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Bunche, Ralph  

Thomas Clarkin

scholar and diplomat, was born Ralph Johnson Bunche in Detroit, Michigan, the son of Fred Bunch, a barber, and Olive Agnes Johnson. His grandmother added an “e” to the family's last name following a move to Los Angeles, California. Because his family moved frequently, Bunche attended a number of public schools before graduating first in his class from Jefferson High School in Los Angeles in 1922. He majored in Political Science at the University of California, Southern Branch (now University of California, Los Angeles [UCLA]), graduating summa cum laude and serving as class valedictorian in 1927. He continued his studies in political science at Harvard, receiving his MA in 1928, and then taught at Howard University in Washington, D.C., while working toward his PhD at Harvard. In 1930 he married Ruth Ethel Harris they had three children Bunche traveled to Europe and Africa researching ...

Article

Bunche, Ralph Johnson  

Lawrie Balfour

Born in Detroit, Michigan, Ralph Johnson Bunche spent his early years with his parents in Detroit and in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He attributed his achievements to the influence of his maternal grandmother, Lucy Johnson, with whom he lived in Los Angeles, California, after he was orphaned at age thirteen. Johnson not only insisted that her grandson be self-reliant and proud of his race, but also that he, a high school valedictorian, go to college.

Bunche enrolled at the University of California at Los Angeles, and after graduating summa cum laude in 1927, he entered graduate school at Harvard University in Massachusetts. He was the first black American to earn a Ph.D. degree in political science from an American university. Bunche won the prize for the outstanding doctoral thesis in the social sciences in 1934 He conducted his postdoctoral research on African colonialism He did his research ...

Article

Bunche, Ralph Johnson  

Joseph C. Heim

scholar, university professor, diplomat, UN administrator, and Nobel Peace Prize recipient. In the 1950s and 1960s Bunche was the most visible African American on the world stage. But his accomplishments were far in the future when he was born in modest circumstances in Detroit, Michigan, the son of Fred Bunche, a barber, and Olive Bunche. His parents, however, were constantly in poor health, and after their early deaths Bunche was raised by his grandmother, Lucy Johnson, in Los Angeles.

His grandmother s diligence and inspiration guided and shaped Bunche s youth and he compiled a record of stellar achievement both in athletics he later was a guard on the basketball team of the University of California at Los Angeles UCLA and in academics This he did while holding numerous jobs from delivering newspapers to laying carpets on merchant ships His early years also ...

Article

Crawford, Anthony P.  

Caroline DeVoe

businessman, landowner, farmer, and lynching victim, was born into slavery in Abbeville, South Carolina, the youngest son of Thomas and Louisa, slaves on the plantation of Ben Crawford in Abbeville, South Carolina. After Emancipation and Ben Crawford's death, his widow Rebecca may have bequeathed land to her former slave, Thomas, Anthony's father. Thomas continued to acquire land, and in 1873 he purchased 181 acres of fertile land from Samuel McGowan, a former Confederate general and South Carolina Supreme Court Justice. Thomas Crawford's “homeplace” was located in an alluvial valley, approximately seven miles west of the town of Abbeville. The rich land was flanked on the east by Little River and on the west by Penny Creek.

While Crawford's brothers worked the family farm Anthony was sent to school walking seven miles to and from school each day Seventeen year old Anthony was ...

Article

Douglass, Anna Murray  

Leigh Fought

The enigmatic first wife of Frederick Douglass, Anna Murray Douglass, has been misunderstood and misrepresented by historians as well as by her husband's associates since he first rose to fame in 1842. Her early life, including her birth and parentage, remain sparsely documented. Most historians agree that she was the daughter of Bambarra and Mary Murray, emancipated slaves from Denton in Caroline County, Maryland. As a young adult she lived in Baltimore, Maryland, working as a housekeeper and laundress in white homes. Despite refusing to demonstrate reading or writing skills throughout her life, she clearly had some interest in self-improvement in her youth because she first met Frederick Douglass, then known as Frederick Bailey, through mutual friends at the East Baltimore Mental Improvement Society, an organization of free blacks who promoted literacy.

The two had met by the late summer of 1838 when Anna sold many of ...

