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ida wells barnett 1862 1911
Ida Wells-Barnett(1862-1911)
  • “I felt that one had better die fighting against injustice than to die like a dog or a rat in a trap.” Ida Wells-Barnett fought all her life against racial injustice, but she is today honored most for her relentless and literally death-defying campaign against racial lynching. Wells-Barnett was an early predecessor of Rosa Parks in her refusal, in May 1884, to give up a train seat in the white section. Removed by force, she sued and won in the circuit court, but the Tennessee Supreme Court later reversed the decision. The disheartening incident galvanized her desire to fight for racial equality, using the weapon she wielded best - the pen. Wells-Barnett became a full time journalist in 1891, and for many years she defied mob violence and terror to train a relentless and harse light on the national disgrace of lynching, even taking her campaign abroad.
martin r delaney african american civil rights activist
Martin R. DelaneyAfrican AmericanCivil Rights Activist
  • Martin R. Delaney was born 1812. He published his own newspaper, ‘The Mystery’ in 1843. Helped Frederick Douglas publish ‘The North Star’ from 1847 to 1849. Published a book ‘The Condition, Elevation, Emigration and Destiny of the Colored People of the United States, Politically Considered in 1852. Led the first and only exploratory party of American-born Negroes to Africa in 1859. Published a book “The Principles of Ethnology: The Origins of Race and Color” in 1879. Commissioned a Major in the U.S. Colored Troops. Customs inspector and a trial judge in Charleston, South Carolina.
jonathan jasper wright african american jurist
Jonathan Jasper WrightAfrican American Jurist
  • Born in Pensylvania, Jonathan Wright studied law in a private law office and in 1866 became the first Negro to be admitted to the state bar. In 1865 the American Missionary Society sent him to South Carolina to help organize schools for freedmen. From 1866 to 1868 he was employed by the Freedmen's Bureau as a legal advisor. Wright resigned his post with the Bureau to participate in politics and was a member of the constitutional convention of 1868 and later elected state senator from Baufort. From 1870 to 1879 he was Associate Justice of the State Supreme Court of South Carolina. No other Negro rose to such a high judicial post during the entire Reconstruction Era, and few spoke out as eloquently against the institution of slavery.
inman e page african american educator
Inman E. PageAfrican American Educator
  • Inman E. Page was born in 1853 in Warrenton, Ohio. He received his A.B. (1877) and M.A. (1880) from Brown University and an honorary Dr. of Laws degrees from Wilberforce and Howard Universities. In 1877 he began teaching and, from 1880 to 1898, was president of Lincoln University in Missouri. After his next appointment as president of the Colored Agricultural and Normal University (1898-1915) he headed Western Baptist College and Roger Williams University (1916-1921). He served as principal of Douglass High School and supervising principal of the city's Negro elementary schools from 1921 to 1935 - an inspiration to countless young men and women as well as a dynamic leader whose institutions flourished under him.
ms w e matthews african american journalist
Ms. W. E. MatthewsAfrican American Journalist
  • This journalist and author was born in Fort Valley, Georgia, in 1861. The cruelty of the times drove her mother to New York where she brought and educated her legally freed family. Mrs. Matthews wrote for periodicals, white and Negro: The New York Times, Herald, Mail, Express, National Leader, Detroit Plaindealer and many Afro-American weeklies. She was a member of the Woman's National Press Association, and her later writings included several textbooks and school literature.
leonard a grimes christian african american
Leonard A. GrimesChristian African American
  • Born in Leesburg, VIrginia, Nov. 9, 1815, Leonard Andrew Grimes grew up hating slavery and its cruelties. Although he was born free and so light he often passed for white, he served a prison term in Richmond for aiding escaping slves. In 1843 the Twelth Street Baptist Church in Boston was formed and Grimes was ordained pastor, a position he held until his death. He also served as president of the American Baptist Missionary Convention and the Colsolidated Baptist Convention. Hundreds of escaping slaves passed through his hands enroute to Canada, and he raised monies to buy the freedom of many who were caught. During the Civil War he aided the enlistment of colored soldiers and was offered the chaplaincy of the Fifty-fourth Massachusetts Regiment.
madam elizabeth keckley african american businessperson
Madam Elizabeth KeckleyAfrican American Businessperson
  • Madam Keckley was known as a "White House modiste and author." As a slave, born in 1840, she learned the art of dressmaking so well that she became the modiste to Mrs. Mary Lincoln. An intelligent and creative person, she authored a book published in 1868 titled Behind the Scenes or Thirty Years a Slave and Four Year in the White House. Her knowledge led, after the war, to her being appointed director of Domestic Art at Wilberforce University in the combined Normal and Industrial Department.
robert russa moton african american businessperson
Robert Russa MotonAfrican American Businessperson
  • A native of Amelia County, Virginia, and a graduate of Hampton, Robert Moton succeeded Booker T. Washington as president of Tuskegee Institute in Alabama. Through Moton's efforts a five million dollar increase in endowment was achieved for Hampton and Tuskegee in 1925. A speaker throughout the South on race relations and White House representative under Wilson, Moton fought white townspeople for control of Veterans Hospital at Tuskegee. As a result, the hospital ws finally staffed completely by Negro doctors, nurses, and workers. The author of an autobiography, Finding a Way Out (1920), and What the Negro Thinks (1920), Moton received many honorary degrees, as well as the Harmon Award (1930) and the Spingarn Medal (1932).
john mitchell jr african american businessperson
John Mitchell, Jr.African American Businessperson
  • Born July 11, 1863, in Henrice County, John Mitchell attended Richmond Normal High School and received gold medals for map drawing and oratory. In 1883 and 1884 he was the richmond correspondent of the New York Freeman and in December 1884 became editor of the Richmond Planet. His bold and fearless personal investigations and writings on lynchings and murders occurring in the south earned Mitchell the reputation of a daring and vigorous editor. Without fear or seeming concern for his own welfare he south the truth about "Southern justice: and wrote about it in direct and vitriolic language.
isaac myers african american businessperson
Isaac MyersAfrican American Businessperson
  • Born in Baltimore, Maryland, Isaac Myers worked as an apprentice caulker, and learned the trade so well he ws made supervisor in one of the largest shipyards in Baltimore. To counteract a movement to remove blacks from the ship building industry, Myers raised ten thousand dollars and set up a black-owned and controlled shipyard, employing three hundred Negroes. When the National Labor Union attempted to divide the colored vote in the South, Myers called for a national labor convention of all Negro workers and urged the formation of local unions. The black National Labor Union, formed in 1869, failed after three years, but Myers continued to be active in unionism and Republican politics until his death in 1891.
andrew f brimmer african american businessperson
Andrew F. BrimmerAfrican American Businessperson
  • Recipient of the "Government Man of the Year" award (1963), Andrew Brimmer was born the son of a sharecropper in Newwllton, Lousiana, on September 13, 1926. He secured his B.A. and M.A. degrees from the University of Washington, and Ph.D. from Harvard (1967). An economist from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York (1955-1958), a teacher at Harvard City College of New York, the University of California, and Michigan State University, Brimmer was appointed to the Department of Commerce (1963-1966), and became the first Negro member of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (1966). He also helped develop the Anti-Poverty Program, the 1964 Civil Rights Act, and still found time to author numerous articles and books.
t thomas fortune african american businessperson
T. Thomas FortuneAfrican American Businessperson
  • T. Thomas Furtune, born October 6, 1856, in Florida of slave parents, worked in alocal newspaper office, served as special inspector of customs attended Howard University and taught school before he began publication of a newspaper, The New York Globe, in 1882. One week after it folded in 1884 he opened The New York Freeman (later remaned The New York Age), a militant newspaper. Author of three books, Black and White, The Negro in Politics, and Dream of Life, Fortune believed that the racial situation was a cancer upon the body of AMerican society and that a bond of union between whites and blacks of the South was essential.
miss mary mahoney african american businessperson
Miss Mary MahoneyAfrican American Businessperson
  • Although the exact date of birth of Miss Mahoney is unknown, her significant achievement is dated during the Reconstruction Era. During this period when racial bars were at their highest and educational opportunities for Negroes were at their lowest, Miss Mahoney entered the medical school of the New England Hospital for Wonen and Children, and graduated in 1879 to become the first professional colored nurse.
hobart taylor jr african american businessperson
Hobart Taylor, Jr.African American Businessperson
  • Banker and lawyer, Hobart Taylor, Jr. was born in Texarkana, Texas on December 17, 1920, received his A.B. from Prairie View State College (1939), A.M. from Howard University (1941), LL.B. from the University of Michigan (1943). Admitted to the Michigan bar in 1944, he was a research assistant for the Michigan Supreme Court (1944-1945), partner in the firm Bledsoe and Taylor (1945-1948), assistant prosecuting attorney in Wayne County, Michigan (1949-1950), served as special counsel to the Committee on Equal Employment Opportunity (1961-1962), and executive vice chairman of CEEP from 1962 to 1965. He resigned this position to become director of the Export-Import Bank of Washington, continuing to serve as special consultant to Plans for Progress, an association which he previously directed.
mary e pleasant african american businessperson
Mary E. PleasantAfrican American Businessperson
  • For a period "Mammy Pleasant" led an eventful life in San Francisco, acting as financial advisor to distinguished white gentlemen, and securing a Negro monopoly on domestic jobs in the state. Reported to have given John Brown thirty thousand dollars to finance the raid on Harpers Ferry, mysterious Mary Ellen Pleasant began life as a slave in Georgia, but in 1849 settled in San Francisco, California. In 1864 she brought suit against a street car company for rude treatment and won a favorable judgement. She aided in the rescue of slaves who were being held illegally and in 1863 won for Negroes the Right of Testimony.
john h johnson african american businessperson
John H. JohnsonAfrican American Businessperson
  • John H. Johnson, born on Jan 19, 1918 in Arkansas City, Arkansas, in 1937 moved to Chicago. He started thr Negro Digest (later called Black World) in 1942 with a $500 loan; published the first issue of Ebony in 1945; published two pocket-sized magazines, Jet and Hue, followed by Tan (later changed to Black Stars), a "true confession" type of magazine; entered the field of hard-covered books in 1963 with volumes by Lerone Bennett and other writers. The Johnson Publishing Company grossed over $23 million in 1972, even before it purchased radion station WGRT in 1973, the first station in Chicago to be owned by blacks.
a phillip randolph african american businessperson
A. Phillip RandolphAfrican American Businessperson
  • Asa Phillip Randolph was born April 15, 1889 in Cresent City, Florida; wrote for Opportunity magazine and co-edited The Messenger (1917); organized the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, AFL, in 1925; organized and directed the 1941 March on Washington which led President Roosevelt to start the FEPC; helped mount the pressure which led to desegregation of the Armed Forces in 1946; helped plan the first Freedom Rides in 1946; became the first Negro vice-president of the AFL-CIO in 1957; helped organize and lead the 1963 March on Washington; advocated the $185 billion Freedom Budget in 1966.
malcolm malik el shabazz african american businessperson
Malcolm Malik El-ShabazzAfrican American Businessperson
  • One of the most compelling human rights activists of modern America, Malcolm X was an ideological heir to Marcus Garvey and others who regarded black self-hatred as the most insidious product of racial oppression - and the most fundamental obstable to black self-realization. In the now-classic Autobiography of Malcolm X (with Alex Haley, 1964) he recounted his own journey from troubled you to exponent of black power as an adherent of the Nation of Islam. Born Malcolm Little, he replaced his surname with the designation “X” (for the unknown African tribe of his origin) in the early 1950s and articulated a political vision more concerned with challenging white domination than racial segregation per se, using rhetoric that was distinctly harsher and more separatist thean that of the mainstream civil rights movement. With an ever-searching intellect, Malcolm X also had the courage to revise his ideas as his thought evolved, holding up his transformations as useful examples for others. Though assassinated in 1965, Malcolm X remains a powerful symbol of unbowed black dignity and possibility.
richard wright 1908 1960
Richard Wright(1908-1960)
  • Born on a Mississippi plantation, Richard Wright was the son of a farmworker, and his early life was marked by poverty, hunder, and racial prejudice, experiences that formed the core of his later work. “Negroes are my people,” he said in acceting the Spingarn Medal in 1941, “ and my writing-which is my life and which carrier my convictions - attempts to mirror their struggles for freedom during these troubled days.” From his forst stories, collected in Uncle Tom’s Children, to the celebrated novel Native Son and the autobiographical Black Boy, Wright created provocative works of lasting influence. He broke ground for other African Amrican writers - Ralph Ellison and James Baldwin among them - and was, in the words of biographer Robert Felgar, “perhaps the very first writer to give the white community explanations and themes that ut through its predjudices and forced it to look at the reality of black life in America.
booker t washington 1859 1915
Booker T. Washington(1859-1915)
  • Born in Franklin County, Virginia, just before the U.S. Civil War of a mulatto mother and a white father, Booker T. Washington grew up and tenaciously pursued an education in the turbulent Reconstruction era. He worked in salt furnaces and coal mines to get the means to travel to the Hampton Institute, where he worked as a janitor for his room and board. Further education and growing experience as a teacher led to his appointment in 1881, as organizer and principal of Tuskegee Institute. Author of a number of books, including the admirable autobiography Up from Slavery, Washington was also one of the most able public speakers of his time. It was a speech he ave in 1895 on the place of the Negro in American life that opened an oftern strident debate among African American leaders on whether slow development through vocational training, as advocated by Washington, was the correct course or whether immediate equality and full citizenship should be demanded.
sojourner truth 1797 1883
Sojourner Truth(1797-1883)
  • Sojourner Truth was, and in some ways still seems, ahead of her time - as a feminist in an abolitionist movement in which “slave” typically meant “man” and as an activist for African American rights in a suffregist movement in which “woman” typically meant “white middle-class woman.” If there was ever a person fit to take on the problem of black female invisibility, however, it was the electrifying Truth. Like Harriat tubman, Truth was born into slavery (with the given name Isabella) and had no formal education. She fled the last of a series of masters in 1827, and several years later, in response to what she described as a command from God, became an itinerant preacher and took the name Sojourner Truth. One of her most memorable appearances was at an 1851 women’s rights conference in Akron, Ohio, where she forcefully attacked the the hypocrisies of organized religion, white privilege, and everything in between in her famous “Ain’t I a woman?” speech.
harriet tubman 1820 1913
Harriet Tubman(1820-1913)
  • Harriet Tubman was the best-known “conductor” on the Underground Railroad, a network of abolitionists who spirited blacks to freedom. A fugitive slave herself, Tubman made some nineteen return trips to rescue as many as three hundred slaves from bondage. Her courage and shrewdness were widely known and all the more remarkable given the blackouts she suffered throughout her life as a result of being struck on the head with a two-pound weight by an overseer. During the Civil War she served as a nurse, spy, and scout for groups of raiders penetrating Confederate lines. In her later years Tubman worked for black education and social betterment, women sufferage, and other causes.
malcolm malik el shabazz a k a malcolm x 1925 1965
Malcolm Malik El-Shabazza.k.a. Malcolm X(1925-1965)
