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Article

Nathan Zook

minister, civil rights leader, and member of the Louisiana House of Representatives, was born Avery Caesar Alexander in the town of Houma in Terrebonne Parish, Louisiana, to a family of sharecroppers. The names of his parents are not known. Seventeen years later, his family moved to New Orleans. Avery Alexander maintained an active life there and in Baton Rouge for the next seventy-two years.

Prior to his election to the Louisiana legislature, Alexander was employed as a longshoreman. At the same time, he pursued an education by taking night courses, receiving his high school diploma from Gilbert Academy in 1939. He became politically active by working as a labor union operative for a longshoreman's union, Local 1419. He also held the occupations of real estate broker and insurance agent.

Alexander received a degree in theology from Union Baptist Theological Seminary and became an ordained Baptist minister ...

Article

Peter Wallenstein

educator and civil rights litigant, was born in Norfolk, Virginia, the son of William Henry “Sonnie” Alston, a drayman, and Mary Elizabeth “Lizzie” Smith, a laundress. The Alstons owned their home, and Melvin grew up in a middle-class environment. After attending Norfolk's segregated black public schools and graduating from Booker T. Washington High School, he graduated in 1935 from Virginia State College, where he was honored for his debating and for excellence in scholarship. Following graduation he began teaching math at Booker T. Washington High School. Beginning in 1937 he served as president of the Norfolk Teachers Association, and he also held local leadership positions in the Young Men's Christian Association and the First Calvary Baptist Church.

Alston played a key role in an effort by black teachers in the Norfolk city public schools to challenge racial discrimination in their salaries. In 1937 the Virginia Teachers Association VTA and ...

Article

born on 22 March 1962 in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. Her mother was Ana Almánzar, a saleswoman, and her father, the journalist Fermín Arias Belliard, was well known for his humorous political column “Bocadillo” (A Snack) published from the 1970s through the 1990s in different newspapers throughout the country (La Información, El Sol, El Nacional, and El Siglo), and his satirical political radio show Con Pique y Sin Pique (With or Without Rage). Arias has three daughters from her first marriage to Rafael Castillo in August 1982 (Paloma, Lucero, and Violeta). This marriage ended in February 2002; she wed the American scholar Christopher McGrath, in August 2008.

Aurora Arias grew up surrounded by the political and social instability that followed the assassination on 31 May 1961 of the dictator Rafael Leónidas Trujillo Within a few years of the formal end of the ...

Article

Sheila T. Gregory

radio and television pioneer, Masonic Christian Order founder, ordained Baptist minister, lawyer, community advocate, and business leader, was born on a sharecroppers' farm in Geneva, Kentucky, the son of Richard and Clara Banks, both tenant farmers. In June 1922 Banks graduated from the Lincoln Institute of Kentucky and moved to Detroit, Michigan, where he secured a job at the Dodge automobile main plant. He graduated from Wayne State University in 1926 and the Detroit College of Law in 1929. He briefly opened a criminal law practice, but after two years he discontinued his criminal work and invested in property during the Depression, while helping elect liberal Democrat and future Supreme Court justice Frank Murphy as Detroit's mayor in 1930.

In 1931 Banks was the head of the International Labor Defense League ILDL a legal organization known for defending numerous labor unions which at that time were ...

Article

Wayne Sparkman

pastor, theologian, and churchman, was born in Selma, Alabama, the son of Wilbur McDonald Bottoms, a teacher, and Gussie Adolphus Shivers. While his mother's family had been Methodists, his father was a Reformed Presbyterian who graduated from Wilberforce College in Ohio and answered a call to teach at the Knox Academy in Selma. This school was operated by the Reformed Presbyterian Church of Selma, and it was upon taking this post that Wilbur Bottoms met and married Shivers. Lawrence was raised in a highly unusual situation, for neither the school nor the church was segregated. Whites who taught at the school also lived on the school property and attended the church as members alongside African American teachers and other members in the congregation. At times the church had a white pastor, and at other times the pastor was African American.

