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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 ...

Article

Cynthia Hawkins

ceramist, sculptor, filmmaker, and cofounder (with her husband, James Hatch) of the Hatch‐Billops Collection, an archive of African American cultural history, was born in Los Angeles, California, to Lucius Billops, a cook and merchant seaman, and Alma Gilmore, a dressmaker, maid, and aircraft assembly worker. Billops graduated from Catholic Girls High School in 1952, and in 1954 she began her studies at the University of Southern California. She majored in occupational therapy, which included drawing, sculpture, and ceramics. She transferred to Los Angeles State College in 1956 after she became pregnant, and then she changed her major to special education. Billops worked during the day as a bank bookkeeper and maintained a full academic workload in the evening. At the end of 1956 her daughter, Christa, was born, and Billops put her up for adoption. This was an experience she would explore in her 1992 ...

Article

Bärbel R. Brouwers

writer, musician, journalist, and civil rights activist, was born in Kansas City, Missouri, to Myra Myrtle and Frank London Brown Sr., the eldest of their three children. In 1939, when Brown was twelve years old, the family relocated to the South Side of Chicago in hopes of better economic opportunities. Brown attended Colman Elementary School and went on to DuSable High School. His adolescence in Chicago's “Black Belt” during the 1940s, which Sterling Stuckey referred to as a “dark nether-world of crime” and “shattered idealism,” deeply influenced his artistic and writing career. In the streets of the South Side's slums he learned how to sing and soon discovered a deep passion for music, especially for jazz and blues. Brown is credited with being the first person to recite short stories (as opposed to poetry) to a jazz music accompaniment.

After graduating from high school in 1945 Brown ...

Article

Joan Marie Johnson

librarian and clubwoman, was born Susan Dart in Charleston, South Carolina, to the Reverend John Lewis Dart, pastor at Morris Street Baptist Church and Shiloh Baptist Church and editor of the Southern Reporter, and Julia Pierre, a former teacher. Dart was educated at the Charleston Institute, a school run by her father, and at his alma maters, Avery Institute and Atlanta University. She then traveled north to attend McDowell millinery school in Boston, a move which later led her to open the first millinery shop owned by an African American in Charleston when she returned home in 1913. She was successful, employing a number of women and girls and shipping hats to customers in the state and throughout the region. After five years Dart closed the shop and volunteered for the Red Cross during World War I. Following the war, in 1921 she shifted her ...

Article

Dorothy A. Washington

educator, librarian, and activist, was born Doris Hargrett in Hyde Park, Florida, the daughter of Andrew Joshua Hargrett and Delia Leana Green, both educators. Clack was the eighth of nine children born into a nurturing family and in small, tightly knit African American village. The children were “fed a constant diet of positive life-sustaining sense of values,” and she “learned many valuable lessons about community, trust, honesty, love of learning, faith in God” (Clack, 1995). Although her father died when Doris was three, his values of education, hard work, and a can-do attitude were instilled in her and her siblings by their mother. Experiencing economic hardship during the Great Depression, her mother was forced to send Doris to live with her older brother O. V. Hargrett for three years in Plant City, Florida. She rejoined the Hyde Park family at the age of nine.

Upon returning ...

Article

Linda Allen Bryant

caretaker of the historic Mount Vernon home of President George Washington, was born in Westmoreland County, Virginia, the eldest son of Venus, a house slave owned by George Washington's brother, John Augustine, and his wife, Hannah. Though some reports suggest that Ford was the son of President Washington—and that Venus told her mistress that George Washington was her child's father—historians dispute Ford's paternity, suggesting instead that one of Washington's nephews may have been his father.

From 1785 until 1791 George Washington frequently visited the Bushfield Plantation. As he grew older Ford served during these visits as Washington's personal attendant. Washington took him riding and hunting, and Ford often accompanied him to Christ Church, where he was provided with a private pew. After Washington became president of the United States, his open visits with Ford ceased.

Following the death of their father, John Augustine Washington's sons, Bushrod and Corbin ...

Article

Nicole A. Cooke

pioneering librarian and community advocate, was born in St. Louis, Missouri, the fourth of five children born to Etta James Stanton and Ralph Herbert Stanton. Ralph Stanton worked as an insurance supervisor with several African American insurance companies and was the son of a former slave and grandson of a slave owner in Natchez, Mississippi. Etta James, also the descendant of slaves, was born in St. Geneve, Missouri, and worked as a teacher and amateur pianist and organist. The Stanton family was very close-knit and placed a high priority on education and community involvement. Clara Stanton attended the segregated public schools of St. Louis and went on to attend Milwaukee State Teachers College for a year. She then transferred to Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia, where she graduated with an A.B. degree in English and History in 1934 All five Stanton children graduated from college and ...

Article

Patricia Williamson Nwosu

founder, librarian, and civic leader, was the only child born to Corrina Smith Huston and Rolla Soloman Huston, a businessman and politician in Columbus, Ohio. Lee received her early education in Ohio's public school system. Books were plentiful in the Huston's household; as a youth, Lee learned the value of reading books. This belief helped shape her career in which she encouraged African Americans to become more knowledgeable about their heritage through reading, and provided the means for them to do so.

In 1929 Lee earned a BA degree from Howard University in Washington, D.C. As a student, she developed a keen interest in Howard's African American collection, serving as a library assistant under Edward Christopher Williams. Later, Lee matriculated at Columbia University in pursuit of a library science degree that she received in 1934.

