If a picture is worth a thousand words – here’s a million!
Fort Robinson, Nebraska (1874-1916)
Tenth Cavalry Football Team,
Fort Robinson, Nebraska, ca. 1905
Cape Verde Immigrants Arrive at New Bedford, Massachusetts, Oct. 5, 1914.
Davis, Ernie (1940-1963)
Ernie Davis with the Heisman Trophy, 1961 Ernie Davis is best known for being one of the greatest football players in college football history and the first black person to win the Heisman trophy. In the process, Davis became an icon for an integrated America and for African Americans achieving the American Dream in a manner similar to Jackie Robinson desegregating Major League Baseball in 1947.
Langston, Charles Henry (1817-1892)
Charles Henry Langston, the grandfather of poet Langston Hughes, was born a free man on a Virginia plantation in 1817 to Captain Ralph Quarles and Lucy Jane Langston, Quarles’ mulatto slave. He had two brothers, John Mercer (who would become a Virginia Congressman in 1888) and Gideon. After the death of his father in 1834, Charles inherited a large part of his father’s estate, and he went to be educated at Oberlin College in 1842 and 1843.
A versatile and prolific artist, Gordon Parks, Sr. warrants his status as a cultural icon. The poet, novelist, film director, and preeminent documentary and fashion photographer was born on November 30, 1912, in Fort Scott, Kansas, the youngest of fifteen children. Parks saw no reason to stay in Kansas after the death of his mother and moved to St. Paul, Minnesota, at age sixteen to live with hissister. After a disagreement with his brother-in-law, Parks soon found himself homeless, supporting himself by playing piano and basketball and working as a busboy.
While working on a train as a waiter, Parks noticed a magazine with photographs from the Farm Security Administration (FSA). The photos by such documentary photographers as Dorothea Lange, Russell Lee and Arthur Rothstein led him to Richard Wright’s 12 Million Black Voices, other photo essays about poverty and racism, and the social and artistic voice he had been seeking. Parks bought a used camera in 1938, deciding on a career in photography. In 1941, Parks received a fellowship from the Julius Rosenwald Foundation to work with Roy Stryker at the photography section of the FSA. In Washington, D.C., he trained as a photojournalist. He would work with Stryker for the next few years, producing work and honing the modernist and individualistic style he became known for by photographing small towns and industrial centers throughout America.
By the end of the 1940s, Parks was working with Life and Vogue and in that capacity did some of his most famous work. Traveling the globe and covering issues as varied as the fashion industry, poverty in Brazil, the Nation of Islam and gang violence, and eventually celebrity portraitures, Parks continued to develop and create new ways to convey meaning through his work.
Branching out from his photography in 1963, Parks directed his first film, The Learning Tree, based on his autobiographical novel of the same name. His filmmaking career launched, Parks went on to direct many films, including Shaft in 1971. In addition to film, Parks has composed music and written several books including: A Choice of Weapons (1966), To Smile in Autumn (1979), Voices in the Mirror (1990), Arias of Silence (1994), and a retrospective of his life and work titled Half Past Autumn (1997), which was recently made into an HBO special.
Parks passed away on March 7, 2006 at the age of 93.
Buffalo Soldiers in Montana (1888-1898)
Bell, James “Cool Papa” (1903-1991)
Leroy Robert “Satchel” Paige (7 July 1906 – 8 June 1982) was one of the greatest baseball pitchers of all time.
nickname Black Babe Ruth
(1911 – 1947)
(born December 21, 1911, Buena Vista, Georgia, U.S.—died January 20, 1947, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania) American professional baseball player called the black Babe Ruth, one of the greatest players kept from the major leagues by the unwritten rule (enforced until the year of his death) against hiring black ballplayers.
Gibson played as a catcher for the Pittsburgh Crawfords (1927–29 and 1932–36) and the Homestead Grays of Pennsylvania (1930–31 and 1937–46). Although precise records do not exist, he is believed to have led the Negro National League in home runs for 10 consecutive seasons and to have had a career batting average of .347. He hit 75 home runs for Homestead in 1931. His catching ability was praised by Walter Johnson and other major league stars against whom he played in exhibition games. Gibson was elected to the Baseball Hall of fame in 1972.
