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James V. Hatch

playwright and minister, was born in Wichita, Kansas. Little is known about his parents, although his mother is said to have been an active reformer and a poet. Anderson completed four years of school (the only formal education that he ever received) before his father moved the family to California to take a job as a janitor in the post office. The following year Anderson's mother died, and at age twelve he left home to become a newsboy, selling the Telegraph Press on the corner of Third and Market streets in San Francisco.

After working as a porter on the railroad, Anderson worked for the next fifteen years as a bellhop in various San Francisco hotels. During this period he also became a temporary convert to Christian Science. One afternoon in 1924 he saw a performance of Channing Pollack's moralistic drama The Fool and knew immediately that he ...


Charles Orson Cook

one of the twentieth-century South's most consistent and effective civil rights leaders, perhaps best remembered for her role in the desegregation of Little Rock, Arkansas, Central High School in 1957–1958. Her name has become synonymous with racial integration, and her memoir The Long Shadow of Little Rock (1962) has emerged as one of the standard texts on the subject.

Although accounts vary, she was born Daisy Lee Gaston, probably in 1913 in Huttig Arkansas a small mill town in the southeastern part of the state near the border with Louisiana Her childhood memories are dotted with several episodes of racial discrimination but her recollection that she grew up with foster parents because her mother had died while resisting the assault of white rapists her father subsequently left town and her life left an indelible and horrific mark on her psyche Though her recollections have never been ...


Robert Fay

Born in Huttig, Arkansas, Daisy Bates never knew her parents. Her mother was killed by three white men after she resisted their sexual advances; her father left town, fearing reprisals if he sought to prosecute those responsible. Orlee and Susie Smith, friends of Bates's parents, adopted her. In 1941 she married L. C. Bates, a journalist. They moved to Little Rock, Arkansas, and established a newspaper, the Arkansas State Press. It became the leading African American newspaper in the state and a powerful voice in the Civil Rights Movement.

As president of the Arkansas state conference of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), Bates coordinated the efforts to integrate Little Rock's public schools after the U.S. Supreme Court's Brown v. Board of Education decision outlawed segregated public schools in 1954 Nine African American students the Little Rock Nine were admitted ...


Marinelle Ringer

journalist, author, and public speaker, was born Melba Joy Pattillo in Little Rock, Arkansas, the daughter of Howell “Will” Pattillo, a hostler's helper for the Missouri Pacific Railroad, and Dr. Lois Marie Peyton Pattillo, a junior high school English teacher who was among the first African Americans to attend the University of Arkansas (graduating in 1954). In 1957, spurred by the 1954 Supreme Court ruling in Brown v. Board of Education, mandating public school desegregation, Beals, at the age of fifteen, became one of the first African American students—later known as the “Little Rock Nine”—to enroll in Central High School, then Arkansas' finest high school.

Prior to 1957 Beals s deepest anguish had been her parents divorce when she was seven She found solace in the hours she spent with her cherished grandmother India Anette Peyton while her mother worked and studied and ...


Kate Tuttle

The son of an Afrikaner magistrate, André Brink grew up moving from village to village in rural South Africa, each characterized, he says, by “conservative Protestantism … generosity and narrow-mindedness.” After receiving master’s degrees in English and Afrikaans from Potchefstroom University, Brink went to Paris in 1959 to study at the Sorbonne. By his own assessment, the 1960Sharpeville massacre in South Africa (in which the police killed at least sixty-nine innocent protesters) sparked in him a new political awareness and prompted him to return home in 1961.

Brink began to write fiction while lecturing at Rhodes University. Two novels published in the early 1960s were largely apolitical, but his views on writing changed after he spent 1968 in Paris where he witnessed student uprisings Brink came to believe that in a closed society the writer has a specific social and moral role to fill His next ...


Martha J. Ross-Rodgers

civil rights activist and journalist. Louis Everett Burnham was born in Barbados and raised in Harlem, New York. His parents, Charles, a building superintendent, and Louise, a hairdresser, were Barbadian immigrants who moved to Harlem for better opportunities for themselves and for their children.

Graduating in 1932 from Townsend High School, Burnham enrolled in the City College of New York, where he became a proponent of racial justice. He served as president of the Frederick Douglass Society and aided in organizing the American Student Union.

Burnham's quest for racial justice did not end upon graduating from City College in 1936 Instead it accelerated and Burnham s work in the South in the 1940s led him into dangerous predicaments In Birmingham Alabama Burnham worked to end the discrimination and segregation of the Jim Crow era In the fight for desegregation of public accommodations Burnham helped to organize ...