Lawrence continued his education in Pennsylvania first at ...

Article

Peter C. Murray

college president and lay Methodist Church leader, was born James Phillip Brawley in Lockhart, Texas, the son of Thomas H. Brawley and Emma Storey. Despite being born in the Jim Crow era, Brawley received a college education, graduating from Samuel Houston College in 1920. He did graduate work at the University of Chicago and Northwestern University, where he received his MA in Religious Education in 1925 and his PhD in Education in 1941.

Brawley took his first teaching position in 1922 at Rust College in Holly Springs, Mississippi, a school founded by the Methodist Episcopal Church's Freedmen's Aid Society following the Civil War. He moved from Rust College to Clark College in Atlanta, Georgia, in 1925 where he taught education and religious education Clark College was another Freedmen s Aid Society school that had traditionally emphasized the training of ministers and teachers Brawley became the college ...

Article

Kathryn Lofton

community organizer and Pentecostal bishop, was born in a Hyde Park apartment on Chicago's South Side. His parents were among the waves of African Americans who migrated from the South to the North in pursuit of greater economic opportunity and social mobility during the Great Migration. His mother, Geneva, was a household domestic and lay Pentecostal preacher, eventually leading the Universal Church of Christ in Chicago. His father, Robert, was a maintenance man at the Hyde Park Laundry Company from 1921 to 1940. One of five children, Brazier grew up in a highly segregated black community, since restrictive covenants bound blacks to certain areas of the city.

From his early teenage years, Brazier worked whenever he wasn't in school, first as a milkman's helper for the Bowman Dairy Company and later as a parking attendant at the Chicago World's Fair in 1933 and 1934 During the Depression Brazier ...

Article

Melvin L. Butler

gospel composer and pastor, was born into a family of sharecroppers in Somerville, Tennessee. Although Brewster stemmed from a humble background, he managed to study a wide variety of subjects, including theology, law, and Hebrew. After graduating from Roger Williams College in 1922 he moved to Memphis, Tennessee. By 1930 Brewster had begun a lifelong tenure as pastor of the East Trigg Baptist Church. A major aspect of Brewster's early ministry centered on the founding of theology schools, and these centers of learning helped to establish his voice as one of moral authority and spiritual guidance in religious circles.

By the time Brewster began seriously publishing his songs in the 1940s he had gained over a decade of experience in his pastoral role This experience provided a wellspring of material for songs that often relayed Old Testament stories and were enjoyed by African American congregations across the United States ...

Article

Adam Biggs

Walter Henderson Brooks was born in Richmond, Virginia, the son of Albert Royal Brooks and Lucy Goode, slaves. Brooks's father was an enterprising slave who owned his own “snack house” and a livery business that brought him into contact with some of Virginia's wealthiest citizens, including his wife's owner, German consul Daniel Von Groning. Albert Brooks purchased his wife's freedom in 1862 for $800 Still a slave Walter Brooks at age seven was sold to the Turpin Yarborough tobacco firm He woefully recalled his time there writing It was all I could do to perform the task assigned to my little hands What I do remember is that I stood in mortal fear of the consequences of failing to do what was required of me When the Richmond manufacturer fell victim to wartime economic decline Brooks was allowed to reside with his mother and began working ...

Article

Adam Biggs

clergyman, temperance leader, and poet, was born in Richmond, Virginia, the son of Albert Royal Brooks and Lucy Goode, slaves. Brooks's father, an enterprising slave, owned his own “snack house” and a livery business that brought him into contact with some of Virginia's wealthiest citizens, including his wife's owner, the German consul Daniel Von Groning. Albert Brooks purchased his wife's freedom in 1862 for eight hundred dollars. Still a slave, Walter Brooks at age seven was sold to the Turpin & Yarborough tobacco firm. He woefully recalled his time there, writing: “It was all I could do to perform the task assigned to my little hands. What I do remember is that I stood in mortal fear of ‘the consequences’ of failing to do what was required of me.” When the Richmond manufacturer fell victim to wartime economic decline, Brooks was allowed to reside with his mother ...

