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Edward L. Lach

business executive and civic leader, was born in Washington, D.C., the son of Hayward G. Burrell and Fannie Miles. Although his parents’ occupations are unknown, both his father and his mother were natives of the District of Columbia, and Burrell's roots in the area ran deep. After graduating from Dunbar High School at the age of fifteen, he worked as a driver for a local pharmacy and apparently also drove a cab for a while. He married at age sixteen (his wife's name is unknown), and the marriage produced a son before ending in divorce seven years later.

In 1941 Burrell gained a position at the federal Bureau of Standards, where he worked in the glass section producing prisms and bombsights. He also attended nearby Howard University between 1941 and 1943 but did not graduate. He entered the U.S. Army in 1945 and rose to the rank of ...


Theresa C. Lynch

activist and Democratic state legislator from Buffalo, New York, was born in Harlem to Arthur B. Eve (a maintenance worker) and Beatrice Clark Eve (a theater cashier). His parents divorced when he was five or six years old and he moved to Miami, Florida, where he was raised by his mother and grandmother in a housing project. Eve excelled in sports; he ran track and played basketball for the all-black, segregated Dorsey High School. After earning his diploma in 1951, he attended West Virginia State College for three semesters, where he played basketball and studied physical education.

In 1953 Eve headed to Buffalo with two suitcases and $9 45 in his pocket He planned to earn money perhaps working in a steel mill and then return to college in the fall But the Korean War interrupted his plans and in May he was drafted into the United States ...


Suzanne Cloud

pianist, arranger, and composer, was born Clifton Edward Green Jr. in Abington, Pennsylvania, the son of Clifton Edward Green Sr., a paper hanger and carpenter, and Carrie Townes, who worked as a domestic. Self taught, Eddie Green began playing piano at five years of age and became active in music in public school. His formal secondary education ended at Abington High School when he was in the tenth grade. At age sixteen he came under the tutelage of the hard bop pianist Richie Powell and his brother, the bebop legend Bud Powell. During this time, Green learned the essentials of jazz by listening to and absorbing the lessons of his mentors. Green also formed a band and regularly played a local African American venue in Willow Grove called the Three C s Like many African American communities that supported young musicians and vocalists the ...


Julius E. Thompson

journalist and publisher, was born in Jackson, Mississippi, the fourth of twelve children of George Washington Greene, a carpenter, and Sarah Stone Greene, a laundress. He was educated at the Smith Robertson School and at the high school division of Jackson College (later Jackson State University), receiving his degree in 1915; during this period he also pent one year at Jackson's black Catholic high school. He attended the college division of Jackson College from 1920 to 1922, where he was active on the football team. On 8 September 1917 he enlisted in the army and served with black troops in Company B, 25th Infantry in France. He returned to the United States on 26 June 1920.

Following his stint in the army Greene developed an interest in business and journalism and he wanted to study law and become an attorney For several years in ...


Cheryl A. Alston

artist and activist, was born in Detroit, Michigan, the third of ten children of Betty Solomon Guyton and George Guyton, a construction worker. His mother reared the children on her own after George Guyton left the-family, when Tyree Guyton was nine years old. Guyton grew up on the east side of Detroit in an area called “Black Bottom,” one of the oldest African American communities in the city. He attended Northern High School, but he did not graduate and earned his GED at a later date.

Guyton began painting at the age of eight when his grandfather, Sam Mackey a housepainter at the time who later became a painter of fine art gave him the tool to create a paintbrush Because of his family s poverty Guyton felt all he had was his art He felt like he had no freedom and he realized early on that ...


Scott W. Poole

Thomas Wentworth Higginson served as the white colonel of the first federally authorized black civil war regiment. The First South Carolina Volunteers, which later in the war became the Thirty-third Regiment, United States Colored Troops, represented one of the earliest organized efforts of African Americans to fight for their own emancipation. In 1867 Higginson wrote the classic Army Life in a Black Regiment, wherein he reflects on his experiences as the commander of the regiment.

Higginson was born in Salem, Massachusetts, in 1823 but grew up in the then-rural village of Cambridge. Higginson entered Harvard College in 1837 having passed the college s rigorous examinations in Latin and Greek at the age of fourteen At Harvard Higginson imbibed the reform sentiments that would lead him into the abolitionist movement Higginson s social world at Harvard included the leading lights of New England liberal religion and reform In ...


Amanda Harmon Cooley

businessperson, corporate executive, and educator. Dennis Fowler Hightower, the son of Marvin W. Hightower and Anna Virginia Hightower, was born in Washington, D.C., and grew up in LeDroit Park, a neighborhood in the District of Columbia in which many other prominent African Americans, from Duke Ellington to the Reverend Jesse Jackson, have lived. As a child Hightower spent time at Camp Atwater in North Brookfield, Massachusetts, which was established in 1921 by William N. DeBerry with the mission to help African American children. After graduating from McKinley High School at age sixteen, Hightower continued his studies at Howard University, earning a bachelor of science degree in 1962.

