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José Antonio Fernández Molina

was born in Cartago, Costa Rica. He amassed the nation’s largest fortune during the first half of the nineteenth century and served in several political posts. Aguilar Cubero was identified as mulatto when he was baptized and was the great-grandchild of a mulatto slave woman. His grandfather and father were involved in businesses such as cacao production in the Caribbean coast and trade with Nicaragua. Immediately after independence in 1821, ethnic categories, which were an integral part of the colonial social hierarchy imposed by Spanish rule, were abolished and legally forbidden in the new Federal Republic of Central America, which encompassed Costa Rica, Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, and Nicaragua for two decades.

It was within this new framework that Aguilar Cubero became an important coffee producer and trader serving as the intermediary between local coffee producers and foreign markets According to family tradition he learned to write while working ...

Article

Jeremy Rich

politician, business leader, and historian, was born in the late nineteenth century in Burundi. He belonged to the Batare royal family that had controlled Burundi prior to the entrance of German military officers in the 1890s. He originally came from southern Burundi as his father was a chief in the Vyanda region not far from the town of Bururi. He received a primary education at a German school at Gitega. After the Belgian government took over Burundi following World War I, Baranyanka became one of the most fervent supporters of the new administration in the entire colony. He was a firm supporter of Catholic missions and the development of cash-crop production. Baranyanka converted to Catholicism after undertaking instruction for four years. He established an extremely large coffee business that consisted of thirty-five thousand coffee bushes by 1935. A young Belgian tourist in 1949 expressed the views of most ...

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Gillian Whitlock

the Danish writer also known as Isak Dinesen, who lived in British East Africa (present-day Kenya), was born Karen Dinesen at Rungstedlund, Denmark, on 17 April 1885. Her father, Wilhelm Dinesen, was a military officer, landowner, and Member of Parliament; the Dinesens were an ancient Danish family of landed gentry. Her mother, Ingeborg Westenholtz, was the eldest daughter of the wealthy businessman and finance minister Regnar Westenholtz. Following the suicide of Wilhelm Dinesen in 1895, Ingeborg Dinesen raised her three daughters and two sons in a maternal household, where Karen was known as “Tanne.” As a young woman, Karen Blixen attended art school, mastered several European languages, frequented the aristocratic circles of upper-class young people in Denmark, and began to publish short stories in Danish periodicals in 1907 under the pseudonym Osceola None of these early stories attracted particular attention and she felt discouraged as a writer ...

Article

Larvester Gaither

businessman, author, and presidential candidate, was born in Memphis, Tennessee, the elder son of Lenora (Davis) Cain and Luther Cain Jr. His mother, from Georgia, worked as a domestic, while his father, from Arlington, Tennessee, worked mainly as a private chauffeur for Robert Woodruff, president of the Coca-Cola Company. Cain's parents were both raised by poor subsistence farmers (sharecroppers) in the South. In 1943, at the age of eighteen, Cain's father migrated to Mansfield, Ohio, and landed a job working for a tire factory. While there he met Lenora Davis, who had also come there in search of better opportunities. The two moved to Memphis in 1945 for a brief stay and then settled in Atlanta, Georgia, shortly after Herman Cain was born. Thus, while born in Memphis, Cain, along with his younger brother, Thurman (who died in 1999 was raised in Atlanta ...

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Leslie H. Fishel

George Thomas Downing was born in New York City, the son of Thomas Downing, a restaurant owner, and Rebecca West. His father's Oyster House was a gathering place for New York's aristocracy and politicians. Young Downing attended Charles Smith's school on Orange Street and, with future black abolitionists J. McCune Smith, Henry Highland Garnet, Alexander Crummell, and Charles Reason and Patrick Reason, the African School #2 on Mulberry Street. He completed his schooling privately and in his mid-teens was active in two literary societies.

Before he was twenty Downing participated in the Underground Railroad and worked with his father to lobby the New York legislature for equal suffrage. In 1841 both were delegates to the initial convention of the American Reform Board of Disenfranchised Commissioners one of many organizations formed by African American males to fight for the elective franchise in New York ...

Article

Leslie H. Fishel

abolitionist, businessman, and civil rights advocate, was born in New York City, the son of Thomas Downing, a restaurant owner, and Rebecca West. His father's Oyster House was a gathering place for New York's aristocracy and politicians. Young Downing attended Charles Smith's school on Orange Street and, with the future black abolitionists J. McCune Smith, Henry Highland Garnet, Alexander Crummell, and Charles Reason and Patrick Reason, the African School on Mulberry Street. He completed his schooling privately and in his mid-teens was active in two literary societies.

Before he was twenty Downing participated in the Underground Railroad and worked with his father to lobby the New York legislature for equal suffrage. In 1841 both were delegates to the initial convention of the American Reform Board of Disenfranchised Commissioners one of many organizations formed by African American men to fight for ...

