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Berry Gordy, Jr.

Mr. Hitsville

Berry Gordy, Jr. was born in Detroit, Michigan, November 28, 1929. Berry was the seventh of eight children. Berry's parents were both hard working people.

Always ambitious, he dropped out of high school to become a professional boxer. His boxing profession was short lived. In 1951, he was drafted into the Army. He completed his high school education while he was in the army.

After the Army he tried his luck with a record store, it failed. Like many others during this time, he worked for the Ford Motor Company on as assembly line. This was when he decided to write songs. As fate would have it, he wrote a couple of hit songs. He was now a song writer.

Berry found himself still working for others, he wanted to have his own empire. With a $800.00 loan from his famiy he started his own record label, Tamla. The third lable was called Motown. It was Motown that this empire became know as to millions of baby-boomers .

Berry Gordy was the drive and determination behind Motown records, the "sound of young America" during the sixties. With hit after hit, Motown brought Black musicians like the Four Tops, Marvin Gaye, the Supremes, the Jackson Five, and many others into the forefront of America's musical scene. By 1977, Motown was the largest Black-owned company in the United States.

Bob Moses

b. 1935

Born in 1935 in New York, the son of a janitor, Moses attended Stuyvesant High School for gifted students, graduating in 1952 and elected senior class president and captain of the baseball team . He graduated from Hamilton College in upstate New York in 1956, and received a master's degree in philosophy from Harvard in 1957.

Dropping out of graduate school upon his mother's death, Moses began working as a math teacher at the private Horace Mann School in New York. In 1960, when Southern black students began sit-ins in the civil rights struggle, Moses joined the movement and became a field organizer with the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). He spent the next four years in the South, becoming one of the most important figures in the movement for his efforts to turn the emphasis from sit-ins and freedom rides to voter registration and education.

At the time of the SNCC activities in Mississippi, less than 5% of the black population was registered to vote. There was a literacy requirement that effectively shut out many potential voters. Moses and SNCC organized "freedom schools" to teach people how to pass the literacy test. In 1964 a drive to recruit white students from the North to come to Mississippi and the South and help with the literacy and voter registration projects netted 1000 volunteers in what became known as "Freedom Summer."

After his civil rights activities, Moses was drafted in 1966 and fled to Canada. Moses eventually moved to Tanzania and spent eight years teaching mathematics. Returning to the United States and settling in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Moses resumed work on his doctorate. Having begun tutoring his daughter in math due to his unhappiness with the quality of instruction she was receiving, Moses accepted a volunteer position as a math tutor in the Cambridge public school system.

Bob Moses received a 1982 MacArthur Foundation grant, called the "genius" grant, and used the funds from the five-year grant to start the Algebra Project to teach "mathematical literacy" to inner-city and rural children to prepare them for more advanced math. His concern was the evidence that tracking of students for math placement was being done along racial lines, with many students of color being shifted into the less-advanced track. He also saw a trend of high-achieving students of color being influenced by their peers into being ashamed of their intelligence. The Algebra Project uses real-world examples to teach children to think in mathematical terms and relate math to the world around them.

More than 40,000 students have been helped to master fundamental algebraic skills in 25 cities and the number of school systems is growing. In 1992, Moses started an off-shoot, the Delta Algebra Project, in Mississippi. Bob Moses was honored for his work by the Mississippi State Senate in 2000 with a special resolution.

by Nancy McPoland

Chuck Berry

b. 1926
Father of Rock And Roll

Charles Edward Anderson Berry is one the most well known pioneers of rock and roll. He was born October 18, 1926 in St. Louis, Missouri. Berry's first memories of music were in his mother's kitchen. His father was a lay minister, and choir practice was held in their home. Berry did not start to play guitar until he was in high school.

In the 1950's, Berry began to play professionally. One of his idols at the time was Muddy Waters. It was Waters who told the young Chuck Berry about Chess Records. Berry went to Chess and recorded Maybellene and the rest is history.

Chuck Berry was the first person to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. A year before that he had been inducted into the Blues Foundation's Hall Of Fame. Chuck Berry's classic rock and roll style has influenced a generation of musicians.

Clint Eastwood

b. 1930
"Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys"

Born May 31, 1930, Clinton Eastwood, Jr.'s mother thought that he would be famous one day because, when he was born he weighed eleven pounds and six ounces. I t would be awhile before the "Pale Rider" would become a household name.

The Eastwood family moved around a lot, the depression years lingered on to some extent.

Clint Eastwood has kept the "western movies" alive. Eastwood has played in and produced western movies during a time when it seemed passe. Cowboys and Indians, once a kids game that all kids played at one time or other is not played like it once was.

Eastwood has come a long way since his days as "Rowdy Yates" a wrangle on the TV series "Rawhide". He played Yates for seven years on TV. The Western movie was once #1 in all the movie houses. Times change and so do people. For some reason "baby boomers" cannot get enough of of the old west.

Dick Gregory

b. 1932
Turkey Talks

Dick Gregory was born in St. Louis, Missouri and was raised by his single mother. He worked shining shoes and had Pepsi and Twinkies for dinner if he was lucky. His keen observation of people and the world around him is where he found comedy or comedy found him. Gregory has been quoted as saying that his family was so poor that they could only spell the word poor with one o, Po.

Gregory's mother's smile has a special place in his heart. No matter how bad things seemed, his mother could smile and make it all better. The strength that she passed on to him has helped him through the good and bad.

When he speaks about his being poor it is heartbreaking, yet he turned it around and made people laugh with him and not at him. Before Gregory hit the stage, he was quite an impressive athlete. Gregory excelled in distance running, and was a popular student in school because of his abilities.

Gregory's comedy was biting and radical, his jokes were centered around real life. He poked fun at segragation, politics, social issues and any where he could find a zone to make his audience laugh and think at the same time.

Gregory became well known as a comedian on the 'Chit'lin Circuit' and achieved stardom during the height of the civil rights era. He became an activist, giving speeches, marching, and donating money for the movement.

