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Kelly Boyer Sagert

Born in Hamburg, Germany, Ottilie Assing was the eldest daughter of David and Rosa Maria (Varnhagen) Assing. Her mother was an energetic teacher with a flair for singing and storytelling; her father was a well-known doctor who penned poetry and was prone to depression. David, born with the surname of Assur, was raised as an Orthodox Jew but associated with Christians. He and Rosa, who was not Jewish, raised Ottilie and her younger sister, Ludmilla, as "freethinking atheists, as true daughters of the Enlightenment, who saw themselves as members of a universal human race of thought and reason." They saw education as a "secular form of individual salvation."

Assing's life was not always easy; she witnessed savage anti-Jewish riots, and by the age of twenty-three she had lost both parents. In 1842 she and her sister moved from their hometown to live with an uncle Ludmilla adapted ...

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Betti Carol VanEpps-Taylor

historian of African Americans in South Dakota, civic leader, entrepreneur, and philanthropist, was born in Yankton, South Dakota, the youngest of eleven children of Henry and Mary (Fristoe) Blakey. The large, extended Blakey clan began migrating from Missouri to South Dakota in 1904, where they acquired land and built a profitable and respected truck gardening business. Young Blakey completed eighth grade in country school and worked in the family business. Beginning in the mid‐1960s Blakey returned to school at Springfield State College (which later closed), where he obtained his GED and completed advanced training in building maintenance and pest control. On 22 October 1948 he married Dorothy Edwards in Athabaska, Alberta, Canada; the couple had three children.

Blakey was an ambitious, self‐taught businessman with a keen interest in civic activities and public service. Of his three successful businesses, Blakey's Janitorial Services, established in 1956 provided jobs for both ...

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Verity J. Harding

community activist and founder of the Friends Association for Children, was born a slave in Richmond, Virginia, to Judith Goode and an unidentified white male. Born Lucy Goode, she learned to read while a slave by listening secretly to the lessons taught to her master's children.

Lucy Goode learnt one of slavery s harshest lessons early in life With few formal legal rights slaves lives were largely controlled by their masters as was the fate of their families A master could dictate the rules of any attempt at intimacy marriage or reproduction between slaves so the forming of durable love and relationships became one of the greatest challenges facing slaves Even if a family bond could be created under such circumstances mothers and fathers lived in fear of the not uncommon possibility that their children would be sold away from them This was another horror that Lucy had to ...

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Charles Rosenberg

baker, community leader, cautious abolitionist, and patriarch of a talented African American family well known into the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, was born in Burlington, New Jersey. His narrative records that he belonged to “the Estate of Samuel Bustill of the City of Burlington, but he Dying when I was Young I was Sold to John Allen of the Same City” (Bustill, p. 22). The name of Bustill's mother is recorded only as Parthenia; Samuel Bustill, an English‐born lawyer who died in 1742, was his father as well as his owner.

Many sources, including Lloyd Louis Brown's detailed history of the Bustill family in The Young Paul Robeson: On My Journey Now (1997), leave out the Allen family, and assert that Samuel Bustill's widow, Grace, arranged for Cyrus Bustill to be apprenticed to Thomas Pryor Jr. However Bustill s own account ...

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Jennifer Reed Fry

politician, clubwoman, and welfare worker, was born in the Piedmont region of Virginia to Frances Dearing in approximately 1879. During her youth, the Dearing family moved to Harrisburg, where Maud was educated in the Harrisburg school system. Later in life she attended the University of Pennsylvania. On 5 September 1897Maude B. Dearing married John W. Coleman in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. They had one child, Priscilla Coleman, who died in infancy.

Throughout her adult life, Coleman was a driving force in Harrisburg's African American community. During World War I she worked tirelessly in support of African American troops and received a commendation from General Cornelius Vanderbilt for her service. This success in community organizing encouraged Coleman to become a founding member of the Phyllis Wheatley Colored Harrisburg Branch of the Young Women's Christian Association in 1920 Coleman participated in and led a variety of social ...

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Antoinette Broussard Farmer

educator, writer, and community leader, was born Lulu Mae Sadler, in Platte County, Missouri, the daughter of Harriet Ellen Samuels, a homemaker, and Meride George Sadler, a farmer and laborer. Both were former slaves. As a young man, Lulu's father ran away from the Foley plantation and his slave owner to join the military and fought for his freedom with the Second Kansas Colored Infantry, Volunteers for the Union in the Civil War. Meride registered in the military under his slave name Foley and reclaimed his father's name of Sadler after the war.

When Sadler was a little boy his mother whose name was China was tied to a tree to be whipped by her angry slave owner Lulu s grandfather Meride Sr ran to China s rescue and threw an axe that landed close to the slave master Foley s head To punish him Foley sold ...

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William C. Hine

Edelman was born in Bennettsville, South Carolina, one of five children of Arthur Jerome Wright and Maggie Leola Bowen Wright. She was named in honor of the singer Marian Anderson. Her father was the pastor of Shiloh Baptist Church, and her mother was the choir director and organist.