Freedom Rides (1961)
Great Migration, The (1915-1960)
Black Family Arrives in Chicago from the South, ca. 1919 The Great Migration was the mass movement of about five million southern blacks to the north and west between 1915 and 1960. During the initial wave the majority of migrants moved to major northern cities such as Chicago, Detroit, Pittsburgh, and New York. By World War II the migrants continued to move North but many of them headed west to Los Angeles, Oakland, San Francisco, Portland and Seattle.
Hampton Institute Student Teaching Freedpeople to Read, ca. 1880.
O’Ree, Willie (1935- )
Willie O’Ree, the National Hockey League’s (NHL) first black player with Boston Bruins on January 18, 1958 against the Montreal Canadiens
William Hooper Councill (1848–1909) was a former slave and the first president of Huntsville Normal School, which is today Alabama Agricultural and Mechanical University in Huntsville, Alabama.
Anderson, Caroline Still Wiley (1848-1919)
Caroline Still Wiley Anderson, physician and educator, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to William and Letitia Still. Supporting his family through coal mining investments and a stove store, William Still, a prominent antebellum abolitionist, helped escaped slaves on the Underground Railroad. He wrote about these fugitive slaves in his book The Underground Railroad.
MARY FIELDS (known as “STAGECOACH MARY”)
Mary Fields was born as a slave in Hickman County, Tennessee in year of 1832. Mary’s life started to unfold after her family died and during her days of freedom right after the Civil War (1861-1865). When she grew into adulthood, Mary Fields was described as a big woman of six feet tall. She was noted as being tough. Mary knew how to ride a horse and shoot a rifle and six-shooter. In her late twenties, Mary Fields worked for Mother Amadeus of the Catholic Ursuline Convent in Toledo, Ohio.
By 1881, Mother Amadeus went to the far northwest state of Montana to set up a school for women and girls of the Blackfeet Indian Tribe in the town of Cascade, Montana. In 1884, Mary Field joined her friend, Mother Amadeus, at the school in Casade. Mary Fields’ fearless temperament landed her the job of delivering freight for the school’s nuns.
One day, while on the job, Mary was involved in an insulting dispute with one of the handymen at the school. This situation escalated into a shootout, and Mary Fields was fired from her job. Mary went on to open a restaurant in Cascade, but this was a failure. Again, Mother Amadeus helped Mary to land work as a mail route courier with a route between the Mission School and the town of Cascade. For eight years, Mary drove her stagecoach on the mail route dressed in a man’s hat and coat. She also smoked a big cigar and everyone knew her as “Stagecoach Mary.”
At age 71, in 1903, Mary Fields decided to open up her own laundry business. It is said no one took advantage of Mary Fields. One male customer received his laundry but insulted Mary by not paying his bill. Mary later recognized that customer in the local saloon she frequently patronized (Note: women did not drink in all-male saloons, but Mary Fields was granted permission by the Mayor of Cascade). Mary went over to this man and knocked him flat out with one fisted punch. She announced to everyone “that his laundry bill was now paid.” The people of Cascade loved Mary Fields. When she died in 1914 at age 82, she became a memorable icon for her life as a true westerner of the American frontier.
Jane Bolin becomes the first African American woman to receive a law degree from Yale.
Queen Mother Audley E. Moore
In Honor Of A Warrior Woman
On December 6 and 7, 1991, the Department of Pan-African Studies at Kent State University dedicated the entire third floor of the Center of Pan-African Culture to Queen Mother Audley E. Moore, a “Warrior Woman,” born on July 27, 1898, who devoted her life to active struggle on behalf of all people of African descent. She was honored for having organized on many fronts, from the great influenza epidemic of 1918 in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, where she worked as a volunteer nurse, to the United Nations, where she presented petitions in the 1950s charging genocide and demanding reparations to descendants of former slaves.
Bose Ikard was born a slave, but after he gained his freedom, he rode for many years with the Texas cattle barons, Charles Goodnight and Oliver Loving. Their adventures served as the basis for Larry McMurty’s novel, Lonesome Dove, which became a television miniseries in 1989. Ikard was the real-life model for McMurtry’s character, Joshua Deets, who was played by Danny Glover. Goodnight and Loving provided the inspiration for Woodrow F. Call and Augustus McCrae who were played by Tommy Lee Jones and Robert Duvall.