Dick Gregory is still fighting for human dignity. He has written several books on the subject of racism from his point of view. The rawness of his truth makes people stand and listen.

by Betty Green

Eartha Kitt

b. 1928
Ageless Sex Kitten

Eartha Kitt was born in South Carolina. There was no birth certificate recorded when she was born, she is not absolutely sure of the date she was born. Her mother died when she quite young. Her upbringing by different family members left her feeling unloved. She had to work very early on in the fields. Eartha knew sometimes that she was hungry and that her clothes were not the best. Kitt felt she was called names because she was multiracial, although she really never knew her father, she overheard others speaking about both her mother and father.

When her family sent her to Harlem, she lived with her Aunt. It was there that she started to study dance. She won a scholarship with the Katherine Dunham Dance Company and slowly began to make a name for herself. When Kitt was called on to do a part because a singer became ill, she found she enjoyed singing equally as dancing.

Kitt had a talent for languages--she is fluent in three--and sang some of her most famous hit songs in other languages. Christmas is not Christmas without hearing Kitt sing, "Santa Baby". It has become a seasonal classic.

Kitt was politically active and controversial during the Vietnam era. It is rumored that she was black-listed after a luncheon at the White House, when in a discussion with Lady Bird Johnson about the Vietnam War left the First Lady in tears.

Kitt is a survivor and is still very active. During the television series,"Batman", her performance of Catwoman was unforgettable. As the character, Catwoman, Kitt, was Catwoman. This Grand Lady has purrrred her way into the spotlight and is a living legend.

Eugene "Bull" Connor


"Negroes and whites will not segregate together as long as I am Commissioner."

If the Civil Rights struggles of the 1960's had a defining conflict, it was epitomized by the clash of two strong personalities, each convinced that he was in the right of things and the other man represented the forces of darkness.

These two men, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Eugene "Bull" Connor, met in person in Birmingham, Alabama in 1963, in protest marches that resulted in some of the most indelible images of the 1960s. Who can forget the fire hoses and police dogs, the bark being stripped from trees from the water pressure of the hoses? With his actions taken against the Freedom Riders and integrationists, Bull Connor became a international symbol for hard-line segregation and a synonym for prejudice and hated.

Despite a thirty-year career in Alabama public office in which he did a great deal of good for the state and the city of Birmingham, Bull Connor is forever etched in our minds as the caricature of a Southern redneck, fire hose in one hand and police dog leash in the other.

Born Theophilus Eugene Connor in Selma, Alabama in 1897, son of a railroad dispatcher, Connor had a nomadic childhood as his family followed his father's job transfers from state to state. A high school dropout, Connor learned the art of railroad telegraphy from his father and became a often-transferred railroad employee himself upon his marriage to Beara Levens in 1920.

A chance encounter at a "baseball matinee," a way for fans to follow games without being able to attend the game by attending a storefront broadcast studio and hearing an announcer re-create the game from telegraphed reports, brought Connor a new career. Subbing for the regular announcer for the baseball game led Connor to employment in Birmingham, Alabama in his own baseball matinee, as well as work for the BIRMINGHAM NEWS and local radio stations. Asked to fill in for the regular radio announcer for a Birmingham Barons game, Connor became the radio voice of the Barons, winning popularity for his foghorn voice and his line of chatter, or "shooting the bull," which won him his life-long nickname.

Running for election to the Alabama House of Representatives in 1934 as a Jefferson County representative, Connor won his seat in the legislature without support from political machines. Connor's three-year term was highlighted by winning a fight for a civil service bill to replace the so-called "spoils" system of job appointments. After a good showing as Representative, Connor decided to stand for associate commissioner on the Birmingham City Council in 1937 and ran under the theme of "the people's candidate." Winning a position on the three-man commission handily, Connor was chosen to be Public Safety Commissioner, and made many changes in City Hall traditions to heal factionalism and fight crime.

Although considered a political progressive, Connor's opposition to integration showed early in his political career, and he took a hard line in enforcing the many segregation laws in force in Birmingham. He grabbed national headlines in 1938 by appearing at the meetings of the Southern Conference for Human Welfare and attempting to enforce segregated seating, a move which angered participants and caused First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, in attendance, to sit in the aisle between the black and white sections and refuse to move.

Connor continued to win re-election to the Birmingham City Commission throughout the 1940's and went on to suffer a nasty scandal in 1951 in which he was convicted of extramarital intercourse upon being discovered in a hotel room with his secretary, a conviction which Connor contended was a frame-up and which was overturned by the Alabama Supreme Court. A Citizen's Committee made an unfavorable report on Connor's Police Department management, and this coupled with impeachment proceedings, declared a mistrial twice, caused Connor to decide not to run for re-election in 1953.

Retiring to run a family gas station for three years, Connor again stood for election to the Birmingham City Commission in 1956, as Commissioner of Public Improvement, but lost in the run-off, probably due to his lack of knowledge of streets and sanitation and the voter's inability to see him as other than Police Commissioner. Running again for Public Safety Commission in 1957, Connor won by an extremely narrow margin of 103 votes.

Connor continued his hard-line anti-integration stand in his new term in office, believing that civil rights activists were nothing more than "outside agitators" and meant only harm to the city. For the remainder of the decade of the 50's, the turmoil that brought Birmingham the nickname of "Bombingham" for the many "unsolved" bomb attacks against civil rights activists and other blacks, would be fueled by Connor's failure to support any real prosecution of suspects. He continued to grab headlines in conflicts with civil rights activists over lunch-counter sit-ins, bus desegregation and school integration. He attributed his landslide re-election in 1961 to his stance, feeling that his enforcement of segregation statutes had kept Birmingham free of major race riots and violence. Two weeks later, that would begin to change.

Mother's Day, 1961 was the scene of mob violence in Anniston, Alabama as well as Birmingham as rioters attacked buses bearing the Freedom Riders, a group of activists engaged in protests against segregation of Southern bus systems. A group of nearly 60 white men attacked Freedom Riders at Birmingham's Trailways station, leaving nine passengers with injuries which required hospital treatment. Lack of police presence, which Connor blamed on the many officers off for the holiday, caused even the Birmingham News to question Connor's handling of the incident.

A question of whether Connor knew of the planned attack and deliberately withheld police support for the Freedom Riders has never been fully resolved in court. Another incident occurred a few days later in which Freedom Riders were removed from the bus and escorted out of town by Connor and police officers.

