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Article

Caroline M. Fannin

Despite gender and race discrimination, and despite the small numbers of black women active in aviation, black women have contributed notably to the encouragement of black Americans’ participation in aviation and to the furtherance of aerospace research.

Article

Joshunda Sanders

media mogul, model, and actress, was born Tyra Lynne Banks and grew up in Inglewood, California. Her father, Donald Banks, was a computer consultant, and her mother, Carolyn London, was a medical photographer and business manager. The couple divorced when Tyra was six years old, in 1980.

Banks attended Immaculate Heart Middle and High School, an all-girl's private school. She credited her mother's photography business and friends' encouragement with her ability to overcome a self-consciousness during her awkward adolescence that almost made her pursue another path.

“I grew three inches and lost 40 pounds in 90 days,” she told the Black Collegian in an interview about her teen years. “It was just this crazy growth spurt. I felt like a freak: people would stare at me in the grocery store.”

A friend encouraged her to try modeling during her senior year At the time several ...

Article

Tiffany M. Gill

Black is beautiful This familiar cry of the Black Power movement was revolutionary in its celebration of the culture style politics and physical attributes of peoples of African descent Symbols of the black is beautiful aesthetic most notably the Afro not only conjured up ideas about black beauty but also highlighted its contentious relationship with black politics and identity This tension between beauty standards and black politics and identity however did not first emerge in the late twentieth century with the Afro or the Black Power movement In fact blacks particularly black women have been struggling to navigate the paradoxical political nature of black identity and beauty since their enslavement in the Americas Despite this strained relationship black women have actively sought to define beauty in their lives and in the process created and sustained one of the most resilient and successful black controlled enterprises in America the black beauty ...

Article

Linda M. Carter

domestic and restaurateur, was born on the Farrin plantation near Clayton, Alabama. She was the daughter of the Farrins' female cook and the male owner of a plantation located approximately two miles away from the Farrin plantation. Burton's mistress was persistent in her attempts to get Burton's father, who was from Liverpool, England, to acknowledge his daughter, but he ignored Burton whenever she was in his presence. During the Civil War, Burton's mother left the Farrin plantation and her children after an argument with her mistress led to her being whipped. Several years later, Burton and her siblings were reunited with their mother when she returned to the plantation after the war had ended and took her children to their new home. The Farrins demanded that Burton's mother return her children to them until she threatened to go to the Yankee headquarters. In 1866 the family moved to ...

Article

Robert Olwell

The 1740 South Carolina slave code allowed slaves to attend the Charleston marketplace only if they carried tickets from their masters detailing precisely what they were to buy or sell and at what price However many of the enslaved parlayed this small de jure permit into a much larger de facto liberty by which they purchased goods coming to market and resold them for a profit In effect they acted as independent marketeers while still enslaved Customarily after paying their master an agreed upon wage such enslaved marketeers could keep any surplus they earned for themselves Such extra legal arrangements allowed individual slave owners to collect a steady income from their slaves labor and from the market even when they had no work for the slaves to do or produce of their own to sell But as enslaved marketeers came to dominate the marketplace slaveholders collectively expressed their resentment ...

Article

Patricia Hunt-Hurst

one of the pioneers of black women in fashion modeling, was born in Texarkana, Texas; she was the seventh of eight children. Her mother was a school teacher and her father a carpenter and farmer. Dorothy studied biology at Wiley College in Marshall, Texas, where she completed her degree in 1945. She planned to study medicine, but when her mother died she moved to Los Angeles to live with family. While there she earned a master's degree in education at the University of Southern California, married, and started her modeling career.

The fashion industry in the late twentieth century included the major fashion centers of New York and Paris New York was known for its American ready to wear and Paris for its couture or made to order dresses of original designs Fashion models were vital to the display of the designs in both facets of the ...

Article

Jane E. Dabel

From the period of slavery onward, African American women have labored outside of the home in many roles, and most prominently as domestic servants. Because employment has been the key to their survival, and though racism and sexism have limited their employment opportunities, black women have always attempted to make the best of their employment situation. Throughout their wage-earning experiences, black women have always sought to control and shape their lives as laborers.

Article

Rayford W. Logan

Born in Warwick, Rhode Island, Elleanor Eldridge believed that her paternal grandfather had been born in Zaire (the ancient name of the current Democratic Republic of the Congo) and had been brought to America on a slave ship. One of his sons, Robin Eldridge, was Elleanor Eldridge's father. Robin and his two brothers had fought in the American Revolution (1775–1783) and been promised 80 hectares (198 acres) of land apiece in the Mohawk River Valley in New York. Since they received pay in the almost worthless Continental currency (notes issued by the Continental Congress to finance the war), they had been unable to take possession of the land. It is not clear how Robin Eldridge was able to purchase a lot and a house in Warwick, where he settled with his wife, Hannah Prophet, whom he had married before entering military service.

