singer and actor, was born Charles Leon Arthello Bibb in Louisville, Kentucky. His father, also Leon Bibb, worked as a mail carrier and his mother, Elizabeth (McCloskey) Bibb, was a homemaker, although she sometimes assisted her mother, a domestic servant. Bibb's grandparents were born in slavery, and his forbears worked as slaves on vegetable plantations in western Kentucky. When he was a young child Bibb's aunt taught him spirituals, some of which he continued to sing throughout his career. His aunt recognized his vocal talent early, and she gave him a vision beyond the heavily segregated world of the South of the 1920s and 1930s by telling the young Bibb about Roland Hayes a black concert singer who moved to Europe when he could not find career opportunities in the United States because of his race and later returned to perform at Carnegie Hall Bibb continued to ...
military pilot and educator, was born in Washington, D.C., the elder of two children born to Vivian Brown, a public school teacher, and Dr. Roscoe C. Brown Sr., a dentist and newspaper editor who served in President Franklin D. Roosevelt's “black cabinet.” As a young boy Brown lived with his family in Depression-era Washington, D.C., where economic troubles were as harsh as racial segregation in the city's social spheres. Public education was no exception. But Brown did not allow racial bigotry to stifle his academic interests.
Brown began his formal education at Blanche K Bruce School a segregated public institution named after a black U S senator from Mississippi elected during Reconstruction He was fortunate to receive a first rate education at the academically prestigious Paul Laurence Dunbar High School formerly the M Street High School a black public school named after the eminent black poet and alma ...
J. Todd Moye
member of the famed Tuskegee Airmen, was born in the Bronx, New York City, the son of Charles Levy Tucker Dryden, a World War I veteran and teacher, and Violet Adina Buckley, also a teacher. Dryden was raised in a loving, disciplined home among a large extended family. He was taught, he wrote in his 1997 autobiography, to “love and serve God, obey your parents, be loyal to your family, and get a good education”—in that order (7). But what Dryden most wanted to do, from a very early age, was fly.
As a two-year-old, Dryden tore strips of paper, threw them in the air, and shouted “Air'pwane! Air'pwane!” He built meticulously detailed model airplanes and read aviation pulp magazines as a youth. Like others of his generation he idolized Charles Lindbergh and the other aviation heroes of the 1920s and 1930s Everyone on the block ...
Anne K. Driscoll
pilot and member of the Tuskegee Airmen, the first black military aviation program during World War II, was born in Brazil, Indiana, the younger child of Anna and Frank Hall. Hall's parents' occupations are unknown. Hall had an older sister, Victoria. Growing up in Brazil (population 698) Hall was well liked, an outstanding athlete, and a good student.
In 1938, upon graduating from high school, Hall began classes at Eastern Illinois Teachers College (EITC), which became Eastern Illinois State University in 1957. While attending EITC, Hall played varsity football and worked in the campus restaurant to help pay the cost of school. He left EITC in November 1941 to begin aviation cadet training at Tuskegee Army Air Field in Tuskegee Alabama It was in flight school that Hall earned the nickname Buster The pilots who attended Tuskegee were unique among all other pilots who ...
Theresa A. Hammond
consumer markets specialist and business school professor, was born in Chesterfield County, Virginia, to Thomas D. Harris Jr. and Georgia Laws Carter. Thomas Harris was a messenger for the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad and also worked as an embalmer, and Georgia Carter Harris was a homemaker. Thomas stressed the importance of education for his three children, tutoring them in math, anatomy, and English after dinner. Harris attended Kingsland Elementary School (one of the black primary and secondary schools funded by Sears, Roebuck philanthropist Julius Rosenwald to improve education for black southerners) in Chesterfield County, Virginia, and D. Webster Davis High School, the Virginia State College laboratory school, in Petersburg, Virginia. While in high school, Harris earned a certificate in barber practice and science. He cut soldiers' hair on the nearby Fort Lee army base to help pay for his education at Virginia State College.
Harris s education ...
Lisa M. Bratton
Tuskegee Airman, was born in Amherst, Virginia, where he lived with his paternal grandfather until the age of five. The federal judge A. Leon Higginbotham was his distant cousin. In Amherst, Mitchell Higginbotham went to school with his older aunts and uncles and learned the alphabet multiplication and division before he entered kindergarten At the age of five he was taken to live with his parents in Sewickley Pennsylvania His parents worked in the steel mills but during the Great Depression the mills closed and they entered domestic service Schools in Sewickley were integrated but the YMCA the theaters and many of the sports programs were closed to African Americans When Higginbotham enrolled in school in Sewickley he was so advanced that he skipped first grade There were six African Americans out of the 106 students in Higginbotham s high school graduating class He motivated his fellow African ...