  • One of the most compelling human rights activists of modern America, Malcolm X was an ideological heir to Marcus Garvey and others who regarded black self-hatred as the most insidious product of racial oppression - and the most fundamental obstable to black self-realization. In the now-classic Autobiography of Malcolm X (with Alex Haley, 1964) he recounted his own journey from troubled you to exponent of black power as an adherent of the Nation of Islam. Born Malcolm Little, he replaced his surname with the designation “X” (for the unknown African tribe of his origin) in the early 1950s and articulated a political vision more concerned with challenging white domination than racial segregation per se, using rhetoric that was distinctly harsher and more separatist thean that of the mainstream civil rights movement. With an ever-searching intellect, Malcolm X also had the courage to revise his ideas as his thought evolved, holding up his transformations as useful examples for others. Though assassinated in 1965, Malcolm X remains a powerful symbol of unbowed black dignity and possibility.
claude mccay 1889 1948
Claude McCay(1889-1948)
  • One of the most prominent voices of the Harlem Renaissance, poet and novelist Claude McKay wrote of the sweet experience of his early years in Jamaica, of life in Harlem, of his travels in Europe and the Soviet Union. But the core of his work was his rage at the injustice of racial prejudice. The white man is a tiger at my throat/Drinking my blood as my life ebbs away/ And muttering that his terrible striped coat/ Is Freedom’s and portends the Light of Dy (“Tiger”). A gentle man of acute intellect, McKay held many jobs throughout his peripatetic life to support the literary work that was his true vocation. His dedication gained him respect and readers, both white and black. It also brought him honors. In 1912, he became the first black islander to receive the medal of the Jamaican Institute of Arts and Sciences. Sixteen years later, his Home to Harlem became the first novel by a black writer to reach the commercial best-seller lists, It was reprinted five time in two months.
paul robeson 1898 1976
Paul Robeson(1898-1976)
  • In his stormy life, Paul Robeson was many things: star athlete, scholar, singer, and actor; law school graduate, social activist; and author. Valedictorian of his class at Rutgers University as well as an All-American in football (and letterman in three other varsity sports), Roberson was prophesied by his class to become “the leader of the colored race in America.” He did rise to be among the most prominent and respected African American men of the 1930s and 1940s, primarily through his achievements and imposing presence on the stage as an actor and singer. Gradually devoting himself entirely to singing, Roberson became an international star, and his desire to break down barriers of ignorance, he learned to speak more than twenty languages. Always outspoken on racism, Roberson also came to embrace a political worldview increasingly at odds with that of mainstream America, particularly in his support of Soviet Russia, whose egalitarian ideals he admired. Blacklisted and denounced, Roberson and his career declined. Today he is remembered as a figure of prodigious achievement and conviction who fully embodied the complexities of his time.
frederick douglass 1817 1895
Frederick Douglass(1817-1895)
  • “For it is not light that is needed, but fire; it is not the gentle shower, but thunder….The feeling of the nation must be roused.” Born into slavery, abolitionist, autor, orator, and editor Frederick Douglass dopted his last name from literature (the hero of Scott’s Lady of the Lake) and used the power of words thereafter to prod his country toward racial equality. He spoke eloquently before audiences in America and abroad, edited an antislavery journal from 1847 to 1860, helped organize two regiments of Massachusetts Negroes during the Civil War, saw two of his sons serve in the Union Army during the war, and kept pushing for true civil rights when the war was over. Canny in his judgments, practical in his persistence, Douglass remained an influential and respected spokesman for his cause throughout his life. “Power,” he said, “concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.”
william edward burghardt dubois 1868 1963
William Edward Burghardt DuBois(1868-1963)
  • “It is a peculiar sensation, this double-consciousness, this sense of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others….One feels his twoness - an American, a Negro; two sould, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alsone keeps it from being torn asunder.” W.E.B. Du Bois was an impassioned scholar, an intellectual warrior on behalf of true citizenship for African Americans. Educated at Fisk and Harvard Universities, Du Bois wrote histories, sociological studies, informed sketches of Negro life, and an autobiography. Editor, teacher, and organizer as well s write, Du Bois organized the First International Congress of Colored People and was a founder of the NAACP. He was often at the center of controversy and, toward the end of his life, grew discouraged with his struggles in the United States. In 1961 he moved to Ghana, becoming a citizen there the year of his death.
marcus garvey 1887 1940
Marcus Garvey(1887-1940)
  • Marcus Garvey articulated a powerful vision of self-determination for peoples of African descent that, though ahead of its time, has inspired and informed movements for black economic and political power up to the present day. A native of Jamica trained as a printer, Garvey had his first taste of political activism as a union organizer. Travels he made starting in 1910 furthered his interest in black history and black nationalist thought - and in actualizing the ideals they contained. In 1914 Garvey founded the Universal Negro Improvement Association, which at its peak I the mid-1920s had some 8 million followers, making it the largest international movement of African peoples in history. Though his efforts to launch a modern back-to-Africa movement - based on the view that blacks would never truly prosper in societies where they were in a minority - did not ultimately succeed, Garvey’s legacy of black pride and independence was profound and lasting. And the red, black, and green flag of African liberation that he made famous remains a beacon of black power and pan-African unity.
josephine baker 1906 1975
Josephine Baker(1906-1975)
  • From the time she was a little girl, Josephine Baker was drawn to the glamour of the theater. Despite living in the slums of St. Louis and being pulled out of school before she turned ten, she found the courage - and had enough talent - to follow her dreams. Baker danced in vaudeville houses and joined a traveling dance troupe when shw was sixteen. In 1923, she landed a chorus line spot in the Broadway show Shuffle Along. But it was in Paris two years later that she stepped fully into the spotlight, in LaRevue Negre. Baker fell in love with Paris, and the city responded in kind. She was irreverent and exotic, known for her magnetic stage presence, lush body, deep red lipstick, and outrageous promotonal antics, including her famous walk with a leopard down the Champs Elysees. A politically courageous woman, Baker spoke and acted against racism throughout her life and was a member of the French Resistance in World War II, for which she earned both the Medal of the Resistance and later, the Legion of Honor.
george washington carver 1864 1943
George Washington Carver(1864-1943)
  • A world-renowned agricultural chemist whose advice was sought by scientists around the world, George Washington Carver was also, in the words of Nobel laureate ralph Bunch, “the least imposing celebrity the world has ever known.” Born amidst the bloody struggle over slavery in Missouri - and orphaned by it - Carver grew up in various parts of the Midwest, working at odd jobs as he gained a high school and college education. Though gifted in both music and art (one of his paintings was exhitibed at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition), Carver ultimately chose to pursue his lifelong fascination with plants, earning a master’s degree in science at the Iowa State College of Agriculture. Subsequently he was invited by Booker T. Washington to join the faculty of the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama. There for many years he conducted the research that would make him almost as well known as his friend Luther Burbank - extracting from soil and crops such as the peanut and sweet potato an unprecedented array of dyes, foods, and other useful products.
joseph cinque african activist in america
Joseph CinqueAfrican Activist in America
  • Born in Africa, Prince Joseph Cinque was kidnapped and sold into slavery in Havana, Cuba, in 1839. He and thirty-eight other captives were put aboard the schooner Armistad. Cinque led a revolt of the slaves, killing all but the owners who were directed to steer the ship for Africa. By trickery, the ship landed in New York and all were taken prisoner. The U.S. Justice Department fought the freeing of the slaves, all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court level. However, John Quincy Adams defended the Armistad Revolution and the U.S. Supremem court ruled in favor of Cinque and the other Africans, declaring them free to return to Africa.
harriet tubman african american activist
Harriet TubmanAfrican American Activist
  • Harriet Tubman was born in slavery in Bucktown, Maryland in 1820, escaped from bondage in 1849; spent the years between 1850 and 1857 guiding more than 300 slaves to freedom in the North and in Canada; served the Union Army as a nurse and spy in 1862-1863, led 300 soldiers in a raid up the Combahee River in South Carolina to rescue 800 slaves in June of 1863; established the Harriet Tubman Home at Auburn, New York after the Civil War; received a medal from Queen Victoria.
frances ellen watkins harper african american activist
Frances Ellen Watkins HarperAfrican American Activist
  • Frances Elen Watkins Harper, a writer of verse, was born free in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1825. Her first volume of poetry was published in 1845 and she later wrote the novel "lola Leroy, or the Shadows Uplifted." Later, in Philadelphia, scenes of slaves escaping, being caught and returned to slavery led her into the anto slavery conflict. In 1854 she became an antoslavery lecturer and toured the North and Canada for six years. Miss Watkins married Fenton Harper of Cincinnati and as a teacher, lecturer and writer, became one of the most popular women of her time. She is remembered for the following poems: "Eliza Harris," "The Slave Moter," "Bible," "Defense of Slavery," "The Freedom Bell" and "Bury Me in a Free Land."
anthony burns african american activist
Anthony BurnsAfrican American Activist
  • Typical of the 75,000 slaves who sought their freedom in the decade before the Civil War, Anthony Burns bacame one of the most renown when his capture and return to slavery caused the Boston Slave Riot in 1854. As a trusted slave in Virginia, Burns had learned to read and write and his freedom of movement enabled him to escape by boat. On May 24, 1854, he was arrested and held in chains at the Boston courthouse, guarded by a posse of known thugs. When aroused citizens attempted to free him by force, one man was killed before military reinforcements arrived. Ordered to be returned, Burns was escorted to the ship by the police and twenty-two military units, including one cannon.
crispus attucks african american activist
Crispus AttucksAfrican American Activist
  • Crispus Attucks was born in slavery about 1723, 1750 escaped from bondage; became a seaman and earned his living on the ships and docks around Boston, Massachusetts; he opposed the taxation and oppression of the British; on March 5, 1770 he ws one of the band of colonists in rebellion against the "Redcoats" in the Boston Massacre, and was the first of five men to be shot down by the British soldiers; his name leads the list on the monument erected in Boston Commons commemorating this event; his bravery inspired 5,000 Negroes to fight with the colonists in the American Revolution.
ida b wells african american activist
Ida B. WellsAfrican American Activist
  • Miss Wells was born in Holly Springs, Arkansas, in 1869. She taught in the schools of Arkansas and for six years in Memphis, Tennessee. In 1889 she was secretary to the National Afro-American Press Convention. In 1892, her paper, The Memphis Free Speech, exposed people in a lynching and was destroyed. She compiled the first statistical pamphlet on lynching, A Red Record, in 1895. Miss Wells married Ferdinand Barnett, a militant race leader, in Chicago. She became chairman of the ANti-Lynching Bureau of the National Afro-American Council, and a famous speaker at home and abroad on Negro rights.
henry h garnet african american activist
Henry H. GarnetAfrican American Activist
  • Born in Delaware on December 23, 1815, Henry Highland Garnet attended the African Free School in New York, the New Canaan, Connecticut, school for Negro youth, and Oneida Institute. In 1842 he was licensed as a Presbyterian minister and began work at Troy Liberty Street, Presbyterian Church. He was one of the most influential Negroes of his era until he advocated a slave strike and revolt at the Buffalo Convention of Colored Citizens in 1843. Though his public influence lessened because of his radical views, he remained active in the Underground Railroad. After the Civil War he returned to public life, serving as Recorder of Deeds and in 1881 as Minister to Liberia.
harriet tubman african american activist1
Harriet TubmanAfrican American Activist
  • Harriet Tubman was born in slavery in Bucktown, Maryland in 1820, escaped from bondage in 1849; spent the years between 1850 and 1857 guiding more than 300 slaves to freedom in the North and in Canada; served the Union Army as a nurse and spy in 1862-1863, led 300 soldiers in a raid up the Combahee River in South Carolina to rescue 800 slaves in June of 1863; established the Harriet Tubman Home at Auburn, New York after the Civil War; received a medal from Queen Victoria.
nat turner african american activist
Nat TurnerAfrican American Activist
  • Leader of a major slave revolt, Nat Turner was born a slae in Virginia on October 2, 1800. In May of 1828 Turner interpreted visions he experienced to mean that he was to lead a black army of liberation against slavery. On August 21, 1831, Turner started the revolt with a half-dozen men; the number soon grew to sixty, and the group moved from one house of whites in Southampton County to another, killing everyone in sight. In 48 hours 55 persons were dead. Further efforts met with white posse action and the group fled. All slaves became suspect; hundreds were shot down and seventeen of he captured insurrectionists, including Turner, were hanged on Nov. 11, 1831.
josephine st pierre ruffin african american activist
Josephine St. Pierre RuffinAfrican American Activist
  • Mrs. Ruffin was a pioneer organizer of women. Born before the Civil War, in 1843, she made the ost of opportunities which post-war freedom gave. In 1880 she organized one of the first Negro women's clubs, the Women's Era Club, in Boston, and issued the first conference of Negro women to meet in Boston in 1895 for national organization. She was the first Negro delegate from the (white) Massachusetts Federation of Women's Clubs, and pioneered in the organization of the National Association of Colored Women.
mary e pleasant african american activist
Mary E. PleasantAfrican American Activist
  • Reported to have given John Brown thirty thousand dollars to finance the raid on Harpers Ferry, mysterious Mary Ellen Pleasant began life as a slave in Georgia, but in 1849 settled in San Francisco, California. In 1864 she brought suit against a street car company for rude treatment and won a favorable judgement. She aided in the rescue of slaves who were being held illegally and in 1863 won for Negroes the Right of Testimony. For a period "Mammy Pleasant" led an eventful life in San Francisco, acting as financial advisor to distinguished white gentlemen, and securing a Negro monopoly on domestic jobs in the state.
martin luther king jr african american activist
Martin Luther King, Jr.African American Activist
  • Born in Atlanta on Jan. 18, 1929, Martin Luther King earned degrees from Morehouse College, Cozier Theological Seminary in Chester, Pa. and Boston University. At 26 he became the leader of the revolution against social injustice with the successful boycott against Montgomery's segregated buses. In spite of being arrested 14 times, stabbed, stoned and having his home bombed three times he won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964 for consistently asserting the principle of nonviolence. In the cities of the North and South he preached and marched for open housinh and jobs for the poor. He words deeply touched America's conscience with his famous "I have a dream" speech delivered during the 1969 March on Washington.
rev henry mcneal christian african american
Rev. Henry McNealChristian African American
  • Rev. McNeal was born February 1, 1833. Appointed U.S. chaplain by President Lincoln in 1863; re-commissioned in the regular army and detailed to work in the Freedman's Bureau in 1865; elected member of the Georgia Legislature in 1868; re-elected to Georgia Legislature in 1870, expelled from the Legislature because of color; appointed Postmaster of Macon, Georgia in 1869; Chancellor of Morris Brown University in Atlanta, Georgia; appointed Coast Inspector of customs and U.S. government detective.
father divine christian african american
Father DivineChristian African American