Lee began her career at Shaw University in Raleigh ...

Article

David H. Anthony

NAACP publicist, author, journalist, and editor of The Crisis was born in Pendleton, South Carolina, to William J. Moon and Georgia Bullock. Henry Lee Moon was raised in Cleveland. Much of his life became intertwined with the NAACP and its chief print organ, The Crisis, which began publication in 1910. Moon's connection to the NAACP dated back to June 1919, when, as a graduating high school senior he met the national leaders of the then decade-old organization when its national conference was hosted in his hometown of Cleveland. Among the luminaries he met were Mary White Ovington, W. E. B. Du Bois, Joel Spingarn, William Pickens, James Weldon Johnson, and Walter Frances. As his father was a founder of the Cleveland branch, Moon literally grew up with the group.

Educated at Howard University he earned a master ...

Article

Richard Newman

book collector and religious leader, was born in Coldwater, Ohio, the son of William Edward Mooreland (sic) and Nancy Jane Moore, farmers and members of a black family that had been free for several generations. Raised by his maternal grandparents because of his parents' early deaths, Moorland, an only child, attended Northwestern Normal University in Ada, Ohio, and the theological department of Howard University. In 1886 he married Lucy Corbin Woodson; they had no children. Moorland was ordained to the ministry in the Congregational Church in 1891 and became the organizing pastor of a church in South Boston, Virginia, as well as secretary of the Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA) in Washington, D.C. From 1893 to 1896 he was minister of Howard Chapel, Nashville, Tennessee, and then went to Mount Zion Congregational Church in Cleveland, Ohio.

A social gospel preacher who believed in working ...

Article

Charles Rosenberg

journalist, compositor at the Government Printing Office, collector of books and manuscripts on African American history, was born in Louisville, Kentucky, to Charles Henry and Sarah Smith Slaughter. Since Proctor is not his mother's family name, his parents may have chosen to name him after the one-time Kentucky governor of the same name, who died in 1830. Charles Henry Slaughter died when his son was six years old. Slaughter sold newspapers to support himself and his mother. She often heard him read aloud from printed descriptions of slave life, which, having been enslaved at birth, she knew were untrue, and told him so. The existence and frequency of slave uprisings were among the many details she exposed.

Slaughter graduated from Louisville Central High School in keeping with Kentucky law at the time students considered white were sent to other schools He was salutatorian of his class and ...

Article

Dorothy B. Porter

Henry Proctor Slaughter was born in Louisville, Kentucky, the son of Sarah Jane Smith and Charles Henry Slaughter. When he was six years old his father died, leaving his mother with two boys and a girl. He sold newspapers to help support his mother, and as he worked his way through school he became the main support of his family. After graduating as salutatorian from Central High School, he served his apprenticeship as a printer on the Louisville Champion. There he became associate editor with Horace Morris, who in 1894 was deputy grand master of the Prince Hall Masons of Kentucky. Slaughter also began to write feature articles for local daily newspapers.

By 1893 Slaughter was foreman of Champion Publishing Company, and in 1894 he became associate editor of the Lexington Standard. Shortly afterward, as manager of the Standard he was described as making ...

Article

Alma Dawson

Smith was university librarian and William and Camille Cosby Professor in the Humanities at Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee. The author of more than fifty publications, which include books, edited works, contributions to books, articles, and research reports, Smith has been most celebrated for her contributions to African American scholarship and to ethnic studies. In an interview, she indicated that her goal has “always been to develop and enhance black and ethnic studies librarianship.” The pursuit of this endeavor was made evident by the kind of publications and activities that she initiated, pursued, and developed during her professional career. Rich in resources, Fisk University provided Smith with the tools to educate others about the contributions of African Americans. However, Smith felt that one should enhance scholarship wherever one is located.

Jessie Carney was born in Greensboro, North Carolina, one of four children born to James Ampler Carney and Vesona ...

Article

Vanessa J. Morris

academic and international librarian, educator, and scholar, was born Thelma Horn to Daniel Horn, a farmer and a minister, and Cora Ingram, a housewife. She was raised in the rural town of Coatopa, Alabama, with her brother Herman Horn and sister Mattie James (née Horn). Tate majored in history, education, and library science to earn her bachelor's degree from Alabama State University in Montgomery in 1957. She received a master's degree in Library Science from the University of Illinois– Urbana Champaign, in 1961. Thelma Horn Tate began her career in education with the Chicago Public Library system, where she directed a K-12 school library during the early days of the civil rights movement. She was head librarian at the Mississippi Valley State University in Itta Bena, Mississippi, before she joined the Rutgers University library system in New Brunswick, New Jersey, in 1970 ...

Article

Mark L. McCallon

librarian, was born in Ennis, Texas, the son of Robert and Jimmie Wedgeworth, who both passed away when he was a teenager. He was raised with his six siblings in Kansas City, Missouri, where he attended the all-black Lincoln High School. During the summers he worked as a library page.

After graduation Wedgeworth received a scholarship to attend Wabash College in Indiana. Although he intended to pursue a career as a language interpreter, Wedgeworth worked as an assistant to the librarian, Don Thompson, whom he found to be an influential role model. After earning a bachelor's degree in English, Wedgeworth enrolled in the master's program in library science at the University of Illinois in 1959. Following graduation in 1961, his first job was as a cataloger at the Kansas City Library. He joined the American Library Association (ALA) in 1962 and helped to create the ...