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Malca Chall

civil rights activist and community leader, was born in Mount Vernon, New York, the daughter of Lewis Redgrey, a supervisor in a factory, and Laura (maiden name unknown), a cook. Following the death of their mother when Frances was three, Frances and her baby sister were reared by their paternal grandparents, Lewis Redgrey, a Blackfoot Indian, and Johanna Bowen, a freed slave, on their fifty-five-acre farm in Tuskegee, Alabama.

Frances attended Tuskegee Institute, where she studied botany under George Washington Carver, who also advised her grandfather on productive farming techniques. In 1917 she enrolled at Howard University in Washington, D.C., studying nursing and social work. In 1920, following the death of her grandmother, Frances left college and moved to Berkeley, California, to join her father and stepmother. Two years later she married William Albert Jackson. They had three children. Jackson died in 1930 and ...

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Caryn E. Neumann

four-time mayor of Washington, D.C., was born on a cotton plantation near the Delta hamlet of Itta Bena in northwestern Mississippi to sharecroppers Marion Barry Sr. and Mattie Barry. In 1940 Barry Sr. died, and in 1944 Barry, his mother, and his sister moved to Memphis, Tennessee, where Mattie worked as a maid and married Dave Cummings a butcher The combined family which eventually included nine members lived in a narrow wooden shotgun house in South Memphis one of four black enclaves in the city Barry slept on the couch and rose early each morning to chop wood for the stove He stuffed cardboard in his shoes to fill the holes and sold his sandwiches to other kids at school for pocket money A bright industrious child he eventually became one of the first African American Eagle Scouts in Memphis In the summer he traveled with his mother ...

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Kate Tuttle

Stephen Biko’s death at the age of thirty robbed South Africa of one of its most popular and effective antiapartheid activists and gave the movement its most famous martyr. Memorialized in the 1987 film Cry Freedom, Biko became an international symbol of the brutal repression facing those who fought racial injustice in South Africa.

The third of four children, Stephen Biko grew up in the all-black Ginsberg area of King William’s Town, in the Eastern Cape. He was only four when his father, a policeman, died. When Biko was sixteen the town raised money to send him to the Lovedale Institution, the school that his older brother Khaya attended. Shortly after Biko arrived, Khaya was arrested on suspicion of belonging to the banned Pan-Africanist Congress (PAC). Although Khaya was later acquitted, both brothers were expelled from the school. Biko completed his studies in 1965 at St ...

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J. D. Jackson

civil rights attorney and political activist, was born in Birmingham, Alabama. One of three sons, he attended Birmingham public schools, including the city's first and oldest, and, at one time, the South's largest African American high school, Industrial (A. H. Parker) High.

After graduating from high school Billingsley attended two highly respected, historically black institutions of higher learning. The first was Talladega College, a private liberal arts college located in Alabama, fifty miles east of Birmingham. He graduated with high honors in 1946 and headed for Washington, D.C., where he attended Howard University School of Law. He earned his law degree there in 1950. Afterward, he returned to Alabama, where he was admitted to the Alabama state bar in 1951, one of the first ten African Americans to do so.

Instantly Billingsley threw himself behind the post World War II fight for full black citizenship in America Always ...

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Rose C. Thevenin

educator, was born Sarah Ann Blocker in Edgefield, South Carolina, one of the five children of Sarah A. Stewart of Delaware and Isaiah Blocker of Edgefield, South Carolina. Nothing is known about her early childhood. Blocker briefly attended Atlanta University and enrolled in teacher education classes. At the age of twenty‐two, Sarah Blocker moved to Live Oak, Florida, where she taught at the Florida Baptist Institute, a school established by African American Christian ministers of the First Bethlehem Baptist Association of West Florida in 1879.

Resistance and hostility toward African Americans in Live Oak resulted in escalating violence. Blocker herself was almost wounded in a shooting incident in 1892. Blocker's determination remained steadfast, however. In 1892 she cofounded the Florida Baptist Academy, an elementary and secondary educational institution for African American girls and boys. She was assisted in this project by the reverends Matthew W. Gilbert and J ...

