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From Memphis and Mogadishu: The History of African Americans in Martin Luther King County, Washington, 1858-2014

In the extended article that appears below historians Daudi Abe and Quintard Taylor explore the history of African Americans in Martin Luther King County from 1858 to 2014.  They analyze the forces which encouraged people of African ancestry to settle in the county and discuss the rapid political, social, and economic changes that its black residents have faced since the first arrival, Manuel Lopes, came to the county in 1858.

With 119,801 people of African ancestry in a total population of 1,931,249 people, Martin Luther King, Jr. County is the most populous county in the state of Washington and is home to 29% of the state’s inhabitants and half of Washington’s black population.  It is also the only county in the United States named after the 20th Century civil rights icon.  

The Pan-African Congresses, 1900-1945

 

Speakers at The Pan African Congress,
Brussels, Belgium,1921
Image Ownership: Public Domain

In the nearly half century between 1900 and 1945 various political leaders and intellectuals from Europe, North America, and Africa met six times to discuss colonial control of Africa and develop strategies for eventual African political liberation. In the article that follows, historian Saheed Adejumobi describes the goals and objectives of these six Pan African Congresses and assesses their impact on Africa.     

 

Pan-Africanist ideals emerged in the late nineteenth century in response to European colonization and exploitation of the African continent. Pan-Africanist philosophy held that slavery and colonialism depended on and encouraged negative, unfounded categorizations of the race, culture, and values of African people. These destructive beliefs in turn gave birth to intensified forms of racism, the likes of which Pan-Africanism sought to eliminate.

Summary: 
In the nearly half century between 1900 and 1945 various political leaders and intellectuals from Europe, North America, and Africa met six times to discuss colonial control of Africa and develop strategies for eventual African political liberation. In the article that follows, historian Saheed Adejumobi describes the goals and objectives of these six Pan African Congresses and assesses their impact on Africa.
Sources: 

Saheed A. Adejumobi, “The Pan-African Congress,” in Organizing Black America: An Encyclopedia of African American Associations, Nina Mjagkij, ed. (New York: Garland Publishing, Inc., 2001).

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Seattle University

African American Anti-Fascists in the Spanish Civil War

Eluard Luchell McDaniels, Spanish Civil
War Volunteer, Batea, Spain, May 1938
Image Courtesy of the Tamiment Library, New York University

Approximately 90 African Americans fought in Spain during the civil war that engulfed that nation between 1936 and 1939.  The war became a proxy war for the European great powers as the Soviet Union supported the newly established Second Spanish Republic while Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy supported the anti-Republic conservatives led by General Francisco Franco.  Although officially neutral, approximately 2,800 volunteers from the United States traveled to Spain as the Lincoln Brigade to support the Republic.  In the article below, historian Peter N. Carroll tells the story of one little-known African American volunteer, Canute Frankson who left an account of his reason for fighting in the Spanish Civil War.

Summary: 
<i>Approximately 90 African Americans fought in Spain during the civil war that engulfed that nation between 1936 and 1939.  The war became a proxy war for the European great powers as the Soviet Union supported the newly established Second Spanish Republic while Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy supported the anti-Republic conservatives led by General Francisco Franco.  Although officially neutral, approximately 2,800 volunteers from the United States traveled to Spain as the Lincoln Brigade to support the Republic.  In the article below, historian Peter N. Carroll tells the story of one little-known African American volunteer, Canute Frankson who left an account of his reason for fighting in the Spanish Civil War.</i>
Sources: 
Peter N. Carroll, The Odyssey of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade: Americans in the Spanish Civil War (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1994); Danny Duncan Collum, ed., African Americans in the Spanish Civil War: “This Ain’t Ethiopia, But It’ll Do (NY: G.K. Hall, 1992); Peter N. Carroll, From Guernica to Human Rights: Essays on the Spanish Civil War (Kent, OH: Kent State University Press); Peter N Carroll, et. al, eds., The Good Fight Continues: World War II Letters from the Abraham Lincoln Brigade (New York: NYU Press, 2006).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Ford, James W. (1893-1957)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Communist Party Presidential Campaign Poster, 1932 with
image of James Ford as the Vice Presidential Candidate.
Image Ownership: Public domain

James W. Ford was Special Organizer of the Communist Party's Harlem, New York section and the most prominent black Communist in the nation during the 1930s and early 1940s. Perhaps more than any other figure, Ford symbolized the Party's efforts to build a united front between African Americans and the white working class.

