Rosa Parks

Rosa Parks

Rosa Parks

Civil rights activist and reformer. Parks is best known for instigating the Montgomery bus boycott in 1955 in protest of segregation laws. Rosa Louise McCauley was born on February 4, 1913, in Tuskagee, Alabama. Her father, James, was a carpenter, and her mother, Leona, a teacher. Parks attended a liberal private school as an adolescent.

After briefly attending Alabama State University, she married Raymond Parks, a barber and activist, in 1932, and the couple settled in Montgomery, Alabama. Besides working as a seamstress and a housekeeper, Parks was involved in several African-American organizations. She served as secretary for her community chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and also worked for the Montgomery Voters League, the NAACP Youth Council, and other civic and religious groups.  (more…)

George H. White

George H. White

George H. White

George Henry White (18 Dec. 1852-28 Dec. 1918), lawyer, legislator, congressman, and racial spokesman, was born near Rosindale in Bladen County, the son of Wiley F. and Mary White. It is possible that he was born into slavery, although the evidence on this is contradictory. He did attend public schools in North Carolina and received training under D. P. Allen, president of the Whitten Normal School in Lumberton.

In 1876 he was an assistant in charge of the exhibition mounted by the U.S. Coast Survey at the Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia. After graduation from Howard University in 1877, he was principal of the Colored Grade School, the Presbyterian parochial school, and the State Normal School in New Bern. He studied law under Judge William J. Clarke and received a license to practice in North Carolina in 1879.  (more…)

Harold Washington

Harold Washington

Harold Washington

Harold Washington

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).  (more…)

Carol Moseley-Braun

Carol Moseley Braun

CAROL MOSELEY (b. Aug. 16, 1947, Chicago, Ill., U.S.), U.S. senator from Illinois who, in 1992, became the first African-American woman elected to the U.S. Senate. Moseley-Braun attended the University of Illinois at Chicago and received a law degree from the University of Chicago.

She worked as an assistant U.S. attorney before her election to the Illinois House of Representatives in 1978. During her 10 years there she became known for her advocacy of health-care and education reform and gun control. She was named assistant leader for the Democratic majority.

In 1988-92 Moseley-Braun served as Cook county recorder of deeds. Displeased with U.S. Senator Alan Dixon’s support of U.S. Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas, she ran against Dixon in the 1992 Democratic primary. Though poorly financed, she won an upset victory over Dixon on her way to capturing a seat in the Senate. (more…)

Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela

South Africa’s First Black President, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela (7/18/1918 – 12/5/2013) was a South African anti-apartheid revolutionary, politician and philanthropist who served as President of South Africa from 1994 to 1999. He was the first black South African to hold the office, and the first elected in a fully representative election.

His government focused on dismantling the legacy of apartheid through tackling institutionalised racism, poverty and inequality, and fostering racial reconciliation. Politically an African nationalist and democratic socialist, he served as President of the African National Congress (ANC) from 1991 to 1997. Internationally, Mandela was Secretary General of the Non-Aligned Movement from 1998 to 1999.  (more…)

Alexander L. Twilight

TWILIGHTAlexander Lucius Twilight is the first African American to graduate from a U.S. college, receiving his bachelor’s degree from Middlebury College in 1823. Also a pioneer in Vermont politics, Twilight became the first African American to win election to public office in 1836, joining his home-state legislature. He died in Brownington, Vermont, on June 19, 1857.

Born on September 23, 1795 (though sources vary on the month and day of his birth, with some saying September 26 and others noting July 15), in Corinth, Vermont, where he also grew up, Alexander Lucius Twilight was one of six children born to Ichabod and Mary Twilight. The Twilights were one of the few African-American families living in the area at the time. According to the Old Stone House Museum’s website, Ichabod Twilight served in the American Revolutionary War.  (more…)