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David M. Fahey

fraternal society leader and banker, was born in Habersham County, Georgia, the son of Joseph Browne and Mariah (maiden name unknown), field slaves. As a young child he was called Ben Browne and was chosen to be the companion of his owner's son. A subsequent owner who lived near Memphis trained Browne as a jockey for race circuits in Tennessee and Mississippi. During the Civil War he plotted an escape with fellow slaves. When his owner learned of the conspiracy, he transferred Browne to a plantation in Mississippi. Despite the difficulties of tramping fifty miles without a compass, Browne persuaded three other young slaves to join him in a successful escape to the Union army at Memphis. After learning that his owner could demand his return, Browne fled upriver as a stowaway.

Browne later worked as a saloon servant in Illinois where his barroom experiences made him a teetotaler and ...

Article

Steven Leikin

diplomat, preacher, and author, was born in Atlanta, Georgia, the son of Sallie Montgomery. Nothing is known of his biological father. His mother, however, was an African American, and Dennis was of mixed race parentage. In 1897 he was adopted by Green Dennis, a contractor, and Cornelia Walker. During his youth Dennis was known as the “mulatto child evangelist,” and he preached to church congregations in the African American community of Atlanta before he was five years old. By the age of fifteen he had toured churches throughout the United States and England and addressed hundreds of thousands of people.

Despite his success as an evangelist Dennis had ambitions to move beyond this evangelical milieu. In 1913, unschooled but unquestionably bright, he applied to Phillips Exeter Academy and gained admission. He graduated within two years and in 1915 entered Harvard.

Dennis s decisions to ...

Article

Charles Rosenberg

building engineer, real estate investor, chairman and majority owner of a bank, was born in Panama City, Florida, the only son of Jacoby D. Dickens, Sr. and Marie Dickens, who may also have been known as Lessie Mae. The latter name is recorded in the 1940 census, but Marie is the name Dickens gave in a 1999 interview for The History Makers Digital Archive.

Dickens had two older sisters and three younger ones. His father was a longshoreman, loading and unloading ocean vessels. In Florida he attended a racially segregated two-room schoolhouse, with two teachers each handling four grades. He had a job after school in a grocery store for $1.50 a week. After his parents divorced, he moved with his father and sisters to Chicago in 1946 where Dickens held a part time job at Goldblatt Brothers and graduated from Wendell Phillips High School ...

Article

Wall Street financier, entrepreneur, and philanthropist, was born in New London, Connecticut, the oldest of three sons of Alphonse Fletcher Sr., a technician at General Dynamics and an entrepreneur, and Bettye Fletcher Comer, an elementary school principal and doctor of education. In interviews, Fletcher frequently credited his parents' emphasis on education and discipline as the keys to his success in school and business. In 1987 Fletcher graduated as First Marshal of his class from Harvard College with a bachelor's degree in Applied Mathematics. Having cross-enrolled in the Aerospace Studies Program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology as part of the U.S. Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps, he was commissioned in 1987, and served as an officer in the U.S. Air Force Ready Reserve until his honorable discharge in 1997.

The firm of Bear Stearns Co Inc recruited Fletcher directly out of college ...

Article

Alphonse Fletcher, Jr., known by the nickname Buddy, was born in Waterford, Connecticut. He attended Harvard University, graduating in 1987 with a bachelor's degree in applied mathematics. In his senior year, his fellow students chose him marshal, or president, of his class.

After graduating, Fletcher worked as an investment manager for the Wall Street firm of Bear, Stearns & Company before joining Kidder, Peabody & Company as a senior vice president managing an equity arbitrage group. Although he was among its most successful traders, the relationship ended poorly, with Fletcher's resignation in 1991. He subsequently sued the firm over a disputed bonus. Citing racial discrimination, he alleged that the company underpaid him approximately $2 million. His suits resulted in an arbitration award to him of $1.3 million in 1992, although a separate arbitration found no evidence of discrimination.

Immediately after Fletcher left Kidder Peabody he founded Fletcher ...

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 ...

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Jason Philip Miller

businessman and politician, was born in Kaufman County in the eastern part of Texas to George McDonald, a native Tennessean who had once (reportedly) been owned by the Confederate officer and founder of the Ku Klux Klan, Nathan Bedford Forrest. George was a farmer by trade. McDonald's mother, Flora Scott, was either a former slave or a freewoman, depending on the source. What appears certain is that she was from Alabama and died when McDonald was still very young. His father soon married a woman named Belle Crouch. Education in the family was a matter of great importance; McDonald was in fact named after William Shakespeare and the former U.S. president James Madison. He attended local schools and graduated from high school around 1884 As a young man he took work from a local cattle rancher and lawyer named Z T Adams who discussed the law ...