Article

Kathy Covert-Warnes

George Thomas Downing lived nearly eighty-four years, but the results of his struggles for civil rights persisted long past his death. He was born to Thomas and Rebecca West Downing in New York City and attended the Mulberry Street School, which educated many future leaders in the fight for black civil rights. When George turned fourteen, he and several schoolmates organized a literary society in which to read, write, and talk about various issues of the day—primarily slavery. The young men in the society adopted a resolution against celebrating the Fourth of July because they believed that the Declaration of Independence mocked black Americans.

Downing graduated from Hamilton College in Oneida County, New York, and began his fight for black civil rights by serving as an agent for the Underground Railroad. From 1857 to 1866 he led the fight against separate public schools for blacks and whites in Rhode ...

Article

John Howard Smith

tavern owner and innkeeper in New York City and Philadelphia, was probably born in the French West Indies. There seems to be some controversy regarding his race, as his nickname, “Black Sam,” would indicate an African American identity, while some primary sources imply that he was either white or a Mulatto. Historians are generally agreed, however, that Fraunces was African American. Much of what is known about him comes from his 1785 petition for compensation from Congress for services rendered during the American War of Independence, letters from George Washington, and an obituary in the 13 October 1795 issue of the Gazette of the United States. He owned an inn in New York City in 1755 and the following year obtained a license to operate an ordinary which was a tavern serving meals as well as the usual ales and spirits At this time he was married ...

Article

Charles Rosenberg

a trained agronomist who organized a team to help the Soviet Union develop its economy, and remained in the Uzbek Soviet Socialist Republic until his death, was born on a cotton farm in Yazoo County, Mississippi, the son of Hilliard and Catherine Golden.

Golden's father was born in Mississippi in 1844, to parents born in North Carolina, while his mother was born in Texas, to a father born in North Carolina and a mother born in Virginia. He had older sisters born between the years 1862 and 1886 (Mary, Martha, Elizabeth, Rebecca, Biddie, Miriam, Virginia Mamie), and younger brothers and sisters born between 1891 to 1900 (Willie, Lily, and Viola). Golden's parents and grandparents had all been enslaved from birth until 1863 After emancipation Hilliard Golden saved money to acquire a substantial cotton farm but ...

Article

Sheila Gregory Thomas

teacher, politician, and businessman, was born in Austin, Texas. His mother, Eliza, a slave of mixed race, was owned by John Hancock, a lawyer, judge, state legislator, and U.S. congressman whom Hugh knew to be his father. When he was five years of age and the Civil War was threatening, Hugh and his mother were sent by John Hancock to Oberlin, Ohio, a thriving community of whites and free blacks. This not only placed them in a safe environment but also guaranteed Hancock an education, as Oberlin College and its preparatory department welcomed all. For younger children there was the village elementary school.

Hancock was one of many offspring of white fathers and former slaves for whom Oberlin was a safe haven from the hostilities and limitations of life in the South Black residents of Oberlin in the 1800s included entrepreneurs teachers and elected officials ...

Article

Benjamin R. Justesen

businessman and politician, born in rural Arkansas, was the slave son of his owner, John Havis, a white farmer in Bradley and Jefferson counties, and an unnamed slave mother. Most often known simply as Ferd, his name appears in some records as Ferdinand. After the Civil War, he was educated in Freedmen's Bureau schools in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, where he lived for the rest of his life.

A successful entrepreneur, Ferd Havis began his career as a barber, but quickly expanded his interests, eventually operating both a saloon and retail whiskey distributorship in Pine Bluff, as well as owning tenement houses and two thousand acres of farmland in Jefferson County. He married his first wife, Dilsey, in the mid-1860s, and they had one daughter, Cora; Dilsey Havis died in 1870. In 1871 he was elected to the first of five terms as a Pine ...

Article

Charles Rosenberg

Baptist minister, grocer, printer, and civil rights leader, reported by Ebony magazine as “the first Negro to qualify to vote in Belzoni [Mississippi] since Reconstruction days,” was born in Edwards, Mississippi. There is no well‐established record identifying his parents. His mother died when he was still a child; at the age of seventeen he appears to have been living with an aunt and uncle, Garfield and Minnie B. Holmes, in Sunflower County, Mississippi.

After graduating from high school Lee worked on the docks in New Orleans unloading bananas while studying typesetting through a correspondence course He served for a time as pastor of St James Church in Jackson Mississippi then accepted a call seventy miles to the north in the predominantly African American Delta community of Belzoni As in many churches the offerings of members were not sufficient to support a full time pastor He opened a grocery store ...

Article

Robert Maxon

Kenyan herbalist, cook, farmer, and the paternal grandfather of US President Barack Obama, was born in Kanyadhiang near Kendu Bay on Lake Victoria in what is now Rachuonyo District in Kenya’s Nyanza Province. Onyango’s grandfather, Opiyo, had moved to the Kendu Bay region from Alego, north of the Nyanza Gulf, earlier in the nineteenth century in search of more and better land than was available to the family in Alego.

From an early age Onyango was characterized by a seriousness of purpose and a wanderlust His wandering off on his own and desire to learn led to study with specialists to become an herbalist Onyango s curiosity and thirst for knowledge also led him to leave his home for the port town of Kisumu Colonial rule was not established in the Kendu Bay area until some five years after the transfer of Nyanza Province from Uganda to the East Africa ...