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Steven J. Niven

schoolgirl and terrorist bombing victim, was born in Birmingham, Alabama, the seventh of eight surviving children of Oscar Collins, a busboy in a Chinese restaurant, and Aline Collins, a domestic. Addie Mae grew up in a small four-room house on a dirt road in Sixth Court West, one of Birmingham's poorest neighborhoods. When her parents separated, making an already difficult home life even harder, Addie Mae and her sisters Janie and Sarah helped the family finances by going door to door after school, selling cotton aprons and potholders that their mother made. Interviewed by the Birmingham News in April 2001, her sisters recalled that Addie Mae was a quiet—but by no means shy or timid—child who emerged as the peacemaker whenever quarrels broke out in the family. “She just always wanted us to love one another and treat each other right,” her younger sister Sarah remembered.

In ...

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Mark Newman

civil rights activist, was born in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, the eighth of twelve children of a white father, George Dahmer, and a mother of mixed racial heritage, Ellen Kelly. Vernon Dahmer's complex heritage derived from both sides of the family. Born the illegitimate son of a German immigrant and a white American mother, George Dahmer had been raised with eight younger black siblings, the result of his mother's later marriage to a former slave. Ellen Kelly was the daughter of a white planter father, who gave Ellen and George Dahmer part of his land near Hattiesburg, Kelly Settlement. The Dahmer children looked white and three of Vernon's five brothers migrated to the North, where they married white women and passed as white. Some members of the family on both sides of the color divide were ignorant of the existence of relatives on the other. In adulthood, Vernon Dahmer ...

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Steven J. Niven

lynching survivor and litigant, was born in Noxubee County, Mississippi, to parents whose names are unknown. Nothing is known of his early life, but around 1932 he married a woman named Kate, with whom he had two children. They moved a few miles south of Noxubee, to Scooba in Kemper County, where he began working as a farm laborer for Raymond Stuart, a prominent white planter. Ellington's new home county, known since Reconstruction as “Bloody Kemper” because of its reputation for racial violence, had witnessed fourteen lynchings between 1883 and 1930, all of them of African Americans. Indeed, whites in Kemper lynched blacks at twice the rate of other counties in Mississippi, the state with the nation's worst record for lynching.

On 30 March 1934 Ellington nearly became the fifteenth black man lynched in Bloody Kemper following the discovery of his employer s dead body Raymond ...

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Steven J. Niven

schoolgirl and terrorist bombing victim, was born Carol Denise McNair in Birmingham, Alabama, the first child of Christopher McNair, a freelance photographer, and Maxine Pippen McNair, a schoolteacher. Denise or Niecie as her friends called her enjoyed a relatively comfortable somewhat sheltered upbringing as part of Birmingham s small but growing African American middle class Chris McNair s photography business prospered and teachers like Maxine Pippen McNair had long been the backbone of the city s tight knit black bourgeoisie Denise s parents both graduates of the Tuskegee Institute believed strongly in the importance of education and encouraged their daughter s early interest in poetry music and dance Active in the Brownies a dedicated student of the piano and a keen softball player Denise emerged as one of the most popular children in her neighborhood and at Birmingham s Center Street Elementary School Absorbing at an ...

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Steven J. Niven

schoolgirl and terrorist bombing victim, was born Carole Rosamond Robertson in Birmingham, Alabama, the third child of Alvin Robertson, a music instructor, and Alpha Anderson Robertson, a teacher and librarian. Both Carole's mother and her maternal grandmother, Sallie Anderson, were prominent in the civic affairs of black Birmingham. Alpha Robertson helped found the city's chapter of Jack and Jill, Inc., a black women's national organization dedicated to the educational, cultural, and recreational enrichment of African American children, in which Carole was an active participant. When their Saturday morning chores were completed Carole attended weekly dance classes at a Smithfield recreation center, where she received lessons in both tap and ballet. A dedicated Girl Scout, she was also interested in music; she sang in the choir at the Wilkerson Elementary School in Birmingham and later joined the marching band at the city's Parker High School.

Robertson s ...

