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David Alvin Canton

lawyer and judge, was the third of five children born to Hillard Boone Alexander, a laborer from Mecklenburg County, Virginia, and Virginia Pace, from Essex County, Virginia. Alexander's parents were born slaves, but were freed by the Thirteenth Amendment following the Civil War. In 1880 they migrated to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where they lived in the Seventh Ward, a community that would later be made famous by W. E. B. Du Bois's seminal 1899 study The Philadelphia Negro. In 1903Alexander's mother died of pneumonia. Because his father worked long hours, Alexander and his siblings moved to North Philadelphia to live with his maternal aunt, Georgia Chandler Pace From the age of seven Alexander attended school and worked at various jobs including dockworker newspaper boy general helper at the Metropolitan Opera House in North Philadelphia Pullman porter and when he was in his early twenties ...

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Aaron L. Day

recreation commissioner, PTA president, and community advocate, was born Mary Dell Byrd in Greenville, Texas, to Eliza Henderson and George Byrd, who worked as a porter for the railroad. Mary had a twin sister named Adele—the only children in the family—and attended grade school and high school in Greenville. After high school, Byrd married Charlie Joe Christian and had two daughters, Georgia and Beverly. The marriage lasted only a few years, and at age twenty-one, she moved to Long Beach, California, with her two daughters. There she met Richard Butler, and the two were married in 1948. The couple had six sons: Anthony, Reginald, Douglas, Stanley, Timothy, and Eric. It was because of her children that Butler became engaged in school and civil rights activism.

The 1954 Supreme Court ruling in Brown vs. Board of Education declared segregation in public schools to be unconstitutional and that ...

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Benjamin R. Justesen

merchant, public official, religious leader, and longtime state legislator, was born in Perquimans County, North Carolina, the eldest son of free, mixed-race parents John Cail (Cale) and Elizabeth Mitchell, a homemaker, who were married in 1827. His father worked as a miller, later as a fisherman, and moved his large family—as many as nine children—to Edenton in nearby Chowan County in the 1850s. Little is known of Hugh Cale's early life or education, although he had learned to read and write by the end of the Civil War.

After the Union army occupied much of northeastern North Carolina in early 1862, Cale began working as a manual laborer for federal installations at Fort Hatteras and Roanoke Island. In 1867 he moved to Elizabeth City North Carolina where he commenced a singularly successful career as a grocer and held a number of local offices during and after ...

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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 ...

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John N. Ingham

businessman and politician, was born a free person of color in New Orleans, Louisiana, the son of Bernard Cohen and Amelia Bingaman, a free woman of color. Although Cohen's father was Jewish, he was raised as and remained throughout his life a Roman Catholic. His parents died when he was in the fourth grade, whereupon he had to quit school, though he later attended Straight University in New Orleans for several years. As a boy Cohen became a cigar maker and later worked in a saloon. His entrée into the world of politics came during the period of Reconstruction, when he worked as a page in the state legislature, then meeting in New Orleans. There, Cohen became acquainted with several influential black Republicans, among them Oscar J. Dunn, C. C. Antoine, and P. B. S. Pinchback Pinchback founder of and dominant figure in the city ...

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Paul Stillwell

pioneer black naval officer, was born in Washington, North Carolina, the eighth of eleven children of Edward L. Cooper, a sheet metal worker, and Laura J. Cooper a homemaker One of the eleven siblings died in infancy the remaining ten became college graduates During his upbringing in North Carolina Cooper often faced the tribulations of southern racism He went to segregated schools and learned from his parents that he had to go out of his way to avoid conflict with whites Once when Cooper was eight or nine years old he got into a fight with a white boy As he put it It was the wrong day for him to call me a nigger and we had it out Stillwell 76 Cooper s father had to smooth things over with the boy s father to avoid the incident s escalation When he worked as a bellhop in ...

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H.R. Costello

Early Liverpudliansolicitor. He was born in Kingston, Jamaica, the son of a wealthy white member of the plantocracy and his mixed‐race mother, Hannah Woodcock. On his father's death, William and his sisters were brought back to Liverpool by their uncle, John Daggers, a prominent and respected gentleman. William's family connections and his social class apparently helped to ease his entry into Liverpudlian society because he appears to have been accepted into the highest social circles.

William Daggers was a contemporary of Joshua Lace, founder of the Liverpool Law Society, set up in 1824. Daggers followed Lace into the legal profession, and in 1819 gained his certificate as a solicitor Though he seldom appeared in court he was widely sought after and consulted for his brilliant knowledge of equity and conveyancing He acquired a reputation with the Council for his work on issues affecting the ...

