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Bulkley, William Lewis  

Michele Valerie Ronnick

Latinphilologist, school administrator, and educational reformer, was born in Greenville, South Carolina, to Vincent Henry Bulkley and his wife Madora, freeborn African Americans. He was the couple's firstborn son, and as a child he saw his father make important contributions to the establishment of Claflin University in 1869 in Orangeburg, South Carolina. He matriculated at Claflin in 1878 and graduated four years later on 6 June 1882. The school's catalog for the academic year 1881–1882 lists him as the only member of the senior class, and he and Nathaniel Middleton were among the first students that Claflin's college program produced. Prior to graduation he taught Greek, Latin, and German at his alma mater, and from 1886 to 1899 he held the title of professor. He served as secretary of Claflin's faculty in 1895, and from 1896 to 1899 was the school's vice president.

In ...

Article

Cole, Johnnetta Betsch  

Beverly Guy-Sheftall

Johnnetta Betsch Cole was the seventh president of Spelman College (1987-1997), the oldest college for black women in the United States. Under her leadership, Spelman became the first historically black college or university to receive top ratings by U.S. News & World Report and Money magazine. During her presidency she raised over $113 million in the Capital Campaign Fund, which was the largest sum ever raised by a historically black college or university. After leaving the Spelman presidency in 1997, she joined the faculty at Emory University, where she was professor of anthropology, women’s studies, and African American studies for four years. She also has the distinction of being the only black woman to have been president of the only two historically black colleges for women. In July 2002 she was appointed president of Bennett College for Women in Greensboro, North Carolina, becoming its fourteenth president.

Cole ...

Article

Cole, Johnnetta Betsch  

Lisa E. Rivo

anthropologist, educator, and college president, was born Johnnetta Betsch in Jacksonville, Florida, the second of three children to Mary Frances Lewis, an English teacher, and John Thomas Betsch Sr., an insurance executive. Johnnetta grew up in one of Florida's most prominent African American families; her great-grandfather, Abraham Lincoln Lewis, co-founded the Afro-American Life Insurance Company, Florida's first insurance company. An ambitious and civic-minded businessman, Lewis established several black institutions, including the colored branch of the public library, the Lincoln Golf and Country Club, and the seaside resort known as American Beach, the only beach allowing blacks in north Florida. Johnnetta's childhood was shaped by competing influences: her supportive family and community, and the racist attitudes and institutions of the Jim Crow South. Educated in segregated public and private schools, Johnnetta credits the influence of her teachers and her family friend Mary McLeod Bethune with encouraging her ...

Article

Dykes, Eva Beatrice  

R. Baxter Miller

scholar and educator, was born in Washington, D.C., the daughter of James Stanley Dykes and Martha Ann Howard. Eva graduated from M Street High (later Paul Laurence Dunbar High School) in 1910. As valedictorian of her class, she won a $10 scholarship from Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority to attend Howard University, where in 1914 she graduated summa cum laude with a BA in English. After a year of teaching Latin and English at the now defunct Walden University in Nashville, Tennessee, and for another year elsewhere, she was urged by James Howard, a physician and uncle on her mother's side, to enter Radcliffe College in 1916. Subsequently, she earned a second BA in English, magna cum laude, in 1917. Elected Phi Beta Kappa, she received an MA in English in 1918 and a PhD in English philology in 1921 Her dissertation was titled ...

Article

Enwezor, Okwui  

Carmen De Michele

Nigerian curator, art critic, writer, and academic, was born in Kalaba, Nigeria, a middle-sized city close to the Cameroonian border, on 23 October 1963. He grew up in Enugu in eastern Nigeria, where he attended a British boarding school. He was taught to speak in English in addition to his native Igbo.

In 1982 Enwezor moved to the United States, where he enrolled at the Jersey City State College (now New Jersey City University) in Jersey City, New Jersey, as a political science major. He earned a BA in political science in 1987. Enwezor entered the world of art through friends and by visiting a large number of art exhibitions. He turned his attention not only to contemporary American and European art but also to modern African art. He noticed that African artists were severely underrepresented in the American art scene. In 1989 Enwezor became a freelance ...

