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The Honorable Jeh C. Johnson

Cabinet officer and lawyer Jeh C. Johnson was born on September 11, 1957 in New York City to Norma Edelin and Jeh Vincent Johnson. He graduated from Roy C. Ketcham High School in Wappingers Falls, New York in 1975. He then received his B.A. degree from Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia in 1979, and his J.D. degree from Columbia Law School in New York City in 1982.

In 1982, Johnson was hired at the law firm of Sullivan & Cromwell, and later joined the law firm of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP in 1984 as an associate. From 1989 to 1991, Johnson served as an Assistant U.S. Attorney in the Southern District of New York. He subsequently became the first African American partner at Paul Weiss. In 1998, Johnson was appointed by President Bill Clinton to serve as general counsel of the U.S. Department of the Air Force until 2001, when he returned to Paul, Weiss. Johnson was later appointed by President Barack Obama to serve as general counsel for the U.S. Department of Defense in 2009. In 2012, Johnson returned to private law practice. The following year, Johnson was nominated by President Obama as Secretary of Homeland Security and served until 2017. He then rejoined the law firm of Paul Weiss as partner.

Johnson has served as chairman of the New York City Bar’s Judiciary Committee and was elected as a fellow by the American College of Trial Lawyers in 2004. He has also served as special counsel to John Kerry’s 2004 presidential campaign, on the board of directors for Lockheed Martin, the Council on Foreign Relations, and the Center for a New American Security. In 2008, Johnson was a delegate for the Democratic National Convention. He has also served as a non-resident senior fellow for the Harvard Kennedy School of Business and as a trustee for Adelphi University.

In 2017, Johnson was named Cyber Security and Data Privacy Trailblazer by the National Law Journal and was honored with the Anti-Defamation League’s Gorowitz Institute Service Award. He also received the Theodore Roosevelt Leadership Award, the NYSBA Pioneer Award, John J. McCloy Award, and the Ronald Reagan Peace Through Strength Award. In 2018, Johnson was listed among Savoy magazine’s Most Influential Black Lawyers; and, in 2019, he received Columbia’s University’s Annual Black Alumni Council Heritage Award. He also has ten honorary degrees.

Jeh C. Johnson was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on April 9, 2019.

Accession Number

A2019.027

Sex

Male

Interview Date

4/8/2019

4/8/2019 |and| 9/18/2019

Last Name

Johnson

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Middle Name

C

Schools

Columbia Law School

Morehouse College

P.S. 143 Louis Armstrong School

Poughkeepsie Day School

Sheafe Road Elementary School

Oak Grove Elementary School

Wappinger Falls Junior High School

Roy C. Ketcham High School

First Name

Jeh

Birth City, State, Country

New York

HM ID

JOH55

Favorite Season

Late October

State

New York

Favorite Vacation Destination

Tuscany

Favorite Quote

No Man Can Be Justly Judged Unless You Have Seen The World Through His Eyes

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New York

Birth Date

9/11/1957

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

New York

Favorite Food

Veal Saltimbocca

Short Description

Cabinet officer and lawyer Jeh C. Johnson (1957 - ) was the first African American partner at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP before serving as general counsel of the Department of the Air Force, general counsel for the Department of Defense, and U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security.

Employment

Department of Homeland Security

Department of Defense

Department of the Air Force

Southern District of New York

Sullivan & Cromwell

Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP

Favorite Color

Orange

Robert Freeman

Visual artist Robert Freeman was born on May 8, 1946 in New York City to Mary and Robert Freeman, Jr. He graduated from Calvin Coolidge High School in 1965 and enrolled at Howard University, where he studied art with Lois Mailou Jones. Freeman transferred to Boston University in 1967 where he earned his B.F.A. degree in 1971 and his M.F.A. degree in 1981.

