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Antero Pietila

a teenaged numbers runner who become an important Baltimore business leader, was born into a family of sharecroppers. He was raised by his grandparents in Zebulon, North Carolina, and moved to Baltimore in 1929, during the Depression. He quickly grew tired of the city's Dunbar High School, working instead in a rag factory and fixing bicycles—a sideline he had begun at age ten. On his bicycle, he also ran errands for numbers operators; lucrative illegal lotteries thrived in the city under the protection of the Democratic machine. By the age of twenty, he was an aspiring kingpin, and the owner of three stores.

Adams's grip on numbers strengthened in 1938, after the death of the city's “Black King,” Democratic boss Tom Smith Adams filled the vacuum That year white Philadelphia gangsters firebombed his tavern He repelled the takeover attempt living up to his nickname Little Willie acquired ...

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Malca Chall

civil rights activist and community leader, was born in Mount Vernon, New York, the daughter of Lewis Redgrey, a supervisor in a factory, and Laura (maiden name unknown), a cook. Following the death of their mother when Frances was three, Frances and her baby sister were reared by their paternal grandparents, Lewis Redgrey, a Blackfoot Indian, and Johanna Bowen, a freed slave, on their fifty-five-acre farm in Tuskegee, Alabama.

Frances attended Tuskegee Institute, where she studied botany under George Washington Carver, who also advised her grandfather on productive farming techniques. In 1917 she enrolled at Howard University in Washington, D.C., studying nursing and social work. In 1920, following the death of her grandmother, Frances left college and moved to Berkeley, California, to join her father and stepmother. Two years later she married William Albert Jackson. They had three children. Jackson died in 1930 and ...

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Jane Brodsky Fitzpatrick

first African American member of the Oklahoma City Council, family physician, and civic leader, was born in Trinidad, West Indies, to Gertrude St. John, a domestic worker, and John Atkins. He had one younger sister. Charles Atkins immigrated to the United States, arriving at Ellis Island in March 1929. He was required to attend Dewitt Clinton High School in the Bronx, New York City, because the United States did not accept his education credentials from Trinidad. One of the first black students at DeWitt, he graduated in 1933. Aided by the Urban League, he worked as a summer counselor to earn money for college. Although he took some classes at City College of New York, he moved to North Carolina to attend St. Augustine's, an Episcopalian historically black college in Raleigh. He graduated in 1941 with a bachelor's degree in Chemistry. On 27 March 1943Atkins ...

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Janice L. Greene

first African AmericanPatent Examiner, a lawyer, and author of The Colored Inventor: A Record of Fifty Years (Crisis Publishing Co., 1913) and other works on black inventors and scientists of the nineteenth and early twentieth century, was born in Columbus, Mississippi. Little is known of his parents or his early life in Columbus, except that he attended public schools and the Columbus Union Academy. Toward the end of Reconstruction, in June 1874, he was selected to attend the Annapolis, Maryland, naval academy by white Congressman Henry W. Barry R Mississippi who had commanded black troops for the union Army during the Civil War Despite government and naval policies during this period directing the military to integrate the first two African American cadets failed to survive intense hazing taunting assaults and social isolation from classmates and left before graduation Still Congressman Barry originally from New ...

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Thomas Aiello

basketball player. David Bing was born and raised in Washington, D.C., where he attended Spingarn High School. He starred on the Spingarn basketball team, earning All-Metro honors and in 1962 being named a Parade All-American. That success drew the attention of the University of Michigan and the University of California at Los Angeles, but Bing instead chose to attend Syracuse University, reasoning that he would be more successful at a basketball program with a lower profile. He was correct. In three of his four seasons at Syracuse, Bing led the team in scoring, averaging more than twenty points a game. In his senior year (1966) Bing averaged 28.4 points a game—fifth highest in the country—and was named an All-American. Meanwhile he turned the perennially struggling Syracuse into a winning program. Professional scouts noticed, and in 1966 the Detroit Pistons drafted Bing in the first round of ...

