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Article

Peter Valenti

baseball player and executive, was born Henry Aaron in the Down the Bay section of Mobile, Alabama, the third of eight children of Herbert Aaron and Estella (maiden name unknown). His parents had left the Selma, Alabama, area during the Depression for greater opportunity in Mobile's shipbuilding industries. In 1942, as the family grew and Down the Bay became more crowded with wartime job seekers, the Aarons moved to a rural suburb of Toulminville. Working as a boilermaker's apprentice, Herbert Aaron suffered through the frequent layoffs that plagued black shipyard workers before wartime demand dictated full employment. Ever resourceful, Herbert Aaron bought two lots in Toulminville, hired carpenters to frame out the roof and walls of a house, and set about with his family to find materials to finish the property. The Aarons continued to live in the house even as Henry achieved superstardom.

Making balls from such scavenged ...

Article

Paul Finkelman

baseball player, baseball executive, civil rights advocate, and businessman. Henry Louis “Hank” Aaron was born and raised in Mobile, Alabama, the son of Herbert and Estella Aaron. He was a member of the second generation of black baseball players to enter the major leagues following Jackie Robinson's breaking of the color line in professional baseball in 1947. Aaron began playing for the Milwaukee Braves in 1954; at about the same time Willie Mays joined the New York Giants and Ernie Banks joined the Chicago Cubs. They were among the last black players who began their careers in the Negro Leagues. In 1974 Aaron broke Babe Ruth's lifetime home run record of 714. When he retired from baseball in 1976 after twenty three seasons Aaron held the career records for most home runs 755 most runs batted in 2 297 most total bases ...

Article

Alonford James Robinson

The third of eight children, Henry Louis Aaron was born in Mobile, Alabama, to Estella and Herbert Aaron. His first experience with professional baseball came in the Negro Leagues, as he moved up through the ranks with the Pritchett Athletics, the Mobile Black Bears, and the Indianapolis Clowns. In 1952, the Boston Braves of the newly integrated major leagues signed Aaron to play shortstop in their farm system. Moving from Eau Claire, Wisconsin, to Jacksonville, Florida, Aaron made it to the majors in 1954, playing for the Milwaukee Braves (now the Atlanta Braves).

Aaron is considered by some to be the best baseball player in history. Over his twenty-three-year major league career, Aaron compiled more batting records than any other player in baseball history. He holds the record for runs batted in (RBIs) with 2,297, and was a Gold Glove Winner in 1958, 1959 ...

Article

Steven J. Niven

slave, wagon driver, steamboat laborer, and sawmill worker, was born in Petersburg, Virginia, the son of Aaron and Louisa. Aarons had two siblings, but neither their names nor the surnames of his parents have been recorded. Considering that Charlie's father's first name was Aaron, Charlie probably adopted his father's first name as his own surname upon emancipation. The historian Eugene D. Genovese has argued that after the Civil War many former slaves rejected the surnames assigned to them when they were in bondage and adopted new ones often choosing surnames entitles the slaves called them that connected them to their fathers or to other relatives Some celebrated their newfound liberty by creating new surnames such as Freedman or Justice Genovese notes that in the first decade of emancipation freedmen and freedwomen changed their surnames frequently so that as one freedwoman put it if the white folks get together ...

Article

Robert S. Abbott was born in Frederica, Georgia, the son of Thomas and Flora (Butler) Abbott, both former slaves. From 1892 to 1896, he attended Hampton University in Virginia, where he learned the printing trade. Abbott moved to Chicago, Illinois, to attend Kent College of Law, graduating in 1898. He practiced law for a few years, then changed careers to become a journalist.

Abbott founded the Chicago Defender, a weekly newspaper in May 1905. He launched the paper with $25, and operated at first out of his kitchen. Under his direction, the Defender became the most widely circulated African American newspaper of its time and a leading voice in the fight against racism. Abbott cultivated a controversial, aggressive style, reporting on such issues as violence against blacks and police brutality. The Defender raised eyebrows with its antilynching slogan If you must die ...

Article

Clint C. Wilson

newspaper publisher, was born Robert Abbott in Fort Frederica, St. Simons Island, off the coast of Savannah, Georgia, the son of Thomas Abbott and Flora Butler, former slaves who operated a grocery store on St. Thomas Island. Thomas Abbott died the year after Robert was born, and Robert's mother moved to Savannah, where in 1874 she married John Herman Henry Sengstacke. Sengstacke was the son of a German father and a black American mother and, although born in the United States, was reared in Germany. He returned to the United States in 1869 and pursued careers in education, the clergy, and journalism. In the latter role Sengstacke became editor of the Woodville Times a black community weekly newspaper that served Savannah area residents Abbott s admiration for his stepfather inspired him to add the name Sengstacke to his own and to attempt to become a publisher in ...

