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Christopher Phelps

a Philadelphia radio journalist who became an international icon in debates over race and the death penalty after he was convicted for the murder of a police officer, was born Wesley Cook to Edith and William Cook, migrants from the South. The family subsisted on welfare in the housing projects of North Philadelphia. As a boy Cook read avidly and sought enlightenment, attending services with his Baptist mother and Episcopalian father, then dabbling in Judaism, Catholicism, and the Nation of Islam. When he was about ten years old his father died of a heart attack, prompting him to assume a protective role toward his twin brother, Wayne, and younger brother, William.

The black liberation movement shaped Cook's coming of age. In a 1967 school class in Swahili, a Kenyan teacher assigned him the first name Mumia. In 1968 at age fourteen he and some friends protested ...


Todd Steven Burroughs

radical prison journalist and author. Mumia Abu-Jamal was born Wesley Cook in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. As a teenager in the 1960s he was attracted to the Black Panther Party (BPP). Cook—christened “Mumia” by one of his high school teachers—helped form the BPP's Philadelphia chapter in spring 1969 and became the chapter's lieutenant of information. He wrote articles for the Black Panther, the party's national newspaper, and traveled to several cities to perform BPP work. He left the party in the fall of 1970 because of the split between Eldridge Cleaver and Huey Newton.

After attending Goddard College in Plainfield Vermont Cook now calling himself Mumia Abu Jamal the surname is Arabic for father of Jamal Jamal being his firstborn returned to Philadelphia and began a radio broadcasting career in the early 1970s Abu Jamal was part of the first generation of black journalists to become professional newscasters for ...


Carmen Rosario

was born on 4 July 1897 in Bayamón, Puerto Rico, one of twelve children of José Celso Barbosa, among the most prominent Puerto Rican politicians of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and Belen Sanchez. Pilar received her primary and secondary education in her hometown, where early on she was immersed in politics. Her father, a black man who graduated first in his class at the University of Michigan, was a leader of the autonomist movement that demanded autonomy for Puerto Rico from the Spanish government at the end of the nineteenth century as well as the founder of the Partido Republicano (Republican Party) in 1899, which advocated statehood for Puerto Rico following the American invasion of the island the prior year. After graduating from high school, Pilar attended the University of Puerto Rico. While still an undergraduate, in 1921 she became the first woman and certainly ...


David A. Spatz

attorney and journalist. Ferdinand Lee Barnett was born in Nashville, Tennessee, in 1859. His father, born a slave, purchased his freedom and worked much of his life as a blacksmith. The family moved to Canada soon after Ferdinand was born and then to Chicago in 1869. Barnett was educated in Chicago schools, graduating from high school in 1874 with high honors. After teaching in the South for two years, he returned to Chicago and attended Chicago College of Law, later affiliated with Northwestern Law School.

Barnett graduated from law school and was admitted to the Illinois bar in 1878. Rather than immediately practicing law, he founded the Conservator, Chicago's first African American newspaper. The Conservator was a radical voice for justice and racial solidarity as means to equal rights for African Americans. The Conservator also drew national attention to Barnett He served as Chicago ...


R. J. M. Blackett

lawyer and Civil War correspondent, was born in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, the son of George Chester and Jane Maria (maiden name unknown), restaurateurs. When, as a young man of eighteen, Chester decided to emigrate to Liberia, he wrote Martin H. Freeman, his former teacher at the Avery Institute in Pittsburgh, that his passion for liberty could no longer “submit to the insolent indignities and contemptuous conduct to which it has almost become natural for the colored people dishonorably to submit themselves.” It was a bold assertion of independence for one who had come of age in a household long associated with the anticolonization sentiments of radical abolitionism. But the country's willingness to appease southern interests, symbolized by the passage of the Fugitive Slave Law in 1850, persuaded Chester, sometime before his 1853 graduation, to emigrate.

Anxious to recruit the son of such a prominent black family leaders of the ...


Charles Rosenberg

civil rights activist and Communist member of the city council of New York City from 1943 to 1949. Davis represented Harlem and was reelected in 1945 with 75 percent of first-choice votes in Harlem, 56,540 from the rest of Manhattan. During his first run, Davis later reminisced, voters said to him, “Your father was a Lincoln Republican. You must be a Lincoln Communist. I᾽m going to vote for you.” In 1949, appealing his conviction as one of the so-called Communist Party Eleven for violating the Alien Registration Act of 1940 (also known as the Smith Act), he lost his seat to the conservative African American columnist Earl Brown The Smith Act prescribed criminal penalties for advocating the overthrow of the federal or state government including the printing publishing circulating or selling of printed matter teaching or organizing any attempt to do so by force and violence The ...


Giovanni R. Ruffini

Egyptian lawyer and poet, was the son of Apollos, son of Psimanobet. Flavius Dioscorus is the best-documented figure from Byzantine Aphrodito (modern Egypt’s Kom Ishqaw) and consequently one of the best-documented representatives of village life in Egypt in the entire Greco-Roman period. The Aphrodito papyri—largely the business and personal papers of Dioskoros and his extended family—comprise an archive of hundreds of texts detailing the economic and social connections between thousands of Aphrodito villagers in the sixth century CE. Dioscorus, an Aphrodito village headman and in turn the son of another village headman, was one of the leading figures in the politics of his village in that period, and was involved in the political and economic affairs of the landowning and officeholding Roman imperial elite at the higher provincial level.