Connor was named in a lawsuit filed by Attorney General Robert Kennedy for violation of the civil liberties of the Freedom Riders in the wake of the incidents, but was discharged from consideration after two days of testimony. In further fallout from the incidents, Connor's white voter support began to erode in the shock resulting from the attacks. Fearful that economic development of Birmingham was being irreparably harmed by the media coverage of the racial turmoil, some white civic leaders began a drive to change Birmingham's form of city government from three-man commission to mayor and council, in hopes of breaking what they saw as Connor's stranglehold of control of the city. Bull Connor's era of segregation at any cost was about to come to an end, but worse incidents and international publicity were still to come.

In a special election called on November 6, 1962 Birmingham voters rejected the politics of the past by a two-thousand vote margin. Connor ran for Mayor of Birmingham in 1963, losing to Albert Boutwell by 8000 votes. Connor remained in office, however, due to laws dealing with changes of government and incumbent terms. When Boutwell took office in April, 1963, the Commission refused to give up their office pending legal resolution of the court case over the change of civic government.

At this time, Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was in the Birmingham City Jail following his arrest at a civil rights demonstration in Birmingham. Following criticism of his actions by liberal white ministers, who felt the demonstrations should have been postponed to allow the new government a change to make changes, King wrote a response that became famous as his "Letter from the Birmingham Jail." Connor's handling of King's arrest and further incidents in May, including the notorious use of fire hoses and police dogs against demonstrators, and other incidents of violence and rioting garnered national television coverage and indelibly marked Connor as the epitome of Southern racism.

But, even as television reporters converged on Birmingham, Connor's long tenure as Commission was coming to a close. A court decision in late May of 1963 ruled that Birmingham's change of city government was legal and Connor was ordered to vacate his office.

Bull Connor ran for and was elected Alabama's Public Service Commission President in 1964. Although suffering a crippling stroke in 1966 which left him wheelchair-bound for the rest of his life, Connor ran for reelection to the PSC in 1968, winning handily, but lost by a large margin in 1972, in part due to the growing number of black Alabama registered voters. Retiring home to Birmingham, Bull Connor, arch segregationist, suffered a second stroke in February 1973, lingering in intensive care for twelve days before passing away on March 10, 1973 at the age of seventy-five.

John Kennedy once said that Bull Connor did as much for the cause of civil rights as Abraham Lincoln. Certainly the television images from Birmingham during the 1960s and the man who was responsible for them helped Dr. King and other activists publicize their cause more than a thousand speeches could have done.

Everett Alvarez, Jr.

b. 1937

Latino Facts: April 30, 1975 Master Sergeant Juan J. Valdez becomes the last American to leave Vietnam proving Latinos in military service were:"First in... last to leave.

Patrolling the Gulf of Tonkin near the North Vietnamese coast, the destroyer USS Maddox was attacked by four torpedo (PT) boats on August 2, 1964. One North Vietnamese PT boat was destroyed, another crippled and one 14.5-mm shell left its mark on the Maddox. The Maddox was ordered to return to the Gulf of Tonkin on August 2, and was joined by the USS C. Turner Joy. On August 4, another attack by North Vietnamese PT boats occurred (most historians agree that no such attack took place).

This attacked allowed President Johnson to obtain from Congress carte blanche in conducting a war against the communist forces in Vietnam, via the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution. Johnson used this authority to immediately retaliate against PT bases in N. Vietnam, and in later years commit over 500,000 American troops to pacify South Vietnam.

Aircraft from the USS Ticonderoga and Constellation staged an attack against PT bases along the North Vietnamese coast and near the Chinese border on August 5. Taking part in these attacks was Lt. Junior Grade Everett Alvarez, Jr. an A4C Skyhawk pilot. Alvarez' Skyhawk was hit by enemy fire and he was forced to eject. Later captured, Alvarez became the first American pilot shot down over N. Vietnam and the first Prisoner of War (P.O.W.). America also lost its first pilot in the same raid as Lt. Junior Grade Richard C. Sather's A1 Skyraider was shot and he was listed as Killed in Action (his remains were finally returned by the Vietnamese government in 1985).

As the bombing of N. Vietnam increased, so did the number of pilots shot down and taken prisoner. Many American pilots were paraded through the streets of Hanoi, the N. Vietnamese capital, blindfolded and with their hands tied behind their backs. Everett Alvarez clearly remembers during one such parade North Vietnamese throwing objects at him and yelling, in English, "Alvarez, Alvarez, Son of a bitch, Son of a bitch!" The captured aviators received inhumane treatment and were constantly subject to beatings and interrogations, in complete violation of the Geneva Convention on P.O.W.s.

Although U.S. military regulations considered it treasonous to divulge secrets under any situation, these regulations had to be changed after the Vietnam War. Because most soldiers had been trained never to give up military secrets, the beatings they endured - both physical and psychological - were extremely severe, and in the end their N. Vietnamese captors obtained the information they needed as every man broke down. One American P.O.W. remarked that he went into his first interrogation thinking he would tough it out like John Wayne; after several hours of beatings he turned over all vital information his captors asked for and even some information they hadn't. The U.S. military realized that everyone has a breaking point, and to ask their soldiers to endure deep physical and psychological scarring was out of the question.

After 8½ years in captivity, Everett Alvarez, Jr. was released on February 12, 1973 along with 590 of his fellow P.O.W.s. Alvarez has the dubious distinction of being held longer than any other P.O.W. in American history. He returned to his hometown of Salinas, California a hero, having earned the Silver Star, two Legions of Merit, two Bronze Stars, the Distinguished Flying Cross, and two Purple Hearts.

Since leaving the military Alvarez began his own consulting firm, Conwal Inc., and has also served as Vice President for Government Services with the Hospital Corporation of America, the Deputy Administrator of the Veterans Administration, the Deputy Director of the Peace Corps and program manager with the Naval Air Systems Command.

In 1995 his hometown of Salinas named a high school after him, and in 1996 President Clinton named him to the Board of Regents for the Uniformed Services University of the Health Services.

by Roberto Muñoz

George Takei

Going Boldly…..

