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politician, was born on Cincinnati's segregated west side, the older of two brothers born to George Blackwell, a meatpacker, and Dana Blackwell, a part-time nurse. Until he was six years old, the family lived in the Laurel Homes housing project. Blackwell would later attribute his character to his father's work ethic, his mother's reading and lessons from the Bible, and the parents' strong promotion of education. He graduated from Hughes High School in 1966, and attended Cincinnati's Xavier University on a football scholarship. A well-regarded and physically imposing athlete—he stood at 6 feet 4 inches, 220 pounds—Blackwell was also seen by his peers as a radical black campus leader, donning daishikis and wearing his hair in an Afro, serving as president of the black students association, and lobbying the administration in civil rights issues.

In his sophomore year, Blackwell married his childhood girlfriend, Rosa whom ...

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Charles Rosenberg

in the U.S. Department of Health Education and Welfare, was born in Bogue Township, Columbus County, North Carolina, the third child of Jett and Cassy Brice. He had an older brother, James, and an older sister, Laura. Their father worked in a lumber mill.

Brice graduated in 1938 with a bachelor’s degree from Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, then completed an M.A. and Ph.D. in Education at the University of Pennsylvania. In 1940, at the age of twenty-four, Brice accepted the position of president at Clinton Normal and Industrial College, Catawba Township, near Rock Hill, South Carolina. There he met his future wife, Creola M. Lindsay, an elementary school teacher in Rock Hill. In 1942, announcing that Brice would deliver the keynote address before the Social Science Group of the Palmetto State Teachers Association, the Carolina Times described him as An untiring worker for a better standard of ...

Article

Alonford James Robinson

Walter Carrington, the eldest child of Walter R. and Marjorie Hayes Carrington, was born in New York City. He graduated from Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1952 and Harvard Law School in 1955. Carrington was the first student elected to the National Board of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). After serving in the U.S. Army, he was appointed to the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination. At age twenty-seven, he was the youngest person ever appointed a commissioner in that state.

In 1961 Carrington joined the Peace Corps, serving for ten years in Sierra Leone, Senegal, Tunisia, and eventually as the Regional Director for Africa. In 1971 he became the vice president of the African-American Institute (AAI), an organization dedicated to developing human resources in Africa and to fostering better dialogue between Africans and Americans.

In 1980 accepting an ...

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 ...

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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 ...

Article

Benjamin R. Justesen

clergyman, legislator, and diplomat, was born in Princeton, New Jersey, the oldest surviving child of Mathias and Diana (Oakham) Van Horne. He was educated in the Princeton schools, before enrolling in 1859 at Pennsylvania's Ashmun Collegiate Institute for Colored Youth (renamed Lincoln University in 1866), studying theology, education, Greek, Hebrew, and Latin. In 1868 he became one of the first six students to receive a bachelor's degree from Lincoln University, where he also pursued graduate studies beginning in 1871.

While still a student, Van Horne was married in 1862 to Rachel Ann Huston of Princeton, New Jersey. The couple had four children: daughters Florence V. (Miller) and Louisa S. A., and sons Mahlon H. and Mathias Alonzo Van Horne(Mathias was educated at Howard University and later became Rhode Island's first African American dentist). After being ordained as a minister in 1866 ...

Article

Nina Davis Howland

government official, was born in New York City, the daughter of James S. Watson, the first black elected judge in New York, and Violet Lopez. After receiving her BA from Barnard College in 1943, she served as an interviewer with the United Seaman's Service in New York from 1943 to 1946; as owner and executive director of Barbara Watson Models, a modeling agency, from1946 to1956; as a research assistant for the New York State Democratic Committee, from 1952 to 1953; as a clerk at the Christophers, a nonprofit Catholic organization in New York, from 1956 to 1957; and as foreign student adviser at Hampton Institute in Virginia, from 1958 to 1959.

Watson, who was honored as “the most outstanding law student in the City of New York,” received an LLB from New York Law School in 1962 graduating third highest in ...

Article

After graduating from the New York public school system, Franklin Williams acquired a bachelor's degree from Lincoln University and a law degree from Fordham Law School. Following service in World War II, he worked as an assistant to Thurgood Marshall, then assistant counsel to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), until 1950. Williams served as West Coast director of the NAACP until 1959.

After conducting voter registration dinners that helped elect John F. Kennedy president, Williams was selected to head the African branch of the newly created Peace Corps. Part of his job entailed traveling throughout Africa with Peace Corps director Sargent Shriver to plan the organization's future. His experiences in a wide range of foreign nations primed him for a diplomatic post. In 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson appointed Williams to serve on a delegation to the Economic and ...