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Rose Pelone Sisson

survivor of a lynching attempt, civil rights activist, and founder of America's Black Holocaust Museum, was born in La Crosse, Wisconsin, to James Herbert Cameron, a barber, and Vera Cameron who was employed as a laundress, cook, and housekeeper. At the age of fifteen months, James was the first African American baby ever admitted as a patient to the St. Francis Hospital in La Crosse, where he underwent an emergency operation on the abdominal cavity. By the time James started school, his parents had moved to Birmingham, Alabama, and his parents separated.

When Cameron was sixteen he was living with his mother, two sisters, and grandmother in Marion, Indiana. His stepfather Hezikiah Burden hunted and fished long distances from home so was away from his family most of the time The family lived in a segregated section of Marion Indiana which counted about four thousand blacks among its ...


David Dabydeen

West Indiancarpenter murdered in Notting Hill by white youths. Britain was particularly racially tense in the late 1950s, when the white working classes felt culturally and economically threatened by the presence of Blacks. Two active political groups in the Notting Hill area were the White Defence League and the National Labour Party, one claiming to be a Nazi group, the other a racial nationalist one. The culmination of the situation were the ‘race’ riots in 1958 in Notting Hill. One of the tragic results of these events was the murder of Cochrane, an Antiguan who was on his way back from the hospital after having had his broken thumb bandaged. He was stabbed with a knife in May 1958 by six white youths who were never caught. Following Cochrane's murder, the black activist Claudia Jones campaigned for the black community and helped to organize strategies for approaching the ...


John Garst

bootblack, barber, porter, actor, singer, and politician, was born William Henry Harrison Duncan in Columbia, Missouri, to former slaves. A close friend, Henry Massey, persuaded him to come to St. Louis, where he was a “sport, a jolly fellow, a swell dresser, a ladies' favorite, but, above all, he was a magnificent singer.” As a member of Massey's Climax Quartet Duncan gained fame for his low, smooth, rich, sure, bass voice. He was also an actor and performed regularly at the London Theatre in St. Louis.

In Clayton, Missouri, west of St. Louis, Duncan was hanged for the murder of an Irish American policeman named James Brady in Charles Starkes's saloon at 715 N. 11th Street. A popular ballad complex (“Duncan and Brady,” “Brady and Duncan,” “Brady,” “King Brady”) arose after the murder.

At about 8:30 p.m. on 6 October 1890 ...


Donald Roe

In the spring of 1917 the United States declared war on Germany and joined the moral crusade to defeat the kaiser and his militarist allies. A few months later, on 2 July, the worst race riot in American history occurred in East Saint Louis, Illinois. The conflagration and violence that engulfed East Saint Louis caused a great loss of life and left the southern end of the city, to which blacks were relegated, burned to the ground. Within days, organized demonstrations in New York and other cities admonished President Woodrow Wilson for not making the United States “safe” for blacks while African American soldiers were fighting against Germany and giving their lives to make the world “safe for democracy.”


Sandra D. Harvey

Jewish businessman, convicted of murder and lynched by vigilantes in Georgia. It is believed that his case contributed to the rebirth of the Ku Klux Klan in 1915.

Leo Max Frank was born in Texas but soon moved with his parents, Rudolph and Rachel Frank, to Brooklyn, New York. After graduating from Cornell University in 1906, Frank apprenticed in his uncle's factory. In 1907 Frank was given a supervisory position with the National Pencil Company in Atlanta, which had a sizable Jewish population. He met Lucille Selig there, and on 30 November 1910 they were married. Frank and his wife lived in an upscale Jewish neighborhood and were prominent members of the Jewish community.

On 27 April 1913, Atlanta police discovered the strangled and possibly raped body of a thirteen-year-old National Pencil Company factory worker, Mary Phagan. Authorities arrested the night watchman, Newt Lee ...


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 ...


Loren Schweninger

businessman, politician, and race leader, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of Jonathan C. Gibbs, a Methodist minister, and Maria Jackson. His parents were free blacks. His father died when Mifflin was seven years old, and his mother was an invalid. As a teenager Mifflin attended the Philomathean Institute, a black men's literary society, and, like his brother Jonathan C. Gibbs (who would serve as secretary of state in Florida during Reconstruction), became a carpenter's apprentice, and subsequently a journeyman contractor. During the 1840s Mifflin Gibbs aided fugitive slaves by participating in local Underground Railroad efforts and worked with its famous conductor William Grant Still. It was through this work that he became acquainted with the preeminent black abolitionist Frederick Douglass, accompanying him on an 1849 tour of New York State.