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Boyd Childress

(b. 30 October 1895; d. 19 March 1960), physician. Grandson of an Alabama slave and himself a prominent Detroit physician, Ossian Sweet was unwillingly at the center of one of the nation's major racial trials of the twentieth century. Born and raised in rural Florida, Sweet graduated from Wilberforce University and Howard University Medical School. He opened a successful practice in Detroit in 1921 and married the next year. Sweet and his wife traveled to Europe, where Sweet studied in Vienna and then in Paris under Marie Curie. After the birth of their daughter, the Sweets returned to Detroit in 1924.

In 1925 Sweet purchased a home on Garland Avenue in one of Detroit s white lower middle class neighborhoods Racial tension in Detroit was already high and a neighborhood Waterworks Improvement Association was formed in July for the unveiled purpose of maintaining ...

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Daniel Wein

physician, was born Ossian Haven Sweet in Orlando, Florida, the eldest of nine surviving children of Dora DeVaughn and Henry Sweet. In the summer of 1898 the Sweets bought a plot of land in the town of Bartow, approximately forty-five miles east of Tampa, where they ran a successful farm and lumberyard. Ossian attended Union Academy (Bartow's all-black public school) through the eighth grade. In September 1909, at the age of thirteen, he began preparatory work at Wilberforce University in Xenia, Ohio, the nation's first black college. He was initially awarded a scholarship, but it was rescinded due to lack of funds. Sweet did odd jobs around campus to help cover expenses. He started the college program in the fall of 1913 concentrating in the sciences with the goal of entering medical school Sweet earned his BS a general science degree that focused on biology chemistry ...

Article

Steven J. Niven

schoolgirl and terrorist bombing victim, was one of eight children born to a poor family in Birmingham, Alabama. When she was six she was adopted by Claude Wesley, a grade school principal, and his wife, Gertrude, a nursery school teacher. The Wesleys had waited a long time for their first child, and they did their best to provide her with a financially secure, culturally enriched childhood. Cynthia took dance and music lessons and was regarded as a promising student at both the Wilkerson Elementary School and the Ullman High School in Birmingham, where she did well in math and played saxophone in the Ullman school band. A vivacious child, Cynthia made friends easily, but she did not forget the siblings she had left behind, passing on to them books and other gifts that she received.

Claude tried to shield his daughter from the harsh reality of segregation though ...

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William M. Tuttle

was the first victim of the Chicago Race Riot of 1919. Little is known of his parents or his early life, but his death spurred an important legal precedent when the city paid compensation to his mother, Luella Williams, for her loss.

In a 1968 interview, Eugene's friend John Turner Harris recalled the tragic events of almost fifty years earlier that led to the death of Eugene Williams and rocked the city of Chicago. As Harris recounted, it was approaching 90 degrees on Sunday, 27 July 1919 when the fourteen year old Harris and four other teenage African American boys including seventeen year old Eugene Williams decided to skip church and go swimming in Lake Michigan The boys were not headed for the black patronized Twenty fifth Street beach nor did they intend to swim at the white beach at Twenty ninth Street Instead they were going ...

Article

Teresa A. Booker

Tulsa Race Riot participant and survivor, was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma. His parents' names are now unknown, although it is known that his father worked as a bank janitor.

In the late evening of 30 May 1921 eleven-year-old Binkley Wright was attending the 10:00 p.m showing of a play held at the Dixie Theater in downtown Tulsa with some friends The theater which was restricted to use by blacks only was nonetheless located in the white section of the town Ten minutes or so into the show Wright and the other audience members were dismissed because of disturbances outside of the theater On his way home to Greenwood in the northern part of Tulsa Wright witnessed blacks running in the streets and talking about an impending race riot When he arrived home he told his parents what had happened and asked what a race riot was While corroborating his ...

Article

David H. Anthony

U.S. Navy veteran, Tuskegee student, SNCC worker, and civil rights martyr, was born in Tuskegee, Alabama, son of Renee and Samuel Younge Sr. His mother was an elementary school teacher, and his father was an occupational therapist, head of the department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at Veterans' Hospital (Tuskegee) and later attached to the U.S. Forest Service. Younge's life was marked by a series of uncompromising role models within and beyond his family. In the town of Tuskegee itself, he grew up in a black middle-class enclave that valued both education and self-respect. Yet even among this relatively privileged enclave that existed for Tuskegee's educated African American elite, Samuel L. Younge Jr.'s childhood was far more individualistic than most Credit for this belonged to his mother Renee who although conscious of the negative power of racist stereotypes in limiting the horizons of talented ...