Freeman began his career in 1971 as an art teacher at Brook School in Weston, Massachusetts. From 1973 to 1981, Freeman worked as the art director of Weston Public Schools. In 1981, he became the artist-in-residence and painting instructor at Noble and Greenough School in Dedham, Massachusetts. Freeman subsequently worked as a painting and drawing lecturer at Harvard University from 1986 to 1992. In 2007, he retired from Noble and Greenough School. Known for his trademarks, the use of color, gesture and nearly abstract figures, Freeman’s paintings depicted African American figures, and was heavily inspired by his childhood experiences in Ghana and Washington, D.C. In 2008, Freeman exhibited his Golden Light Paintings series at the Zenith Gallery in Washington, D.C. That same year, Freeman’s paintings were included in the Five American Voices exhibit among the works of Romare Bearden, Benny Andrews, Alma Woodsey Thomas, and Richard Yarde at the Meridian International Center in Washington, D.C. His series New Works, was showcased at Adelson Galleries in Boston, Massachusetts in 2016. In 2018, Freeman collaborated with photographer Max Stern to paint the Mardi Gras Indians series, which celebrated the 300th anniversary of the New Orleans Mardi Gras parades.

His artwork has been exhibited at Clark Gallery in Lincoln, Massachusetts, June Kelly Gallery in New York City, Lowe Art Museum at the University of Miami, and the Norman Parish Gallery in Washington, D.C. Freeman's paintings are also included in the public collections of Brown University, Boston College, Boston Public Library, the National Center of African American Artists, DeCordova Museum, and the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, and are in the permanent collection of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, Massachusetts.

Freeman and his wife, Bettye, have three children.

Robert Freeman was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on November 13, 2018.

Accession Number

A2018.220

Sex

Male

Interview Date

11/13/2018

Last Name

Freeman

Maker Category
Occupation
Organizations
First Name

Robert

Birth City, State, Country

New York

HM ID

FRE10

Favorite Season

Fall

State

New York

Favorite Vacation Destination

Someplace New

Favorite Quote

N/A

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Massachusetts

Birth Date

5/8/1946

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Boston

Favorite Food

Shrimp

Short Description

Visual artist Robert Freeman (1946- ) was a painting and drawing lecturer at Harvard University from 1986 to 1992, and his works are included in the collections of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, the National Center for African American Artists, Boston Public Library, Brown University, and DeCordova Museum.

Favorite Color

Sienna

The Honorable Edward R. Redd

Judge The Honorable Edward R. Redd was born on August 11, 1948, in New York City, to Frances and Everett Redd. He attended the William Lloyd Garrison School and graduated from Boston Technical High school in Boston, Massachusetts. Redd went on to receive his B.A. degree in psychology and sociology in 1971, from Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts, and his J.D. degree from the Boston College Law School in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts in 1974.

In 1971, while attending law school, Redd worked as the assistant director of the Harvard Upward Bound Program in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The next year, he served as a legal intern at the Boston College Legal Assistant Program, and as a research aide to the Massachusetts Black Legislative Caucus. In 1974, Redd became the executive secretary of the Boston NAACP, where he was involved with the desegregation of Boston Public Schools. He then went on to become a consultant at the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare under two presidents – President Gerald Ford and President Jimmy Carter. In 1977, Redd opened his own private law firm and real estate development company. Then, in 1979, he became the assistant general counsel for the Massachusetts Port Authority. During the administration of President Ronald Reagan, Redd served as a presidential appointee to the Commission on Presidential Scholars. In 1984, Redd left his private practice and joined the law firm of Brown and Prince in Boston. He then went on to become the chairman of the Massachusetts Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission in 1991. Two years later, Redd was nominated by Governor William Weld to serve on the Trial Court of the Commonwealth as an associate justice. Within the court’s Roxbury Division, Redd was promoted to acting presiding justice, associate justice and finally presiding justice in 2005. In 2010, he moved to the Central Division of the court as the associate justice where he presided until his retirement in 2012.

Redd served on the advisory task force of the Dudley Square Vision Project; as a committee member on the search committee for a new Commissioner of Probation for Massachusetts; and as the ambassador of the Polar Bears on Martha’s Vineyard. He was also a member of the United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley.

Redd and his wife, Shirley Johnson Redd, lived in Boston, Massachusetts. They have three children, Ivy Redd Couch, Sara Redd and Rachel Redd.

Redd was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on August 16, 2018.