  • Revered as God by many of his followers, Father Divine emerged from relative obscurity when he established his Peace Mission Movement in Sayville, Long Island in the early 1920s. Records indicate that he was born George Baker about 1874 in Georgia and practiced in the South and in Harlem before his multi-million dollar, biracial cult became famous for its preechments of brotherhood and peace. During the Depression his hundreds of "peace missions" offered meals, lodging and services, including job placement, to the needy at no cost. Although he died virtually penniless, his "kingdom" controlled properties woth $30,000,000 and he was mourned by an estimated twenty million members of missions all over the world.
francis k grimke christian african american
Francis K. Grimke’Christian African American
  • Born on November 4, 1850, in Charleston, South Carolina, Francis James Grimke' graduated from Lincoln University in Pennsylvania in 1870 and Princeton Theological Seminary in 1878. A student of law, a scholarly minister, and an otspoken defender of the rights of Negroes, Grimke' preached sermons denouncing segregation in CHristian churches. Through pamphlets which he printed and distributed to both white and black clergymen, he urged support of a true Christian ethic. When Hampton and Tuskegee Institute committed themselves exclusively to "special training" for the Negro, Grimke' lessened his support of these institutions.
james augustine healey christian african american
James Augustine HealeyChristian African American
  • The first Catholic Bishop of African descent in the U.S., James A, Healy was born in Macon, Georgia, but educated at the Franklin Park Quaker School in Burlington, New York, and Holy Cross College, Worchester, Massachusetts. He also studied abroad. For 25 years, Bishop Healy presided over the diocese of Main and New Hampshire. In recognition of his work he was made Assistant to the Papal Throne. He also served as assistant to Bishop Fitzpatrick of Boston and was pastor of St. James Church in Boston. Under Bishop Healy, 68 mission stations, 18 parochial schools and 50 church buildings were erected and Catholics of Massachusetts, Main and New Hampshire came to revere him.
elijah muhammed african american clergyman
Elijah MuhammedAfrican American Clergyman
  • Leader of the Black Muslims founded in 1930, Elijah Muhammad "prophet and messenger of a black Allah," was born Elijah Poole on Oct. 10, 1897 in Sanderville, Georgia, and began his career as a disciple of an "Arab Savior" named D.W. Fard. His movement, which may number of 100,000 is dedicated to freedom, justice, equality of opportunity, and the establishment of a separate territory to be subsidized by "former slave masters," until blacks can produce and supply their own needs. The Muslims publish a weekly newspaper "Muhammad Speaks", and in 1969 invested $6,000,000 in their own businesses in Chicago, Cleveland, and other cities, while operating 47 schools across the country, including the 37-year old University of Islam in Washington.
charlotte forten christian african american
Charlotte FortenChristian African American
  • Sensitive member of a distinguished family, Charlotte Forten of Massachusetts enlisted in the anti-slavery fight as a volunteer teacher with the Freedmen's Aid Society. Earlier she served as a correspondent for the National ANti-Slavery Standard and wrote for the Atlantic Monthly. Her witty and penetrating comments were often extracted to appear in other publications. An accomplished poet, she wrote of interracial conflict out of a deepened resentment against the prejudice of the white world. In Washington, D.C., where she settled, Charlotte Forten was a force in supplying high culture, ideals, and intellectual power to the advancement of Negroes and their survival against prejudice.
richard allen christian african american
Richard AllenChristian African American
  • Richard Allen, born February 14, 1760, in Philadelphia, Pa., was a slave during the Revolutionary War who managed to purchase his freedom at the age of 23. On April 12, 1787, he and several other Negroes formed the Free African Society, a group dedicated to the improvement of social and economic conditions of free Negroes. That same year, Allen founded the African Methodist Episcopal Church, the result of a rebellion against the restriction of segregation in Philadelphia's leading Methodist church. In 1816, Allen was instrumental in organizing into one group sixteen independent Negro Methodist congregations from different states. He was elected first bishop of this new denomination, a church which has endured to this day.
adam clayton powell sr christian african american
Adam Clayton Powell, Sr.Christian African American
  • One of sixteen children, born May 5, 1865, in a one-room log cabin in Virginia, Adam Powell, Sr. built the Abyssinian Baptist Church of New York City to a position of significant power and size. Entering Virginia Union College in 1888, he worked his way through that institution as a janitor and waiter, continuing his studies at Yale University School of Divinity, Powell became pastor of the Abyssinian Baptist Curch of New York in 1908, a time when its membership numbered 1600 and the church owed $146,354. In the twenty-nine years of Powell's leadersip the church was moved to a $350,000 structure, acquired assets of $400,000, a membership of 14,000 and served as the seat of power for a U.S. Congressman.
thomas paul christian african american
Thomas PaulChristian African American
  • Ordained a minister in 1806, Thomas Paul organized a congregation of free Negroes in Boston, Masssachusetts. Word was spread of is ability and by 1808 he was so famous white churches in New Yrok were inviting him to speak. Paul persuaded whites and Negroes alike that separate Negro congregations could be organized and the Abyssinian Baptist Church of New York city was formed under his leadership. Brilliant and vigorous, Paul spent six months in Haiti teaching and preaching to the Haitians but because he could not speak French he ws not as successful as he had been in the United States. He returned to AMerican and continued his work.
augustus tulton christian african american
Augustus TultonChristian African American
  • Born on April 1, 1854, in Ralls County, Missouri, Augustus Tolton entered the College of Propaganda at Rome in 1880 and was ordained in 1886. He became the first American Negro ever to be ordained for he priesthood. Within the year, Rev. Tolton was made pastor of St. Joseph's Catholic Church for Negroes in Quincy, Illinois. When St. Monica's Church for Negro Catholics was established in Chicago in 1890, Father Tolton served as pastor, remaining there until his death. A lifetime of service to others won him the honor of offering Easter Sunday Holy Mass on the High Altar at St. Peter's Basilica in Rome, an offering which only the Pope himself usualy makes.
dr martin luther king jr christian african american
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.Christian African American
  • Born in Atlanta on Jan. 18, 1929, Martin Luther King earned degrees from Morehouse College, Cozier Theological Seminary in Chester, Pa. and Boston University. At 26 he became the leader of the revolution against social injustice with the successful boycott against Montgomery's segregated buses. In spite of being arrested 14 times, stabbed, stoned and having his home bombed three times he won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964 for consistently asserting the principle of nonviolence. In the cities of the North and South he preached and marched for open housinh and jobs for the poor. He words deeply touched America's conscience with his famous "I have a dream" speech delivered during the 1969 March on Washington.
john h johnson african american publisher
John H. JohnsonAfrican American Publisher
  • John H. Johnson, born on Jan 19, 1918 in Arkansas City, Arkansas, in 1937 oved to Chicago where he studied at Northwestern and the University of Chicago. He started Negro Digest (later called Black World) in 1942 with a $500 loan; published the first issue of Ebony in 1945; published two pocket-sized magazines, Jet and Hue, followed by Tan (later changed to Black Stars), a "true confession" type of magazine; entered the field of hard-covered books in 1963 with volumes by Lerone Bennett and other writers. The Johnson Publishing Company grossed over $23 million in 1972, even before it purchased radion station WGRT in 1973, the first station in Chicago to be owned by blacks.
robert s abbot african american publisher
Robert S. AbbotAfrican American Publisher
  • Robert Sengstake Abbott was born on St. Simon Island, off the Georgia coast in 1870; attended Hampton Institute in Virginia; moved to Chicago in 1899; published first issue of the Chicago Defender on May 5, 1905; guided the Chicago Defender to a circulation of over 250,000 copies by 1929; wrote strong editorials attacking injustice and encouraging Southern Negroes to seek better lives away from the Deep South; made the Chicago Defender an articulate voice of Chicago's black metropolis.
otis boykin african american scientist
Otis BoykinAfrican American Scientist
  • Otis Boykin, born in Dallas, Texas, on Aug. 29, 1920, attended Fisk University and Illinois Institute of Technology (1946-47), but was discovered in 1941 by Dr. H. F. Fruth while woring as a parcel post clerk. Boykin is credited with devising the control unit used in artifical heart stimulators; inventing a tiny electrical devices used in all guided missiles and I.B.M. computers, plus 26 other electronic devices, and an air filter. Thirty-seven resulting products are now being manufactured in Paris and distributed throughout Western Europe. Since 1964 Boykin has been a private research consultant for several American companies and three firms in Paris.
john l jasper christian african american
John L. JasperChristian African American
  • Born July 4, 1812, in the state of Virginia, John Jasper was the last of 24 children. As a Baptist minister, a liberal-minded believer in the Bible, he preached for over sixty years to white and Negro congregations in Virginia, Washington, Maryland and New Jersy. In London, Paris and Berlin, scholars took note of his views and sayings. His most famous sermon was "The Sun Do MOve." He argued that the earth is the center of the solar system although Galileo had proved this view false. Few could outdo Jasper in using the Bible to "prove" this view and his spell-binding oratory and original views entranced the throngs who flocked to hear him.
maggie l walker notable african american
Maggie L. WalkerNotable African American
  • Maggie L. Walker was born in Richmond, Virginia in 1867; taught school briefly; became secretary of the Independent Order of St. Luke, a Virginia-based benevolent society, in 1889, and increased the Order's membership from 3,408 to 100,000; organized the St. Luke Penny Savings Bank - Later known as the St. Luke Bank and Trust Company - in 1902; founded a children's thrift club of 15,000 members; established a newspaper, the St. Luke Herald; served as Virginia state president of the National Association of Colored Women; a civic and community leader until her death in 1934.
mary mcleod bethune african american
Mary McLeod BethuneAfrican American
  • Mary McLeod Bethune as born n Maysville, South Carolina in 1875. Educated at Scotta Seminary and Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. Founded Bethune-Cookman College at Daytona Beach, Florida in 1904 with five pupils. Founded the National Council of Negro omen; was Florida State Director of the American Red Cross. Director of the Negro Affairs Division of the National Youth Administration. Consultant to the founding conference of the United Nations, the recipient of many awards, including the NAACP's Spingarn Award and the Medal of Merit from the Republic of Haiti.
benjamin quarles african american educator
Benjamin QuarlesAfrican American Educator
  • A leading scholar of American Negro history, Benjamin Quarles was born in Boston, Massachusetts, and received his doctorate in 1940. He served as professor of history and dean of instruction at Dillard University and as professor at Morgan State College in Maryland. His most outstanding work is considered to be 'Lincoln and the Negro' (1962) but Quarles has also authored 'Frederick Douglass' (1948). 'The Negro in the Civil War' (1953), and 'The Negro in the American Revolution' (1961), important books that detail Negro contributions. He is a participant in the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History, an associate editor of the Journal of Negro History, contributing editor to Phylon, and was at one time president of Associated Publishers.
booker t washington african american educator
Booker T. WashingtonAfrican American Educator
  • Booker T. Washington was born in slavery at Hale's Ford, Virginia in 1856; entered Hampton Institute in Virginia in 1872; appointed principal of Tuskegee Institute (then composed of two small frame buildings and thirty students) in 1881; made famous Atlanta Exposition Speech in 1895; organized the National Negro Business League in Boston, Massachusetts in 1900; took part in the organization of the General Education Board in 1910 and the Phelps Stokes Fund in 1911; advisor to Presidents Theodore Roosevelt and Howard A. Taft from 1901 to 1912.
george w williams african american educator
George W. WilliamsAfrican American Educator
  • George Williams was born October 16, 1849. Became first Negro to graduate from Newton Theological Seminary in 1874. Appointed to the Post Office Department, Washington, D.C. in 1875; nominated to the Ohio Legislature in 1877, appointed internal revenue storekeeper, Cincinnati, Ohio in 1878; authored "History of the Negro Race in AMerican from 1619-1880" and "History of Negro Troops in the War of Rebellion;" Chairman of the Ohio Legislature special committee on railroad terminal facilities, second ember of the committee on universities and colleges, appointed Minister to Haiti in 1885, but President Cleveland did not confirm the appointment.
alain l locke african american educator
Alain L. LockeAfrican American Educator
  • Born in Philadelphia on September 13, 1886, Alain Locke attendede Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar (1907-1919), the University of Berlin (191001911), and Harvard, where he secured his Ph.D. in 1918. He was the first Negro to be elected president of the National Council of Adult Education; an exchange professor to Haiti in 1943; a visiting professor at Fisk and the University of Wisconsin; and professor of Philosophy at Howard University from 1912 until his retirement in 1953. As an editor and author of many books and articles, he became the chief intellectual interpretor, critic and historian of the Negro's contribution to American culture. His masterwork, The Negro in AMerican Culture, was completed after his death.
benjamin e mays african american educator
Benjamin E. MaysAfrican American Educator
  • President of Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia, for twenty-seven years (1940-1967), Benjamin Mays improved that institution by expanding the school's physical plant, bringing in abundant scientific equipment for students, and collecting a scholarly, distinguished faculty. Mays, born August 1, 1895, in Epworth, South Carolina, has served as a practicing minister, a professor of higher mathematics and English, an Urban League official, vice president of the Federal Council of Churches, and as a member of numberous national boards and panels. A columnist for the Pittsburg Courier for years, his views reflected race pride, opposition to racial injustice, and faith in AMerica. He has received twenty-three honorary degrees in recognition of his achievements.
william h hastie african american jurist
William H. HastieAfrican American Jurist
  • William Hastie, born November 17, 1904, was appointed U. S. District Judge for the Virgin Islands in 1931, becoming the first Negro ever appointed to the Federal Bench. A student of Amherst and Harvard Colleges, Hastie became Dean of the Howard Law School in 1939. Taking a leave of absence, a year later he served as civilian aide to the Secretary of War, making a great effort to step up integration in the armed forces. Continued segregation policies triggered his resignation in 194. In 1946 Hastie was appointed governor of the Virgin Islands, the first Negro to hold that position. He has been on the appellate bench of the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Third Circuit, since 1940.
mary ann shadd cary african american jurist
Mary Ann Shadd CaryAfrican American Jurist
  • Mrs. Cary, who was born in 1823, is credited with being te first woman editor in the United States - editor of The Provincial Freeman in 1850. She was also a teacher, a graduate of the Harvard University Law School, a practicing lawyer, and a pioneer in the Negro migration into Canada. In 1862 she had the unique onor of being appointed a Recruiting Army Officer by Governor Levi P. Morton of Indiana.
thurgood marshall african american jurist
Thurgood MarshallAfrican American Jurist
  • Thurgood Marshall, "Mr. Civil Rights," was born in Baltimore, Maryland, July 2, 1908; graduated from Lincoln University; earned a law degree with honors from Howard University Law School; practiced law in Baltimore, Maryland; held position as Chief Legal Council for the NAACP for twenty-four years; won thirty-two of thirty-five cases before the United States Supreme Court, as lawyer for the NNACP; appointed Federal Judge, Fifth Circuit Court, New York; served with Second Circuit Court of Appeals after being nominated by President Kennedy; in 1965 appointed 33rd U.S. Solicitor General, third ranking office of the Department of Justice; became first Negro justice of the Supreme Court in 1967.
james benton parsons african american jurist
James Benton ParsonsAfrican American Jurist
  • James Benton Parsons was born in Kansas City, Missouri August 13, 1911; graduated from Millikin University, Decatur, Illinois in 1934; taught at Lincoln University, Missouri for six years; taught in the City Schools of greensboro, North Carolina until 1942; received his master's degree in political science (1946) and degree of Doctor of Laws (1949) from University of Chicago (1949-1951); appointed assistant corporation counsel of Chicago in 1949, and in 1951 appointed to the U.S. attorney's office; elected jusge of the superior court to Cook County, 1960; Appointed in 1961, by President Kennedy, to judge of the U.S. District Court, North District of Illinois.
