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Leyla Keough

Diane Abbott, a working-class Cambridge University graduate, made history on June 11, 1987, by becoming the first black female member of the British Parliament. Her outspoken criticism of racism and her commitment to progressive politics have made her a controversial figure in Britain's Labour Party.

Diane Abbott was born in 1953 in the working-class London neighborhood of Paddington. Her mother (a nurse) and father (a welder) had moved there in 1951 from Jamaica. Later they moved to lower-middle-class Harrow, where Abbott was the only black student at the Harrow County School for Girls. Graduating among the top in her class, she applied and was accepted into Newnham College at Cambridge University, despite a high school teacher's comment that attendance there would give her ambitions that were above her social status.

She began work after graduation at the home office a government department responsible for a broad range ...

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Richard A. Bradshaw and Juan Fandos-Rius

politician in the Central African Republic (CAR), was born 3 December 1928 in Zémio in the southeastern part of the French colony of Ubangi-Shari to Ngbaka Manza parents from Damara in central Ubangi-Shari. He attended the École des cadres supérieurs (school for upper-level cadres) in Brazzaville, then the École normale d’instituteurs (teacher training college) at Mouyondzi in the Middle Congo. These were schools that provided training for promising students from all over French Equatorial Africa (FEA), and so young Adama-Tamboux came to know many future leaders of the independent states which would later emerge in this region during the process of decolonization.

In 1950 Adama Tamboux attended a professional training course for one year at the École normale de Saint Cloud Saint Cloud teacher training school in Paris He then returned to Ubangi Shari where he was appointed head of the school district in Ouham province a primarily Gbaya ...

Article

André Willis

Born and raised in Philadelphia, Alexander graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1920 and Harvard Law School in 1923, a time when very few African Americans gained admittance to Ivy League schools. Alexander enjoyed a successful career in private practice, directly challenging racism and discrimination and helping end segregation in a number of Philadelphia institutions, before becoming counsel for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).

Between 1933 and 1935 Alexander served as president of the National Bar Association and sought a federal appointment. Although the prevailing racial climate made it difficult for him to break into national politics, Alexander was appointed honorary consul to the Republic of Haiti in 1938. He was considered for an ambassadorship to Ethiopia in 1951, but although he had President Truman's support, he was not confirmed. From 1951 to 1958 Alexander committed himself to ...

Article

Liliana Obregón

Albuino Azaredo was elected governor of Brazil's state of Espírito Santo (1991–1995). An Afro-Brazilian engineer and successful businessman, Albuino, along with Alceu Collares of the state of Rio Grande do Sul, became one of the first black governors to be elected in Brazil.

Azeredo ran for governor of Espírito Santo as a member of the Democratic Labor Party (PDT). Election patterns have not indicated that voters in Brazil vote along racial lines, but the PDT has an active and militant tradition of speaking about racial issues as part of its political platform. In 1982, for example, its electoral campaign emphasized its commitment to the black population. In addition, influential black leaders have been prominent members of the PDT, including famous black activist Abdias do Nasciamento.

Espírito Santo's Afro-Brazilian population makes up around half of the state's voters. Azeredo did not base his 1991 campaign ...

Article

John R. Wennersten

civil rights activist, mayor, and city councilman. For more than two decades Marion Barry as a political leader of Washington, D.C., epitomized all that is good and bad about the politics of the urban South.

Born in Itta Bena, Mississippi, to a father who was a sharecropper and a mother who was a domestic, Marion Shepilov Barry was raised near Memphis, Tennessee, and experienced the twin hardships of poverty and segregation in the post–World War II South. He graduated from Booker T. Washington High School in 1954 and went on to earn a bachelor's degree at Memphis's LeMoyne College in 1958 and a master's degree in chemistry at Fisk University in Nashville in 1960. While a college student Barry led a well-publicized effort to force a white LeMoyne College trustee to retract disparaging remarks that he made about blacks during a Memphis bus-desegregation campaign.

Increasingly involved in the civil ...

Article

Marion Barry's 1994 election to a fourth term as mayor of Washington, D.C., three years after his conviction for cocaine possession, was just another twist in the turbulent career of the sharecropper's son from the Mississippi Delta. Born near the small town of Itta Bena, Mississippi, Barry moved to Memphis, Tennessee, at the age of five. Barry grew up amid poverty, segregation, and racism. Despite these circumstances, he excelled academically and became the first member of his family to attend college. At LeMoyne College, a racially mixed institution in Memphis, Barry joined the campus chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), becoming its president in his senior year.

Barry received his bachelor's degree in chemistry in 1958 and that fall began postgraduate study at historically black Fisk University in Nashville. Barry organized the campus's first NAACP chapter and helped stage nonviolent Sit-Ins ...

Article

Theresa W. Bennett-Wilkes

politician and human relations advocate. In November 1993 Sayles Belton made history as the first African American and first female elected mayor of Minneapolis, Minnesota. A native of Minneapolis, she was born Sharon Sayles, the daughter of Bill Sayles, the city's first African American car salesman, and Marian Sayles. After her parents divorced, Sayles Belton lived briefly with her mother. Marian Sayles moved to Cleveland, and Sayles Belton then lived with her father and stepmother. During her high school years she volunteered as a candy striper, that is, a nurse's assistant, an experience that exposed her to human suffering.