Accession Number

A2018.156

Sex

Male

Interview Date

8/16/2018

Last Name

Redd

Maker Category
Middle Name

R.

Occupation
Organizations
First Name

Edward

Birth City, State, Country

New York

HM ID

RED01

Favorite Season

Summer

State

New York

Favorite Vacation Destination

Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts

Favorite Quote

It's A Vineyard Thing.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Massachusetts

Birth Date

8/11/1948

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Vineyard Haven

Country

United States of America

Favorite Food

Chinese

Short Description

Judge The Honorable Edward R. Redd (1948- ) was the executive secretary of the Boston NAACP and served on the bench of the Trial Court of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

Favorite Color

Yellow, Blue

Sugar Blue

Blues musician Sugar Blue was born on December 16, 1949 in New York City to Maisey Savage and Jimmy Jones. Blue was given his first harmonica as a child and taught himself to play by listening to the music of Stevie Wonder and Bob Dylan. He attended Herron High School, but left without receiving his diploma. By the age of eighteen, Blue was performing on the streets of New York and sitting in on sessions with blues and jazz legends like Muddy Waters, Sun Ra, Roosevelt Sykes and Brownie McGhee.

In 1977, Blue played on Johnny Shines’ album Too Wet to Plow before moving to Paris, France on the advice of blues pianist Memphis Slim, where he was discovered by The Rolling Stones’ lead singer, Mick Jagger, who asked him play with the band as a session player. Over the next few years, Blue recorded the harmonica parts for three The Rolling Stones’ albums: Some Girls in 1978; Emotional Rescue in 1980; and Tattoo You in 1981. His most notable work was for the hit single “Miss You.” In 1978, Blue toured the U.S. with both The Rolling Stones and Louisiana Red, with whom he had recorded two albums. Blue’s debut solo album, Crossroads, was released in 1980. After the release of his From Chicago to Paris album in 1982, Blue relocated to Chicago, Illinois, where he played with well-known blues artists like Big Walter Horton, James Cotton and Junior Wells.

He also signed with Alligator Records, and joined Willie Dixon’s Chicago Blues All Stars in 1982. Blue recorded several albums throughout the 1980s including Absolutely Blue and High Voltage Blues. In 1985, he received the Grammy Award for Best Traditional Blues Album for his contribution to the compilation album Blues Explosion. Blue made a small appearance in the 1987 film Angel Heart and had a harmonica solo for the movie Tapeheads in the following year. Blue continued to release new albums through Alligator Records including Paris Blues in 1993 and Blue Blazes in 1994. After a short hiatus, he released the album Code Blue in 2007, and appeared in the 2008 film The Perfect Age of Rock ‘n’ Roll. He recorded new music on the 2010 album Threshold and his live project Raw Sugar, released in 2012. Blue then released the album Voyage in 2016.

Blue and his wife, Ilaria Lantieri, have one son together, James, and Blue also has a daughter named Sarah.

Sugar Blue was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on June 10, 2018.

Accession Number

A2018.116

Sex

Male

Interview Date

6/10/2018

Last Name

Blue

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Occupation
Organizations
First Name

Sugar

Birth City, State, Country

New York

HM ID

BLU02

Favorite Season

Summer

State

New York

Favorite Vacation Destination

Hawaii

Favorite Quote

Blues...Black Lives Under Egregious Suppression

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Illinois

Birth Date

12/16/1949

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Chicago

Favorite Food

Pasta

Short Description

Blues musician Sugar Blue (? - )

Favorite Color

Black

Voza Rivers

Theatre director Voza Rivers was born on December 27, 1942 in Harlem, New York City. After graduating from George Washington High School in 1959, Rivers received his A.S. degree in police science from the College of Police Science at the City University of New York and worked as an undercover officer with the New York City Police Department. He later received his M.A. degree in communication arts from the New York Institute of Technology.

