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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 ...


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 ...


Fernandis, Sarah Collins  

Donna Tyler Hollie

educator, social worker, community activist, and poet, was born in Port Deposit, Maryland, the fourth child of Caleb Alexander and Mary Jane Driver Collins, free African Americans. By 1870 the family was living in Baltimore, where her father worked in a lumberyard and her mother, as did many African American women of the era, worked as a laundress in her home. Collins may have attended a public school, which Baltimore established for African Americans in 1867, or one of numerous private schools that had served Baltimore's black community since the early nineteenth century. She enrolled in the Hampton Institute at age fourteen and graduated in 1882 as salutatorian. At New York University she earned a degree in social work sometime around 1904. She probably chose NYU because African Americans could not enroll in professional schools in the segregated Maryland–Washington, D.C., area.

Collins like most ...


Garrison, Memphis Tennessee  

Kathryn L. Staley

educator, community activist, and NAACP organizer, was born Memphis Tennessee Carter in Hollins, Virginia, to former slaves Wesley and Cassie Thomas Carter. She was named Memphis Tennessee for an aunt who was named for the town in which she was born. Carter's maternal family was filled with teachers and preachers who heavily influenced her life choices. Her white great-grandfather educated his black daughters, even though they were slaves. Her great-grandmother was an African-born slave whose tales of defiance lived on past her death. Carter's father worked in coalmines and died in a railroad accident when she was young. Her mother, who took in laundry, moved her two children, Memphis and John, into the home of her father, Marshall Thomas in Gary West Virginia Carter attended grade school in the nearby Elkhorn public school but was forced to attend high school in Ohio because McDowell County did ...


Gayden, Fern  

Ian Rocksborough-Smith

was born in Dunlop, Kansas, the daughter of Andrew Gayden of Mississippi and Frances J. Johnson of Tennessee. Gayden had two brothers and two sisters and many relatives living throughout Morris County where Dunlop is situated. She had grandparents on either side who were compelled to move to Kansas in the exodus from the South by many African Americans after the Civil War during the period of Reconstruction.

Gayden attended Dunlop s only Black elementary school and enrolled in an integrated high school She later entered the teacher s college in Emporia Kansas After teaching for one year Gayden became unsatisfied with this career and the general limits placed on Black women with professional aspirations Inspired by her father s intellectual curiosity and visits by family friends who discussed politics religion and culture she imagined herself pursuing an exciting law career in Chicago after hearing from a cousin who lived ...


Gbowee, Leymah Roberta  

Susan Shepler

peace activist, social worker, women's rights advocate, and 2011Nobel Laureate, was born on 1 February 1972 in central Liberia and raised in the country's capital, Monrovia. Her father worked as the head radio technician and liaison to the United States for the government of Liberia's National Security Agency. Her father was hired under President William Tolbert, was arrested and jailed for nine months when Samuel Doe seized power in 1980, and was reinstated upon his release. He resigned with the election of Charles Taylor in 1997 and became head of security at St. Peters Catholic Church. Her mother was a dispensing pharmacist at several hospitals in Monrovia before the outbreak of war.

Gbowee graduated from B.W. Harris Episcopal High, one of Monrovia's best high schools. In March 1990 she began classes at the University of Liberia with the dream of becoming a doctor ...


Goodman, George Wendell  

Elizabeth Doerfler

journalist, educator, social worker, activist, and community leader was born in Hartford, Connecticut, in or around 1901 to John T. Goodman, a laborer, and Harriet Goodman. Both of his parents were born in Virginia as were his siblings, David and Esther. This indicates that the Goodmans were part of the early African American migration from the South to the urban North, a process that increased greatly during the Great Migration that began in World War I. By 1920, when Goodman was nineteen, the family—which included his parents, his sister, Margaret, her husband, Floyd Davis, and their daughter, Marjorie—lived at 290 Garden Street, part of an African‐American neighborhood in Hartford.

Goodman graduated from Hartford Public High School in 1922 He was one of the very few African Americans to graduate in his class During high school Goodman was on the debate team the football team and ...


Herman, Alexis  

Mohammed Badrul Alam

public servant and the first African American secretary of labor. Alexis Herman is among the few African American women who as a public servant rose to great heights through innovative and entrepreneurial skills. She was born in Mobile, Alabama, on 16 July 1947 and was educated at Edgewood College in Madison, Wisconsin (1965–1967), Spring Hill College in Mobile (1967), Xavier University in New Orleans (1969), and the University of South Alabama (1970–1972 Inspired by the civil rights movements of the 1960s as well as by the women s and labor movements of the 1970s Herman worked strenuously to desegregate her old high school in Mobile During her childhood she looked on in awe when her father sued the Democratic Party to let African Americans vote he later became the first African American wardsman in Alabama As a proactive outreach worker in Pascagoula ...


