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Ali, Muhammad  

Gerald Early

Despite the considerable achievements of such important African American athletes as Jesse Owens, Joe Louis, Wilma Rudolph, Jim Brown, and Jackie Robinson, the young brash prizefighter from Louisville, Kentucky, may very well have eclipsed their significance. He surely eclipsed their fame as, at the height of his career in the early and middle 1970s, Muhammad Ali was, without question, the most famous African American in history and among the five most recognized faces on the planet.

Born Cassius Marcellus Clay, Jr., in 1942 (named after both his father and the famous Kentucky abolitionist), the gregarious, handsome, and extraordinarily gifted boxer garnered world attention by winning a gold medal in the 1960 Olympics. He further stunned the sports world by beating the heavily favored Sonny Liston to win the heavyweight title in 1964 and shocked white America by announcing right after that fight that ...

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Ali, Muhammad  

John Gennari

As the dominant heavyweight boxer of the 1960s and 1970s, Muhammad Ali won an Olympic gold medal, captured the professional world heavyweight championship on three separate occasions, and successfully defended his title nineteen times. Ali's extroverted, colorful style, both in and out of the ring, heralded a new mode of media-conscious athletic celebrity. Through his bold assertions of black pride, his conversion to the Muslim faith, and his outspoken opposition to the Vietnam War, Ali became a highly controversial figure during the turbulent 1960s. At the height of his fame, Ali was described as “the most recognizable human being on earth.”

Ali's 1981 retirement from boxing did not diminish his status as an international public figure. Despite suffering from Parkinson's disease, Ali remained on the world stage as an adherent of the Nation of Islam an advocate of children and war victims and a proponent of international understanding ...

Article

Ali, Muhammad  

David K. Wiggins

Born as Cassius Clay in Louisville, Kentucky, Muhammad Ali first gained international attention when he won the gold medal in the light heavyweight division at the 1960 Rome Olympics. In 1964 he captured the heavyweight championship for the first time in a surprising sixth-round technical knockout of Sonny Liston. Shortly after that fight, Ali announced that he had joined the Nation of Islam (Black Muslims), the black separatist religious group led by Elijah Muhammad. Ali's religious conversion provoked much controversy in America, especially among whites who abhorred his membership in a group that spoke of “white devils” and the superiority of the black race. He further infuriated many Americans when he refused induction into the armed forces in 1967, during the Vietnam War, on religious grounds. His stand resulted in the revoking of his heavyweight crown and conviction for draft evasion. In 1970 the U S Supreme ...

Article

Ali, Muhammad  

Luther Adams

boxer, civil rights activist. Perhaps one of the most recognized people in the world, Muhammad Ali was born Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr. to Cassius Marcellus Clay Sr. and Odessa (Grady) Clay in Louisville, Kentucky. He was named in honor of his father and the white Kentucky abolitionist Cassius M. Clay. Clay attended the all-black Central High School in Louisville, Kentucky, graduating 376th out of a senior class of 391. Ali has been married four times: to Sonji Roi, Kalilah Tolona (formerly Belinda Boyd), Veronica Porsche, and Yolanda Ali. He has been married to Yolanda since 1986, and has seven daughters and two sons, including Laila Ali, a boxer in her own right.

Article

Ali, Muhammad  

Gerald Early

world champion boxer and political activist, was born Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr. in Louisville, Kentucky, the eldest of two sons raised by Cassius Clay Sr., a sign painter and something of a frustrated artist, and Odessa Grady, a domestic. Young Clay began to take boxing lessons at the age of twelve because someone had stolen his bicycle and he was determined to exact revenge against the perpetrators. He never discovered who stole his bike, but he did blossom as a young fighter, taking instruction from the Louisville policeman Joe Martin. His brother, Rudolph Arnette Clay (Rudolph Valentino Clay in some sources and later Rahaman Ali), also took up boxing, but, lacking his brother's talent, never became a significant presence in the sport.

Clay became a gym rat feeling that he could succeed in boxing as he never could in school Although he showed no special ability in his ...

Article

Barry, Marion  

John R. Wennersten

civil rights activist, mayor, and city councilman. For more than two decades Marion Barry as a political leader of Washington, D.C., epitomized all that is good and bad about the politics of the urban South.

Born in Itta Bena, Mississippi, to a father who was a sharecropper and a mother who was a domestic, Marion Shepilov Barry was raised near Memphis, Tennessee, and experienced the twin hardships of poverty and segregation in the post–World War II South. He graduated from Booker T. Washington High School in 1954 and went on to earn a bachelor's degree at Memphis's LeMoyne College in 1958 and a master's degree in chemistry at Fisk University in Nashville in 1960. While a college student Barry led a well-publicized effort to force a white LeMoyne College trustee to retract disparaging remarks that he made about blacks during a Memphis bus-desegregation campaign.