In 1964, Rivers joined Roger Furman’s New Heritage Theatre, and became New Heritage Theatre Group’s executive producer in 1983. Under his leadership, New Heritage Theatre Group produced a series of South African plays and collaborated with black South African playwright Mbongeni Ngema in the 1980s. Their first play, Woza Albert!, heralded for its satirical take on the South African Apartheid, won over twenty awards worldwide. The second collaboration, Asinamali!, went to Broadway and was nominated for a Tony Award. Rivers received acclaim for the introduction and presentation of the third collaboration with Lincoln Center Theatre, Sarafina!, the South African musical by Ngema, depicting students involved in the Soweto Riots in opposition to apartheid. The Tony and Grammy nominated Sarafina! premiered on Broadway in 1988 at the Cort Theatre, and following 597 performances and eleven previews, closed in 1989.

Rivers has produced award-winning works Off-Broadway as well as productions at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Jazz at Lincoln Center, Manhattan School of Music, Carnegie Hall and the world famous Apollo Theater. He has worked with artists including Nina Simone, James Brown, Ray Charles, the Count Basie Orchestra, Tony Bennett, Max Roach, and Celia Cruz. Rivers has also produced more than 1500 events featuring world-renowned artists in the United States, South Africa and Japan, and has produced for artists such as: Ruby Dee, Luther Vandross, Ashford and Simpson, George Benson, Tito Puente, Lionel Hampton, Isaac Hayes, Little Jimmy Scott, Miriam Makeba, and Chaka Khan. Films executive produced by Rivers include: Hughes Dream Harlem (Langston Hughes), Sutton: A Man for All Seasons (Percy Sutton), A-Alike (2003 Oscar nominated student film), Lifted (2007) and The Savoy King: Chick Webb & the Music That Changed America (2012).

In 1997, together with playwright, author, director and educator Jamal Joseph, Rivers co-founded the youth group IMPACT Repertory Theatre, which was later nominated for an Oscar and Grammy for Best Song for the film August Rush in 2008. Rivers has served as chairman of the Harlem Arts Alliance since 2001. From 2015, he has served also as the executive producer of Harlem’s Gertrude Jeannette's The H.A.D.L.E.Y. Players theatre. He was the first vice president of The Greater Harlem Chamber of Commerce and the executive producer and vice chairman of HARLEM WEEK.

Voza Rivers was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on April 29, 2018.

Accession Number

A2018.094

Sex

Female

Interview Date

4/29/2018 |and| 10/24/2018

Last Name

Rivers

Maker Category
Occupation
Schools

P.S. 68

George Washington High School

First Name

Voza

Birth City, State, Country

New York

HM ID

RIV03

Favorite Season

Spring

State

New York

Favorite Vacation Destination

Cuba

Favorite Quote

Let My Work Speak For Itself.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New York

Birth Date

12/27/1942

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

New York

Favorite Food

Broccoli

Short Description

Theatre director Voza Rivers (1942- ) produced the Broadway musical Sarafina! and served as president and executive director of the New Heritage Theatre Group.

Employment

New Heritage Theater

New York Police Department

Greenlight Films

New York Entertainment and Sports Advisors

Favorite Color

Gold

The Honorable Laura Taylor Swain

Judge Laura Taylor Swain was born in 1958 in Brooklyn, New York to Madeline and Justus Taylor. She graduated from Hunter College High School in New York City in 1975; and earned her B.A. degree in government from Harvard-Radcliffe College in 1979, and her J.D. degree from Harvard Law School in 1982.

Upon graduating from law school, Swain clerked for Chief Judge Constance Baker Motley on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York from 1982 to 1983. Swain then worked as an associate and, later, counsel with New York office of the international law firm Debevoise & Plimpton LLP, where she focused on ERISA, employee benefits, executive compensation and employment law. In 1996, Swain was appointed as a judge of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of New York. In 1998, she became a founding board member of the Coalition for Consumer Bankruptcy Debtor Education, a non-profit organization. Swain was appointed by President Bill Clinton to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York as a U.S. District Judge in 2000. In this role, Swain has presided over numerous high-profile matters, including authorship cases such as Hoover v. Boncompagni in 2008 and Lapine v. Seinfeld in 2011, and U.S. v. O’Hara, the criminal prosecution of several former employees of Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities. Swain became an adjunct professor at Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law in 2011. In 2017, Chief Justice John Roberts appointed Swain under the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management and Economic Stability Act (PROMESA) to oversee the debt restructuring cases in the Puerto Rican government-debt crisis.

