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pianist, educator, and philanthropist, was born a slave in Trenton, Kentucky, to Mary Dickinson, also a slave, and Mr. Leavell, likely a scion of the white Benjamin Leavell family, pioneers of Trenton. According to family history, Josephine's father wanted to send her and her sister to Canada on the Underground Railroad, but their mother objected because of the danger and distance. Sometime between 1868 and 1875 Josephine attended the Nashville Normal and Theological Institute (also known as the Baptist Institute), a college for African Americans that was later renamed Roger Williams University. Daniel W. Phillips, a white Baptist minister, had started the school in 1864, teaching Bible classes to freed people in his home. The school was later acquired by Vanderbilt University and incorporated into its George Peabody campus, a teachers' college.

While at the Baptist Institute Josephine studied music particularly piano and ...


Clarence Maxwell

was born on the island of Antigua in 1788. He moved to Bermuda in 1807, settling in the island’s former capital of St. George’s. Whether he arrived in Bermuda as either bond or free, he was certainly free by 1821 when he made one of his earliest appearances in the local records. The St. George’s Vestry noted him among the parish’s “free persons of colour” in 1828.

Between 1807 and 1821 Athill established himself as a shipwright a skill he may have learned living in Antigua There was a market for such in his new home Bermuda had experienced since the late 1600s a maritime and commercial economic revolution dominated by the carrying trade and including ancillary industries such as shipbuilding and boatbuilding As one of the few Bermuda residents classified as Free Coloured the 41 year old Athill purchased a freehold in St George s ...


Jodie N. Mader

diamond magnate, financier, imperialist, and philanthropist in southern Africa, was born in Hamburg, Germany, the eldest of six children. His father was an affluent merchant. Beit performed poorly in school, and in his teens he was sent to be an apprentice at the office of Jules Porges and Company in Amsterdam. In 1875, Beit went to Kimberley, South Africa, as a representative of the firm. While in Africa he went into property speculation and joined up with a young German named Julius Wernher. These two men formed the Wernher, Beit, and Company firm, which was known for its deep-level mining and use of cyanide processing for treating gold ore. His most famous friendship was with Cecil Rhodes, an English financier. They formed the De Beers Mining Company. Much of Rhodes’s success depended on the financial advice he received from Beit.

Together Rhodes and Beit worked to drive out other ...


Frank R. Levstik

Edwin C. Berry was born in Oberlin, Ohio, on December 10, 1854, the son of free parents who were born in Gallia County, Ohio. In 1856 his family moved to Athens County, where Berry remained for the rest of his life. In Athens County Berry attended Albany Enterprise Academy, one of the earliest educational institutions in the United States that was conceived, owned, and operated by blacks. The Berry family took in boarders, two of whom were to gain fame in their own right: Medal of Honor winner Milton M. Holland and his brother, William H. Holland, Texas legislator and educator.

Berry first found employment in Athens manufacturing bricks for the state mental hospital that was being constructed in town. In 1868 he secured work in a local restaurant as an apprentice cook for five years. On October 18, 1877 Berry married Mattie Madra of Pomeroy ...


Betti Carol VanEpps-Taylor

historian of African Americans in South Dakota, civic leader, entrepreneur, and philanthropist, was born in Yankton, South Dakota, the youngest of eleven children of Henry and Mary (Fristoe) Blakey. The large, extended Blakey clan began migrating from Missouri to South Dakota in 1904, where they acquired land and built a profitable and respected truck gardening business. Young Blakey completed eighth grade in country school and worked in the family business. Beginning in the mid‐1960s Blakey returned to school at Springfield State College (which later closed), where he obtained his GED and completed advanced training in building maintenance and pest control. On 22 October 1948 he married Dorothy Edwards in Athabaska, Alberta, Canada; the couple had three children.

Blakey was an ambitious, self‐taught businessman with a keen interest in civic activities and public service. Of his three successful businesses, Blakey's Janitorial Services, established in 1956 provided jobs for both ...


