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Birney, James Gillespie  

Sean Patrick Adams

James Gillespie Birney was born in Danville, Kentucky, to a slaveholding family. He attended Transylvania University in nearby Lexington, Kentucky, and eventually graduated from Princeton University in 1810. After admittance to the bar, Birney returned to Danville to practice law and soon married into an influential Kentucky family. By the time he moved to Madison County, Alabama, in 1818, he already owned several slaves.

Following a brief stint in Alabama's General Assembly and some financial difficulties, Birney relocated to Huntsville, Alabama, to begin a law practice. After selling many of his slaves, he became involved with the colonization movement and supported the idea of restricting the internal slave trade. By 1832 Birney was an active agent for the American Colonization Society and made a lecture circuit around the South supporting the idea of emancipating slaves and transporting them to the new African colony of Liberia He ...

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Chambers, Julius  

Marc A. Sennewald

civil rights attorney and university administrator. Julius LeVonne Chambers was born in Mount Gilead, North Carolina, where his father ran a service station. Chambers decided to pursue a career in law after his father was unable to find an attorney to help him collect a debt from a white customer. He went on to earn a law degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he was the first African American editor in chief of the university law review and the top-ranked student in his class. After graduating law school in 1962, Chambers earned his master of laws degree at Columbia University in 1963 and interned on the staff of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund. In 1964 he opened a law office in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Chambers is best known for his role as the lead attorney in the 1971 Supreme Court case Swann ...

Article

Chambers, Julius LeVonne  

Andre D. Vann

attorney, educator, and author, was born and raised in Mt. Gilead, North Carolina, the third of four children of William, an automobile mechanic, and Matilda Chambers. Growing up in a family that placed a high value on education, the twelve-year-old Chambers set his sights upon becoming a lawyer to address many of the racial inequities and injustices that he experienced coming of age in a segregated black community. Particularly formative was his experience of seeing his father unable to retain a lawyer to represent him to collect a debt owed by a white customer who had received service only to refuse to make payment.

Chambers traveled close to twelve miles to Troy, North Carolina, to attend Peabody High School, where he excelled in athletics, playing football and baseball, and was president of the student government association during his junior and senior years. He graduated from high school in May 1954 ...

Article

Davis, John P.  

Zachery R. Williams

journalist, civil rights lawyer, and political organizer. John P. Davis was born in Washington, D.C., the son of William Henry Davis and Julia Davis. He grew up among Washington's New Negroes and was strongly drawn to the Harlem Renaissance. Davis served a brief stint as the editorial replacement of W. E. B. Du Bois with The Crisis magazine. Along with noted contemporaries such as Zora Neale Hurston, Langston Hughes, Gwendolyn Bennett, Wallace Thurman, Aaron Douglas, and Richard Bruce Nugent, Davis participated in the publication of Fire!!, a single-issue Harlem Renaissance literary magazine geared toward the emerging young Negro artist. Davis became a major spokesman for civil rights and interracial working-class alliances during the 1930s and 1940s.

From 1926 to 1927 Davis attended Harvard University on a fellowship and earned a master s degree in journalism He then went ...

Article

Davis, John Preston  

Charles Rosenberg

lawyer, journalist, director of the National Negro Congress, publisher of Our World magazine, was born in Washington, DC, the son of Dr. William Henry Davis and Julia Hubbard Davis, who had moved to the capital in 1899 from Louisville, Kentucky. The elder Davis worked in several occupations; in addition to obtaining a doctorate of Pharmacology from Howard University, he developed a successful business school, became official stenographer for the National Negro Business League, and during World War I served as special assistant to Dr. Emmett Scott, special assistant to the United States secretary of war.

In 1922 the younger Davis graduated from Dunbar High School, in Washington, DC, and entered Bates College in Lewiston, Maine. He was selected as editor-in-chief of the campus newspaper The Bates Student in 1925 served as president of the debating fraternity Delta Sigma Rho and represented Bates in an international debate with ...