Sources: 
Mark Naison, Communists in Harlem during the Depression (Chicago:  University of Illinois Press, 1983), 95-111, passim; Mark Soloman, The Cry Was Unity:  Communists and African Americans, 1917-1936 (Jackson: University of Mississippi Press, 1998), 216-217, passim
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

National Negro Congress (1935 - 1940's)

Vignette Type: 
Organizations
History Type: 
African American History
National Negro Congress Leaders Presenting Petition to End
Racial Discrimination in the U.S. to UN Officials, 1945
Image Courtesy of UN Photo Library
(Downloading or Copying this Image is Not Permitted)
Sources: 
Mark Naison, Communists in Harlem during the Depression (Chicago:  University of Illinois Press, 1983); Paul Buhle, "National Negro Congress" in Mary Jo Buhle, Paul Buhle, and Dan Geogakas, eds. Encyclopedia of the American Left (New York:  Garland Publishing, 1990); Mark Soloman, The Cry Was Unity:  Communists and African Americans, 1917-1936 (Jackson:  University of Mississippi Press, 1998).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

DePriest, Oscar (1871-1951)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Sources: 
S. Davis Day, “Herbert Hoover and Racial Politics: The De Priest Incident.” Journal of Negro History 65 (Winter 1980); Charles Branham, “Oscar DePriest,” The Encyclopedia of Chicago (Chicago: The Newberry Library, 2002).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
East Tennessee State University

Khazan, Jibreel/ Ezell Blair Jr. (1941- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
One of the original Greensboro Four who took part in the Woolworth sit-ins. It is reported that as a nine-year-old he boasted to friends that he would “one day drink from the white people’s fountains and eat at their lunch counters.” Blair was the most uncertain of the four who decided to stage the Woolworth protest, and recalls calling his parents to ask their advice. They told him to do what he must and to carry himself with dignity and grace. He never strayed very far from the example of his parents, who were active in the civil rights movement, or the lessons of the people he had known as a child growing up in the south.
Sources: 
Frye Gaillard, The Greensboro Four: Civil Rights Pioneers (Charlotte, N.C.: Main Street Rag Publishing Co., 2001); William H. Chafe, Civilities and Civil Rights: Greensboro, North Carolina, and the Black Struggle for Freedom (New York: Oxford University Press, 1980).
Contributor2: 
Affiliation: 
North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University and Johnson C. Smith University, respectively

Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters (1925–1978)

Vignette Type: 
Organizations
History Type: 
African American History
Mass Meeting, Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters,
Chicago, 1933
Image Courtesy of the Chicago History Museum, ICHi-25673.
The Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters (BSCP) was a labor union organized by African American employees of the Pullman Company in August 1925 and led by A. Philip Randolph and Milton P. Webster. Over the next twelve years, the BSCP fought a three-front battle against the Pullman Company, the American Federation of Labor, and the anti-union, pro-Pullman sentiments of the majority of the black community. Largely successful on each front, the BCSP is a significant institution in both the labor and civil rights history of the twentieth century United States.
Sources: 
Beth Tompkins Bates, Pullman Porters and the Rise of Protest Politics in Black America, 1925-1945 (Chapel Hill:  UNC Press, 2001); William H. Harris, Keeping the Faith:  A. Philip Randolph, Milton P. Webster, and the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, 1925-1937 (Urbana:  University of Illinois Press, 1977)
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Williams, Robert F. (1925-1996)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of California Newsreel
Robert F. Williams was a militant civil rights leader whose open advocacy of armed self-defense anticipated the movement for "black power" in the late 1960s and helped inspire groups like the Student National Coordinating Committee, the Revolutionary Action Movement, and the Black Panther Party.
Sources: 
Timothy B. Tyson, Radio Free Dixie:  Robert F. Williams and the Roots of Black Power (Chapel Hill: UNC Press, 1999); Robert F. Williams, Negroes With Guns (Detroit:  Wayne State University Press, 1962).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) Local 8 (1913-1928?)

