Soon after Union troops had captured and occupied the southern city of Natchez, Mississippi, in the summer of 1863, northern missionaries set about establishing the region’s first schools for freedpeople. But they were surprised to learn that at least one school already existed, and it had been in operation for many years.
Even more astounding, the students at this school were slaves and so was their teacher, Lily Ann Granderson. (Other sources identify her as Milla Granson and Lila Grandison.) Although a small number of slaves learned to read and write in the antebellum South, schools for slaves and slave teachers were extraordinarily uncommon.Â Continue reading
Roland Burris, a longtime Illinois state official, was named to succeed former Senator and President-elect Barack Obama on December 31, 2008, becoming the sixth African American to serve in the United States Senate.1Â Burris started his political career as a teenager at a swimming pool in his hometown of Centralia, Illinois, in the south central part of the state. Burris’s father, who was vice president of the local chapter of the NAACP, had his son and four friends racially integrate the pool after a two-year struggle. The successful effort made Burris focus on law and politics: “If we, as a race of people, are going to get anywhere in this society, we’ve got to have lawyers and elected officials who are responsible and responsive–that’s what my dad said, and it resonated with me.”Â Continue reading
Gus Savage ascended to Congress as an outsider to elective politics. A veteran civil rights activist and pioneer African-American journalist, he used his strong community ties to earn a seat in the U.S. House from South Chicago.
During his 12 years in Congress, Savage’s flamboyant personality and militant approach to highlighting racial inequalities in his district and around the nation made headlines and often provoked controversy.1Â “I value my independence,” Savage avowed. “And I view struggle as desirable. I don’t crave acceptance. I march to my own tune. If the machine doesn’t like it, that’s tough. If my colleagues don’t like it, that’s also tough.”2Â Continue reading
The first African-American woman Senator, Carol Moseley-Braun was also only the second black Senator since the Reconstruction Era.Â “I cannot escape the fact that I come to the Senate as a symbol of hope and change,” Moseley-Braun said shortly after being sworn in to office in 1993.Â “Nor would I want to, because my presence in and of itself will change the U.S. Senate.”Â During her single term in office, Senator Moseley-Braun advocated for civil rights issues and for legislation on crime, education, and families.
Carol Moseley was born in Chicago, Illinois, on August 16, 1947. Her parents, Joseph Moseley, a policeman, and her mother, Edna (Davie) Moseley, a medical technician, divorced in 1963. The oldest of the four Moseley children in a middle-class family, Carol graduated from Parker High School in Chicago and earned a B.A. in political science from the University of Illinois in 1969. Â Continue reading
Ralph Metcalfe achieved worldwide fame as an Olympic athlete years before he became involved in politics on Chicago’s South Side. Like William Dawson, his predecessor from the predominantly black, urban Illinois district, Metcalfe rose through the ranks of the Chicago Democratic political machine before winning a seat in Congress.
However, Metcalfe differentiated himself from other machine loyalists of the period by elevating race above local party interests. Metcalfe’s willingness to risk his political career to follow his conscience won him loyal support among the majority of his constituents and his black colleagues in the House.Â Continue reading