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Black Los Angeles: American Dreams and Racial Realities is an anthology edited by Darnell Hunt and Ana-Christina Ramon providing a multifaceted analysis of neighborhoods of metropolitan Los Angeles that are either currently or historically predominantly black. The contributions selected by the editors highlight the rich history of accomplishment and survival in Los Angeles's community of color as it continuously confronts challenges to the geographical space of the community; shifts in local and national policy; the changing dynamics around race, social class, gender, and sexual identity; shifts in the opportunity structure for residents; and the realities of environmental and economic risk. The volume is organized into four parts: Space, People, Image, and Action It begins with a look at the historical foundations of the black community of Los Angeles and ends with a more contemporary question of now what for readers via series of action research chapters ...


Adam Meyer

Little remembered today, Edward Wilmot Blyden was the most important African thinker of the nineteenth century, leading one of the most varied careers of any Black man in that era. Born in Saint Thomas, Blyden came to America in 1850 to attend Rutgers Theological College but was rejected because of his race. He subsequently emigrated to Liberia, grew enamored of African life, and became a staunch supporter of his new homeland. Feeling called upon to undermine misconceptions about “the dark continent” and to encourage Blacks throughout the diaspora to repatriate, Blyden spent the remainder of his life serving this cause in several capacities. As a journalist, Blyden edited the Liberia Herald and founded and edited the Negro and the West African Reporter two of the first Pan African journals As an educator he served as principal of Alexander High School Monrovia Liberia s educational commissioner to Britain and America ...


John C. Gruesser

Born a slave in Maryland, John Edward Bruce grew up in Washington, D.C. Developing an interest in journalism, he worked as a general helper in the office of the Washington correspondent for the New York Times in 1874. By the time Bruce was twenty he was writing for newspapers, using the pen name “Rising Sun”, and in 1879 he started his own paper, the Argus, in Washington, D.C. In 1884 Bruce began writing under the name “Bruce Grit” in the Cleveland Gazette and the New York Age, eventually becoming one of the most widely read and influential African American journalists of his era. In his writings and speeches, Bruce decried mixed-race marriages, denounced Euro-American imperialism, aggressively promoted race pride and solidarity, championed self-help, and advocated the study of black history to combat the anti-Negro rhetoric of the post-Reconstruction period.

Bruce served as a conduit linking people ...


Philip Nanton

Britishwriter best known for his books The French Revolution (1837) and Frederick the Great (1858–65). Born in Scotland, and settling permanently in London in 1834, Carlyle was the author of many other works, including essays and articles in periodicals. Among these was his ‘Occasional Discourse on the Negro Question’, originally published in Fraser's Magazine (London) in December 1849, and later rewritten and republished as a pamphlet called Occasional Discourse on the Nigger Question (1853) and in some of the collected editions of the author's Latter‐Day Pamphlets (first published 1850).

In form, the Occasional Discourse is an imaginary report of a speech by a fictional orator and it would be unwise to assume that everything in the speech should be regarded as identical with the personal opinions of Carlyle who may have deliberately exaggerated some elements for effect The speaker ...


SallyAnn H. Ferguson

writer. Charles Waddell Chesnutt was born in Cleveland, Ohio, to free parents, Ann Maria Sampson Chesnutt and Andrew Jackson Chesnutt, who in 1856 had fled the slave-holding South for better opportunities in the North. Chesnutt, the oldest of his father's eleven children from two marriages, became the first black author that the American literary establishment took seriously. Greatly influenced by his intellectual mother—a teacher who shortly after Chesnutt's birth moved her family from Cleveland to Oberlin, Ohio, because of the educational opportunities that Oberlin College might provide—and his abolitionist father, the blue-eyed and white-looking Chesnutt from the age of eight grew up black in Fayetteville, North Carolina (the Patesville of his fiction), where his family resettled at the end of the Civil War.

In The Journals of Charles W. Chesnutt, published posthumously in 1993 Chesnutt documents how he read voraciously to nourish a mind so constituted ...


Debra Jackson

writer, temperance advocate, and educator, was born Ada Augusta Newton in Brooklyn, New York, the eldest of the three children of Alexander Herritage Newton, a trained mason, and Olivia Augusta (Hamilton) Newton, who was the eldest daughter of Robert Hamilton, the radical abolitionist and owner and editor of the Weekly Anglo-African newspaper. When Ada was eight years old her mother died and shortly thereafter her father, a recently licensed preacher of the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) denomination, was directed by the AME leadership to manage the church at Pennington, New Jersey. This was the first of dozens of appointments for Newton, and Ada's early years were characterized by constant travel from city to city as her father's ministry took him to all regions of the country. Despite the incessant moving, Ada received a good elementary education.

Ada worked closely with her father on church matters Indeed she ...


