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Richard Watts

Jean-Claude Duvalier was born while his father, the tyrannical François Duvalier, (“Papa Doc”), was in political exile in the countryside of Haiti, and so spent the first years of his life in hiding. When Papa Doc assumed the presidency in 1957, he began grooming Jean-Claude, merely six years old, as his successor. On January 22, 1971, François Duvalier announced that, upon his own death, his nineteen-year-old son would assume the role of president for life. After his father's death later that year, Jean-Claude essentially became a figurehead for the regime while his mother, Simone Ovide Duvalier, ran the country.

Over time however young Duvalier assumed more power He appointed members of Haiti s mulatto elite whom he had met in school to important posts in his government and invited some of the departed elite to return promising that no risk of persecution existed Duvalier s ...

Article

Myrlie Williams was born in Vicksburg, Mississippi, and raised by her grandmother, McCain Beasley, and her aunt, Myrlie Beasley Polk. She married civil rights activist Medgar Evers in 1951. Together they worked for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in its mission to end racial discrimination and segregation in Mississippi.

In 1963 white supremacist Byron De La Beckwith assassinated Medgar Evers. After her husband's death, Evers-Williams moved her family to California, where she continued to work for the NAACP by speaking publicly about her struggles for black equality. With William Peters, she coauthored For Us, the Living (1967). In 1987 Evers-Williams became the first black woman to serve as commissioner on the Los Angeles board of public works. She was elected vice chairperson of the NAACP in 1994, and in 1995 she became the organization s first ...

Article

Jennifer Jensen Wallach

civil rights activist and chairperson of the NAACP. Raised by her grandmother and aunt in Vicksburg, Mississippi, Myrlie Beasely entered Alcorn A&M College in 1950 to study education and music. Shortly after enrolling she met an upperclassman, Medgar Wylie Evers, and the couple married in 1951. The next year they moved to Jackson, Mississippi, where Medgar Evers became field secretary for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).

Ignoring threats from white racists, Myrlie and Medgar Evers participated wholeheartedly in the civil rights movement, but on 12 June 1963 Medgar Evers was shot and killed. His assailant, a segregationist named Byron De La Beckwith, was captured and tried but not convicted. For thirty years Myrlie Evers fought for a retrial, and on 5 February 1994 Beckwith was finally convicted of murder. The trial was dramatized in the 1996 film Ghosts of Mississippi.

Following ...

Article

Lysius Felicité Salomon Jeune, Ida Salomon's father, had been finance minister and one of the most important advisors of the president and self-proclaimed emperor of Haiti, Faustin Elie Soulouque. When Soulouque was overthrown by General Fabre-Nicolas Geffrard, in 1857, Lysius Salomon fled to France, attracted by the similarity of language, manners, and culture. Salomon, who was a widower, married Florentine Potiez, a much younger French woman from a wealthy family.

Called to the presidency in 1879, Salomon returned to Haiti with his new wife. Ida was born to the presidential couple in 1882. Ida Salomon inherited her mother s beauty and her father s fortune When she was only six years old her father was overthrown and she was sent to France to be raised by her mother s family Ida Salomon occasionally visited Haiti where the properties left to her ...

Article

Roanne Edwards

The second of three children of Obadiah and Bernice (McMurry) Scott, Coretta Scott King grew up in rural Alabama, where she helped her family harvest cotton and tend their farm. Her father hauled lumber for a white sawmill owner, a job that enabled him to purchase and operate his own sawmill. The local white community resented her father's success. Vandals allegedly burned his sawmill, and the Scotts' house, to the ground. King was deeply shaken by her family's trials. She dreamed of moving to the North, and she diligently focused on her education, enrolling in a local private high school, where she pursued her talent for music. In 1945 she won a scholarship to Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio. She studied music and elementary education and in 1948 debuted as a vocalist at the Second Baptist Church. Also while at Antioch, she performed in a program with Paul ...

Article

Angela D. Brown and Clayborne Carson

The founding president of the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change in Atlanta, Georgia, Coretta Scott King emerged as an African American leader of national stature after the death in 1968 of her husband Martin Luther King Jr.

Born in Marion, Alabama, Coretta Scott spent her childhood on a farm owned by her parents, Obie Leonard Scott and Bernice McMurry Scott. By the early 1940s, her father’s truck-farming business had become increasingly successful, prompting harassment from white neighbors. The family suspected that resentful whites may have been responsible for a 1942 fire that destroyed the Scott family s home Hoping for better opportunities for their offspring Obie and Bernice Scott encouraged their three children to excel in school Coretta Scott graduated from Lincoln High School a private black institution with an integrated faculty and then followed her older sister Edyth to Antioch College in ...