Article

David Michel

minister and activist, was born to Archibald J. Carey Sr., a Methodist minister, and Elizabeth Davis Carey in Chicago, Illinois. He attended Doolittle Elementary School and graduated from Wendell Phillips High School in 1925. As a youth Carey exhibited strong speaking skills and won the Chicago Daily News Oratorical Contest in 1924. In his adolescent years he was much influenced by his father, a staunch Republican politician, who took him to a private meeting with President Theodore Roosevelt.

After high school the young Carey pursued his education at the local Lewis Institute, where he earned a BS in 1928. He married Hazel Harper Carey, with whom he had one daughter, Carolyn. In 1929 he was ordained by his father who had become a bishop in the African Methodist Episcopal AME Church The following year Carey was assigned to the Woodlawn AME Church in ...

Article

Steven J. Niven

sharecropper and minister, was born in the Mississippi Delta, the tenth of twelve children of Miles Carter, a sharecropper descended from Georgia slaves owned by the forebears of President Jimmy Carter. The name of Miles Carter's wife is not recorded The Carters lived a peripatetic existence moving from one plantation to another but never escaping the cycle of poverty that characterized much of black life in the Jim Crow South Despite the hopelessness of that situation Miles Carter was an ambitious man who occasionally advanced to the position of renter Unlike sharecroppers who usually possessed antiquated farming tools and equipment and received only half of the value of their crop renters often owned their own mules and implements and could expect to earn a three quarter share of their crop which in the Delta was inevitably cotton Miles Carter s success as a renter required however that his ...

Article

Edward J. Robinson

evangelist, farmer, educator, postmaster, justice of the peace, and “race man,” was born Samuel in Prince William County, Virginia. Even though an oral tradition among Cassius's descendants insists that Robert E. Lee was his biological father, circumstantial evidence suggests that James W. F. Macrae, a white physician and politician and relative of Robert E. Lee, was probably his father and Jane, an enslaved African, was his mother (Robinson). After emancipation Cassius probably added the names “Robert” to commemorate Robert E. Lee's kindness of purchasing him and his mother to prevent them from being sold to the Deep South and he may have attached Cassius to honor the ancient Roman general as many slaves adopted names of famous people from classical antiquity Robinson Little is known about Samuel s mother a slave who served in the Macrae household While working for the Macrae family as a house servant ...

Article

Charles Rosenberg

was for over half a century pastor of Good Street Baptist Church, Dallas, Texas, named twice by Ebony magazine as one of the fifteen outstanding black preachers in America. He was born in Clarence, Natchitoches Parish, Louisiana, the only child of tenant farmers whose names have not been publicly identified.

The family later moved to Shreveport, where he attended public schools (which at the time were, without exception, segregated by race in his native state), and experienced an adult conversion to Christianity at age fourteen. By some accounts, he left school after seventh grade to assist his parents in the fields. Clark began preaching in 1929, and was ordained a Baptist minister in 1933 Israelite Baptist Church in Longstreet Louisiana called him to his first assignment the same year He also served as pastor of Magnolia Baptist Church South Mansfield Louisiana and Little Flower Baptist Church Grand Cane ...

Article

minister and Harlem civil rights leader, was born in Fairmount (Somerset County), Maryland, the son of Isaac and Emmeline Williams Cullen, who had been slaves. The youngest of eleven children, Cullen grew up in poverty, his father having passed away two months after his birth. He moved to Baltimore with his mother at age twelve and worked for a physician while attending Maryland State Normal School (later Towson University). He then taught public school in Fairmount for two years before entering Morgan College (later Morgan State University), an Episcopalian seminary in Baltimore; between his first and second year of studies, he also worked as a waiter in Atlantic City, New Jersey. He had received a preacher's license while in Fairmount and was ordained in 1900.