mifflin wister gibbs african american jurist
Mifflin Wister GibbsAfrican American Jurist
  • Mifflin Gibbs was born April, 1828. Elected to the Common Council in Victoria, Vancouver Island in 1866 and 1807; appointed County Attorney of Pulaski County, Arkansas in 1871; elected to the office of city judge in 1873; appointed retrister of the U. S. Land Office at Little Rock, Arkansas in 1876 and 1881; delegate to the Republican National Convention in 1876 and 1880.
patricia roberts harris african american jurist
Patricia Roberts HarrisAfrican American Jurist
  • The first American black wooman named an ambassador, Patricia Roberts Harris was born May 31, 1924, in Mattoon, Illinois, received her B.A. from Howard University (1945), J.D. from George Washington University (1960) did postgraduate work at the University of Georgia (1945-194) and at the American University (1949-1950) and obtained an LL.D. from Lindenwood College. From 1950 to 1961 she was an attorney in the Department of Justice, becoming associate dean of students and lecturer in law at Howard university in 1962, and co-chairman of the National Women's Committee for Civil Rights in 1963. Before long being appointed Ambassador to Luxembourg in 1965, she held important positions in the Washington, D.C. chapters of the NAACP, the Urban League and the Civil Liberties Union.
constance baker motley african american jurist
Constance Baker MotleyAfrican American Jurist
  • Born in September 1, 1921, in New Haven, Connecticut, Constance Baker Motley received a B.A. degree from New York University, and a law degree from Columbia University School of Law in 1946. She was legal assistant for the NAACP in 1946 and associate counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund from 1948 to 1965. In the latter capacity, Mrs. Motley handles the famous James Meredith against the University of Mississippi case, winning for Meredith the desired admission to the university. In 1964 she ran successfully for a seat in the New York senate, was elected president of the Borough of Manhattan in 1965, and was appointed a federal circuit judge in 1965.
matthew a henson african american scientist
Matthew A. HensonAfrican American Scientist
  • Matthew A. Henson was born in Charles County, Maryland in 1867. He became a seaman and voyaged to Japan, the Phillippines, France, Spain, West Africa and Russia. Commenced a series of expeditions with Robert E. Perry to the far North beginning in 1892 and ending in 1909, when he planted the American Flag at the North Pole; was appointed to a position in the New York Customs House in 1913 by Executive Order of President Howard A. Taft. Received many honors, including the Gold Medal of the Geographic Society and the Cngressional Medal of Honor (Civil Division).
william augustus hinton african american scientist
William Augustus HintonAfrican American Scientist
  • Born Dec. 15, 1883, in Chicago, Illinois, William Hinton won international recognition for his development of the Hinton Test for syphilis an his textbook on that disease. Receiving his M.D. degree from Harvard in 1912, he served as laboratory department director of the Boston Dispensary in 1915, was appointed chief of the Wasserman Laboratory, and became an instructor at Harvrd, where from 1921-1946 he taught bacteriology and immunology. He also served as special consultant to the United States Public Health Service, consultant for the Massassachusetts School for Crippled Children and lecturer at Simmons College in Boston, while continuing his work on the use of serums in fighting diseases of the blood.
charles drew african american scientist
Charles DrewAfrican American Scientist
  • Star athlete, scholar, scientist and surgeon, Charles Drew was born at Washington, D.C. June 3, 1904. As a student at the McGill University in Canada (1933) he won first prize in psysiological anatomy, later researching the properties of blood plasma at Columbia University (1940). Drew discovered ways of preserving blood plasma at blood banks and in 1940 was requested by the British to setup a plasma program for them. He did the same thing for the United States in1942, his work on plasma research saved hundreds of thousands of lives during World War II. At the time of his death, Dr. Drew was chief surgeon and chief of staff at Freedman’s Hospital and had written fourteen learned books and articles.
percy julian african american scientist
Percy JulianAfrican American Scientist
  • Dr. Percy Julian was born April 11, 1899, graduated from DePauw University in 1920; taught at Fisk University, Howard University, and West Virginia State College; attended Harvrd; took his doctorate at the University of Vienna; taught at DePauw University; headed the soybean research department of the Glidden Co., formed his own company, Julian Laboratories; merged his company with the Smith, Kline and French Pharmaceutical Co. in 1961; was responsible for making cortisone available at a reasonable cost; became president of two companies and a millionaire.
earnest e just african american scientist
Earnest E. JustAfrican American Scientist
  • A native of South Carolina, Ernest E. Just graduated from Dartmouth College magna cum laude. While professor in the biological sciences at Howard University, he received many awards and grants for research. Scientists from all over America and Europe studied his work and sought him out. Author of two major books and over sixty scientific papers, Just was awarded the Spingarn Medal in 1914 in recognition of his work as a scientist making pioneer investigations into the mysteries of egg fertilization and the study of the cell. He was seen as creator of “new concepts of cell life and metabolism which will make for him a place for all time.”
phyllis wheatley c 1753 1784
Phyllis Wheatley(c.1753-1784)
  • After being kidnapped from West Africa as a child and taken to Boston on a slave ship, Phyllis Wheatley landed in relatively fortunate circumstances - servitude in a Boston family that treated her well and encouraged her education - in which she was able to cultivate her natural gifts for verse and language. By the time she published her first poems in 1767, Wheatley had also mastered Greek and Latin (to the amazement of local scholars, many of whom had genuinely believed such feats to be beyond the capacity of Africans). Many of Wheatley’s subsequent poetic works, written in the English neoclassical style, wee published in Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral in 1773. Wheatley’s literary reputation and personal magnetism gained her admiration boh in the United States and England, and after her death she became a potent symbol of black intellectual accomplishment in the ideological battle against slavery.
gwendolyn brooks 1917 present
Gwendolyn Brooks(1917-Present)
  • Born in the American midwest, Gwendolyn Brooks found poetry there, beginning to put rhymes together when she was only seven years old and publishing her first poem, “Eventide,” in the magazine American Childhood at thirteen. “Poetry is life distilled,” she has said, and true to that philosophy, she draws poems out of her own personal, social, and racial experiences, making them not merely personal but universal in their implications. As Library of Congress consultant in petry she held readings at community centers, prisons, universities, and schools, bringing the message that poetry, written or read, can enrich, deepen, and strengthen individual lives - a matter of no small importance.
alex haley 1921 1992
Alex Haley(1921-1992)
  • Like Cyrano de Bergerac, Alex Haley penned love letters on behalf of friends, De Bergerac wrote his within the pages of a drama; Haley authored dis during off-duty hours as a messboy in the U.S. Coast Guard, beginning to hone the skills that would result, some twenty years later, in his becoming a fiercely independent professional writer in the civilian world. Growing up in Tennessee, Haley had listened to stories about his ancestors that, embellished by intensive research and creative imagination, served as the foundation for Roots: The Sage of an American Family. The story of West African Kunta Kinte and his American descendants eventually was translated into twenty-six languages and reaped 271 awards, including a Pulitzer Prize. It was published eleven years after the appearance of Haley’s first book, The Autobiography of Malcolm X, a riveting description of a dramatic life that was also a best seller - though its popularity did not reach the phenomenal level attained by Roots.
dr martin l king jr 1929 1968
Dr. Martin L. King, Jr.(1929-1968)
  • Born in Atlanta into a family of Baptist ministers, Martin Luther King Jr. came to lead and symbolize some of the most important civil rights campaigns in the 1950s and 1960s. Articulating the movement for African American civil rights as an essential fulfillment of the spirit and ideals of American democracy, and using Gandhian tactics of nonviolent resistance to minimize bloodshed, King was instrumental in breaking the back of institutionalized racial segregation during those decades and in bringing unprecedented visibility and support to the cause of racial equality. In 1964 King was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, the youngest person ever to gain the honor, in his acceptance speech he described his work as a “creative battle to end the long night of racial injustice.” Since his assassination in 1968, and with the designation of his birthday as a national holiday, King has assumed a place as one of the most important American leaders of the latter half of the twentieth century.
mary lou williams 1910 1981
Mary Lou Williams(1910-1981)
  • Pianist, composer, arranger, and educator Mary Lou Williams grew up in a home where her prodigious natural gifts were recognized and nurtured, and the rich musical landscape beyond - dotted with figures like Ma Rainey and James P. Johnson - provided constant inspiration. Seeing pianist-arranger Lovie Austin perform had a particular impact; Williams later recalled Austin “playing with her left hand, writing music for the next act with the other…and conducting the band with her head. Although I was just a little baby, I said to myself, ‘I’m going to do that one day>‘“ Williams did that and much more, from her earliest professional performances at age twelve through her seminal contributions to the bluesy, driving “Kansas City Swing” style of big-band, as a champion of bebop and its early innovators, and as composer whose works encompassed almost every style of twentieth-century ppular, jazz, and “serious” music. Long known as “the First Lady of Jazz” Williams in her later years taught on the faculties of Duke University and the University of Massachusetts.
lucy craft laney african american educator
Lucy Craft-LaneyAfrican American Educator
  • One of the state’s most famous personalities. Lucy Laney was the founder of the Haines Normal and Industrial Institute. Born April 13, 1855, in Macon, Georgia, Miss Laney was the daughter of a slave. At a very early age, Lucy Craft Laney attracted attention by exhibiting extraordinary literary talent. She astounded those around her by being able to correctly translate difficult Latin passages at the age of 12. When she was 14, she attended one of the first classes at Atlanta University. From there, she devoted herself to teaching in the public schools of Macon, Milledgeville, Savannah and Augusta.
  • Miss Laney established the first kindergarten and first nursing school for the city of Augusta. Her home at 1116 Phillips Street has been restored by the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. and is now the Lucy Craft Laney Museum of Black History and meeting place. Lucy C. Laney Comprehensive High School, located on the Haines Institute site , is named in her honor.
s johnson african american pysician
S. JohnsonAfrican American Pysician
  • Scipio S. Johnson was a physician and president of the Board of Trustees of Haines Institute. He was a practicing physician in Augusta in the first half of the century and owner of a drug store.
carter g woodson the millenium man
Carter G. WoodsonThe Millenium Man
  • American historian, born in Buckingham County, Virginia. Entered high school at the age of 20. Taught elementary school for two years after his graduation. Woodson later studied at Berea College, the University of Chicago, and Harvard University, receiving a Ph.D. degree from Harvard in 1912. He was dean of the School of Liberal Arts at Howard University from 1919 to 1920 and of West Virginia Institute (now West Virginia State College) from 1920 to 1922.devoted his life to making "the world see the Negro as a participant rather than as a lay figure in history." To this end he established (1915) the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History; founded (1916) and edited (1916-50) the Journal of Negro History, a quarterly; organized (1926) the first annual Negro History Week; and founded (1937) the Negro History Bulletin, a monthly. Among his many books are Education of the Negro Prior to 1861 (1915), History of the Negro Church (1921), and The Rural Negro (1930).
  • Woodson founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History in 1915 and the following year began publishing the Journal of Negro History. Through the Journal Woodson challenged the racist bias of mainstream studies of slavery, Reconstruction, and African history. The association functioned
  • as a clearinghouse and information bureau, providing research assistance in black history to scholars and the public. The annual celebration of Negro History Week, begun in 1926, was among Woodson’s most important achievements. During his lifetime the idea, which attracted whites as well as blacks, spread to South America, the West Indies, Africa, the Philippines, and the Virgin Islands. In 1937 Woodson also began publishing the Negro History Bulletin, which was directed at black schoolchildren.
channing h tobias
Channing H. Tobias
  • Presidential advisor who was born in Augusta in 1882, Channing Tobias was a steadfast fighter for civil rights through the use of the federal courts. A 1902 graduate of Paine College, Tobias went on to Drew University and received a degree in theology. He returned to Paine and taught there until 1911. In that year, he went to work on the national level of the YMCA and helped get money for the YMCA on Ninth Street (now Dyess Park Community Center). Tobias worked on President Harry Truman’s Committee on Civil Rights and in 1948, based on the committee’s report, Truman called for laws to eliminate wide-spread civil-rights violations.A winner of the NAACP’s Spingarn Medical, Tobias also lobbied for the integration of the armed forces. Later, he was appointed alternate delegate to the United Nations. Tobias criticized Augusta’s white leaders for failure to establish a public Black high school. Ware High School which had been the only Black public high school in Richmond County, was closed in 1897. It was nearly 40 years before a public high school opened in Augusta.
t w josey
T. W. Josey
  • Thomas Walter Josey, M.D., was born in Augusta to former slaves and worked his way through Haines Institute, Atlanta University and Howard Medical School. Dr. Josey was vice president and medical director of Pilgrim Health and Life Insurance Co.; President of the Stoney Medical Association of Physicians and Pharmacists; regional vice president of the National Medical Association; past basileus and charter member of the Psi Omega Chapter of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity; and recipient of the Silver Beaver for Distinguished Service to Boyhood, from the Boy Scouts of America. He died in 1956.
charles t walker
Charles T. Walker
  • One of historical Augusta’s greatest personalities, the Rev. Charles T. Walker founded Tabernacle Baptist Church in 1885. It was while he was pastor of Tabernacle, in the early 1900s, that President William Howard Taft and millionaire John D. Rockefeller, as well as other prominent individuals, came to hear him preach. Walker was born a slave in Hephzibah, Georgia, in 1858. In 1874, he moved to Augusta to study at the Augusta Institute at Springfield Baptist Church (which later became Morehouse College). While a pastor in LaGrange, Georgia, Walker studied law for nearly two years under a judge. He also established a school that was later named LaGrange Academy. Before his reign at Tabernacle, Walker was pastor of Central Baptist Church in Augusta, then Beulah Baptist Church, which later became tabernacle. In 1884, along with Prof. R. R. Wright, the Rev. Walker organized The Augusta Sentinel, a weekly newspaper. In 1891, he traveled to Europe and the Holy Land. While in Europe he came face to face with - and was honored by - the great evangelist Charles Spurgeon. Rev. Walker was such a spell-binding orator that he earned the nickname “Black Spurgeon,” after the powerful English minister who preached to packed houses in the Metropolitan Tabernacle in London. In 1897, Walker served as a chaplain in the Spanish-American War and traveled to Saint Luis, Cuba, in that capacity. Today, that school, C. T. Walker Traditional Magnet School, is named in his honor. Prof. Silas S. Floyd, author of the definitive biography of C. T. Walker has been able to capture the essence of that great man with the following passage from his book:
  • “But alone for his public spirit is he known, honored and loved by the people of Augusta, as is no other man who has labored here, but also for the rendering of many private acts of sympathy and help and encouragement, which the world does not know about, and which the world cannot know about.”
john mercer langston 1829 1897
John Mercer Langston1829-1897

