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 ...
Alma Jean Billingslea Brown
Julia A. Clancy-Smith
Tunisian labor activist, women’s rights activist, and journalist, was born in the town of Gabes in southern Tunisia. Adda rose to prominence owing to her mother’s emphasis upon female education, although her parents were of modest means. One branch of Adda’s family, who are North African Jews, was originally from Batna in Algeria; her maternal grandfather had left French Algeria to seek his fortune in Tunisia, where he managed a small hotel in the south. For her parents’ generation, it was somewhat unusual for women to attend school; to achieve the “certificate of study,” as Adda’s mother did, was a noteworthy achievement. Gladys Adda’s life trajectory illustrated a number of important regional and global social and political currents: nationalism and anticolonialism, organized labor and workers’ movements, socialism and communism, women’s emancipation, and fascism and anti-Semitism against the backdrop of World War II.
In primary school Adda attended classes with Muslim ...
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 ...
journalist, war correspondent, railway mail clerk, and postal worker union activist, whose career rebounded repeatedly from the impact of his abrasive style on supervisors and fellow workers, was born in Charlotte, North Carolina, the son of Trezzvant E. Anderson and Amanda (Dixon) Anderson. In 1930 he and his sister, Roberta Anderson, were living in Charlotte with a stepfather, Robert Alexander, who was born in Virginia.
Trezzvant Anderson enrolled at Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte in 1921, where he edited the campus paper, the University Student. He left in 1927, a year short of graduation, and worked as a railway mail clerk in Charlotte and in Washington, D.C., until 1941, while also taking on a variety of writing assignments. He was contributing editor of the Charlotte Post (1928–1929), special feature writer for the Norfolk, Virginia, Journal and Guide ...
public servant, politician, and businessman in present-day Uganda, was born in the Kingdom of Buganda in 1894. His father, Thomas Ssemukasa, was a subcounty chief and general of Kabaka (King) Mwanga’s army. His name, which was not a customary clan name, means “it is better to die on the battlefield than to die of a natural death.” He was educated at an elite private school, King’s College in Buddo, and at Sheffield College in England. Upon his return to Uganda he was a clerk in the protectorate government, but soon he became an outspoken politician and businessman who challenged the application of British administration in Uganda.
After several years of service to the protectorate government, Baamuta was appointed secretary of the Lukiiko (the Bugandan parliament). He was a vociferous defender of the rights afforded to the Buganda Kingdom under the terms of the Uganda Agreement (1900 which ...
South African labor organizer and women’s movement leader, was born in the diamond-mining town of Kimberley, the fourth of six children. Her father Herman Maswabi had come from Bechuanaland (now Botswana) to work on the mines and was a steward in the local Methodist church; her mother, Sara Voss, also Tswana, came from Kimberley. When her father’s brother and sister-in-law died, Baard’s family took in their children, and her parents sent her to stay with her father’s sister in Ramotswa, a village not far from Gaborone, where she was confirmed in the local Lutheran church. After Baard, then around eight years old, suffered serious burns in a cooking fire, her mother brought her back to the family home in Beaconsfield, just outside of Kimberley. She attended a Methodist school, learning in both English and Tswana. Shortly after she returned, her mother passed away during the 1918 flu epidemic.
When Baard ...
Eric Paul Roorda
labor leader in the sugar industry during the Rafael Trujillo regime, was born in Sabana Grande de Palenque in the province of San Cristóbal, Dominican Republic, on 23 September 1910. He was the son of Daniel Báez, a sugarcane cutter, and Julia de los Santos. They moved to San Pedro de Macorís with him when he was young. He began working in a company store on the Colón sugar estate, and later he became a stevedore in the port of San Pedro. These places of employment may have provided him the chance to gain literacy, although he had no formal education. What he had was intelligence, charisma, and a great public speaking ability.
Báez became a leader of the nascent labor union movement in the cane fields around San Pedro de Macorís and La Romana in the early 1940s He was one of the leaders of a brief localized ...
