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Alves, Sebastião Rodrigues  

Elisa Larkin Nascimento

born in Guaraçu, state of Espirito Santo, Brazil, on 28 July 1913 and known to family, friends, and acquaintances as “Rodrigues” or “Rodrigues Alves.” He lost his mother, Maria da Conceição Fernando Alves, at the age of 7 and went to work with his father, Hipólito Rodrigues Alves, farming one of his small plots of land. As a boy and youth, Rodrigues Alves worked rural jobs, driving cattle and running donkeys and burros. He worked for the state fire department and then enlisted in the army, where he rose to the rank of corporal.

In 1932 the neighboring state of São Paulo declared its Constitutionalist Revolution Rodrigues Alves was among the troops sent to quash the rebellion When federal forces prevailed Rodrigues Alves s unit moved to São Paulo He went to live at a Mrs Fortunata s boarding house where black activist Abdias Nascimento then also a young ...


Asberry, Nettie J.  

Antoinette Broussard Farmer

classical pianist, civil rights activist, and social worker, was born Nettie Craig in Leavenworth, Kansas, the daughter of William P. Wallingford, an immigrant farmer from England, and Viola, his former slave. In 1837, prior to Nettie's birth, Wallingford moved his family from Kentucky and settled on the Platte purchase in Missouri. He was married three times and fathered seventeen children including six by Viola. Nettie, the youngest of these, was the only one born free. Information is scarce about Viola. After she was emancipated she rejected Wallingford's name and adopted Craig as her surname, likely because she was born on the Craig plantation in Kentucky. She took her children to Leavenworth, Kansas, where she married Taylor Turner. Her occupation was listed as a domestic. She died in Denver, Colorado, on 29 September 1906 at the age of seventy‐six.

Nettie Craig began studying the piano at eight ...


Beckham, Ruth Winifred Howard  

Tiffany K. Wayne

psychologist, social worker, and educator, was born in Washington, D.C., the eighth and youngest child of Reverend and Mrs. William James Howard. Ruth Howard loved reading as a child and originally considered becoming a librarian but, after three years at Howard University, she transferred to Simmons College in Boston and changed her major to social work.

In the early decades of the twentieth century social work was a new professional field for women and especially for black women Most African American women in the early decades of the twentieth century were confined to jobs as domestic workers or if they entered the professional class as teachers But at Simmons Howard was introduced to new role models and new career possibilities Through a summer internship with the National Urban League she became inspired by the need for community programs for disadvantaged youth including education recreation and job ...


Brown, Cora  

Linda M. Carter

state legislator, attorney, police officer, and social worker, was born Cora Mae Brown in Bessemer, Alabama, the only child of Richard and Alice Brown. Her father and mother were employed as a tailor and cook respectively. In 1922 the family moved to Detroit when Brown was seven years old. After graduating from Cass Technical High School in 1931, Brown attended Fisk University and received a degree in sociology in 1935.

Brown returned to Detroit, and until 1941, she was employed as a social worker. After working for the Children's Aid Bureau, Old Age Assistance Bureau, and the Works Progress Administration, Brown, as a policewoman in the Women's Division of the Detroit Police Department from 1941 to 1946, prepared legal cases. In 1946 Brown enrolled in Wayne State University's School of Law; she received her LL.B degree in 1948 and passed ...


Bustamante, Gladys Maud  

Sandria Green-Stewart

and the first “First Lady” of independent Jamaica, was born Gladys Maud Longbridge on 8 March 1912 in Parson Reid, Westmoreland, Jamaica, to working-class parents, Rebecca Blackwood and Frank Longbridge. Lady Bustamante, in her Memoirs, identified the role of her family (including her extended family), the church, school, and the local community in molding her early years and inculcating the values of responsibility and giving back to others. She attended the Ashton Primary School, which was run by the Moravian Church. As an ambitious 18-year-old, she moved to Kingston, the island’s capital, to pursue further education at Tutorial Commercial College, where she studied to be a secretary. It was in Kingston that she began her journey to become associated with Jamaica’s early trade union movement and a contributor to the project of nation-building.

Bustamante described her early life in rural western Jamaica as happy and carefree She was involved ...