Swain has received numerous awards throughout her legal career, including the Trailblazer Award from the Metropolitan Black Bar Association in 2000, the Servant of Justice Award from the Guild of St. Ives of the Episcopal Diocese of New York in 2008, and the Cecelia H. Goetz Award from the New York Institute of Credit in 2016. She also served as the Donahue Lecturer at Suffolk University Law School in 2003. Swain served on the New York State Board of Law Examiners from 1986 to 1996, making her the first woman, and the first person of color, to serve in that capacity. She chaired the Advisory Committee of the Judicial Conference of the United States on the Federal Rules of Bankruptcy Procedure between 2007 and 2010. She received an Honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Suffolk University in Boston, Massachusetts, in 2008. Her article, “Liberty in the Balance: The Role of the Third Branch in a Time of Insecurity” was published in the Suffolk University Law Review in 2004.

Judge Laura Taylor Swain was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on April 28, 2018.

Accession Number

A2018.085

Sex

Female

Interview Date

4/28/2018

4/28/2018 |and| 4/12/2019

Last Name

Swain

Maker Category
Middle Name

Taylor

Occupation
Schools

Hunter College High School

Radcliffe College

Harvard Law School

First Name

Laura

Birth City, State, Country

New York

HM ID

SWA03

Favorite Season

Spring and Fall

State

New York

Favorite Vacation Destination

Italy

Favorite Quote

None

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New York

Birth Date

11/21/1958

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

New York

Favorite Food

Savory Foods

Short Description

Judge Laura Taylor Swain (1958 - ) served as a U.S. District Court Judge for the Southern District of New York, beginning in 2000. She was also the first woman, and first person of color, to serve on the New York State Board of Law Examiners.

Employment

Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law

U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York

U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Eastern District of New York

New York State Board of Law Examiners

Debevoise & Plimpton

Favorite Color

Green

Alex Askew

Chef Alex Askew was born on August 16, 1967 in Brooklyn, New York to Caroline Butler Askew and Aulander Askew, Sr. At the age of fourteen, he received his first job offer as a personal chef through a high school vocational work program; and after six years of working in a variety of restaurants in and out of New York City, he decided to attend the Culinary Institute of America and graduated in 1989.

With a focus on eating lifestyles and trends in new menu alternatives, he began food research, development, and consulting for companies; General Mills, Hilton Hotels, Aramark Corporation, Specialty Restaurants and a host of private clients. Askew has also created one of the most unique consortiums of chefs under one group (ALS Culinary Concepts) for consulting in areas of menu development, R&D, start up operations, systems and controls, training, food manufacturing, business planning and concept development.
 
While working in restaurants that broadened his experience in different cooking styles as well as cuisines which included Cajun and Creole, Holistic, Latin and American fusion, Askew co-founded the BCAGlobal in 1993, which dedicates itself to Education, Awareness, and Exposure for young minority students seeking careers within the culinary and hospitality industry.
 
Askew has enjoyed guest appearances on Good Morning America, CBS Early Morning Show, and the Food Network. He was a 2001 Doctorate of Foodservice recipient from the North American Foodservice Equipment Manufacturers, a Distinguished Visited Chef (DVC) for Sullivan University, and 2011 Business Leader of Year from the Marcella Brown Foundation. In May 2012, he received the distinguished New York Institute of Technology Global Leadership Award and served on the American Culinary Federation as Board member Accreditation Commission. In 2014, Askew was selected as a 2014 National Kellogg Fellow in Leadership in the Racial, Equity and Healing (REH) cohort.
 
With over thirty-five years in the restaurant and hospitality field, Askew continues his use of knowledge and experience as a foundation for further growth and development in the best industry in the world and continues the important social change work for the advancement of people of color in the culinary arts.

Alex Askew was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on April 27, 2018.