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Rita Kohn

designer, businesswoman, and civic leader, was born Alpha Coles in Lynchburg, Virginia, the youngest of eight children of Alphonso Carroll Coles and Minnie Pugh Coles. Growing up, Blackburn attended a segregated school system, and went on to win a scholarship to Howard University, from which she graduated with honors, attaining a bachelor of arts in Design and a master of fine arts in painting and Art History. In 1964 she moved to Indianapolis, Indiana, with her husband, Walter Scott Blackburn, who had completed his degree in architecture at Howard. She commenced work as a freelance designer of clothing and interiors.

Blackburn's petite figure and radiant good looks created opportunities for her to model, and she accepted a steady job at the prestigious L. S. Ayres & Company in downtown Indianapolis. Concurrently, she hosted a half‐hour daily talk show from 1972 to 1978, Indy Today on WISH ...

Article

architect and civic leader, was born in Indianapolis, Indiana, the son of the Reverend Cleo W. Blackburn, executive director of Flanner House, a social service center for Indianapolis's black community, president of Jarvis Christian College, and executive director and CEO of the Board of Fundamental Education (BFE), which received a national charter in 1954. Cleo Blackburn was born in Port Gibson, Mississippi, the son of a slave. At Butler University he–earned a degree in social work and was ordained a–minister of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). After earning a master's degree in Sociology at Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee, Cleo Blackburn was director of research and records at Tuskegee Institute, Alabama. He returned to Indianapolis in 1936. In 2000 he was recognized posthumously as one of the fifty most influential people of the twentieth century in Indianapolis. Walter Blackburn's mother, Fannie Scott Blackburn a civic ...

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Betti Carol VanEpps-Taylor

historian of African Americans in South Dakota, civic leader, entrepreneur, and philanthropist, was born in Yankton, South Dakota, the youngest of eleven children of Henry and Mary (Fristoe) Blakey. The large, extended Blakey clan began migrating from Missouri to South Dakota in 1904, where they acquired land and built a profitable and respected truck gardening business. Young Blakey completed eighth grade in country school and worked in the family business. Beginning in the mid‐1960s Blakey returned to school at Springfield State College (which later closed), where he obtained his GED and completed advanced training in building maintenance and pest control. On 22 October 1948 he married Dorothy Edwards in Athabaska, Alberta, Canada; the couple had three children.

Blakey was an ambitious, self‐taught businessman with a keen interest in civic activities and public service. Of his three successful businesses, Blakey's Janitorial Services, established in 1956 provided jobs for both ...

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John T. Kneebone

civic and organization leader, was born in Richmond, Virginia, to William P. Burrell, a butler and hotel waiter, and Mildred Burrell, a washerwoman. His parents had been slaves, most likely in Richmond, and his uncle James B. Burrell was prominent among African American entrepreneurs in the early years after Emancipation. Burrell was one of fourteen children, but his intelligence and energy made him stand out.

Reportedly Burrell was selling ice water to thirsty Richmonders at the age of five, and he soon became his mother's assistant, gathering and returning the clothes she washed. Burrell experienced conversion in 1877 and formally joined the Moore Street Baptist Church having served the church s Sunday school as librarian and secretary from the age of nine He was successively elected church clerk janitor deacon treasurer and trustee Elected assistant secretary of the Richmond Baptist Sunday School Union at eleven he became ...

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Charles Rosenberg

baker, community leader, cautious abolitionist, and patriarch of a talented African American family well known into the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, was born in Burlington, New Jersey. His narrative records that he belonged to “the Estate of Samuel Bustill of the City of Burlington, but he Dying when I was Young I was Sold to John Allen of the Same City” (Bustill, p. 22). The name of Bustill's mother is recorded only as Parthenia; Samuel Bustill, an English‐born lawyer who died in 1742, was his father as well as his owner.

Many sources, including Lloyd Louis Brown's detailed history of the Bustill family in The Young Paul Robeson: On My Journey Now (1997), leave out the Allen family, and assert that Samuel Bustill's widow, Grace, arranged for Cyrus Bustill to be apprenticed to Thomas Pryor Jr. However Bustill s own account ...

