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Assing, Ottilie  

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 ...


Baker, Ruth Baytop  

Lois Bellamy

voice teacher, mezzo-soprano, pianist, educator, was one of four children born to Dr. Thomas Nelson Baker and Elizabeth Baytop Baker in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. Her father's parents were slaves. Dr. Thomas Nelson Baker was born a slave on 11 August 1860 and worked on the farm until he was twenty-one years old. He was one of five children and was the first African American to earn and receive a Ph.D. in Philosophy from Yale University in 1906. In 1890 he received a B.A. from Boston University and a Bachelor's in Divinity from Yale University and studied psychology and philosophy from 1896 to 1900 at Yale Graduate School. He was minister of the Dixwell Congregational Church in New Haven, Connecticut, from 1896 to 1900. He was listed in Who's Who in New England, 1908–1909 and his writings paved the way for the Harlem Renaissance era ...


Brown, Linda Carol  

Mary Krane Derr

activist, educator, and daughter of the first named plaintiff in the landmark 1954 U.S. Supreme Court school integration case, Brown v. Board of Education, was born in Topeka, Kansas, to Leola Brown (later Montgomery) and the Reverend Oliver Leon Brown. Oliver Brown, the lead plaintiff of twelve African American parents in Brown was an African Methodist Episcopal pastor and boxcar welder for the Santa Fe Railroad The couple had two younger daughters Cheryl married surname Henderson and Terry married surname Tyler Although the Browns lived in a multiracial working class neighborhood Linda soon encountered segregation Her white friends attended Sumner Grade School seven blocks away She was forced to attend Monroe over a mile away She had to walk through a dangerous railway yard then catch a bus with a long wandering itinerary If the bus arrived too early it left the students outside ...


Cheswell, Wentworth  

Richard Alperin

teacher, coroner, scrivener, selectman, and justice of the peace, was born in New Market (now Newmarket), New Hampshire, the only child of Hopestill, a Portsmouth, New Hampshire, housewright, and Catherine Cheswell. The name is sometimes spelled “Cheswill.” Wentworth's grandfather, Richard Cheswell, a black slave in Exeter, New Hampshire, purchased twenty acres of land from the Hilton Grant after he gained his freedom. The deed, dated 18 October 1716/17 (the discrepancy arises from the adoption of the Gregorian Calendar) is the earliest known deed in the state of New Hampshire showing land ownership by a black man. The land was located in what was to become the town of Newmarket. Richard's only child, Hopestill (1712–? became a housewright and worked mostly in Portsmouth He took part in building the John Paul Jones House as well as other important houses Hopestill was active in local affairs and ...


Craig, Lulu Mae Sadler  

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 ...


Cromwell, Adelaide M.  

Barbara A. Burg

educator and sociologist, was born in Washington, D.C., on Thanksgiving Day, the only child of Yetta Elizabeth Mavritte and John W. Cromwell Jr. Her father, a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Dartmouth College in 1906, was the first black to become a practicing certified public accountant.

Adelaide McGuinn Cromwell grew up in a prominent family of educators in Washington, D.C. An only child, she grew up in a large townhouse on Thirteenth Street in the northwest portion of Washington, where she lived with her parents and her father's three sisters, two of whom were schoolteachers. Although she was surrounded by adults, it was her aunt Otelia Cromwell, the eldest of her father's siblings, who became an enduringly influential figure.

Named after her maternal grandmother, Adelaide (Addy) Mavritte, Adelaide Cromwell and her mother often spent weekends with her maternal grandparents who lived in Burrville in the then ...


Dash, Leon Decosta, Jr.  

Joshunda Sanders

Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist and author, was born Leon DeCosta Dash Jr. in New Bedford, Massachusetts, the son of Leon Dash Sr. and Ruth Dash. His father worked as a postal clerk (and eventually a supervisor) and his mother was employed as an administrator for New York City's Health Department. Dash was raised in the Bronx and Harlem, New York, and originally aspired to become a lawyer. His interest shifted to journalism while he worked as an editor of the school newspaper at Lincoln University, a historically black college in Pennsylvania. He studied at Lincoln for two and a half years before transferring to Howard University in Washington, D.C., in the 1960s. He found work steam-cleaning building exteriors, but in winter the work was too challenging for him, so in 1965 he started working indoors at the Washington Post as a copy person He worked the lobster shift ...