Accession Number

A2018.083

Sex

Male

Interview Date

4/27/2018

Last Name

Askew

Maker Category
Occupation
Organizations
First Name

Alex

Birth City, State, Country

New York

HM ID

ASK01

Favorite Season

Summer

State

New York

Favorite Vacation Destination

Puerto Rico

Favorite Quote

You May Not Win, But You Can Still Fight.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New York

Birth Date

8/19/1967

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

New York

Favorite Food

Caviar, Foie Gras

Short Description

Chef Alex Askew (1967 - )

Favorite Color

Black

Patricia Banks Edmiston

Program manager and consultant Patricia Banks Edmiston was born on April 27, 1937 in New York City to Sadie Banks and Joseph Banks. After graduating from Aquinas Academy in 1955, Edmiston enrolled at Queens College, where she studied psychology. She then completed her flight attendant certification at the Grace Downs Air Career School in New York City in 1956. Edmiston went on to earn her B.A. degree in psychology from SUNY Empire State College in 1975.

After graduating from Grace Downs Air Career School with high marks, Edmiston applied for flight attendant positions at Trans World Airlines, Mohawk Airlines, and Capital Airlines. Edmiston was informed by a chief hostess at Capital Airlines that the airlines did not hire African Americans in flight capacities. In 1956, she consulted with Adam Clayton Powell and filed a complaint against Capital Airlines with the New York State Commission Against Discrimination. In 1960, the New York State Commission Against Discrimination ruled in Edmiston’s favor, and ordered Capital Airlines to hire her within thirty days or it would go to the supreme court. Edmiston completed the Capital Airlines stewardess training program later that year, and became the first African American to work as a flight attendant on a commercial airline for a southern carrier for Capital Airlines in 1960. However, she resigned one year later to pursue her education. She went on to work as a counselor at the Addicts Rehabilitation Center in New York City from 1970 to 1972. She was then hired as a program manager on the New York City Manpower Planning Council. In 1974, Edmiston became a program manager at the New York State Office of Alcohol and Substance Abuse Services. She then returned to the Addicts Rehabilitation Center in 1999, serving as a consultant until 2015. Edmiston also worked with American Airlines Medical Wings International from 2000 to 2002 providing medical services to underserved populations around the world.

Edmiston served on the board of directors for the Black Flight Attendants of America Incorporated. She also served as captain of the disaster team for the American Red Cross from 1999 to 2001. Edmiston was inducted into the Black Aviation Hall of Fame at the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, Tennessee in August 2010.

She also holds a black belt in Shotokan martial arts.

Edmiston has two children, Sherman III and Lisa, and seven grandchildren.

Patricia Banks Edmiston was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on April 26, 2018.

Accession Number

A2018.081

Sex

Female

Interview Date

4/26/2018

Last Name

Edmiston

Maker Category
Schools

Queens College, City University of New York

State University of New York / Empire State College

New York University

First Name

Patricia

Birth City, State, Country

New York

HM ID

EDM06

Favorite Season

Spring

State

New York

Favorite Vacation Destination

Aruba

Favorite Quote

Live Today As If You're Going To Die Tomorrow And Learn As If You're Going To Live Forever.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New York

Birth Date

4/27/1937

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

New York

Favorite Food

Baked Chicken Wings

Short Description

Program manager and consultant Patricia Banks Edmiston (1937 - ) became one of the first African American flight attendants to work for Capital Airlines in 1960. She went on to work in the substance abuse rehabilitation field for over thirty-five years.

Employment

ARC Addicts Rehab Center

New York State Office of Alcohol and Substance Abuse

New York City Manpower Planning Council

Addicts Rehab Center

Capital Airlines

Con Edison

Favorite Color

Orange, Purple

Vanessa Williams

Actress and singer Vanessa Williams was born on March 18, 1963 to Milton and Helen Williams in Tarrytown, New York. Williams graduated from Horace Greeley High School in Millwood, New York in 1981, and enrolled at Syracuse University in Syracuse, New York.

