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Article

Alonford James Robinson

The third of eight children, Henry Louis Aaron was born in Mobile, Alabama, to Estella and Herbert Aaron. His first experience with professional baseball came in the Negro Leagues, as he moved up through the ranks with the Pritchett Athletics, the Mobile Black Bears, and the Indianapolis Clowns. In 1952, the Boston Braves of the newly integrated major leagues signed Aaron to play shortstop in their farm system. Moving from Eau Claire, Wisconsin, to Jacksonville, Florida, Aaron made it to the majors in 1954, playing for the Milwaukee Braves (now the Atlanta Braves).

Aaron is considered by some to be the best baseball player in history. Over his twenty-three-year major league career, Aaron compiled more batting records than any other player in baseball history. He holds the record for runs batted in (RBIs) with 2,297, and was a Gold Glove Winner in 1958, 1959 ...

Article

Alma Jean Billingslea Brown

civil rights activist, educator, and businesswoman, was born Juanita Odessa Jones in Uniontown, Alabama, the youngest of eight children of Ella Gilmore Jones and Alex Jones Sr., an influential and prosperous black farmer in Perry County, Alabama. When Alabama telephone and electric companies refused to provide service to the Jones homestead, Alex Jones Sr. and his brothers installed their own telephone lines and wired their own homes for electricity. One consequence of the family's financial independence was that Juanita was able to attend boarding school from age five until she graduated from high school in Selma, Alabama, where she had older sisters in attendance at the historically black Selma University. After high school, in 1947 Jones enrolled in Tennessee State University in Nashville, Tennessee, where she majored in business education with a minor in history and social studies. She returned to Alabama after earning a BS in 1951 ...

Primary Source

Challenges to the constitutionality or appropriateness of affirmative action programs would not end even with the Supreme Court's landmark decision in Regents of the University of California v. Bakke (1978). Indeed such programs—which attempt to mitigate the effects of a cultural history of inequity and racism—were at the beginning and remain enduringly controversial. Though part of the American landscape for generations, affirmative action programs have, of late, come under renewed scrutiny and attack. One such case was Adarand Constructors v. Pea et al. presented here below In 1989 Adarand Constructors a white owned company brought suit in federal court arguing that its rights had been violated when a minority owned business was granted a highway construction contract even though Adarand had submitted a lower bid The company charged that the preferences granted to minority owned businesses constituted an unfair advantage and a violation of the equal protection clause of ...

Article

Paul S. Boyer and Matthew Dallek

The term “affirmative action” first appeared in a legislative context in the 1935 National Labor Relations Act and was later written into state laws prohibiting racial discrimination in employment. But the phrase, implying simply that government agencies should try to prevent discrimination against African Americans, initially attracted little notice. Prior to the 1960s, virtually no one saw affirmative action as a way of giving minorities preferential treatment in hiring, promotions, and admissions.

More than anything else, the civil rights movement helped change the meaning of affirmative action. In 1964, after years of black protest, Congress passed the landmark Civil Rights Act, which among other things created new agencies run by officials eager to bring minorities into the mainstream of American life. By 1965 with the passage of the Voting Rights Act the legal barriers to integration began to crumble and government and civil rights leaders began to ...

Article

The history of African Americans in the United States is intimately intertwined with the history of American agriculture. From the colonial era to the early nineteenth century, the labor of African Americans—enslaved ones, specifically—powered American agribusiness, producing crops such as cotton, tobacco, rice, and sugar. Although emancipation ended African Americans’ legal bondage as agricultural laborers, African Americans remained a significant portion of the Americans who made their living by agricultural labor. U.S. census statistics from 1900 through 1954 show that during that time African Americans constituted an average of 28.7 percent of the nation's farm operators. Between 1954 and 1959, the percentage of African American farmers dropped by nearly 9 points. Since 1959 the number of African American farmers—then 265,261—has continued to dwindle until in the early twenty-first century there were only about 15,000 African American farmers remaining, which is less than 0.2 percent of all American farmers.