Dow, John, Jr.  

Connor Huydic

was born to Lynell Brown Dow and John Dow Sr. Lynell Dow was an educator who began teaching originally at Roosevelt High School in Gary, Indiana before moving to the City School of East Chicago, Indiana where she taught for forty-one years. Little is known about John Dow Jr.’s early childhood or his father.

Dow attended Indiana State University in Terre Haute, graduating in 1963, with a Bachelor’s Degree in Biology and Physical Education. At about the same time he married Gloria Russell, formerly of Orlando, Florida. In 1968 Dow earned his Master’s Degree in Education with a Counseling Emphasis from Indiana State University. He went on to earn his doctorate degree in Educational Administration from Michigan State University in 1972 with a dissertation entitled A Comparative Study of Inner City Elementary Teachers and Principals Perceptions of and Role Expectations for the Leadership Behavior of Selected Inner City ...


Du Bois, Nina Yolande  

Charles Rosenberg

school teacher, was born in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, the second child and only daughter of the intellectual, activist, and editor, W. E. B. Du Bois, and Nina Gomer Du Bois. She was born at the home of her father's uncle, James Burghardt, while her already famous father was on his way home from the first Pan-African Conference in London.

Nina Yolande Du Bois spent her infant years in Atlanta, where her father was a professor at Atlanta University, and her parents came to loathe the city for the pervasive and virulent racism taking an unprecedented grip on daily life. During the 1906 Atlanta Riot in which whites destroyed black property and killed several African Americans her father rushed home from New York W E B Du Bois sat with a shotgun on the steps of South Hall where the family lived protecting Yolande and her ...


Everett, Percival  

Denise Burrell-Stinson

writer and professor, was born Percival Leonard Everett II, the elder of the two children of Percival Leonard Everett, a dentist, and Dorothy (Stinson) Everett, who assisted her husband in his practice for thirty years. The younger Percival was born on a U.S. Army base in Fort Gordon, Georgia, while his father was assigned a post as a sergeant and communications specialist. Shortly after his birth, the family moved to Columbia, South Carolina, where he spent his childhood, eventually graduating from A. C. Flora High School in 1974.

The climate of Everett s youth was stimulating nurturing a strong intellect The senior Everett was part of a long family legacy in the field of medicine his own father and two brothers were all doctors and he was also a voracious reader filling the family home with books The younger Everett inherited his father s literary ...


Fauset, Arthur Huff  

Mary Anne Boelcskevy

folklorist, educator, was born in Flemington, New Jersey, the middle of three children of the Reverend Redmon Fauset, an African Methodist Episcopal (AME) minister who died when Arthur was four, and Bella Huff, a white woman and widow with three children. He was also a half-brother to the author Jessie Redmon Fauset, whose mother was Annie Seamon, Rev. Fauset's first wife and mother to seven of their children. Fauset grew up in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, attending Central High School and then the School of Pedagogy for Men, graduating in 1917. Beginning in 1918 he taught elementary school in the Philadelphia public school system and eventually became principal of the Joseph Singerly School in 1926, a position he held for twenty years. Alain Locke became Fauset s mentor encouraging him to pursue higher education and arranging a loan that enabled him to study ...


Flood, Elizabeth Thorn Scott  

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 ...


Gates, Henry Louis “Skip,” Jr.  

Abby Wolf

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 ...


Glave, Thomas  

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 ...


Johnson, Mildred Louise  

Alexander J. Chenault

educator and founder of Harlem's The Modern School, was born in Jacksonville, Florida, the only daughter of Nora Ethel Floyd and J. Rosamond Johnson. Her father, a singer, composer, and musician, and her uncle, the lawyer and poet James Weldon Johnson, cocreated the Black National Anthem, “Lift Every Voice and Sing.” Her mother was a homemaker. Mildred Johnson was married once to Hedley Vivian Edwards, a wealthy Jamaican businessman and horticulturist with whom she had one daughter, K. Melanie Edwards, and whom she later divorced (1963).