Sayles Belton attended Macalester College in Saint Paul Minnesota She continued to do volunteer work registering African Americans to vote in Jackson Mississippi She became pregnant during her senior year and her daughter was born with brain damage Unmarried and unemployed Sayles Belton dropped out of school and was ...

Article

Born in Mobile, Alabama, Bishop received a bachelor's degree in 1968 from Morehouse College in Atlanta. After graduating from Emory Law School in Atlanta in 1971 he practiced civil rights law in Columbus Georgia He built his reputation as a member of the Georgia State House of Representatives ...

Article

Robert Fay

Unita Blackwell, the daughter of sharecroppers, was born in Lula, Mississippi. Although she never attended high school, Blackwell eventually earned a master's degree in regional planning from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. She began working in the Civil Rights Movement in Mayersville, Mississippi in the early 1960s. At that time, she supported herself by chopping cotton for three dollars a day. When civil rights workers came to Mayersville encouraging voter registration among African Americans, Blackwell was one of the first to register. Shortly thereafter she was fired from her job for urging others to register.

Blackwell then went to work for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), registering voters, leading boycotts and protests, and initiating civil proceedings to stop discriminatory practices in the state. The most notable case was the landmark Blackwell v. Board of Education in 1965 and 1966 a case that furthered school desegregation Blackwell was ...

Article

Vicki Crawford

Blackwell is one of the courageous, yet unsung heroines of the modern civil rights movement. Born to sharecroppers near Lula, Coahoma County in the Mississippi Delta Blackwell rose from poverty to become a national leader and outspoken critic of racial and economic inequality After her father had an argument with the bossman about whether Unita should be required to do work in the cotton field when he believed she was too young he left Mississippi to find work in Tennessee From that time Blackwell and her mother and siblings moved from one relative s home to another As a child she worked in the cotton fields and in order to get a decent education she had to go across the state line to West Helena Arkansas She would live for eight months at a time with her aunt in that city in effect hiding out from the man who ...

Article

Nan Elizabeth Woodruff

civil rights activist and mayor was born in Lula Mississippi the daughter of sharecroppers in Coahoma County Mississippi Her father had to leave Mississippi when he refused to obey his plantation owner s order to send his young daughter Unita to the fields to pick cotton He found work in an icehouse in a neighboring state Her mother was illiterate and determined that her children would learn to read and write In the Mississippi Delta everyone was required to pick and chop cotton and the schools closed down to allow for this work except for two or three months a year Consequently Unita Blackwell and her sister took the ferry across the Mississippi River to West Helena Arkansas She lived with her aunt for eight months of the year and attended Westside Junior High School where she completed the eighth grade Later she received her high school equivalency diploma Blackwell ...

Article

Katya Leney-Hall

Egyptian diplomat, jurist and scholar who, during 1992–1996, served as the sixth Secretary-General (SG) of the United Nations (UN), the first African and Arab to hold the position, was born in Cairo on 14 November 1922 into a distinguished Coptic Christian family. His grandfather, Boutros-Ghali Pasha, was the Egyptian minister for finance and, from 1894, foreign affairs. He was prime minister from 1908 to 1910 when he was assassinated by a nationalist angered with his advocacy of the extension of the Suez Canal Company s concession Boutros Boutros Ghali pointed out in an interview that the reality was that the population was happy to get rid of a Christian and his grandfather s assassination set off a wave of Coptic Muslim clashes Although not overtly religious himself his family s history status and influence on the Coptic Church were to form Boutros Ghali who would later perceive ...

Article

Robert Fay

Boutros Boutros-Ghali was born to a prominent Coptic Christian family in Egypt. His grandfather, Boutros Pasha Boutros-Ghali, served as prime minister of Egypt under the British protectorate from 1908 until his assassination in 1910. The younger Boutros-Ghali graduated from the University of Cairo in 1946 with a bachelor’s degree, and went on to earn a doctorate in international law in 1949 from the Sorbonne in Paris. Boutros-Ghali pursued postdoctoral work at Columbia University in New York City, and then assumed a post as professor of international law and international affairs at the University of Cairo. He worked as a journalist, writing for the daily Al Ahram. He also held teaching posts at Princeton University in the United States, and at universities in India, Poland, and Tanzania. In October 1977 Boutros-Ghali left his academic career to serve in the government of Egyptian President Anwar al-Sadat as ...

Article

Steven J. Niven

mayor of Los Angeles, was born in a log cabin on a cotton plantation near Calvert, in Robertson County, Texas, the son of Lee Thomas Bradley and Crenner Hawkins sharecroppers Calvert had thrived in the late nineteenth century buoyed by the cottonseed industry and the Southern Pacific Railroad but its economy had declined by the time of Thomas s birth Life for sharecroppers like the Bradleys was precarious little better in fact than it had been for Lee s father a slave in the Carolinas They knew the certainty of picking cotton for eighteen hours a day and the annual uncertainty of the price of that cotton Heavily indebted to white landlords Lee and Crenner struggled to provide their family with vital necessities such as food and health care five of their children died in infancy Like many southern blacks in the 1920s the Bradley family saw only one ...

