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Mark Clague and John H. Zimmerman

flutist, composer, bandmaster, music educator, journalist, and hotelier, was born in Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, Danish West Indies (later U.S. Virgin Islands) and is remembered as the U.S. Navy's first African American bandmaster. Adams was the son of Jacob Henry Adams, a carpenter, and Petrina Evangeline Dinzey, a tailor; both his parents were members of the black artisan class centered around St. Thomas's port. This culture celebrated music and literature and instilled the young Adams with values of hard work and self-education. Although professional musicians were unknown in the Virgin Islands in his youth, Adams dreamt of a musical career inspired by his deeply held belief that music was not just entertainment, but vital to community health.

Adams attended elementary school and apprenticed as a carpenter and then a shoemaker choosing his trade based on the musical abilities of his master ...

Article

Julia A. Clancy-Smith

Tunisian labor activist, women’s rights activist, and journalist, was born in the town of Gabes in southern Tunisia. Adda rose to prominence owing to her mother’s emphasis upon female education, although her parents were of modest means. One branch of Adda’s family, who are North African Jews, was originally from Batna in Algeria; her maternal grandfather had left French Algeria to seek his fortune in Tunisia, where he managed a small hotel in the south. For her parents’ generation, it was somewhat unusual for women to attend school; to achieve the “certificate of study,” as Adda’s mother did, was a noteworthy achievement. Gladys Adda’s life trajectory illustrated a number of important regional and global social and political currents: nationalism and anticolonialism, organized labor and workers’ movements, socialism and communism, women’s emancipation, and fascism and anti-Semitism against the backdrop of World War II.

In primary school Adda attended classes with Muslim ...

Article

Frank A. Salamone

In 1909—the same year that W. E. B. Du Bois helped found the NAACP and that the African American Matthew Henson went with Robert Peary on what became the first successful journey to the North Pole—James Henry Anderson from South Carolina established the New York Amsterdam News. Anderson was born soon after the Civil War. At the age of twelve he left South Carolina, a runaway who worked an assortment of jobs, finally settling in New York City. He came up with the idea of establishing a newspaper aimed directly at the needs of an African American audience. This was a brave move on his part: at the time, there were only about fifty such newspapers in the entire country.

Anderson's small investment led to the Amsterdam News a newspaper that grew to have a strong influence in the black community He named the newspaper after ...

Article

Charles Rosenberg

journalist, war correspondent, railway mail clerk, and postal worker union activist, whose career rebounded repeatedly from the impact of his abrasive style on supervisors and fellow workers, was born in Charlotte, North Carolina, the son of Trezzvant E. Anderson and Amanda (Dixon) Anderson. In 1930 he and his sister, Roberta Anderson, were living in Charlotte with a stepfather, Robert Alexander, who was born in Virginia.

Trezzvant Anderson enrolled at Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte in 1921, where he edited the campus paper, the University Student. He left in 1927, a year short of graduation, and worked as a railway mail clerk in Charlotte and in Washington, D.C., until 1941, while also taking on a variety of writing assignments. He was contributing editor of the Charlotte Post (1928–1929), special feature writer for the Norfolk, Virginia, Journal and Guide ...

Article

Charles Vincent

Antoine was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, in 1836. His father was a veteran of the War of 1812; he had fought the British at the Battle of New Orleans. Antoine's mother was a native of the West Indies and the daughter of an African chief; her parents were taken as slaves from the shores of Africa. On his father's side (so the story goes), Antoine's grandmother Rose Antoine was a remarkable woman who purchased her freedom and acquired a small fortune through her work as a midwife.

Caesar C. Antoine spent his childhood in New Orleans and attended private schools. He was fluent in both French and English. After graduating, he entered one of the few occupations open to African Americans in the antebellum South: the barber trade. After federal troops captured Baton Rouge in 1862 Antoine organized a black company known subsequently as Company ...

Article

Wesley Borucki

journalist. Born in Lansing, Michigan, Ray Stannard Baker was the son of Joseph and Alice Stannard Baker. Joseph moved the family to Saint Croix Falls, Wisconsin, in 1875 where he worked as a real estate and utility agent. Ray dabbled in literary, agricultural, and scientific studies at Michigan Agricultural College (now Michigan State University) before turning his attention to the law. He studied at the University of Michigan Law School for only one semester, however, before becoming interested in prose writing. In 1893 he became a reporter for the Chicago Record newspaper. When the Panic of 1893 gripped Chicago, Baker saw levels of poverty, unemployment, and unrest beyond what he had ever seen before, and he was drawn to the experiences of the poor whom he found in soup kitchens, jails, and flophouses. Baker gained further sympathy for the common man when he covered the labor leader Jacob ...

Article

Born in Sanford, Florida, Claude Barnett was sent at a very young age to live with his grandparents and other relatives in suburban Chicago, Illinois. He returned to the South to study engineering at Alabama's Tuskegee Institute (now Tuskegee University), from which he graduated in 1906. Back in Chicago, he worked as a postal clerk and, exposed to a wide range of advertising journals, decided to make a career in advertising. In 1913 he produced a series of photographs of famous blacks, which he sold through the mail, furthering his interest in business.