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Anne K. Driscoll

pilot, Tuskegee Airman, civil servant, teacher, and juvenile probation officer, was born in Atlanta, Georgia, the youngest child of Georgia Crane and Earl Bohannon, occupations unknown. Bohannon was the youngest of ten children, although only his oldest sister and a brother were alive when Bohannon was born. One of his greatest influences growing up was his mother, who taught him the importance of principles, hard work, and honesty.

Bohannon began working at eight years of age in a hardware store His next job was working on a laundry truck It was the laundry job that ultimately led Bohannon to his dream of becoming an aviator Bohannon stopped twice a week at Atlanta s Candler Field later William B Hartsfield Airport While picking up the aviators laundry he listened to the pilots discussing their flights the difficulties of flying in adverse weather conditions and other matters that inspired him to ...

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Barbara A. White

prosperous businessman, whaling captain, and community leader, whose court case against Nantucket led to the integration of the public schools, was a member of one of the largest and most influential black families on the island. His father was Seneca Boston, a manumitted slave, who was a self‐employed weaver. His mother was a Wampanoag Indian named Thankful Micah. They had four sons and one daughter. Absalom Boston, the third‐born, went to sea, as did many of Nantucket's young men, signing onto the whale ship Thomas in 1809 when he was twenty‐four. Little is known about his early education. Anna Gardner, in her memoir Harvest Gleanings, mentions him visiting her family and hints that it may have been her mother, Hannah Macy Gardner, who taught the young man to read.

Shortly before he went to sea, Boston married his first wife, Mary Spywood about whom little is ...

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Alonford James Robinson

Pieter Willem Botha was raised in a militantly nationalistic Afrikaner family in the Eastern Cape. His mother’s first husband was killed in the Boer War (1899–1902), in which his father also fought for the Boers. At an early age Botha himself became an Afrikaner nationalist, leaving the University of Orange Free State Law School in 1935 to help found the National Party. A year later he became public information officer for the party and served on the Sauer Commission, the agency that helped to formulate the National Party’s racial program.

In 1948 Botha proved instrumental in helping D. F. Malan and the National Party come to power. That year he won a seat in Parliament, representing the Eastern Cape district of George. As a reward for party loyalty, Botha was appointed to a series of cabinet positions in the apartheid-era governments of Hendrik Verwoerd and Balthazar Johannes Vorster ...

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Mary A. Waalkes

civil rights and voting rights activist, was born in Savannah, Georgia, the seventh of ten children born to Anna Eliza Hicks and George Platts, the latter of whom owned and operated a wood supply business for years before moving to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and engaging in real estate.

Amelia Platt's childhood was idyllic; she was raised in Savannah and its outskirts in an affectionate middle-class family and community that encouraged her aspirations. She graduated from Tuskegee Institute (later Tuskegee University) in 1927 later adding course work from colleges in Tennessee Virginia and Georgia She briefly taught school in Georgia before being named home demonstration agent for the Dallas County Alabama Cooperative Extension Service In the early 1930s she served alongside Samuel William Bill Boynton who was the county agent for Dallas County The Cooperative Extension Service at that time was segregated by both race and gender in the South ...

Article

educator and clubwoman, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, just before her parents, Elizabeth Hartnett and Joseph Willson, moved their young family to Cleveland, Ohio. Her father, who had been born free in Georgia, was a dentist and the author of Sketches of the Higher Classes among Colored Society in Philadelphia (1841). Willson, her brother, and her three sisters grew up among the black elite. Her parents emphasized education and accomplishment—her mother was both a skilled musician and a music teacher—and Willson trained to be a teacher after graduating from Cleveland's Central High School in 1871. She then served as one of the first black teachers in Cleveland's integrated elementary schools.