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Douglass, Charles Remond  

Mark G. Emerson

Born in Lynn, Massachusetts, Charles Remond Douglass was the third and youngest son of Frederick and Anna Murray Douglass. Named for his father's friend and fellow black antislavery speaker Charles Lenox Remond, Charles attended the public schools in Rochester, New York, where the family moved in late 1847. As a boy, he delivered copies of his father's newspaper, North Star.

As a young man, Charles became the first black from New York to enlist for military service in the Civil War, volunteering for the Fifty-fourth Massachusetts Infantry Regiment. Unlike his brother Lewis, who also served in the Fifty-fourth and became a sergeant major in that regiment, Charles was unable to deploy with his fellow troops owing to illness. As late as November 1863 Charles remained at the training camp in Readville Massachusetts He ultimately joined another black regiment the Fifth Massachusetts Cavalry rising to ...

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Douglass, Frederick, Jr.  

Mark G. Emerson

As the second son and namesake of his father, Frederick Douglass Jr. was born in New Bedford, Massachusetts. He attended public schools in Rochester, New York, where he also helped his brothers, Lewis and Charles, to aid runaway slaves who were escaping to Canada on the Underground Railroad. While he did not serve in the Civil War as his brothers did, Frederick acted as a recruiting agent for the Fifty-fourth and Fifty-fifth Massachusetts Infantry regiments, as did his father. Following the war, Frederick attempted to enter the typographical workers' union. When that plan failed, he went with his brother Lewis in 1866 to Colorado, where Henry O. Wagoner, a longtime family friend, taught him the trade of typography. While he was in Colorado, Frederick worked with his brother Lewis in the printing office of the Red, White, and Blue Mining Company. In the fall of 1868 Frederick returned ...

Article

Douglass, Lewis Henry  

Mark G. Emerson

and a son of Frederick Douglass. Born in New Bedford, Massachusetts, Lewis Henry Douglass was the second child and eldest son of Frederick and Anna Murray Douglass. When Lewis was eight the family moved to Rochester, New York, where the boy was educated in public schools. After finishing his education, Lewis helped his father with his newspaper North Star, learning the printer's trade. Considered the ablest of Douglass's children, Lewis was the person Frederick Douglass asked to secure his papers from John Brown after the Harpers Ferry raid to prevent federal marshals from discovering them.

During the Civil War, Lewis enlisted in the Fifty-fourth Massachusetts Infantry Regiment, attaining the rank of sergeant major and taking part in the attack on Fort Wagner, South Carolina, in July 1863 After the war Lewis and his brother Frederick Jr went to Denver Colorado where Lewis worked as a ...

Article

Evers-Williams, Myrlie  

Kimberly Springer

civil rights activist, was born Myrlie Beasley in Vicksburg, Mississippi, and was raised, following her parents divorce, by her grandmother Annie McCain Beasley and her aunt, Myrlie Beasley Polk. Both women were schoolteachers who encouraged young Myrlie in her educational pursuits through activities such as singing, public speaking, and piano lessons. Myrlie hoped to major in music in college, but neither of Mississippi's state schools for blacks, Alcorn A&M College or Jackson State, had such a major. In 1950 Myrlie enrolled at Alcorn, intending to study education and music. Only two hours after arriving on campus, however, she met Medgar Evers, an upperclassman and army veteran seven years her senior. He soon proposed, and they were married on 24 December 1951 Following Medgar s graduation and Myrlie s sophomore year the couple moved to Mound Bayou Mississippi where Medgar took a position as an insurance salesman with ...

Article

Frank, Leo  

Sandra D. Harvey

Jewish businessman, convicted of murder and lynched by vigilantes in Georgia. It is believed that his case contributed to the rebirth of the Ku Klux Klan in 1915.

Leo Max Frank was born in Texas but soon moved with his parents, Rudolph and Rachel Frank, to Brooklyn, New York. After graduating from Cornell University in 1906, Frank apprenticed in his uncle's factory. In 1907 Frank was given a supervisory position with the National Pencil Company in Atlanta, which had a sizable Jewish population. He met Lucille Selig there, and on 30 November 1910 they were married. Frank and his wife lived in an upscale Jewish neighborhood and were prominent members of the Jewish community.