Shennette Garrett-Scott

insurance entrepreneur, was born Robert Alexander Cole in the small Tennessee town of Mount Carmel to former slaves Robert and Narcissa Cole. Cole grew up in a community of poor cotton sharecroppers, but his childhood was a happy one. Cole worked on the farm with his seven brothers and sisters. He was only able to complete four years of formal education. Around 1899 Cole moved to Kentucky and quickly advanced as a foreman in a machine shop. However, he chafed under southern racial proscriptions and migrated to Chicago in 1905. He eventually secured employment with the Pullman Company as a sleeping car porter. In his twenty years as a porter Cole listened closely to traveling businessmen and often asked questions. He also formed valuable professional and social relationships with prominent blacks, such as the successful undertaker and policy king Daniel McKee Jackson He gained an invaluable business ...


Madge Dresser

Controversial philanthropist and merchant involved in the slave trade. He was the Bristol‐born son of a Bristol merchant who spent his early life in London, but it is in Bristol that he is most famous. A staunch Anglican and Tory, he was briefly MP for the city in 1710. His huge donations to church renovation and school building projects, mainly but not exclusively in Bristol, ensured his reputation as the city's greatest benefactor, as his major statue in the centre and his fine tomb by Michael Rysbrack attest. Several Bristol streets, schools, buildings, and venerable local charities still bear his name, and his birthday is still honoured in civic celebrations.

Colston s relevance to black history lies in the fact that he was involved in the British slave trade and in the trade of slave produced goods By the 1670s he was a City of London merchant trading ...


was born in Mobile, Alabama; his mother, Helen Smith Cottrell, was a housekeeper, and his father, Comer Joseph Cottrell, Sr., sold insurance. As a child Cottrell indicated an interest in starting his own business when he accompanied his father on insurance sales calls. When he was nine years old, he and his brother sold meat and furs from rabbits they raised.

Cottrell’s early education started in Heart of Mary elementary and secondary schools. He graduated from high school at age fifteen in 1946 and attended the University of Detroit, a largely white, Jesuit run college, intending to study for the priesthood. After two years he left college to join the US Air Force, earning the rank of first lieutenant in charge of a radar unit.

He returned to Alabama after his service, attending Alabama A&M University while working part-time in his father’s insurance business. In 1953 he married but ...


Dorothea Olga McCants

Little is known of Madame Bernard Couvent's origin or her parentage, but it is believed she was born in Guinea, West Africa, that she was brought to New Orleans, Louisiana, as a slave, that her maiden name was Justine Fervin, and that she received no formal education. Her master probably granted Couvent her freedom, or it was provided through her husband, a free black man named Gabriel Bernard Couvent. At his death he left her a substantial legacy, a large portion of which she used to found L'Institution Catholique des Orphelins Indigens or Catholic Institute for Indigent Orphans. This institution was formally opened in 1848, about fifteen years after her death, and is still operating today under the name Bishop Perry Middle School. It is the oldest continuously existing black Catholic school in the United States.

Although no early records have been found regarding Couvent ...


Richard J. Bell

philanthropist and founding benefactor of the oldest continuously operating black Catholic school in the United States, was born Justine Fervin in Guinea, West Africa. In early childhood she was brought to San Domingue and enslaved. Little is known about her youth or at what stage in her life she began calling herself Marie. What is known is that she received no formal education and was brought to New Orleans as a slave before securing her freedom. By the 1820s she was living as a free woman in the Faubourg Marigny district of the city, the wife of a carpenter, a free black man named Gabriel Bernard Couvent.

A devout Catholic, Couvent and her husband regularly attended Mass at St. Louis Cathedral. There she established a relationship with Constantine Manehault, a priest who was to become her lifelong friend and religious director.

With no children to support the Couvents lived ...