Isabel Shipley Cunningham
research botanist and plant collector, was born in Washington, D.C., the second son of Edward Wilson Jefferson and Bernice Cornelia Bond, both U.S. government employees. Although his father held two jobs to support his family during the Depression, he found the time to carefully tend a flower garden, the pride of his neighborhood. A six-year-old Roland watched with interest as seeds his father planted sprouted and grew. When his family visited Potomac Park to see the famous Japanese cherry trees in bloom, Roland came to love the trees, not imagining that he would become an international authority on flowering cherries. After attending public schools in Washington, Jefferson served in the U.S. Army Air Corps during World War II. Following his discharge, he entered Howard University under the G.I. Bill of Rights and received his BS degree in Botany in 1950 and then pursued graduate study Searching for ...
Stephen L. Harris
civil rights and community activist, business leader, state legislator, and Tuskegee Airman, was born in New York state to Henry Johnson, a World War I hero and recipient of the American Distinguished Service Cross. His maternal grandfather, Herman Phoenix, was in the early 1900s a leader in organizing the Niagara, New York, branch of the NAACP. Johnson himself was thirteen when he joined the NAACP. Although he lived and worked in several cities, he was most connected with Kansas City, Missouri. He earned a bachelor's degree in economics from Cornell University in 1938 and a master's degree in business administration from the University of Chicago in 1940.
Soon after earning his master s degree Johnson was a statistician for the War Production Board During World War II he enlisted and fought with the 332nd Fighter Group known as the Tuskegee Airmen Attaining the ...
Elizabeth D. Schafer
aerospace surgeon, was born at Fort Washikie, Wyoming, the son of Vance Hunter Marchbanks Sr., an army cavalry captain, and Mattie (maiden name unknown). Marchbanks Jr. was influenced by the military career of his father, who was a veteran of both the Spanish-American War and World War I. A childhood operation inspired Marchbanks's passion for medicine, after which he operated on cherries in his backyard, opening them up, removing the stones, and sewing shut the incision.
Marchbanks encountered discrimination when he enrolled at the University of Arizona in 1927. Not allowed to live in the dormitories or participate in normal student activities, he lived in an off-campus boardinghouse. He ate at the railroad station restaurant, where he was expected to enter through the back door and was harassed; he often found cockroaches in his soup. Marchbanks graduated in 1931 and was accepted at the Howard University ...
J. Todd Moye
military pilot and veteran, was born in Cleveland, Ohio, to Lewis Allen McGee Sr., a World War I veteran, teacher, social worker, and African Methodist Episcopal minister, and Ruth Elizabeth Lewis. Ruth McGee died in 1921, leaving three small children. Almost constantly in search of work, Lewis McGee Sr., a graduate of Wilberforce College, moved his family at least nine times before Charles finished high school. Charles was introduced to the Boy Scouts of America as a youngster, and he thrived under the scouts' program rewarding loyalty, discipline, and service.
In spring 1938 McGee graduated ninth out of a class of 436 from DuSable High School in Chicago and took a job with the Civilian Conservation Corps in northern Illinois. He entered the University of Illinois at Champaign in 1940 studied engineering enrolled in the ROTC and pledged Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity He worked in ...
Yvonne Jackson Edwards
community and civil rights activist, was born the youngest of five children of Charles Henry and Cornelia Tate Mease in Buxton, Iowa, a coal-mining town called a “Black Utopia.” At different times Charles was a coal miner, union organizer, and justice of the peace. Cornelia was a seamstress and came from a long line of freeborn persons of color.
For the first twelve years of his life, Mease lived in Buxton, where he spent many hours at the YMCA that was the town's center of activity. The Buxton YMCA was established by the Consolidated Coal Company in an attempt to prevent its workers from joining unions. Considered “welfare capitalists,” the company executives hoped the Y would improve the lives of its workers and families and thus make unions less attractive.
In 1918 Mease s father died and his mother moved the family to Des Moines Iowa Mease completed ...
Minna Zeesy Philips
was born in Eastman, Georgia to Connie Nappier, Sr. and Lutha Ophelia (Jones) Nappier. Public school was permitted only for white children, so Nappier was first educated by a Ms. Rose, a black woman in Eastman who taught in her own home. His family moved to Hartford, Connecticut before he was five years old, where he attended preschool on Wooster Street. At age six Nappier was walking with his father in Hartford’s North End when he heard a plane flying overhead. At that moment he decided he wanted to be a pilot. Nappier enjoyed golf and music, and studied guitar and alto saxophone at the Drago School of Music in his middle school years. He joined the Clyde Board Band, and traveled up and down the East coast playing music. By age fourteen he was being paid as a musician.