Frances Richardson Keller

Cooper, Anna Julia Haywood (1858?–27 February 1964), author, educator, and human rights activist, was born, probably on 10 August 1858, in Raleigh, North Carolina, the daughter of Hannah Stanley, a slave. Though her paternity is uncertain, she believed her mother’s master, Dr. Fabius J. Haywood, to have been her father. She later described her ancestry: “The part of my ancestors that did not come over in the Mayflower in 1620 arrived … a year earlier in the fateful Dutch trader that put in at Jamestown in 1619… . I believe that the third source of my individual stream comes … from the vanishing Red Men, which … make[s] me a genuine F.F.A. (First Family of America).”

In 1867 Anna entered the new St Augustine School in Raleigh Because there were then few teachers for African American pupils she became a student teacher at age nine Functioning ...


Elizabeth J. West

Born in New York City to Charity and Boston Crum-mell, Alexander grew up in a family that placed great emphasis on freedom, independence, and education. Although his parents had not experienced the privilege of a formal education, they placed Alexander in the Mulberry Street School and hired additional private tutors for him. When Crummell decided to enter the priesthood, he applied for entry into the theological seminary of the Episcopal Church. According to Crum-mell's own account in his 1894 retirement address, “Shades and Lights”, the admissions board denied his application because its policy was to exclude blacks from positions in the church hierarchy. Crummell was then forced to study privately with sympathetic clergy. These early studies shaped the stoic and methodical style that remained evident throughout his long career as writer and orator. Although he was ordained an Episcopal priest in 1844, it was not until 1847 ...


Jonathan Edwards

In 1893 the playwright George Bernard Shaw described Alexandre Dumas père (senior) as “a summit of art,” comparing him to Mozart: “you get nothing above Dumas on his own mountain … if you pass him you come down on the other side instead of getting higher.” Dumas's literary work is striking in its breadth and originality, and accessible to all lovers of adventure regardless of their social or educational background. In theater, Dumas created two new genres, the prose historical drama and the drame moderne, and, although dated today, his plays enjoyed unprecedented success in their time. His greatest novels, rich in passionate characters, lively dialogue, and gripping plots, have lasting appeal, and many, such as Les Trois Mousquetaires (The Three Musketeers), have become household names.

The story of how young Dumas a provincial light skinned boy whose tightly curled hair revealed his African ancestry rose to become the ...


Peter S. Field

Born in Boston and a resident of Concord, Massachusetts, for most of his life, Ralph Waldo Emerson was the ninth in a line of Congregational ministers. His father, William, died before Emerson's eighth birthday, and he and his siblings were raised by their mother, Ruth Haskins Emerson. Educated for the ministry at Harvard, Emerson ultimately quit his pastorate shortly after the death of his first wife in 1831. Dissatisfied with the structure and ritual of the church, Emerson sought a more expansive, democratic venue from which to preach. This he found on the lyceum lecture circuit. In the course of the following decades, he became one of the nation's most beloved and famed public lecturers. Many of his lecturers provided the material for his celebrated essays, which have not gone out of print since their initial publication.

Emerson ranks as the nineteenth century's greatest American liberal thinker. With Frederick ...


Graham Russell Hodges

Born to petit bourgeois parents in Vého, Lorraine, in rural France, Henri-Baptiste Grégoire was educated at a Jesuit college. He then became a teacher and was consequently ordained as a priest in Lorraine at the age of twenty-five. Frustrated by hierarchical barriers to advancement, he turned to writing.

Grégoire's first essays, published in the late 1770s, advocated tolerance of Jews, a position that placed Grégoire in opposition to the wave of anti-Semitism in France. In 1785 he won awards for a book reflecting his passion for Jewish rights Grégoire contended that temporal salvation by which he meant absorption into the Roman Catholic Church was individual rather than racial or national He defined his duty as working for the creation of conditions under which Jews could convert to Catholicism and be eligible for salvation To avoid social corruption he believed Jews were to be encouraged to migrate to the countryside ...


Carolyn Williams

educator, diarist, and essayist, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the daughter of Mary Virginia Wood and Robert Bridges Forten, who were free blacks. Her father, a mathematician, orator, and reformer, was the son of the wealthy sailmaker James Forten Sr., a leading African American activist in Philadelphia. Her mother, grandmother, and aunts had been among the founding members of the interracial Philadelphia Female Anti-Slavery Society (PFASS). Prominent figures such as the abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison and the Quaker poet and abolitionist John Greenleaf Whittier were friends of the Fortens. Whittier wrote a poem, “To the Daughters of James Forten.”

Both privilege and misfortune marked the early life of Charlotte Forten Although a very talented and well educated man Robert Forten never achieved financial stability By the time he joined the family business the sailmaking industry had been undermined by new steam propelled vessels Charlotte ...


Sondra O’Neale

Jupiter Hammon gave birth to formal African American literature with the publication of An Evening Thought, Salvation, by Christ, with Penitential Cries (1760). Hammon was born on 17 October 1711 at the Lloyd plantation in Oyster Bay, Long Island, New York. He was almost fifty years old when he published his first poem, “Salvation Comes by Christ Alone,” on 25 December 1760.