When Mildred was very young, the family moved to New York City, settling in Harlem. Mildred was homeschooled through kindergarten by her Bahamian paternal grandmother, Helen Louise Billet an educator herself When Mildred was six she began attending the School of Ethical Culture an elite private school in New York City She grew up in a house ...


Kittrell, Flemmie Pansy  

Anita Nahal

home economist and university professor, was born in Henderson, North Carolina, to James Lee Kittrell, a farmer, and Alice Mills Kittrell, a homemaker and possibly a farmworker. Both were of Cherokee Indian and African American descent. The seventh of nine siblings and the youngest daughter, Kittrell attended school in Vance County, North Carolina, and received her BS degree in 1928 from Hampton Institute (now Hampton University) in Virginia. In 1930 she earned a master's and in 1938 a PhD, both from Cornell University. The first African American woman to receive a doctorate in home economics, Kittrell became an influential educator, nutritionist, and philanthropist, a true renaissance woman who epitomized leadership, wisdom, and progressive qualities in her life.

Kittrell was widely published and received many scholarships and awards during her academic career These included the Rosenwald Scholarship the General Education Board Scholarship the Anna Cora Smith Scholarship and ...


Kittrell, Flemmie Pansy  

Diane Epstein

Dr Flemmie Kittrell was the first African American woman to receive high honors in the general field of home economics and science a term which she put into use and which encompasses nutrition child development and related sciences She was the first African American to receive a doctorate from Cornell University she accomplished this in the 1920s when few black women went on to receive advanced degrees She received her PhD with honors and there is a home sciences building on the Cornell campus named for her Her accomplishments were noted not just because of her academic excellence but because she was instrumental in the actual building of the structure Further her ideas added to the development of the new home sciences curriculum Kittrell traveled down paths that even few white women would have considered at the time More than just her scholarship distinguished her she had the daring to ...


Lewis, Edna Regina  

Donna Tyler Hollie

chef, restaurant owner, author, and teacher, was born in Orange County, Virginia. She was one of eight children, three sons and five daughters, born to Eugene and Daisy Lewis. Her community, called Freetown, was established by her grandfather, Chester Lewis, a farmer, and other freedmen after the Civil War. Her grandfather's home was the site of the community's first school.

Although little is known about Lewis's formal academic education, she learned to cook by observing and assisting her mother and paternal aunt, Jennie These women cooked in the tradition of their African forebearers using seasonal ingredients frying in oil flavoring vegetables with meat improvising and relying on their senses to determine whether food was appropriately seasoned and thoroughly cooked For example whether a cake was done could be determined by listening to the sound made by the cake pan Wonderful dishes were created ...


Piper, Adrian Margaret Smith  

Sylvie Kandé

multimedia artist, philosopher, and educator, was born in Harlem, New York, the only child of Daniel Robert, a lawyer, and Olive Xavier Smith Piper, an administrator. Belonging to a light-skinned African American family, she was confronted early on by challenges that ultimately gave her work some of its unique characteristics, namely the firm assertion of her black identity, her unremitting fleshing out of racial stereotypes, and her commitment to cross-cultural bridge-building. Her involvement with the arts began in childhood: a piano prodigy and ballet dancer, she also took classes at the Museum of Modern Art in 1957. Her political consciousness was first shaped in the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), which she joined in 1962, and by the events surrounding the March on Washington in 1963, commemorated in her 1983 poster Think about It She graduated from New Lincoln School in ...


Plato, Ann  

Although little is known about the life of Ann Plato, her legacy holds an important place in African American literature. Plato's sole book, Essays: Including Biographies and Miscellaneous Pieces in Prose and Poetry, published in 1841, represents the only book of essays issued by a black American between 1840 and 1865. Following that of Phillis Wheatley, it was also only the second book published by an African American woman.

Based on information garnered primarily from her writings, scholars have determined that Plato probably was born about 1820 Her poem The Infant Class for example suggests that Plato began to teach young children when she herself was only fifteen years old Her poem The Natives of America links her to her paternal Native American heritage and another poem I Have No Brother indicates that she had a brother named Henry who died when she was ...