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Julie Gallagher

politician, women's rights advocate, and educator. Chisholm was born Shirley Anita St. Hill in Brooklyn, New York, to Charles St. Hill and Ruby Seale, immigrants from the Caribbean island of Barbados. During the Depression, Chisholm and her two younger sisters were sent to live with their grandmother in Barbados. They stayed there for seven years. Chisholm claimed that her sense of pride in herself and her race came largely from her father, an ardent follower of Marcus Garvey.

Chisholm attended Brooklyn College from 1942 to 1946, where she developed her oratorical skills in the Debate Society. At the same time, her membership in the Harriet Tubman Society and the Political Science Society stimulated her racial and political consciousness. Her leadership skills attracted attention, and one of her professors suggested that she consider entering politics.

Chisholm's career in early childhood education spanned nearly two decades. Between 1946 ...


Mary Krane Derr

U.S.Congressman, educator, and public administrator, was born in rural Parkdale, Ashley County, Arkansas, to low-income sharecroppers Hezekiah “H. D.” Davis and Mazzie L. Glass Davis, who had four other sons and seven daughters. Danny Davis grew up in and remained in the Missionary Baptist Church. Although known in adulthood for his distinctive, eloquent orator's voice, as a child he stuttered. His teachers, especially Mrs. Beadie King, and his family elders encouraged his enjoyment of reading and learning. Danny Davis attended segregated public schools and graduated from Parkdale's Savage High School in 1957.

Majoring in history and minoring in education, he earned a B.A. from Arkansas Agricultural, Mechanical, & Normal College (later the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff) in 1961 In college he found inspiration in the student activities of the African American civil rights movement Davis and six of his siblings ...


Sholomo B. Levy

Congressman, author, and educator, was born Ronald Vernie Dellums in Oakland, California, the son of Vernie Dellums, a longshoreman, and Willa, a beautician and government clerk. Ronald's father had moved from Texas to California with the hopes of attending college and becoming a journalist. He first found work as a Pullman porter with his brother C. L. Dellums, a close associate of A. Philip Randolph in the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters. C.L. was Ronald's childhood idol and even as a young man, Ronald admired his uncle's courage and fiery oratory when Governor Ronald Reagan appointed him to California's Fair Employment Commission. Though he never became a journalist, Vernie went on to become a union organizer among the dockworkers, and his voracious reading habits and work as a labor activist greatly influenced the trajectory of his son's life.

Ronald s parents were Protestants but they sent ...


Susan Love Brown

journalist, educator, politician, and statesman. Mervyn Malcolm Dymally, born in Cedros, Trinidad, achieved many “firsts” in American politics. His mother, Andreid Richardson, of Trinidadian descent, and his father, Hamid Dymally, of South Asian descent, educated him through high school, at Naparima College in San Fernando, Trinidad, after which he worked as a reporter for the Oilfields Workers Trade Union newspaper, The Vanguard, in Trinidad. This spurred his interest in a journalistic career, which took him to Lincoln University in Missouri at the age of nineteen. Eventually, he moved to Los Angeles State College of Applied Arts and Sciences, where he majored in education, receiving his bachelor's degree in 1954. From then on he combined education, politics, and involvement in international issues as the interests that guided his career.

While working as a science special education teacher in the Los Angeles Unified School District ...


LaVerne Gray

minister, politician, educator, and writer. After serving as a U.S. representative from New York, Flake became the minister and leader of New York City's largest African American church, the Greater Allen African Methodist Episcopal Cathedral in Queens. He elevated the membership to over eighteen thousand and assisted the economic growth of the church through concentrated efforts in community development. In 2002 Flake became president of Wilberforce University, one the oldest historically black colleges, in Ohio. He worked in the private, educational, and government sectors while simultaneously serving in the church.

Floyd Harold Flake was born in Los Angeles, the third of thirteen children born to Robert Flake, a janitor, and Rosie Lee Flake a homemaker When Flake was still small the family relocated to Houston Texas Growing up Flake was resourceful and his parents stressed a strong work ethic He was always working delivering ...


Kimberly Cheek

one of twelve children of Jeff Louis Green and Bessie Mae Hooper. When she was six years old her father died and her mother became a central force in her life. In 1955 Katie Green graduated from Mound Bayou High School and enrolled at Mississippi Valley State University, in Leflore County, Mississippi. She was influenced by Congressmen Adam Clayton Powell, jr. (D-NY), William L. Dawson (D-IL), and Charles Diggs(D-MI), who at that time were the only three African Americans in Congress and who championed racial equity and black participation in the electoral process. During college she became interested in U.S. history and government because of her inability to exercise her right to vote in the Jim Crow South. During her junior year she met John Henry Hall whom she married on 15 August 1957. The couple had three children, Jacqueline, Junifer, and Michelle. On 30 May 1960 ...