Hammon was a slave to the wealthy Lloyd family. It is evident that he received some education, and he was entrusted with the family's local savings and worked as a clerk in their business. There is no record of his having a wife or child.

By the time he was eighty, Hammon had published at least three other poems— “An Address to Miss Phillis Wheatly [sic], Ethiopian Poetess”, “A Poem for Children with Thoughts of Death”, and A Dialogue Entitled the Kind ...


Michele Valerie Ronnick

classicist, educator, and university president, was born in extreme poverty in a cabin a few miles outside of Walhalla, South Carolina. After his father died, his mother Leah (n.d. – 1916) remarried and he gained two additional siblings. He was one of five children. Family tradition says that he was named for two Union soldiers whom Leah had helped during the Civil War. Lovinggood was not able to attend public school as a child. His mother needed his help at home and his only training came from the Freedman's Aid Society of the Methodist church. At the age of eighteen, he entered Clark University in Atlanta, Georgia. Among his teachers were President Edward O. Thayer and Professor William Henry Crogman, who taught ancient Greek.

Having had almost no training, Lovinggood spent considerable effort catching up, but in 1890 at age twenty six he graduated with honors having ...


Kenny Jackson Williams

(?–?), essayist and poet. Little is known about the life of Ann Plato. Apparently, she was a free black in Hartford, Connecticut, at a time when the city's free black residents outnumbered the town's slave population. She was also a member of Hartford's Colored Congregational Church. Knowledge about her is limited to the one book that she published. Entitled Essays: Including Biographies and Miscellaneous Pieces of Prose and Poetry (1841), it contains four biographical compositions, sixteen very short essays, and twenty poems.

Her minister, the Reverend James W. C. Pennington, wrote an introductory notice “To the Reader” After identifying Ann Plato as one of his parishioners he repeatedly says she is young but does not make clear exactly how old she is He says nothing about her family except to indicate that she is of modest worth Neither does he tell how long she had been ...


Although little is known about the life of Ann Plato, her legacy holds an important place in African American literature. Plato's sole book, Essays: Including Biographies and Miscellaneous Pieces in Prose and Poetry, published in 1841, represents the only book of essays issued by a black American between 1840 and 1865. Following that of Phillis Wheatley, it was also only the second book published by an African American woman.

Based on information garnered primarily from her writings, scholars have determined that Plato probably was born about 1820 Her poem The Infant Class for example suggests that Plato began to teach young children when she herself was only fifteen years old Her poem The Natives of America links her to her paternal Native American heritage and another poem I Have No Brother indicates that she had a brother named Henry who died when she was ...


Stacey Pamela Patton

As a young woman, Ann Plato became an educator in Hartford, Connecticut. In 1841 she published Essays: Including Biographies and Miscellaneous Pieces, in Prose and Poetry. She was the first African American to publish a collection of essays, and the poems in her book constituted only the second collection of poetry published by a black woman in America. James W. C. Pennington the pastor of the Colored Congregational Church in Hartford which she attended wrote the introduction to her essays He attested to her piety and good sense and her attempt to accomplish something for the credit of her people She has done well by what nature has done for her in trying what art will add Pennington emphatically added This is the only way to show the fallacy that nature has done nothing but fit us for slaves and that art cannot unfit us for slavery ...


For information on

African American intellectuals: See American Negro Academy; Appiah; Baldwin; Davis; Du Bois; Frazier; Gates; hooks; Johnson; Jordan; Karenga; Locke; Lorde; W. E. B. Du Bois: An Interpretation; West; Wilson; Woodson

African ...


Karen O'Brien

Abolitionist poet. Rushton lived most of his life in Liverpool, but gained first‐hand experience of the slave trade and of Jamaica when he worked as a ship's mate in the 1770s. A slave friend, Quamina, whom he had taught to read, died rescuing him when his boat capsized. During this time he contracted ophthalmia, which left him blind for most of his life. On his return, he bore witness to the brutality of slavery in his West‐Indian Eclogues (1787), a series of four poems written in the voices of fictional slaves and presenting them as dignified and seething with righteous anger. The poems, which attracted wide public notice, including that of Thomas Clarkson and William Roscoe, deal explicitly with the sexual abuse and sadistic punishments inflicted on slaves, and their right to violent resistance. The notes to the Eclogues make a more conservative case for ...

Primary Source

The sheer number of laws, court rulings, and proposed legislation aimed at controlling the behavior and movement of free blacks demonstrates the importance that slaveholders placed on maintaining an unequal legal system. Any law granting blacks a trial by jury or protection from kidnapping was regarded as a threat to the slave states; at the same time, legislation that reaffirmed the second-class status of blacks was encouraged, culminating with the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850 and its subsequent approval by the Supreme Court in the Dred Scott case (1854).

Stephen A Myers s editorial Southern Consistency discusses several of these policies and how they influenced the federal government s stance on slavery Myers a conductor on the Underground Railroad based in Albany was an outspoken critic of fellow abolitionists who wished to use the legal system to achieve their goal of emancipation Here he implies that a system as corrupted ...