Born in Los Angeles, California on April 20, 1940 George Takei (TA-KAY) was interned along with his Japanese-American family following the outbreak of World War II and spent most of his childhood in camps in Arkansas and California .

Returning to Los Angeles, Takei graduated from Los Angeles High School in 1956 and entered the University of Calfornia at Berkeley. Transferring to the University of California at Los Angeles, he received a BA and MA in theater. Attending the Shakespeare Institute in Stratford-upon-Avon in England, Sophia University in Tokyo, and the Desilu Workshop in Hollywood, Takei netted his first acting role as the voice of RODAN, dubbing the Japanese lines into English for eight characters.

His professional debut in front of the audience came on Playhouse 90, a live television drama. He went on to movies with a role in ICE PALACE, headlined by Richard Burton. Many guest appearances on television shows such as HAWAIIAN EYE and CHRYSLER THEATER followed, as well as feature films including THE GREEN BERETS and PT 109.

In 1966, Takei received the call for the role of his life, "Lt. Hikaru Sulu," for the second pilot of television's STAR TREK. Originally intended to be an astrophysicist, the character evolved into the ship's helmsman by the time the show went into production. Sulu was noted for being one of the first roles played by an Asian which was not in the typical Hollywood typecasting.

The show ran from 1966-1969, and a massive outpouring of support from the fan community kept the show in reruns and fueled the massive STAR TREK machine of today, including Takei's appearance in six STAR TREK movies. In the last original-cast STAR TREK movie, 1991's Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, Takei's character was promoted to captain captain of the U.S.S. Excelsior.

Takei stood as a a California representative in the Democratic National Convention in 1972, and ran for mayor of Los Angeles in 1973. The campaign caused local stations to blackout STAR TREK until after the election, with the assumption that Takei's weekly appearances would create an unfair advantage, although his name recognition wasn't enough to win him the election.

In the 1980's, Takei hosted a TV series called EXPRESSION EAST/WEST, dealing with human relationships. He co-wrote with science fiction author Robert Asprin the STAR TREK novel, "Mirror Friend, Mirror Foe," and released his autobiography TO THE STARS in 1994. He received a star on Hollywood Boulevard’s Walk of Fame in 1986, and was immortalized in concrete at Mann's Chinese Theater in Hollywood in 1991. He also received a Grammy nomination for spoken-word recording in 1988.

Takei continues to take an active role in STAR TREK products, appearing in Star Trek Starfleet Academy, a personal computer game, and in the Star Trek Captain’s Chair CD-ROM. He is currently involved in the campaign to convince Paramount to extend the STAR TREK franchise into a new series featuring Takei on the Excelsior.

A life-long runner, Takei has completed five marathons and carried the Olympic torch in the 1984 Los Angeles games. He continues to make television guest appearances and do voice-overs, most notably in Disney's MULAN and in THE SIMPSONS.

by Nancy McPoland

Gordon Parks

b. 1912
Pioneer Filmmaker and Photojournalist

" I chose my camera as a weapon against all the things I dislike about America"

Gordon Parks was born in Fort Scott, Kansas. His mother died while he was still a young boy. He went to live with an older sister, but his brother-in-law had strict rules. At 16 years old he found himself out of a home and alone in the snow of winter just before Christmas. This was just one of the few hardships he would encounter.

The racism he encountered he turned into art. He was an American renaissance man. Parks excelled in photography, painting, musical composition, film making, poetry and writing. He used his art to rise above hardship and express a message of hope.

Parks made a movie about his life some years ago, "The Learning Tree". The movie showed positive Black images on the sceen. In 1989, the picture was selected by the Library of Congress as one of the first 25 films to enter the National Film Registry.

Parks is still going strong and has lots of work to do. Parks has said,"Enthusiasm is the electricity of life. How do you get it? You act enthusiastic until you make it a habit".

Helen Adams Keller


Helen Adams Keller was born June 27, 1880. At birth she was a normal healthy baby. At nineteen months old she fell ill. As a result of the illness she became deaf and blind. A once healthy baby was left in a void. Helen remained undiciplined and uneducated until her parents found her a tutor, she was years old.

It had been very difficult for Helen's parents, they were not prepared to raise a child with special needs. Helen needed a constant companion. The first task was to teach her to communicate. Her parents had just let her go and mire in her dark existence.

The tutor they found was Annie Sullivan. Annie had been partially blind as a child and underdstood the world of blindness. Sullivan was twenty years old looking for a position. Not wanting to become a seamstress nor sell books from door to door, she pondered her future. It was through a mutual friend that she received a letter asking her if she would be interested in being a ''governess' for a deaf and blind child.

This would be the start of a lifelong profession and friendship for both Helen and Annie, the teacher and pupil. Helen's coming out of the darkness would be a up hill battle, but this young teacher would succeed where it was thought that no one could.

The achievements of Helen and Annie made them both very famous. Helen set an example of what handicapped people could do given the chance. She fought for the rights of the handicapped. Together they traveled the world. Helen gave lectures and met with heads of state all over the world. Some of Annie's teaching methods are still used today.

There were others who helped and encouraged Helen during her early years. Alexander Bell was one of her foremost sponsors. Bell had been very active in helping the deaf and blind. Helen and Bell became good friends. Afterall Helen was a remarkable child.

Helen Keller became world famous, she was a symbol of hope for people the world over. Keller inspired people where ever she went. Keller raised money and people's awareness about the deaf and blind. There are many books about her life and there may still be a few documentaries around abour her life.

Jimi Hendrix

Are you Experienced?

James Marshall Hendrix was born in Seattle, Washington on November 27, 1942. Jimi Hendrix was a self taught musician. He started to play guitar when he was a young boy in school. He paid $5 for his first guitar, which he played upside down because he was left-handed. Listening to his father's blues records and the radio, he started to create the music that will forever be remembered.

In 1961 he joined the army, 101st Airborne Division. His stint in the army was cut short after an injury. Out of the army Hendrix found himself playing for Little Richard, The Isley Brothers, Sam Cooke and various other artists. In 1966 Hendrix met Chas Chandler and went to London. There Hendrix formed a band and his road to rock was paved.

Hendrix was only on the scene for about five years and during that time his guitar playing revolutionized rock music and made him a legend.