Article

Kate Tuttle

The first black mayor of Los Angeles, California, Tom Bradley served for twenty years, longer than any previous mayor of that city. Bradley's quiet, self-effacing manner attracted less national attention than other African American big-city mayors such as New York's David Dinkins or Washington's Marion Barry, but his national reputation was so strong that in 1988 he was on Democratic presidential nominee Walter Mondale's shortlist for vice-presidential candidates. The late Ron Brown, then chairman of the Democratic National Committee, praised Bradley for his ability “to hold a very complex and diverse city together.”

One of seven children born to his sharecropper parents on a cotton plantation in Calvert, Texas, Bradley moved with his family to Los Angeles when he was seven. In high school he excelled academically and athletically, winning a track scholarship to the University of California at Los Angeles, which he entered in 1937 ...

Article

Jamal Donaldson Briggs

lawyer, activist, and first African American mayor of Los Angeles. Thomas J. Bradley was born to Lee and Crenner Bradley in Calvert, Texas. The Bradleys moved to Los Angeles in 1924; there his father worked as a porter on the railroad and his mother worked as a maid. His father abandoned the family shortly after they all moved out West.

Bradley excelled in athletics at Polytechnic High School in Los Angeles, serving as captain of the track team and making the all-city football team. Bradley graduated in 1937 and attended the University of California at Los Angeles on a track scholarship. He dropped out during his junior year to join the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) in 1940 as a lieutenant; at the time he was the highest-ranking African American police officer in Los Angeles. In 1941 he married his childhood sweetheart, Ethel Mae Arnold The ...

Article

Kate Tuttle

After serving thirty-one years in the California State Assembly—the last fifteen as speaker, the second most powerful position in the state—Democrat Willie Brown announced in 1995 that he would run for mayor of San Francisco. The 1990 passage of state term limits had effectively ended his tenure as speaker. But the law, which some believed was specially designed to end Brown's long political career, merely forced him to seek new challenges. Following his mayoral victory over incumbent Frank Jordan, Brown gave the citizens of his adopted hometown an inaugural celebration that symbolized the qualities for which the city and its mayor are famous: style, exuberance, and inclusiveness.

A native of Mineola, Texas, Brown moved to San Francisco in 1951 to attend San Francisco State University (then San Francisco State College), from which he graduated in 1955 He went on to earn a law degree from California s Hastings ...

Article

was born on 1 September 1939 in San Pedro de Macorís, Dominican Republic, to Hipólito Jacobo, a sugar mill worker, and Oliva Adriana Carty Schmunth, a midwife. Stories surrounding his birth presaged the ups and downs in Carty’s prestigious career as a major league player. Rumor had it that the newborn Carty weighed 13 pounds and had spent thirteen months in his mother’s womb, the long gestation allegedly the evil work of a woman who had cursed his mother that she would never give birth.

Carty grew up in the Guachupita neighborhood of Consuelo, sometimes listed as his “hometown” in biographical sketches. Consuelo was a sugar mill town founded largely by Anglo-Caribbean cane cutters from the Tortola islands. Carty’s grandfather, Gastón, had left his native San Martin for opportunities in the Consuelo mills and became part of the community known today in the Dominican Republic as cocolos. The cocolos ...

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William Lacy Clay was born in St. Louis, Missouri. He earned a bachelor's degree from St. Louis University in 1953 before serving in the United States Army (1953–1955). During military training at Fort McClellan in Alabama, Clay displayed an interest in civil rights activism, leading an effort to give blacks equal access to the swimming pool, the barbershop, and the noncommissioned officers club.

Returning to St. Louis in 1955, Clay became active in the Civil Rights Movement. He participated in both the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). In 1959 Clay was elected to the St. Louis Board of Aldermen. He remained an alderman until 1964, when he became an official in the local Democratic Party.

In 1967 Missouri s voting districts were reorganized and most of St Louis s blacks were located ...

Article

Charles Orson Cook

politician, community activist, and sixteen-term United States congressman. William Clay Sr. was one of Missouri's most successful champions of civil rights in the twentieth century. Born one of seven children to Luella Hyatt and Irving Clay in Saint Louis, Missouri, young Clay attended Roman Catholic schools, where he was academically successful despite the disadvantages inherent in a segregated education. After high school, he enrolled in Saint Louis University and graduated with a bachelor's degree in political science in 1953. Clay completed a two-year tour of duty with the U.S. Army in 1955 After a brief flirtation with a career in business he became a labor organizer a community activist and ultimately a congressman from Missouri s First Congressional District for thirty two years Clay has spoken of the racial injustices he encountered early in life He recalled initiating a movement of black servicemen to desegregate the base swimming ...