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Although there had long been rumors that Greene was of African American descent, her background was a mystery until 1999 when writer Jean Strouse revealed in Morgan: American Financier, her biography of banker and art collector John Pierpont Morgan, that Greene was in fact the daughter of Richard T. Greener, a lawyer and diplomat and the first black graduate of Harvard College. She was born Belle Marion Greener in Washington, D.C., where her father was dean of the Howard University Law School for a short time. Her parents separated in the 1890s, however, and Greene's mother, Genevieve Fleet Greener, disappeared with her children. When they resurfaced in New York City, her mother had changed the family surname to Greene, and they had passed into the white world.

Unable to afford college Greene as a young woman took a job in the Princeton University Library ...

Article

Constance Koppelman

library director, bibliographer, and art connoisseur, was born Belle Marion Greener, the daughter of Richard Greener, a lawyer and Republican Party activist, and Genevieve Ida Fleet Greener. Her place of birth was probably Washington, D.C., where her father held a variety of jobs. But specifics concerning Greene's childhood and education are scarce because she preferred to keep them a mystery. Apparently she attended Teachers College in New York City, where the family had relocated after Richard Greener was rewarded with a patronage job for his efforts on behalf of the Republican Party. Around 1897 Belle Marion Greener s parents separated the children staying with their mother who within a few years changed the surname to Greene and some years thereafter altered her maiden name from Fleet to Van Vliet During this time the Greenes fully passed in the white world and Belle da ...

Article

Robin Jones

art educator and art collector, was born in Chicago to Eugene Renfroe and Bertha Wiley and grew up on the South Side with her brothers Everett and Earl. She graduated from Bowen High School and received a teacher's certificate from Chicago Normal College, becoming an elementary art teacher in the Chicago public schools. African American teachers were a rarity in mainstream public schools, and Huggins broke into a segregated teaching field, advancing from teacher to district supervisor of arts. To enhance her qualifications for the supervisor position, she returned to school to obtain her bachelor's degree, graduating from the University of Chicago in 1933. In 1956 she received her master's degree in art education from the Illinois Institute of Technology.

When Huggins entered the teaching profession American public schools were barely one hundred years old and still in the developmental stages Indeed art and music were not ...

Article

Caryn E. Neumann

a major collector of African American art, grew up as the son of the coal employment broker William “Will” Norfleet Jones and the homemaker Ella Reed Phillips Jones in the small mining camp of Muscoda on the edge of Bessemer, Alabama. The family enjoyed privileges that were not typical of other black mining families because of Will Jones's position with the Tennessee Coal, Mine, and Railroad Company. As a result, they straddled the line between the black working poor and the middle class. In 1938, at the age of ten, Jones went to New York City to receive a better education than he could get in the racially segregated schools of Alabama. He lived with an older brother, Joe and returned home during the summer On a class visit to a New York City art museum Jones was captivated both by the art and by how ...

Article

Robert Fikes

dentist, civil rights activist, and art and book collector, was born Jack Johnson Kimbrough in Lexington, Mississippi, the son of Samuel Gulbridge Kimbrough, a blacksmith, and Mary Hoover. Jack was named after the famed African American boxer Jack Johnson. When he was seven, the Kimbroughs, intimidated by local Ku Klux Klansmen and seeking better economic opportunities, moved from Mississippi to Alameda, California, where relatives resided. After graduating from Alameda High School in 1926 Jack attended Sacramento Junior College He continued his studies at the University of California at Berkeley where he studied chemistry while working as a janitor waiter cook and landscaper His interest in science as well as the relatively shorter time that it took to earn a dentistry degree than a medical degree persuaded him enroll in the University of California Dental School in San Francisco from which he graduated with ...

Article

Deborah H. Barnes

also wrote under the name Guarionex. Arthur Alfonso Schomburg's vast private collection, now housed in the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture (formerly the 135th Street branch of the New York Public Library), is one of the outstanding collections of materials concerning the history and culture of people of African descent.

Schomburg was born on 24 January 1874 to an unwed freeborn mulatta, Maria Josepha, in Saint Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, and raised in Puerto Rico by his mother's family. Although he adopted his surname, there is no evidence that Schomburg's father, Carlos Federico Schomburg, a German-born merchant living in San Juan, acknowledged or supported his son. Little is known about Schomburg prior to his emigration to the United States. Upon arriving in New York in 1891 he settled into the Puerto Rican and Cuban community on Manhattan s east side For most of his ...

Article

Louis J. Parascandola

bibliophile and champion of black culture. Arthur (Arturo) Alfonso Schomburg was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico. His father, a merchant, was the son of a Puerto Rican mother and a German immigrant father. It was his mother, a black migrant worker from the Virgin Islands, and his maternal grandparents who early on instilled in him a pride in his African heritage and spurred his interest in black culture. According to a perhaps apocryphal story, hearing the taunts of his white teachers and classmates that blacks had made no significant achievements inspired Schomburg to collect as many works by black authors as he could find.

Schomburg came to the United States on 17 April 1891 and soon gained employment in a law office in New York. He took a position at Bankers Trust Company in 1906 It was during his years as a law clerk and banker that he ...

Article

Born in San Juan, Puerto Rico, the son of a German father and a West Indian mother, Schomburg spent his childhood in Puerto Rico. After briefly attending Saint Thomas College in the Virgin Islands, he came to the United States in 1891 and began working in a New York City law office. In New York, Schomburg began to collect literary works and visual art by and about people of African descent. In 1906 Schomburg began working in the mailroom at Bankers Trust Company, where he remained until 1929. He became an active Prince Hall Mason, serving as grand secretary of the grand lodge from 1918 to 1926.

In 1911 Schomburg and African American journalist John E. Bruce founded the Negro Society for Historical Research as a base from which to publish articles on black history. In 1922 Schomburg was elected president of the American Negro ...

Article

Betty Kaplan Gubert

historian, bibliophile, and curator, was born Arturo Alfonso Schomburg in San Juan, Puerto Rico, the son of Mary Joseph, an unwed midwife or laundress who had been born free in 1837 on St. Croix, Virgin Islands. His father's name is unknown, though Schomburg recorded that he was born in 1839, the son of a German émigré merchant.

Details of Schomburg s education are also sparse He may have attended the College of St Thomas a secondary school but there is no documentation Schomburg knew French and his writings in Spanish are both grammatically correct and eloquent His lack of formal education ate away at him all his life and it was surely one of the spurs to his untiring search for information and his efforts to make the results widely known As a child he belonged to a club of young people who studied history ...