Janelle Harris

activist and author, was the eldest of six children born to working-class parents in Orangeburg, South Carolina. When Carson was three years old, his parents moved the family to Brooklyn, New York, where they were among the first African Americans to integrate the predominantly Irish-Italian neighborhood of Bedford-Stuyvesant. This racially charged environment and the young Carson's experience as a black student in a white school helped shape his later beliefs as an activist.

In his teenage years Carson was an excellent student but showed an equal propensity for street life He became a ranking member of a neighborhood gang the same year he entered junior high school By the time he was sixteen years old Carson had been arrested several times for petty crimes ranging from stealing cigarettes to throwing a snowball at a teacher He committed his first serious crime when he robbed a Western Union messenger of $100 ...


Christine G. Brown

writer and editor, was born in 1890; his parents’ names and his birthplace are now unknown. Little is known of his early life and education. He married Thelma Johnson, with whom he had one daughter. Carter and his wife lived in New York City at the same address, 409 Edgecombe Avenue, from the 1940s until their deaths.

A devoted New Yorker, Carter was a prolific writer and speaker for civil rights, especially concerning jobs, housing, and public office. A committed member of the National Urban League, on 23 July 1928 he delivered a speech on employment and fair housing issues during Negro Week on the Common. In September of that year he took over the editorship of Opportunity: Journal of Negro Life, the Urban League's in-house magazine, when Charles Spurgeon Johnson stepped down as editor With more than 10 000 subscribers when Carter took over the ...


Eric Gardner

writer and activist, was probably born in New Orleans or New York with the given name Mary Jane, although information surrounding her parentage and youth is limited. She seems to have spent time in Illinois, New York, and Kentucky, and worked as a teacher as well as, briefly, a governess; she also claimed some involvement aiding fugitive slaves escaping from Missouri via the Underground Railroad. She moved west with her first husband, a Mr. Correll, who is believed to have been a minister, in the early 1860s. It is only after her 29 August 1866 marriage to the musician, educator, and activist Dennis Drummond Carter in Nevada City, California, that Carter's biography begins to come into focus.

In June of 1867, under the name “Mrs. Ann J. Trask,” Carter wrote to Philip Alexander Bell, the editor of the San Francisco Elevator and suggested ...


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 ...


Marc A. Sennewald

civil rights attorney and university administrator. Julius LeVonne Chambers was born in Mount Gilead, North Carolina, where his father ran a service station. Chambers decided to pursue a career in law after his father was unable to find an attorney to help him collect a debt from a white customer. He went on to earn a law degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he was the first African American editor in chief of the university law review and the top-ranked student in his class. After graduating law school in 1962, Chambers earned his master of laws degree at Columbia University in 1963 and interned on the staff of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund. In 1964 he opened a law office in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Chambers is best known for his role as the lead attorney in the 1971 Supreme Court case Swann ...


Alice Bernstein

journalist, editor, and commentator, was born in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, the eldest of four children and the only son of Martha Brownlee Curry, a domestic worker, and Homer Lee Curry, an automobile mechanic. Curry's parents divorced when he was a boy, and he and his sisters were raised in public housing by their stepfather, William Henry Polk, a dumptruck driver. Polk, an avid reader of black newspapers with a deep interest in current events beyond the South, was a major influence in Curry's life. Other important influences were his neighbors, including Miss Bessie and Miss Dot, and his high school principal McDonald Hughes, who encouraged children to pursue higher education and to overcome the hardships of segregation. Curry was also inspired by the civil rights leaders Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Jesse Louis Jackson Sr., Ralph Abernathy, Cordy Tindell (C. T.) Vivian, Fred ...


Jeff Shantz

writer and union activist, was born in rural Alabama. As a youth Denby endured the hardships of farm labor. During the 1920s he joined the Great Migration of African American workers who migrated to the northern industrial centers in search of employment. Denby ended up in Detroit, where he found work as an auto assembler on the production lines.

The 1930s were a period of militant mobilization and organization among workers in the auto industry and Denby became a leading participant in the wildcat strikes that swept through the industry in the 1930s and 1940s crucial struggles in the development of the United Auto Workers UAW His involvement in these organizing campaigns both reinforced his view that struggles over race and class were intricately enmeshed and convinced him that working class gains could not be made unless unions were prepared to attack systemic racism a perspective that was not ...


Constance B. Williams

English and drama teacher, poet, and civil rights leader, was born in Trenton, New Jersey. Her father was a headwaiter in a hotel and her mother a homemaker. Lottie was the youngest of three children. Her parents sacrificed immensely to send her to Howard University, the university that her mother considered the best and most prestigious of colleges.

