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Julia A. Clancy-Smith

Tunisian labor activist, women’s rights activist, and journalist, was born in the town of Gabes in southern Tunisia. Adda rose to prominence owing to her mother’s emphasis upon female education, although her parents were of modest means. One branch of Adda’s family, who are North African Jews, was originally from Batna in Algeria; her maternal grandfather had left French Algeria to seek his fortune in Tunisia, where he managed a small hotel in the south. For her parents’ generation, it was somewhat unusual for women to attend school; to achieve the “certificate of study,” as Adda’s mother did, was a noteworthy achievement. Gladys Adda’s life trajectory illustrated a number of important regional and global social and political currents: nationalism and anticolonialism, organized labor and workers’ movements, socialism and communism, women’s emancipation, and fascism and anti-Semitism against the backdrop of World War II.

In primary school Adda attended classes with Muslim ...

Article

John Garst

the inspiration for the “Frankie and Johnny” song, was born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri. Her parents were Cedric Baker and his wife Margaret (maiden name unknown), and she had three brothers: Charles, Arthur, and James. Charles, who was younger than Frankie, lived with her on Targee Street in 1900. In 1899 Baker shot and killed her seventeen-year-old “mack” (pimp), Allen “Al” Britt. St. Louis pianists and singers were soon thumping and belting out what would become one of America's most famous folk ballads and popular songs, “Frankie and Johnny,” also known as “Frankie and Albert,” “Frankie Baker,” and “Frankie.”

At age sixteen or seventeen Baker fell in love with a man who, unknown to her, was living off the earnings of a prostitute (this kind of man was known as an “easy rider,” a term made famous by W. C. Handy in his ...

Article

Joshunda Sanders

media mogul, model, and actress, was born Tyra Lynne Banks and grew up in Inglewood, California. Her father, Donald Banks, was a computer consultant, and her mother, Carolyn London, was a medical photographer and business manager. The couple divorced when Tyra was six years old, in 1980.

Banks attended Immaculate Heart Middle and High School, an all-girl's private school. She credited her mother's photography business and friends' encouragement with her ability to overcome a self-consciousness during her awkward adolescence that almost made her pursue another path.

“I grew three inches and lost 40 pounds in 90 days,” she told the Black Collegian in an interview about her teen years. “It was just this crazy growth spurt. I felt like a freak: people would stare at me in the grocery store.”

A friend encouraged her to try modeling during her senior year At the time several ...

Article

Tiffany M. Gill

Black is beautiful This familiar cry of the Black Power movement was revolutionary in its celebration of the culture style politics and physical attributes of peoples of African descent Symbols of the black is beautiful aesthetic most notably the Afro not only conjured up ideas about black beauty but also highlighted its contentious relationship with black politics and identity This tension between beauty standards and black politics and identity however did not first emerge in the late twentieth century with the Afro or the Black Power movement In fact blacks particularly black women have been struggling to navigate the paradoxical political nature of black identity and beauty since their enslavement in the Americas Despite this strained relationship black women have actively sought to define beauty in their lives and in the process created and sustained one of the most resilient and successful black controlled enterprises in America the black beauty ...

Article

Lucy MacKeith

From as early as the 16th century, black people were employed in Britain as musicians and performers, and there was often an element of display in the employment of black servants, whose exotic appearance served to advertise their masters' wealth, colonial connections, or both.

Rather different was the way in which, particularly in the 18th and 19th centuries, there were cases of black people being displayed as exhibits to appeal to the curiosity of white viewers, especially if they were in some way out of the ordinary. Sometimes the curiosity was allegedly scientific, as with the ‘white boy’ (an albino child of African parents, born in Virginia in 1755) who was brought to Britain and ‘shewn before the Royal Society’ in London in January 1765 More often it was the result of the same sort of attitude that attracted paying customers to exhibitions of white people who were ...

Article

Mary Krane Derr

labor union organizer and officer, businessperson, educator, and activist, was born Aileen Clarke in Brooklyn, New York, to Jamaican immigrants Ethel Louise Hall Clarke, a theatrical costume maker and seamstress, and Charles Henry Clarke Sr., an art supply business worker. Their lessons of bravery, persistence, and nondiscrimination served Hernandez and her brothers well as they grew up in Bay Ridge, a majority-white Brooklyn neighborhood. Hernandez was valedictorian of her public grammar school class. In 1943 she graduated from Bay Ridge High School as salutatorian and won a scholarship to Howard University. Outraged by the more blatant segregation in the nation's capital, she picketed Jim Crow facilities with the campus NAACP chapter. Hernandez edited the college newspaper and penned a college issues column for the Washington Tribune. After graduating from Howard magna cum laude in Sociology and Political Science in 1947 she was ...

