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Brad S. Born

Benjamin Banneker was born 9 November 1731in Baltimore County, Maryland, the first child of free African American parents Mary Banneker and Robert, a former slave whose freedom she had purchased and who took her surname upon marriage. Growing up on their tobacco farm, Benjamin received little formal schooling, learning to read and write from his grandmother and attending for several seasons an interracial school where he first developed his lifelong interest in mathematics. Following his parents’ deaths and three sisters’ departures from home, Banneker remained on the farm, working the crops and cultivating his intellect in relative seclusion.

In 1771, he befriended George Ellicott a Quaker neighbor whose family had developed a large complex of mills on the adjoining property With astronomical texts and instruments borrowed from Ellicott he trained himself to calculate ephemerides tables establishing the positioning of the sun moon and stars for each day ...


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 ...


Patricia E. Bonner

Formerly, the term “elderly” conventionally distinguished the subgroups of the older population as the “young old” (ages sixty-five to seventy-four); the “old old” (ages seventy-five to eighty-four); and the “oldest of the old” (ages eighty-five and above). However, by the early twenty-first century the older population had clearly changed in character, and the newer terms used to distinguish the elderly reflected that. In the early twenty-first century there were many people in their sixties and seventies who were healthy and active, and they were sometimes known as the “well-derly” group. On the other hand, because people were living longer, they often lived into their eighties and beyond, and many in this group were known as the “ill-derly.” The growth of this older population in America was projected to accelerate after about 2015 Even with the disparities in life expectancy among ethnic groups the numbers of old people in each ...


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 ...


African Americans have been part of the modern gay and lesbian movement in the United States throughout its evolution. From the early days of the Harlem Renaissance, which included many homosexual and bisexual artists and writers, to the contemporary controversies over gay rights in the military, in marriage, and in society at large, gay and lesbian blacks have battled both racial and sexual discrimination while struggling to define an identity that is both black and homosexual.


Tony Burroughs

Genealogy is a subset of family history—it is, more specifically, the study of family lineage, tracing a person's ancestors backward into time, or tracing the descendants of a person in the past into the present. Early African American family history consisted primarily of oral history, sometimes adding data from family records (such as Bible entries and funeral programs) and cemetery grave markers. More formally, the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History published twenty-eight family histories from 1942 to 1978 in the Negro History Bulletin, and the African American journalist Frank Bolden published eight feature-length histories of black families from western Pennsylvania in the Pittsburgh Courier in 1950, documenting family roots going back 100 to 220 years.

Interest in African American genealogy exploded after the author Alex Haley researched his family history during the late 1960s and published a fictionalized version of his family story ...


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 ...


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 ...



Noliwe Rooks

For African American women, hair has long been entwined with issues of beauty, class, cultural acceptance, and citizenship. Depending on the historical period, the texture of hair may tell a story about how an African American woman feels about herself in relation to the prevailing standards of beauty; its care might provide an opportunity to become economically self-sufficient, and its styling could speak to political beliefs and ideologies. The history of African American women’s relationship to hair and beauty culture is richly complicated and reflects the complexities of African Americans’ connections to both African and African American culture. It is a relationship as old as the presence of those women in the United States, and any attempt to understand its significance must start with the arrival of African women in America.



The henna shrub, which is also called alkanna and mignonette tree, grows in moist places in northern Africa as well as in southern Asia. It bears small, fragrant, white or rose flowers in clusters. The orange-red dye produced from its leaves is used extensively as a rinse to impart a reddish color to hair. Women of some Muslim countries use the dye to stain the nails and tips of their fingers and parts of their feet. Men in these countries use the dye to color their beards. The dye is also used to stain leather and hides and to color the hooves and manes of horses. During the ancient practice of embalming, sometimes mummies were wrapped in henna-dyed cloth.

Henna belongs to the family Lythraceae. It is classified as Lawsonia inermis.


Deborah Amory and Mark Gevisser

Homosexuality is found throughout the African continent, as it is found throughout the world. Homosexuality in Africa is sometimes associated with important rituals such as initiation (coming-of-age) ceremonies, but often it is simply a part of everyday life. Homosexuality is controversial in Africa. Although many African leaders claim that homosexuality was brought to Africa from other parts of the world, most scholars believe that homosexuality has long been a part of various African cultures.


Eric Bennett

Famine struck Africa several times during the twentieth century, and famine and hunger continued to threaten parts of the continent in the twenty-first. While graphic media coverage and celebrity appeals have helped to raise international awareness of African famines since the 1970s, it has done less well at explaining why famines persist, how they occur, and how they differ from the equally critical—and perhaps more serious—problem of chronic hunger. Many African peoples are vulnerable to food deprivation, despite the numerous “coping strategies” they have long employed in order to survive in harsh and unpredictable environments.


Charles Rosenberg

described by William and Charles Mayo, the founders of the Mayo Clinic, as “the most able Negro surgeon in America” was murdered by a mob during the Tulsa, Oklahoma, riots of 1921. Jackson was born in Memphis, Tennessee, the son of Townsend (sometimes given as Talgris) and Sophronia Jackson, and grew up in Guthrie, Oklahoma. His middle name was either Christian or Chester.