Five years later Barnett and several other entrepreneurs formed the Kashmir Chemical Company which sold cosmetics Barnett left the post office took the job of advertising manager at Kashmir and toured the country selling cosmetics as well as his photographs In each town he visited the local black newspaper hoping to bargain for ...

Article

Robert L. Harris

entrepreneur, journalist, and government adviser, was born in Sanford, Florida, the son of William Barnett, a hotel worker, and Celena Anderson. His father worked part of the year in Chicago and the rest of the time in Florida. Barnett's parents separated when he was young, and he lived with his mother's family in Oak Park, Illinois, where he attended school. His maternal ancestors were free blacks who migrated from Wake County, North Carolina, to the black settlement of Lost Creek, near Terre Haute, Indiana, during the 1830s. They then moved to Mattoon, Illinois, where Barnett's maternal grandfather was a teacher and later a barbershop owner, and finally to Oak Park. While attending high school in Oak Park, Barnett worked as a houseboy for Richard W. Sears cofounder of Sears Roebuck and Company Sears offered him a job with the company after he graduated from high school but ...

Article

Florence M. Coleman

slave, Civil War soldier, politician, and Baptist minister, was born Peter Barnabas Barrow, a Virginia slave. The month and day of his birth are unknown. It is believed that he was born near Petersburg, Virginia, and may have been taken to Mississippi or Alabama with his owner. In 1864 Barrow joined Company A, 66th U.S. Colored Infantry and in 1865 became a sergeant. A year later Barrow was discharged because of an injury he received. He went on to teach school at Vicksburg, Mississippi.

Barrow, who was most likely self-educated, served as a member of the Mississippi House of Representatives for Warren County, Mississippi, from 1870 to 1871. From 1872 to 1875 he served in the Mississippi State Senate. He migrated to Spokane, Washington, in 1889 and settled there in the city s African American community Barrow and other African Americans were determined to thrive by establishing ...

Article

John H. McClendon

journalist, editor, business owner, civil rights leader, community activist, feminist, and political candidate. In 1952, she became the first African American woman to run for the vice presidency of the United States. There are conflicting reports about Bass's date and place of birth and scant information about her life prior to coming to Los Angeles. Some sources report that she was born as early as 1874/1875, while others estimate the year of her birth was somewhere in the vicinity of 1879/1880. Likewise, the place of her birth is open to speculation and some references are made to Sumter, South Carolina, while other sources indicate Little Compton, Rhode Island. The historian Gerald Gill points out that Bass played no small role in complicating the facts around the actual date and place of her birth.

The historical record ...

Article

Hayward Woody Farrar

By the end of the nineteenth century a number of black journalists had learned enough from their predecessors to be able to keep normally short-lived black newspapers running. Among these pioneers were W. Calvin Chase of the Washington Bee, T. Thomas Fortune of the New York Age, John Mitchell of the Richmond Planet, Chris Perry of the Philadelphia Tribune, and John H. Murphy Sr. of the Baltimore Afro-American. As of this writing, two of these papers, the Tribune and the Afro-American, are still in existence.

Article

Carolyn Wedin

The Boston Guardian weekly newspaper was initiated and financed in 1901 by the successful mortgage broker, member of the black elite, and Harvard graduate William Monroe Trotter (1872–1934), with the technical help of George W. Forbes of the Boston Public Library. Until Trotter's death in 1934, the paper would be synonymous with his outspoken speeches, articles, and editorials, though it also included national news, social notes, church items, sports, fashion, and even fiction. It would be continued after his death by his sister and her husband, finally expiring by 1960.

The Guardian's and Trotter's most influential years were during the newspaper's first decade, particularly in protesting Booker T. Washington. An index of the first two years of the paper indicates the high number of anti-Washington pieces published. While W. E. B. Du Bois was still hesitant about attacking the “Wizard of Tuskegee,” Trotter's Guardian ...

Article

Adam R. Hornbuckle

was born in Laurel, Mississippi, the youngest of ten children born to Peter and Eulalia Boston. His father, who worked as a fireman for the Gulf, Mobile, and Ohio Railroad before losing sight in his right eye, provided for the family by farming, hauling junk, and doing other odd jobs. His mother was a homemaker. As a student at Oak Park High School in Laurel, Boston developed both academic and athletic skills. As quarterback on the football team, he led Oak Park to the African American state high school football championship in 1956. In track and field, Boston excelled in the hurdling, sprinting, and jumping events. As a junior in 1956 he established a national high school record in the 180-yard low hurdles and led Oak Park to the first of two consecutive African American state high school track championships.

After graduating high school in 1957 Boston earned ...

Article

Charles Rosenberg

business manager, journalist, entrepreneur, and political activist, was born in Knoxville, Tennessee, the son of Ulysses and Curtis Heard Boykin. The elder Ulysses Boykin was employed by the Knoxville Journal. He and his wife were natives of Georgia, where she had taught school in La Grange. Boykin had an older brother, Alfred Wade Boykin, and a sister, Eleanor. In the early 1920s the family moved to Michigan, settling first in Grosse Ile, then in Detroit, where their father found work in a foundry.