Article

Franklin, John Hope  

Sholomo B. Levy

historian, was born in Rentiesville, Oklahoma, the youngest of four children of Buck Colbert Franklin, an attorney, and Mollie Parker, an elementary school teacher. He was named after the famed educator John Hope, who had taught his parents in Atlanta, Georgia. When John's father had been ejected from a courtroom by a judge in Ardmore, Oklahoma, who refused to preside over a case argued by a “nigger,” the family moved to Rentiesville, and then Colbert went alone to Tulsa in 1921 to establish his law practice The family struggled and worried for his safety after reading reports of the bloody race riot that took place in Tulsa that year Colbert s office was burned down but within a few years he had reestablished himself to the point where he could send for his family Young John was an extraordinary student who won the local spelling ...

Article

Franklin, John Hope  

Paul Finkelman

the most influential African American historian of the twentieth century. The son of Buck Colbert Franklin, a lawyer, and Mollie Lee Parker Franklin, a schoolteacher, John Hope Franklin—named after John Hope, the first black president of Morehouse College—was born in Rentiesville, Oklahoma. His parents had met at Roger Williams University in Nashville, Tennessee. Before John's birth his father practiced law in Ardmore, Oklahoma, and once had to travel to Louisiana on behalf of a client. A local Louisiana judge told him that “no ‘nigger lawyer’ could represent clients in his court.” (When not otherwise noted, all quotations come from Franklin, “John Hope Franklin,” or Franklin, Vintage Years After this experience the Franklins moved to the all black town of Rentiesville Oklahoma a village of two hundred people near Tulsa where they were less affected by the pervasive racism of the age and region At the time ...

Article

Hine, Darlene Clark  

Pero Gaglo Dagbovie

A scholar of national renown, Darlene Clark Hine has published pathbreaking scholarship; introduced and developed new and existing fields of scholarly inquiries; provided leadership for various groups of scholars; and mentored and trained several generations of historians. She served as president of the Organization of American Historians (2001-2002) and the Southern Historical Association (2002-2003). During her productive, decades-long career as a professional historian, Hine has taught at eight different universities, published several books, cowritten and coedited a dozen scholarly volumes, edited three major works, written more than fifty journal articles and chapters in anthologies, presented more than sixty papers in professional venues, lectured at universities all over the United States, and served on countless programming, advisory, and nominating committees and editorial boards. Since the mid-1980s, Hine has received numerous grants, awards, and honors, including honorary doctorates from Purdue University and Buffalo State College, the Detroit News ...

Article

Holmes, Eugene Clay  

Charles Rosenberg

chair of the Howard University Department of Philosophy following Alain Locke, worked with Locke to interweave philosophy with his understanding of the black experience. Holmes is sometimes described as one of the only two Marxist philosophers of African descent in the United States (along with C. L. R. James), from the 1930s until Angela Davis began teaching philosophy in the 1960s.

He was born in Patterson, New Jersey (McClendon, p. 37), to Samuel and Arabella Holmes, who had been born, like their own parents, in Virginia. Samuel Holmes worked as a bartender and later as a hotel waiter; Arabella washed laundry, sometimes on her own, sometimes as a commercial employee, retiring a few years earlier than her husband. Growing up in nearby Passaic and later in Pleasantville, Atlantic County, Holmes had a brother Lawrence, one year older, and sister Gladys, two years younger (Census, 1910 ...

Article

Hooks, Bell  

Amy Grant

The intrepid bell hooks has been one of America’s premier social critics, although often incorrectly categorized as merely a black feminist. It would be more accurate to characterize her as a public intellectual engaged in the arts of literary, film, and popular cultural criticism and committed to the struggle against racism, sexism, classism, and homophobia. Many of her writings, interviews, and public speeches identified these dominant discourses as serious impediments designed to inhibit people from realizing a fuller understanding of themselves and their fellow human beings. Hooks sought to dismantle these dominant political discourses by exposing their use in art, literature, and film. Meanwhile, hooks encouraged those most damaged by these ideas, such as black women, to join this struggle, believing strongly that the elevation of black womanhood will result in the liberation of blacks and American society itself.