The first African American to win a United States Public Office. In 1855 he won an election to become clerk of Brownhelm Township in Ohio. He was elected to Congress from Virginia in 1888.

joseph hayne rainey 1832 1887
Joseph Hayne Rainey1832-1887

In 1870 he was the first African American to be elected to Congress. He was from South Carolina.

ralph bunch 1904 1971
Ralph Bunch1904-1971
  • He helped bring peace between foreign countries in 1950. He won the world’s greatest award, The Nobel Peace Prize.
robert clifton weaver 1907 1997
Robert Clifton Weaver1907-1997
  • In the 1960s President Lyndon Johnson called upon Robert C. Weaver to be one of the top advisors. He became the first African American to be a member of a President’s cabinet. He worked to make American cities better places to live for African Americans.
shirley chisolm 1924
Shirley Chisolm1924-
  • The first African American woman to be elected to the U. S. House of Representatives. She ran for President of the United Sates in 1972.
andrew young 1932
Andrew Young1932-
  • Mr. Young has occupied important jobs with the U.S. Government and has been a fighter for civil rights alongside Dr. Martin L. King, Jr. From 1977 to 1979 he was the U. S. Ambassador to the United Nations. The United Nations works for world peace. Young was Mayor of Atlanta, Georgia from 1982-1989.
m jocelyn elders 1933
M. Jocelyn Elders1933-
  • The Surgeon General of the United States, the top health official in the United States Ms. Elders became the first African American to serve in this position.
carol moseley braun 1947
Carol Moseley-Braun1947-
  • In 1992 she became the first African American woman elected to the U. S. Senate. She served in the Illinois House of representatives before that.
scott joplin 1868 1917
Scott Joplin1868-1917
  • The musical stylist created “ragtime” which became popular all over the country. His cong “Maple Leaf Rag” was the most popular piece of music of the time in 1899.
william w c handy 1873 1958
William (W.C.) Handy1873-1958
  • Known as the “father of the blues.” Many of his famous songs, including “Memphis Blues” and “St. Louis Blues”, are still being played today.
marian anderson 1897 1993
Marian Anderson1897-1993
  • She became America’s most famous opera singer. She gave an outdoor concert in Washington, D.C. that 75,000 people attended. She was the first African American singer to perform with the famed Metropolitan Opera House in New York City.
thomas dorsey 1899 1993
Thomas Dorsey1899-1993
  • Considered the “father of gospel music”. He wrote more than 1,000 gospel songs. His most famous song, “Take My Hand Precious Lord, has been translated into more than 50 languages.
ella fitzgerald 1917 1996
Ella Fitzgerald1917-1996
  • She was called the “first lady of jazz”. She is one of best-selling singers in history. She had a great ability to sing in a style called “scat.” In scat, a person sings nonsense words to go with the music.
louis armstrong 1901 1971
Louis Armstrong1901-1971
  • Was the leading trumpet player in jazz history. He was also a popular bandleader, film star and comedian.
mahalia jackson 1911 1972
Mahalia Jackson1911-1972
  • People in countries around the world learned about gospel music from singer Mahalia Jackson. She is one of the most famous gospel singers of all time. She sang at the ceremony when John F. Kennedy became President of the United States.
dean dixon 1915 1976
Dean Dixon1915-1976
  • The first African American symphony conductor. He conducted the New York Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra in 1941. He also led other orchestras throughout the world.
madame c j walker 1867 1919
Madame C. J. Walker(1867-1919)
  • Born in Delta, Louisiana, raised on farms there and in Mississippi, married by age fourteen and widowed at twenty, Madame C. J. Walker went on to become a successful hair and cosmetics entrepreneur - and, by the early twentieth century, the richest self-made woman in America. Yet, Walker saw her personal wealth as not an end in itself, but a means to help promote and expand economic opportunities for others, especially African Americans. She took great pride in the profitable employment - and alternative to domestic labor - that her company afforded many thousands of black women who worked as commissioned agents. Walker was also well kown for her philantrophy, supporting African American eductional and social institutions from the national to the grassroots levels. Walker’s daughter, A’Leila, carried on this tradition, opening her mother’s and her homes to writers and artists of the emergent Harlem Renaissance and becoming a catalytic figure in that movement.
althea gibson 1927
Althea Gibson(1927 - )
  • Althea gibson was a talented kd with a tennis racket growing up in New York City during World War II. By virtue of her skill and toughness as a competitor she would eventually rise to the top of her sport - and, amidst the changing social climate in the United States, she would become the player who broke the racial barrier in championship tennis. She handled the latter difficult role with both equanimity and the same ripping serves she used to dispatch opponents. A native of South carolina, Gibson was a star in the Negro youth leagues in New York by 1943, and five years later she won the women’s title for the first of five times. In 1950 she became the first African American to play at the U. S. Open, and in 1951, at Wimbledon. Thereafter she honored her skills while working as an athletic instructor and playing team tennis. In 1956 her game came together, and for the next three years she burned up the tournament circuit, sweeping most of the majors in both 1957 and 1958. Gibson was elected to the National Lawn Tennis Hall of Fame in 1971.
pearl bailey 1918 1990
Pearl Bailey(1918-1990)
  • From singing and dancing in her father’s church at age three, she went on to become one of the most enduring and admired personalities of the age. Pearl Bailey’s realm of expression was indeed anywhere and everywhere, whether she was singing with a frank, world-weary sexuality, conducting a television cooking show, or earning a bachelor’s degree from Georgetown University in her sixties. Bailey began her stage career as a chorus girl before gaining fame as a singer on the nightclub circuit during the 1940s. A unique and underrated vocal stylist, Bailey had a string of hit records before making her Broadway debut in St. Louis Woman. She worked extensively in movies and theater, where her biggest triumph was in a 1960s revival of Hello, Dolly, for which she won a special Tony award. Bailey was also known for her humanitarian work, ranging from travelss as an international goodwill envoy to AIDS fundraising. The day she died (of a heart attack, at age seventy--two), she had been scheduled to address the United Nations.
edward kennedy duke ellington 1899 1974
Edward Kennedy “Duke” Ellington(1899-1974)
  • Composer, pianist, and bandleader Edward Kennedy “Duke” Ellington was one of the great innovators of modern American music, taking big.band jazz into new realms of harmony, form, and tonal color. Raised in Washington, D.C., and with a self-possession and aristocratic bearing that gained him his nickname in childhood, Ellington turned down a scholarship in commercial art to pursue music, organizing his first band in 1918. For the next fifty years Ellington molded his ensembles into uniquely expressive vehicles for his musical and social visions, which eventually came to encompass large-scale and religious works as well. Long associated with some of jazz’s most esteemed players, such as saxophonists Johnny Hodges and Ben Webster, Ellington also created enduring popular standards that included “Sophisticated Lady,” “Mood Indigo,” and “It don’t Mean A Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing).” Though ever seeking to grow and expand as a musician, Ellington seldom strayed from the heart of the matter: “If it sounds good,” he said, “it is good.”
madame c j walker 1867 19191
Madame C. J. Walker(1867-1919)
  • Born in Delta, Louisiana, raised on farms there and in Mississippi, married by age fourteen and widowed at twenty, Madame C. J. Walker went on to become a successful hair and cosmetics entrepreneur - and, by the early twentieth century, the richest self-made woman in America. Yet, Walker saw her personal wealth as not an end in itself, but a means to help promote and expand economic opportunities for others, especially African Americans. She took great pride in the profitable employment - and alternative to domestic labor - that her company afforded many thousands of black women who worked as commissioned agents. Walker was also well kown for her philantrophy, supporting African American eductional and social institutions from the national to the grassroots levels. Walker’s daughter, A’Leila, carried on this tradition, opening her mother’s and her homes to writers and artists of the emergent Harlem Renaissance and becoming a catalytic figure in that movement.
edith spurlock sampson 1901 1979
Edith Spurlock Sampson(1901-1979)
  • Edith Spurlock Sampson was an achiever, a trailblazer and ultimately an enduring example of te person who, resolutely and often without fanfare, changes a system from within. As a child in Philadelphia she determined to get an education and work to relieve in some way the plight of the urban poor around her, a desire that led first to social work and then to the study of law. As a pioneering African American female law student and then lawyer, she racked up many firsts in her career and came to be widely known and respected as a practicing attorney in Chicago. A natural in the courtroom, she claimed to “speak from the heart and let the law take care of itself.” In 1962 Sampsopn became the first black female judge in America, and she later served as an alternative delegate to the United Nations, traveling widely abroad as a goodwill ambassador. Sampson also gave unsparingly of herself to ensure that as many youths as possible could follow in the path she had forged. In fact, it was her appearance at a high school career day in Texas that inspired a young Barbara Jordan (in a process Jordan would later liken to a religious conversion) to pursue a career in law.
william bill cosby 1937
William “Bill” Cosby(1937 - )
  • The first African American to fill a staring role on network television - that of agent Alex Scott on “I Spy” in 1965, from which the picture here dates - Bill Cosby was still breaking ground on network television twenty years later as star of The Cosby Show, one of the most successful (and stereotype-challenging) series in the history of the medium. Cosby’s early years as a lover of radio comedy and budding funnyman are well known to the millions who first discovered his recorded stand-up routines in the early 1960s; his humor, often autobiographical and child centered, struck a universal chord and made him the first black comedian to achieve crossover success. Since the, Cosby’s wide-ranging works has included producing television shows such as the animated “Fat Albert” series; earning a doctoral degree in education; and authoring a series of best-selling books. With his wife, Camille, Cosby has also been an active philanthropist. Their 1988 donation to Spelman College in Atlanta was the single largest gift ever made to a black college.
mary cardwell dawson 1894 1962
Mary Cardwell Dawson(1894-1962)
  • Mary Cardwell Dawson was the driving force behind the National Negro Opera Company (NNOC)m which she founded in 1941 as a vehicle for young African American singers, whose opportunities in established opera companies were limited by racial discrimination. Dawson studied at the New England Conservatory and Chicago Musical College, and in 1927 she established the Cardwell School of Music in Pittsburg. There she also founded and directed the Cardwell Dawson Center, which toured often and won a number of awards in the years preceding World War II. A woman of enormous energy and accomplishment, Dawson for twenty-one years oversaw the NNOC and its affiliated guilds in New York, Washington, and Chicago. Among the company’s celebrated productions were Verdi’s Aida and La Traviata, Nathaniel Dett’s The Ordering of Moses, and Clarence Cameron White’s Ouango, the first production to be staged by an outside company at the Metropolitan Opera House.
katherine dunham 1909
Katherine Dunham(1909 - )
  • One of the greatest innovators of twentieth-century dance, Katherine Dunham has always regarded artistic innovation as but a means to an end: individual, and ultimately societal, transformation. Growing up primrily in Chicago, Dunham was exposed to music and theater via church, friends, and relatives. Eventually she made her way to the University of Chicago, where she studied anthropology and also began choreographing and teaching dance. Dismayed at widespread ignorance of the often African roots of popular dance, she vowed to study ethnic dance in its original settings; in time she covered much of the globe as she collected dances and folklore of Africa, Asia, and the Americas and brought them to new and enthusiastic audiences. Still indefatigable, inspiring, and with a wide range of interests in her eighties, Dunham stands as one of the true legends of modern performing art.
zora neale hurston 1891 1960
Zora Neale Hurston(1891-1960)
  • Some people- perhaps the greatest people - are destined to be controversial not only in their own lifetimes, but beyond, ever provoking even as they uplift, gratify, and edify. Such a figure is Zora Neale Hurston, the brilliant, multifaceted chronicler of African American life as she saw it. Hurston’s dominant influence was her hometown of Eatonville, Florida, the first incorporated all-black township in the United States. She grew up there independent and self-reliant, her imagination fired by the rich oral traditions of the rural African American South and her sense of self undistorted by prejudice. She later studied at Howard and Columbia University and was a lively presence in the Harlem Renaissance before undertaking the field studies of southern black folklore that would be documented in the classic Mules and Men (1935) and would permeate much of her best fiction. In the mid-1930s, Hurston made two trips to Haiti and Jamaica; the picture here shows her beating the Hountar, or “Mama Drum.”
jessee owens 1913 1980
Jessee Owens(1913-1980)