Elleanor was ...

Article

Juliet E. Walker

African American women have a long tradition of participation in business, including entrepreneurial activities. In colonial America, their initial economic activities, primarily gender-based household manufacturing, farming, trade, and marketing ventures, were derived from activities that had been important to women in precolonial Africa. By capitalizing on culturally familiar agriculture techniques, African women were able to enter the colonial American economy as truck farmers and market women. By the nineteenth century, food trading by African women was so substantial that, as one diarist noted in Louisiana, “The market places are filled with c…. They have control of the markets in New Orleans [and] bring their products to the market very neatly.”

Urban areas such as New Orleans offered the most opportunities for black women both enslaved and free to establish business ventures Throughout the period of slavery food marketing and preparation constituted the largest occupational category among black women in business ...

Article

Patricia Hunt-Hurst

Fashion has been a phenomenon of collective behavior since the fourteenth century Yet as an industry in the United States it did not exist until the beginning of the nineteenth century The early fashion industry in the United States was based on custom made clothing fitted to the individual Tailors produced custom made suits for men and women dressmakers also known as mantua makers specialized in women s dresses skirts and bodices The mass production of clothing did not begin until the mid nineteenth century with menswear At that time women s wear including such items as cloaks and mantles was still produced on a small scale As a result there was a need for skilled needlewomen to produce custom made clothing The fashion industry created significant opportunities for women in the needle trades as dressmakers seamstresses and tailors and later as designers models fashion writers and editors and factory ...

Article

Julia Kirk Blackwelder

In the early twentieth century, the African American beauty industry rose in response to the specific needs and tastes of women of color and the growth of urban black populations. The concentration of African Americans in neighborhoods such as Houston's West Dallas Street commercial district, and the growth of wage earning among urban women of color, facilitated sales of services as well as of products. The Franklin School of Beauty prospered as part of this larger trend, along with the emergence of state-level regulations for the practice of beauty culture. Founded by Texan Nobia Franklin, the Franklin school flourished from the late 1930s through the 1950s under the leadership of Franklin's son-in-law, J.H. Jemison, and her daughter, Abbie Franklin Jemison.

Nobia Franklin, a self-taught beautician and product manufacturer, opened her first beauty shop in Fort Worth, Texas, in 1916 The following year she announced her relocation to Houston where ...

Article

Lisa Clayton Robinson

Born to former slaves in Lowndes County, Alabama, Elizabeth Ross Haynes became a pioneering urban sociologist. Haynes graduated valedictorian of the State Normal School (now Alabama State University) in 1900. She received an A.B. from Fisk University in 1903, and later received an M.A. in sociology from Columbia University in 1923.

After graduation from Fisk, Haynes taught school and worked for segregated branches of the Young Women's Christian Association (YWCA). In 1910, she married George Haynes, a sociologist and cofounder of the National Urban League; their son was born in 1912. After her marriage, Haynes continued to work in unsalaried positions.

From 1918 to 1922, Haynes worked for the U.S. Department of Labor, and from 1920 to 1922 she served as domestic service secretary for the U S Employment Service Throughout her career Haynes was especially concerned with black women ...

Article

Robert G. McGuire

Born in Atchison, Kansas, on March 24, 1870, Amanda V. Gray Hilyer was educated in the public schools there, married Arthur S. Gray in 1893, and came to Washington, D.C., around 1897. She then attended Howard University and received the pharmaceutical graduate degree in 1903. Both Grays operated a pharmacy at 12th and U Streets NW, in the heart of the black commercial district of that day. They became deeply involved in the social and civic activities of the city. She was the secretary of the Treble Clef Club. As a member of the Booklovers Club, she helped organize the Phillis Wheatley Young Women's Christian Association (YWCA) in Washington. She became the YWCA's first recording secretary upon its incorporation in 1905. In addition to establishing facilities for young black women, the YWCA organizers attempted to make their political views known. In 1911 ...

Article

Donovan S. Weight

slave owner, was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, to a freed slave and a white man (their names are unknown). Hinard never experienced slavery herself, and her life as a slave-owning black female was far removed from the common experience of most blacks in North America. This anomaly can be explained in part by the political and social turbulence of early New Orleans. By the time Hinard was forty-two, she had lived under French, Spanish, and American rule. In 1791 at the age of fourteen, Hinard was placéed (committed) to the white Spaniard Don Nicolás Vidal, the auditor de guerra the Spanish colonial governor In this lofty position Vidal provided military and legal counsel for both Louisiana and West Florida Both the Spanish and the French legislated against racial intermarriage as a way of maintaining pure white blood but this legislation did not stop white men from ...