John F. Kennedy

The New Frontier

John F. Kennedy was the 35th president. He was young, tall and handsome. His campaign was the "New Frontier." The civil rights movement was at its height and the US was involved in the Cold War. The Communists were only 90 miles off our shores. Kennedy told us that we could reach the moon and America shot for it.

He became president at the start of a new age. American attitudes were starting to change. Technology was advancing daily and he understood. Kennedy knew the power of the television medium and he used it to his full advantage.

Americans rallied together to maintain our strength and postion in the world. He encouraged the nation to "Ask not what your country can do for you, Ask what you can do for your country?" He renewed American's pride in their country. He was young and his youth touched a large majority.

Assassinated before his term was finished, the nation mourned and the world shared in our sorrow. The drums and cadence were of despair. The riderless horse was haunting and the bugler playing final taps, was filled with emotion. The nation mourned the lost of it's young president, he had brought us into a new era. The times were a changing.

Lee Iacocca

Lido Anthony Iacocca was born October 15, 1924 in Allentown, Pennsylvania, son of Nicola Iacocca, a cobbler and businessman, and Antoinette Ferrotto. His parents had immigrated from San Marco, Italy, and passed on to their son valuable lessons about responsibility and running a business. Nicola Iacocca ran a car rental agency, one of the first in the country, and instilled in his son a love for automobiles.

Lee Iacocca had already decided to become an automobile company executive by the time he was a teenager, boasting that he would become a Ford vice-president by the age of 35. Attending Lehigh University, he switched majors from mechanical engineering to industrial engineering due to poor performance in Physics. He received the opportunity to work as an engineering trainee at Ford, but put it off by a year to take a Princeton University fellowship, graduating with a Master's Degree in 1946.

Starting as an engineer at Ford, Iacocca, who changed his first name to Lee when he discovered that customers had trouble spelling both his first and last name, moved to Sales and was quickly promoted up through the ranks of the Ford Sales Division.

In 1956 he devised a marketing plan for his Philadelphia division that took advantage of the then-new idea of car financing. "56 for 56" was the slogan for the campaign, in which a customer could by a new 1956 Ford for 20% down and $56 a month for three years. The campaign caught the attention of Robert S. McNamera, future US Secretary of Defense, who implemented it nation-wide, selling 75,000 more cars than normally.

Iacocca was then brought to Dearborn, Michigan Ford headquarters to head up the 1956 Ford truck marketing strategy. By 1960 Iacocca had been promoted first to car marketing manager, then vehicle marketing manager, and at age 35, succeeded in his boyhood dream, and became vice-president and general manager of the Ford Division, replacing his mentor McNamera. The campaign for the 1954 Mustang was the one that put him in the record books, though, selling 419,000 cars n the year with a advertising blitz aimed at the youth market, previously untapped.

Serving as Ford president from 1970 to 1978, Iacocca served during a time of rising gasoline prices, and became known as a manager who appreciated talent and creativity. Iacocca came into conflict with chairman Henry Ford II, grandson of the company founder, who feared Iacocca's growing power would push his son Edsel out of the company chairmanship. In 1978 Ford, after a campaign to drive Iacocca away, fired him.

Offered jobs throughout the industry as well as academia, Iacocca accepted the presidency and chairmanship of Chrysler Corporation, which had fallen on hard times. Turning to government friends for help, Iacocca influenced President Jimmy Carter into signing the Loan Guarantee Act of 1979, which critics called "The Chrysler bailout," insuring company loans up to $1.5 billion. Under Iacocca's leadership, Chrysler used the loans to boost market share and gained enough increase in sales to repay the loans in full by 1983, seven years early.

Iacocca's turn-around for Chrysler had speculation going that he would be a good candidate for President, although Iacocca had no interest in the job. President Ronald Reagan appointed him head of the committee to restore the Statue of Liberty, and Iacocca published his autobiography IACOCCA: AN AUTOBIOGRAPHY in 1984


Chrysler's expansion into other markets with the purchase of American Motors and Gulfstream Aerospace in the late 80's caused the company to lose ground. Also, the American recession gave the public little liking for Iacocca's 1987 $18 million paycheck, and little sympathy for Iacocca's blaming of Japanese tariffs for Chrysler woes.

Retiring in 1992, Lee Iacocca formed a partnership with Las Vegas financier Kirk Kerkorian in an attempt to take over Chrysler, a move that ended in a plethora of lawsuits and accusations of greed and betrayal by his former colleagues.

Iacocca founded in 1997 and is the Chief Executive Officer of EV Global Motors, producers of the electric bike. Iacocca aims to make the electric bike the transportation of the future. In February, 2000, Iacocca accepted a position on the Board of Directors of the Online Asset Exchange, an Internet company for buying and selling secondary and used industrial corporate assets. The response to the announcement was so great that it caused the Exchange website to have to be temporarily shut down.

by Nancy McPoland

Lorraine Hansberry

Writer and Activist

Lorraine was born into a successful family in Chicago. Both her parents were activists challenging Jim Crow laws. Lorraine moved to New York after finishing college, and there married Robert Nemiroff, a White Jewish intellectual whom she met on a protest picket line.

She worked as editor for Paul Robeson's radical Black newspaper "Freedom" until her husband's songwriting career success allowed her to devote herself to her playwriting.

Her most successful work was "A Raisin In the Sun." The play was based on her childhood experience of desegregating a White neighborhood. The play won her the New York Drama Critic's Circle Award as Best Play of the Year. She was the youngest American, the fifth woman and the first Black to win the award. Unfortunately, she lived only six years after her initial success.

Louis Armstrong


Louis "Satchmo" Armstrong was born in the slums of New Orleans, August 4, 1901. Armstrong's mother, Mary was very young and his father William abandoned he and his mother soon after his birth. His first five years of life was spent with his grandmother. When he was twelve, he got into some trouble and was sent to the Colored Waif's home. He received his first horn while he was in the home.

When he left the Waif's home, he would play in 'honky tonks' and jook joints. While playing these small venues he was noticed by Joe "King" Oliver. Oliver helped him with his career. He traveled up and down the Mississippi on playing on river- boats.