Townsend Jackson, a police officer in Memphis, fled the city with his family as a mob targeted their home in 1889. Just in time for the Oklahoma land rush that year, he settled in Guthrie, where he was a justice of the peace, a barber, and a police officer. Townsend Jackson owned the family home. In 1900, Andrew Jackson and his older brother also named Townsend worked as porters while their older sister Minnie taught school The neighborhood where ...


Caryn E. Neumann

Midwives provided the great majority of medical care for African American families in the antebellum years. Best known for assisting women through childbirth, these older women also provided a range of medical services, from herbal remedies for fevers to abortions for slaves. The enormous value of the services that midwives provided made them highly respected members of African American communities.

The English word midwife is derived from mid, meaning “with,” and wif which means wife or woman The literal definition to be with woman during childbirth is the essence of midwifery The term refers to the care provided to women regardless of the type of practitioner but generally neither husbands nor male physicians were welcomed in the lying in chamber until the rise of obstetric physicians in the latter half of the eighteenth century As part of the normal female reproductive function and life cycle pregnancy and childbirth ...


Kelena Reid Maxwell

When asked to state their occupation, the majority of African American midwives who were active in the 1940s in Talladega County, Alabama, said they were midwives and agricultural laborers, or midwives and domestic workers. From the period of slavery until well into the twentieth century, lay midwifery was an occupation that offered African American women of the South an alternative to the drudgery of agricultural and domestic labor. It was also an occupation that was absolutely indispensable. Since segregation and discrimination had put rural black women beyond the reach of doctors and medical institutions, African Americans were critically dependent on their midwives to bring each new generation into the world.

Indeed rural southern communities considered the work of the midwife to be sacred Midwives believed they were called by God to assist women in labor The position of midwife is one that was handed down through the generations often from ...


Old Age  

Susan J. Covert

In the slaveholding South the high mortality rate for African Americans made elderly slaves a minority; compared with whites, relatively few blacks lived to old age. Contributing factors were a generally high child and infant mortality rate, poor health care, inadequate nutrition, intense physical labor, and the use of physical punishment. The average age of a slave was twenty, while the average age of a slave owner was forty. During the antebellum period the life expectancy for slaves was the early thirties for males and the mid-thirties for females; the life expectancy for white males was forty-four. In 1860 less than 10 percent of slaves were over age fifty 3 5 percent were over age sixty and 1 2 percent were over age seventy Much like the tax exemptions that slaveholders received on children from age zero to age ten slaves above the age of fifty or sixty depending ...


Steven J. Niven

elephant hunter, Bronx Zoo exhibit, and tobacco worker, was born in the rain forest near the Kasai River in what is now the Democratic Republic of Congo. The historical record is mute on the precise name of his tribe, but they were a band of forest-dwelling pygmies—averaging less than fifty-nine inches in height—who had a reciprocal relationship with villagers of the Congolese Luba tribe. Otabenga and his fellow pygmies hunted elephants by playing a long horn known as a molimo to replicate the sound of an elephant bleat. Once they had roused the animal from the forest, they killed it with poisoned spears and traded the elephant hide and flesh to the Luba villagers in exchange for fruits, vegetables, and grains. Very little is known about Otabenga's family life, other than that he was married with two children by the age of twenty.

Around that time while ...



Diane Miller Sommerville

“Slavery is terrible for men; but it is far more terrible for women.” So stated Harriet Jacobs, an ex-slave who spent years eluding the unwanted sexual advances of her North Carolina master, when she recounted her ordeal in the class narrative Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl. Embedded in her bold declaration is the recognition that slave women experienced a unique threat and danger in slavery—that of sexual assault—that made the slave experience, on some level, more unbearable, more devastating for women. Indeed, black women’s sexual vulnerability and the institutionalized access that white men in America historically have had to black women’s sexuality is one of the most salient aspects of black women’s lived experiences and continues to shape black women’s lives, identities, and psyches, even through much of the twentieth century and beyond.

A discussion of rape and black women s experiences must begin with the ...


Kathryn M. Silva

educator, minister, industrialist, physician, was born Thomas Wellington Thurston Jr. in Moorefield, West Virginia, to Betty (Jones) Thurston and Thomas W. Thurston Sr., both of West Virginia. Thurston grew up in Moorefield and attended Romney High School before leaving to receive his theological education in New Jersey. According to an article featuring Thurston in Who's Who of the Colored Race, after high school, Thurston studied theology under Reverend J. A. Gayley of Princeton University. Thurston married Julia Lacey of Washington, D.C., in 1890. The couple went on to raise eight children.

Thurston began his career as an educator He moved from West Virginia to Fort Barnwell North Carolina and served as the principal of the Barnwell Normal and Farm Life School for Colored Youth His work as an educator later intersected with his career in manufacturing with his pioneering work in the textile ...