Article

Kathryn Lofton

pastor of the historic Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem, New York, and president of the State University of New York College at Old Westbury. From the pastoral post long held by Congressman Adam Clayton Powell Jr. (1908–1972), Calvin Otis Butts III developed a model of financial revitalization mirrored by other late-twentieth-century black churches struggling to sustain their communities and retain political influence in the post–civil rights era.

Born in New York City and educated at Morehouse College, Union Theological Seminary, and Drew University, Butts began his career in 1972 as associate pastor of Abyssinian. Upon being named head pastor in 1989 Butts consolidated the economic interests of his church into the Abyssinian Development Corporation ADC which has managed more than $300 million in housing and commercial development in Harlem as well as several social service operations including a transitional shelter a family services program and a tenant ...

Article

Alonford James Robinson

After graduating from high school in 1967, Calvin Butts earned a bachelor's degree from Morehouse College in 1971. He received a Master's in Divinity from Union Theological Seminary in 1975, and a Doctorate of Ministry from Drew Theological School in 1982.

After seventeen years as an assistant and executive minister at Harlem's legendary Abyssinian Baptist Church, Butts was named pastor of the 5,000-member congregation in 1989. His sermons and activities have commanded national attention. He has spoken out publicly against police brutality, so-called gangsta Rap music, and the targeting of African American consumers by cigarette and alcohol manufacturers. In the 1980s Butts was criticized by both blacks and whites for refusing to denounce what some believe to be anti-Semitic preaching by Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan.

Reverend Butts has continued to challenge policies he perceives to be detrimental to the African American ...

Article

author, chemist, physician, scientist, and civil rights activist, was born in Tuskegee, Alabama, to James Calloway and Marietta Oglesby. Nathaniel attended elementary and secondary school in Tuskegee, and in 1926 he received a fellowship to enroll at Iowa State University. While there he earned his BS in Chemistry in 1930 and obtained his PhD in Organic Chemistry in 1933. Calloway's dissertation was titled, “Condensation Reactions of Furfural and Its Derivatives.” Upon graduation he returned to Tuskegee, where he led the department of chemistry at Tuskegee Institute from 1933 to 1935. Then he taught in Fisk University's chemistry department until 1940. In 1933 Calloway married, and he and his wife eventually had four children.

In 1940 Calloway moved to Chicago and began the daunting task of being an instructor of pharmacology and a medical student at the same time Upon learning that he would not be ...

Article

Born in Tuskegee, Alabama, Nathaniel Calloway was a man of many talents. He started his career as a chemist, graduating from Iowa State University (then College) in 1930 and earning his Ph.D. in 1933. After publishing influential research and teaching at both Tuskegee Institute and Fisk University, Calloway decided to enter medical school. In 1940 he enrolled at the University of Chicago, but, denied the opportunity to treat white patients, he transferred to the University of Illinois, from which he received his M.D. in 1943.

After World War II (1939–1945)—during which he conducted research on recuperation theories—Calloway worked at Provident Hospital in Chicago, Illinois, ultimately becoming its director. In 1949 he founded an all-black group practice, and throughout the next fifteen years he combined his medical work with civil rights activism. From 1955 to 1960 Calloway served as president of the Chicago ...

Article

Tyler Fields

civic and religious leader and camp founder, was born Henry Carl Canty in Camden, South Carolina. The only information known about his childhood was that his family was not wealthy, which was typical for southern urban African Americans in the late nineteenth century. Not much is known about Canty's life prior to moving to Hartford, Connecticut, other than that he moved there when he was thirty years old in 1902. He worked for a time as an elevator operator in Hartford City Hall, and according to the 1930 census, he was a polisher at the same building. In that same year Canty and his wife, Mary Ann (Gamble) Canty, purchased 61 Mahl Avenue in Hartford. The home was occupied by the Canty and the Anderson families. Built around 1897, the house was a two-and-a-half-story vernacular Queen Anne building with a gable roof.