Article

Alma Jean Billingslea Brown

civil rights activist, educator, and businesswoman, was born Juanita Odessa Jones in Uniontown, Alabama, the youngest of eight children of Ella Gilmore Jones and Alex Jones Sr., an influential and prosperous black farmer in Perry County, Alabama. When Alabama telephone and electric companies refused to provide service to the Jones homestead, Alex Jones Sr. and his brothers installed their own telephone lines and wired their own homes for electricity. One consequence of the family's financial independence was that Juanita was able to attend boarding school from age five until she graduated from high school in Selma, Alabama, where she had older sisters in attendance at the historically black Selma University. After high school, in 1947 Jones enrolled in Tennessee State University in Nashville, Tennessee, where she majored in business education with a minor in history and social studies. She returned to Alabama after earning a BS in 1951 ...

Article

Charles Rosenberg

landowner, businessman, and state legislator, was born enslaved in Dallas County Alabama, to parents named Sarah and Pete, who had been born in South Carolina. David, like his parents, was the property of a family named Abner. There is some dispute as to his birth date—some giving 1826 and others 1838—but the most reliable date appears to be December 1820, as suggested by a letter from his youngest daughter. It is not known when David took the Abner surname for himself, a common but by no means universal practice for formerly enslaved persons. He was sent to Texas in 1843, driving a covered wagon for the newly married daughter (Thelma) of the man who held title to him.

Her father considered his new son in law unreliable and entrusted David to get his daughter safely to her new home and manage ...

Article

Sherri J. Norris

chemical engineer and environmental engineering entrepreneur, was born in Memphis, Tennessee, the second of four daughters of Ernest Buford Abron and Bernice Wise Abron, both educators. Abron was educated in Memphis public schools and was a member of the National Honor Society. Abron divorced and had three sons, Frederick, Ernest, and David; she is occasionally credited as Lilia Ann Abron-Robinson.

Abron stayed close to home when she attended LeMoyne College, a historically black college in Memphis, Tennessee. She considered medical school, but she was persuaded by her advisor, Dr. Beuler, to pursue a career in engineering instead. Her decision was a risky one. She did not know of any African Americans with engineering degrees who were actually working as engineers; instead, she once said in an interview, they were often working in post offices. In 1966 Abron received her BS in Chemistry from ...

Article

Mark Clague and John H. Zimmerman

flutist, composer, bandmaster, music educator, journalist, and hotelier, was born in Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, Danish West Indies (later U.S. Virgin Islands) and is remembered as the U.S. Navy's first African American bandmaster. Adams was the son of Jacob Henry Adams, a carpenter, and Petrina Evangeline Dinzey, a tailor; both his parents were members of the black artisan class centered around St. Thomas's port. This culture celebrated music and literature and instilled the young Adams with values of hard work and self-education. Although professional musicians were unknown in the Virgin Islands in his youth, Adams dreamt of a musical career inspired by his deeply held belief that music was not just entertainment, but vital to community health.

Adams attended elementary school and apprenticed as a carpenter and then a shoemaker choosing his trade based on the musical abilities of his master ...

Article

Erin Royston Battat

the first African American to publish an autobiography about conversion to Catholicism, was born in Santa Barbara, California, the only child of Lula Josephine Holden Adams, a painter, and Daniel Henderson Adams, a hotel headwaiter. Daniel and Lula Adams provided a comfortable, middle-class lifestyle for their daughter and raised her according to strict rules of courtesy, manners, and obedience. Shortly after Adams's birth the family moved to Los Angeles, where she attended an integrated primary school.

Adams and her parents fell victim to the influenza epidemic of 1918–1919. Mother and daughter returned to temperate Santa Barbara in 1920 at their doctor's recommendation and would suffer from chronic illness for the rest of their lives. Adams's father continued to work in Los Angeles for another four years and then died suddenly in 1924 shortly before he was to join the family in Santa Barbara During this period ...

Article

Kenneth Wayne Howell

cowboy and rancher, may have been born into slavery and escaped from bondage before the Civil War, though information about his life prior to his arrival in southwest Texas in the 1870s is limited. Based on stories he later told to his co-workers it seems likely that Adams spent his early adult life working as a cowboy in the brush country region of Texas, probably south and west of San Antonio. Given the circumstance of his birth and the times in which George came of age, he never received a formal education. As recent historical scholarship has made clear, black cowboys on the Texas plains enjoyed greater freedoms than did African Americans living in more settled regions of the state. However, their freedoms were always tainted by the persistent racism that prevailed during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. George Adams's life was a vivid example of ...

Article

Antero Pietila

a teenaged numbers runner who become an important Baltimore business leader, was born into a family of sharecroppers. He was raised by his grandparents in Zebulon, North Carolina, and moved to Baltimore in 1929, during the Depression. He quickly grew tired of the city's Dunbar High School, working instead in a rag factory and fixing bicycles—a sideline he had begun at age ten. On his bicycle, he also ran errands for numbers operators; lucrative illegal lotteries thrived in the city under the protection of the Democratic machine. By the age of twenty, he was an aspiring kingpin, and the owner of three stores.