On 27 April 1913, Atlanta police discovered the strangled and possibly raped body of a thirteen-year-old National Pencil Company factory worker, Mary Phagan. Authorities arrested the night watchman, Newt Lee ...

Article

Gordimer, Nadine  

Stephen Clingman

South African novelist, short story writer, essayist, and winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature, was born on 20 November 1923 in the small gold mining town of Springs east of Johannesburg Both her parents were Jewish immigrants her father Isidore was a watchmaker and jeweler from the Lithuanian Latvian border her mother Nan came from England Her father with his foreign accent and ways was disparaged in the family he also absorbed the dominant racial models of the time while her mother took more readily to anglicized colonial mores Gordimer grew up in a nonreligious environment though she attended a convent school for the sake of its superior education Early on she was a dancer and sometimes a truant exploring the physical possibilities of veld and mine dumps with innate energy and relish At the age of eleven however her mother withdrew her from school on the putative ...

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Grace, Charles Emmanuel  

Richard Newman

better known as Daddy Grace or Sweet Daddy Grace or by his self-proclaimed title, Boyfriend of the World, was one of the more flamboyant religious leaders of the twentieth century. He was born, probably as Marceline Manoel da Graca, in Brava, Cape Verde Islands, of mixed Portuguese and African ancestry, the son of Manuel de Graca and Gertrude Lomba. In the charismatic church that he founded and headed, however, he managed to transcend race by declaring: “I am a colorless man. I am a colorless bishop. Sometimes I am black, sometimes white. I preach to all races.” Like many other Cape Verdeans, Grace immigrated to New Bedford, Massachusetts, around the turn of the century and worked there and on Cape Cod as a short-order cook, a salesman of sewing machines and patent medicines, and a cranberry picker.Also known as Bishop Grace he may have established his first church ...

Article

Grier, Rosey  

John Hanners

football player, social activist, author, singer-actor, and ordained minister, was born Roosevelt Grier on a farm in Cuthbert, Georgia, the seventh of Joseph and Ruth Grier's eleven children. At age thirteen he moved with his family to Roselle, New Jersey. Offered an athletic scholarship to Penn State University, he enrolled in 1950 and studied psychology, music, and education. His college athletic career was exceptional. Not only did he receive first-team All-American football honors in 1955, but he also set an Intercollegiate Association of Amateur Athletics of America shot-put record (fifty-eight feet) in track and field.

In 1965 Grier signed with the National Football League's New York Giants for a $500 bonus and a yearly salary of $6,500. During a long career that lasted from 1955 through 1968 Grier was a dominant defensive tackle in an era known for excellent defensive players His size ...

Article

Keckley, Elizabeth  

Rosemary Reed

Elizabeth Keckley used her needlework skills to purchase her freedom and went on to have such a flourishing business that she became dressmaker to Mary Todd Lincoln. Fortunately for posterity, she also wrote a book about her life, her sewing work, and her experience as someone closely connected to the Lincoln White House. Behind the Scenes; or, Thirty Years as a Slave, and Four Years in the White House (1868) has been a source of historically significant information ever since.

Elizabeth was born Elizabeth Hobbs, the only child of a slave couple, Agnes and George Pleasant Hobbs, in Dinwiddie, Virginia Her mother was a housemaid and excellent seamstress owned by the Burwells a prominent family of central Virginia Her father lived on a neighboring farm and was allowed to visit his family twice a year until he was sold away from them As a ...

Article

Keckly, Elizabeth Hobbs  

Jennifer Fleischner

slave, dressmaker, abolitionist, and White House memoirist, was born Elizabeth Hobbs in Dinwiddie County, Virginia, the daughter of Armistead Burwell, a white slaveholder, and his slave Agnes Hobbs. Agnes was the family nurse and seamstress. Her husband, George Pleasant Hobbs, the slave of another man, treated “Lizzy” as his own daughter, and it was not until some years later, after George had been forced to move west with his master, that Agnes told Lizzy the identity of her biological father. While her mother taught her sewing, the skill that would make her name and fortune, it was George Hobbs who first instilled in Lizzy a profound respect for learning. Ironically, it was Armistead Burwell, who repeatedly told Lizzy she would never be “worth her salt,” who probably sparked her ambition to succeed and prove him wrong.