Armstrong became known as "The Jazz Ambassador". He played the stages of Broadway and the sets of Hollywood. He appeared in the courts of kings and queens. Louis Armstrong will always be remembered in the world of jazz. From very humble beginnings Armstrong never forgot about where he had come up from.

Madalyn Murray O'Hair

No School Prayer….Anymore

Born in Pittsburgh, PA in 1919, O'Hair was called by Life Magazine in 1964 "the most hated woman in America." Forced by lack of new reading material to read the Bible cover-to-cover at age 13, she was overwhelmed by the violence and cruelty she found in the Bible stories. She gradually became an atheist in thinking, and when her son Bill objected to school prayers in the Baltimore, Maryland school system, she took the case to the Supreme Court. In a landmark decision (Murray v Curlett, 374 US. 203), she won, in her words, the "unalienable right to freedom from religion as well as freedom of religion. "

Coming to nationwide attention due to the publicity surrounding the court case, O'Hair founded "Other Americans," an organization which would later be re-named "Society of Separationists" and still later "American Atheists, Inc."

Suffering years of social harrassment and physical persecution, the O'Hair family slowly built the American Atheist organization against enormous pressure. Son William O'Hair, inspiration for the Supreme Court case, became a Christian in 1980 and later an evangelist, receiving a great deal of media attention speaking out against his mother and her organization and beliefs.

O'Hair, her son Jon Garth Murray, granddaughter Robin Murray-O'Hair, and a large sum of money belonging to American Atheists, Inc. disappeared and haven't been seen since August or September of 1995. After three years of rumor and speculation that the American Atheists were hiding the fact of O'Hair's illness or demise because she didn't want to be prayed over by Christians, or that the three family members had taken the money and absconded to New Zealand, former American Atheists member and Austin, Texas office manager David Waters and his former prisonmate Gary Karr were arrested March 24, 1999 and were ultimately charged in December, 1999 with conspiracy to kidnap and with extortion. No murder charges have been filed as of yet, and no bodies have been recovered.

Malcolm X

Our Shining Black Prince

He was born Malcolm Little on May 19, 1925 in Omaha, Nebraska. Malcolm’s father was a preacher and a follower of the Marcus Garvey Movement. One of Malcolm’s earliest memories is of a fire burning them out of their home. His father was killed in a so-called accident.

Malcolm’s mother withdrew and was placed in an institution. Before his mother was hospitalized, Malcolm had already started to get into trouble.

A petty thief and small-time criminal, Malcolm ended up in the penal system. It was there he became a member of the Nation of Islam. He became one of the foremost speakers of our time, speaking aganist racism, injustice and the White man. While the media interpreted his message as one of violence, many in the Black community saw it as righteous self-defense. After his assasination, it was said of him, "Malcolm was our manhood, our living, Black manhood!"

Medger Evers

NAACP Field Secretary

Medger Evers was born in Decatur, Mississippi. In his youth he joined the army, then attended Alcorn University. After college his first job was as an insurance salesman. He traveled all over Mississippi and saw the horrible condition of Negros in his state. This prompted him to join the NAACP where he was eventually appointed Mississippi's first field secretary. Evers used this position to fight discrimination wherever he found it.

Evers was very outspoken. In 1963 he gave his life for his beliefs. His killer Byron de la Beckwith walked free twice when all-White juries found him innocent. Twenty years later it was found that both juries had been tampered with. Evers wife, along with the assistant district attorney began, putting a new case together.

In 1990 Beckwith was arrested once again and this time he ended up in prison after 31 years of freedom.

Muhammad Ali

b. 1942
Float Like A Butterfly, Sting Like A Bee

Born Cassisus Marcellus Clay, Jr., in Louisville, Kentucky. Clay started to box when he was 12 years old. He won the Golden Gloves championship six times, and brought home the gold in the 1960 Olympics. When he turned pro, he quickly became the heavyweight champion of the world.

Clay's popularity rise started slowly. He was loud and used all sorts of antics. Ali was as fast as a butterfly and could sting like a bee.

Clay also became a follower of the Nation of Islam and changed his name to Muhammad Ali. In 1967, Ali refused to be drafted into the military and was found guilty of violating the Selective Service Act. Because of his religious beliefs he was unwilling to kill anyone.

He was stripped of his heavyweight title and spent his time lecturing on college campuses and at peace rallies. In 1970, the United States Supreme Court reversed his conviction.

Ali is now one of the most well known private citizens in the world. Ali is looked upon as a hero. He danced and pranced his way into the hearts of a generation. During the '96 Olympics in Atlanta, Ali surprised the world when he lit the torch that officially started the games.

Nichelle Nichols

Original Star Trek Cast Member

Nichelle Nichols was discovered by Duke Ellington at the age of 15. She created a ballet for one of Ellington's musical suites and was lead singer for his band.

As Lieutenant Uhura, on Star Trek, Nichols was one of the only Blacks to be regularly featured on a television program during the 60's. After her first season she wanted to quit, but she was advised by Martin Luther King to continue and be a role model for the many Black kids who watched the show, after all she was the only Black woman on TV in a postive role..

After six Star Trek motion pictures she is still in demand to appear all over the country at conventions and exhibits. A well-known and talented dancer and singer, she has a star on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame.

Richard Franklin Lenox Thomas Pryor

b. 1940
…Keep Some Sunshine On My Face

One of the funniest comedians to come along, Richard Pryor is a comedic genius. For about 30 years Richard held his audiences in stitches. He made people laugh about subjects that were once taboo and some still are. His humorous stories about life and people gave way to sold out venues every place he appeared. Richard also co-wrote and appeared in numerous movies. He also recorded a number of standup albums that people still sneak and listen to.

Richard Pryor was born December1, 1940, in Peoria, IL. Gertrude Thomas and Leroy Pryor were his parents. Marie Carter was his paternal grandmother. Marie raised him in the brothel she managed when he was still a young boy. Marie Carter loved her grandson and did the best she could, he loved and respected her. Richard was born during the war years and things were tough for everybody during this time, however, Richard's family wasn't as poor as some. They owned a pool hall, beauty and barber shop, trucking company and ran the brothel.