In 1934 Boykin graduated from Detroit’s Northeastern High School and began writing a column for young readers in the Detroit Tribune. He took courses at Wayne State University, but did not enter a degree program. The following year Boykin was hired as an assistant to Russell J. Cowans, tutor and secretary to boxing sensation Joe Louis Louis s career was a business managed ...

Article

Charles Rosenberg

businessman and journalist, was born in Richmond, Wayne County, Indiana, the son of Green H. Brascher and Rosa Lynn (Weeks) Brascher. His father was a tinsmith who was born, like his parents, in North Carolina; he moved north with returning Union soldiers in 1865. His mother was born, like her parents, in Virginia; the family moved to Zanesville, Ohio, when she was a child. His sister, Lavinia, born in 1885, later married the Indiana civic leader James La Rue.

When Brascher was an infant, his family moved to Connersville, Indiana, where he graduated from the local high school. In 1899 Brascher took a course in administration at Meredith Business College in Zanesville. He was the first colored person to graduate from both institutions. After taking a course at Chautauqua, New York, he arrived in Cleveland in August 1901 and launched his own private commercial institute Brascher Ellis School ...

Article

The broadcast industry in the United States was born in the early 1920s as a result of the mass production of radios. It expanded significantly in the 1950s with the addition of television and has since become a constant presence in American life. From the birth of broadcasting, African Americans have played a vital part in the industry as performers, executives, and consumers.

In the 1920s recorded music found its first widespread audience through airplay on the earliest radio stations. Although jazz music, which was pioneered and usually performed by blacks, was popular at the time, angry whites quickly denounced what they considered to be the decadence and lewdness inherent in the music. As a result, black jazz musicians found themselves receiving less airplay than their white counterparts did—even though these counterparts often performed the same material. Still, African American musicians like Fletcher Henderson, Louis Armstrong, and Duke ...

Article

Edward L. Lach

business executive and civic leader, was born in Washington, D.C., the son of Hayward G. Burrell and Fannie Miles. Although his parents’ occupations are unknown, both his father and his mother were natives of the District of Columbia, and Burrell's roots in the area ran deep. After graduating from Dunbar High School at the age of fifteen, he worked as a driver for a local pharmacy and apparently also drove a cab for a while. He married at age sixteen (his wife's name is unknown), and the marriage produced a son before ending in divorce seven years later.

In 1941 Burrell gained a position at the federal Bureau of Standards, where he worked in the glass section producing prisms and bombsights. He also attended nearby Howard University between 1941 and 1943 but did not graduate. He entered the U.S. Army in 1945 and rose to the rank of ...

Article

Kenneth F. Thomas

labor activist, journalist, and educator, was born in Heberton, West Virginia, the son of Ernest Calloway Sr.; his mother's name is unknown. The family moved to the coalfields of Letcher County, Kentucky, in 1913, where Calloway's father, “Big Ernest,” helped organize the county's first local chapter of the United Mine Workers of America. The Calloways were one of the first black families in the coal-mining communities of eastern Kentucky, and Ernest was, by his own description, “one of those unique persons … a black hillbilly.” Calloway attended high school in Lynchburg, Virginia, but ran away to New York in 1925 and arrived in the middle of the Harlem Renaissance. He worked as a dishwasher in Harlem until his mother fell ill, when he returned to Kentucky at age seventeen and worked in the mines of the Consolidated Coal Company until 1930 During the early 1930s he traveled ...

Article

Wesley Borucki

The Chicago Defender, a leading African American newspaper, was founded in 1905 by Robert Sengstacke Abbott (1868–1940). The St. Simon's Island, Georgia, native learned printing at Hampton Institute. He first saw Chicago when he traveled there as a tenor in the Hampton Quartet. Chicago's black population reached forty thousand in 1905, and with three black newspapers there already, Abbott's nascent weekly almost failed. However, several idealistic black writers contributed free columns; among them was the freelancer W. Allison Sweeney, who skewered antiblack politicians. Pullman porters distributed the Defender nationwide to black sellers. African American actors sold copies to theater patrons. Abbott's church chorale helped with story ideas and sales until the Defender appeared on newsstands in the 1910s.

Article

Benjamin R. Justesen

journalist, businessman, and civil rights organization leader, was born into slavery, probably near Smyrna, Tennessee, to unnamed parents, and apparently orphaned soon afterward. Little is known of his childhood, except that Cooper moved at an early age to Nashville, where he was educated at the old barracks school for African American children on Knowles Street, later the nucleus of Fisk University.

Cooper later recalled working on a farm for two years before he began selling newspapers on passenger trains. He also worked briefly as a hotel waiter in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, during the Centennial Exposition there in 1876. About 1877 Cooper migrated to Indianapolis, Indiana, where he worked as a book-seller and became one of the first African Americans to graduate from the city's Shortridge High School in 1882 He began working for the Railway Mail Service and soon rose to chief clerk on the Louisville ...