Roy WilkinsÂ (August 30, 1901 – September 8, 1981) was a prominent civil rights activist in the United States from the 1930s to the 1970s. Wilkins was active in the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and between 1931 and 1934 was assistant NAACP secretary under Walter Francis White. When W. E. B. Du Bois left the organization in 1934, Wilkins replaced him as editor of Crisis, the official magazine of the NAACP.
Roy Wilkins was born in St. Louis, Missouri. He grew up in the home of his aunt and uncle in a low-income, integrated community in St. Paul, Minnesota. Working his way through college at the University of Minnesota, Wilkins graduated from the University of Minnesota with a degree in sociology in 1923. Â Continue reading
Frances Ellen Watkins Harper was born on September 24, 1825 to free parents. A few years later, she was orphaned. Harper received her education at a school for free African-Americans run by her uncle, William Watkins. The school was located at the present day site of the Baltimore Convention Center. At the age of 13, Harper’s formal education came to an end when she took a job as a nursemaid.
Harper’s first publication was a collection of poetry and prose entitled Autumn Leaves. It was published while she was a teenager. Harper moved to Philadelphia. She published another volume of poems entitled Poems on Miscellaneous Subjects (1857). This work sold over 10,000 copies within its first five years of publication. In 1860, Harper married the love of her life, Fenton Harper.Â Continue reading
On October 13, 1898, Edith Sampson was born in Pittsburgh, the first black woman elected judge to a municipal court.Â She was born Edith Spurlock, one of seven children.
Her father, Louis Spurlock, earned $75 per month as a shipping clerk in a cleaning, pressing, and dyeing business. Her mother, Elizabeth Spurlock, worked at home making buckram hat frames and twisting switches of false hair.
Edith graduated from Peabody High School, and three years later married Rufus Sampson, a field agent for the Tuskegee Institute.Â She also attended the New York School of Social Work. There, one of her instructors was George W. Kirchwey, also a professor at Columbia University Law School. After distinguishing herself in his criminology class, he told her she had the talent to be a lawyer.Â Continue reading
From 1932 to 1972, 399 poor black sharecroppers in Macon County, Alabama were denied treatment for syphilis and deceived by physicians of the Unites States Public Health Service. As part of the Tuskegee Syphilis Study, designed to document the natural history of the disease, these men were told that they were being treated for “bad blood.”
In fact, government officials went to extreme lengths to insure that they received no therapy from any source. As reported by the New York Times on 26 July 1972, the Tuskegee Syphilis Study was revealed as “the longest nontherapeutic experiment on human beings in medical history.”Â Continue reading
Despite being born a slave on May 16, 1855, Major Richard Robert Wright, Sr. was a post-reconstruction pioneer and trailblazer, who made remarkable contributions in education, banking, politics, publishing, journalism, real estate, and civic affairs. Among his many accomplishments, he founded a high school, a college, and a bank; and owned several newspapers.
He also founded the National Freedom Day Association, and worked toward establishing a national day to commemorate freedom for all people.
On February 1, 1941, Major Wright invited national and local leaders to meet in Philadelphia to formulate plans to set aside February 1st each year to memorialize the signing of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution by President Lincoln on February 1, 1865. One year after Wright’s death in 1947, a bill passed both U.S. Houses of Congress, making February 1st National Freedom Day, and was signed into law on June 30, 1948.Â Continue reading