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Marian Aguiar

Mohamed Farah Aidid was born in Italian Somaliland and trained in the military in Rome and Moscow. After returning to independent Somalia, Aidid served in the army under General Mohamed Siad Barre. When Siad Barre assumed the presidency in 1969, he appointed Aidid chief of staff of the army. Later that year, however, he began to suspect Aidid's loyalties and imprisoned him without trial for seven years on charges of treasonous conspiracy.

In 1977 Siad Barre released Aidid and welcomed him back to the administration, no doubt seeking his help for the ongoing border war against Ethiopia. The loyalties of Aidid to his former jailer are unclear, but he served Siad Barre's military administration until the late 1980s. In 1989 Aidid broke with Siad Barre and joined the United Somali Congress USC an organization dominated by the Hawiye clan The USC was one of several groups ...


Kathleen Sheldon

Somali politicomilitary leader who played a central role in the collapse of the state and the large-scale violence against civilians that accompanied it, was born in the Mudug region of Somalia, into the Habr Gidir clan. His name is also spelled Maxamed Faarax Caydiid. Little is known about his early life, other than that he served with the Italian colonial police force and in the 1950s received some training in Italy and in the Soviet Union. He served under Somalian president Mohamed Siyad Barre, rising to the rank of general. He was involved in the Ogaden War of 1977–1978, in which Somalia tried and failed to take over what is now Ethiopia’s Region Five and is largely populated by Somalis.

In the 1980s Aidid began to turn against Siyad Barre and when the president suspected him of plotting against him he imprisoned Aidid for six years As ...


Wayne Dawkins

literary critic. Anatole Broyard was born in New Orleans, the son of Paul Broyard, a carpenter, and Edna Miller. Young Anatole was the second of three children. His older sister, Lorraine, was fair complexioned and his younger sister, Shirley, was brown complexioned. Anatole was pale to olive skinned as a boy. This color distinction is important, because that issue defined the future writer's life.

Anatole's family moved to Brooklyn's Bedford-Stuyvesant in the 1920s. Anatole's father arrived in town as a master carpenter, but he learned that the carpenters’ union barred applicants of color. Paul Broyard decided to identify himself as white in order to work. The rest of the family did not overtly pass for white; they muted their racial identity, and that worked in multiethnic Brooklyn.

Young Anatole meanwhile picked up the nickname “Buddy,” according to the historian Henry Louis Gates Jr. In ...


Nick J. Sciullo

corporate executive, United States Air Force veteran, was born to Charles H. Bush, an administrator at Howard University, and his wife, Marie. Bush grew up in the Washington, D.C. neighborhood surrounding Howard University. He attended Banneker Junior High School in D.C. where he was an honor student, as well as the Capitol Page School, a special high school for youth acting as congressional and Supreme Court pages. Bush was appointed a page in 1954 at the age of fourteen, not long after the historic Brown v. Board of Education decision. Bush was the first African American Supreme Court page and also one of the first three African American students to attend the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado. At the Air Force Academy he was a member of the debate team and rugby team, and served in student leadership as a squad commander.

Bush became the ...


Linda Rochell Lane

In 1985, when Sherian Grace Cadoria was promoted to brigadier general, she was the first black woman in the regular U.S. Army to achieve this rank and the second black woman in history to earn the honor.

Cadoria was born in Marksville, Louisiana, and was brought up by her mother, Bernice Cadoria. As a young child, she worked in the cotton fields alongside her mother and her brother and sister. Because of racism on public transportation, the three children walked five miles to school. Bernice Cadoria was strict, a strong disciplinarian, preparing her daughter well for life in the military.

Cadoria received a BS in Business Education from Southern University and A&M College in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, in 1961 The year Cadoria made first lieutenant and became a platoon officer in Company B of the Women s Army Corps Training Battalion at Fort McClellan Alabama a ...


James Robert Payne

After careers in government service, law, the Army, and academia, Cyrus Colter began writing at fifty. Colter placed his first short story, “A Chance Meeting,” in Threshold in 1960. He went on to place stories in such little magazines as New Letters, Chicago Review, and Prairie Schooner. Fourteen of his stories are collected in his first book, The Beach Umbrella (1970). In 1990 Colter published a second collection of short fiction, The Amoralists and Other Tales.

Colter's first novel, The Rivers of Eros (1972) relates the efforts of Clotilda Pilgrim to raise her grandchildren to lives of respectability When Clotilda discovers that her sixteen year old grandaughter is involved with a married man the grandmother becomes obsessed with the idea that the girl is repeating her grandmother s own youthful mistakes Clotilda eventually kills the girl in order to stop what ...


Clement Alexander Price

Born in Washington, D.C., the son of a black army officer, Benjamin O. Davis, Sr., young Benjamin Davis attended school in Tuskegee, Alabama, and Cleveland, Ohio, and the University of Chicago, before entering the all‐white U.S. Military Academy at West Point, where the last African American had graduated in the 1880s. Davis graduated in 1936 (35th in a class of 276). His request for assignment to the Army Air Corps was refused because there were no black aviation units; instead, he was assigned to an all‐black infantry regiment and then to Tuskegee Institute as an instructor. In 1941, the War Department finally allowed blacks into the Air Corps, although in segregated units. Davis established a flight program at Tuskegee, and as a lieutenant colonel took command of the 99th Pursuit Squadron (the “Black Eagles”), the first black air unit.