Richard's early life left many lasting impressions on him. Years later he would reveal that he had been molested at six years old, his early young life was very complexed. There were few positive role models in his life. As a child he saw a lot and heard a lot that most children would never experience.

He found humor early on, it probably started out as a defense mechanism that helped him cope as he was growing up. He left school at about 15. There was one teacher that Richard never forgot, Miss Whittaker, she helped him as much as she possible could. He never forgot her and years later he would pay tribute to her. She saw something in Richard few ever saw, his positive side, and that's what she nurtured.

He spent two years in the Army. After training he found himself stationed in Idar-Oberstein, Germany. A beautiful little town with a rich history. At that time there were only a few clubs in town opened to Black GIs. The racism he thought he had left behind was evident in Germany too. This was 1958. Life in the Army was not for him.

Richard never had a problem standing up in front of an audience, he had more nerve than talent starting out. In the late 60's Pryor found his niche in comedy. He was raw and people loved him. He was determined and used his real life to create some of his 'cutting edge' comedy. He no longer copied other comedians, he'd found Richard and broke new ground.

Richard Wright

Native Son

In 1908, Wright was born on Rucker's Plantation in rural southern Mississippi. The climate of hate aganist Negroes was blatantly cruel. The ugliness and pain would come out in the works of Wright.

Wright's father failed as a farmer, moved the family to Memphis, and then disappeared. Left to support the family, Wright's mother struggled and finally suffered a stroke that left her paralyzed. Richard ended up in Chicago, where he got a job at the Post Office. He was so undernourished that he failed the physical exam, but he regained his health was able to go to work. Still poor, he had already started to write.

In 1940, he completed "Native Son" and began to get national attention. Wright found racism in America to be so oppressive that he became an expatriate in France. He wanted to be a man without labels, and racism was something that tore at his very being.

Richie Havens

b. 1941
Woodstock Icon

Richard Pierce Havens was born in Bedford-Stuyvesant area of Brooklyn in New York. He was the oldest of nine children. Havens inherited his love of music from his father, who was also a musician.

At an early age, Havens became a part of the Greenwich Village folk music scene, where he developed both his style and his following. He always lent his voice to songs of brotherhood and freedom.

Havens is also a talented painter and for a few years he made money as a street artist. He is an icon of the Woodstock generatio, he opened the festival with songs of freedom. He has appeared in many feature films, and shared his gift of song with the children of Sesame Street. You may even hear his voice on television commercials.

Robert F. Kennedy

1925 - 1968

"Some men see things as they are and say 'Why'; I dream of things that have never been and say 'Why not."

The seventh child of Joseph and Rose Kennedy, Robert was trapped beneath the shadows of his charismatic older brothers Joe Jr. and John. Nevertheless when he put his mind to something, there was no stopping him. In 1952 he managed John's campaign for Massachusetts' U.S. Senate seat, which resulted in victory.

Putting his law degree to use, Robert became chief counsel to the Senate committee investigating criminal elements within labor unions in 1956. It was during this that Robert made a name for himself by grilling Teamsters Union President Jimmy Hoffa during the televised hearings. To Robert, there was no middle ground in anything; there was either right or wrong, light or dark, good or evil. In his pursuit of mafia connections to labor unions, Robert demonstrated this belief again and again.

In 1959 Robert left the Senate committee to run John's Presidential campaign. In 1960, John F. Kennedy was elected President and Robert was appointed Attorney General. Using the powers of Attorney General Robert enforced civil rights laws like no other Attorney General before him. Moreover, Robert's cool demeanor proved an asset to John during the Cuban Missile Crisis of October 1962. While most military advisors along with Vice President Johnson were calling for an airstrike against Russian sites in Cuba, Robert cautioned against it and endorsed the idea of a naval blockade instead. John heeded his brother's words and sent Robert to negotiate an agreement with the Russians during the naval blockade of Cuba.

John also followed his brother's advice on escalating U.S. involvement in Vietnam, which both brothers believed was vital to U.S. interests. Before a final decision on this and many other issues facing the nation could be made, John was assassinated on Nov. 22, 1963 in Dallas, Texas. Robert was devastated and feel into a deep depression. The situation was compounded by the fact that one of Robert's worst enemies, Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson, assumed the presidency.

The bitterness felt between these two men can be traced to the 1960 Presidential campaign when Robert urged his brother not to award Johnson with the vice presidency. To Robert, LBJ was "an animal", "a crazy man", "stupid" and "brutal." Needless to say, LBJ had much more colorful expressions about Robert, whom he considered "a grandstanding little runt." Nevertheless, LBJ asked Robert to stay on as Attorney General, which Robert did hoping to influence LBJ. In the end, they parted bitterly as Robert's efforts to run in 1964 as Johnson's Vice President failed.

That year Robert left the Attorney General post and won the U.S. Senate seat in New York (even though he had only lived in NY for a few months and wasn't even eligible to vote for himself). His popularity was especially evident among young whites, blacks and latinos. As Senator Robert championed the cause of the poor and disadvantaged and sought ways to ameliorate their suffering. Breaking from John's cautious approach to Civil Rights and Vietnam, Robert wholeheartedly supported the efforts of Martin Luther King, Jr. and César Chávez, while reversing his stance and opposing the war.

In 1968, with the war in Vietnam escalating and his popularity plummeting, President Johnson withdrew his candidacy for a second term in office. Robert had previously contemplated running against Johnson for the Democratic nomination, but turned it down. Now that the race was open, he jumped at the chance declaring his candidacy on March 16, 1968. Hastily organizing a campaign Robert won primaries in Indiana and Nebraska.

After losing Oregon Robert won a dramatic victory in the California primary on June 6, 1968. His campaign in California spurred the largest registration drive in history by Latinos. Efforts by César Chávez and Dolores Huerta turned out a record number of Latino voters for Robert.

After praising the efforts of his campaign workers in California and seemingly on his way to the Presidential nomination, Robert Francis Kennedy was assassinated as he attempted to leave his campaign headquarters in Los Angeles, California.

To many blacks, Latinos, Native Americans, doves, liberals, and poor whites it was Robert F. Kennedy to whom they placed all their hopes and dreams upon. More so than John, Robert had the courage to say "Why not", and follow through on it.

by Roberto Muñoz

Sidney Poitier

b. 1927
Award Winning Actor

Sidney Poitier was born in Miami, Florida and raised in the Caribbean until he was 15. He was the last of seven children born to poor tomato farmers. By age 13 he was working full time to help support his family.