Article

Wanda F. Fernandopulle

politician, was born a slave in Richmond, Virginia. His parents' names are not known. In 1837 Allen was taken to Harris County in Texas and was owned by J.—J. Cain until the end of the Civil War in 1865. Allen married soon after the notification of his emancipation. He and his wife Nancy went on to have one son and four daughters. As a slave Allen was known to be a skilled carpenter; he is credited with designing and building a Houston mansion occupied by Mayor Joseph R. Morris. In 1867 Allen entered the political world as a federal voter registrar, and in 1868 he served as an agent for the Freedmen's Bureau and as a supervisor of voter registration for the Fourteenth District of Texas. Although he had not received a formal education, he was literate by 1870.

After attending several Republican Party meetings and in ...

Article

Gunnar Myrdal, the Swedish economist, was selected by the Carnegie Corporation to lead a study of race in America because, as a citizen of “a non-imperialistic country with no background of domination of one race over another,” they felt he would “approach the situation with an entirely fresh mind.” Myrdal assembled a team of scholars that included a number of African Americans: Ralph Bunche, Allison Davis, St. Clair Drake, E. Franklin Frazier, Charles S. Johnson, and Kenneth Clark. He also sought advice from W. E. B. Du Bois.

An American Dilemma s major contribution involves three interconnected themes The first posits that what was called the Negro problem is actually a white problem Myrdal relates that when he began the project he thought he would be studying African Americans which is what such investigations usually did But he quickly realized that ...

Article

In 1955, the American Federation of Labor (AFL) and the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) merged to form the AFL-CIO. The new union's first actions under the leadership of George Meaney were to set up a Committee on Civil Rights and to announce that “the merged labor movement would not tolerate racial or religious discrimination.” Vowing to lead a crusade to secure equality of employment opportunity, the AFL-CIO publicly committed itself to supporting the desegregation of public facilities, advocating the prosecution of Lynching as a federal crime, and abolishing the poll tax for voting.

The swiftness with which the newly formed union made these statements revealed the troubled history of the relationship between blacks and unions in the United States Throughout the early twentieth century blacks had been caught in a double bind excluded from unions because of their color but reviled as strike breakers when they agreed to ...

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

Steven J. Niven

Union army officer and politician, was born in New Orleans, the son of a West Indian midwife and a free black soldier who had served in the Corps d'Afrique with General Andrew Jackson in the War of 1812. His parents' names are not recorded. Family lore had it that Caesar's maternal grandfather, an African chief, had been enslaved and taken to America and that his paternal grandmother, Rose Antoine, had earned enough money from her work as a midwife to purchase her freedom. Rose Antoine also left each of her seven sons twenty thousand dollars in her will.

As a free black child in New Orleans Antoine attended private schools the public schools of the city were closed to blacks and became fluent in both English and French Upon leaving school as a teenager in the early 1850s he then apprenticed and worked as a barber one of ...

Article

Boyd Childress

From the ground up African Americans have always contributed to the design and construction of buildings in America Sadly the participation of blacks in architecture has been one not wanting of ability but wanting of opportunity African American slaves created much of the built environment in colonial America Slaves were often skilled artisans who widely contributed to the construction of much of the plantation South Even in the northern states African Americans did construction work although few had the opportunity to design and supervise construction projects Blacks found few outlets in construction after the Civil War As industrialization expanded blacks were excluded from trade unions and recessions eliminated most economic opportunities for African Americans Only with the beginnings of education for African Americans did the professional field of architecture hold any promise for blacks and even that was limited After Massachusetts Institute of Technology MIT established the first architecture curriculum ...

Article

Christine Schneider

carpenter, insurance agent, contractor and activist, was born in Edgefield, South Carolina in 1885. As a young boy, Artemus saw that discrimination and oppression was still very much alive in the South, even following Emancipation in 1865 His parents were sharecroppers thus they were subject to subordination through this system because it ultimately favored the owners of the land not the workers Although there were many important benefits to this agricultural arrangement the sharecropping system was ultimately oppressive Landlords exploited their positions by extending credit to the workers during times of bad weather and poor quality of crop and market price The interest rates were often so high that workers were unable to pay them Often this meant landlords and sharecroppers were in much the same relationship as master and slave had been It was precisely for this reason that Artemus grew up determined to fight for his ...