Michael J. Murphy
automobile worker and activist, was born General Gordon Baker Jr. in Detroit, Michigan, one of five children of General Gordon Baker Sr., an automobile worker, and Clara Baker, a housewife. Baker attended Southwestern High School in Detroit and went on to take classes at Highland Park Community College and Wayne State University. In the early 1960s he took a job with Ford Motor Company and continued to work in the automobile industry for almost forty years. In 1941 Baker s father had moved his family to Detroit from Georgia in search of a job in the booming war production industries taking part in the massive migration of African Americans from the rural South to cities in the North during the first half of the twentieth century Becoming an autoworker allowed Baker Sr to dramatically improve his family s standard of living especially in comparison to his prospects ...
pioneer settler in Los Angeles County, California, in the 1850s, blacksmith, teamster, firewood salesman, and landowner, was born in Kentucky around 1827. Although it is commonly assumed that he had been enslaved there, he arrived in California a free man prior to the Civil War, and nothing has been established about his previous life.
He was married on 6 November 1859 to a woman named Amanda, born in Texas, by Jesse Hamilton, the earliest pastor of First African Methodist Episcopal church, Los Angeles. Their first two children, Dora and Julia, were born in 1857 and 1859. In 1860 the household included a laborer named Juan Jose, recorded by the census as being of Indian ancestry. Another man of African descent, Oscar Smith from Mississippi lived next door and no race was specified for the other neighbors who had either English or Hispanic names ...
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 ...
accomplished master cobbler and organizer of a guild of shoemakers of color in Buenos Aires (Argentina) during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. In 1793, with the objective of obtaining official recognition for this guild, he traveled to Spain, where he had a meeting with the royal authorities. While there he managed to obtain the permission he had fought so hard for, but he was prevented from carrying out his plans for the guild because of other restrictions. As a result, he became bitter and left Buenos Aires.
Baquero was born in Buenos Aires in 1748 and began working as an apprentice cobbler at the age of 12 Though no details are known about his parents it is clear that Baquero followed the custom of leaving his home and living with the family of a master cobbler whose scarce resources he shared After four years of working intensely as ...
labor union activist in the Chicago stockyards, was born in Cleveland, Ohio, the son of John W. Bedford and Melcenah S. Bedford. His father was born in 1844 in Virginia and was employed in 1880 (shortly before Robert was born) in a stove foundry in Columbiana County, Ohio. His mother was born in 1852 in Ohio. Her mother was also born in Ohio. Her father, John Davis, born in Virginia, lived with the family in 1880, as did two brothers, Orville and John Davis (Census, 1880). By 1900Melcenah Bedford was raising her children alone at 492 Central Avenue in Cleveland, Ohio, making a living washing clothes. No record has been found as to what happened in the intervening twenty years, during which Robert Edward Bedford was born and grew to the age of sixteen.
It is likely that he was at least eight years old ...
merchant, community leader, and socialite, was born Ada Jagne to Francis and Marie Jagne in Bathurst (now Banjul), Gambia. Little is known of her life before 1916, when she married Job Beigh, the richest merchant in Bathurst. Job owned choice real estate in Bathurst, many warehouses and shops, and a fleet of riverboats that transported merchandise to the ports of the Gambia River for European firms.
Job Beigh's career as a merchant exemplified the cutthroat business environment in the Gambia colony in the second half of the nineteenth century. He was born in Bathurst in 1847 and, following his secondary education in Freetown, Sierra Leone, he began his business career as a clerk with the Bathurst Trading Company, one of the six major European companies operating in Bathurst and upriver towns. Later, Job started trading on his own account in Bathurst in 1888 He was ...
Moroccan anticolonialist leader, was born in Rabat. Although he was raised in a family of modest income, he managed to attend a French elementary school for children of notable families at the age of nine. In 1938, he graduated from Moulay Youssef High School in Rabat. He attended Algiers University in Algeria, where he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in mathematics in 1942. He returned to Morocco and taught mathematics at Gouraud High School and then joined the teaching faculty at the Royal College. In La mémoire d’un roi: Entretiens avec Eric Laurent, the late King Hassan II, who was one of Ben Barka’s students, described him as a man with “a vast knowledge, a charming personality, and a passionate nature” (p. 108).
