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Jane Brodsky Fitzpatrick

basketball player, was born Charles Henry Cooper in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the youngest of five children of Daniel Webster Cooper, a mailman, and Emma Caroline Brown, a schoolteacher.

Cooper played basketball at Westinghouse High School in segregated East Pittsburgh. After graduating in February 1944, Cooper attended West Virginia State College, a historically black institution. He played basketball from 1944 to 1945, until he was drafted into the U.S. Navy. He served from July 1945 to October 1946.

Upon leaving the Navy, Cooper attended Duquesne University in Pittsburgh on the GI Bill and graduated in 1950 with a B.S. in Education. Although Duquesne was a predominantly white university, it was an early leader in the recruitment of black athletes. Cooper made the basketball team, The Dukes, when only a freshman. He was their first black starter and an All-American. As captain in 1949–1950 he led ...

Article

Kathryn L. Beard

soldier, sailor, and shipbuilder during the War of Independence, was born free in the British colony of St. Kitts of mixed race parentage. Little is known about his early life. Prior to adulthood he became literate, fluent in French and English, and he trained as a skilled craftsman in building dwellings and ships. As a free person of color in one of the older sugar colonies, he would have benefited from an increasing emigration of whites and, by 1745, a plantation system characterized by a high level of absenteeism by white landowners. These factors contributed to the growth of a small colored elite, financed largely by credit given by white relatives but still facing legal and de facto discrimination. For example, until 1830 the laws of St Kitts prohibited free people of color from attending the colony s few public schools although they paid taxes to ...

Article

Shani Roper

was born on the island of St. Kitts in the British West Indies. Little is known about how he came to be in Falmouth, Virginia, in the 1770s. However, both the towns of Falmouth and Fredericksburg sat on the banks of the Rappahannock River and were bustling eighteenth-century port cities. Many ships leaving the Rappahannock traded goods and provisions in the West Indies. Jeffery Bolster (1997) argues that in the eighteenth century, enslaved Africans worked extensively on ships and schooners, thereby participating in the complex shipping network in the Americas. Many of these enslaved Africans were skilled seamen who were familiar with the geography of major ports throughout the region. Norman Schools (2010 suggests that it is possible that John DeBaptiste was one of many enslaved Africans from the Caribbean who arrived on these ships visiting the port and who either escaped or took residence in ...

Article

Glenn Allen Knoblock

World War II Navy Cross honoree, was born in Dale, South Carolina, to Renty and Jenny Pinckney. His father was a carpenter working on shrimp boats in the Beaufort area; his mother died when he was young. William Pinckney was subsequently raised by his older sister Ethel, and attended school through the seventh grade. Times were rough during the Depression, so Pinckney followed in his father's footsteps, working as a carpenter on the Beaufort waterfront, and became a partner in his own business. However, the navy beckoned with the offer of free housing, food, and a steady paycheck. William Pinckney joined the U.S. Navy on 6 July 1938 at Raleigh, North Carolina, and was sent to the Unit K West training camp for African American recruits at Norfolk, Virginia.

Growing up in the segregated South Pinckney likely had no delusions about the place of African Americans in ...

Article

Michael Toussaint

sailed his whaling bark between San Francisco and the waters of the Arctic and Pacific in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Born in Barbados on 13 July 1859 to a Scottish sugar planter and a West Indian woman of Indian, African, and European ancestry, he became the first and only black seaman to achieve the rank of captain on the West Coast and the Pacific, and to sail these seas in that capacity during the nineteenth century.

In 1875, at the age of 16, he sailed to Boston as a cabin boy. His interest and enthusiasm caught the attention of the ship’s captain, who instructed Shorey in the fundamentals of navigation. Shorey proved to be both adventurous and ambitious. The next year he made his maiden voyage aboard a whaler, and by 1880 he had become an officer He then set sail on a voyage that ...

Article

Jeff Shantz

civil and labor rights activist, was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. In 1941, at the age of twelve, Smith ran away from home and joined the U.S. Navy. The navy did not discover their mistake in enlisting the underage Smith until he had reached the age of fourteen, by which time Smith had successfully passed through boot camp and sailed to Europe. During his two years in the navy, Smith would learn two skills that would greatly influence the course of his life: boxing and heavy equipment operation.

Upon his return to Pittsburgh in 1943, the fourteen-year-old Smith chose not to return to school. Instead he decided to devote himself full time to boxing. In two years as a middleweight fighter Smith participated in more than one hundred professional fights. He also met and developed a friendship with Edgar Kaufmann a Pittsburgh department store owner and boxing ...

Article

Nicholas Westbrook

sailor, cooper, soldier, surveyor, farmer, and innkeeper, was born in Lunenburg, Worcester County, Massachusetts. Taylor's father was probably Prince Taylor (?–1804), a slave of John Taylor of Lunenburg. It is not known if the younger Prince Taylor was born a slave or free. In occupation and location, Taylor continually reinvented himself to cope with changing circumstances. He did not marry.

Taylor served as steward on the fourteen-gun brig Diligent under Captain Brown for five months in 1779 during the failed Penobscot expedition, America's greatest naval disaster until Pearl Harbor. In his 1818 Revolutionary War pension deposition, Taylor declared, “I am by trade a Saylor” (Revolutionary War Pension Application, Massachusetts service, dossier #S.42.463, National Archives). On 6 March 1781 he accepted the bounty paid by the town of Lunenburg to enlist in the Continental Army for the next three years His enlistment ...