The bulk of the evidence for Dioscorus concerns either his private economic transactions or his career in village politics In the ...


Thomas M. Leonard

diplomat, lawyer, and journalist, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of Samuel Durham and Elizabeth Stephens. Two of his uncles, Clayton Durham and Jeremiah Durham, were noted clergymen who helped Bishop Richard Allen establish the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church. Durham, who could almost pass for white, studied in the Philadelphia public schools and graduated from the Institute for Colored Youth in 1876.

For five years after leaving high school Durham taught in Delaware and Pennsylvania. In 1881 he entered Towne Scientific School, a branch of the University of Pennsylvania, from which he earned a bachelor's degree in 1886 and a civil engineering degree in 1888. He held several positions during his college career, including reporter for the Philadelphia Times. He excelled as a newspaperman, and his unique abilities eventually led him to the assistant editorship of the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin ...


Damon L. Fordham

lawyer, entrepreneur, educator, and journalist, was born near Orangeburg, South Carolina, the son of the former slaves Benjamin Frederick and Henrietta Baxter. A Renaissance man among African Americans in South Carolina, Frederick earned a bachelor of arts degree from Orangeburg's Claflin College in 1889 and degrees in history and Latin from the University of Wisconsin in 1901. Shortly after graduating from the latter institution, Frederick moved to Columbia, South Carolina, where he began an eighteen-year career as the principal of the Howard School, one of the first public schools for blacks in that city. He rose to early prominence as an educator and served as president of the South Carolina State Teacher's Association, an organization of that state's black teachers, from 1906 to 1908. He married Corrine Carroll in 1904; they would have four children.

By 1913 Frederick was searching for ...


Claranne Perkins

journalist, healer, philosopher, motivational speaker, and activist, was born in New Bern, North Carolina, the oldest of seven children of Bill Gaines, a career U.S. Marine, and Eleanor Murrell, a housewife. A military child of the civil rights era, Gaines lived an insulated life as a “colored queen” in Quantico, Virginia (Gaines, p. 7). Living on a military base with everything a community needed including an integrated school, Gaines watched all the drama of school integration on television failing at ten-years-old to fully understand racism or the fact it wasn't limited to the “south,” which she considered nowhere close to Quantico. This would help to foster an identity crisis and feelings of low self-esteem for much of her life.

When she was thirteen her father received orders for Albany Georgia Her parents deciding Albany might be dangerous bought a house in a new ...


Daniel Donaghy

writer, songwriter, teacher, and NAACP leader. James William Johnson (who changed his middle name to Weldon in 1913) was born in Jacksonville, Florida, to James Johnson, a headwaiter in a resort hotel, and Helen Louise (Dillet) Johnson, a teacher and part-time musician. Even though Jacksonville was more progressive than many other southern cities during the Reconstruction period and, as Johnson put it in his autobiography, “a good town for Negroes” because of a need for workers in the service industry during the winter months, Johnson's parents were both fortunate to find steady jobs. They were able to provide for their children, and they stressed the importance of a strong work ethic and good education.

Johnson attended Jacksonville s Stanton Central Grammar School where his mother taught The school was segregated and did not offer high school classes so Johnson had to move to Georgia ...


Thomas E. Carney

jurist and civil rights activist. Judge Nathaniel R. Jones was born in 1926, the son of a steelworker and the grandson of a slave. He grew up on the south side of Youngstown, Ohio, a major steel-producing town during the twentieth century. His mother and J. Maynard Dickerson, a family friend, prominent local attorney, and local NAACP leader, inspired the young Jones to pursue his education. After serving in the U.S. Army Air Force during World War II, he attended Youngstown College (now Youngstown State University), where he received his bachelor's degree in 1951 and his law degree in 1956.

Jones began his legal career as the executive director of the city of Youngstown's Fair Employment Practices Commission. He held that position until 1959, when he went into private practice. He returned to the public sector in 1962 to accept the position of assistant U ...


Stacy Klein

poet, was born in Corinth, Mississippi, the son of Etheridge “Bushie” Knight and Belzora Cozart. Knight grew up in Paducah, Kentucky, quit school after the eighth grade, and later ran away from home. During his teenage years he learned various toasts from the older African American men with whom he frequented bars and poolrooms. Toast-telling, or reciting long narrative poems, usually in rhyming couplets, was a social activity Knight enjoyed and later perfected in his prison years.

At age seventeen Knight joined the U.S. Army, serving as a medical technician from 1947 to 1951. He was wounded in Korea and became addicted to morphine, the drug used to treat him. Before his enlistment, however, he had already begun using drugs to escape the pain and disillusionment of growing up in poverty. He continued to abuse narcotics after his discharge and in 1960 was given a ten ...


