Henry O. Flipper

Henry O. Flipper

1856-1940 – Henry Flipper was the first black to graduate from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point (1877) and was the first black to be assigned to a command position in a black unit following the Civil War. However, Flipper became the victim of a controversial court-martial proceedinghe was charged with “conduct unbecoming to an officer and a gentleman” and received a dishonorable discharge.

Despite repeated attempts to vindicate himself, at the time of his death he still had not cleared his record. Years later, however, the sentence was reversed. He was awarded an honorable discharge posthumously, and his remains were reburied with full honors at Arlington Cemetery.  (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…)

Arthur Springarn

Arthur Springarn

Arthur Spingarn

Arthur Spingarn

Arthur Barnette Spingarn (1878-1971) was an American leader in fight for civil rights for African Americans.

Spingarn was born into a well-to-do family. He graduated from Columbia College in 1897 and from law school in 1899. He was one of a small group of white Americans who decided in the 1900s (decade)to support the radical demands for racial justice being voiced by W. E. B. Du Bois in contrast to the more ameliorative views of Booker T. Washington. He served as head of the legal committee of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and one of its vice-presidents starting in 1911. (more…)

Yvonne Braithwaite Burk

Yvonne Braithwaite Burk

Yvonne Brathwaite Burke

Image courtesy of National Archives and Records Administration

Representative, 1973-1979, Democrat from California

Yvonne Brathwaite Burke was a rising star in California and national politics years before she won a seat in the U.S. House. In 1966, she became the first African-American woman elected to the California assembly. At the 1972 Democratic National Convention she served as vice chair of the platform committee, gaining national television exposure. That same year she became the first black woman from California (and one of only three black women ever) elected to the House.

Her meteoric career continued with a prime appointment to the Appropriations Committee and her election as the first woman chair of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC). But Burke’s most notable distinction in the eyes of much of the public occurred in 1973, when she became the first Congresswoman to give birth and be granted maternity leave while serving in Congress.  (more…)

Patricia Roberts Harris

Patricia Roberts Harris

Patricia Roberts Harris (1924-85), former cabinet official and the only woman to have headed three federal departments, joined the faculty of The George Washington University Law School in the fall of 1983. Harris graduated from the GW National Law Center at the head of her class in 1960, receiving her JD with honors.

“She is truly one of the most distinguished graduates of the school and one of the most distinguished women in public life,” said National Law Center Dean Jerome A. Barron in announcing the appointment. “She brings great understanding of government, as well as experience in it, to the teaching of public law.  (more…)

Bakke Decision

Bakke Decision Protesters

Bakke Decision Protesters

Bakke decision, formally Regents of the University of California v. Bakke, ruling in which, on June 28, 1978, the U.S. Supreme Court declared affirmative action constitutional but invalidated the use of racial quotas. The medical school at the University of California, Davis, as part of the university’s affirmative action program, had reserved 16 percent of its admission places for minority applicants.

Allan Bakke, a white California man who had twice unsuccessfully applied for admission to the medical school, filed suit against the university. Citing evidence that his grades and test scores surpassed those of many minority students who had been accepted for admission, Bakke charged that he had suffered unfair “reverse discriminationâ€� on the basis of race, which he argued was contrary to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution’s Fourteenth Amendment.  (more…)