Adams's grip on numbers strengthened in 1938, after the death of the city's “Black King,” Democratic boss Tom Smith Adams filled the vacuum That year white Philadelphia gangsters firebombed his tavern He repelled the takeover attempt living up to his nickname Little Willie acquired ...

Primary Source

Challenges to the constitutionality or appropriateness of affirmative action programs would not end even with the Supreme Court's landmark decision in Regents of the University of California v. Bakke (1978). Indeed such programs—which attempt to mitigate the effects of a cultural history of inequity and racism—were at the beginning and remain enduringly controversial. Though part of the American landscape for generations, affirmative action programs have, of late, come under renewed scrutiny and attack. One such case was Adarand Constructors v. Pea et al. presented here below In 1989 Adarand Constructors a white owned company brought suit in federal court arguing that its rights had been violated when a minority owned business was granted a highway construction contract even though Adarand had submitted a lower bid The company charged that the preferences granted to minority owned businesses constituted an unfair advantage and a violation of the equal protection clause of ...

Article

James G. Spady

One of thirteen children, Robert Mara Adger was born in Charleston, South Carolina. His father, Robert Adger, was black, and his mother, Mary Ann Morong, was Native American. In 1848 the family moved to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Adger's father first found a job as a waiter in the Old Merchant's Hotel. Later, while working as a nurse, he industriously saved enough funds to open a furniture business. He was involved in many activities and was a founder of the Benjamin Banneker Institute.

Robert Mara Adger received his early training at the Bird School, an early black educational institution in the United States. During his teenage years, he worked in his father's furniture stores, which had expanded from one in 1850 to three by 1858 Serving as a manager provided him with the business experience that he later found valuable as director of the Philadelphia Building and ...

Article

Paul Finkelman

Depending on the situation, minorities might include any underrepresented group, especially one defined by race, ethnicity, or gender. Generally, affirmative action has been undertaken by governments, businesses, or educational institutions to remedy the effects of past discrimination against a group, whether by a specific entity, such as a corporation, or by society as a whole.

Until the mid-1960s, legal barriers prevented blacks and other racial minorities in the United States from entering many jobs and educational institutions. While women were rarely legally barred from jobs or education, many universities would not admit them and many employers would not hire them. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibited discrimination in public accommodations and employment A section of the act known as Title VII which specifically banned discrimination in employment laid the groundwork for the subsequent development of affirmative action The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission EEOC created by the Civil Rights ...

Article

The story of African American federal government workers is an important narrative that expands our understanding of the development of a stable black middle class—a sector that did not exist en masse within urban areas prior to World War II. African American workers hold both a practical and symbolic function of evidencing American federalist principles of inclusion, opportunity, and participation. Likewise federal employment embodied the nation's constitutional pledge to insure equality under the law more so than any other industry. The collective experiences of African American federal government workers over time illustrate persistent gaps between federal theories and the actual practice of democracy for all regardless of race, creed, or color.

Article

John William Templeton

The black businessmen William Alexander Leidesdorff and Andres Pico were both born in 1810 with something the abolitionist Frederick Douglass and millions of other Africans in the Western Hemisphere could not claim: their fathers' names. Leidesdorff took that birthright from the Virgin Islands to the far ends of what was to be the United States: Hawaii and California. Pico was able to rise to the highest political and military offices in Alta California because members of his family had already served as military commanders and established their own ranches along the Pacific coast.

West was the direction of freedom for thousands of African Americans who labored long and hard in the abolition movement with Douglass or who simply sought to avoid the segregation prevalent within the boundaries of the United States They found vast areas where blacks were not only welcomed but also were in command of physical political military ...

Article

Carlos Franco Liberato and Martha I. Pallante

[This entry contains two subentries dealing with the African diaspora, from the origins of slave trade through nineteenth-century America. The first article focuses on the evolution and criticism of the diaspora, while the second article focuses on the cultural effects of this forced transatlantic migration.]

Article

The history of African Americans in the United States is intimately intertwined with the history of American agriculture. From the colonial era to the early nineteenth century, the labor of African Americans—enslaved ones, specifically—powered American agribusiness, producing crops such as cotton, tobacco, rice, and sugar. Although emancipation ended African Americans’ legal bondage as agricultural laborers, African Americans remained a significant portion of the Americans who made their living by agricultural labor. U.S. census statistics from 1900 through 1954 show that during that time African Americans constituted an average of 28.7 percent of the nation's farm operators. Between 1954 and 1959, the percentage of African American farmers dropped by nearly 9 points. Since 1959 the number of African American farmers—then 265,261—has continued to dwindle until in the early twenty-first century there were only about 15,000 African American farmers remaining, which is less than 0.2 percent of all American farmers.