During this tour Gibbs learned that gold had been discovered in ...


Dalea Bean and Nicole A. Plummer

[This entry contains three subentries, on the riots of 1935, 1943, and 1967.]

Primary Source

By the eighteenth century indentured servants outnumbered African slaves in the North American colonies Unlike the situation endured by slaves however the indentured servitude was not permanent Initially an attempt to alleviate severe labor shortages in the New World settlements and to encourage emigration England s rapid population growth was becoming an increasingly worrisome economic burden the system of indenture comprised not only willing English women children and men but also convicts religious separatists and political prisoners At some points more than half of those bound for the colonies did so as the temporary legal property of a master Indentured servants labored a set number of years usually four to seven though the period for convicts could be considerably longer during which time they were considered by law the personal property of their masters Couples were often prevented from marrying and women from having children If a woman did become ...


Kimberly Sims

politician, businessman, and underworld boss, was born Daniel McKee Jackson in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to Emmeline (maiden name unknown) and Emanuel Jackson. Emanuel was the owner of a successful funeral home that served the small African American population of Pittsburgh. Daniel, along with his sister Elizabeth and his brother Charles, grew up in the house that their father had built near the banks of the Allegheny River in 1861. Daniel Jackson attended Pittsburgh public schools and Western Pennsylvania University (later the University of Pittsburgh) before joining his father and brother in the family business.

When Jackson was twenty two his father moved the funeral home to the South Side of Chicago setting up shop on Twenty sixth and State streets In the 1890s the South Side was a diverse neighborhood with a tiny but growing number of black residents The energetic and charismatic Jackson soon ...


George Lester Jackson grew up on the West Side of Chicago, the son of Lester Jackson, a postal worker, and Georgia Jackson. He was the second oldest of five children. Street-smart and rebellious, Jackson had several run-ins with the law for petty crimes by the time he was ten. His family moved to Los Angeles in 1956, where Jackson's troubles with the law continued, and included several arrests for robbery. Paroled in June 1960 after serving time for a gas station holdup, Jackson was arrested later that year for a gas station robbery that netted seventy-one dollars. Due to his previous convictions, he received an indeterminate sentence of one year to life. He was nineteen, and remained in prison for the rest of his life.

While in prison, Jackson studied the writings of Karl Marx, Frantz Fanon, Mao Zedong, Fidel Castro and ...


John Howard Smith

fisherman, harbor pilot, and elite member of Charleston, South Carolina's, black population, was executed by the provincial government for purportedly fomenting a slave insurrection at the outset of the American War for Independence. Much of Jeremiah's life is shrouded in mystery. Born to unidentified slave parents, Jeremiah—or “Jerry” as he may also have been known—secured his freedom by some means in the 1750s or 1760s and was married, but the identity of his wife is not known. The marriage apparently produced no children.

Like many other young Low Country slaves and free blacks, Jeremiah became intimately familiar with South Carolina's river transport networks, and by 1760 had established himself as a capable pilot in and around Charleston Harbor He parlayed the time spent on the water into a lucrative fishing business He supplied the port city residents with his daily catches and in time became arguably one ...


Charles Rosenberg

executed by the state of Mississippi in a high profile rape case in which he was convicted three times by all-white juries, drawing national and international attention and considerable doubt as to his guilt, was born in Pachuta, Clarke County, Mississippi, the son of Jasper and Bessie Chapell McGee. His father was a native of Pachuta, and married Miss Chapell in Autauga County, Alabama, where she was born and grew up. McGee had a younger brother, Jasper, Jr., born two years later.

At some point before 1930 the family moved down Highway 59 to Laurel in nearby Jones County in southeast Mississippi Jones and Jasper counties were hotbeds of armed resistance to Confederate authority during the later years of the Civil War where deserters actively cooperated with runaway slaves and seized control of the Jones County seat Ellisville Jones County had the state s smallest enslaved population only 12 ...


Heather Marie Stur

Records of Michigan's early history list people of African descent living there as early as the 1760s, but it was in the early twentieth century that the state saw its largest influx of black residents. As African Americans moved north in the Great Migration, many settled in Michigan hoping to find work in the state's booming automobile industry. Over the years notable African Americans including the boxer Joe Louis, the Nobel Peace Prize winner Ralph Bunche, the Motown Records founder Berry Gordy Jr., the civil rights activist Rosa Parks, the singer Aretha Franklin, the U.S. congressman John Conyers and such leading politicians as Coleman Young and George Crockett, and the actor James Earl Jones have called Michigan home But the state also has struggled over racial tensions that at times have exploded into deadly riots In the wake of deindustrialization African Americans in ...