Increasingly involved in the civil ...

Article

Barry, Marion Shepilov, Jr.  

Caryn E. Neumann

four-time mayor of Washington, D.C., was born on a cotton plantation near the Delta hamlet of Itta Bena in northwestern Mississippi to sharecroppers Marion Barry Sr. and Mattie Barry. In 1940 Barry Sr. died, and in 1944 Barry, his mother, and his sister moved to Memphis, Tennessee, where Mattie worked as a maid and married Dave Cummings a butcher The combined family which eventually included nine members lived in a narrow wooden shotgun house in South Memphis one of four black enclaves in the city Barry slept on the couch and rose early each morning to chop wood for the stove He stuffed cardboard in his shoes to fill the holes and sold his sandwiches to other kids at school for pocket money A bright industrious child he eventually became one of the first African American Eagle Scouts in Memphis In the summer he traveled with his mother ...

Article

Barry, Marion Shepilov, Jr.  

Kate Tuttle

Marion Barry's 1994 election to a fourth term as mayor of Washington, D.C., three years after his conviction for cocaine possession, was just another twist in the turbulent career of the sharecropper's son from the Mississippi Delta. Born near the small town of Itta Bena, Mississippi, Barry moved to Memphis, Tennessee, at the age of five. Barry grew up amid poverty, segregation, and racism. Despite these circumstances, he excelled academically and became the first member of his family to attend college. At LeMoyne College, a racially mixed institution in Memphis, Barry joined the campus chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), becoming its president in his senior year.

Barry received his bachelor's degree in chemistry in 1958 and that fall began postgraduate study at historically black Fisk University in Nashville. Barry organized the campus's first NAACP chapter and helped stage nonviolent Sit-Ins ...

Article

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 J.  

Ben Keppel

Born in Detroit, the son of a barber, Bunche graduated summa cum laude from the University of California at Los Angeles in 1927 and went on to earn a Ph.D. in government from Harvard in 1934. His dissertation, French Administration in Togoland and Dahomey, won an award as the best political science dissertation produced at Harvard that year. Bunche founded the political science department at Howard University, where he taught from 1928 to 1950. His book A World View of Race (1936) saw racial conflict as a product of class conflict. He was an influential adviser to the Swedish social scientist Gunnar Myrdal on his classic 1944 study of U.S. race relations, An American Dilemma. Bunche married Ruth Ethel Harris, a Washington, D.C., schoolteacher, in 1930. They had three children.

During World War II Bunche served in the Office of Strategic Services ...

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

Córdoba Cabrera, Ana Fabricia  

Francisco Eversley Torres

against paramilitary violence who was assassinated in the city of Medellín, Colombia, in 2011. Little is known about her parents or early years, but her life was undoubtedly shaped by the armed conflict between government forces, rightist paramilitaries, leftist guerrillas, and organized crime in Colombia that began in the mid-1960s. Around the year 2000 she was displaced by the armed conflict, and forced to leave the northern Urabá region of Antioquia, after her husband was killed by the Bloque Bananero, part of the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia, or AUC), the country’s main paramilitary force. She also witnessed paramilitaries killing her mother.

Arriving with her five children in the sprawling city of Medellin, 100 kilometers south of Urabá, in 2001 Córdoba was determined to tell her story without fear and to serve as a voice for Colombian victims of violence She found a home ...

Article

Dickerson, Addie Whiteman  

Jennifer Reed Fry

reformer, businessperson, politician, author, clubwoman, and peace activist, was born Addie Whiteman into one of the best-known families in Wilmington, North Carolina. The sixth child of John H. Whiteman, a drayman, and Hester Leonard Whiteman, she was educated at Gregory Institute and Scotia Seminary (later Barber Scotia College) in Concord, North Carolina. Before moving to Pennsylvania, she taught grammar school in North Carolina. In Philadelphia she attended classes at Temple University and the University of Pennsylvania. In 1908 Whiteman married G. Edward Dickerson, a prominent African American Philadelphia attorney. Their thirty-four-year partnership was active and prosperous. They collaborated on business pursuits, Republican politics, and a variety of civil rights efforts. They had one son, Edmund Whiteman Dickerson, who was born in 1914 but died in infancy.

Building on her time as a teacher, Dickerson actively supported education She was ...