In 1939 Nappier started ninth grade at Hartford s ...
World War II pilot, entrepreneur, and airline executive, was born in Westfield, New Jersey, the son of a Jamaican dental technician. His parents' names are unknown. A driven and determined student at Lincoln University in Pennsylvania, where he graduated with a bachelor of arts in 1935, Plinton was a solid student-athlete who participated on the varsity soccer, wrestling, tennis, and track teams. He was also a member of the dramatic society and the glee club and was president of the German society. An accomplished musician, he played the piano and organ well and one summer played the organ at Tuskegee Institute. With the encouragement and unbending rearing of his father, it was evident that the black college experience was critical to his development as a future leader and visionary who would defy the odds against systematic racial injustice. In a 1973 interview Plinton revealed Going ...
civil rights lawyer and New York state jurist, was born in Greensboro, North Carolina, the sixth of nine children of Netti and Charles Sandifer. His father died when Sandifer was four, and Nettie raised all the kids with some help from her oldest child, Herbert, a hotel baker. In Greensboro, he was known as “John” but he thought that name was too common so he changed the spelling to Jawn while at Johnson C Smith University Growing up within a short walk from North Carolina A T State University Sandifer wanted out of Greensboro after finishing in the first class to graduate from Dudley High School in the early 1930s He was disillusioned with the racial discrimination he faced regularly in his boyhood in Greensboro A caddy master from one of the country clubs stood outside the black school Sandifer attended and urged students to skip ...
Lisa M. Bratton
Tuskegee Airman and prisoner of war, was born Luther Henry Smith Jr. in Des Moines, Iowa, the second child of Luther Henry Smith Sr., a black-eyed pea salesman, and Ida. His father's sales territory included the Midwest, and visiting Des Moines, Iowa, he found that since there were so few African Americans, the effects of segregation and discrimination were minimal and opportunities for economic progress were strong. Smith's mother was from Dubuque, Iowa. Her father had been a trader who later made his home in Des Moines. Smith's parents met in 1918.
Young Luther exhibited an interest in aviation as a child At the age of seven he drew a picture of an airplane and showing it to his second grade teacher announced that it was a picture of the airplane in which he planned to fly his family to Africa At the age of ...
Karen Jean Hunt
newspaper editor,-columnist, and civil rights activist, was born Charles Sumner Stone Jr. in a segregated hospital in St. Louis, Missouri, to Charles Sumner Stone Sr., a business manager at Poro College in St. Louis, and Madalene (Chafin) Stone, a payroll director. The Stones moved to New England when Chuck was three, and he grew up with his three sisters, Irene, Madalene, and Anne, in Hartford, Connecticut.Stone trained to be a navigator and bombardier in World War II as part of the famous Tuskegee airmen squadron. After leaving the military he continued his education at Wesleyan University, where he was the only black student on campus. Stone graduated in 1948 with a BA in Political Science and Economics, and he received an MA in Sociology from the University of Chicago in 1951 He spent eighteen months studying law at the University ...
Lisa M. Bratton
Tuskegee Airman who was court-martialed at Freeman Field, was born Roger Cecil Terry in Los Angeles, California, the son of Edith Frances (Ross) Terry and Joseph Roger Terry, a driller for Standard Oil. In 1920 Joseph Terry had secured employment in the oil fields in Venezuela, but before departing for Venezuela, he worked in the California oil fields where a drilling accident took the life of his partner. Fearing for her husband's life, Roger's mother decided that her husband should not continue as an oil driller and the family remained in California.
Terry attended elementary and high school in Compton, California, attended Compton Junior College, and graduated from the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) at the age of nineteen. At UCLA Terry played basketball, and he and Jackie Robinson the first African American to play in major league baseball were the only two African Americans ...
was born in Smithfield, Isle of Wight County, in the Hampton Roads region of Virginia. The names of his parents and siblings are not recorded. He attended the Isle of Wight training school, but after eighth grade White was forced to drop out of school to support his family after his mother fell ill and his father died. He worked on a farm and later at the Gwaltney meat packing company. Little else is known about his life before 1945 when he was drafted into the US Army.
As an infantryman he attended boot camp at Fort Devens Massachusetts where he interacted with German and Japanese prisoners of war After boot camp White transferred to the Army Air Corps and trained as a supply clerk for four months at Sheppard Air Force Base in Wichita Falls Texas where he often received lynching threats He was eventually assigned to the 477th ...