John Brown and the Harpers Ferry Raid
On October 16, 1859, abolitionist John Brown and several followers seized the United States Armory and Arsenal at Harpers Ferry. The actions of Brown’s men brought national attention to the emotional divisions concerning slavery.
PAGE, INMAN EDWARD (1853-1935)
The first president of the Colored Agricultural and Normal University (CANU), later Langston University, and an influential Oklahoma educator, Inman Page was born into slavery on December 29, 1853, in Warrenton, Virginia. During the Civil War his family fled Virginia and later moved to Washington, D.C. Page attended Howard University for two years and then enrolled at Brown University. He was among the first African Americans to be admitted to the prestigious Providence, Rhode Island, college. In 1877 Page and George Washington Milford became the first blacks to graduate from Brown, with Page selected as class orator for the commencement. He took a teaching position at Natchez Seminary in Mississippi. In 1878 he married Zelia R. Ball, and the couple had two children, Zelia N. and Mary. After one year he left Natchez for Lincoln Institute in Jefferson City, Missouri, where he became president in 1888.
In 1898 the Colored Agricultural and Normal University at the All-Black town of Langston chose Page to be its first president. In his seventeen-year tenure at CANU he increased the school’s enrollment from an initial forty to well over six hundred, and its faculty from four to thirty-five. He traveled the state recruiting students, expanded the agricultural and industrial courses, established the college department, and supervised the construction of numerous university buildings. Within a few years partisan politics emerged. By 1915 controversy swirled around the direction of the college’s mission from industrial and agricultural education to liberal arts. After scandalous allegations were reported in the Oklahoma Tribune, an Oklahoma City African American newspaper, Page resigned his position and sued. A Logan County jury found the Tribune editor, Melvin Chisum, guilty of libel and one of his employees guilty of extortion against Page. Although the educator was vindicated, the change in administration sent the university into chaos. Enrollment dropped from 639 to 184 for the summer semester and to 322 in the regular term.
Page left the state for a time. He moved back to Missouri as the president of Western College and Industrial Institute at Macon and by 1918 was president of Roger Williams University in Nashville, Tennessee. In 1920 he returned to Oklahoma due to ill health. When recuperated, in 1922 he accepted a position as principal at Oklahoma City’s Douglass High School. He soon became the supervising principal of the city’s separate school system. Inman Page died on December 21, 1935, at the home of his daughter, Zelia Breaux, in Oklahoma City.
Sadie Tanner Mossell Alexander, who accomplished many “firsts” during her lifetime, was born on January 2, 1898 in Philadelphia. Alexander was born in the house of her distinguished uncle, Henry Osawa Tanner, award-winning painter of religious subjects. She was the granddaughter of Benjamin Tucker Tanner, bishop in the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) church, editor of the Christian Recorder from 1868 to1884 and founding editor of the African Methodist Episcopal Church Review, from 1884 to 1888.
Alexander attended high school at the M Street High School (later Dunbar High School) in Washington, D.C., where she was encouraged to continue her education by the historian, Carter G. Woodson. After high school, Alexander was persuaded by her mother to attend the University of Pennsylvania, where he family had strong ties. Her father, Aaron Albert Mossell, was a graduate of Lincoln University and the first African American to graduate from the University of Pennsylvania Law School in 1888. Her uncle was Louis Baxter Moore, the first African American to receive a Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania.
In 1918, Alexander received a B. S. in Education with senior honors, and in 1919, a M.A. in Economics, both from the University of Pennsylvania. In 1921, she received a Ph.D. in economics from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, becoming one of the first black women to receive a doctorate and the first African American to receive a Ph.D. in economics. The title of her dissertation was, “The Standard of Living among One Hundred Negro Migrant Families in Philadelphia.” Alexander was proud of her graduation, “I can well remember marching down Broad Street from Mercantile Hall to the Academy of Music where there were photographers from all over the world taking my picture.” While at the University of Pennsylvania, Alexander was active in the Gamma Chapter of the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, which was the first African-American sorority at the University. In 1921, she became the first president of the Grand Chapter, the national organization of Delta Sigma Theta, serving for five years.
Members at 1921 Delta Sigma Theta’s national Convention, hosted by Gamma Chapter at the University of Pennsylvania. Shown left to right: front, Virginia Margaret Alexander, Julia Mae Polk, Sadie Tanner Mossell; row 2, Anna R. Johnson, Nellie Rathbone Bright, Pauline Alice Young.