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James G. Spady

One of thirteen children, Robert Mara Adger was born in Charleston, South Carolina. His father, Robert Adger, was black, and his mother, Mary Ann Morong, was Native American. In 1848 the family moved to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Adger's father first found a job as a waiter in the Old Merchant's Hotel. Later, while working as a nurse, he industriously saved enough funds to open a furniture business. He was involved in many activities and was a founder of the Benjamin Banneker Institute.

Robert Mara Adger received his early training at the Bird School, an early black educational institution in the United States. During his teenage years, he worked in his father's furniture stores, which had expanded from one in 1850 to three by 1858 Serving as a manager provided him with the business experience that he later found valuable as director of the Philadelphia Building and ...

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Nancy T. Robinson

historian, collector, archivist, photographer, and entrepreneur, was born Wallace Michael Branch in Brooklyn, New York, one of two sons of Byrd Branch, an entrepreneur who operated a cleaning and tailoring business in New York City and held down a thirty-five-year job at the weekly newspaper Irish Echo to support his family, and Vera Barbour Branch. In Brooklyn, Branch and his family lived a solid middle-class lifestyle, making their home in a four-floor brownstone home that they owned.

Branch was born with sickle cell anemia a hereditary incurable chronic disorder with which patients suffer severe pain and tissue and organ damage as a result of oxygen and nutrient deficiencies At the time of Branch s birth information about and treatment of the disease were limited According to his family doctors who treated Branch as a child never gave him much hope for survival At fourteen Branch became so ill that he ...

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Ingrid Schorr

curator, fashion designer, dancer, and artist, was born James Watson in rural Woodruff, South Carolina, to sharecropper parents whose names are unknown. Little information about his early years is available except that he attended the Fashion Institute of New York and studied at the Sorbonne in Paris before moving to New York in the 1960s.

As Chanticleer established himself as a fashion designer in New York City he also began to propagate the biographical embellishments and falsehoods that would be repeated until his death: that he was born in Harlem to a Barbadian concert pianist and a Haitian high school principal; that he completed a master's degree at the Sorbonne; that as a five-year-old he designed a prize-winning folding chair for a competition at the 1940 World's Fair.

Whether or not he grew up in Harlem Chanticleer identified so strongly with its place at the center of black history and ...

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Richard Newman

William Plummer French was born February 19, 1943 in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, the son of Frank J. French, vice-president of Allied Chemical Co. and Bettina Plummer French. He worked at University Place Book Shop in New York, owned by Walter Goldwater, and became fascinated with African American books and literature, a field the shop specialized in to serve two major collectors, Arthur Schomburg and Arthur Spingarn.

Self-taught by the books in the store, French became probably the country's most knowledgeable expert on African American books and bibliography. He compiled two biographical pamphlets on black poetry, and in 1979 co-edited Afro-American Poetry and Drama, 1760–1975. Pre-deceased by his wife, the painter Garland Eliason, French died in New York of a stroke on January 14, 1997 survived by his son Will A book collecting prize at the Department of Afro American Studies at ...

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John G. Turner

the son of Darius McKinley Gray (named for William McKinley, elected president in the year of his birth) and Elsie Johnson Gray. Neighbors in Colorado Springs introduced Darius Aiden Gray to the scriptures of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. On Christmas Day 1964, one day before his scheduled baptism into the church, the missionaries planning to baptize him informed him that African Americans could not hold the priesthood. For Mormon men in good standing, ordination into the priesthood is an expectation. The ban on persons of African descent holding the priesthood meant that the church’s black members could not hold positions of authority or participate in the sacred ordinances the church taught were necessary for exaltation into celestial glory.

Gray chose to be baptized despite the ban I went home and prayed he later recounted And I received a personal revelation an inspiration from God This ...

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Connie Park Rice

fraternal and community leader, was born in Kanawha County, West Virginia, the son of Lewis Starks, a cooper, and Mary Starks. While attending the public schools in Charleston, West Virginia, Starks worked as a cooper's apprentice, making and repairing wooden barrels, and later worked in shops along the Elk River.

Dissatisfied with the cooper s trade he took a job as janitor in the offices of the Kanawha Michigan Railroad The constant clicking of the telegraph apparatus intrigued Starks so he bought a minimal amount of telegraph equipment to practice on and convinced one of the operators to teach him how to operate it Soon he was taking the place of absent operators becoming the first black telegraph operator for the Kanawha Michigan Railroad A railroad official a Colonel Sharp soon noticed the ambitious young man and employed him to work as a telegraph operator at the ...

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teacher, high school principal, and librarian, was the first African American public school teacher in Little Rock, Arkansas. She was born to slave parents, William Wallace Andrews (usually known as Wallace) and Caroline Sherman Andrews, in Little Rock. When he was four years old, Wallace Andrews had begun working in the home of Colonel Chester Ashley, later the U.S. senator from Arkansas and Little Rock's most prominent citizen. The Ashleys were unusually generous with their slaves, and the senator's wife, seeing Wallace's keen intellect, taught him to read. After Wallace Andrews married Caroline Sherman Colonel Ashley worked with Caroline s owner to enable Caroline to hire her time out This made it possible for the young couple to live together and gave them a home in which to live Caroline Andrews ran a laundry business from her home to compensate her owners for permission ...