In 1943 during World War II he led ...


Benjamin Oliver Davis, Jr., was the son of Elnora and Benjamin Oliver Davis, the first black general of the United States Army. After living on a number of military bases during his childhood, Davis entered a predominantly white high school in Cleveland, Ohio. He was elected president of his class and went on to attend Cleveland's Western Reserve University. He transferred to the University of Chicago but hoped to enroll in the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. At the time, the academy actively discouraged blacks from applying. With the help of black Chicago congressman Oscar DePriest, however, Davis took the entrance examinations and entered the academy in 1932.

At West Point Davis because he was black was subjected to a four year silencing campaign no one ate with him roomed with him answered his questions or spoke to him unless issuing an order He nonetheless graduated ...


Brian F. Neumann

U.S. Air Force general and commander of the Tuskegee Airmen. Born in Washington, D.C., Benjamin Oliver Davis Jr. was the son of Benjamin O. Davis Sr., the first African American general in American history, and first flew at the age of fourteen, developing a deep love of flying that defined his life and career.

After attending the University of Chicago, Davis entered the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 1932. The last African American to graduate from the academy had done so in 1880, and Davis endured four years of isolation from his fellow cadets before graduating in 1936, thirty-fifth in a class of 276. Davis's request for assignment to the Army Air Corps was denied because there were no black aviation units. After marrying Agatha Scott Davis was assigned to the all black Twenty fourth Infantry Regiment the buffalo soldiers and served as ...


Amy M. Hay

In her memoir One Woman’s Army (1989), Charity Adams Earley recorded her experiences training women to become soldiers and fighting segregation in the United States Army as a black officer in the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (later the Women’s Army Corps, or WAC) during World War II. In recording her story, Earley recognized the need for a personal account of how women and minorities gained acceptance with the military. During her military career, Adams fought not only for her country but for equality, challenging the army’s policy of segregation and individual racism, and left the military with the rank of lieutenant colonel, the highest possible rank after that of the WAC commander herself.

Charity Adams was born in Columbia, South Carolina, and grew up in the Jim Crow South, one of four children born to the Reverend Eugene Adams and Charity A. Adams In her early ...


Glenn Allen Knoblock

US Naval Officer and the first African American woman promoted to the rank of rear admiral, was born in Patuxent River, Maryland, the daughter of a navy serviceman. The family later moved to Rockville, Maryland, where Fishburne graduated from Richard Montgomery High School in 1967. Because of her father's naval career, Fishburne always had an interest in joining the navy, and was encouraged by her father to do so. Upon graduation Fishburne attended Lincoln University in Oxford, Pennsylvania, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology in 1971. In 1972 Lillian Fishburne joined the US Navy and was enrolled in the Women's Officer School at Newport, Rhode Island, graduating in February 1973 and commissioned to the rank of ensign. She subsequently embarked on a long and distinguished career that would result in her promotion to vice-admiral, the first African American woman ever to achieve this three-star rank.

Fishburne ...


Robert Fay

Former Nigerian president Yakubu Gowon was born in Plateau State, Nigeria. As the country’s military ruler from 1966 to 1975, he advocated unity for Nigeria and national reconciliation after the conclusion of the Biafran War. After his ouster in a bloodless coup, Gowon took the role of a senior statesman and continued to work toward regional cooperation in West Africa.

A Christian missionary’s son, Gowon was born into the Anga ethnic group in the Northern Region of Nigeria. He completed secondary school in Zaria, Nigeria, in 1953. Gowon joined the Nigerian army and began his military training in Teshie, Ghana in 1954. In 1955 he moved to Great Britain, where he completed his studies at the Royal Military Academy in Sandhurst the following year.

Gowon served in Ibadan, at the Nigeria-Cameroon border and in The Democratic Republic of Congo He attained the rank of lieutenant ...


Roy Doron

Nigerian general, chief of staff, and head of the Federal Military Government, was born on 19 October 1934 in Lur, a village near the town of Kwali in present-day Plateau State, Nigeria. His parents were Nde Yohanna and Matwok Kurnyang, both missionaries with the Church Missionary Society. As part of their work, they moved with Yakubu and his ten siblings to Zaria. Gowon’s family, of the Ngas ethnic group, were devout Christians from the Northern Region, and not Hausa or Fulani Muslims. Both his religion and ethnicity would play a crucial role in Gowon’s military and political career.

Gowon joined the Nigerian army in 1954, receiving his commission as a second lieutenant a year later, after which he attended the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst. In 1960 Gowon was sent to the Congo as part of the United Nations Peacekeeping Force before returning to Nigeria the following year ...