Article

Kathryn M. Silva

educator, textile mill supervisor, dressmaker, was born Gertrude C. Hood in North Carolina, the eldest daughter of four children to Sophia J. Nugent, of Washington, D.C., and James Walker Hood of Pennsylvania. Miller's father was a prominent bishop and educator in the African Methodist Episcopal Zion (AMEZ) Church. Gertrude Hood Miller, also known as “Gertie,” spent her life in Fayetteville, North Carolina. Miller's mother, Sophia Nugent died in 1875. Two years after her mother's death, James Walker Hood married Keziah “Katie” Price McCoy of Wilmington, North Carolina. The couple went on to have more children, making Hood the eldest of eleven children (Martin, p. 41) Shortly after her birth, Miller's father moved the family to his new post with the Evans AMEZ Church in Fayetteville, North Carolina. Henry Evans, an African American pastor, built the church in 1796 and it became the ...

Primary Source

Before Marjorie Joyner's permanent waving machine (Patent No. 1,693,515), acquiring a permanent wave (or "perm") was a tedious and often dangerous process; a stove-heated curling iron was applied to each section of the hair to impart an effect lasting no longer than a day or two. Joyner's electric-powered machine, created in 1928, featured enough individual curlers to cover the whole head and protection for the scalp. At the time of her invention, Joyner was the director of Madam C. J. Walker Beauty Colleges, a nationwide beauty school chain founded by the eponymous African American inventor and businesswoman. Since the patent was filed on behalf of Walker's corporation, Joyner received no direct compensation for her work.

Primary Source

Believed to be the first collective labor action undertaken by African American women, the petition reproduced below was presented to Mayor D. N. Barrows of Jackson, Mississippi, in 1866. Indeed, this may have been the first union formed in the state. Numerous journalists and politicians ridiculed the union’s demands for a uniform wage for female laundry workers. The Jackson Daily Clarion which published the petition even claimed that the impetus for the union originated with one or two Northern adventurers in other words the local black population had been riled up by troublemaking carpetbaggers In fact the union s struggle could be said to be a continuation of resistance that began during the days of slavery However the results of the washerwomen s efforts are lost to history suggesting that their demands were not met But within a few years of the petition black labor movements slowly became more prevalent ...

Primary Source

Believed to be the first collective labor action undertaken by African American women, the petition reproduced below was presented to Mayor D. N. Barrows of Jackson, Mississippi, in 1866. Indeed, this may have been the first union formed in the state. Numerous journalists and politicians ridiculed the union’s demands for a uniform wage for female laundry workers. The Jackson Daily Clarion which published the petition even claimed that the impetus for the union originated with one or two Northern adventurers in other words the local black population had been riled up by troublemaking carpetbaggers In fact the union s struggle could be said to be a continuation of resistance that began during the days of slavery However the results of the washerwomen s efforts are lost to history suggesting that their demands were not met But within a few years of the petition black labor movements slowly became more prevalent ...

Article

Kathy Covert-Warnes

Wendell Phillips transformed his life when he heard William Lloyd Garrison speak at the Boston Female Anti-Slavery Society in 1835 and watched a white mob attempt to lynch Garrison. The courage of the abolitionist so impressed Phillips that he resolved to give up his law practice and devote himself to winning freedom for all slaves.

Until 1835 Phillips lived as a member of the elite group known as the Boston Brahmins. He was born in that city in 1811, the son of John Phillips and Sally Whalley. The Phillips family's roots in America dated to the early seventeenth century, and they had amassed a fortune before the Revolutionary War. John Phillips held public office as a prosecutor, a Massachusetts state senator, a judge in the Court of Common Pleas, and the first mayor of Boston after it was incorporated as a city in 1822 Sally Whalley was ...

Primary Source

Among the many issues it raised, the case of Minnie Cox highlighted the federal government’s struggle to assert its power in the face of local opposition. Cox, a prominent African American, had been serving as postmistress for Indianola, Mississippi, since her appointment by President Benjamin Harrison in 1891. She was the first black woman in the country to hold this position and had been reappointed by Presidents William McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt. Well paid, African American, and female, Cox was a rarity in turn-of-the-century America, much less Indianola, Mississippi, a town embedded deep inside the Delta cotton belt.

In late 1902 a group of Indianola whites began denouncing Cox goaded by the campaign stop of gubernatorial candidate and infamously racist Mississippi politician James K Vardaman who expressed incredulity that Indianola could tolerate a Negro wench as postmaster Up to this point Cox s tenure had been mostly free of racial ...