Cajetan N. Iheka

Nigerian entrepreneur, industrialist, and philanthropist, was born on 10 April 1957 in the Northern Nigeria state of Kano to the family of Mohammed Dangote and Hajiya Mariya Dangote (née Dantata). His father, Mohammed, was a businessman, while his mother was a granddaughter of the successful businessman Alhaji Alhassan Dantata. Dangote attended his primary and secondary schools in Kano before proceeding to Alazahar University in Cairo, Egypt, where he studied business. He admitted in an interview that his interest in business started during his primary school days in Kano, where he bought cartons of sweets (candy), which he then resold at a profit. That early entrepreneurial spirit—and the perception that there was money to be made from Nigerians’ love of sugar—would launch his later business successes.

In 1977 with the help of a loan from his uncle Alhaji Sanusi Dantata Dangote started what is today known as the Dangote Group ...


Peter Carr Jones

music, fashion, and movie industry entrepreneur. The former co-owner of Roc-A-Fella Records with Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter and Kareem “Biggs” Burke, Damon Dash cross-promoted several products within a single brand, Roc-A-Fella. He ran the corporate side of Roc-A-Fella, especially the fashion and movie production divisions, until being bought out in 2004.

Dash was born in East Harlem, New York, to a lower-middle class, single-parent family. He earned scholarships to several prestigious private schools, though each expelled him. His mother died when Dash was only fifteen, but he continued his education until the twelfth grade, and got his GED in 1988. After this, he ran a small party promotion company, Dash Entertainment.

In 1994 he met Jay-Z and became his manager. When the established record companies passed on Jay-Z's original album, Reasonable Doubt, Dash, Jay-Z, and silent partner Burke formed Roc-A-Fella in 1996 Def Jam Records ...


Shennette Garrett-Scott

philanthropist and auto worker, was born the fifth of seven children to Bessie Hall and Matel Dawson, Sr. in Shreveport, Louisiana, on 3 January 1921. Like tens of thousands of other black men and women, Dawson left the South and moved to Detroit for better paying jobs created by the demands of the World War II economy.

He began working for the Ford Motor Company in 1940 initially earning about $1 15 an hour He became a forklift operator Known for consistently working twelve hour shifts and weekends and for seldom taking time off he diligently saved as much of his salary as he could He also invested in the company s employee stock program At one time he owned a large home and well appointed automobiles but after his divorce in the late 1970s he sought a simpler lifestyle and lived frugally In the early ...


Kathleen F. Esmiol

entrepreneur, philanthropist, community activist, and businesswoman, was the fourth of seven children born to Herbert and Mattie Brinson Bragg, tenant farmers in Luther, Oklahoma. Duncan's parents were hard working role models, and she learned the basics of business by watching her father manage a sprawling farm. She also gained organizational skills by helping her mother maintain an active family of nine.

Sadly, Herbert Bragg's untimely death at Thanksgiving in 1926 eventually forced the family to leave Depression-era Oklahoma, and in 1933 they sought opportunity in Colorado Springs Colorado where Duncan attended desegregated schools A focused but gregarious student she participated in extracurricular school activities but to support the family she also waitressed and worked as a housekeeper for a real estate developer Russian Count Benjamin Lefkowsky who recognized her potential and became a mentor Financially unable to pursue her goal of attending Langston College upon ...


Dianne Dentice

businesswoman, philanthropist, and humanitarian, was born Anna Johnson in Carthage, Texas. She was the first of Lee and Eliza Johnson's six children. Her great-grandfather, a slave owner, was German. Her maternal grandmother, Jane Sims, was part Native American and came to Texas from Kentucky. The family lived in poverty and Anna's grandmother helped pay the bills by working as a cook in a local hotel. The rest of the family, Anna included, worked in the cotton fields of East Texas. When she was thirteen, the family moved from Carthage to Galveston hoping for a better life. Her mother found work as a maid for several prominent Galveston families and Anna assisted her. With a natural creative talent and an eye for pretty things, Anna made her own clothes. Mrs. Zula Kay a prominent resident of Galveston noticed her and invited Anna to move to Houston ...