Linda Rochell Lane

Marcelite Jordon Harris, a graduate of Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia, served as a White House aide to President Jimmy Carter. She was also the first and only black woman to earn the rank of general in the United States Air Force. While the native Texan may not have been eligible for the title of Georgia’s “favorite daughter,” Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young was impressed enough to declare a Marcelite J. Harris Day on 30 May 1988. She was presented with the key to the city of Detroit in 1990. The city of Houston, Texas, designated 11 February 1991 as Marcelite J. Harris Day. Marcelite J. Harris made it to the top of her field and in the process accumulated a succession of firsts.

Marcelite Jordon was born in Houston, Texas. She earned a BA in Speech and Drama from Spelman College in 1964 and a ...


Amanda Harmon Cooley

businessperson, corporate executive, and educator. Dennis Fowler Hightower, the son of Marvin W. Hightower and Anna Virginia Hightower, was born in Washington, D.C., and grew up in LeDroit Park, a neighborhood in the District of Columbia in which many other prominent African Americans, from Duke Ellington to the Reverend Jesse Jackson, have lived. As a child Hightower spent time at Camp Atwater in North Brookfield, Massachusetts, which was established in 1921 by William N. DeBerry with the mission to help African American children. After graduating from McKinley High School at age sixteen, Hightower continued his studies at Howard University, earning a bachelor of science degree in 1962.

Then Hightower enlisted in the U S Army beginning an eight year military career that included active service in the Vietnam War His leadership advanced him to the rank of major by the age of twenty seven ...


Glenn Allen Knoblock

US Marine Corps officer and the first female and African American officer to command the Marine Corps base at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, was born in Laurinburg, North Carolina, the daughter of Roscoe Hodges Jr., a mechanic and army veteran, and Ollie (Monroe) Hodges, a seamstress. In 1962 the Hodges family moved to Bridgeport, Connecticut, where better job opportunities prevailed. In 1972 Hodges graduated from Bassick High School in Bridgeport and then earned a bachelor of arts in Recreation and Leisure at Southern Connecticut State College in 1977 She then started graduate school but soon tired of this and worked at several jobs including church secretary before she considered enlisting for military service She first considered the Navy and Air Force but found out that there were then no opportunities available for female recruits due to quota restrictions Interestingly she had never even considered the Army and Marine Corps ...


Regina T. Akers

thirty-eighth vice chief of Naval Operations, the navy's number two uniformed officer was born at March Air Force Base, Riverside, California, one of four children of Air Force Master Sergeant Clarence and Philippa Howard. Her father's career exposed the family to many cultures and life styles across the United States. Always active with a good sense of humor, when Howard's older brother failed to lead them in completing their chores resulting in lost privileges, she fired him. Lieutenant Uhura, the African American female communications officer on the original Star Trek television program was her childhood hero.

Howard decided to attend the United States Naval Academy after watching a television documentary about the service academies when she was twelve years old Her mother encouraged her and assured her that if women were not admitted when she graduated from Gateway High School they could consider suing the government This had a profound ...


Daniel “Chappie” James Jr. attended Tuskegee Institute where he joined the segregated U.S. Army Air Corps. He served in World War II and in 1943 was commissioned a second lieutenant. He served again in Korea, leading a fighter plane squadron and devising tactics to support ground troops. During the Korean War, he flew over 100 combat missions and received the Distinguished Service Medal.

In 1957 James graduated from the Air Command and Staff College in Alabama. Nine years later, during the Vietnam War, he was promoted to deputy commander for operations of the Eighth Tactical Fighter Wing in Thailand. Speaking in favor of the war and encouraging blacks to serve made him a national figure. He was often criticized for not directly supporting the Civil Rights Movement, choosing instead to be an example of an individual overcoming barriers through persistence and service.

James became the commander of the ...


Donald Roe

soldier. On 1 September 1975, General Daniel “Chappie” James Jr. received his last star to become the first African American four-star general in U.S. history. It had not been an easy journey. He confronted racial discrimination on a daily basis during the early years of his military career in the air force, and later, during the Vietnam conflict, he endured the venomous criticism of some militant blacks, who chose to see him not in terms of his great achievements as a black man in the military but as part of the establishment that was waging an immoral war in which the African American had no interest. James, however, let his record in fighting discrimination in the military speak for itself.

Daniel James Jr. was born on 11 February 1920, in Pensacola, Florida, the youngest child of Daniel and Lillie Anna James The James family lived in ...


Linda Rochell Lane

Hazel W. Johnson broke through convention, custom, and racial and gender barriers in 1979 when she became the first black woman general in the American military. This accomplishment has guaranteed her a place in African American history, women’s history, and military history.

Hazel Johnson was born in 1927 in West Chester, Pennsylvania. Interested in travel and changing her outlook, she entered the army in 1955, five years after completing basic nurses’ training at New York’s Harlem Hospital. She received a direct commission as a first lieutenant in the U.S. Army Nursing Corps in May 1960. Taking advantage of the educational opportunities provided by the military, she earned a bachelor’s degree in Nursing from Villanova University, a master’s degree in Nursing Education from Columbia University, and a PhD in Education Administration through Catholic University.

Johnson was chief of the Army Nurse Corps from 1979 to 1983 the ...