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Born in Sanford, Florida, Claude Barnett was sent at a very young age to live with his grandparents and other relatives in suburban Chicago, Illinois. He returned to the South to study engineering at Alabama's Tuskegee Institute (now Tuskegee University), from which he graduated in 1906. Back in Chicago, he worked as a postal clerk and, exposed to a wide range of advertising journals, decided to make a career in advertising. In 1913 he produced a series of photographs of famous blacks, which he sold through the mail, furthering his interest in business.

Five years later Barnett and several other entrepreneurs formed the Kashmir Chemical Company which sold cosmetics Barnett left the post office took the job of advertising manager at Kashmir and toured the country selling cosmetics as well as his photographs In each town he visited the local black newspaper hoping to bargain for ...

Article

Robert L. Harris

entrepreneur, journalist, and government adviser, was born in Sanford, Florida, the son of William Barnett, a hotel worker, and Celena Anderson. His father worked part of the year in Chicago and the rest of the time in Florida. Barnett's parents separated when he was young, and he lived with his mother's family in Oak Park, Illinois, where he attended school. His maternal ancestors were free blacks who migrated from Wake County, North Carolina, to the black settlement of Lost Creek, near Terre Haute, Indiana, during the 1830s. They then moved to Mattoon, Illinois, where Barnett's maternal grandfather was a teacher and later a barbershop owner, and finally to Oak Park. While attending high school in Oak Park, Barnett worked as a houseboy for Richard W. Sears cofounder of Sears Roebuck and Company Sears offered him a job with the company after he graduated from high school but ...

Article

Christine Rauchfuss Gray

playwright, was born in Wilmington, North Carolina, the only child of Willis Wilder, a laborer, and Agnes Ann Harper. In 1898, when Richardson was nine years old, a white mob burned down the newspaper offices of a Wilmington newspaperman named Alexander Manly and precipitated a coup d'état in North Carolina's largest city, which resulted in the deaths of at least sixteen blacks. Many African Americans left Wilmington in the months that followed, among them Richardson and his family, who moved to Washington, D.C., because of the riots and the threats made on his father's life. Richardson would live in Washington until his death in 1977.

After completing elementary school, Richardson attended the M Street School (later Dunbar High School) from 1906 until 1910. At the school, Richardson had contact with people who would later be important in his development as a dramatist. Carter G ...

Article

Helen R. Houston

Willis Richardson's interest in the theater was encouraged when he viewed a production of Angelina Weld Grimké's Rachel and by his belief that African American life was richer in theme and character than was being portrayed on the stage in musicals, comedies, and “serious” plays by whites. These were limited to stereotypical roles and one-dimensional representations. Added to this, theatrical groups were without plays by African American writers. With Richardson, all of this changed.

He began to write one-act plays; his early plays presented heroes such as Crispus Attacks, Antonio Maceo, and Simon the Cyrenian for children's edification and were published in The Brownie's Book. In 1920, he published his first adult play, The Deacon's Awakening, in the Crisis. In 1923, he became the first African American playwright to have a nonmusical production on Broadway: The Chip Woman's Fortune; and in 1924 ...

Article

Frank A. Salamone

journalist, diplomat, civil rights advocate, and philanthropist. Carl Thomas Rowan was born in Ravenscroft, Tennessee, but was raised in McMinnville. Rowan attended Tennessee State University and Washburn University in the 1940s and then became one of the first African American commissioned officers in the U.S. Navy. In 1943 the navy sent him to Northwestern for summer training as an officer, but Northwestern refused him residence because he was black. So the navy transferred him to Oberlin. After the war he returned to Oberlin because, according to his autobiography, Breaking Barriers (1991), “Oberlin would permit me to study in a special oasis, sheltered from the hurts, the anger, the rage, that all victims of racism experience.” He graduated from Oberlin in 1947 and from the University of Minnesota—with a master's degree in journalism—in 1948.

Rowan's journalism career began in 1948 at the Minneapolis Tribune ...

Article

Marian Aguiar

Carl Thomas Rowan was born in Ravenscroft, Tennessee. After serving as an officer in the U.S. Navy, which was segregated at the time, Rowan began a career as a newspaper journalist at the white-owned Minneapolis Tribune. One of the first African American reporters for a large urban daily newspaper, Rowan captured the racial struggles of the 1950s with a series on discrimination in the South and an article on the landmark segregation case before the U.S. Supreme Court—Brown v. Board of Education.

In 1961 Rowan entered government service as deputy assistant secretary of state to President John F. Kennedy. Appointed ambassador to Finland in 1963 he was one of the first African Americans diplomats to serve in a predominantly white nation That same year he became head of the United States Information Agency USIA the highest post in the government s executive branch that ...

Article

Pamela Newkirk

journalist, diplomat, and United States Information Agency director, was born in Ravenscroft, Tennessee. He was one of three children of Thomas David Rowan, a lumberyard worker with a fifth-grade education who had served in World War I, and Johnnie Bradford, a domestic worker with an eleventh-grade education. When Rowan was an infant, his family left the dying coal-mining town of his birth to go to McMinnville, Tennessee, lured by its lumberyards, nurseries, and livery stables. But there, in the midst of the Great Depression, they remained mired in poverty. The elder Rowan sometimes found jobs stacking lumber at twenty-five cents an hour and, according to his son, probably never made more than three hundred dollars in a single year. Meanwhile his mother worked as a domestic, cleaning houses and doing the laundry of local white families.

The family lived in an old frame house along ...