Article

Holly Y. McGee

South African antiapartheid activist and trade union organizer who changed long-standing perceptions of African women as unnecessary members of the citizenry, engaged in the radical politics of working-class black women, and transplanted ideas regarding racial uplift across international boundaries, was born in Tarkastad, Eastern Cape, South Africa, on 18 September 1918. Because of the impoverished conditions there and her father’s death, Mafekeng’s family relocated to Paarl, near Cape Town, in 1927. To help support the family, Mafekeng left school in 1932 to join the H. Jones Canning Factory, earning seventy-five cents per week. Despite abhorrent working conditions, Mafekeng continued to work in the industry. In 1937 she married.

Societal and workplace circumstances began to change for African industrial laborers with the outbreak of World War II most especially in urban locales where the growth of the manufacturing sector created an explosive increase in the levels of African urbanization ...

Article

Gloria Chuku

Nigerian businesswoman and political activist, was born Mary Nwametu Onumonu on 16 October 1898 in Oguta, Nigeria. Her father was Chief Onumonu Uzoaru, one of the first two warrant chiefs appointed for Oguta by the British colonial government. Her mother was a veteran entrepreneur who dealt in palm produce, which she sold directly to the European traders in exchange for assorted imported goods, including textiles. Mary attended elementary school at St. Joseph’s Girls’ Convent in Asaba, Nigeria. Soon after graduation in 1920, she married Richard Nzimiro, a clerk with the United African Company (UAC). Their relocation to Port Harcourt, the site of many foreign businesses, opened opportunities for Mary and resulted in the expansion of her trading enterprise. Her husband resigned from his job and helped Mary manage the business.

As a petty trader at Illah Mary dealt in salt and palm oil But when they moved to Port ...

Article

Professionalism as it pertains to African American women entails three distinct ideas. The first is the significance of African American women’s participation in the professions throughout history. The second is the notion of a professional approach to their work. Finally, the idea of professionalization includes the attempts byAfrican American women professionals to increase the skills and expertise of their members, as well as the attempts of white organizations to exclude African Americans by changing standards for inclusion in professions.

Article

Jeremy Rich

Gabonese trade union leader, was born in Libreville to Mathurin Anguiley, a coastal Gabonese politician and his wife, whose name is not recorded. Both her parents belonged to the Mpongwe ethnic group, which had long occupied a prominent place in Gabon because of its privileged access to Western education. Anguiley had worked as a clerk for the French government and for private companies. He had a difficult relationship with many members of his family because his mother had died young and her husband had been accused of causing her demise. He also discovered that his father was a Danish sailor rather than the man his mother had married, and so he chose the name Saint-Dénis rather than keep his original family name.

These family issues did not make Simone s childhood and adolescence particularly difficult Like so many Mpongwe children she attended Catholic mission schools and farmed her mother s ...

Article

Iris Berger

trade union organizer and women’s activist in South Africa, was born Rachel Esther Alexandrowich in Latvia, where she was active in the Communist underground as a teenager. She became known as Ray Alexander. By the age of fifteen, when she went to Riga, Latvia, to study for a teaching certificate at the technical college, she belonged to an illegal organization whose members faced the continual threat of arrest. Learning that the police were searching for her daughter, Alexander’s mother sent her to live with family in South Africa. She arrived in 1929, not quite sixteen, but already an ardent Marxist revolutionary. In Cape Town she became part of a small community of Jewish activists who brought with them from Europe a strong commitment to socialism and communism.

Shortly after her arrival Alexander began assisting the organizers of a number of different unions doing office work visiting workers in factories ...

Primary Source

Shirley Chisholm was both the first African American woman elected to Congress and the first African American woman to run for presidency. In the speech presented below, Chisholm argued in favor of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), designed to provide an opportunity to open the doors of fairness and equality for women.

Drawing parallels with the recent successes of the civil rights movement Chisholm reminded her audience that the Constitution had not originally included provisions for the rights of African Americans Noting that as there were no black Founding Fathers there were no founding mothers she argued for the Equal Rights Amendment as a way to correct a form of social discrimination that had dogged the nation since its birth As examples of the inequalities that faced women Chisholm mentioned limitations on business ownership salary and workable hours the denial of qualified female candidates to state colleges and universities restrictions ...

Article

Lisa E. Rivo

civil rights and women's rights activist, community leader, and the first black woman to found and become president of a chartered bank in America, was born in Richmond, Virginia, to Elizabeth “Lizzie” Draper, a former slave, and Eccles Cuthbert, a white writer. Unwed at the time of Maggie's birth, Lizzie Draper worked as an assistant cook in the home of Elizabeth Van Lew, an ardent abolitionist and Union spy. In 1869 Lizzie married William Mitchell, a former slave, who worked as Van Lew's butler and later as the headwaiter at the posh St. Charles Hotel. A son, Johnny, was born shortly after the family's move to downtown Richmond. In 1878 William was robbed and murdered, leaving Lizzie and her two young children without savings insurance benefits or financial support circumstances that informed Maggie s adult work on behalf of the economic status of black women Lizzie ...