As a young girl Hobbs lived in ...

Article

King, Coretta Scott  

Barbara Woods

was born in Heiberger, near Marion, Alabama, the second of three children of Obadiah Scott and Bernice McMurry, who farmed their own land. Although Coretta and her siblings worked in the garden and fields, hoeing and picking cotton, the Scotts were relatively well off. Her father was the first African American in the community to own a truck, which he used to transport pulpwood, and he also purchased his own sawmill, which was mysteriously burned to the ground a few days later. The family blamed the fire on whites jealous of their success.

Wanting a better life for their children, the Scotts sent all three to college. The eldest, Edythe, graduated at the top of her class at Marion's Lincoln High School in 1943 and earned a scholarship to Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio; her brother, Obie attended Central State University in nearby Wilberforce Ohio Coretta ...

Article

King, Coretta Scott  

Jennifer Jensen Wallach

civil rights activist and wife of Martin Luther King Jr. Coretta Scott was born in Marion, Alabama, the second of three children of the farmers Obadiah Scott and Bernice Scott. By the standards of the time, the Scott family was financially successful. The family attributed a 1942 fire—which destroyed their home—to the actions of local whites who were envious of their prosperity.

The Scott parents encouraged all three of their children to attend college. Coretta was valedictorian of her high school class and earned a scholarship to attend Antioch College in Ohio. She graduated in 1951 with a degree in music and elementary education. A talented vocalist, she made her solo debut at the Antioch Second Baptist Church in 1948 While in college she also performed alongside the renowned singer and actor Paul Robeson After graduation she received a scholarship to attend the New England Conservatory of Music ...

Article

King, Martin Luther Jr.  

John A. Kirk

Martin Luther King Jr. was born in Atlanta, Georgia, 15 January 1929. He attended Morehouse College in Atlanta from 1944 to 1948. Following in the footsteps of his father and his maternal grandfather, King decided to enter the ministry, and he completed his divinity degree at the predominantly white Crozer Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania in 1951. King went on to complete his PhD at the also predominantly white Boston University in June 1955. King took up his first post as a Baptist minister at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama, in 1955, while writing his doctoral thesis. In December 1955, King became involved in a boycott of the city’s buses to protest segregation. The thirteen-month boycott ended in December 1956 after the U.S. Supreme Court ordered buses to desegregate.

The Montgomery bus boycott launched King’s civil rights leadership. In 1957 he helped ...

Article

King, Martin Luther, Jr.  

Clayborne Carson

Baptist minister and civil rights leader, was born Michael King Jr., in Atlanta, Georgia, the son of the Reverend Michael King (Martin Luther King Sr.) and Alberta Williams. Born to a family with deep roots in the African American Baptist church and in the Atlanta black community, the younger King spent his first twelve years in the home on Auburn Avenue that his parents shared with his maternal grandparents. A-block away, also on Auburn, was Ebenezer Baptist Church, where his grandfather, the Reverend Adam Daniel Williams, had served as pastor since 1894. Under Williams's leadership, Ebenezer had grown from a small congregation without a building to become one of Atlanta's prominent African American churches. After Williams's death in 1931, his son-in-law became Ebenezer's new pastor and gradually established himself as a major figure in state and national Baptist groups. In 1934 ...

Article

Loving, Mildred Delores Jeter  

Robert A. Pratt

a housewife, whose marriage in 1958 to Richard Loving sparked one of the nation's most important civil rights cases, was born Mildred Delores Jeter, of African American and Native American ancestry. Loving was one of five children born to Theoliver Jeter, a sharecropper, and Musiel Byrd, a homemaker. She also had four half brothers. She graduated from Union High School in Bowling Green, Virginia in 1957. In 1958 she married her childhood sweetheart who was white Both Jeter and Loving were born in Caroline County Virginia an area with a well known history of black white interracial sexual liaisons As was the local custom however and true for most of the South these unions occurred under cover of darkness and without legal sanction Many states had laws prohibiting interracial marriages some with restrictions dating back to the nineteenth century While enforcement of these laws ...