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Church, Robert Reed, Jr. (26 October 1885–17 April 1952), politician and businessman, was born in Memphis, Tennessee, the son of Robert Reed Church, Sr., a banker and businessman, and Anna Sue Wright, a school principal. The wealth and prestige of his father afforded young Church opportunities not available to most African-American children of his day. After attending a parochial school in Memphis and Oberlin Academy in Oberlin, Ohio, Church studied at Morgan Park Military Academy in Chicago, Illinois, and then enrolled in the Packard School of Business in New York City. He completed the business course and worked on Wall Street for several years before returning to Memphis in 1909 to help his father in the management of the Solvent Savings Bank and Trust Company and other family enterprises. In 1911 he married Sara Paroda Johnson, a schoolteacher; they had one child....

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Ford, Barney Launcelot (1822–14 December 1902), conductor on the Underground Railroad, Negro suffrage lobbyist, and real estate baron, was born in Stafford County, Virginia, the son of a Mr. Darington (given name unknown), a slaveholder and plantation owner, and Phoebe (surname unknown), one of Darington’s slaves. Given simply the name “Barney” at birth, he adopted the name Barney Launcelot Ford as an adult to please his soon-to-be wife and to provide himself with a “complete” name....

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Lamb, Theodore Lafayette (11 April 1927–06 September 1984), southern liberal, advertising executive, and lawyer, was born in Detroit, Michigan, the son of Foster Lamb, a butcher, and Theodosia Braswell. Lamb’s father owned a small farm near Alexander, outside of Little Rock, Arkansas, where Lamb grew up. After attending the local one-room school, he hitchhiked into Little Rock, where he attended high school and served as class president. In 1944 he took classes at both Little Rock Junior College and Louisiana State University before enlisting in the army. He was sent to Yale University and trained as a Japanese linguist. He then served from 1944 to 1947 as a second lieutenant in the army’s 441st Counterintelligence Corps. He returned to Yale under the GI Bill and graduated in 1950....

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Moore, Amzie (23 September 1911–01 February 1982), Mississippi civil rights activist and entrepreneur, was born on the Wilkins plantation near Greenwood, Mississippi, the eldest son of black sharecroppers (names unknown). Although his grandfather, a former slave, had acquired some land after the Civil War, his descendants lived in poverty and lost the land during the economic hardships following World War I. Amzie’s parents tried their luck at a plantation in the Mississippi River Valley, but after their separation around 1922, Amzie, his mother, and his two siblings moved to Grenada County to work on a farm....

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Pettiford, William Reuben (20 January 1847–21 September 1914), pastor, banker, and race leader, was born in Granville County, North Carolina, the son of William Pettiford and Matilda (maiden name unknown), farmers. Pettiford, a free black, spent his early years laboring on the family farm. He received a rudimentary education at home and then attended Marion Normal School and was employed from 1877 to 1880 as a teacher and financial agent at Selma Institute (now Selma University). In 1869 he married Mary Jane Farley, who died that same year. In 1873 he married Jennie Powell, who died in September 1874. In 1880 he married Della Boyd, with whom he had three children. She outlived him....

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Pleasant, Mary Ellen (1812?–1904), legendary African-American woman of influence and political power in Gold Rush and Gilded Age San Francisco, was born, according to some sources, a slave in Georgia; other sources claim that her mother was a Louisiana slave and her father Asian or Native American. Many sources agree that she lived in Boston, as a free woman, the wife of James W. Smith, a Cuban abolitionist. When he died in 1844 he left her his estate, valued at approximately $45,000....

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Walker, Maggie L. (15 July 1867–15 December 1934), educator, social activist, and bank president, was born Maggie Lena Draper in Richmond, Virginia, the daughter of Elizabeth Draper, a former slave, and Eccles Cuthbert, an Irish-American journalist. Her natural parents could not marry. (The Virginia law prohibiting the marriage of mixed-race couples was overturned in 1967, a century after Maggie's birth.) In 1868 Elizabeth Draper married William Mitchell, a mulatto butler who, like herself, was employed by the wealthy abolitionist and Union spy ...