She met her future husband, the U.S. senator Blanche Kelso Bruce, in June 1876 when he traveled to Ohio for the Republican National Convention The two corresponded and became friends though the family biographer ...

Article

Born in what is now the province of KwaZulu-Natal, Mangosutho Buthelezi is related to the Zulu royal family through his mother, Princess Magogo. He is descended from Cetshwayo, a Zulu king who ruled in the late 1800s. Buthelezi’s father, who was chief of the Buthelezi ethnic group, died when Buthelezi was fourteen years old. Buthelezi’s uncle, Maliyamakhanda, was appointed regent to govern the ethnic group until Buthelezi was ready to assume the role of chief.

Buthelezi received his early education at Christian mission schools. He then attended South African Native College (now the University of Fort Hare) in Alice. During college Buthelezi joined the African National Congress (ANC) Youth League. He was subsequently expelled from college because of his political activities, but in 1951 he received his degree in history and Bantu administration a discipline designed to train black South Africans for certain government positions from the ...

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Aaron L. Day

recreation commissioner, PTA president, and community advocate, was born Mary Dell Byrd in Greenville, Texas, to Eliza Henderson and George Byrd, who worked as a porter for the railroad. Mary had a twin sister named Adele—the only children in the family—and attended grade school and high school in Greenville. After high school, Byrd married Charlie Joe Christian and had two daughters, Georgia and Beverly. The marriage lasted only a few years, and at age twenty-one, she moved to Long Beach, California, with her two daughters. There she met Richard Butler, and the two were married in 1948. The couple had six sons: Anthony, Reginald, Douglas, Stanley, Timothy, and Eric. It was because of her children that Butler became engaged in school and civil rights activism.

The 1954 Supreme Court ruling in Brown vs. Board of Education declared segregation in public schools to be unconstitutional and that ...

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Donald Yacovone

lawyer and social activist, was born Jean Camper, the daughter of John E. T. Camper, civil rights activist and physician, and Florine Thompson. She grew up in Baltimore with her sister Elizabeth—she also had two stepbrothers and two stepsisters from her father's first marriage to Louise G. Nixon. The Camper household was a regular meeting place for local NAACP figures and national civil rights leaders, such as Thurgood Marshall and her godfather Paul Robeson. Camper drew inspiration from her father's career as a doctor and a civil rights advocate, but a series of ugly personal incidents soon underscored the need to expand the struggle for racial justice.

Jean's younger brother, John Jr. suffering from a treatable ear infection was refused treatment by Johns Hopkins University hospital because of his race The hospital eventually admitted the boy but only after the infection had spread forcing ...

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Donald Yacovone

physician, political activist, and civil rights advocate, was born in Baltimore, Maryland, to Mary J. Cromwell, one of the first black teachers in Baltimore, and John Heyward Camper, principal of an elementary school in Sparrows Point, Maryland. Camper had two brothers and several sisters. The Campers lived in Sparrows Point from about 1896 until 1900, when John's father's death forced a move to Towson and then to Baltimore. John attended eighth grade in Baltimore and graduated in 1913 from what would become the city's Douglass High School. He worked as a longshoreman and steelworker before receiving a bachelor of science degree in 1917 and a medical degree in 1920 from Howard University. A strong and gifted athlete, he was named several times to the All-American Colored Football Team, became the assistant coach for the Howard football team in 1920, and from 1921 to 1922 was ...

Article

labor leader and human rights activist, was the fourth of five children born in Seattle, Washington, to Susie Sumner Revels Cayton, a newspaper editor and community activist, and Horace Roscoe Cayton Sr., a journalist and publisher of the Seattle Republican. He was named after his grandfather, Hiram Revels (1827–1901), the first U.S. senator of African descent (1870–1871). Revels's brother Horace Cayton Jr. became a prominent sociologist.

Unlike his father who detested and distrusted labor unions because of their record of racially discriminatory practices Revels became involved with the labor movement early in his life in the belief that unions offered all workers the best chance to better their condition He rose through the union ranks and was at one time secretary treasurer of the Bay Area District Council of the Maritime Union of the Pacific He also joined the Communist Party and wrote ...

