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Monika R. Alston

U.S. congresswoman, was born in Jacksonville, Florida, where she lived from childhood through her high school years. Brown has not made much information about her early years, her parents, or her personal life known. In 1965 she gave birth to her only daughter, Shantrel, the same year she began college. Brown received a BS in 1969 and a master's degree in Education in 1971 from Florida A&M University. She earned an education specialist degree from the University of Florida in 1974. From 1977 to 1982 Brown worked as a faculty member and guidance counselor at Florida Community College in Jacksonville.As a member of Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority Inc. at Florida A&M, Brown became close friends with her sorority sister Gwendolyn Sawyer-Cherry, who was the first African American woman to serve in the Florida state legislature. Sawyer-Cherry influenced Brown to enter politics and after Brown lost her ...


Dorsia Smith Silva

physician, politician, and delegate to the U.S. Congress, was born Donna Marie Christian in Teaneck, New Jersey, to Virginia Sterling Christian and retired Chief District Court Judge Almeric L. Christian, from St. Croix. Christian-Christensen's parents wanted their daughter to understand her cultural connections to the Virgin Islands, so she spent part of her adolescence in St. Croix. This time in St. Croix had a profound influence on Christian-Christensen's career and commitment to helping others.

Christian-Christensen returned to the United States to graduate from St. Mary's College in Notre Dame, Indiana, where she earned a B.S. degree in 1966. After reading a United Negro College Fund booklet about the lack of minorities in health care, she decided to enter the medical field. She attended George Washington University Medical School and earned an M.D. degree in 1970. From 1970 to 1971 Christian Christensen worked an as ...


Mary Krane Derr

U.S.Congresswoman, was born Cardiss Hortense Robertson in Saint Louis, Missouri. She was the only child of Rosie and Finley Robertson, a domestic worker and a manual laborer, respectively. Cardiss's parents came from two different families with the same surname of Robertson. Rosie Robertson grew up on the Whiteville, Tennessee, farm of her great-grandfather, an ex-slave named Erastus White. Cardiss's parents separated during her infancy. Cardiss and her mother were so poor that their two-room apartment lacked a gas stove and refrigerator. They moved to Detroit when Cardiss was ten.

After graduating from the Detroit High School of Commerce, Cardiss moved to her maternal grandmother's home in Chicago. Initially a mattress factory seamstress, she eventually worked as stenographer for a carnival equipment business and then the Illinois Department of Labor. Attending night school courses at Northwestern University for twelve years, she achieved a business certificate in 1966 ...


Alexander J. Chenault

the first black popularly elected governor of the United States Virgin Islands, Delegate to the United States House of Representatives, and ambassador, was born in Christiansted, St. Croix, Virgin Islands, to Charles and Maude (Rogiers) Evans. He attended the Christiansted Public Grammar and Junior High schools and completed his secondary education at the Charlotte Amalie High School in St. Thomas, where he graduated as valedictorian of his class.

At the age of nineteen, Evans moved to Washington, D.C., and studied at Howard University, where he graduated magna cum laude in 1940. In 1944 he received his medical degree with honors from the Howard University Medical School. Evans married Mary Phyllis Anderson, a nurse he met while completing his medical internship at Harlem Hospital in New York City in 1945, and they had four sons together: Melvin Herbert Jr., Robert Rogiers, William Charles and ...


Michaeljulius Idani

nurse and U.S. Congresswoman, was born in Waco, Texas, the daughter of Edward Johnson, a Navy veteran and civil servant for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, and Lillie Mae White Johnson, a homemaker and church organizer. Johnson was one of four children—sisters Ruth and Lee and brother Carl. The Johnsons were a tight-knit Christian family with a large extended family rooted in the Waco community. Johnson's parents instilled in their children a deep appreciation for education. Johnson's mother was an honor's graduate of AJ Moore High School in Waco, where Johnson would later attend and graduate in 1952.

By the early 1950s many segregationist laws had been enacted against African Americans and Hispanics Texas maintained separatist policies related to education and public and residential areas and few opportunities existed for Johnson to pursue higher education locally After graduation from high school she attended St ...


Melina Abdullah

politician, was born in El Paso, Texas. Her father was a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army. The name of her father and her mother's name and occupation are unknown. As a child in the segregated South she encountered racial discrimination and oppression literally from birth. Her mother was refused admittance to the local hospital when she was in labor with Barbara, almost losing her life as a result. Barbara was prohibited from attending local public schools, attending Catholic school instead. Lee attributes the development of her political consciousness largely to her early encounters with segregation. She moved to California with her family in 1960 and spent her teenage years in San Fernando, California, just outside of Los Angeles, and graduated from San Fernando High School in 1964. The eldest of two girls, she and her sister were raised by both their parents and grandparents.

Despite early challenges ...


Timothy J. O'Brien

politician. Born in Lubbock, Texas, George Thomas “Mickey” Leland was raised in poverty in Houston's Fifth Ward neighborhood. His mother Alice, a teacher, raised Mickey and his brother William. After graduating from Phillis Wheatley High School in 1963, he attended Texas Southern University's School of Pharmacy. During his college years he gained a reputation as an activist by agitating for civil rights and other issues. He led a campus protest at the University of Houston campus seeking justice for Lee Otis Johnson, who had been sentenced to thirty years for possession of a marijuana cigarette. The demonstration prevented the Texas governor from speaking.

Leland received a bachelor's degree in pharmacy in 1970 and continued his activism by organizing black citizen action teams that protested police brutality Leland was arrested at the scene of a riot that ended with the Houston police fatally shooting the People ...


Charles Rosenberg

organizer and lecturer for the Colored Farmers Alliance, farmer and author, owner of eight patents for agricultural implements, and U.S. congressman from South Carolina (1893–1897), was born in Sumter County, South Carolina, to enslaved parents whose names have never been established and who died before 1865. Murray took up farming during his teen years after the Civil War and by 1880 had acquired his own land: forty-nine acres tilled and fifteen acres of woodland, worth about $1500 including buildings and improvements, producing income of around $650 a year.

He made several attempts to obtain an education. Applying to a local school in 1871, he was instead appointed teacher. Classes were held three to four months a year. Even when school was in session, he worked his fields in the morning and evenings. In 1874 he entered the University of South Carolina temporarily filled with students ...


Thomas C. Holt

Murray was born a slave in Sumter County near Rembert, South Carolina, on September 24, 1853. He attended the University of South Carolina from 1874 to 1876, after it had been opened to black students by the Republican state government. From 1876 to 1890 Murray taught in the public schools and operated a small farm in Sumter County. In February 1890 he was appointed inspector of customs in the Charleston Customs House.

Although he was active in local politics prior to his custom house appointment, Murray's political ambitions appear to have been focused on the national stage by this politically important position. A few months after his appointment, he became a candidate for the Republican Party nomination to the United States Congress. Running against the veteran politician Thomas E. Miller and the white collector of internal revenue E. M. Brayton Murray failed to get the nomination However ...