Vignette Type: 
Organizations
History Type: 
African American History
IWW Cartoon on the 1920 Philadelphia Dockworkers Strike
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Local 8 was an interracial, multiethnic local that was part of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), a militant, left-wing labor union. From its inception, the IWW has been committed to racial equality, though African Americans played a relatively small role in the organization. By contrast, Local 8, a branch of Philadelphia (Pennsylvania) longshoremen, possessed the IWW’s largest contingent of African Americans as well as its most significant black leader, Ben Fletcher.

Also called the Wobblies, the IWW believed in equal treatment for African Americans. Article I, Section I of the IWW Constitution declared that all workers, regardless of color or creed, could join the IWW. The IWW believed that all wage workers, regardless of their ethnic, national, or racial heritage, should identify as workers in opposition to their employers, with whom workers had “nothing in common.”
Sources: 
Peter Cole, Ben Fletcher: The Life and Writings of a Black Wobbly (Chicago: Charles H. Kerr, 2007); Peter Cole, Wobblies on the Waterfront: Interracial Unionism in Progressive-Era Philadelphia (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2007).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Western Illinois University

Southern Tenant Farmers Union

Vignette Type: 
Organizations
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Women at Southern Tenant Farmers' Union (STFU) Rally
Parkin, Arkansas (1937)
Image Ownership: Public Domain
The Southern Tenant Farmers Union (STFU) was founded in Tyronza, Arkansas in July 1934 by black and white tenant farmers and Socialist Party members.  The STFU is part of a rich tradition of labor organizing in the Depression-era South amongst mostly Black agricultural laborers.

Since the Reconstruction era the vast majority of Southern farmers were exploited under semi-feudal labor conditions, paying for their land usage with crops, and easily subject to the whims of the white landowners. Their plight was exacerbated by the Great Depression and ironically by a highly touted New Deal reform, the Agricultural Administration Act (AAA).  As provisions of the AAA reduced large farmers’ need for laborers, the lives of 1930s sharecroppers and tenant farmers grew more difficult.  That they built successful unions, often with help from radical organizations, is one of the most inspiring chapters of African American and labor history.
Sources: 
Donald H. Grubbs, Cry From the Cotton: The Southern Tenant Farmers’ Union and the New Deal (Chapel Hill: Univ. of North Carolina Press, 1971); William H. Cobb, “Southern Tenant Farmers Union,” Encyclopedia of Arkansas History and Culture, last updated 22 Sept 2007, http://encyclopediaofarkansas.net/encyclopedia/entry-detail.aspx?entryID=35.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Rapier, James Thomas (1837-1883)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Courtesy of Moorland-Spingarn
Research Center, Howard University

James Thomas Rapier was a Republican representative from the state of Alabama elected to the 43rd United States Congress. Rapier was born on November 13, 1837, in Florence, Alabama and attended high school in Nashville, Tennessee. In 1856, at the age of 19, he traveled to attend the King School in Buxton, Ontario, Canada, an experimental black community. There, along with his education, he experienced a religious conversion and decided to devote his life to helping southern blacks. Rapier also attended the University of Glasgow and Franklin College in Nashville before receiving a teaching certificate in 1863.

Rapier moved to Maury County, Tennessee and in 1865 started campaigning for African American suffrage. He delivered the keynote address at the Tennessee Negro Suffrage Convention in Nashville that same year. When the movement saw no success he took up cotton farming in his home town of Florence, Alabama and became successful.

Sources: 
Bruce A. Ragsdale and Joel D. Treese, Black Americans in Congress, 1870-1989 (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1990); Rayford W. Logan and Michael R. Winston, Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1982).
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Hickman, Robert T. (1831-1900)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Robert Thomas Hickman, born enslaved in Missouri in 1831, is most noted for the group of slaves including his wife and young son, whom he led to freedom in Minnesota in 1863, and helping to establish the first African American church in St. Paul, Minnesota.  Hickman was born and reared near Boone, Missouri.  At a young adult Hickman worked near Boone as a rail splitter.  He was, however, allowed by his owner to learn to read and write.  Hickman also became a slave preacher for the people held in bondage in the area.  