By virtue of the four gold medals he won at the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin, Jesse Owens is remembered as one of the greatest track stars ever to compete in the Olympics. But Owens's triumphs had a resonance hr beyond sports-and have become the stuff of modern legend - above all for the stinging blow they delivered, before the eyes of thc world, to the racial doctrines of Adolf Hitler. The Nazi regime had hoped to make the 1936 games a showcase of white superiority; but Owens, who was working his way through Ohio State University, gave a stunning performance that. demonstrated not only black power but the power of sport to transcend ideology and prejudice. Believing that an African American who achieves success "should think in terms of not only himself but also how he can reach down and grab another black child and pull him to the top." Owens later became a celebrated public speaker and promoter of youth sports programs

daniel a p murray 1852 1925
DANIEL A. P. MURRAY(1852-1925)

Librarian, historian, and businessman Daniel A. P. Murray believed that ‘the true test of the progress of a people is to be found in their literature.’ Determined that the written record of African American voices not be lost in mainstream American history, Murray devoted much of his life to collecting and documenting black literature For fifty-two years Murray was employed by the Library of Congress, where he developed his professional capacities as a scholar and bibliographer, making full use of the unique perspective his position afforded him. One official duty, for example was to secure a copy of every book and pamphlet in existence by black author for an exhibit at the Paris Exposition in 1900. Murray also assembled a private collection of some 1,500 books and pamphlets that are now part of the Library's holdings and provide particularly strong documentation of African American life during the fifty years following emancipation. An important if quiet figure in the movement to preserve and promote black history Daniel A. P. Murray’s legacy continues to provide successive generations with a vital link to the past.

james weldon johnson 1871 1938
JAMES WELDON JOHNSON(1871-1938)

James Weldon Johnson's life was a glittering reflection of his “abhorrence of spare time.” While working as a teacher and a school principal Johnson studied law, becoming the first African American admitted to the Florida bar since the Civil War. He studied music as well and became a successful songwriter and an opera librettist. He was a poet (God's Trombones) and an influential anthologist (The Book of American Negro Poetry). The Autobiography of an Ex Colored Man, his only novel and perhaps his best known literary work, was first published in 1912, four years before he became field secretary of the NAACP. Over the next sixteen years Johnson expanded NAACP membership and coordinated its programs, resigning, finally, to accept a professorship at Fisk University. He continued to write poetry, essays, and magazine articles through all those years, as well as the historical study Black Manhattan and his autobiography “Along This Way”.

bessie coleman 1892 1926
BESSIE COLEMAN(1892-1926)
  • The first African American aviator was "Brave Bessie" Coleman. She let nothing stop her from getting into the air and became a beacon of inspiration to countless others in her brief but meteoric career as a barnstormer. Coleman first became interested in aviation from reading newspaper and magazine articles.. When she decided to take up flying she found schools closed to her by restrictions of race, gender or both. On the advice of Chicago Defender publisher Robert Abbott, Coleman went to Europe in pursuit of her goal.
  • In France, Coleman was trained by French and German aviators, and in 1921 she earned her pilot's license. A year later she gained an international pilots license. Soon thereafter she began her career in the United States as an exhibition pilot appearing in shows all over the country and speaking on opportunities in aviation. It was her intention to open a flying school for black youth, but as she was nearing this goal she died in Jacksonville, Florida, when the controls of her plane jammed and she was thrown from the cockpit.
daisy bates b 1914
DAISY BATES(B. 1914)

Civil rights activist and journalist Daisy Bates never knew her parents. Her mother had been abducted assaulted, and murdered by three white men, and her father grief-stricken and wary of reprisals if the murderers were prosecuted (they never were)., fled the small town of Huttig, Arkansas, never to return. Bates, raised by adoptive parents, learned of thc story at age eight; from it and her own experiences with racism grew a determination to do whatever she could to change a society that allowed such horrors to exist. As longtime coeditor (with her husband) of the Arkansas State Press, Bates used that newspaper to fight segregation, police brutality, and other injustices; and as president of thc Arkansas NAACP she organized the Little Rock Nine and engineered the desegregation of Little Rock’s Central High School. Bates’s leadership in that agonizingly violent struggle was indomitable, even when her home was bombed and her newspaper became the target of economic reprisals. Honored as a pillar of the civil rights movement Bates was also the only female pilot in the Arkansas Civil Air Patrol during World War II.

jessie redmon fauset 1882 1961
JESSIE REDMON FAUSET(1882-1961)

As literary editor of the NAACP’s Crisis magazine (1919-1926), Jessie Redmon Fauset was one of three people Langston Hughes credited with “mid wifing” the so-called New Negro literature into being. Kind and critical…. “they nursed us along until our books were born.” Redmon, among the first African Americans to be graduated (Phi Beta Kappa) from Cornell University nursed along books of her own as well. She produced four novels (There Is Confusion; Plum Bun; The Chinaberry Tree; and Comedy, American Style) dominated by a single theme: the fundamental importance of human relationships in a world rife with racial and sexual barriers. They were written in the midst of other jobs and other writing (poetry, essays, magazine articles and material for the children's magazine Brownies' Book which she also edited), a fact that moved her to tell one interviewer of her longing to devote a year or two solely to a novel , “just to see what I really could do if I had my full time and energy to devote to my work:'

mary church terrell 1863 1954
MARY CHURCH TERRELL(1863-1954)

Mary Church Terrell came from an affluent family and was light skinned enough to "pass" (as a white person) in most situations if she so chose. Instead she placed herself squarely in the struggle for African American empowerment and achieved a lifetime of accomplishments in education, social service, and politics. Terrell began her career teaching at Wilberforce University in Ohio, then moved to secondary school teaching in Washington, D.C. Her later appointment to the District of Columbia Board of Education was a first for an African American woman. As the first president of the Colored Women's League of Washington and later as president of the National Association of Colored Women, Terrell was instrumental in local affiliates' establishment of kindergartens, day care centers, and nursing schools. She joined Frederick Douglass in pushing for antilynching measures and after his death continued to pursue another common cause, woman suffrage Terrell was a pioneer in attacking segregation in Washington. Her motto “Keep on going, keep on insisting, keep on fighting injustice

fannie lou hamer 1917 1977
FANNIE LOU HAMER(1917-1977)

Fannie Lou Hamer picked cotton as a child and had worked for eighteen years as a sharecropper when, in 1962, her unsuccessful attempt to vote in the county seat of Indianola, Mississippi brought severe economic reprisals and physical violence - and galvanized Hamer to civil rights activism for the rest of her life Best known for her contributions to securing federally guaranteed voting rights for African Americans, Hamer was also a mover in economic and community development programs As a founder of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP), Hamer gained national attention during the 1964 Democratic National Convention, when, the MFDP demanded to be seated along with the all white regular state delegation. Hamer's dramatic leadership and oratory turned momentary defeat into an important media victory. Beatings at the hands of police, which caused permanent damage to her arm and kidneys, never deterred Hamer. “Sick and tired of being sick and tired”, she embodied the ordinary African American s defiance of racial discrimination and terror - and the power that such defiance could unleash.

nannie helen burroughs 1879 1961
NANNIE HELEN BURROUGHS(1879-1961)

"We specialize in the wholly impossible" was the motto of the National Training School for Women. and Girls in Washington, D.C., which Nannie Helen Burroughs opened in 1901. At a time when African Americans were held down and hemmed in on every side, black empowerment - let alone black female empowerment - was quite often "impossible” Yet it was steadily and systematically accomplished in a burgeoning network of black institutions whose dynamism embodied that of the individuals behind them. Nannie Burroughs was a brilliant force in many such institutions and today she stands beside such great female African American educators as Lucy Laney and Mary McLeod Bethune Tough minded and outspoken, Burroughs was ahead of her time both as an exponent of the literal and figurative beauty of people of color and is an African American feminist who refused to rank one form of discrimination over another.

willard motley c 1909 1965
WILLARD MOTLEY(c. 1909-1965)

“My race”; said Willard Motley, “is the human race”; and his books and stories addressed the depersonalization and violence he saw afflicting that race as it struggled with the problems of urbanization. Born to a middle-class family in Chicago, Motley roamed the country gathering the broad experiences he felt he needed to be a writer. The main character in his first novel, ‘Knock on Any Door’ (1947), was based, in part, on someone he had met on those travels. The story of young Nick Romano’s plunge from a secure childhood through the treacheries of poverty and crime to his execution for murder, the book was a phenomenal success. Its sequel, ‘Let No Man Write My Epitaph’ was not as successful, though it, like his first novel was made into a popular film. Motley spent the last part of his life in Mexico, where he completed ‘Let Noon Be Fair’ just before his death. Another reflection of his concern with social justice, this novel dealt with North American exploitation of a country Motley had come to respect and regard as his own.

bessie smith 1894 1937
BESSIE SMITH(1894-1937)

The 1920s in America were, among so many other things, a veritable golden age of the powerful blues woman. And at the pinnacle stood Bessie Smith, whose personal and musical power pushed out the boundaries of both female and African American expression for a new mass audience. Smith first performed at around age eight in her hometown of Chattanooga, Tennessee, and began her professional career in earnest when she performed in the same show as blues immortal Gertrude “Ma” Rainey in the years between 1912 and 1915. From there she toured to minstrel and cabaret shows until pianist (Clarence Williams brought her to New York to record ‘Downhearted Blues’ in 1923. It quickly established her as the most successful black recording artist of her day, and for the next five years she recorded and toured with great success Though she made her last recording in 1933 (with Jack Teagarden and Benny Goodman), Smith continued touring until a car accident took her life at age forty-three.

lorraine hansberry 1930 1965
LORRAINE HANSBERRY(1930-1965)

"I think that the human race does command its own destiny and that that destiny can eventually embrace the stars." During her brief lifetime, Lorraine Hansberry became a commanding presence in American letters. Her best-known work, the 1959 play ‘A Raisin in the Sun’- the first play by an African American woman to be produced on Broadway--won the Drama Critics' Circle Award. The story of the Younger family and their various and conflicting dreams for escaping the stultifying life of a Chicago ghetto, the play became a landmark in American theater and has been published and produced in over thirty countries. Other Hansberry works include the plays ‘The Sign in Sidney Brustein’s Window’ and ‘Les Blancs’ and text for the photographic journal ‘The Movement: A Documentary of a Struggle for Equality’ (1964) Excerpts from Hansberry's diaries, journals, essays, and litters were blended by Robert Nemiroff into a two-act drama ‘To Be Young, Gifted, and Black’ (1969), which was also published as a book

pauli murray 1910 1985
PAULI MURRAY(1910 - 1985)

The first black woman to be ordained an Episcopal priest, Pauli Murray spent much of her activist life helping to dismantle barriers of racial and gender discrimination. She often attributed her fighting spirit to her upbringing in a Midwestern working-class family that put a premium on education, character and upward mobility From integrating Washington, D.C., lunch counters during her law school days at Howard University in the 1940s through becoming a founder of the National Organization for Women in the early 1970s, Murray took challenges head-on. In discussing sexism at Howard, she said, “The only way I could counter it was to lead my class. Which I did. For three years.” She went on to teach at several universities and compile a massive reference work on state race laws. In her later years Murray turned her energies to the spiritual, attending the Virginia Theological Seminary and serving as an Episcopal priest in Baltimore.

rosa parks b 1913
ROSA PARKS(B 1913)

Rosa Park's place in history lies in a single courageous action, her refusal to give up her seat to a white man on a Montgomery, Alabama bus on December 1, l955. Her subsequent arrest, resulted in a mass boycott of city buses and brought thc civil rights movement and Martin Luther King Jr. to national prominence. Yet the popular view of Parks's catalytic action as that of a simple, tired seamstress is not altogether accurate. Though indeed a woman of quiet dignity, Parks was also a longtime mover in the Montgomery NAACP and a well trained, disciplined activist, attuned in every respect to what she was setting into motion. Parks and her husband, Raymond, moved to Detroit in the wake of the bus boycott, and for many years she worked in the office of Michigan congressman John Conyers. Still lending her energies to the struggle for equal rights, Parks remains a powerful figure of hope and inspiration to millions.

leontyne price b 1927
LEONTYNE PRICE(B. 1927)
  • Regarded as one of the greatest sopranos of the century, Leontyne Price possesses not only an extraordinary native gift but a certain inner majesty - nothing but a mirror, in her view, of the grandeur of operatic expression itself. In a long, distinguished, and sometimes controversial career, Price has embodied this spirit of the artist at its most finely developed level. Raised by proud, hardworking parents in Laurel, Mississippi, at age nine Price heard Marian Anderson in concert and immediately determined to pursue a music career. She won a scholarship to Juilliard, and her first big performing break came in 1952., when Virgil Thomson cast her in a revival of ‘Four Saints in Three Acts’. In her 1961 debut at the Metropolitan Opera, she received an ovation that lasted forty-two minutes. Asked by an interviewer about competitive feelings toward younger stars, she replied “Why should I feel threatened? There'll never be another me.”
langston hughes 1902 1967
LANGSTON HUGHES(1902-1967)