Then Hightower enlisted in the U S Army beginning an eight year military career that included active service in the Vietnam War His leadership advanced him to the rank of major by the age of twenty seven ...


Frank R. Levstik

William H. Holland was born a slave in Marshall, Texas, the son of Captain Byrd “Bird” Holland, who later became secretary of state of Texas. In the late 1850s, while living in Panola County, Bird purchased William and his two brothers, Milton and James, and sent them to Ohio to attend school just prior to the Civil War. William and Milton attended the Albany Enterprise Academy, one of the early educational institutions in the northern United States that was conceived, owned, and operated by blacks.

On October 22, 1864, Holland enlisted in the Sixteenth U.S. Colored Troops. The regiment, organized in Nashville, Tennessee, included enlistees sent from Ohio. During the war, the regiment participated in the battles of Nashville and Overton Hill, the pursuit of Confederate brigadier general John Bell Hood to his defeat at the Tennessee River and garrison duty in Chattanooga as well as ...


H. Zahra Caldwell

philanthropist, activist, and numbers banker, was born in the Danish Virgin Islands. Holstein emigrated with his mother to the United States when he was nearly 12 years old. Little is known about his early childhood in the Virgin Islands. He attended high school in Brooklyn, New York, and enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1898. He was stationed, for a time, on the islands of his birth. After completing his tour of duty he settled in Harlem in New York City. Holstein began working as a porter and bellhop at a Wall Street brokerage firm. As he swept floors and carried packages he also observed the intricacies of the stock market. He had ambitions that stretched far beyond his work as a porter.

Holstein had arrived in Harlem when the numbers game known as Bolito was a waning but still popular recreational pastime for blacks ...


Charlotte S. Price

Campbell Carrington Johnson was born in Washington, D.C., on September 30, 1895, the son of clergyman William Henry and Ellen Berry (Lee) Johnson. His father served at different periods as pastor of Israel Baptist Church in Washington and Beulah and Liberty Baptist churches in Alexandria, Virginia. The young Johnson received his education in those cities. Following his graduation from Washington's M Street High School in 1913, he worked at various jobs to earn college tuition, enrolling in Howard University, Washington, D.C., in the fall of that year. When he was forced by lack of funds to withdraw before the school year was over, Johnson returned to work, but he reentered Howard in 1915. World War I (1914–1919) interrupted his education once again in 1917 He volunteered and entered the Officers Training Corps at Fort Des Moines Iowa receiving his commission as ...


Anne K. Driscoll

activist, writer, and author, was born Cleotha Payne Lucas in Spring Hope, near Rocky Mount in eastern North Carolina. One of fourteen children born to James Russell Lucas and Minnie Hendricks, Lucas worked from an early age shining shoes and picking cotton. Activism came early to Lucas, who became a member of the NAACP during his junior year of high school. Lucas became a youth representative and eventually organized a voter registration campaign in Spring Hope, at a time when few African Americans in eastern North Carolina were able to vote.

Following graduation from C. C. Spaulding High School in 1951, Lucas began classes at Maryland State College, now the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, in Princess Anne, Maryland. In 1953 Lucas left college and joined the U S Air Force serving as a radio technician for four years and achieving the rank of ...


Yvonne Jackson Edwards

community and civil rights activist, was born the youngest of five children of Charles Henry and Cornelia Tate Mease in Buxton, Iowa, a coal-mining town called a “Black Utopia.” At different times Charles was a coal miner, union organizer, and justice of the peace. Cornelia was a seamstress and came from a long line of freeborn persons of color.

For the first twelve years of his life, Mease lived in Buxton, where he spent many hours at the YMCA that was the town's center of activity. The Buxton YMCA was established by the Consolidated Coal Company in an attempt to prevent its workers from joining unions. Considered “welfare capitalists,” the company executives hoped the Y would improve the lives of its workers and families and thus make unions less attractive.

In 1918 Mease s father died and his mother moved the family to Des Moines Iowa Mease completed ...


Louis B. Gallien

community activist, minister, author, lecturer, and racial reconciler, was the last child born to Maggie and Jasper Perkins in New Hebron, Mississippi, sharecroppers whose family worked on cotton farms on the smaller white plantations of south central Mississippi. Perkins's mother died of pellagra—a vitamin deficiency disease that ravaged poor families in the Deep South, seven months after his birth. Little is known of the circumstances of his father's life except that he was an itinerant sharecropper and bootlegger.

Perkins's early life was shaped by the brutal murder of his brother, Clyde, after arriving home from World War II. Clyde was shot by a white police officer outside a theater after he reached for the officer's baton when the policeman threatened him. Perkins graduated from Wiggins Vocational School and soon afterward decided to move to California where he married his childhood friend, Vera Mae Buckley ...