Cullen's religious awakening had taken place in September 1894 at Sharp Street Methodist Episcopal Church in Baltimore and he had preached his ...

Article

Donald Yacovone

civil rights advocate, musician, and minister, was one of six children born to Earsey Bryant Current and John T. Current, a bank employee, in Indianapolis, Indiana. He grew up in Chicago and Detroit and credited the “outspokenness” of his parents and his grandfather the Reverend Gloster Bryant for his long career in the struggle for black rights (New York Times, 9 July 1997). Current's mother was an officer in the Women's Society of Christian Service, a black women's Methodist organization, and both parents played active roles in their local church. Gloster attended the Detroit Institute of Musical Art and in 1941 received an AB degree from West Virginia State College, near Charleston. In 1951, he earned a master's degree in Public Administration from Wayne State College in Detroit.

On 6 September 1941 he married Leontine Teenie Turpeau of Cincinnati whom Current had met at ...

Article

Alice Bernstein

minister, schoolteacher, and civil rights leader, was born in Manning, Clarendon County, South Carolina, the seventh of thirteen children of Tisbia Gamble DeLaine and Henry Charles DeLaine, a pastor at Liberty Hill African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church.

The family owned farmland, which they worked to keep food on the table, and the children walked miles to a rundown segregated school. When he was fourteen, while walking to school, DeLaine shoved a white boy who had accosted his sister. After this incident was reported to his school's principal, DeLaine ran away to escape punishment of twenty-five lashes, which a school authority was compelled to administer. He spent four years in Georgia and Michigan working as a laborer and attending night school, returning to Manning in 1916. DeLaine worked his way through college and in 1931 earned a BA from Allen University in Columbia South Caroliana where ...

Article

L. Diane Barnes

novelist, playwright, and Baptist minister. Dixon was born near the close of the Civil War near Shelby, North Carolina. The Dixon family, once a prominent southern family, was left penniless in the physical and economic devastation of the South after the war. Dixon's father, a Baptist minister, joined the Ku Klux Klan during Dixon's youth. Images of the riders in white sheets coming to save the white South had a lasting impression on Dixon. His belief that the Reconstruction era was one of history's supreme tragedies was a common theme in several of his novels and plays.

Dixon earned bachelor's and master's degrees in history from Wake Forest University, then pursued graduate work at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. There he befriended the future president Woodrow Wilson who was a few years ahead in his own graduate studies After a brief attempt at an acting career ...

Article

De Witt S. Dykes

minister and registered architect, was born in Gadsden, Alabama, the second male and the fifth of six children born to Mary Anna Wade, a homemaker, and the Reverend Henry Sanford Roland Dykes, a lay minister in the Methodist Church (later the United Methodist Church), a brick mason, and construction contractor.

In the early 1900s the family moved to Newport, Tennessee, which was a racially segregated small town with a semirural atmosphere. Henry Dykes served as a circuit riding minister, conducting services on alternate Sundays at Methodist churches in three communities, including one at Newport, but earned enough to support his family as the head of a construction firm on weekdays until his death in 1945 Henry Dykes taught brick masonry and construction skills to not only his sons but also others By age fourteen Dykes had become a master mason by age seventeen he was a ...

Article

R. Baxter Miller

scholar and educator, was born in Washington, D.C., the daughter of James Stanley Dykes and Martha Ann Howard. Eva graduated from M Street High (later Paul Laurence Dunbar High School) in 1910. As valedictorian of her class, she won a $10 scholarship from Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority to attend Howard University, where in 1914 she graduated summa cum laude with a BA in English. After a year of teaching Latin and English at the now defunct Walden University in Nashville, Tennessee, and for another year elsewhere, she was urged by James Howard, a physician and uncle on her mother's side, to enter Radcliffe College in 1916. Subsequently, she earned a second BA in English, magna cum laude, in 1917. Elected Phi Beta Kappa, she received an MA in English in 1918 and a PhD in English philology in 1921 Her dissertation was titled ...