Dinkins entered Howard University in September 1925 and earned a bachelor of arts degree in education in June 1929. Her first choice for a career was journalism, but administrators at Howard discouraged her in this. Instead, Dinkins's first job after graduation was teaching at Leland College in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. After four years there, she returned to Trenton. She met and married William Harvey Dinkins, the father of Mayor David N. Dinkins (the first African American mayor of New York City, 1989–1993 William Dinkins was a ...


Ruth First’s parents were immigrant Jews from Lithuania. Born in Johannesburg, First joined the Communist Party of South Africa (later renamed the South African Communist Party) at an early age. As secretary of the Progressive Youth Council, a communist organization, she approached Nelson Mandela, one of the founders of the African National Congress (ANC) Youth League, to ask for affiliation with the group but her request was rejected. She studied social science at the University of the Witwatersrand, in Johannesburg, and was an active supporter of the black miners’ strike of 1946. Beginning in 1947 she worked as a journalist. Three newspapers for which she wrote, the Guardian, Clarion, and New Age, were banned by the National Party government because they were critical of government policies. With activist Reverend Michael Scott, First visited South-West Africa (modern-day Namibia) in 1947 As an investigative journalist ...


John Gilmore

Englishwriter on historical subjects. Froude was widely admired for his literary skill, but frequently criticized for his inaccuracies, which did not stop him eventually being appointed Regius Professor of Modern History at Oxford in 1892 He was a staunch advocate of British imperialism which he saw as the ...


educator, literary and cultural critic, and leading scholar in African and African American studies, was born Louis Smith Gates in Keyser, West Virginia. Gates, nicknamed “Skip” by his mother at birth, grew up in nearby Piedmont, the son of Henry Louis Gates Sr., a mill worker and janitor, and Pauline Coleman Gates, a homemaker and seamstress. Born four years before the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision Brown v. Board of Education and encouraged by his parents, he excelled in Piedmont's integrated schools, including the Davis Free School and Piedmont High School, as did his older brother Paul, known as “Rocky,” who would become Chief of Oral Surgery at Bronx Lebanon Hospital.

At age fourteen Gates experienced two cataclysmic events in his young life the first a misdiagnosed slipped epithesis a hip injury that led to three surgeries in a year and the second his joining the Episcopal ...


Kimberly M. Curtis

historian and activist, was the sixth child born to Willis Hamilton Greene, a teamster, and Harriett Coleman Greene in Ansonia, Connecticut. Lorenzo Johnston Greene attended Ansonia's public schools and participated in his high school's debate team and German club. In 1917 he became Ansonia High School's first African American graduate and the first recipient of the school's History Prize.

After working several jobs to earn money for college, Greene began undergraduate studies in medicine at Howard University in Washington, D.C. During his senior year, however, he enrolled in Greek and English history courses, which inspired him to become a historian. In 1924 he received an AB from Howard and returned to New York City to attend Columbia University's Graduate School. Greene received an MA in history from Columbia in 1926 and continued graduate studies there in pursuit of a PhD in history.

From 1928 to 1933 Greene ...


Larvester Gaither

civil rights activist and television news analyst, was born to the carpenter and builder Lawrence Guyot Sr. and the domestic worker Margaret Piernas in Pass Christian, Mississippi, on 17 July 1939. Widely known for the important part he played in organizing voter registration drives in Mississippi during the period of the civil rights movement, Guyot extended his activism beyond the sixties into the twenty-first century, as he became a stalwart public figure on the District of Columbia political landscape. Guyot's part in the civil rights movement is less recognized than that of celebrated figures like Fannie Lou Hamer, Bob Moses, Charles E. Cobb Jr., Stokely Carmichael, Medgar Evers, Martin Luther King Jr., and Malcolm X, yet he was intricately involved in numerous important historical developments within the movement, and sometimes worked side-by-side with the aforementioned.

Guyot s immersion into the civil ...


James Michael Brodie

broadcast journalist, was born in Due West, South Carolina, the oldest child of Althea Ruth (Brown) and Charles S. H. Hunter Jr. Her family life was nourishing despite the frequent absences of her father, a U.S. Army chaplain who was away more than he was home, serving tours of duty in Korea and other countries. Charlayne's mother, a teacher, passed on her love of learning. Hunter worked on the Green Light, the school paper at Atlanta's Turner High School, and decided that she wanted to get the best possible training to become a journalist. The University of Georgia had the best journalism program in the state but at the time did not admit blacks. At the urging of the NAACP and with the assistance of the attorneys Constance Baker Motley and Donald Hollowell, Hunter and her fellow Turner High student Hamilton Holmes who aspired to become ...