Canty was an active member ...

Article

Patricia Miller King

civic leader and civil rights activist, was born Melne Agnes Jones in Richmond, Virginia, the daughter of Albert Jones, a janitor, and Mary Drew, a domestic worker. Seeking broader employment and educational opportunities, the Jones family moved to Boston, Massachusetts, when Melnea was five years old. Her mother died when she was eight, and she and her two sisters were entrusted to the care of an aunt, Ella Drew. After one year at Girls’ High School in Boston, she was sent to St. Francis de Sales Convent School, a Roman Catholic school for black and Indian girls in Rock Castle, Virginia. There household management was taught in addition to the academic curriculum; she graduated as valedictorian of her class in 1914.

When she returned to Boston she was unable to find work as a salesgirl because of her race Instead she was employed as a domestic ...

Article

Charles Rosenberg

was for over half a century pastor of Good Street Baptist Church, Dallas, Texas, named twice by Ebony magazine as one of the fifteen outstanding black preachers in America. He was born in Clarence, Natchitoches Parish, Louisiana, the only child of tenant farmers whose names have not been publicly identified.

The family later moved to Shreveport, where he attended public schools (which at the time were, without exception, segregated by race in his native state), and experienced an adult conversion to Christianity at age fourteen. By some accounts, he left school after seventh grade to assist his parents in the fields. Clark began preaching in 1929, and was ordained a Baptist minister in 1933 Israelite Baptist Church in Longstreet Louisiana called him to his first assignment the same year He also served as pastor of Magnolia Baptist Church South Mansfield Louisiana and Little Flower Baptist Church Grand Cane ...

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Sterling Stuckey

educator, was born Vivian Elma Johnson in Colliersville, Tennessee, the daughter of Spencer Johnson, a farmer, and Caroline Alley, a teacher. One of eight children, Vivian grew up under the enterprising spirit of her parents, both of whom were born in slavery. That her mother was the first black schoolteacher in Fayette County, Tennessee, set a special standard of achievement for Vivian and her seven siblings. The family moved to Memphis when she was very young, and the decision was made to favor the girls with a higher education. All four were to graduate from college, but Vivian, thanks to the financial assistance of a brother, the inventor and railway postal clerk Thomas W. Johnson, was able to attend Howard University and later earn a master's degree in English from Columbia University.

In 1912 the year of her graduation from Howard Vivian accepted a post at ...

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Linda M. Perkins

educator, civic and religious leader, and feminist, was born a slave in Washington, D.C., the daughter of Lucy Jackson. Her father's name and the details of her early childhood are unknown. However, by the time she was age ten, her aunt Sarah Orr Clark had purchased her freedom, and Jackson went to live with relatives in New Bedford, Massachusetts. By 1851 she and her relatives had moved to Newport, Rhode Island, where Jackson was employed as a domestic by George Henry Calvert, a descendant of Lord Baltimore, the settler of Maryland. Jackson's salary enabled her to afford one hour of private tutoring three times a week. Near the end of her six-year stay with the Calverts, she briefly attended the segregated public schools of Newport. In 1859 Jackson enrolled at the Rhode Island State Normal School in Bristol In addition to the normal course she also studied ...

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Linda M. Perkins

When Fanny Jackson became principal of Philadelphia’s Institute for Colored Youth in 1869, she held the highest educational appointment of any black woman in the nation at the time. While most of her attention, both before and after her marriage in 1881, was given to the institute, she was also active in the African Methodist Episcopal Church, the National Association of Colored Women, and, in later life, as a missionary to Africa.

Fanny Jackson Coppin was born a slave in Washington, DC, in 1837. Her freedom was bought during her early childhood by a devoted aunt, Sarah Orr. Jackson moved to New Bedford, Massachusetts, and, by the early 1850s, to Newport, Rhode Island, to live with relatives. While in Newport, Jackson worked as a domestic in the home of George Henry Calvert, great-grandson of Lord Baltimore settler of Maryland Calvert s wife Mary was ...