Herman, Alexis M.  

Jaime McLean

As a community activist, businesswoman, and political manager, Alexis Herman has devoted her life to resolving labor issues and advocating for American workers. Throughout her thirty-five-year career, Herman has been successful in translating her experiences with workers into effective labor policy. Having dealt with both gender and racial discrimination herself, Herman has dedicated her life to exposing institutional barriers and developing policies based on “common sense ideas that improve the bottom line.”

Alexis Margaret Herman was born in Mobile, Alabama. After graduating from Heart of Mary High School in 1965, Herman moved to Wisconsin, where she attended Edgewood College. In 1967 she transferred to Spring Hill College in Mobile before going on to Xavier University in New Orleans, where in 1969 she received her BS. Herman later did graduate work at the University of South Alabama while pursuing a career in community activism.

Herman s early career provided ...


Herman, Alexis Margaret  

Jamal Donaldson Briggs

politician, was born to Alex Herman and Gloria Capronis in Mobile, Alabama. Her father, a mortician and a prominent political activist, sued the Democratic Party in an effort to allow blacks to vote and is credited as the first black elected in the South since Reconstruction when he became a wardsman. Her mother, Gloria, was a reading teacher.

Religion most shaped Herman's youth. Her Roman Catholic parents shunned segregated state education and enrolled her in parochial schools. At the time, these were still segregated, but employed white priests and nuns whose tutoring was, in Herman's recollection, colorblind. Her father once took her high school class on an unusual field trip: to a meeting of the Alabama Citizens Council, the front for the Ku Klux Klan. She graduated from Most Pure Heart of Mary High School in 1965 Shortly thereafter Herman attended Edgewood College in Madison Wisconsin and ...


Jackson, Eliza Belle Mitchell  

Charles Rosenberg

teacher, organizer of schools, homes for orphans and senior citizens, and social clubs, was born in Perryville and grew up in nearby Danville, Kentucky, the daughter of Monroe and Mary Douglas Mitchell. Her father, who had been enslaved, hired his time and earned money as a carpenter, eventually purchasing his freedom and then his wife's. Mitchell attended a school for free colored children, permitted even before 1860, then at age eleven was taken to Xenia, Ohio, by her mother, where she attended the public school for three years. She had at least two sisters, Mary and Martha, recorded in the 1860 census The family home had several neighbors recorded as black or mulatto all presumably free or they would only have been counted in the slave census Several neighbors with no record of color would presumably have been considered to be white At the ...


Joseph, Helen  

Susanne M. Klausen

teacher, social worker, and antiapartheid activist in South Africa, was born Helen Beatrice May Fennell in Sussex, England, on 8 April 1905. She grew up in London and graduated with a degree in English from King’s College, the University of London, in 1927. She taught at the Mahbubia School for girls in Hyderabad, India, from 1927 to 1930. After a serious horse-riding accident, she resigned and moved to South Africa in 1931 to take up a less demanding post at a school in Durban. Between 1942 and 1946 she worked full time as a Welfare and Information Officer in the South African Air Force, and during this period she learned a great deal about black South Africans’ extensive poverty. Consequently, after World War II, she trained as a social worker.

In 1951 Joseph became secretary of the Medical Aid Society of the Transvaal Clothing Industry In ...


Wilson, Alyce McCarroll  

Tekla Ali Johnson

social worker and settlement house director, was born in Birmingham, Alabama, to parents whose names and occupations are now unknown. Wilson graduated from Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee, in the late 1920s, earning a certificate of music. Shortly after graduation she arrived in Omaha, Nebraska, where she worked as a social worker. Wilson was a diligent member of the Alpha Beta Chapter of the Delta sorority and served as a founding member of Delta sorority chapters in her hometown, as well as a chapter at Fisk University and the Gamma Xi Alumnae Chapter of Omaha. While still in her thirties, Wilson was appointed director of Woodson Center, an African American settlement house in South Omaha.

The idea of settlement houses originated in London in the nineteenth century to help immigrants adjust to their new surroundings and to help eradicate social inequalities by providing educational opportunities for the working class ...