In 1863 Hickman led a group of Boone County slaves to their freedom.  Hickman and other fugitive slaves constructed a crude raft which they hoped would take them to freedom.  When Hickman and 75 black men, women and children were discovered adrift near Jefferson, Missouri, they were rescued and towed up river to St. Paul, Minnesota by the steamboat Northerner.  The “contrabands” arrived in St. Paul on May 5, 1863.  
Sources: 
Pilgrim Baptist Church Website, http://pilgrimbaptistchurch.org/history/; David Vassar Taylor, “The Blacks” in June D. Holmquest, They Chose Minnesota: a Survey of the State’s Ethnic Groups (St. Paul:  Minnesota Historical Society Press 1982).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Black Genealogy Research Group

Grizzle, Stanley G. (1918- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Courtesy of Sandra Danilovic, TV documentary,
"Portrait of a Street: The Soul and Spirit of College"
(2001, Rodna Films Inc.)
Stanley G. Grizzle founded the Railway Porter’s Trade Union Council and served as president of the Toronto Canadian Pacific Railroad (CPR) Division of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters (BSCP) from 1946 to 1962.

Grizzle was born in Toronto, Ontario in 1918, to Jamaican parents who immigrated to Canada in 1911. He became a railway porter at the age of 22 to help support his family. In 1938 Grizzle helped form the Young Men’s Negro Association of Toronto, initiating a period of activity which would make him one of the leaders in the black Canadian campaign for civil rights.  
Sources: 
Stanley G. Grizzle and John Cooper, My Name’s Not George: The Story of Sleeping Car Porters (Toronto: Umbrella Press, 1997); Robin W. Winks, The Blacks in Canada (Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1997). http://www.answers.com/topic/stanley-g-grizzle.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Johnson, Eddie Bernice (1935- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain

An early career in health care led to political aspirations for Eddie Bernice Johnson, culminating in her current position representing Texas in the U.S. House of Representatives.  She is an advocate for women, children, and human rights.

Born in Waco, Texas, in 1935 to parents Lee Edward Johnson and Lillie Mae (White) Johnson, Bernice Johnson traveled to Indiana to attend college when there were no educational opportunities for her as a black woman in Texas.  She earned a diploma in nursing from St. Mary’s College of Notre Dame in 1955.  One year later she married Lacey Kirk Johnson.  The couple had one son, Kirk, and then divorced in 1970.  Bernice Johnson continued her education.  She later received a BS in nursing from Texas Christian University in 1967 and a MS in public administration in 1976 from Southern Methodist University.

Sources: 
"Eddie Bernice Johnson" in Black Americans in Congress, 1870-1907 (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 2008); L. Mpho Mabunda, ed., Contemporary Black Biography, Vol. 8, “Eddie Bernice Johnson,” (Detroit, MI: Gale Research, 1995); “Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson, Representing the 30th District of Texas,” https://ebjohnson.house.gov/.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

McGee, Henry Wadsworth, Sr. (1910-2000)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Henry W. McGee, Sr.
Image Courtesy of Henry W. McGee, Jr.
The first African American Postmaster of a major postal facility, Henry W. McGee, Sr. was born in Hillsboro, Texas, in 1910, and moved to Chicago, Illinois in 1927.  McGee was the first person to rise from the ranks of letter carriers to achieve the status of Postmaster, a post to which he was appointed by President Lyndon B. Johnson on November 5, 1966.  McGee had begun postal work in 1929 as a temporary substitute letter carrier, and became a regular postal clerk in 1937, advancing rapidly through a succession of Post Office jobs.
Sources: 
Henry W. McGee, Autobiography and Dissertation: The Negro in the Chicago Post Office (Chicago: VolumeOne Press, 1999); Christopher Robert Reed, The Chicago NAACP and the Rise of Black Professional Leadership, 1910-1966 (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1997).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Seattle University

Fort-Whiteman, Lovett (1889-1939)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Lovett Fort-Whiteman Speaking at
Founding of the American Negro
Labor Congress Annual Meeting in 1926
Image Ownership: Public domain

Lovett Huey Fort-Whiteman was an American political and civil rights activist and member of the Communist International.  He is regarded as the first American-born black Communist and first African American to attend a Comintern training school in the Soviet Union.  Fort-Whiteman organized the Communist Party-affiliated American Negro Labor Congress and was labeled by Time magazine as “the reddest of the blacks.”