Bell hooks was born Gloria Jean Watkins in Hopkinsville, Kentucky ...

Article

Ladner, Joyce A.  

John Wess Grant

Joyce Ladner has been one of the leading proponents of the racial uplift tradition that bore close ties to the activities of black clubwomen at the turn of the twentieth century. Ladner’s many years of activism and academic pursuits have focused on advancing a tradition that adheres to the core values of self-help, self-respect, honesty, strong families, religious faith, and education as the means to social uplift. Her steadfast commitment to these values, reflected in her numerous books and articles on subjects such as black families, higher education, poverty, parenting, and children, was born out of her experiences in the segregated South and the civil rights movement. These experiences also played a key role in the making of Ladner the activist, scholar, and community leader.

Joyce A. Ladner was born in a hamlet on the outskirts of Hattiesburg, Mississippi. Ladner credited her stepfather and especially her mother, Anne Ruth Perryman ...

Article

Ladner, Joyce Ann  

Crystal Marie Fleming

civil rights activist, sociologist, and university administrator, was born in Battles, Mississippi. She was the youngest of three children born to Annie Ruth Woullard and Eunice Stafford Ladner, a presser for a dry cleaner. After her divorce from Eunice, Annie Ruth married William Coty Perryman, an auto mechanic with whom she had six children. Ladner and her siblings were raised in Palmers Crossing, a segregated rural district outside of Hattiesburg. Ladner grew up in a working-class family surrounded by a tight-knit group of extended relatives and neighbors who provided positive role models. Although separated by distance, she always felt a kinship toward her biological father, whose family came from a long line of Creole farmers, artisans, and craftsmen.

Ladner's childhood experiences with Jim Crow segregation racial hostility and economic hardship were mitigated by a supportive black community and a nurturing home environment that bolstered ...

Article

Painter, Nell Irvin  

Amalia K. Amaki

historian, academic, and writer, was born Nell Elizabeth Irvin in Houston, Texas, to Frank Edward Irvin, a chemist and chemistry administrator at the University of California at Berkeley, and Dona Lolita McGruder, a homemaker and personnel officer for the Oakland Public Schools. Her older brother Frank Jr. died during a tonsillectomy at age five in 1943. When Nell was just an infant, her parents moved to Oakland, California, seeking better work opportunities and living conditions. She attended public schools, including Oakland Technical High School, and she was an active youth member of Downs Methodist Church.

Nell Irvin enrolled in the University of California at Berkeley in 1960 and decided on an anthropology major after spending the summer of 1962 in Kano, Nigeria. A student participant in Operations Crossroads Africa she helped build a local school and experienced the country from a grassroots level ...

Article

Reagon, Bernice Johnson  

Joan F. McCarty

musician, social activist, songtalker, and scholar, was born Bernice Johnson in Albany, Georgia, the daughter of a Baptist minister, the Reverend Jessie Johnson, and a homemaker, Beatrice Johnson. Johnson was steeped in the traditions and culture of the southwestern Georgia community surrounding Mt. Early Baptist Church. Her home church did not have a piano for many years, so she honed her a cappella vocal skills in the school and church choir.

After graduating from high school, she auditioned for the music program at Albany State College and was accepted, enrolling in 1959 as music major. While in college, she served as the secretary of the youth division of the NAACP and became more deeply drawn into the civil rights struggle. Reagon began to attend meetings of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in the city and eventually formed a bond with Cordell Reagon ...

Article

Reagon, Bernice Johnson  

Sowande' Mustakeem

Undoubtedly one of the few professors of history to have a second career as a singer-songwriter, Bernice Johnson Reagon continues to focus her work on sharing the historical legacy of the African American experience amid the relentless quest for freedom and justice within America.

Reagon was born in Albany, Georgia, one of eight children of Jessie Johnson, a carpenter, and Beatrice Johnson, a housekeeper. On days off from her housekeeping job, Beatrice Johnson picked cotton. Jessie Johnson served onSundays as minister at four different rural Baptist churches. Reagon’s musical foundation was largely shaped by the influence of the southwestern Georgia choral tradition in her father’s church, which was part of a tradition dating back to the nineteenth century. Reagon entered Albany State College in 1959 where she studied Italian arias and German lieder as a contralto soloist During this time she became active in the civil ...

