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Anderson, Garland  

James V. Hatch

playwright and minister, was born in Wichita, Kansas. Little is known about his parents, although his mother is said to have been an active reformer and a poet. Anderson completed four years of school (the only formal education that he ever received) before his father moved the family to California to take a job as a janitor in the post office. The following year Anderson's mother died, and at age twelve he left home to become a newsboy, selling the Telegraph Press on the corner of Third and Market streets in San Francisco.

After working as a porter on the railroad, Anderson worked for the next fifteen years as a bellhop in various San Francisco hotels. During this period he also became a temporary convert to Christian Science. One afternoon in 1924 he saw a performance of Channing Pollack's moralistic drama The Fool and knew immediately that he ...

Article

Bell, Travers, Jr.  

Gregory S. Bell

investment banker and entrepreneur, was born in Chicago, Illinois, the third of four children of Travers Bell Sr., a clerk at a brokerage firm, and Iona St. Ange, a teaching aide. Growing up on the tough streets of Chicago's South Side could often be rough, and Bell would later credit his experiences for giving him the wherewithal to survive and succeed on Wall Street later in his life.

After graduating from high school Bell planned to go to a teachers college At the time his father was working in the backroom of Dempsey Tegeler a Midwestern brokerage firm One summer Bell needed money so his father got him a job as a messenger at the firm On Bell s first day on the job a manager asked him to deliver a briefcase to a company across the street While walking to the destination Bell peeked into the briefcase and ...

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Boston, Absalom  

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 ...

Article

Brown, Anderson Hunt  

Charles Rosenberg

plaintiff in the 1928 case, Brown v. Board of Education of Charleston [West Virginia], was born in the Union South district of Kanawha County, West Virginia, the seventh living child and fifth son of Henry and Margaret A. Brown. Henry Brown, a farm laborer like his older brothers Charley and John, died before 1900. In addition to older brothers Fred and Enoch, and sisters Maria and Ruth, Anderson had a younger brother James, and younger sisters Della and Nina. All were born between 1865 and 1887.

Around 1900 he worked as a porter in a grocery store in Charleston, where his brothers held jobs as porters, baggage drivers, and a blacksmith, supporting their widowed mother and sisters. Brown moved in 1907 to Cambridge, Massachusetts, where his sister and brother‐in‐law were living, joined at least part of the time by the widowed Margaret Brown He ...

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Cooper, George Clinton  

Paul Stillwell

pioneer black naval officer, was born in Washington, North Carolina, the eighth of eleven children of Edward L. Cooper, a sheet metal worker, and Laura J. Cooper a homemaker One of the eleven siblings died in infancy the remaining ten became college graduates During his upbringing in North Carolina Cooper often faced the tribulations of southern racism He went to segregated schools and learned from his parents that he had to go out of his way to avoid conflict with whites Once when Cooper was eight or nine years old he got into a fight with a white boy As he put it It was the wrong day for him to call me a nigger and we had it out Stillwell 76 Cooper s father had to smooth things over with the boy s father to avoid the incident s escalation When he worked as a bellhop in ...

Article

Harris, Franco  

Daniel Donaghy

professional football player and entrepreneur, was born in Fort Dix, New Jersey, to an African American father, Cad Harris, and an Italian mother, Gina Parenti. Franco, one of eight children, had three brothers (Mario, Kelly, and Pete, who played safety at Pennsylvania State University in 1977–1978, when he was named a first-team All American, and in 1980) and four sisters (Daniela, Alvara, Marisa, and Luanna). His parents met in Italy near the end of World War II and eventually settled in the United States. Harris was a star running back at Rancocas Valley Regional High School in Mount Holly, New Jersey. Graduating in 1968 Harris attended Pennsylvania State University on a football scholarship As a freshman at Penn State Harris who was 6 feet 2 inches and 220 pounds earned playing time primarily as a ...

Article

Howard, T. R. M.  

David T. Beito

physician, civil rights leader, and entrepreneur, was born Theodore Roosevelt Howard in the town of Murray, Calloway County, Kentucky, to Arthur Howard, a tobacco twister, and Mary Chandler, a cook for Will Mason, a prominent local white doctor and member of the Seventh-day Adventist Church (SDA). Mason took note of the boy's work habits, talent, ambition, and charm. He put him to work in his hospital and eventually paid for much of his medical education. Howard later showed his gratitude by adding “Mason” as a second middle name.

Theodore Howard attended three SDA colleges: the all-black Oakwood College in Huntsville, Alabama; the predominantly white Union College in Lincoln, Nebraska; and the College of Medical Evangelists in Loma Linda, California. While at Union College he won the American Anti-Saloon League's national contest for best orator in 1930.

During his years in medical school in ...

Article

Hubbard, Philip Gamaliel  

James Bethea

inventor and educator, was born in Macon, Missouri, to Philip Alexander Hubbard, a draftsman, and Rosa Belle (Wallace) Hubbard, a teacher who later worked as an elevator operator and freelance dressmaker. Hubbard's parents selected his middle name in recognition of Warren Gamaliel Harding's inauguration as U S president on the day he was born Hubbard s father died eighteen days after he was born and his mother was left to care for him and his three brothers The family was close knit and Hubbard and his siblings were cared for by relatives while his mother taught school When he was four years old his mother sacrificed her teaching career and moved the family to Des Moines Iowa in hopes of better educational opportunities for her sons An avid reader from an early age Hubbard thrived at Nash Elementary School where he won a spelling bee competition ...