At 16 he arrived in New York with $3.00 in his pocket. He served in the army for a little over a year, then worked as a dishwasher. He was looking for a second job when he stumbled into an open audition. Without any training he was humiliated off the stage, but he returned six months later and auditioned for the American Negro Theater.

No Way Out was his first film and he went on to star in over 40 more films. He was the third Negro Academy Award Winner, and in 1963 he won the Oscar for Best Actor in the movie Lilies in the Field.

Dr. Martin Luther King paid tribute to Sidney by saying, "He is a man of great depth, a man of great social concern, a man who is dedicated to human rights and freedom. Here is a man who, in the words we so often hear now, is a soul brother."

The Supremes

Girl Groups

The Supremes was ' the' girl group of the '60's. They were apart of the Motown sound that had teenagers around the world dancing in the street. The original group consisted of Mary Wilson, Florence Ballard and Diane Ross.(Diane would later change her name to Diana.) They all grew up in the Brewster housing projects in Detroit, MI. Before they were the Supremes they were the Primettes and later the name of the group was changed to the Supremes. They signed with Motown, January 15, 1961.

During the time of the Bristish invasion, the Supremes reigned 'supreme'. Probably the most popular girl group to date. In 1988 they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The Supremes rose from one nighters to headlining upscale venues around the world. They crossed over into a world that adored them. The well groomed girls from the projects went stright to the top and never looked back.

There were many curves in the road, but for the most part they stayed true to their unique sound and were America's sweethearts. They group lost one of its original members in 1976. Florence Ballard died of a broken heart after leaving the group. Ballard is still remembered fondly by many fans.

The group would go through many changes, but the music was still there as new members came and went. The Supremes were just one of the many groups that Motown celebrated in the sixties, however with their cross-over appeal the girls from the Brewster projects made it.

Thurgood Marshall

Supreme Court Justice

Thurgood Marshall was born in Baltimore, Maryland into a well respected family. His mother was a school teacher and his father was a writer who worked as a dining car waiter and later as a steward at a private club for men.

From his father he learned his love of facts. They would sit for hours and argue over different topics. Marshall’s father taught his son to argue, and though he never told him to be a lawyer, he helped Thurgood become a great one.

In 1931 Marshall entered Howard University Law School and from there he began speaking against injustices for those who could not speak for themselves. He was a civil rights attorney, and one of his most famous cases was Brown vs. The Board of Education. In 1963 he was appointed to the Supreme Court.

William Shockley


Born Feb. 13, 1910, William Bradford Shockley was the son of a mining engineer and his mother a federal deputy surveyor of mineral lands. The couple was living in England on business at the time of Shockley's birth, and returned to California when the child was a toddler. Encouraged to study science both by his parents' professions and a neighbor who taught physics at Stanford, Shockley earned an undergraduate degree from CalTech in 1932, and a Ph.D. four years later at MIT. Leaving MIT, he went to work for Bell Labs, where he worked on quantum theory as it applied to the development of semiconductors. During WWII he worked on military projects, refining radar systems, returning to the study of semiconductors after the war's end.

In 1947 he and two colleagues invented the transistor. It was a piece of gold foil wrapped around a plastic knife, pressed against a block of germanium that had an electrical connection at its base. The transistor made vacuum tubes obsolete and the computer age possible. Before the development of the transistor, computers had been room-sized monstrous machines requiring huge refrigerators and containing hundreds or thousands of vacuum tubes, all of which were prone to breakdown and required constant checking.

Shockley and his colleagueswon the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1956 for their discovery, sharing the $38,633 prize money. Shockley set up a semi-conductor lab at Beckman Instruments, and, then, his own Shockley Transistor Co. and went on to do a great deal of original research in electronics and allied fields. He still holds some 90 patents.

Shockley was appointed professor of engineering at Stanford University in 1963 where he taught until 1975. Teaching led him to an interest in eugenics, the study of heredity and breeding, and developed a theory which he called "dysgenics." Shockley was concerned about the future of the human race because, he said, people with low IQs had more children than those with higher IQs. His views became increasing based more on political issues than scientific data. Blacks, he pointed out, consistently score 10 to 20 points lower on their IQ tests than whites do. Shockley's theories were widely criticized in the public and the media, and his attempts to speak on college campuses were regularly disrupted with boos and catcalls.

After a 1980 ATLANTA CONSTITUTION article comparing his controversial proposal for sterilization of the "genetically disadvantaged" with World War II Nazi genetic experiments, Shockley sued the paper for libel and $1.25 million in damages. The jury found for Shockley, but awarded him only $1 in damages, and an appeal to the US Supreme Court was turned down in 1986.

Shockley publically linked his name with the Repository for Germinal Choice, which billed itself as a sperm bank for Nobel Prize winners and other high-IQ donors. This venture, along with his eugenic views, was not supported by his peers in the scientific community, most of whom felt that Shockley should be respected for his contributions to physics but that he should be viewed as a dangerous crank for his political stance.

Shockley died August 12, 1989 of prostate cancer at the age of 79.

by Nancy McPoland

Wilma Rudolph

From Polio To Olympian

Wilma was born in Clarksville, Tennessee. The 20th of 22 children, she was born with polio, and suffered pneumonia and scarlet fever. There was doubt that she would ever walk without her leg brace. But one Sunday in church, when Wilma was 13, she removed her leg brace and walked down the aisle. It seemed that by some divine intervention she could walk without it.

She became involved in track and in 1956, when she was only a sophomore in high school, she went to the Melbourne Olympic Games. She lost the 200 meter race but her relay team brought home the bronze. In the 1960 Olympics she set the world record in the 200 meter dash and the 400 meter relay. Wilma was the fastest woman in the world.

Returning home, she received the first racially integrated parade ever in Clarksville, Tennessee. She became an inspiration for a generation of girls. She received numerous sports awards and later became a coach and a teacher. In 1993 she was awarded President Clinton’s National Sports Award. Rudolph was an inspiration for all young women.

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