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Marcus Shepard

lawyer, businessman, civil rights leader, and Chicago alderman, was born in Canton, Mississippi, to Edward Dickerson and Emma Garrett Fielding. Earl Dickerson's maternal grandfather, Benjamin Franklin Garrett, bought his freedom in the 1850s and owned a livery stable as well as several other properties in Canton. His business was destroyed during the Civil War, however, and by the time Earl was born the family lived in relative poverty. Edward Dickerson, who worked away from home as an upholsterer, died when Earl was five and he was raised by his mother, who did laundry for local whites, his paternal half-sister, and his maternal grandmother, who ran a small boarding house in Canton.

In 1906 Dickerson was sent to live with relatives in New Orleans where he attended the preparatory school of New Orleans University Unfortunately family finances forced him to return to Canton ...

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Sandra Kelman

community activist, city councilwoman, and ordained minister, was born Beatrice Frankie Fowler in Wake Forest, North Carolina, to Maude Fowler, a domestic worker, and to a father who left when she was a toddler. In a 1989Baltimore Sun Magazine article, Gaddy recalled “many days” that she and her four siblings (Mottie Fowler, Pete Young, Tony Fowler, and Mabel Beasly) “didn't eat because when my mother didn't work and couldn't bring home leftover food, there was nothing to eat. And, even when there was food, if my stepfather had been drinking, he'd come home and throw our plates out in the back yard or through the window.” A high school dropout, Gaddy was divorced twice by her early twenties. As a single mother, she struggled for years to make a living for herself and her children (Cynthia, Sandra, John, Michael, and Pamela ...

Article

Laura Arata

and alderman of Knoxville, Tennessee, was born in Tennessee. Almost nothing is known of his early life. By 1850 and likely much earlier he was owned by Nathan Gammon a prominent white resident of Jonesboro in Washington County in far east Tennessee who was among the region s largest slaveholders Some significant details about Isaac s life can be gleaned through knowledge of Nathan Gammon s treatment of him Isaac attended Jonesboro Presbyterian Church and appears sporadically in their records as a member It also appears that Isaac Gammon was allowed to perform independent work and keep wages earned from it in addition to keeping house at least part of the time with a free black woman named Nancy Jones Arata forthcoming Both keeping wages and keeping company with free blacks were illegal in antebellum Tennessee but Nathan Gammon seems to have been content to ignore the law as ...

Article

Richard L. Aynes

World War II veteran, city councilman, and judge, was born in Lake City, Florida, the youngest of fifteen children of William and Hattie (Howard) Jackson. He spent his early years in Orlando, Florida. Courage was his touchstone for life. When he was seven, an armed mob with torches came to his home looking for one of his older brothers on trumped-up charges. His mother sent him out the back door into the darkness to call together armed family members while she led the mob by a circuitous route to the brother's home. The family members Jackson brought escorted the brother to jail and successfully prevented the brother's lynching.

Jackson earned a BA from Morehouse College in 1943 and an MA in Business Administration from Atlanta University in 1946. On 7 September 1945 he married his college sweetheart Gilberta Jackson in Atlanta Georgia They had ...

Article

Charles Rosenberg

attorney, Detroit area civic leader, and nominee for the sixth circuit federal court of appeals, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, to Wade Hampton McCree Jr. and Dores B. McCrary McCree, and grew up in Detroit, Michigan.

Her father served as a Michigan circuit judge for Wayne County, 1954–1961, and as a federal U.S. district judge 1961–1966, and U.S. sixth circuit court of appeals judge from 1966 to 1977, when he was appointed solicitor general of the United States by President Jimmy Carter. He was the first African American to serve on the sixth circuit court, and the second (after Thurgood Marshall) as solicitor general. Kathleen Lewis attended Detroit public schools, graduating from Cass Technical High School in 1965, then entered Fisk University (Jet, 24 Mar. 1966, 39), where Judge McCree was an alumnus and later a ...

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David Killingray

Labour activist and Plymouth city councillor, among those early black representatives elected to local government bodies in England. The son of a Sierra Leonean father and a white British mother, Miller was born in Stonehouse, Devon. He attended local schools, worked in the building industry, and during the First World War served in the Royal Flying Corps. Working as an electrician in Devonport dockyard, he was an active trade unionist and also a member of the Labour Party. In 1925 he was elected to Plymouth City Council, a position in which he served with various interruptions for most of his life. In 1938, concerned about the safety of people in the city in event of war, Miller became a civil defence warden. When the city was heavily bombed in 1941 he unofficially organized the evacuation of many women and children For this he was arrested and reprimanded However ...

Article

Jeffrey Green

Lawyer in Lancashire and Cheshire born in British Guiana (now Guyana). The son of a Georgetown builder, Nelson studied at St John's College, Oxford (1898–1902), where he was an officer of the Oxford Union under Prime Minister Asquith's son Raymond. He was called to the Bar at Lincoln's Inn in 1904, and established his legal practice in Manchester and his home at Bowdon, then Hale, Cheshire. He married, had a daughter, played cricket, and was elected to Hale Council from 1913 to his death. He chaired the Council in 1937.