"I like: Tristan, goat’s milk, short novels, lyric poems, heat, simple folk, boats, and bullfights; I dislike Aida, parsnips, long novels, narrative poems cold, pretentious folk, buses, and bridge," A man of eclectic tastes1and experiences (he worked as a ranch hand, a busboy, a cook and a seaman), Langston Hughes forged poems, novels, plays, opera libretti, lyrics for musicals, and a cantata out of the various themes of his life to become one of America’s leading men of letters. His work, vivid and strong, engages readers in heart to-heart conversation even as in his words "I try to interpret and make a bridge between one section of our American public and another.” The creative process itself was, for Hughes, another sort of communication: In an envelope marked: / Personal” / God addressed me a letter. / In an envelope marked: / Personal” / I have given my answer.

rita dove b 1952
RITA DOVE(b.1952)

Rita Dove's twelfth-grade English teacher took her to meet poet John Ciardi. Though Dove had already been writing creatively for years, "That day, I realized…it was possible to be a writer, to write down a poem or story in the intimate sphere of one's own room, and then share it with the world.” She went on to become a college professor, an editor, the recipient of many awards and fellowships for writing, and a judge for the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award. In 1987 she won the Pulitzer for the story, in poetry, of her maternal grandparents Thomas and Beulah, Her other books include a poetry collection The Yellow House on the Corner( 1980); a volume of short stories, Fifth Sunday (1985); a novel, Through The Ivory Gate (1992) and a verse play The Darker Face of the Earth (1994). In 1993 Dove was appointed US poet laureate by the Librarian of Congress-the youngest poet, and the first African American, to receive this honor. The engaging energy with which she served as spokesperson for poetry throughout the country resulted in a one-year extension of her appointment in 1994.

arna arnaud wendell bontemps 1902 1973
ARNA (ARNAUD) WENDELL BONTEMPS(1902-1973)

"We were heralds of a dawning day,” proclaimed Arna Bontemps in his 1972 anthology The Harlem Renaissance Remembered, The "we" were African American writers, artists, and musicians whose creativity in the 1920s forever transformed the way black culture was perceived in America. Bontemps took that same heady Harlem spirit and carved his own literary renaissance, which extended beyond New York City and lasted nearly half a century thereafter. He produced more than twenty-five books: novels depicting aspects of black history and experience (God Sends Sunday, 1931 Black Thunder ,1936) anthologies that celebrated black culture (The Poetry of the Negro and The Book of NegroFolklore, edited with Langston Hughes Great Slave Narratives), poetry, history and black juvenilia. With consummate skill, dignity, and thoughtfulness he became a "keeper of the flame" of African American heritage

madame c j walker 1867 19192
Madame C. J. Walker(1867-1919)
  • Born in Delta, Louisiana, raised on farms there and in Mississippi, married by age fourteen and widowed at twenty, Madame C. J. Walker went on to become a successful hair and cosmetics entrepreneur - and, by the early twentieth century, the richest self-made woman in America. Yet, Walker saw her personal wealth as not an end in itself, but a means to help promote and expand economic opportunities for others, especially African Americans. She took great pride in the profitable employment - and alternative to domestic labor - that her company afforded many thousands of black women who worked as commissioned agents. Walker was also well kown for her philantrophy, supporting African American eductional and social institutions from the national to the grassroots levels. Walker’s daughter, A’Leila, carried on this tradition, opening her mother’s and her homes to writers and artists of the emergent Harlem Renaissance and becoming a catalytic figure in that movement.
althea gibson 19271
Althea Gibson(1927 - )
  • Althea gibson was a talented kd with a tennis racket growing up in New York City during World War II. By virtue of her skill and toughness as a competitor she would eventually rise to the top of her sport - and, amidst the changing social climate in the United States, she would become the player who broke the racial barrier in championship tennis. She handled the latter difficult role with both equanimity and the same ripping serves she used to dispatch opponents. A native of South carolina, Gibson was a star in the Negro youth leagues in New York by 1943, and five years later she won the women’s title for the first of five times. In 1950 she became the first African American to play at the U. S. Open, and in 1951, at Wimbledon. Thereafter she honored her skills while working as an athletic instructor and playing team tennis. In 1956 her game came together, and for the next three years she burned up the tournament circuit, sweeping most of the majors in both 1957 and 1958. Gibson was elected to the National Lawn Tennis Hall of Fame in 1971.
pearl bailey 1918 19901
Pearl Bailey(1918-1990)
  • From singing and dancing in her father’s church at age three, she went on to become one of the most enduring and admired personalities of the age. Pearl Bailey’s realm of expression was indeed anywhere and everywhere, whether she was singing with a frank, world-weary sexuality, conducting a television cooking show, or earning a bachelor’s degree from Georgetown University in her sixties. Bailey began her stage career as a chorus girl before gaining fame as a singer on the nightclub circuit during the 1940s. A unique and underrated vocal stylist, Bailey had a string of hit records before making her Broadway debut in St. Louis Woman. She worked extensively in movies and theater, where her biggest triumph was in a 1960s revival of Hello, Dolly, for which she won a special Tony award. Bailey was also known for her humanitarian work, ranging from traveles as an international goodwill envoy to AIDS fundraising. The day she died (of a heart attack, at age seventy--two), she had been scheduled to address the United Nations.
edward kennedy duke ellington 1899 19741
Edward Kennedy “Duke” Ellington(1899-1974)
  • Composer, pianist, and bandleader Edward Kennedy “Duke” Ellington was one of the great innovators of modern American music, taking big.band jazz into new realms of harmony, form, and tonal color. Raised in Washington, D.C., and with a self-possession and aristocratic bearing that gained him his nickname in childhood, Ellington turned down a scholarship in commercial art to pursue music, organizing his first band in 1918. For the next fifty years Ellington molded his ensembles into uniquely expressive vehicles for his musical and social visions, which eventually came to encompass large-scale and religious works as well. Long associated with some of jazz’s most esteemed players, such as saxophonists Johnny Hodges and Ben Webster, Ellington also created enduring popular standards that included “Sophisticated Lady,” “Mood Indigo,” and “It don’t Mean A Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing).” Though ever seeking to grow and expand as a musician, Ellington seldom strayed from the heart of the matter: “If it sounds good,” he said, “it is good.”
madame c j walker 1867 19193
Madame C. J. Walker(1867-1919)
  • Born in Delta, Louisiana, raised on farms there and in Mississippi, married by age fourteen and widowed at twenty, Madame C. J. Walker went on to become a successful hair and cosmetics entrepreneur - and, by the early twentieth century, the richest self-made woman in America. Yet, Walker saw her personal wealth as not an end in itself, but a means to help promote and expand economic opportunities for others, especially African Americans. She took great pride in the profitable employment - and alternative to domestic labor - that her company afforded many thousands of black women who worked as commissioned agents. Walker was also well kown for her philantrophy, supporting African American eductional and social institutions from the national to the grassroots levels. Walker’s daughter, A’Leila, carried on this tradition, opening her mother’s and her homes to writers and artists of the emergent Harlem Renaissance and becoming a catalytic figure in that movement.
edith spurlock sampson 1901 19791
Edith Spurlock Sampson(1901-1979)
  • Edith Spurlock Sampson was an achiever, a trailblazer and ultimately an enduring example of te person who, resolutely and often without fanfare, changes a system from within. As a child in Philadelphia she determined to get an education and work to relieve in some way the plight of the urban poor around her, a desire that led first to social work and then to the study of law. As a pioneering African American female law student and then lawyer, she racked up many firsts in her career and came to be widely known and respected as a practicing attorney in Chicago. A natural in the courtroom, she claimed to “speak from the heart and let the law take care of itself.” In 1962 Sampsopn became the first black female judge in America, and she later served as an alternative delegate to the United Nations, traveling widely abroad as a goodwill ambassador. Sampson also gave unsparingly of herself to ensure that as many youths as possible could follow in the path she had forged. In fact, it was her appearance at a high school career day in Texas that inspired a young Barbara Jordan (in a process Jordan would later liken to a religious conversion) to pursue a career in law.
william bill cosby 19371
William “Bill” Cosby(1937 - )
  • The first African American to fill a staring role on network television - that of agent Alex Scott on “I Spy” in 1965, from which the picture here dates - Bill Cosby was still breaking ground on network television twenty years later as star of The Cosby Show, one of the most successful (and stereotype-challenging) series in the history of the medium. Cosby’s early years as a lover of radio comedy and budding funnyman are well known to the millions who first discovered his recorded stand-up routines in the early 1960s; his humor, often autobiographical and child centered, struck a universal chord and made him the first black comedian to achieve crossover success. Since the, Cosby’s wide-ranging works has included producing television shows such as the animated “Fat Albert” series; earning a doctoral degree in education; and authoring a series of best-selling books. With his wife, Camille, Cosby has also been an active philanthropist. Their 1988 donation to Spelman College in Atlanta was the single largest gift ever made to a black college.
mary cardwell dawson 1894 19621
Mary Cardwell Dawson(1894-1962)
  • Mary Cardwell Dawson was the driving force behind the National Negro Opera Company (NNOC)m which she founded in 1941 as a vehicle for young African American singers, whose opportunities in established opera companies were limited by racial discrimination. Dawson studied at the New England Conservatory and Chicago Musical College, and in 1927 she established the Cardwell School of Music in Pittsburg. There she also founded and directed the Cardwell Dawson Center, which toured often and won a number of awards in the years preceding World War II. A woman of enormous energy and accomplishment, Dawson for twenty-one years oversaw the NNOC and its affiliated guilds in New York, Washington, and Chicago. Among the company’s celebrated productions were Verdi’s Aida and La Traviata, Nathaniel Dett’s The Ordering of Moses, and Clarence Cameron White’s Ouango, the first production to be staged by an outside company at the Metropolitan Opera House.
katherine dunham 19091
Katherine Dunham(1909 - )
  • One of the greatest innovators of twentieth-century dance, Katherine Dunham has always regarded artistic innovation as but a means to an end: individual, and ultimately societal, transformation. Growing up primrily in Chicago, Dunham was exposed to music and theater via church, friends, and relatives. Eventually she made her way to the University of Chicago, where she studied anthropology and also began choreographing and teaching dance. Dismayed at widespread ignorance of the often African roots of popular dance, she vowed to study ethnic dance in its original settings; in time she covered much of the globe as she collected dances and folklore of Africa, Asia, and the Americas and brought them to new and enthusiastic audiences. Still indefatigable, inspiring, and with a wide range of interests in her eighties, Dunham stands as one of the true legends of modern performing art.
zora neale hurston 1891 19601
Zora Neale Hurston(1891-1960)
  • Some people- perhaps the greatest people - are destined to be controversial not only in their own lifetimes, but beyond, ever provoking even as they uplift, gratify, and edify. Such a figure is Zora Neale Hurston, the brilliant, multifaceted chronicler of African American life as she saw it. Hurston’s dominant influence was her hometown of Eatonville, Florida, the first incorporated all-black township in the United States. She grew up there independent and self-reliant, her imagination fired by the rich oral traditions of the rural African American South and her sense of self undistorted by prejudice. She later studied at Howard and Columbia University and was a lively presence in the Harlem Renaissance before undertaking the field studies of southern black folklore that would be documented in the classic Mules and Men (1935) and would permeate much of her best fiction. In the mid-1930s, Hurston made two trips to Haiti and Jamaica; the picture here shows her beating the Hountar, or “Mama Drum.”
jessee owens 1913 19801
Jessee Owens(1913-1980)

By virtue of the four gold medals he won at the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin, Jesse Owens is remembered as one of the greatest track stars ever to compete in the Olympics. But Owens's triumphs had a resonance hr beyond sports-and have become the stuff of modern legend - above all for the stinging blow they delivered, before the eyes of thc world, to the racial doctrines of Adolf Hitler. The Nazi regime had hoped to make the 1936 games a showcase of white superiority; but Owens, who was working his way through Ohio State University, gave a stunning performance that. demonstrated not only black power but the power of sport to transcend ideology and prejudice. Believing that an African American who achieves success "should think in terms of not only himself but also how he can reach down and grab another black child and pull him to the top." Owens later became a celebrated public speaker and promoter of youth sports programs

daniel a p murray 1852 19251
DANIEL A. P. MURRAY(1852-1925)

Librarian, historian, and businessman Daniel A. P. Murray believed that ‘the true test of the progress of a people is to be found in their literature.’ Determined that the written record of African American voices not be lost in mainstream American history, Murray devoted much of his life to collecting and documenting black literature For fifty-two years Murray was employed by the Library of Congress, where he developed his professional capacities as a scholar and bibliographer, making full use of the unique perspective his position afforded him. One official duty, for example was to secure a copy of every book and pamphlet in existence by black author for an exhibit at the Paris Exposition in 1900. Murray also assembled a private collection of some 1,500 books and pamphlets that are now part of the Library's holdings and provide particularly strong documentation of African American life during the fifty years following emancipation. An important if quiet figure in the movement to preserve and promote black history Daniel A. P. Murray’s legacy continues to provide successive generations with a vital link to the past.

james weldon johnson 1871 19381
JAMES WELDON JOHNSON(1871-1938)

James Weldon Johnson's life was a glittering reflection of his “abhorrence of spare time.” While working as a teacher and a school principal Johnson studied law, becoming the first African American admitted to the Florida bar since the Civil War. He studied music as well and became a successful songwriter and an opera librettist. He was a poet (God's Trombones) and an influential anthologist (The Book of American Negro Poetry). The Autobiography of an Ex Colored Man, his only novel and perhaps his best known literary work, was first published in 1912, four years before he became field secretary of the NAACP. Over the next sixteen years Johnson expanded NAACP membership and coordinated its programs, resigning, finally, to accept a professorship at Fisk University. He continued to write poetry, essays, and magazine articles through all those years, as well as the historical study Black Manhattan and his autobiography “Along This Way”.

bessie coleman 1892 19261
BESSIE COLEMAN(1892-1926)
  • The first African American aviator was "Brave Bessie" Coleman. She let nothing stop her from getting into the air and became a beacon of inspiration to countless others in her brief but meteoric career as a barnstormer. Coleman first became interested in aviation from reading newspaper and magazine articles.. When she decided to take up flying she found schools closed to her by restrictions of race, gender or both. On the advice of Chicago Defender publisher Robert Abbott, Coleman went to Europe in pursuit of her goal.
  • In France, Coleman was trained by French and German aviators, and in 1921 she earned her pilot's license. A year later she gained an international pilots license. Soon thereafter she began her career in the United States as an exhibition pilot appearing in shows all over the country and speaking on opportunities in aviation. It was her intention to open a flying school for black youth, but as she was nearing this goal she died in Jacksonville, Florida, when the controls of her plane jammed and she was thrown from the cockpit.
daisy bates b 19141
DAISY BATES(B. 1914)