Article

Michael J. Murphy

automobile worker and activist, was born General Gordon Baker Jr. in Detroit, Michigan, one of five children of General Gordon Baker Sr., an automobile worker, and Clara Baker, a housewife. Baker attended Southwestern High School in Detroit and went on to take classes at Highland Park Community College and Wayne State University. In the early 1960s he took a job with Ford Motor Company and continued to work in the automobile industry for almost forty years. In 1941 Baker s father had moved his family to Detroit from Georgia in search of a job in the booming war production industries taking part in the massive migration of African Americans from the rural South to cities in the North during the first half of the twentieth century Becoming an autoworker allowed Baker Sr to dramatically improve his family s standard of living especially in comparison to his prospects ...

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

Gregory S. Bell

investment banker and entrepreneur, was born in Chicago, Illinois, the third of four children of Travers Bell Sr., a clerk at a brokerage firm, and Iona St. Ange, a teaching aide. Growing up on the tough streets of Chicago's South Side could often be rough, and Bell would later credit his experiences for giving him the wherewithal to survive and succeed on Wall Street later in his life.

After graduating from high school Bell planned to go to a teachers college At the time his father was working in the backroom of Dempsey Tegeler a Midwestern brokerage firm One summer Bell needed money so his father got him a job as a messenger at the firm On Bell s first day on the job a manager asked him to deliver a briefcase to a company across the street While walking to the destination Bell peeked into the briefcase and ...

Article

Sarah Russell

Nestled in the Jones Valley of north central Alabama, the rocky, mineral-rich land of Jefferson County has sustained a city known in its youth for rapid industrialization and later for its hard-fought battles to overcome social, political, and economic inequality. Since its incorporation in 1871, Birmingham, Alabama, pursued the economic development of a southern Magic City. By the 1960s the efforts of the local government to maintain racial Segregation had earned Birmingham a new name, the Tragic City. Efforts to remedy a history of pervasive racial inequality continue today throughout Birmingham, through alliances among citizens that were once thought impossible.

Article

Kathryn Lofton

Economic deprivation has plagued the post-Emancipation African American experience. Throughout U.S. history some critical observers have argued that independent business ownership and entrepreneurship by blacks is the solution to African American economic disfranchisement. In 1968 the presidential candidate Richard Nixon made what he called “black capitalism” the centerpiece of his civil rights platform. “Black capitalism” became a phrase used to categorize a broad range of intellectual postulates, government programs, and mentorship initiatives designed to engender the development and control of industries by African Americans.

Within African American communities, segregated business operations had long operated parallel to white business operations. Certain religious communities, like African American Muslims, specifically enjoined their members to build stores and factories as alternative vendors. Black capitalism in these enclaves was a function of separatist racial ideologies; the people argued that purchases made in white-owned businesses served white interests and white domination.

Black capitalism became a federal ...

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

master printer, artist, educator, and founder of the Printmaking Workshop, was born in Summit, New Jersey, the son of Jeannette Chambers Blackburn and Archibald Blackburn of Jamaica, West Indies. Robert, also known as Bob, had a younger sister, Gertrude, and a half brother. His father, although trained as a minister, found employment with the Lackawanna Railroad in Summit. When Blackburn was two, the family moved to rural Elmira, New York. Blackburn fondly recalled his early childhood in the rural town, where he listened to the train whistle from his bedroom window, attended church every Sunday, and won a toy car as a prize for a drawing he had done. During the Depression, when Blackburn was seven, his family moved to Harlem, where he attended public schools from 1932 to 1936.

At Frederick Douglass Junior High School, Blackburn was influenced by his teacher, the poet Countée Cullen who sparked ...

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 ...