Article

Joyner, Marjorie Stewart  

Pamela C. Edwards

entrepreneur, inventor, and activist, was born in Monterey, Virginia, to George Emmanuel Stewart, a teacher, and Annie Dougherty Stewart, a housewife. The couple had thirteen children, but only four daughters lived beyond infancy. After relocating their family to Dayton, Ohio, Stewart's parents divorced and, in 1912, she moved to Chicago to live with her mother. In Chicago, Stewart attended Edgewood High School, worked temporary jobs, and, on 4 April 1916, she married Dr. Robert Joyner, a podiatrist from Memphis, Tennessee. The couple had two daughters: Anne Joyner Fook and Barbara Joyner Powell, who both became educators. At some point during her early Chicago years, Stewart made the decision to become a beautician and that decision would shape her future.

Joyner became the first black graduate of the A.B. Molar Beauty School in 1916 and she opened her own beauty shop ...

Article

King, Slater  

Jason Philip Miller

civil rights activist and real estate entrepreneur, was born in Albany, Georgia, to Clennon King, an entrepreneur, grocer, and activist in local civil rights affairs, and Margaret Allegra Washington. He grew up in a relatively affluent and well-known family, attending local schools. His younger brother Preston King, a political philosopher, refused the draft during the Vietnam War and lived for much of the 1960s and 1970s in England for fear of being arrested. Upon graduation from high school, Slater matriculated at Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee, from which he graduated in 1946 with a Bachelor of Arts in Economics.

Around that same time King married Valencia Benham and the couple had two sons King and his family returned to Albany where King took up the management of his father s store He also began to build up a real estate brokerage business slowly at first ...

Article

Manly, Alexander  

Robert H. Wooley

editor, alleged provocateur, and Urban League pioneer, was born Alexander Lightfoot Manly near Raleigh, North Carolina, to “Trim” Manly and Corrine Manly, former slaves of North Carolina Governor Charles Manly, whom Alex claimed as a paternal grandfather. At age 20, having received an elementary education along the way, Alex departed the family farm in Selma Township for Virginia's Hampton Institute, where for a year he worked by day, learned house painting and printing by night, and absorbed the Victorian middle-class values that suffused that institution.

Without graduating from Booker T. Washington's alma mater, Manly left Hampton for Wilmington, North Carolina, the state's largest city and a community where there were more opportunities for black men than in much of the South. There he parlayed his painting proficiency to secure employment with Frederick Sadgwar who was a house and railroad trestle builder as well ...

Article

Plinton, James O., Jr  

Millery Polyné

World War II pilot, entrepreneur, and airline executive, was born in Westfield, New Jersey, the son of a Jamaican dental technician. His parents' names are unknown. A driven and determined student at Lincoln University in Pennsylvania, where he graduated with a bachelor of arts in 1935, Plinton was a solid student-athlete who participated on the varsity soccer, wrestling, tennis, and track teams. He was also a member of the dramatic society and the glee club and was president of the German society. An accomplished musician, he played the piano and organ well and one summer played the organ at Tuskegee Institute. With the encouragement and unbending rearing of his father, it was evident that the black college experience was critical to his development as a future leader and visionary who would defy the odds against systematic racial injustice. In a 1973 interview Plinton revealed Going ...

Article

Stewart-Lai, Carlotta  

Amber Moulton-Wiseman

educator, was born Carlotta Stewart in Brooklyn, New York, to Thomas McCants Stewart, lawyer, minister, educator, and civil rights activist, and Charlotte Pearl Harris Stewart. In 1883 Stewart-Lai's father accepted a professorship at the College of Liberia and left his family in Brooklyn with no apparent means of support as he assessed liberal and industrial education models for the Liberian school. His absence and neglect led to a divorce from Charlotte, but by 1886 Stewart had resumed his legal practice in New York and he and his children would remain there throughout Stewart-Lai's childhood.

Stewart-Lai attended public school in New York before accompanying her father and stepmother Alice to Honolulu, Hawaii, in 1898 Entering the racially and ethnically diverse Hawaiian community with virtually no existing African American presence the Stewarts were able to live unburdened by many of the racial prejudices they had known in the ...

Article

Thomas, Frank P.  

Timothy M. Broughton

journalist, civil rights advocate, and entrepreneur, was born Frank Pierce Thomas in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, the son of Franklin Thomas and Maggie Mabry. As a fireman for the Mobile and Ohio Railroad, his father earned a decent living for the family. The elder Thomas was a native of Barber County, Alabama, the home of the legendary segregationist governor George C. Wallace. Maggie Mabry Thomas was the daughter of former slaves who migrated to Tuscaloosa. The Thomases were progressive and taught their only child to be disciplined and to value education and hard work. Frank, who grew up in some of the most racially turbulent years in Alabama, used these values to become one of Mobile's most respected and accomplished black leaders.

Thomas's first love was writing, which he discovered as a young child. At the age of eight he hawked the Birmingham Age Herald He ...