Civil rights activist and journalist Daisy Bates never knew her parents. Her mother had been abducted assaulted, and murdered by three white men, and her father grief-stricken and wary of reprisals if the murderers were prosecuted (they never were)., fled the small town of Huttig, Arkansas, never to return. Bates, raised by adoptive parents, learned of thc story at age eight; from it and her own experiences with racism grew a determination to do whatever she could to change a society that allowed such horrors to exist. As longtime coeditor (with her husband) of the Arkansas State Press, Bates used that newspaper to fight segregation, police brutality, and other injustices; and as president of thc Arkansas NAACP she organized the Little Rock Nine and engineered the desegregation of Little Rock’s Central High School. Bates’s leadership in that agonizingly violent struggle was indomitable, even when her home was bombed and her newspaper became the target of economic reprisals. Honored as a pillar of the civil rights movement Bates was also the only female pilot in the Arkansas Civil Air Patrol during World War II.

jessie redmon fauset 1882 19611
JESSIE REDMON FAUSET(1882-1961)

As literary editor of the NAACP’s Crisis magazine (1919-1926), Jessie Redmon Fauset was one of three people Langston Hughes credited with “mid wifing” the so-called New Negro literature into being. Kind and critical…. “they nursed us along until our books were born.” Redmon, among the first African Americans to be graduated (Phi Beta Kappa) from Cornell University nursed along books of her own as well. She produced four novels (There Is Confusion; Plum Bun; The Chinaberry Tree; and Comedy, American Style) dominated by a single theme: the fundamental importance of human relationships in a world rife with racial and sexual barriers. They were written in the midst of other jobs and other writing (poetry, essays, magazine articles and material for the children's magazine Brownies' Book which she also edited), a fact that moved her to tell one interviewer of her longing to devote a year or two solely to a novel , “just to see what I really could do if I had my full time and energy to devote to my work:'

mary church terrell 1863 19541
MARY CHURCH TERRELL(1863-1954)

Mary Church Terrell came from an affluent family and was light skinned enough to "pass" (as a white person) in most situations if she so chose. Instead she placed herself squarely in the struggle for African American empowerment and achieved a lifetime of accomplishments in education, social service, and politics. Terrell began her career teaching at Wilberforce University in Ohio, then moved to secondary school teaching in Washington, D.C. Her later appointment to the District of Columbia Board of Education was a first for an African American woman. As the first president of the Colored Women's League of Washington and later as president of the National Association of Colored Women, Terrell was instrumental in local affiliates' establishment of kindergartens, day care centers, and nursing schools. She joined Frederick Douglass in pushing for antilynching measures and after his death continued to pursue another common cause, woman suffrage Terrell was a pioneer in attacking segregation in Washington. Her motto “Keep on going, keep on insisting, keep on fighting injustice

fannie lou hamer 1917 19771
FANNIE LOU HAMER(1917-1977)

Fannie Lou Hamer picked cotton as a child and had worked for eighteen years as a sharecropper when, in 1962, her unsuccessful attempt to vote in the county seat of Indianola, Mississippi brought severe economic reprisals and physical violence - and galvanized Hamer to civil rights activism for the rest of her life Best known for her contributions to securing federally guaranteed voting rights for African Americans, Hamer was also a mover in economic and community development programs As a founder of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP), Hamer gained national attention during the 1964 Democratic National Convention, when, the MFDP demanded to be seated along with the all white regular state delegation. Hamer's dramatic leadership and oratory turned momentary defeat into an important media victory. Beatings at the hands of police, which caused permanent damage to her arm and kidneys, never deterred Hamer. “Sick and tired of being sick and tired”, she embodied the ordinary African American s defiance of racial discrimination and terror - and the power that such defiance could unleash.

nannie helen burroughs 1879 19611
NANNIE HELEN BURROUGHS(1879-1961)

"We specialize in the wholly impossible" was the motto of the National Training School for Women. and Girls in Washington, D.C., which Nannie Helen Burroughs opened in 1901. At a time when African Americans were held down and hemmed in on every side, black empowerment - let alone black female empowerment - was quite often "impossible” Yet it was steadily and systematically accomplished in a burgeoning network of black institutions whose dynamism embodied that of the individuals behind them. Nannie Burroughs was a brilliant force in many such institutions and today she stands beside such great female African American educators as Lucy Laney and Mary McLeod Bethune Tough minded and outspoken, Burroughs was ahead of her time both as an exponent of the literal and figurative beauty of people of color and is an African American feminist who refused to rank one form of discrimination over another.

willard motley c 1909 19651
WILLARD MOTLEY(c. 1909-1965)

“My race”; said Willard Motley, “is the human race”; and his books and stories addressed the depersonalization and violence he saw afflicting that race as it struggled with the problems of urbanization. Born to a middle-class family in Chicago, Motley roamed the country gathering the broad experiences he felt he needed to be a writer. The main character in his first novel, ‘Knock on Any Door’ (1947), was based, in part, on someone he had met on those travels. The story of young Nick Romano’s plunge from a secure childhood through the treacheries of poverty and crime to his execution for murder, the book was a phenomenal success. Its sequel, ‘Let No Man Write My Epitaph’ was not as successful, though it, like his first novel was made into a popular film. Motley spent the last part of his life in Mexico, where he completed ‘Let Noon Be Fair’ just before his death. Another reflection of his concern with social justice, this novel dealt with North American exploitation of a country Motley had come to respect and regard as his own.

bessie smith 1894 19371
BESSIE SMITH(1894-1937)

The 1920s in America were, among so many other things, a veritable golden age of the powerful blues woman. And at the pinnacle stood Bessie Smith, whose personal and musical power pushed out the boundaries of both female and African American expression for a new mass audience. Smith first performed at around age eight in her hometown of Chattanooga, Tennessee, and began her professional career in earnest when she performed in the same show as blues immortal Gertrude “Ma” Rainey in the years between 1912 and 1915. From there she toured to minstrel and cabaret shows until pianist (Clarence Williams brought her to New York to record ‘Downhearted Blues’ in 1923. It quickly established her as the most successful black recording artist of her day, and for the next five years she recorded and toured with great success Though she made her last recording in 1933 (with Jack Teagarden and Benny Goodman), Smith continued touring until a car accident took her life at age forty-three.

lorraine hansberry 1930 19651
LORRAINE HANSBERRY(1930-1965)

"I think that the human race does command its own destiny and that that destiny can eventually embrace the stars." During her brief lifetime, Lorraine Hansberry became a commanding presence in American letters. Her best-known work, the 1959 play ‘A Raisin in the Sun’- the first play by an African American woman to be produced on Broadway--won the Drama Critics' Circle Award. The story of the Younger family and their various and conflicting dreams for escaping the stultifying life of a Chicago ghetto, the play became a landmark in American theater and has been published and produced in over thirty countries. Other Hansberry works include the plays ‘The Sign in Sidney Brustein’s Window’ and ‘Les Blancs’ and text for the photographic journal ‘The Movement: A Documentary of a Struggle for Equality’ (1964) Excerpts from Hansberry's diaries, journals, essays, and litters were blended by Robert Nemiroff into a two-act drama ‘To Be Young, Gifted, and Black’ (1969), which was also published as a book

pauli murray 1910 19851
PAULI MURRAY(1910 - 1985)

The first black woman to be ordained an Episcopal priest, Pauli Murray spent much of her activist life helping to dismantle barriers of racial and gender discrimination. She often attributed her fighting spirit to her upbringing in a Midwestern working-class family that put a premium on education, character and upward mobility From integrating Washington, D.C., lunch counters during her law school days at Howard University in the 1940s through becoming a founder of the National Organization for Women in the early 1970s, Murray took challenges head-on. In discussing sexism at Howard, she said, “The only way I could counter it was to lead my class. Which I did. For three years.” She went on to teach at several universities and compile a massive reference work on state race laws. In her later years Murray turned her energies to the spiritual, attending the Virginia Theological Seminary and serving as an Episcopal priest in Baltimore.

rosa parks b 19131
ROSA PARKS(B 1913)

Rosa Park's place in history lies in a single courageous action, her refusal to give up her seat to a white man on a Montgomery, Alabama bus on December 1, l955. Her subsequent arrest, resulted in a mass boycott of city buses and brought thc civil rights movement and Martin Luther King Jr. to national prominence. Yet the popular view of Parks's catalytic action as that of a simple, tired seamstress is not altogether accurate. Though indeed a woman of quiet dignity, Parks was also a longtime mover in the Montgomery NAACP and a well trained, disciplined activist, attuned in every respect to what she was setting into motion. Parks and her husband, Raymond, moved to Detroit in the wake of the bus boycott, and for many years she worked in the office of Michigan congressman John Conyers. Still lending her energies to the struggle for equal rights, Parks remains a powerful figure of hope and inspiration to millions.

leontyne price b 19271
LEONTYNE PRICE(B. 1927)
  • Regarded as one of the greatest sopranos of the century, Leontyne Price possesses not only an extraordinary native gift but a certain inner majesty - nothing but a mirror, in her view, of the grandeur of operatic expression itself. In a long, distinguished, and sometimes controversial career, Price has embodied this spirit of the artist at its most finely developed level. Raised by proud, hardworking parents in Laurel, Mississippi, at age nine Price heard Marian Anderson in concert and immediately determined to pursue a music career. She won a scholarship to Juilliard, and her first big performing break came in 1952., when Virgil Thomson cast her in a revival of ‘Four Saints in Three Acts’. In her 1961 debut at the Metropolitan Opera, she received an ovation that lasted forty-two minutes. Asked by an interviewer about competitive feelings toward younger stars, she replied “Why should I feel threatened? There'll never be another me.”
langston hughes 1902 19671
LANGSTON HUGHES(1902-1967)

"I like: Tristan, goat’s milk, short novels, lyric poems, heat, simple folk, boats, and bullfights; I dislike Aida, parsnips, long novels, narrative poems cold, pretentious folk, buses, and bridge," A man of eclectic tastes1and experiences (he worked as a ranch hand, a busboy, a cook and a seaman), Langston Hughes forged poems, novels, plays, opera libretti, lyrics for musicals, and a cantata out of the various themes of his life to become one of America’s leading men of letters. His work, vivid and strong, engages readers in heart to-heart conversation even as in his words "I try to interpret and make a bridge between one section of our American public and another.” The creative process itself was, for Hughes, another sort of communication: In an envelope marked: / Personal” / God addressed me a letter. / In an envelope marked: / Personal” / I have given my answer.

rita dove b 19521
RITA DOVE(b.1952)

Rita Dove's twelfth-grade English teacher took her to meet poet John Ciardi. Though Dove had already been writing creatively for years, "That day, I realized…it was possible to be a writer, to write down a poem or story in the intimate sphere of one's own room, and then share it with the world.” She went on to become a college professor, an editor, the recipient of many awards and fellowships for writing, and a judge for the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award. In 1987 she won the Pulitzer for the story, in poetry, of her maternal grandparents Thomas and Beulah, Her other books include a poetry collection The Yellow House on the Corner( 1980); a volume of short stories, Fifth Sunday (1985); a novel, Through The Ivory Gate (1992) and a verse play The Darker Face of the Earth (1994). In 1993 Dove was appointed US poet laureate by the Librarian of Congress-the youngest poet, and the first African American, to receive this honor. The engaging energy with which she served as spokesperson for poetry throughout the country resulted in a one-year extension of her appointment in 1994.

arna arnaud wendell bontemps 1902 19731
ARNA (ARNAUD) WENDELL BONTEMPS(1902-1973)

"We were heralds of a dawning day,” proclaimed Arna Bontemps in his 1972 anthology The Harlem Renaissance Remembered, The "we" were African American writers, artists, and musicians whose creativity in the 1920s forever transformed the way black culture was perceived in America. Bontemps took that same heady Harlem spirit and carved his own literary renaissance, which extended beyond New York City and lasted nearly half a century thereafter. He produced more than twenty-five books: novels depicting aspects of black history and experience (God Sends Sunday, 1931 Black Thunder ,1936) anthologies that celebrated black culture (The Poetry of the Negro and The Book of NegroFolklore, edited with Langston Hughes Great Slave Narratives), poetry, history and black juvenilia. With consummate skill, dignity, and thoughtfulness he became a "keeper of the flame" of African American heritage

dr vivien thomas pioneer heart surgery
Dr. Vivien ThomasPioneer Heart Surgery

Vivien T. Thomas was a key player in pioneering the anastomosis of the subclavian artery to the pulmonary artery.The surgical work he performed with Alfred Blalock paved the way for the successful outcome of the Blalock-Taussig shunt.

In January 1930, Vivien Thomas, a young African-American who was forced for lack of funds to leave his first year of college, came to work for Blalock in his laboratory. At that point Blalock's increasing obligations were cutting into the time he could spend in the laboratory and he needed a surgical assistant. A more fortunate choice could not have been made. Vivien Thomas learned to perform the surgical operations and chemical determinations needed for their experiments, to calculate the results, and to keep precise records; he remained an invaluable associate throughout Blalock's career.

Blalock and Thomas worked closely in the surgical laboratories. Thomas was a major contributor in the development of operative techniques. He and Dr. Blalock also collaborated on the design of surgical equipment. Shown here is a clamp for the temporary occlusion of the pulmonary artery, which was devised for Blalock's use by Vivien Thomas and William Longmire, working with the local surgical supply house Murray Baumgartner & Co. It became known as the "Blalock" clamp.

Thomas supervised the surgical laboratories at Hopkins for over 35 years, and in 1976 he was appointed instructor in surgery at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. In 1979, upon his retirement, he became instructor emeritus of surgery. Vivien Thomas's achievements were widely recognized by his colleagues. In 1976, he was awarded the honorary degree Doctor of Laws, by the Johns Hopkins University. Thomas with Helen Taussig, and Steven Muller, President of The Johns Hopkins University at graduation ceremonies in 1976, during which Thomas was honored.