Reflections in Black

Courtesy / Underwater Adventure Seekers

Dr. Albert Jones is a native of Washington, D.C.. Although he was an orphan, he graduated from Georgetown University with a Ph.D. in marine biology and was also a Fulbright scholar. While serving in the military, Jones learned to scuba dive and created the Underwater Adventure Seekers Club in 1959, an organization that sought to teach minority communities how to swim, as well as proper scuba practices. Jones took the organization a step further with the creation of the National Association of Black Scuba Divers.

Courtesy / Black Past

Scipio Africanus Jones was born enslaved in Tulip, Ark. in 1863. He eventually moved to Little Rock and attended what would become Philander Smith College. He received his Bachelor's degree from Bethel Institute in 1885. In 1889, Jones passed the bar exam and had his law credentials accepted by both the state and U.S. Supreme Court the following year. In 1919, Jones began work on the most important case of his life defending the Elaine 12. The men were tried, convicted and sentenced to death after being falsely accused of planning a Black uprising.

Courtesy / Library of Congress

John Oliver Killens was born in Macon, Ga. in 1916, and lived in a time of segregation. He served in the military during World War II, and although he experienced overt racism in the service, he wrote about his experiences in And Then We Heard the Thunder, a novel that would be nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. He wrote other acclaimed works, and during the 1960s, worked with Martin Luther King, Jr. and was influenced by Malcolm X. He later became a writer-in-residence at Fisk University, wrote historical works, and became a teacher and mentor to future Black literary legends.

Courtesy / Van Vechten Trust

Arna Bontemps was born in 1902 in Alexandria, La., but his family relocated to Watts, Ca. as part of the Great Migration. In 1924, he got a teaching job at the Harlem Academy in New York. He arrived during the Harlem Renaissance and went on to write award-winning poetry and fiction. He later wrote children's books, attained his Master's degree in Library Science, and served as the head librarian at Fisk University for 21 years. This is his story.

Courtesy / University of Missouri Archives

Lloyd Lionel Gaines was born in Mississippi in 1911, but his family later moved to St. Louis, Mo.. He graduated with a degree in history from Lincoln University in 1935 and considered law school, but school segregation limited his options. He sought legal counsel from the NAACP to apply to the University of Missouri Law School. The resulting Supreme Court case, Gaines v. Canada, found that the school denied Gaines' 14th Amendment Rights when they refused him admittance to the school. This is his story.