Coggs, Pauline Redmond  

Robert F. Jefferson

social worker, educator, and civil rights activist, was born Josephine Pauline Redmond in Paris, Kentucky, the daughter of Josephine B. Scott, an educator, and John B. Redmond a prominent Methodist minister and educator both formerly from Mississippi The third of four children Redmond relocated to several Midwestern cities with her family as a youngster before eventually settling in Chicago Illinois after her father gained a pastoral assignment to St Mark s Methodist Church John Redmond s deep involvement in community affairs and Josephine s unwavering commitment to self improvement made a lasting impression on the young Pauline As she recalled years later my father was the kind of minister deeply concerned about everything that happened to his congregation and he would get up in the middle of the night and go out into those harsh Chicago winters and see someone who had died because one of his parishioners ...


Coleman, Maude B.  

Jennifer Reed Fry

politician, clubwoman, and welfare worker, was born in the Piedmont region of Virginia to Frances Dearing in approximately 1879. During her youth, the Dearing family moved to Harrisburg, where Maud was educated in the Harrisburg school system. Later in life she attended the University of Pennsylvania. On 5 September 1897Maude B. Dearing married John W. Coleman in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. They had one child, Priscilla Coleman, who died in infancy.

Throughout her adult life, Coleman was a driving force in Harrisburg's African American community. During World War I she worked tirelessly in support of African American troops and received a commendation from General Cornelius Vanderbilt for her service. This success in community organizing encouraged Coleman to become a founding member of the Phyllis Wheatley Colored Harrisburg Branch of the Young Women's Christian Association in 1920 Coleman participated in and led a variety of social ...


Cooper, Chuck  

Jane Brodsky Fitzpatrick

basketball player, was born Charles Henry Cooper in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the youngest of five children of Daniel Webster Cooper, a mailman, and Emma Caroline Brown, a schoolteacher.

Cooper played basketball at Westinghouse High School in segregated East Pittsburgh. After graduating in February 1944, Cooper attended West Virginia State College, a historically black institution. He played basketball from 1944 to 1945, until he was drafted into the U.S. Navy. He served from July 1945 to October 1946.

Upon leaving the Navy, Cooper attended Duquesne University in Pittsburgh on the GI Bill and graduated in 1950 with a B.S. in Education. Although Duquesne was a predominantly white university, it was an early leader in the recruitment of black athletes. Cooper made the basketball team, The Dukes, when only a freshman. He was their first black starter and an All-American. As captain in 1949–1950 he led ...


DeBerry, William Nelson  

Ralph E. Luker

Congregational clergyman and social service worker, was born in Nashville, Tennessee, the son of Caswell DeBerry and Charlotte Mayfield, former slaves. His father was a railroad shop worker and a lay preacher in a local Baptist church; his mother's occupation is unknown. DeBerry was educated in Nashville and entered Fisk University in 1886, graduating ten years later with a BS degree. DeBerry then went to Oberlin College in Ohio where he received a Bachelor of Divinity degree in 1899. That same year he was ordained in the Congregational ministry, became the pastor of St. John's Congregational Church in Springfield, Massachusetts, and married Amanda McKissack of Pulaski, Tennessee; they had two children. After the death of his first wife (date unknown), DeBerry married Louise Scott in 1943.

DeBerry served as pastor of St. John's Congregational Church until 31 December 1930 during which time the church grew ...


DeKnight, Freda  

Donna Battle Pierce

was born Freda Celeste Alexander to Frederick Alexander, a steward for the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railroad Company and Eleanor Alexander, originally from Massachusetts, a nurse. She was the younger of two daughters. The much-traveled Alexander family considered Topeka home base at the time of DeKnight’s birth.

Because their mother performed traveling nurse duties at the time their father died, both sisters moved with their aunt to Mitchell, South Dakota, home to the state’s elaborate Corn Palace. They lived with their mother’s brother, Paul Scott, a regionally celebrated caterer, and his Mississippi-born wife, Mamie, whom the girls grew to call Mama Scott.