Chesya Burke

social advocate and civil rights activist, was born in Desha County, Arkansas, to the sharecroppers Pearl Barnes Perry and Ivory Perry Sr. Soon after his father left them, the family moved to Pine Bluff, Arkansas. When Perry was sixteen, his mother contracted bronchial pneumonia, had a stroke, and died at the age of forty-two. After his mother's death, Perry dropped out of school and joined the U.S. Army on 2 November 1948. He was assigned to Japan with the all-black Twenty-fourth Infantry Regiment. However, Perry found that racism still existed all those miles away from home. White soldiers made life almost unbearable for the blacks.

During a visit home in 1951 Perry realized just how little things had changed in American race relations When he and two white soldiers entered a restaurant the owner offered them a table in the broom closet next to the kitchen Perry ...


Donnamaria Culbreth

circuit court judge, was born in Birmingham, Alabama, the third of four children born to William and Eva Poole. In 1918 the family moved to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, when Poole was four years old.

In 1932 Poole entered the University of Michigan, graduating in 1936 and earning a law degree in 1938. A year later Poole went on to earn a master of law degree from Harvard University. In 1940 Poole passed the Pennsylvania bar, and in 1941 he obtained a job as an attorney for the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), which investigates unfair labor practices. Poole studied federal laws covering labor and labor relations and advised the NLRB board members on cases.

Poole was drafted into the army in 1942 and married Charlotte Crump that same year Poole s experiences in the segregated army were harsh From Poole s experience the duties of black soldiers ...


Henry B. Lovejoy

free black of the Lucumí nation, second sergeant of Havana’s Battalion of Loyal Blacks, and leader of the famous Mutual Aid Society of the Lucumí Nation of Santa Bárbara, remembered among modern-day practitioners of Cuban Santería as Ṣàngó tẹ̀ dún, was born around 1773 into a Yoruba-speaking family in the Bight of Benin hinterland.

During the expansion of the kingdom of Oyo, which had been consolidating its control of the internal slave trade to the coast at Porto Novo, Prieto was enslaved when Oyo raised a powerful coalition, including Dahomey, to destroy the port of Badagry in September 1784. The Dahomey army then marched the boy down the beach to Ouidah where he was sold to British slave ship captain Joseph Frayer, who forced Prieto along with 650 others on board the Golden Age This ship was owned and operated by some of Britain s most notorious ...


SaFiya D. Hoskins

basketball player, was born David Maurice Robinson in Key West, Florida, the second child of Ambrose and Freda Robinson His father was a naval officer and his mother was a nurse Robinson s father was required to travel frequently The family moved to Virginia Beach Virginia when he was young and when his father retired from the navy they finally settled in Woodbridge Virginia Robinson was an excellent student and from the age of six attended schools for gifted children In junior high school he continued his exceptional scholarship and standing 5 feet 9 inches tall demonstrated extraordinary athleticism in many sports with the exception of basketball It was not until his senior year at Osbourn Park High School in Manassas Virginia that the then 6 foot 7 inch tall Robinson joined the basketball team He earned area and district honors in his first season Robinson achieved high ...


Sean Elias

pianist, singer, songwriter, arranger, producer, community activist, and philanthropist, was born in “Gert Town” (also referenced as “Gehrke” and “Goit” Town), a small African American neighborhood enclave on the west side of New Orleans, Louisiana, to Naomi Neville. By age seven, Toussaint began to play the piano—an instrument perfectly suited for his future career as a composer and songwriter of different musical genres. His grandmother had purchased the piano for his sister, Joyce, so she could learn classical music. While his older brother Vincent played guitar Toussaint took piano lessons from his sister He also entered Xavier University s Junior School of Music for a short while He combined his formal musical training with the ability to learn songs by ear a skill acquired through listening to and learning songs on the radio During his preteen years Toussaint was exposed to ...


Laura Crkovski

educator and activist. Forrester B. Washington was born in about 1888 in Salem, Massachusetts. He attended many universities, including Columbia University, the University of Michigan, Tufts University—where he was the first African American to graduate, in 1909—and Harvard University, where he undertook graduate studies. He held a number of leadership positions in which he advocated for the rights of African American citizens and the responsibilities of the government.

In 1916 Washington was sent to Detroit Michigan to establish the city s chapter of the Urban League for which his background in social work was indispensable The Urban League s mission was to help people of color reach their full potentials and to help those migrating from rural areas acclimate to life in the city Washington helped the league organize in the areas of recreation education health services and welfare He even brought in housekeeping training programs to teach ...


Frederica Harrison Barrow

social work educator, researcher, and social activist, was born in Salem, Massachusetts, the first of four children of Lucy August Wylly, originally from Darien, Georgia, and John William Washington, an artist and professional penman who also became a postal clerk in Boston after he moved his family there. Lucy was the daughter of a slave and her white owner, who sent her to Boston for her education. Washington graduated from South Boston High School in 1905 and from Tufts College in 1909. He is believed to have been Tufts' first African American graduate. Briefly he taught French at Howard University before resuming his studies. From 1912 to 1914 he pursued an economics degree at Harvard University and then attended Columbia University, where he graduated in 1917 with a master s degree in Social Economy While at Columbia he also completed training supported by ...