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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 ...


Steven J. Niven

lieutenant‐governor of South Carolina and the leading nineteenth century African American freemason, was born in Philadelphia to parents whose names have not been recorded. His father was a free person of color from Haiti and his mother was a white Englishwoman. Gleaves was educated in Philadelphia and New Orleans, and as a young man worked as a steward on steamboats along the Mississippi River.

Gleaves first came to prominence as an organizer of Masonic lodges in Pennsylvania and Ohio. While black freemasonry had gained a foothold under Prince Hall in Massachusetts in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, by the 1840s, Pennsylvania was the center of black fraternalism, and Gleaves would become one of the Order's leading evangelists before the Civil War. In 1846 the year he was first initiated as a brother mason the Pennsylvania Grand Lodge of Prince Hall Masons appointed Gleaves a District Deputy Grand ...


Anthony Matthews

bank teller and Connecticut's first African American state representative, was born Wilfred Xavier Johnson in Dawson, Georgia. His parents were Eugene and Griselda Johnson, who arrived in Hartford in 1925 as part of the Great Migration. Wilfred Johnson was educated in Hartford, attending Northeast School and then graduating from Weaver High School in 1939. He later attended Hillyer College at the University of Hartford and the American Institute of Banking. After serving in the U.S. Army as a technician in World War II, in 1943 Johnson started work for the Hartford National Bank as a messenger. He was then promoted to the analysis department, later becoming the first black bank teller at any bank in Connecticut. As such he was warned that he might face opposition from customers and employees who did not want African Americans in such positions.

Johnson first entered politics in 1953 as a ...


Jane Brodsky Fitzpatrick

civil rights activist, first African American to serve on the Miami City Commission, and first since Reconstruction to head a state agency, was born Mary Athalie Wilkinson in Key West, Florida, to Edward L. Wilkinson, a cigar factory and loading dock foreman, and Grace Shultz.

Range's family moved to Miami around 1921. She graduated from Booker T. Washington Senior High School in Overtown, a historically black town established when blacks were not allowed to live in segregated Miami. During World War II, she worked picking up trash from railroad cars. In 1937 she married Oscar Range. A certified funeral director, he opened the Range Funeral Home in Miami in 1953. They had four children.

When her husband died of a heart attack in 1960 Athalie Range enrolled in the New England Institute of Anatomy Sanitary Science and Embalming Boston Massachusetts where she earned her ...


Christine Schneider

laborer, machine operator, carpenter, contractor, and administrator, was born in Pike County, Mississippi, the second oldest son of six children. Jesse attended a rural, one-room school that typically had seventy-five to one hundred students per teacher ranging across seven grade levels. Because teaching everyone at one time was impossible, students were given weekly assignments to learn and perform on each Friday for the community. As a young boy Jesse had a knack for public speaking and looked forward to making speeches to the community.

Thomas s family lived comfortably despite the fact his mother was ill and often bedridden While the family could not be considered wealthy they always had more than enough to eat Thomas had always believed that his family owned the land they worked on but when they were suddenly evicted he learned that his father was actually a sharecropper not a ...


Don Schanche

Georgia commissioner of labor, state representative, and lawyer, was born in Athens, Georgia, the youngest of nine children of Sidney and Vanilla Thurmond. His parents were sharecroppers.

Athens is home to the University of Georgia, which remained segregated until Thurmond was eight years old. Thurmond's home in rural Clarke County was a world away from the university. He recalled, “I was sixteen before we got an indoor bathroom” (author's interview with Thurmond, 2005). But his parents made education a priority. All the Thurmond children finished high school and four of them—including Michael—finished college.

Thurmond attended segregated schools until his senior year in high school, when the county schools were consolidated in 1971. The black high school, Burney Harris was slated for closure not integration and Thurmond led an unsuccessful protest against the closing When the school board sought and won an injunction to ...