After graduation from all-black Marlboro Training High School, she enrolled at Atlanta’s Spelman College, where she intended to major in music. She changed her major to history after coming under the influence of the historian Howard Zinn and of President Benjamin E. Mays of Morehouse College. As an undergraduate she joined thousands of black high school and college students in the burgeoning civil rights movement. She was among several hundred people arrested at sit-ins in Atlanta in March 1960. She graduated from Spelman in 1960 and planned to pursue a scholarly career in Russian and Soviet studies But ...

Article

Krystal Appiah

educator and civic leader, was born Elizabeth Thorn, the daughter of Lydia and Francis Thorn. Flood was raised and educated in New Bedford, Massachusetts. In 1848 she married the mariner Joseph C. Scott and traveled with him to California during the Gold Rush, making the long journey by ship across the Isthmus of Panama. By 1852 the Scotts were living in Placerville, California, where Scott mined for gold until his death. A widow with three young sons, Flood left the rough frontier and moved to Sacramento, a larger town with a sizable black community.

Flood became an education activist after she unsuccessfully attempted to enroll one of her sons in a Sacramento public school Local school districts such as Sacramento had the power to exclude nonwhite children from attending their schools Furthermore the state legislature refused to appropriate taxes to fund separate schools for African Americans Flood ...

Article

Steven J. Niven

sharecropper and clubwoman, was born Cora Alice McCarroll in Greenville, Mississippi, the youngest of three children of a slave woman whose surname was Warren and an Ohio born white overseer named McCarroll In the early nineteenth century Gillam s mother and her siblings who were part Cherokee were taken from their mother s home in North Carolina and sold into slavery in Mississippi Interviewed by the Federal Writers Project in the 1930s Gillam recalled that her maternal grandmother left North Carolina and tracked her children to Greenville where she remained Gillam never met her father who died shortly before she was born His early death also denied her the opportunity of the northern education her siblings had enjoyed her brother Tom in Cincinnati and her sister at Oberlin College McCarroll had set aside funds for Cora s education but her mother s second husband a slave named Lee ...

Article

Maggie Gerrity

writer, gay activist, and educator, developed a fascination with language early in life. Born in the Bronx, New York, Glave grew up both there and in Kingston, Jamaica, in neighborhoods populated with storytellers. These people, Glave recalled in a 2000 article in the Village Voice, could “go from irony to outrage to feigned surprise to deep drama with all of these gesticulations, intonations, and coded references in the span of just one sentence.”

From an early age Glave worked to capture this vibrant language in his own writing. He attended private schools in New York and began sending his stories to magazines while still in high school. He graduated from Bowdoin College with honors in 1993, and his writing first gained attention when he was in the MFA program at Brown University. In 1997 his story The Final Inning won an O Henry Prize ...

Article

Sibyl Collins Wilson

minister and youngest daughter of the slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., was born Bernice Albertine King in Atlanta, Georgia. The youngest daughter of Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King, she was named after both her maternal and paternal grandmothers, Alberta Williams King and Bernice McMurray. One of the most memorable images of young King was a Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph of her as a sad girl leaning on her mother during her father's funeral taken by Moneta Sleet Jr. and published in Ebony magazine In the shadow of her father s murder their mother covered King and her siblings protectively as she promoted her husband s legacy Every attempt was made to provide a normal upbringing for her and the other three King children The strength of her family history propelled her desire to chart her professional course in life so ...

Article

Steven J. Niven

cook and laborer, was born in Lawrenceville, Virginia, probably in 1862 or 1863. The names of his parents have not been recorded, and it is not known whether or not they were enslaved at the time of their son's birth. Indeed, but for the discovery of a package of letters written to Channing Lewis by Alice Hanley, a white Irish American woman, his life would have been largely lost to history. The letters, enclosed in a black lace stocking, fell from the attic of a house undergoing renovation in Northampton, Massachusetts, in spring 1992. When workmen opened up a hole in the ceiling, the stocking fell. Its contents provide a unique perspective on the southern black migrant experience and on the everyday life of black and white working-class people in New England at the turn of the twentieth century.

The letters also reveal a far from ...

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Tomiko Brown-Nagin

human rights activist, was born in Loachapoka, Alabama, in 1933 to sharecroppers, Will and Willie Mathews. Mathews lived in profound poverty as a child in rural Alabama. In her youth Mathews toiled in the fields alongside her parents. A young mother of five children who had been abandoned by her husband, Mathews left Alabama for Atlanta in search of opportunity. Once in Atlanta, Mathews found a different version of poverty. She found work as a maid, supplemented her income with public assistance, and lived in public housing in one of Atlanta's poorest neighborhoods.

Mathews found her political voice in 1967 after she traveled to Washington to participate in a meeting of the National Welfare Rights Organization NWRO The NWRO fought for an adequate income for recipients of public assistance as well as dignified treatment from welfare bureaucrats The aims of the NWRO struck a chord in Mathews who ...

