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.1 “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.”2 Continue reading
The first African-American woman Senator, Carol Moseley-Braun was also only the second black Senator since the Reconstruction Era. “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. “Nor would I want to, because my presence in and of itself will change the U.S. Senate.” 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. 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. Continue reading
b. April 15, 1922, Chicago, Ill., U.S.–d. Nov. 25, 1987, Chicago), American politician who gained national prominence as the first African-American mayor of Chicago (1983-87).
Washington graduated from Roosevelt University (B.A., 1949), earned a law degree from Northwestern University (1952), and established a private law practice in Chicago. He succeeded his father, a part-time Methodist minister, as Democratic precinct captain before working as a city attorney (1954-58) and a state labour arbitrator (1960-64). He then served in the Illinois House of Representatives (1965-76), the Illinois State Senate (1976-80), and the U.S. House of Representatives (1980-83). Continue reading
Representative, 1973-1997, Democrat from Illinois.
Elected to 12 consecutive terms in the U.S. House of Representatives, Cardiss Collins ranks as one of the longest-serving minority women in the history of Congress. Succeeding her late husband, Representative George Collins, after his death in 1972, Cardiss Collins continued his legacy as a loyal politician in the Chicago Democratic organization directed by Mayor Richard Daley. One of only a handful of women to serve in Congress for more than 20 years, and the only black woman in the chamber for six years, Representative Collins evolved into a dedicated legislator who focused on the economic and social needs of her urban district. Continue reading
Representative, 1873-1877, Republican from Mississippi
Representative, 1882-1883, Republican from Mississippi
The only African-American Representative from Mississippi for a century, following a quick rise in politics at a young age, John Roy Lynch fought to maintain Republican hegemony in his state in the face of violent Democratic opposition. A veteran of the Civil War and, later, the Spanish-American War, Lynch emphasized his rights as an American citizen on the House Floor.
“It is certainly known by southern as well as northern men that the colored people of this country are thoroughly American,” he declared. “Born and raised upon American soil and under the influence of American institutions; not American citizens by adoption, but by birth.” Continue reading
1920-1981 – Born in Port of Spain, Trinidad, Hazel Scott mastered the piano and other instruments at an early age. In 1924 her family moved to the United States, where Scott’s talents were rewarded with a six-year scholarship to the Juilliard School of Music.
Her critically acclaimed debut at New York’s Town Hall and her trumpet and piano performance in her mother’s All Woman Orchestra paved the way for her role as saxophonist with Louis Armstrong’s All Girl Band. In 1945, Scott married Adam Clayton Powell Jr., firebrand preacher, congressman, and civil rights revolutionary.
Acutely aware of the injustice facing African American entertainers, Scott refused to perform for segregated audiences in any of her venues. Her premier nightclub acts, noteworthy Broadway shows, and successful films led in 1950 to the first nationally syndicated musical variety television program hosted by an African American woman, The Hazel Scott Show.
Quincy Jones has had several very successful careers, largely leaving jazz altogether by the early ’70s to make his money out of producing pop, R&B and even rap records. His earlier years were much more significant to improvised music. He grew up in Seattle and his first important job was playing trumpet and arranging for Lionel Hampton’s Orchestra (1951-53), sitting in a trumpet section with Clifford Brown and Art Farmer.
During the 1950s he started freelancing as an arranger, writing memorable charts for sessions led by Oscar Pettiford, Brown, Farmer, Gigi Gryce, Count Basie, Tommy Dorsey, Cannonball Adderley and Dinah Washington among others. He toured with Dizzy Gillespie’s big band (1956), started recording as a leader for ABC-Paramount in 1956 and worked in Paris (1957-58) for the Barclay label as an arranger and producer. In 1959 Jones toured Europe with his all-star big band which was originally put together to play for Harold Arlen’s show Free and Easy. Continue reading