Ohio, was born in Maysville, Kentucky, to a white farmer whom he never knew and Cora Berry. When he was a toddler, Berry's mother brought him to Cincinnati, where they settled in the emerging African American community in the city's West End. Severely hearing impaired and with difficulty speaking, his mother earned little as a domestic, and Berry's sister Anna, fifteen years his senior, eventually assembled the family in her own household.

Berry attended the segregated Harriet Beecher Stowe Elementary School and graduated from the racially mixed Woodward High School in 1924 as valedictorian, the first black student in Cincinnati to achieve that honor in an integrated high school. Berry received his bachelor of arts degree from the University of Cincinnati in 1928 and his juris doctorate from the UC College of Law in 1931 He worked his way through school by selling ...

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Daryl A. Carter

mayor of Newark, New Jersey, was born Cory Anthony Booker in Washington, D.C., the younger of two sons of Carolyn and Cary Booker, executives at IBM. Booker graduated from North Valley Regional High School at Old Tappan, after which he entered Stanford University in Palo Alto, California. At Stanford Booker studied political science and was active in student politics, serving in student government as senior class president. He played football and was awarded for his talent. Upon graduating with a B.A. in 1991, Booker decided to stay at Stanford for another year. In 1992, Booker received his M.A. in Sociology and was awarded one of the highly coveted Rhodes Scholarships. In Great Britain, he continued his studies at The Queen's College of Oxford University. In 1994 Booker received a degree in modern history with honors After completing his studies in England Booker enrolled at Yale Law ...

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Bret A. Weber

law enforcement officer, community organizer, and mayor, was born in Stamps, Lafayette County, Arkansas, but lived most of his life and built his career in the state capital, Little Rock. His mother, Annie Bussey, lived in Stamps, with his father Charlie Bussey, who worked at the local sawmill. A childhood friend of Maya Angelou's, Bussey and his sister, Delvira Bussey, who became a schoolteacher, shared a deep concern for the welfare and future of children. He moved to Little Rock in the 1940s and opened an appliance shop and on 11 October 1945 married Maggie Clark. Though unsuccessful in the appliance business, by 1950 he had become the state s first black deputy sheriff and was later assigned to the prosecuting attorney s office as an investigator As deputy sheriff he founded the Junior Deputy Baseball program and many of those ...

Article

Kerry Pimblott

politician and trade unionist, was born in Cairo, Illinois, the eldest son of Nevada Bell and Charles Hayes Sr., the latter a farm laborer. Charles Arthur Hayes spent his formative years in Cairo, graduating from that city's Sumner High School in 1935.

After high school, Hayes took a job stacking lumber at E. L. Bruce Company, a leading manufacturer of hardwood flooring. Hayes quickly rose to the more skilled position of machine operator and became active in efforts to organize a union. In 1939, these efforts resulted in the founding of Local 1424 of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America. A few months later, Hayes was elected president, marking the beginning of a long career as a labor organizer.

During World War II, Hayes, like thousands of African Americans, migrated north to Chicago in search of better employment opportunities. In 1942 Hayes ...

Article

Crystal L. Joseph Bryant

politician and civil rights activist, was born Sharon Sayles in St. Paul, Minnesota, to William Wellford “Bill” Sayles Jr., a neighborhood activist, mechanic, and car salesman, and Pearl Marian Sayles. A nationally recognized expert on public safety, neighborhood livability, and economic development, she was the first African American and first female mayor of Minneapolis.

Sayles Belton graduated in 1973 from Macalester College, where she studied biology and sociology. In 1989 she participated in the Senior Executives in State and Local Government Program in the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. After graduating from Macalester, Sayles Belton worked as a parole officer at the Minnesota Department of Corrections, working primarily with sexual assault victims. In 1983 she became associate director at the Minnesota Program for Victims of Sexual Assault As the assistant director she worked to build twenty six centers to assist rape victims ...