Sources: 
Glenda Elizabeth Gilmore, Defying Dixie: The Radical Roots of Civil Rights, 1991-1950 (New York: W.W. Norton, 2009); Mark Solomon, The Cry Was Unity (Jackson, MS: University Press of Mississippi, 1998); Harvey Klehr, John Earl Haynes and Kyrill M. Anderson, The Soviet World of American Communism (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1998).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Williana “Liana” Burroughs (1882-1945)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public domain

Williana “Liana” Jones Burroughs was an American teacher, radical political activist and the first African American woman to run for elective office in New York. Burroughs was born on January 2, 1882, in Petersburg, Virginia. Her father died in 1886 when Williana was just four years old. The same year, Williana’s mother, who was formerly enslaved for 16 years, left Virginia for New York City, bringing along Williana, her sister Nellie, and brother Gordon. Her mother worked as a cook but was not able to take care of her children, and, as a result, Williana and the siblings spent the next seven years in New York City Colored Orphan Asylum. Shortly after Williana’s sister, Nellie, died of pneumonia in 1893, her mother was able to retrieve Williana and Gordon from the orphanage.

Sources: 
Washington Helen Mary, “Feminist Roots,” wcwonline.org, 2012, https://www.wcwonline.org/WRB-Issues/feminist-roots; Richard Mares, “Black Women Communists and Pan-Africanism: An Interview with Minkah Makalani,” aaihs.org, March 25, 2017, https://www.aaihs.org/black-women-communists-and-pan-africanism-an-interview-with-minkah-makalani/; “Williana “Liane” Jones Burroughs, Harlem,” harlemworldmag.com, March 6, 2014, http://harlemworldmag.com/williana-liane-jones-burroughs-harlem/.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Brown, Elaine (1943- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Public Domain
From 1974 to 1977, Elaine Brown was Chairwoman of the Black Panther Party.  As a Panther, Brown also ran twice for a position on the City Council of Oakland, California.  Since the 1970s she has been active in prison and education reform and juvenile justice.

Born in heavily black and impoverished North Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1943, Brown attended a predominantly white experimental elementary school where she studied ballet and classical piano.  Brown’s childhood was starkly divided between the comfort of her schooling and the realities of her home life.  Following high school Brown entered Temple University but left the campus for Los Angeles, California before the end of her first year.  
Sources: 
Elaine Brown, A Taste of Power: A Black Woman’s Story (New York: Pantheon Books, 1992); Robert O. Self, American Babylon: Race and the Struggle for Postwar Oakland (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2003); Elaine Brown, The Condemnation of Little B: New Age Racism in America (Boston: Beacon Press, 2002); http://www.elainebrown.org/.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Hawkins, Augustus (1907–2007)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Courtesy of the US House of
Sources: 
Pamela Lee Gray, “Hawkins, Augustus Freeman,” in African American National Biography (New York: Oxford, 2008); Dona L. Irvin, “Augustus F. Hawkins,” in Notable Black American Men (Detroit: Gale, 1999); Biographical Directory of the United States Congress:  http://bioguide.congress.gov/scripts/biodisplay.pl?index=H000367.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
San Diego State University

Watkins, Ted (1912-1993)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Ted Watkins, Foreground, with Youth Applicants,
Watts Labor Community Action Center, 1967
Image Courtesy of HERALD EXAMINER COLLECTION/Los Angeles Public Library

Born into poverty and racial segregation in Meridian, Mississippi in 1912, Ted Watkins became a civil rights and union activist and led an anti-poverty agency in Los Angeles, the Watts Labor Community Action Committee (WLCAC).  Watkins left Mississippi as a young man to avoid a lynching and headed west to the thriving metropolis of Los Angeles.  After arriving in Los Angeles, Watkins began working for Ford Motor Company and joined the local United Auto Workers (UAW) chapter.  He rose through the union ranks and by the early 1950s had become an international representative for UAW.  Watkins and his wife, Bernice, also became active in the United Civil Rights Committee, a Los Angeles civil rights organization, and the Watts chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). 