The year 1935 marked the beginning of Ben Barka s involvement in the national movement for independence He was the youngest member of ...
football player and labor activist, was born in Trenton, New Jersey, the first of nine children born to Jesse and Henrietta Bethea. Bethea grew up poor, with his father finding whatever jobs he could while his mother worked out of the home as a hairdresser. His father, who enforced a strict home environment, did not think much of football as he struggled in a low-paying factory job, but he did leave Elvin his blue-collar work ethic—a trait the son applied to his own life, especially in football. Bethea excelled in football at Trenton Central High School and was offered a football scholarship at North Carolina Agricultural & Technical University in Greensboro, where he made All-America as a two way lineman. At North Carolina A & T, Bethea played under the assistant coach Hornsby Howell who pushed him to succeed not only in sports but also in life ...
Ingrid Y. Castañeda
born to Creole (English-speaking) parents in British Honduras in 1897. Betson attended primary school at a Methodist institution and in 1916 volunteered to fight in World War I as part of the British West Indies Regiment. Upon return to Belize from the Middle East in 1919, black former servicemen rioted over poor conditions at home and abroad. While he apparently did not participate in the riots, the radicalism of the period, combined with the appeal of Marcus Garvey’s ideas, had a lasting impact on Betson. After his military service, he returned to work as a master shipwright, repairing ships on the waterfront.
British Honduras was again gripped by social upheaval in 1934 as the Great Depression battered the colony s economy Sparked by the government s lack of response to a disastrous hurricane the colony saw strikes and street protests demanding jobs higher wages and better living ...
Barbara A. White
prosperous businessman, whaling captain, and community leader, whose court case against Nantucket led to the integration of the public schools, was a member of one of the largest and most influential black families on the island. His father was Seneca Boston, a manumitted slave, who was a self‐employed weaver. His mother was a Wampanoag Indian named Thankful Micah. They had four sons and one daughter. Absalom Boston, the third‐born, went to sea, as did many of Nantucket's young men, signing onto the whale ship Thomas in 1809 when he was twenty‐four. Little is known about his early education. Anna Gardner, in her memoir Harvest Gleanings, mentions him visiting her family and hints that it may have been her mother, Hannah Macy Gardner, who taught the young man to read.
Shortly before he went to sea, Boston married his first wife, Mary Spywood about whom little is ...
educator and community activist, was born Uvelia Atkins in Middlesex County, Virginia. She attended public elementary schools in Middlesex County, and in 1940 she graduated from the Rappahannock Industrial Academy, a private high school in Essex County. Atkins graduated in 1945 from Virginia Union University, in Richmond, where she majored in English and was vice president of the YWCA, secretary of Kappa Gamma Chi, and a member of the NAACP. She married the Reverend Walter Duncan Bowen, a Presbyterian pastor, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1954. The couple did not have any children, and throughout their lives they worked with inner‐city young people. She received a master of social service degree from Bryn Mawr College in 1957.
From 1951 to 1965 Bowen worked in Philadelphia for the United Neighbors Association a multi program agency that provided services to city residents she was the association s first woman ...
Susan B. Iwanisziw
commercial painter, artist, and activist, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the only known child of Jeremiah Bowser from Maryland and Rachel Bustill, daughter of the prosperous black abolitionist and educator Cyrus Bustill. The intermarriage among the region's free black Quaker families headed by Cyrus Bustill, Robert Douglass Sr., Jeremiah Bowser, and David Mapps created a dynamic force that benefited all African Americans and particularly spurred David s personal growth and accomplishments Jeremiah a member of the Benezet Philosophical Society served as a steward on the Liverpool lines and later it seems he was the proprietor of an oyster house near the intersection of 4th and Cherry Streets where David Bowser first hung up his sign as a commercial painter Later the Bowser family moved to the Northern Liberties section of Philadelphia into a house at 481 North 4th Street where Bowser remained for the ...
business manager, journalist, entrepreneur, and political activist, was born in Knoxville, Tennessee, the son of Ulysses and Curtis Heard Boykin. The elder Ulysses Boykin was employed by the Knoxville Journal. He and his wife were natives of Georgia, where she had taught school in La Grange. Boykin had an older brother, Alfred Wade Boykin, and a sister, Eleanor. In the early 1920s the family moved to Michigan, settling first in Grosse Ile, then in Detroit, where their father found work in a foundry.
In 1934 Boykin graduated from Detroit’s Northeastern High School and began writing a column for young readers in the Detroit Tribune. He took courses at Wayne State University, but did not enter a degree program. The following year Boykin was hired as an assistant to Russell J. Cowans, tutor and secretary to boxing sensation Joe Louis Louis s career was a business managed ...