Melissa Nicole Stuckey

educator and newspaper editor, was born John Carter Leftwich in Forkland, Alabama, the eldest of the eight children of Frances Edge and Lloyd Leftwich. From 1872 to 1876 Lloyd Leftwich served as one of Alabama's last black state senators. John Leftwich and his siblings grew up on the 122-acre farm his parents purchased from Lloyd Leftwich's former owner. The former slaves instilled in their children the importance of religion and education. Not only did the couple learn to read and write after the Civil War but they also donated a portion of their property for the construction of Lloyd Chapel Baptist Church and Lloyd Elementary School. Remarkable for the time period, most of their eight children became college graduates.

In 1886 Leftwich entered Selma University in Selma, Alabama. Unhappy there, he wrote to Booker T. Washington for permission to transfer to Tuskegee Institute and he offered to ...


Laura Murphy

writer, lawyer, and doctor, was born a slave to Doc and Rosa Lewis probably just prior to the Civil War. In his narrative he writes that he was born at a time when “reconciliation was futile and that disruption and secession hung like a cloud over the horizon.” The Lewis family was owned by Colonel D. S. Cage Sr. who on the day of Lewis s birth celebrated by recording the event in the family Bible with a short annotation that the birth would increase his wealth by one thousand dollars For his part Lewis was mostly oblivious to the fact that he was enslaved at all as he was relatively young when slavery was abolished The end of slavery was a confusing moment for all the people on Cage s plantation they were set free but encouraged to remain on the plantation to work for ...


Henry Lyman

poet, boxer, policeman, and journalist, was born Arthur Winslow MacAlpine in Birmingham, Alabama, the third of five children of Francis P. MacAlpine, an Alabamian born in slavery four years before Emancipation, and Mary Winslow, a music teacher from Canada and the first black woman to graduate from the University of New Brunswick. Having met and married in Springfield, Massachusetts, the MacAlpines had moved to Birmingham so that Mary, unable to find employment in the mostly white schools of New England, could teach in a segregated one. In 1919 the promise of a better education for their children persuaded them to return to Springfield, where Francis kept a small convenience store and Mary gave piano and violin lessons.

Poetry and music were paramount in the household Mary who knew countless poems by heart would recite Longfellow Frost and the English romantics sometimes to young Arthur ...


Jonathan Smolin

Moroccan female crime reporter and columnist, was born around 1950 in the Moroccan town of Taza, 75 miles (120 kilometers) east of Fez, where she lived in crushing poverty. Her real name was Rkia Fatha. As a child, she became fascinated by the French language and studied it at the local Jewish school before her family moved to Casablanca, where they first lived in the shantytown Carrières Centrales. Mekki’s experience of extreme poverty and domestic abuse in both Taza and Carrières Centrales had a profound effect on her writing. She was also deeply influenced by her readings of the nineteenth- century French classics Les Misérables and Madame Bovary, and the world of abandonment, violence, and jealousy these works described.

Aicha Mekki pioneered modern crime reporting in Morocco Among the most famous journalists in the country s history Mekki is best known for her column Au ban de la société ...


Paul Walker

outlaw, was born the slave of Samuel Mifflin of Philadelphia, father of the governor of Pennsylvania. He traveled to England when he was seventeen and devoted his life to crime, traveling in Britain and Europe, robbing individuals and coaches at gunpoint. On his return to America in 1790 he was executed for rape at New Haven.

Mountain's biography contains some of the usual elements of slave narratives, but the majority of his story consists of descriptions of the people he robbed, the places the robberies took place, and the value of the loot. The narrative was recorded in 1790 by David Daggett the justice before whom Mountain was tried The frontispiece states that Daggett Has Directed That The Money Arising from the Sales Thereof Be Given to the Girl Whose Life Is rendered Wretched by the Malefactor This raises question of whether Mountain was coerced into making a ...



Timothy J. McMillan

enslaved man and farmer, was probably born in West Africa. He worked as a farmhand and slave in Massachusetts. A transcript of Pomp's dying confession, which survives as a one-page broadside, is the only source of information about his life, but one that provides rare insight into the life of an African American in New England in the days of the early republic.

How exactly Pomp came to America, and specifically Boston, is unclear, but he arrived as a baby along with both his parents. His father died soon after his arrival in Boston and Pomp was put into the service of a Mr. Abbot of Andover whether in slavery or indenture is not known Pomp remained with Mr Abbot until the age of sixteen at which time he was passed on to his master s son also referred to as Mr Abbot It was at this point ...


Pedro L V Welch

was born in Barbados in 1821 He was the son of a white doctor or apothecary Thomas Phillips Reeves and a free black woman Peggy Phillis some sources list her as Peggy Clarke and suggest that she may have been enslaved William suffered from the prevailing social norms that marked British West Indian slave societies Simply put the children of an enslaved woman inherited the status of their mother Moreover if the mother was a free black that did not free the child from the inveterate prejudices of a slave society Notwithstanding this reality however some mixed race children did obtain the favor of a white father This was certainly the case of the children for an enslaved woman Amarillas whose white lover Robert Collymore later manumitted her and conferred his surname on her and the children It was also the case with the children of Katharine Hawes an ...