Article

Fuller, Joseph Jackson  

Jeffrey Green

Jamaicanmissionary and public speaker born the son of an enslaved woman and Alexander Jackson, a member of the Spanish Town Baptist mission. In the aftermath of emancipation (1838), some freed Jamaicans returned to Africa to assist in the anti‐slavery cause, aided by Jamaican Baptists, who proposed the establishment of a mission to West Africa. As well as spreading the Christian gospel, the mission would provide a stimulus for the repatriation of African‐Caribbeans to Africa. Among the Jamaican missionaries were Alexander Fuller and his son Joseph, who were recruited to assist the establishment of a Baptist mission in Fernando Po, an island off the Gulf of Guinea. Joseph arrived in 1844.

Despite early optimism, the Fernando Po mission did not thrive, and the Baptist Missionary Society (BMS) relocated to Cameroon in 1846 Fuller served out a five year apprenticeship with the Cameroon BMS before ...

Article

Fuller, Joseph Jackson  

Jeremy Rich

Christian missionary active in Cameroon, was born on 29 June 1825 in Spanish Town, Jamaica, to a slave family. His father, Alexander McLeod Fuller, was a skilled slave carpenter and cabinetmaker. His mother came from a Jewish family and apparently never lived with her husband. Fuller’s father was the first member of his family to join the Baptist mission in Spanish Town. He convinced his owners to allow his son to attend classes at the mission school, and the school reduced its usual fees so that Joseph and his brother Samuel could attend. His grandmother ran a small grocery and also helped pay the necessary expenses for Fuller’s education. The official end of slavery in Jamaica occurred when Fuller was thirteen years old, and he never forgot the joy of that day. He continued to go to school until 1839 but then chose to go to work on his ...

Article

Gbowee, Leymah Roberta  

Susan Shepler

peace activist, social worker, women's rights advocate, and 2011Nobel Laureate, was born on 1 February 1972 in central Liberia and raised in the country's capital, Monrovia. Her father worked as the head radio technician and liaison to the United States for the government of Liberia's National Security Agency. Her father was hired under President William Tolbert, was arrested and jailed for nine months when Samuel Doe seized power in 1980, and was reinstated upon his release. He resigned with the election of Charles Taylor in 1997 and became head of security at St. Peters Catholic Church. Her mother was a dispensing pharmacist at several hospitals in Monrovia before the outbreak of war.

Gbowee graduated from B.W. Harris Episcopal High, one of Monrovia's best high schools. In March 1990 she began classes at the University of Liberia with the dream of becoming a doctor ...

Article

Harvey, Clarie Collins  

Rebecca L. Hankins

businesswoman, civil rights and peace activist, and United Methodist Church leader, was born Emma Augusta Clarie Collins in Meridian, Mississippi, the only child of Malachi C. and Mary Rayford Collins, owners of a funeral home and insurance business. The Harveys lived comfortably, despite the impositions of Jim Crow segregation. Collins began her education at two of the South's most important black institutions: Tougaloo College and Spelman College—the renowned Atlanta school for African American women—where she completed her BA degree in Economics in 1937. She went on to attend Indiana Institute of Mortuary Science, in 1942 becoming one of the first African Americans to receive a degree in Mortuary Science. She continued her education and in 1950 received an MA in Personnel Administration from Columbia University and then attended New York University's Graduate School of Business Administration.

On 1 August 1943 Collins married Martin Luther Harvey ...

Article

Lucy, William  

Kimberly M. Curtis

labor leader and civil rights activist. William Lucy was born in Memphis, Tennessee. Raised in Richmond, California, he attended the University of California, Berkeley, and studied civil engineering. In 1953 he became assistant materials and research engineer for Contra Costa County, California. In 1956 he joined the Contra Costa County Employees Association, local union 1675 of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME).

Beginning in the 1960s Lucy ascended the ranks of organized labor. In 1965 he was elected president of local union 1675. He became associate director of the Legislation and Community Affairs departments of AFSCME International in Washington, D.C., in 1966. In May 1972 he was elected secretary-treasurer of the AFSCME, the second-highest office in the organization. Lucy remained the top African American labor activist in the United States into the twenty-first century. In 2004 for the eighth consecutive time his colleagues ...

Article

O'Dell, Jack  

Ian Rocksborough-Smith

civil rights, peace, and social justice organizer, and writer, was born Hunter Pitts O'Dell on the west side of Detroit, Michigan. Jack's parents were George Edwin O'Dell and Emily (Pitts) O'Dell. His father was a hotel and restaurant worker in Detroit who later owned a restaurant in Miami, Florida. His mother had studied music at Howard University and became an adult education teacher, a classical and jazz pianist, and an organist for Bethel AME Church in Detroit. His grandfather, John H. O'Dell, was a janitor in the Detroit Public Library system and a member of the Nacirema Club, which was a club for prominent African American Detroiters. Jack O'Dell later took his grandfather's signature, “J.H. O'Dell” as his nom de plume when he became a writer.

Raised by his paternal grandparents O Dell grew up during the Great Depression and witnessed the sit down ...