Article

editor, writer, and community leader, was born Susie Sumner Revels in Natchez, Mississippi, the daughter of Senator Hiram Rhodes Revels of Mississippi, the first African American to serve in the U.S. Senate, and Phoebe Revels. The name Sumner was in honor of her father's friend Senator Charles Sumner, a Massachusetts radical Republican and vehement opponent of slavery. Susie's formal education started at the school later known as Alcorn University where her father was president. When the family moved to Holly Springs, Mississippi, she completed her education at Rust College, and then started teaching there at the young age of sixteen.

Revels probably started corresponding with Seattle newspaper publisher Horace Roscoe Cayton Sr. after he sent copies of the Seattle Republican to her father whom he had known as a student at Alcorn She then sent her own articles and short stories to Cayton which he agreed to publish ...

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Lawrie Balfour

Born in the Panama Canal Zone, Kenneth Bancroft Clark grew up with his mother in Harlem, New York. His childhood heroes included poet Countee Cullen, who taught at his junior high school, and book collector Arthur Schomburg, who served as curator at the 135th Street branch of the New York Public Library. After attending integrated elementary and junior high schools, Clark graduated from New York's George Washington High School in 1931.

Clark distinguished himself as an undergraduate at Howard University in Washington, D.C., where he led demonstrations against segregation. While at Howard he met Mamie Phipps, who became his wife and closest intellectual collaborator. The Clarks then went to Columbia University in New York City to study psychology, and in 1940 Kenneth Clark became Columbia s first black recipient of a Ph D degree in psychology Clark joined the faculty of City College ...

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Steven J. Niven

psychologist, was born in the Panama Canal Zone, the son of the Jamaican immigrants Miriam Hanson Clark and Arthur Bancroft Clark. In 1919, Miriam left her husband and brought Kenneth and his sister Beulah to New York City. He attended public schools in Harlem, which were fully integrated when he entered the first grade, but were almost wholly black by the time he finished sixth grade. Kenneth's mother, an active follower of Marcus Garvey, encouraged her son's interest in black history and his academic leanings, and confronted his guidance teacher for recommending that Kenneth attend a vocational high school. A determined woman, active in the garment workers’ union, Miriam Clark persuaded the authorities to send Kenneth to George Washington High, a school with a reputation for academic excellence. In 1931 he won a scholarship to attend Howard University in Washington, D.C.

Clark attended Howard at time of ...

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David A. Gerber

educator, politician, and civil rights leader, was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, the son of Michael Clark, a barber, and his wife (name unknown). Clark was the product of a complex, mixed racial ancestry that formed the basis for a lifelong struggle to find a place for himself in both the white and African American worlds. The oral tradition of Peter Clark's family and of the Cincinnati African American community contends that Michael Clark was the son of the explorer William Clark, a Kentucky slaveowner who had children by his biracial slave Betty. Major Clark is said to have freed Betty and their children and settled them in Cincinnati. There she married and started another family with John Isom Gaines an affluent black man who owned a steamboat provisioning business Though it was never authenticated there is little doubt that Peter Clark himself believed the story of this ...

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aviator, was born in Newport, Arkansas, a farming community on the banks of the White River. Although the names of his parents are now unknown, Coffey recalled in 1993 that “my daddy was a railroad man in the days when an Afro-American could hook a train together and drive a locomotive from the roundhouse to the station, but he could never become a full-fledged engineer” (Chicago Tribune, 25 July 1993). Cornelius Coffey, however, would spend a large portion of his life suspended in the air operating the controls of an airplane. This was a time when even to dream of being a pilot was considered preposterous for a black youth growing up in segregated Arkansas. In order to escape such limitations imposed on blacks in the Jim Crow South, the family sought new opportunities first in Nebraska, and then ultimately in Chicago in 1923.

Shortly after ...