Sources: 

Robert Bauman, Race and the War on Poverty: From Watts to East L.A. (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2008); Robert Bauman, “The Black Power and Chicano Movements in the Poverty Wars in Los Angeles,” Journal of Urban History, 33:2 (January 2007), 277-295.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Washington State University, Tri-Cities

Shepperson, James E. (1858 - ?)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Public Domain

 

Sources: 

Through Open Eyes (Ninety-Five Years of Black History in Roslyn,
Washington), http://epl.eburg.com/Roslyn/openeyes.html; Quintard
Taylor, “A History of Blacks in the Pacific Northwest, 1788-1970,”
Ph.D. Dissertation, University of Minnesota, 1977; www.ancestry.com

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

United Construction Workers Association

Vignette Type: 
Organizations
History Type: 
African American History in the West
UCWA march, Seattle, 1972
Image Ownership: Public Domain

The United Construction Workers Association (UCWA) was founded in 1970 by Tyree Scott, an electrician who had become a Seattle civil rights activist.  At the request of the American Friends Service Committee, Tyree Scott left the Central Contractors Association which he had created in 1968, to found the UCWA with the goal of uniting minority construction workers to promote their employment in the construction industry and prevent discrimination.  The UCWA negotiated on behalf of black workers, led protests, initiated lawsuits, and organized worker support groups.

Sources: 

Seattle Civil Rights and Labor History Project, “Special Section:
United Construction Workers Association,”
http://depts.washington.edu/civilr/ucwa.htm; Letter to UCWA members
from Lionel Hampton and Tyree Scott, 29 July 1970, Box 10, Location
C2785e, Accession # 5-45-001, Tyree Scott Papers, Archival Materials,
University of Washington Special Collections; American Friends Service
Committee, “An Issue Whose Time Has Come: Minority Employment in the
Seattle Construction Industry,” 5 February 1970, accessed online at
http://faculty.washington.edu/gregoryj/civilrights/idea.pdf.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Tacoma

James v. Marinship (1944)

Vignette Type: 
Misc
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Marinship Workers, ca. 1943
Image Ownership: Public Domain

James v. Marinship was a California Supreme Court decision that ruled that jobs requiring labor union membership could not exclude blacks or other racial groups.  The Marinship Corporation operated various shipyards and was involved in the building of various ships and vessels during the wartime era. The respondent, Joseph James, was an employee of the Marinship Corporation.  

Marinship had a closed-shop contract with the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers, which required that all of the corporation’s shipyard construction workers must be members of the union.  Boilermakers Local 6, which had jurisdiction over the Marinship yards, banned African Americans.  If African Americans wished to work in Marinship yards, they were forced to join Auxiliary A-41, an all-black unit controlled by Local 6.  In 1943, more than 200 African Americans, including Joseph James, who refused to pay the A-41 dues Local 6 demanded in accordance with their closed-shop contract were fired from their jobs at Marinship.  James filed a lawsuit to stop the dismissal of the African American workers.

Sources: 
James v. Marinship, (1944) 25C2d 721; Charles Wollenberg, “James vs. Marinship: Trouble on the New Black Frontier,” California History, 60:3 (Fall 1981); Herbert Hill, Black Labor and the American Legal System (Wisconsin: University of Wisconsin Press, 1985).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Tolbert, James Lionel (1926-2013)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Civil rights advocate and entertainment attorney James Lionel Tolbert was born in New Orleans, Louisiana on October 26, 1926 to Albert Tolbert and Alice Young Tolbert. His father was a chauffeur and his mother came from a prominent musical family. One of his uncles was noted tenor saxophonist Lester Young. Tolbert was sent at age 10 with his older sister and brother to Los Angeles, California, to receive musical training from their grandfather, Willis Young, a leading jazz educator who schooled him on the trumpet.
Sources: 
Sentinel New Service, “James L. Tolbert Succumbs,” May 10, 2013, http://lasentinel.net/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=11113;  Valerie J. Nelson, “James Tolbert, 1926-2013. He pressed Hollywood on civil rights,” Los Angeles Times, May 12, 2013; William Yardley, “James L. Tolbert, 86, an Early Lawyer to Black Hollywood, Dies,” New York Times, May 25, 2013.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
California State University, Los Angeles

Chester, William H. (1914-1985)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Dr. Martin Luther King with Bill Chester,
January 25, 1963
"Image Courtesy of Anne Rand Library, International
Longshore and Warehouse Union"
William “Bill” Chester, Vice President and Assistant to Harry Bridges, President of the International Longshoremen and Warehouse Union (ILWU), was the highest ranking African American in the ILWU and a leading trade union official and civil rights leader in the San Francisco Bay Area from the 1950s through 1970s.