DeKnight credits growing up in Papa and Mama Scott’s hard-working, food-oriented household, where most ingredients were sourced from their farmland and smokehouse, as the prime inspiration for her recipe-centered future.

Due to the small population of Black students growing up in South Dakota during the early decades ...


Delaney, Emma B.  

Brandi Hughes

nurse, foreign missionary, and school founder, was born to Anna L. Delaney and Daniel Sharpe Delaney in Fernandina Beach, Florida. Emma Beard Delaney came of age in the postbellum generation that witnessed the collapse of Reconstruction and the fading of the early promise of African American emancipation. Against the rising tide of segregation and racial violence, however, Delaney's family managed to sustain a measure of economic security and educational advancement. Her father, Daniel, held the distinction of being the only African American helmsman commissioned for service on the Revenue Cutter Boutwell, a federal ship that patrolled the ports of Savannah, Georgia; Jacksonville, Florida; and Charleston, South Carolina, as a forerunner of the U.S. Coast Guard. The unique benefits of her father's government employment enabled the Delaney family to support an expansive education for Emma and her sister, Annie. In 1889 shortly after completing secondary classes ...


Delany, Clarissa Scott  

Gwendolyn S. Jones

poet, essayist, educator, and social worker, was born Clarissa Mae Scott in Tuskegee, Alabama, the third of five children born to Emmett Jay Scott and Elenor Baker Scott. Her father served as secretary to Booker T. Washington, the founder of Tuskegee Institute; secretary-treasurer at Howard University; and special adviser on African American Affairs to President Woodrow Wilson. Scott spent her early years in Tuskegee, where she had access to intellectual, social, and cultural activities available to students, faculty, and staff at Tuskegee Institute; she was educated in New England, entering Bradford Academy in 1916, then Wellesley College in 1919.

At Wellesley Scott was an active competitive student who earned scholarship honors participated on the debate team and earned a letter in field hockey She was also a talented singer and pianist and held memberships in various social groups and religious organizations Delany ...


Diaz, Manuel, Jr.  

Sonia Lee

was born in Humacao, Puerto Rico, on 19 September 1922 to Manuel Diaz Gomez, a printmaker, musician, and bodega owner, and Filomena Zoe Velazquez, a seamstress. With his family, Diaz migrated to New York City at the age of 5 in 1927. While training for the military during World War II in Biloxi, Mississippi, Diaz experienced Jim Crow racism for the first time in his life. After being denied service at a bar and a promotion in the military because of the color of his skin, Diaz came to develop a “kinship toward black people.” Upon returning home, Diaz earned a B.A. at the City College of New York (CCNY) in 1951 and an M.S. at Columbia University’s School of Social Work in 1953 Black activists whom Diaz met as a student heavily influenced his intellectual and political trajectory At CCNY he joined the campus chapter of the ...


Duster, Alfreda Barnett  

Mary Krane Derr

community activist, social service worker, and history conserver, was born Alfreda Marguerita Barnett in Chicago, Illinois. She was the youngest child of Ida B. Wells-Barnett, the journalist, suffragist, and anti-lynching crusader, and Ferdinand Barnett, the attorney, civil rights activist, and founder of Chicago's first black newspaper. Along with her three full siblings—Ida, Herman, and Charles Aked—Alfreda had two half-brothers, Albert and Ferdinand Jr., from her father's first marriage. Duster recalled her childhood as happy and both her parents as kind, dedicated people of integrity. She described her father as gentle and quiet, her mother as outspoken and firm. Other activists like Carter G. Woodson, William Monroe Trotter, and Hallie Quinn Brown regularly visited the Barnett home.

The Barnetts lived in a largely middle class interracial sometimes racially tense area on Chicago s South Side A bright student who handled herself confidently among ...


Edwards, Thyra Johnson  

Charles Rosenberg

social worker, teacher, organizer of business and professional women's clubs, was born in Wharton, Texas, the oldest of five children of Horace Ferdinand Edwards and Anna Bell Johnson Edwards. Both of her parents taught at the racially segregated schools in the local district. Edwards's maternal grandparents had married when still enslaved in Hannibal, Missouri, then escaped separately to Illinois, where Anna Johnson graduated from high school in Galesburg. Her paternal grandparents were born in Georgia and Alabama, and married in Mississippi, where both were enslaved prior to 1865.