Article

Reddick, Lawrence Dunbar  

David Christopher Brighouse

historian, curator, writer, and educator, was born in Jacksonville, Florida. He graduated magna cum laude, probably majoring in history, from the historically black Fisk University in 1932, where he studied under African American scholars Charles S. Johnson, Horace Mann Bond, and with white history professor Theodore Currier, who is perhaps best known as the undergraduate mentor of historian John Hope Franklin. Reddick went on to receive a MA in History from Fisk the following year and then pursued doctoral work at the University of Chicago, receiving his PhD in History in 1939 under the direction of Avery Craven, a prominent historian of the South. Reddick's dissertation, a study of four antebellum New Orleans newspapers and their depiction of African Americans (especially slaves), was entitled “The Negro in the New Orleans Press, 1850–1860: A Study in Attitudes and Propaganda.” In 1939 ...

Article

Sowell, Thomas  

Gary Kerley

conservative economist, political writer, and educator, was born in Gastonia, North Carolina, to Willie (maiden name unknown), a domestic, and Henry Sowell, who died before his son's birth. Because they already had four other children, Thomas's parents, even before he was born, asked for help in rearing the baby. Henry turned to his aunt, Molly Sowell, who was sixty; she and her husband named the baby Thomas Hancock Sowell, nicknamed “Buddy,” and raised him as their own. Willie Sowell died a few years later in childbirth and Sowell did not know until he was an adult that his aunt and uncle were not his real parents He was a fourth grader when in the 1930s the family moved to Harlem New York where Sowell grew up and attended the prestigious Stuyvesant High School He dropped out in the tenth grade to go to ...

Article

Tate, Merze  

Jayne R. Beilke

political scientist and educator, was born Vernie Merze Tate in Blanchard, Michigan, the daughter of Charles Tate, a farmer and businessman, and Myrtle Katora (Lett) Tate, both descendants of free blacks who had settled in Michigan under the Homestead Act of 1862. Tate had a sister, Thelma, who was ten years her senior, and a younger brother, Myrle K. The valedictorian and only African American member of her class at Blanchard High School, Merze graduated after the tenth grade when the school burned down. To qualify for college admission she attended Battle Creek High School, where she won the Hinman Oratorical Contest. In 1927 Tate received a BA in Education from Western Michigan Teachers College (now Western Michigan University) in Kalamazoo, becoming the school's first African American woman graduate.

From 1925 to 1926 Tate taught elementary school at the Calvin Center School in Cassopolis ...

Article

Tate, Merze  

Rosalyn Terborg-Penn

In 1991 Merze Tate received the American Historical Association’s prestigious Distinguished Scholar award for exceptional teaching and scholarship. Tate taught for more than fifty years on the secondary and college levels before retiring from Howard University in 1977. Her experience was primarily in segregated institutions that often provided an exceptional education to African Americans. She was the first African American woman to receive an advanced degree from Oxford University and provided excellent instruction to students who remembered her years later as a wonderful role model and rigorous teacher.

Born in Blanchard, Michigan, Tate walked eight miles daily to attend Battle Creek High School. In 1927 she graduated first in her class from Western Michigan Teachers College in Kalamazoo, where she became the first African American to earn a BA degree.

Racial prejudice and Jim Crow practices kept Tate from finding a teaching position in Michigan. However, in 1928 ...

Article

West, Cornel  

Lewis R. Gordon

philosopher, educator, and social critic, was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, the son of Clifton L. West Jr., a civilian air force administrator, and Irene Bias, an elementary school teacher. The West family eventually settled in the segregated city of Sacramento, California. The young Cornel's childhood was at first marked by much anger and rebellion. In the third grade, when his teacher slapped him, he hit her back and was expelled. He was taught at home for six months before being placed in a newly integrated school. At the age of eight he became a devout Christian. From then onward, the precocious Cornel became a conscientious student, and spent much of his youth reading biographies and philosophical texts from the neighborhood bookmobile and articles from the Black Panther newspaper.

West s family was Baptist and he grew up with a sense of pride in the role of ...