Born in Shreveport, Louisiana, on January 6, 1914, Chester’s mother’s maiden name was Fuller. Chester, an only child, moved with his parents to Kansas City, Missouri when he was a year old and spent his entire childhood there.  His father, a railroad worker, died when he was 11.  Chester graduated from high school in 1932 and spent two years at Western College in Quindaro, Kansas.

Sources: 
William Chester, Interview by Robert E. Martin, Howard University, July 23, 1969, transcript at ILWU Library, San Francisco; “Bill Chester: ILWU Civil Rights and Community Leader, 1938-1969,” ILWU Oral History Project, Volume VI, Part I, Introduction and interview by Harvey Schwartz, ILWU Dispatcher, February 2003, pp. 8-9; “Bill Chester helped lead ILWU during tough times,” ILWU Dispatcher, November 12, 1985, p. 5.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Western Illinois University

Leo Lythel Robinson (1937–2013)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
"Image Courtesy of David Bacon"
A rank-and-file activist in the International Longshore & Warehouse Union (ILWU), Leo Robinson was best known for fighting apartheid by helping lead a massive boycott of South African cargo that galvanized anti-apartheid movement in California's San Francisco Bay Area in 1984.  

Born in Shreveport, Louisiana, on May 26, 1937, to Arthur and Pearl Lee Young, Robinson and his family moved to Oakland during World War II. Both parents worked at Moore Shipyard, one of numerous large shipbuilders in the area’s booming wartime economy. Along with his parents and four siblings, he lived in the Cypress Village housing projects in West Oakland, a segregated ghetto that gave birth to the Black Panther Party two decades later.  

Sources: 
David Bacon, “Leo Robinson: Soul of the Longshore,” In These Times, January 19, 2013, http://inthesetimes.com/working/entry/14448/leo_robinson_soul_of_the_longshore; Peter Cole, “Leo Robinson: leader of the ILWU anti-apartheid struggle,” ILWU Dispatcher 71:1 (January 2013), http://www.ilwu.org/leo-robinson-ilwu-activist-led-anti-apartheid-struggle/; Leo Robinson, Interview by Peter Cole, Raymond, California, July 20, 2011; Leo Robinson, Interview in The Oakland Army Base: An Oral History, ed. by Martin Meeker, The Bancroft Library, University of California, City of Oakland, and Port of Oakland, 2010.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Western Illinois University

Awolowo, Obafemi (1909-1985)

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Chief Obafemi Awolowo in Washington, D.C., 
March 20, 1956 
Image ©Jim Mahan/Bettmann/Corbis
Nigerian nationalist, politician, lawyer, statesman, and chancellor, Chief Jeremiah Obafemi Awolowo was born on March 6, 1909 in Ogun State, Nigeria, where he commenced his political career.
Sources: 

Richard L. Sklar, Nigerian Political Parties: Power in an Emergent African Nation (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1963); Obafemi Awolowo, Adventures in Power Book One: My March Through Prison (Macmillan Nigeria Publishers, 1985); Emeka Izeze, The Guardian Nigeria www.guardiannewsngr.com, October 2010.
Affiliation: 
University of Utah

Mboya, Thomas (Joseph Odhiambo) (1930-1969)

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Sources: 
“Mboya, Tom (Thomas Joseph Odhiambo),” in Norbert C. Brockman, ed., An African Biographical Dictionary (Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO, 1994); “Tom Mboya,” in Anne Commire, ed., Historic World Leaders, volume 1 (Detroit: Gale Research Inc., 1994).; “Tom Mboya,” in Harvey Glickman, ed., Political Leaders of Contemporary Africa South of the Sahara : A Biographical Dictionary (New York: Greenwood Press, 1992).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Sembene, Ousmane (1923-2007)

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Image Ownership: Public Domain

Ousmane Sembène, prolific writer and film producer, was born in January 1923 in Ziguinchor, Senegal.  Official documents were rare in 1920s French colonies, so even though Sembène was officially listed as born on the eighth of January, he says that it is likely that he was actually born eight days earlier.