Ann T. Keene

lawyer, politician, and professor, was born Barbara Charline Jordan in Houston, Texas, the daughter of Benjamin M. Jordan and Arlyne Patten Jordan. Her father, a graduate of the Tuskegee Institute, was a warehouse employee until 1949 when he became a minister at Houston s Good Hope Missionary Baptist Church in which his father s family had long been active Arlyne Jordan also became a frequent speaker at the church The Jordans were always poor and for many years Barbara and her two older sisters shared a bed but their lives improved somewhat after their father became a minister Jordan attended local segregated public schools and received good grades with little effort She gave scant thought to her future beyond forming a vague desire to become a pharmacist until her senior year at Phillis Wheatley High School when a black female lawyer spoke at the school ...


Niambi Lee-Kong

lawyer, politician, and educator. Barbara Jordan, a woman of many political firsts, is best known as the first African American woman from a southern state to serve in the United States House of Representatives; she served as a representative from Texas from 1973 to 1979.

The youngest of three girls, Barbara Charline Jordan was born 21 February 1936 in Houston, Texas, to Benjamin Jordan and Arlyne Patten Jordan. Her childhood was centered on church life: her father was a Baptist preacher, and her mother was also a teacher in the church. She attended local public schools throughout her primary and secondary education and graduated from Phillis Wheatley High School with honors. A speech given by Edith Sampson a black lawyer at a career day event at her high school inspired Jordan to become a lawyer herself She attended Texas Southern University and graduated magna ...


Roanne Edwards

Barbara Jordan was a political pioneer in her time. She was the first African American since 1883—and the first woman ever—to be elected to the Texas State Senate, and the first Southern black woman to serve in the U.S. Congress. A spellbinding orator, Jordan may be best remembered for the speech she gave as a member of the House Judiciary Committee that determined the impeachment of U.S. president Richard Nixon in 1974. She stated that, although the U.S. Constitution's clause beginning “We the people” had not originally included her as an African American and as a woman, she had faith in the Constitution and refused to be what she called “an idle spectator” to its “subversion” by the president.

Jordan was raised and educated in one of the predominantly black districts of Houston, Texas the Fifth Ward She was the youngest of three daughters born to warehouse ...


Merline Pitre

Barbara Charline Jordan was the first black woman to sit in the Texas Senate (1967-1973) and the first from the South to be elected to the United States House of Representatives (1973-1979). She was born in the Fifth Ward of Houston, Texas, to a Baptist minister, Benjamin Jordan, and a domestic worker, Arlyne (Patten) Jordan. Her early childhood was spent with her parents, her two older sisters, Bennie and Rose Mary, and her grandfathers, Charles Jordan and John Ed Patten.

Jordan’s outlook on life and politics, as well as her strength and determination, can be attributed to the influence of her maternal grandfather, John Ed Patten, the son of Edward A. Patten one of the forty two African Americans who sat in the Texas legislature during Reconstruction As a child Jordan spent most of her free time with Patten While ...


Deborah Lois Taylor

U.S. congresswoman and teacher, was born Carolyn Jean Cheeks in Detroit, Michigan, the third of five children of Marvel Cheeks, a businessman.

When Carolyn was ten years old she decided to become a secretary. In an effort to prepare herself for that occupation, she enrolled in Detroit's High School of Commerce, a nationally acclaimed public high school that prepared students for office-related careers. She was elected president of her graduating class. She married Bernard Kilpatrick. They had two children before the marriage ended in divorce. Hardworking and civic minded, Carolyn Kilpatrick raised her children to have the same values.

After finishing high school in 1963, Kilpatrick worked as a secretary for a short time. She then pursued a teaching certificate. She attended Ferris State College and Western Michigan University, earning a BS in Education in in 1972 She earned a master s degree in Education ...


Rachelle Gold

Democratic representative for Texas in the U.S. House of Representatives. Born and raised in Queens, New York, Sheila Jackson Lee earned a degree in political science from Yale University in 1972. She graduated from the University of Virginia Law School in 1975, one of just three African Americans in her class. Jackson Lee is married to Elwyn Lee, vice chancellor of the University of Houston System and vice president for student affairs at the University of Houston. He graduated from Yale Law School in 1975, and when he began teaching at the University of Houston as a law professor, the family moved to Texas.

In Houston, Jackson Lee was appointed as an associate municipal court judge in 1987. Then from 1990 to 1994Jackson Lee served two terms on the Houston City Council There she helped pass legislation related to homelessness and gun safety ...


William C. Hine

Thomas Ezekiel Miller was born in Ferrebeeville, South Carolina, the son of Richard Miller and Mary Ferrebee, occupations unknown. Miller's race was a source of periodic concern and speculation. Although he always considered himself to be black, Miller's very fair complexion led to allegations during his political career that he was white, the abandoned child of an unmarried white couple.

