Clifford Alexander Jr. was born and raised in Harlem prior to his education at Fieldstone Ethical Culture, Harvard (1955) and Yale Law School (1958). Early influences were his mother and father. Edith served as the Deputy Director then Executive Director of the Mayor’s Committee on Unity under NYC Mayor LaGuardia. The Mayor’s Committee on Unity was the precursor to the NYC Commission on Human Rights and fought discrimination in employment practices, public accommodations, and housing.
His father was one of several Harlem community leaders who founded the Carver Bank in response to discriminatory lending practices and worked to integrate the Riverton Apartments while serving as its manager. Alexander joined the National Guard after Law School and began working as an attorney in New York. He was asked to come to Washington D.C. in 1963 to join the staff of the National Security Council in the Kennedy administration. Continue reading
Sojourner Truth fought for the desegregation of public transportation in Washington, DC during the Civil War. She refused to face the indignities of Jim Crow segregation on street cars and had the Jim Crow car removed from the Washington D. C. system. Sojourner Truth brought a local street to a standstill when a driver refused her passage.
Born on January 13, 1850, in New York City. In 1872, Charlotte E. Ray became the first female African-American lawyer in the United States. She grew up in a large family as one of seven children. Her father, Charles, was a minister and an activist in the abolitionist movement.Ray attended the Institution for the Education of Colored Youth in Washington, D.C., during the early 1860s. The institution was one of only a handful of places that offered a quality education to young, African-American women. By the end of the 1860s, she had become a teacher at the preparatory school associated with Howard University. Ray then applied to the university’s law degree program using only her initials, C. E., to disguise her gender. The trick worked, and Ray gained admittance to the program. She excelled at her studies at the university, especially in corporate law. Continue reading
Georgia Blanche Douglas was born September 10, 1880 in Marietta, Georgia. Her father was a wealthy Englishman of whom she knew very little. She attended Atlanta University, Oberlin Conservatory of Music, Cleveland College of Music, and Howard University. After returning from Ohio, she worked as an assistant principal in Atlanta. In the late 1890′s she studied music at Oberlin in Ohio. She was married in 1903 to Henry Lincoln Johnson, an Atlanta attorney and politician.In 1910 the couple moved to Washington, DC where they had two sons.
There, her home, which she called the Half-Way House, was the site of a weekly gathering known as the “S Street Salon” where many prominent writers of the Harlem Renaissance introduced new works. These writers included Mary P. Burrill, Countee Cullen, Jean Toomer, and Langston Hughes, as well as Angelina Weld Grimke. Continue reading
The Southern Christian Leadership Conference was formed in 1957 just after the Montgomery Bus Boycott had ended. The Southern Christian Leadership Conference’s (SCLC) main aim was to advance the cause of civil rights in America but in a non-violent manner. From its inception in 1957, its president was Martin Luther King – a post he held until his murder in 1968.As its title suggests, the input into the SCLC came primarily from the church.
The church played a major part in the lives of African-Americans in the South and church leaders played a significant role in each black community in all parts of the South. Martin Luther King was a Baptist minister at Dexter Avenue in Montgomery at the time when Rosa Parks made her famous stand against bus law in December 1955. He became head of the MIA (Montgomery Improvement Association) and played a key role in the boycott – even driving the boycotters to work to ensure that they did not need to use a bus. Continue reading