Sembène was born a French citizen, thanks to his father Moussa Sembène, a fisherman who was from the region Senegal where such citizenship had been extended in the 19th Century. His mother was Ramatoulaye Ndiaye. His parents were together only briefly, and Sembène was raised by his maternal grandmother after his mother moved to Dakar.

Sources: 
Brian Cox, African Writers (New York : Charles Scribner's Sons, 1997); Samba Gadjigo, Ousmane Sembène: the Making of a Militant Artist (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2010); Annet Busch and Max Annas, Ousmane Sembène: Interviews (Jackson: University of Mississippi, 2008).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Kingston, Jamaica (1692-- )

Entry Type: 
Places
History Type: 
Global African History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Kingston, the capital of Jamaica, was founded in July 1692 when an earthquake destroyed the nearby city of Port Royal. The most recent census puts its population at 937,700. Today Kingston is the center of trade, manufacturing, and shipping for the entire nation of Jamaica.  

Before the 1692 earthquake, Port Royal, founded in 1518 by the Spanish on a spit of land off what is now Kingston Harbor, and captured by the English in 1655, was the major city in the area. The earthquake and tsunami killed nearly two thousand of the town’s six thousand people.  Most of the survivors moved inland to the other side of the harbor and founded Kingston.  

Kingston was the largest town in Jamaica by 1716, and due to its deepwater harbor it was also the center of trade for the entire British colony.  In 1775 Sir Charles Knowles, the British governor of the Colony, moved all government offices from nearby Spanish Town to Kingston.  Three years later Kingston had a population of 26,478, which included 16,659 enslaved people. Slavery existed in Jamaica until 1833. Kingston was declared the official capital of the Colony of Jamaica in 1872.
Sources: 
David Marley, “Kingston” in Historic Cities of the Americas (Santa Barbara, California: ABC-CLIO, 2006); Colin G. Clarke, Kingston, Jamaica: Urban Development and Social Change, 1692-1962 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1975); “The Structure and Development of Kingston, Jamaica,” http://www.smartyoung.com/cities/kingston/brief_history.htm.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Ruben Um Nyobè (1913–1958)

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Ruben Um Nyobè is a little known but major figure in the African independence campaign.  He was the first African political leader to claim independence for his country before the General Assembly of the United Nations. He is called the “black Hô Chi Minh” by some authors and “Mpodol” (spokesman) for his country, Cameroon.

Um Nyobè was born at Song Mpeck in the Cameroon on April 10, 1913, when it was still a colonial possession of Germany. His first education came in Presbyterian Church primary schools, and he was baptized in 1921 as a Presbyterian. While he was in school, colonial administration of Cameroon was transferred from recently-defeated Germany to France and Great Britain at the end of World War I. Eventually, Nyobè and other Cameroonian nationalists sought to reunite the now divided territory.
Sources: 
J.A. Mbembe, La naissance du maquis dans le sud du Cameroun (The birth of the Maquis in the Southern Cameroon) (Paris: Karthala, 1996); R. Um Nyobè, Le problem national Kamerunais (The Kamerunian national problem), Edited by J.A. Mbembe (Paris: L’Harmattan, 1984); http://www.bonaberi.com/article.php?aid=1544.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Rhodes University, South Africa

Golden, Oliver (1887-1940)

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Image Ownership: Public domain

Oliver Golden, born in 1887, in Yazoo County, Mississippi, was the son of former slaves who prospered during Reconstruction. Their house, however, was burned twice by Ku Klux Klan which resented the family’s success and they were forced to leave Mississippi for Alabama while Oliver was a student at Tuskegee Institute (now Tuskegee University). One of Golden’s professors at Tuskegee was George Washington Carver with whom he kept in contact with throughout his life.

Golden did not graduate Tuskegee University because he was drafted into the U.S. Army to fight in France during World War I. After the war he worked as a waiter in a railroad dining car in Chicago, Illinois and in the early 1920s joined the Chicago labor movement and later the U.S. Communist Party.

Sources: 
Steven J. Niven, “Black in the USSR: 3 Generations of a Russian Family,” The Root.com, December 13, 2015, https://www.theroot.com/black-in-the-ussr-3-generations-of-a-russian-family-1790862051; Carl Schreck, inosmi.ru, December 4, 2016.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle
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