Jason Philip Miller

basketball player, was born Julius Winfield Erving III in Hempstead, New York, and raised by a single mother, his father having abandoned the family when Julius was only three years old. Since his family life was difficult to cope with, Julius spent a great deal of time on the streets and playing basketball at the local community courts. Julius received his familiar “Dr. J” moniker during a childhood pickup game; it was a nickname that would stick with him throughout his long and astonishing basketball career. By the time Julius was ten years old, he was playing with a local Salvation Army basketball team. He had already learned how to dunk—albeit on Prospect Elementary's lower baskets—and in just a few short years he was able to dunk the ball on regulation posts.

When Erving was thirteen, his mother remarried, and in 1963 the family relocated to nearby Roosevelt ...


During his career Julius Erving—known to fans and announcers as Dr. J—set new standards of performance in his sport and made the slam-dunk into one of the most exciting moves in professional Basketball.

Julius Winfield Erving Jr. was born in East Meadow, New York. He grew up playing basketball on New York City playgrounds and then for Roosevelt High School. He recalled, “My first [slam] dunk was at the Prospect Elementary School, where they had 8-foot baskets and 13-foot ceilings. By the time I was in ninth grade, I was dunking the regular baskets.” Erving attended the University of Massachusetts, and during his sophomore and junior years (1969–1971), he led his team in scoring in forty-six of fifty-two varsity games.

In 1971 Erving left school to join the Virginia Squires of the American Basketball Association (ABA). He was named rookie of the year for the 1971 ...


Wall Street financier, entrepreneur, and philanthropist, was born in New London, Connecticut, the oldest of three sons of Alphonse Fletcher Sr., a technician at General Dynamics and an entrepreneur, and Bettye Fletcher Comer, an elementary school principal and doctor of education. In interviews, Fletcher frequently credited his parents' emphasis on education and discipline as the keys to his success in school and business. In 1987 Fletcher graduated as First Marshal of his class from Harvard College with a bachelor's degree in Applied Mathematics. Having cross-enrolled in the Aerospace Studies Program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology as part of the U.S. Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps, he was commissioned in 1987, and served as an officer in the U.S. Air Force Ready Reserve until his honorable discharge in 1997.

The firm of Bear Stearns Co Inc recruited Fletcher directly out of college ...


Alphonse Fletcher, Jr., known by the nickname Buddy, was born in Waterford, Connecticut. He attended Harvard University, graduating in 1987 with a bachelor's degree in applied mathematics. In his senior year, his fellow students chose him marshal, or president, of his class.

After graduating, Fletcher worked as an investment manager for the Wall Street firm of Bear, Stearns & Company before joining Kidder, Peabody & Company as a senior vice president managing an equity arbitrage group. Although he was among its most successful traders, the relationship ended poorly, with Fletcher's resignation in 1991. He subsequently sued the firm over a disputed bonus. Citing racial discrimination, he alleged that the company underpaid him approximately $2 million. His suits resulted in an arbitration award to him of $1.3 million in 1992, although a separate arbitration found no evidence of discrimination.

Immediately after Fletcher left Kidder Peabody he founded Fletcher ...


Carla J. Jones

a former slave, became a respected minister, entrepreneurial landowner, and philanthropic community leader during the years after Civil War. Born on a plantation in Elkton, Giles County, Tennessee, Gardner was the eldest son of the four children of Rachel Vasser Gardner and Martin Gardner, both of whom were slaves. While enslaved, his family was owned by three different families. Little is known about their first owner except that he was an Atlantic slave trader by the name of Franklin; his forename may have been Isaac. Gardner's second slave master was Richard Whitehead Vasser, who owned his own dry goods and mortgage company in Limestone County, Alabama. During this time Gardner's father, Martin, was sold or died, and his mother Rachel took another husband, Tom Gardner with whom she had three children The Vassers proved especially cruel Occasionally the slave master s son went out and got ...