Article

Travis Boyce and Winsome Chunnu-Brayda

civil-rights activist, soldier, commercial banker, and stock broker, was born Joseph Alfred McNeil on 25 March 1942 in Wilmington, North Carolina. Even prior to entering college, civil-rights activism was not new to McNeil. As a youth in Wilmington, he participated in a boycott of Pepsi-Cola for discriminatory hiring practices. By attending a segregated school, McNeil was shielded from the hostility that one would otherwise experience at an integrated school. His teachers constantly emphasized to him and his classmates that they are entitled to the same rights and opportunities as their white counterparts.

McNeil graduated from Wilmington's Williston High School in 1959 and that fall entered North Carolina Agriculture and Technical College in Greensboro on an alumni association scholarship. An engineering-physics major, McNeil was also a cadet in the Air Force ROTC program. During his freshman year, McNeil befriended Franklin McCain, David Richmond, and Ezell Blair (later Jibreel Khazan ...

Article

Lynne B. Feldman

pastor, banker, and race leader, was born in Granville County, North Carolina, the son of William Pettiford and Matilda (maiden name unknown), farmers. Pettiford, a free black, spent his early years laboring on the family farm. He received a rudimentary education at home and then attended Marion Normal School; he was employed from 1877 to 1880 as a teacher and financial agent at Selma Institute (later Selma University). In 1869 he married Mary Jane Farley, who died that same year. In 1873 he married Jennie Powell, who died in September 1874. In 1880 he married Della Boyd, with whom he had three children.

Pettiford's most remarkable accomplishments were achieved after he accepted in 1883 the pastorate at the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham Alabama Birmingham was a booming city of the New South where blacks migrated in search of employment primarily ...

Article

Robert Fikes

minister, educational administrator, and civic activist, was born in Hayneville, Alabama, the son of Will Smith, a sharecropper, and Amanda (Tyler) Smith, a laundress. Valedictorian of his Miller's Ferry, Alabama, Presbyterian high school class, George worked his way through Knoxville College in Tennessee majoring in chemistry with a minor in biology and German. A member of Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity, he was awarded his bachelor's degree in 1951, the same year that he married Irene Hightower; they eventually had three children.

Smith was taking graduate courses in education at Alabama State University while teaching high school in the rural town of Annemanie, Alabama, when a series of incidents of extreme racial brutality persuaded him to leave his job and his home state and enter the ministry, a career path that he had earlier rejected. In 1953 he enrolled at the Pittsburgh ...

Article

Lisa E. Rivo

civil rights and women's rights activist, community leader, and the first black woman to found and become president of a chartered bank in America, was born in Richmond, Virginia, to Elizabeth “Lizzie” Draper, a former slave, and Eccles Cuthbert, a white writer. Unwed at the time of Maggie's birth, Lizzie Draper worked as an assistant cook in the home of Elizabeth Van Lew, an ardent abolitionist and Union spy. In 1869 Lizzie married William Mitchell, a former slave, who worked as Van Lew's butler and later as the headwaiter at the posh St. Charles Hotel. A son, Johnny, was born shortly after the family's move to downtown Richmond. In 1878 William was robbed and murdered, leaving Lizzie and her two young children without savings insurance benefits or financial support circumstances that informed Maggie s adult work on behalf of the economic status of black women Lizzie ...

Article

For Maggie Lena Walker, who rose from humble beginnings to become the first black woman bank president, the future of the race was dependent upon the education and advancement of black women. In her words, she was “not born with a silver spoon in mouth: but, instead, with a clothes basket almost upon my head.” Former slaves, Walker's mother, Elizabeth (Draper), was a cook's helper and her father, William Mitchell, was the family butler in the Van Lew mansion in Richmond, Virginia. After her father was found floating in the James River, apparently murdered, Maggie Walker assumed multiple responsibilities as delivery person and babysitter while she kept up with her studies, church attendance, and public service.

Educated in segregated public schools in Richmond, Walker finished at the head of her class in 1883 After graduation she taught for three years at the Lancaster school while she ...