Article

Darlene Clark Hine

First Lady of the United States of America, lawyer, and healthcare executive was born Michelle LaVaughn Robinson in Chicago's South Side to working class parents. Her father, Fraser Robinson III, was a city employee, who worked tending boilers at a water-filtration plant in the city until his death due to complications from multiple sclerosis. Her mother, Marian Shields Robinson, worked as a secretary for the Spiegel catalogue store before becoming a-stay-at-home mother. Michelle's older brother, Craig, born in 1962, would, like his sister, graduate from Princeton University. He later became the head basketball coach at Oregon State University.

As Barack Obama noted in his March 2008 speech on race at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, his wife “carries within her the blood of slaves and slave owners.” And, indeed, genealogical research has revealed that Michelle Obama's earliest known paternal ancestor, her great-great grandfather, Jim Robinson ...

Article

Chaitali Korgaonkar and Robert Smieja

porter, clerk, and civic leader in Hartford, Connecticut, was born in Guilford, Connecticut, the son of Ham Primus, a sailor, and Temperance Asher. His grandfather, named simply Primus, is recognized in one local history as a servant and apprentice to a Dr. Wolcott in East Windsor, Connecticut, in the mid-eighteenth century. Later on, inspired by Dr. Wolcott's work, this Primus became a doctor himself, setting up his own office. We know little about Holdridge Primus's early life, but we do know he was earning a living by age twelve. In his early teenage years, he made his way to Hartford, Connecticut, where he worked and apprenticed for William Ellsworth, (later governor of Connecticut from 1838 to 1842). When Ellsworth served in Congress around 1840 he chose to take Primus with him based on his merit intelligence and dedicated service Primus was employed in a ...

Article

concert pianist, composer, humanitarian, educator, and advocate of Black History Month, was one of three children born to R. Starling Pritchard Sr. and Lucille Pickard Pritchard in Winston Salem North Carolina His parents adopted two children Lucille had a vision before Robert s birth that he would be the first viable African American classical pianist She would place a hand wound Victrola record player close to her stomach so that the baby would be saturated with jazz spirituals and the blues as well as the classical European music of Beethoven Chopin and Mozart Due to Robert Sr s inability to find work and their experience with racism in North Carolina the family moved to Buffalo New York shortly after Robert s birth They soon found out that racism also existed in Buffalo Moreover Pritchard s father could not find work in that city so ...

Article

Arthuree McLaughlin Wright

clubwoman, and civic leader, was born to Jackson and Beattie Connor (or Conner), former slaves. The Connors moved their ten children to Selma, Ohio, where Emma attended school. Details of her early life are sketchy, but as a young adult, Emma Connor worked as a teacher and was active in the local African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church. In 1886 Emma met Reverdy Cassius Ransom, a senior at Wilberforce University, when he was appointed student pastor at the Selma church. He and Emma were married in Selma on 27 October 1887, and she joined him in Altoona, Pennsylvania, where he was assigned a pastorate. The following year, their infant son died a few hours after he was born. A second son, named for his father, was born 2 September 1889. Reverend Ransom's son from a first marriage, Harold moved in with them after Reverdy ...

Article

David Michel

minister and social activist, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, and during his childhood lived in Chicago, Illinois, and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. His Pentecostal mother was a nurse and his Muslim father a painter. Rivers's parents separated when he was three, and he was reared by his mother. While living in Philadelphia during his teenage years, Rivers joined a gang whose leaders constantly harassed him. In 1963 he responded to a message delivered by the Reverend Billy Graham through the Hour of Decision radio program. Consequently Rivers joined Deliverance Evangelistic Church, pastored by the Reverend Benjamin Smith. Smith helped Rivers get out of gang life and counseled him in many ways.

In 1968 Rivers won a scholarship to the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts College studies opened a new world for Rivers who had by then become estranged from Smith The young Rivers had observed the activism of the ...

Article

Dorothy Brown

activist, was born in Charleston, South Carolina, one of the five daughters of Margarette Rollin and William Rollin, a free man of color. Rollin's father owned a lumber factory and was a man of considerable wealth and influence in Charleston. Louisa Rollin and her sisters enjoyed great educational opportunities as a result of their father's social standing. Although not much is known of her formal education, Rollin is said to have attended school in Philadelphia. Her eldest sister, Frances Rollin Whipper, a celebrated social activist and author of Life and Public Services of Martin R. Delany, is noted as having attended the Institute for Colored Youth, an elite academic institution founded by Quakers in Philadelphia. Considering her family's social standing and the documented education of her sister, Louisa Rollin is assumed to have received a strong and largely uncommon academic education for her time.

Although much ...

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Mark Andrew Huddle

fugitive slave, antislavery agitator, memoirist, and farmer, was born in Caswell County, North Carolina, the son of a white planter, Henry H. Roper, and his mixed-race (African and Indian) house slave, Nancy. Moses Roper's light complexion and striking resemblance to his father proved embarrassing to the family. The animosity of the wife of his father, coupled with the death of Moses's legal owner, probably a man named John Farley, led to Henry Roper's decision to trade mother and son to a nearby plantation when Moses was six years of age. Soon after, he was sold to a “Negro trader” and shipped south. He never saw his mother again. Over the next twelve years he was sold repeatedly in North and South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida.

Moses Roper s light skin had an impact on his value on the slave market Unable to ...