Edwards and her younger sister Thelma moved with their parents to Houston in the early 1900s both parents leaving their teaching jobs Her father planted a garden sold wood collected and sold junk tried his hand as a real estate agent and eventually got a job at the post office which he hated Younger siblings Anna Bell ...


Egypt, Ophelia Settle  

Joyce A. A. Camper

sociologist, social worker, writer, and teacher, was born Ophelia Settle in Red River County, Texas, one of seven children of Sarah Garth, who died when Settle was four years old, and Green Wilson Settle, a teacher and later principal at the Deaf, Dumb, and Blind Institute in Raft, Oklahoma. The emphasis the Settle family placed upon education influenced Settle's aspiration to become a teacher. She graduated from Howard University with an AB in English in 1925 and taught at the Orange County Training School in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, for a year. She then completed a master's degree in Sociology in 1928 at the University of Pennsylvania.

In 1929 Settle embarked on a journey that culminated in the project that became her lifelong passion. Charles Spurgeon Johnson then director of the newly formed Department of Social Science at Fisk University hired Settle as ...


Ferguson, Catherine  

Meca R. Williams

Catherine Ferguson began New York’s first Sunday school in 1793. Not only did she teach catechism and life skills but she also assisted by finding permanent homes for some of the school’s economically disadvantaged students. For these benevolent acts, she is known as a trailblazer in the Sunday school movement, public education, child welfare, and social work.

Ferguson was born Catherine Williams when her mother was en route to her new slave owners for domestic service Williams was delivered on a schooner while her mother was traveling from Virginia to New York Doing domestic work alongside her mother she developed skills that would prove helpful to her in her later employment Her mother also taught her to recite biblical scriptures The young girl acquired a keen ability for memorizing religious texts When she was eight years old her education came to a halt and her family ties were ...


Ferguson, Catherine (Katy)  

Rayford W. Logan

Catherine Ferguson was born a slave while her mother was traveling from Virginia to New York City, when slavery was still permitted in that region. When Ferguson was seven years old, her mother was sold. A kind mistress permitted the child to attend church services, and another sympathetic woman purchased Ferguson's freedom for $200 when she was sixteen years old. When she was eighteen, Ferguson married; the couple had two children, both of whom died young. Little is known about her husband, who died before she was twenty. At her home on Warren Street, Manhattan, she began to instruct black and white children in religious matters. Around 1814, Dr. Mason, a minister, visited her home on a Sunday and invited her to bring her school to the basement of his church on Murray Street. Here, according to scholar W. E. B. Du Bois she took the ...


Ferguson, Katy  

William E. Burns

, educator and philanthropist, was born Catherine Williams as her mother, Katy Williams, a slave, was in transit from Virginia to New York City. Nothing is known of her father. When she was only eight years old Katy was separated forever from her mother, who was sold by their master. She later credited her own compassion for children to the pain she suffered at the loss. Katy underwent a conversion experience at the age of fourteen or fifteen and shortly afterward, in 1789, joined New York's Scotch Presbyterian Church (later the Second Presbyterian Church), possibly causing some controversy among the white members of the church, which spatially separated white and black worshippers.

When Katy was sixteen or seventeen she was purchased by a New York woman for $200 The woman s plan was to allow Katy her freedom after six years work in compensation for the payment However ...


Ferguson, Katy  

Sheryl A. Kujawa

Ferguson, Katy (1779?–11 July 1854), child welfare worker and school founder was born a slave on board a schooner en route from Virginia to New York City Her formal name was Catherine Williams but she was known as Katy Separated from her mother at the age of eight after the woman was sold by their master a Presbyterian elder Katy never saw her mother again Although she never learned to read or write Katy was allowed to attend church services and before she was sold her mother taught her the Scriptures from memory Katy was deeply religious and a strong adherent of the Presbyterian faith At the age of ten she promised her master that she would dedicate her life to God s service if given her freedom This request was denied but Katy eventually obtained her freedom she was purchased for $200 by an abolitionist sympathizer ...