Donald A. Ritchie

a Pentagon employee who became a celebrated witness during Senator Joseph McCarthy's investigation of Communism in the government, was born in Chester, South Carolina. One of six children of Katie and Clemon Crawford, tenant farmers, she began picking cotton at the age of five. While in her teens, she moved with her parents to Salisbury, North Carolina, where she attended but did not graduate from high school. At twenty-one she married Ernest Moss, a worker at a tobacco factory in Durham, North Carolina. They had one son.

Moss moved to Washington, D.C., in 1941, where her husband took a construction job and she ironed at a laundry. In 1943 she became a dessert cook for the Welfare and Recreation Association which assigned her to the Pentagon cafeteria As a condition of employment she joined the Washington Cafeteria Workers union a local chapter of the United Federal ...


Charles Rosenberg

attorney, West Virginia state legislator, business owner, founder and president of the West Virginia conference of NAACP branches, sometimes known in public as T. Gillis Nutter, was born in Princess Anne, Somerset County, Maryland, the son of William Nutter and Emma Henry Nutter.

He was educated in public schools in Maryland, and awarded the L.L.B. degree from Howard University Law School on 28 May 1898. For two years afterward he taught school and was a principal in Fairmount, Maryland. Nutter was admitted to the bar in Marion County, Indiana, in 1900, and moved to Charleston, West Virginia, in 1903 He established his reputation as a defense lawyer by convincing a jury in the Grice murder case to convict a black man charged with killing a white man of voluntary manslaughter rather than murder then in the case of Campbell Clark charged ...


Erin L. Thompson

cabinet official, lawyer, and energy specialist. Born in Newport News, Virginia, Hazel Rollins Reid was the daughter of Russell E. and Hazel Reid, both doctors. She was raised by her father and stepmother, Hazel Palleman Reid, after her parents divorced when she was eighteen months old. Young Hazel attended a high school for artistically talented youths in New Jersey. She returned to that state for a law degree from Rutgers University in 1966 after having graduated with honors from the historically black Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee, in 1959. Reid then worked as an assistant prosecutor in Essex County, New Jersey, and as an assistant attorney general for New Jersey before moving to Washington, D.C., where she became a partner in an accounting firm.

Reid was appointed the general counsel of the Community Services Administration by President Gerald Ford helping run its antipoverty ...


Steven J. Niven

farm laborer and justice of the peace, was born a slave in Alabama to parents whose names have not been recorded. It is not known when Parker arrived in Rolling Fork in Issaquena County in the Yazoo-Mississippi Delta, or why he left Alabama. It is possible that Parker, like many former slaves after emancipation, embarked on a perilous journey of several hundred miles to rejoin family members who had been sold to southwest Mississippi. Or he could have made that journey in the late 1860s when thousands of black freedmen and their families began flocking to the Delta in search of their own land. More likely he was himself one of thousands of African American slaves brought to the Delta in the decade before the outbreak of the Civil War by owners seeking the vast fortunes to be made from that region's dark, rich, alluvial soil.

Such fortunes could ...


James Kates

lawyer, political operative, and corporate executive. Richard Dean Parsons rose to the highest ranks in corporate America as head of Time Warner, the world's largest media company at the time. From modest beginnings, Parsons became a protégé of New York's Rockefeller family and won fame as a political strategist, negotiator, and consensus builder.

Parsons was born in Brooklyn, New York. From Brooklyn's Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood, the Parsons family moved to the New York City borough of Queens, where young Richard went to school in an ethnically mixed setting that included Jews and Italian Americans. His father was a technician for Sperry Rand Corporation, and his mother was a homemaker; his grandfather had worked as a groundskeeper for the Rockefellers. A precocious student, Parsons skipped two grades and entered the University of Hawaii at age sixteen. He graduated from Albany Law School in 1971 achieving the highest score ...


Nicole S. Ribianszky

free woman of color, property-holder, and trader in Natchez, Mississippi, was most likely born in the mid-eighteenth century. Very little is known about the early life of Eleanor, or Nelly, as she was often called. She testified in a court document in 1786 that she had been in America for twenty years, although her country of origin is unclear. In the same petition, she was identified as an “English mulatto woman,” suggesting perhaps she was born in the British-held West Indies or in the American colonies. As the Natchez District was under British rule from 1763 until 1779, it is possible that she was the daughter of an enslaved woman and a British man who subsequently manumitted his daughter and furnished her with property.

Most of the biographical details concerning her life surface in court documents from the Natchez District which was controlled by the Spanish ...