Miller moved to Charleston with his parents in the early 1850s, where he attended schools for free black children. His mother died when he was nine. As a youngster he distributed the Charleston Mercury to local hotels, and during the Civil War he worked aboard South Carolina railroad trains delivering newspapers between Charleston and Savannah. When the Confederate government seized the railroads, Miller found himself in the service and in the uniform of the Confederacy. Union forces captured him as they advanced into South Carolina in January 1865 ...


William C. Hine

political leader and educator, was born in Ferrebeeville, South Carolina, the son of Richard Miller and Mary Ferrebee, occupations unknown. Miller's race was a source of periodic concern and speculation. Although he always considered himself to be black, Miller's very fair complexion led to allegations during his political career that he was white, the abandoned child of an unmarried white couple.

Miller moved to Charleston with his parents in the early 1850s, where he attended schools for free black children. His mother died when he was nine. As a youngster he distributed the Charleston Mercury to local hotels and during the Civil War he worked aboard South Carolina Railroad trains delivering newspapers between Charleston and Savannah Georgia When the Confederate government seized the railroads Miller found himself in the service and in the uniform of the Confederacy Union forces captured him as they advanced into South Carolina ...


Caryn E. Neumann

civil rights activist, member of Congress, and a founder of the Congressional Black Caucus. Parren James Mitchell, nicknamed “PJ,” was born in Baltimore, Maryland, as the ninth of ten children, three of whom died in childhood. He attended Baltimore public schools. Enlisting in the army during World War II, Mitchell won a Purple Heart while serving as a company commander in Italy.

Mitchell subsequently earned a bachelor's degree in 1950 from what is now Morgan State University and applied to the sociology graduate program at the University of Maryland. The university refused to admit Mitchell to its College Park campus because of his race and instead established a separate off-campus graduate program for him in Baltimore. Mitchell sued and became the first African American graduate student at Maryland. After earning his master's in 1952 Mitchell taught at Morgan State He headed the antipoverty program in Baltimore in ...


Kennetta Hammond Perry

Eleanor Holmes Norton has established a stellar career as one of the most influential black women in politics in the United States. A tenured professor of law at Georgetown University, she serves in the U.S. House of Representatives as the congressional representative for the District of Columbia. Combining a quest for social justice with a belief in the principles of American democracy, Norton has actively worked to further the struggle for freedom and equality for all Americans.

Born in Washington, DC, to Vela Lynch, a schoolteacher, and Coleman Holmes, a government worker, Eleanor Holmes Norton could never have imagined as a child that one day she would represent her birthplace in national politics. During Norton’s early years, Washington was one of the most vibrant centers of the early civil rights legal campaign, which was led by Howard University-trained lawyers, including Thurgood Marshall Growing up there shaped ...


Brian Purnell

librarian, community activist, and six-term member of the House of Representatives (1983–2007). Major Robert Odell Owens was born 28 June 1936 in Collierville, Tennessee, near Memphis. He was the second of eight children born to Edna Owens, a homemaker, and Ezekiel Owens a furniture factory worker During Major Owens s childhood Memphis was racially segregated and African Americans were forced to live in separate neighborhoods attend inferior schools and make do with other Jim Crow public facilities Despite these poor conditions the Owens parents nurtured in their children a belief that advancement would come through thrift diligence and academic success In the Owens household Ezekiel gave small monetary gifts when one of his children memorized a historic speech and Edna organized games that quizzed the children on their knowledge of state capitals and advanced spelling From an early age Major excelled in these academic ...


Jeff Bloodworth

librarian, civil rights activist, state senator, and congressman, was born in Collierville, Tennessee, one of the eight children of Ezekiel Owens and Hannah Owens. During Owens's childhood his family moved to Memphis, where Owens graduated from Hamilton High School in 1952 at the age of sixteen. After graduation and upon the receipt of a Ford Foundation scholarship, Owens attended Morehouse College in Atlanta, where he majored in mathematics, earning his bachelor's degree in 1956. In 1957 Owens earned a master's degree in Library Science from Atlanta University.

After earning his master's degree Owens married Ethel Werfel, whom he met at Morehouse College, and moved to New York City. Employed in the Brooklyn Public Library system, Owens also became active in politics and civil rights in the early to mid-1960s. In 1964 he was named community coordinator for a federal program to encourage ...


SaFiya D. Hoskins

member of the U.S. Congress, was born Diane Edith Watson in Los Angeles, California, the oldest of three children. Her parents divorced when she was seven years old, at which time her mother began working nights at a post office; her father was a Los Angeles police officer. She attended Birdie Lee Bright Elementary School (formerly 36th Street School), Foshay Junior High School, and Dorsey High School. Upon graduating, Watson studied at Los Angeles City College before transferring to the University of California at Los Angeles, where in 1956 she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Education. In 1967 she acquired a Master of Arts degree in School Psychology from California State University. Attending the Claremont Graduate School, in 1986 Watson earned a Doctor of Philosophy degree in Educational Leadership. Subsequently, Watson attended the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Watson had begun working with ...