Article

Jennifer Jensen Wallach

civil rights activist and wife of Martin Luther King Jr. Coretta Scott was born in Marion, Alabama, the second of three children of the farmers Obadiah Scott and Bernice Scott. By the standards of the time, the Scott family was financially successful. The family attributed a 1942 fire—which destroyed their home—to the actions of local whites who were envious of their prosperity.

The Scott parents encouraged all three of their children to attend college. Coretta was valedictorian of her high school class and earned a scholarship to attend Antioch College in Ohio. She graduated in 1951 with a degree in music and elementary education. A talented vocalist, she made her solo debut at the Antioch Second Baptist Church in 1948 While in college she also performed alongside the renowned singer and actor Paul Robeson After graduation she received a scholarship to attend the New England Conservatory of Music ...

Article

Jennifer Jensen Wallach

widow of Malcolm X and educator. Born Betty Jean Sanders in Detroit, Michigan, Shabazz was raised there in a middle-class family by her adoptive parents Lorenzo Don and Helen Malloy. As a youth she was active in the African Methodist Episcopal Church. She briefly attended the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama before enrolling in nursing school at the Brooklyn State Hospital in New York. While studying nursing Shabazz taught a class in women's health at the Nation of Islam's Temple Number 7 in Harlem. There she met the charismatic civil rights leader and Nation of Islam minister Malcolm X.

In 1958 she completed her nursing studies, converted to Islam, and married Malcolm X. They broke with the Nation of Islam in 1964, joining mainstream Islam and adopting the name “Shabazz.” The couple had six daughters, Atallah, Qubilah, Ilyasah, Gamilah, Malikah, and Malaak ...

Article

There is some uncertainty about Betty Shabazz's origins and early life. Reportedly the daughter of Shelman Sandlin and a woman named Sanders, she was born Betty Sanders and grew up as a foster child in the Detroit, Michigan, home of a black family named Malloy. As a youth she was active in her local African Methodist Episcopal Church. She briefly attended Tuskegee Institute (now Tuskegee University) in Alabama but moved to New York City to escape Southern racism and to study at the Brooklyn State Hospital School of Nursing. During her junior year, she attended the Nation of Islam's Temple No. 7 in Harlem. There she taught a women's health and hygiene class and was noticed by Malcolm X, who was a minister at the temple. He proposed to her by telephone from Detroit, and they were married in 1958.

Shabazz converted to Islam ...

Article

LaVonne Roberts Jackson

“Don’t you let anybody believe that being married to one man all this long time, that we didn’t have our mountains, our valleys, and our downs,” declared Hajj Bahiyah Betty Shabazz, widow of the slain black Muslim civil rights leader Malcolm X (el-Hajj Malik el-Shabazz). The marriage was ended by tragedy: on 21 February 1965, while speaking at the Audubon Ballroom in Harlem, Malcolm X was assassinated. Shabazz remained devoted to the legacy of her husband by involving herself in civil rights, community issues, global affairs, and human rights activism, all of which kept her in the American consciousness and media. She was a leader, a teacher, and a mentor whose motto was “find the good and praise it.”

Shabazz was born in Detroit, Michigan, and adopted by Lorenzo Don and Helen Malloy an upper middle class couple She joined the local Methodist church and attended Northern ...

Article

Diane Epstein

Mavis Staples spoke affectionately about her dad, Roebuck “Pops” Staples, as her first and major source of inspiration. Roebuck Staples moved to Chicago from Mississippi in 1935 with his wife, Oceola, their daughter, Cleotha, and son, Pervis. Three more children were born in Chicago, including Mavis in 1940. Chicago became home base for the family. It was not just music that tied the family together but their strong religious beliefs and their commitment to the church.

Staples had two other strong influences in her life. The person who affected her in her formative years was another extraordinary gospel singer, Mahalia Jackson Staples loved to tell the story of how they met and became longtime personal and professional friends Roebuck Staples introduced his daughter to Jackson s singing by way of her radio performances Staples was only about eight but she knew when she listened that this was ...

Article

Dawne Y. Curry

On 12 June 1963 a gunman waiting in the nearby woods fatally shot the first husband of Myrlie Beasley Evers Williams while he stood in the driveway of their home. Medgar Evers, a retired army veteran and a graduate of Alcorn A&M College, was serving as the Mississippi state field secretary for the NAACP when his assassin, a fertilizer salesman named Byron De la Beckwith, took his life. Myrlie was left a widow with three children to rear. Two all-white juries were declared hung while hearing the case, but this did not deter Medgar Evers’s widow from pursuing justice. Her undying efforts, and those of other civil rights activists, resulted in the prosecutor’s office requesting a retrial in 1994. A jury of eight African Americans and four whites finally convicted the assassin on 5 February 1994, thirty years after he first stood trial.

Myrlie Beasley was ...