Nelson achieved fame following the murder of George Storrs at Stalybridge in 1909. As defence lawyer, Nelson secured the acquittal of Mark Wilde, who had been accused of the crime. The Yorkshire Herald called him ‘the coloured barrister’ (29 October 1910) but the Stalybridge Reporter of that date just published his ...

Article

Alva Moore Stevenson

revolutionary, governor, city councilman, landowner, and businessman, was born Pío de Jesus Píco at the San Gabriel Mission in California, the fourth of the ten children of José María Píco, founder of the Píco family in Southern California, and a native of Fuerte, Sinaloa, Mexico, and María Eustaquia Gutiérrez, from San Miguel de Horcasitas, Sonora, Mexico. Pío's ancestry was a combination of African, Hispanic, Native American, and European. José Píco migrated to California in 1801 with the Anza Expedition, which was authorized in 1775 by the viceroy of Spain. Soldiers and their families were recruited from Sonora to occupy and settle the port of San Francisco. A successful overland emigration and supply route was established between Sonora and Alta California. Among the positions he held were sergeant and corporal Many members of the Píco family served in the military including Pío Píco s ...

Article

SaFiya D. Hoskins

radio broadcaster, television journalist, and politician, was born Charles Pugh in Detroit, Michigan, the only child of Marcia and George Pugh. His mother was murdered when he was three, and his father, an employee of Ford Motor Company, remarried when he was six. One year later, George Pugh lost his job and committed suicide; from his bedroom across the hall seven-year-old Charles heard the gun shots and rushed to call 911. Pugh was raised by his grandmother and grew up on the west side of Detroit; his stepmother continued to be active in his life. In 1989 he graduated from Murray Wright High School with a scholarship to attend the University of Missouri. Having had early aspirations of someday becoming a news reporter in his hometown; he enrolled in the School of Journalism. In 1993 Pugh earned a Bachelor s Degree in Journalism from the ...

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Simon Topping

prominent New York City judge, was born in Kansas City, Kansas, the son of the Reverend David Foote Rivers, the last African American member of the Tennessee state legislature during Reconstruction, and Silene Gale Rivers. In 1898 his family moved to Washington, D.C., where he completed elementary and high school. He had considered becoming an athlete, but an attack of gout prevented this. He began studying law at Howard University, but in 1911 he entered Yale, where he graduated with Phi Beta Kappa distinction in economics and history in 1915. In 1916 he went to Harvard Law School but left to become an inspector for Winchester Firearms, a post he kept until the United States declared war on Germany in 1917 During the war he attended the segregated officer training school in Des Moines Iowa and served as a first lieutenant with New York s 367th ...

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Elizabeth K. Davenport

community activist and lawyer, was born Margaret Wilhelmina Jackson in Portsmouth, Virginia, to Margaret and John Jackson. One of three children, she had two siblings, Gwendolyn E. Bowie, a public school teacher, and Horace Jackson, a physician. Until the seventh grade, she attended Truxon Elementary School in Truxon, Virginia, and in 1933 she graduated from J. C. Norco High School in Portsmouth.

Upon high school graduation Rolark attended Howard University from 1933 until 1937, earning bachelor of arts and master's degrees in Political Science while studying under Ralph Bunche, a civil rights leader and later a member of President Harry Truman's “black cabinet.” As a young political scientist Rolark was one of several researchers who went to the Deep South to collect data for the Swedish economist Gunnar Myrdal, for his seminal book An American Dilemma: The Negro Problem and Modern Democracy ...

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Wendy Plotkin

the son of Robert Robinson Taylor and Beatrice Rochon Taylor. The senior Taylor, in a forty-year career starting in 1893, rose to become Tuskegee Institute’s chief architect and planner, designing most of the school’s academic and other buildings, while also serving as director of the mechanical industries program. He was also the first African American to attend Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), where he received a bachelor of science in Architecture in 1892. Robert Rochon Taylor attended Tuskegee public schools and the Tuskegee Institute, the latter for a building course, constructing a rural school as a project. He studied architecture at Howard University from 1916–1919, but terminated his studies to manage an Opelika, Alabama sawmill designed by his father. In 1922 he resumed his education at the predominantly white University of Illinois (in Urbana), where, in 1925 he received a B S degree in business administration ...

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Benjamin R. Justesen

physician and diplomat, was born in Cumberland County, North Carolina, one of seven children of free black parents Peter Williams, a successful lumberman, and Flora Ann McKay, who taught her son to read at an early age. After the family moved to nearby Harnett County in 1867, his father engaged an educated white widow to tutor his children, in exchange for working on her farm. According to one account, within two years John Williams had “mastered Webster's blue back speller and other books”; by age sixteen, the avid reader was well versed in memoirs, history, and biographies (Powell, p. 210).

As a teenager, John entered the state normal training school at Fayetteville (now Fayetteville State University), where he graduated at the top of his class in 1880 Williams then became a schoolteacher holding teaching positions near his home in Lillington and in a number of ...