Legal Defense and Education Fund

The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund (LDF) is the country’s first and foremost civil and human rights law firm.  Founded in 1940 under the leadership of Thurgood Marshall, who subsequently became the first African-American U.S. Supreme Court Justice, LDF was launched at a time when the nation’s aspirations for equality and due process of law were stifled by widespread state-sponsored racial inequality.  From that era to the present, LDF’s mission has always been transformative: to achieve racial justice, equality, and an inclusive society.

As the legal arm of the civil rights movement, LDF has a tradition of expert legal advocacy in the Supreme Court and other courts across the nation.  LDF’s victories established the foundations for the civil rights that all Americans enjoy today.  In its first two decades, LDF undertook a coordinated legal assault against officially enforced public school segregation.  Continue reading

Elijah McCoy

Elijah McCoy

Elijah McCoy (1843-1929) was a Black inventor who was awarded over 57 patents. The son of run-away slaves from Kentucky, he was born in Canada and lived there as a youth.

As a boy, the young Elijah was fascinated with machines and tools, learning by watching and constantly asking questions. He came to the United States after the Civil War and settled near Ypsilanti, Michigan, where he worked in a machine shop, further increasing his mechanical knowledge and skills.  Continue reading

Wilberforce University

Wilberforce University is a private, coed, liberal arts historically black university (HBCU) located in Wilberforce, Ohio. Affiliated with the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church, it was the first college to be owned and operated by African Americans. It participates in the United Negro College Fund.

The founding of the college was unique as a collaboration in 1856 by the Cincinnati, Ohio Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church and the African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME).   Continue reading

Mississippi Valley State

Mississippi Valley State University (commonly referred to as MVSU or “The Valley”) is a historically black university located in unincorporated Leflore County, Mississippi, in the Mississippi Delta, near Itta Bena. MVSU is a member- school of the Thurgood Marshall College Fund.

The institution, which opened in 1950, was created by the Mississippi Legislature as Mississippi Vocational College. The legislature anticipated that legal segregation of public education was in danger (and would in four years be declared unconstitutional in the United States Supreme Court’s decision in Brown v. Board of Education the institution, hoping that its existence would draw African-American applicants who might have otherwise applied to attend Mississippi’s premier whites-only institutions—the University of Mississippi, Mississippi State University, and the University of Southern Mississippi.

Creating separate institutions of higher learning for Mississippi’s black population, the state’s political leaders hoped, would help ease the pressure to integrate the state’s premier universities. To attract the support of those who opposed any government action to provide higher education to blacks, those proposing creation of M.V.C. used the term “vocational” to imply that the institution’s main purpose would be to train blacks to take on blue-collar jobs.
The original legislative proposal would have located M.V.C. in Greenwood, but the white leadership of that city did not like the idea of hosting an institution that would attract young blacks to the area. Thus, the proposed site was moved to Itta Bena. Even that town, however, objected to too close a proximity of a black institution, so the final site was chosen to place the college away from the downtown area, on cheap, uncultivatable land.

In 1964, Mississippi Vocational College was renamed Mississippi Valley State College.
In 1970, a student boycott was organized to protest President White’s administration of the institution. Half the enrolled students of the institution—about 900—were arrested. However, White was ousted as president soon afterward.

In the early 1970s, civil rights leaders continued to protest the inequalities in higher education opportunities offered to whites and blacks in Mississippi. In an effort to defuse some of the criticism, Gov. [William Waller] proposed changing the names of three black institutions from “colleges” to “universities.” Thus, in 1974, the institution was renamed again, as Mississippi Valley State University.
In 1998, the university renamed many of the buildings on campus, except for the ones named after Sillers, Wright, and J. H. White.

Evelyn Boyd Granville

Evelyn Boyd Granville

Granville was born in Washington, D.C., on May 1, 1924. Her father, William Boyd, worked as a custodian in their apartment building; he did not stay with the family, however, and Granville was raised by her mother, Julia Walker Boyd, and her mother’s twin sister, Louise Walker, both of whom worked as examiners for the U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing.

Granville and her sister Doris, who was a year and a half older, often spent portions of their summers at the farm of a family friend in Linden, Virginia. Evelyn Boyd grew up in Washington, D.C. and attended the segregated Dunbar High School (from which she graduated as valedictorian) maintained high academic standards. Several of its faculty held degrees from top colleges, and they encouraged the students to pursue ambitious goals.   Continue reading

John Coltrane

John Coltrane

John Coltrane

Born in 1926, John William Coltrane moved to Philadelphia after graduating from high school. He mastered the alto, tenor and sprano sax and began playing in local venues. In 1945 he joined the US Navy band. A few years later, he joined Dizzy Gillespie’s big band where he stayed until 1951.

He underwent a “spiritual awakening” of sorts in 1957 and as a result he kicked his drug and alcohol habits. Coltrane was a jazz explorer, he was perhaps one of the greatest innovators of modern music. Interested in free jazz and Indian scales, he was always forging new paths into unknown territory.

Irwin C. Mollison

Irwin C Mollison

Irwin C Mollison (Born 1898) appointed judge of the US Customs Court.  With his appointment on November 3, 1945, Judge Mollison was the first African American appointed to a position in the federal judiciary that was posthumously converted into an Article III judgeship. Judge Mollison was also the first African American to serve on the United States Customs Court. He was appointed by President Truman.

Dr. Matthew Ricketts

Dr. Matthew Ricketts

Dr. Matthew Oliver Ricketts was the political leader of Omaha’s African Americans at the turn of the 20th century. Ricketts was born to an enslaved couple near New Castle, Kentucky in 1858. He later received a degree from Lincoln Institute at Jefferson City, Missouri, and three years later moved to Omaha.

When he arrived in Omaha in 1880, despite scarce resources, he was admitted to Omaha Medical College, where he worked as a janitor to pay his tuition. Elected to the state legislature for the sessions of 1892 and 1894, he became the first Nebraskan of African descent to sit in that body

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