In 1983, Williams won the Miss Greater Syracuse Pageant and Miss New York Pageant. Later that fall, she was crowned Miss America 1984, becoming the first African American contestant to win the pageant. A scandal involving Williams forced her to resign in July of 1984. Williams then pursued a career in music. In 1988, she released her first album, The Right Stuff, which featured the singles The Right Stuff, He's Got the Look and Dreamin'. The album’s popularity garnered Williams the NAACP Outstanding New Artist Award. Her multi-platinum second album, The Comfort Zone, was nominated for three Grammys in 1992, and her third album, The Sweetest Days, achieved platinum status in 1994. Williams earned another Grammy nomination for her popular rendition of Colors of the Wind, featured on the Pocahontas soundtrack. Williams went on to release five more studio albums: Star Bright (1996), Next (1997), Silver & Gold (2004), Everlasting Love (2005), and The Real Thing (2009), which debuted at #1 on the Billboard Jazz Charts.

Williams has also enjoyed a successful acting career. After making her acting debut on an episode of The Love Boat in 1984, Williams went on to appear in such films as Eraser (1996), Soul Food (1997), Light It Up (1999), Shaft (2000), opposite Samuel L. Jackson, Johnson Family Vacation (2004), Hannah Montana: The Movie (2009), and Tyler Perry’s Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor (2013). She also portrayed Suzanne de Passe in the Jackson 5 biopic The Jacksons: An American Dream (1992). Williams executive-produced and starred in Lifetime's The Courage to Love and VH1’s original movie A Diva's Christmas Carol, both released in 2000.

Williams earned three-Emmy nominations for her starring role as Wilhelmina Slater on Ugly Betty from 2006 to 2010 and also starred on the last two seasons of Desperate Housewives on ABC, winning two NAACP Image Awards for her portrayal of Renee Perry. She also starred as Maxine Robinson on the television show Daytime Divas in 2017.

In addition to acting on film and in television, Williams starred on Broadway in Kiss of the Spider Woman (1994), Into the Woods (2002; Tony Award nominee as Best Actress in a Musical), Sondheim on Sondheim (2010) and The Trip to Bountiful (2003).

Williams, and her mother Helen Williams, co-authored the New York Times bestseller You Have No Idea: A Famous Daughter, Her No-nonsense Mother, and How They Survived Pageants, Hollywood, Love, Loss (and Each Other), published in 2013. Williams returned to the Miss America Pageant in 2015 as the head judge and special performer – receiving an apology from the organization for the events that took place in 1984.

Williams has four adult children: Melanie, Jillian, Devin and Sasha.

Vanessa Williams was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on April 30, 2018.

Accession Number

A2018.076

Sex

Male

Interview Date

4/30/2018

Last Name

Williams

Maker Category
Middle Name

L.

Occupation
Organizations
First Name

Vanessa

Birth City, State, Country

New York

HM ID

WIL83

Favorite Season

Summer

State

New York

Favorite Vacation Destination

Brazil

Favorite Quote

Go For It.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New York

Birth Date

3/18/1963

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

New York

Favorite Food

Margherita Pizza

Short Description

Actress and singer Vanessa Williams (1963 - ) was crowned Miss America 1984 but had to step down. She went on to release eight studio albums, and appear in countless films and television shows and sustain a significant entertainment career.

Favorite Color

Green

Frank Mercado-Valdes

Broadcast executive Frank Mercado-Valdes was born on May 18, 1962 in New York City to Frank Mercado and Linda Valdes. At the age of fifteen, Mercado-Valdes became the Florida Junior Olympic boxing champion, and won the state’s Golden Gloves Lightweight Championship in 1979. He graduated from Coral Gables Senior High School in 1980, and received his A.A. degree in political science from Miami-Dade Community College in 1983. Mercado-Valdes went on to earn his B.S. degree in political science from the University of Miami in 1985.

In 1985, Mercado-Valdes founded the first Miss Collegiate Black American Pageant, held at the Miami Marine Stadium. He was then hired as the media coordinator for the 1988 Bush-Quayle presidential campaign. In 1990, he secured a deal with Universal Studios to televise the Miss Collegiate Black America Pageant. He also launched the African Heritage Network, a television syndication and production company, which bought the syndication rights to films like Cotton Comes to Harlem, Porgy and Bess, and Shaft. In 1993, The African Heritage Network introduced the “Movie of the Month” series, hosted by actors Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee. Mercado-Valdes went on to serve as an executive producer of Stomp!, a nationally televised stepping competition and performance program. In 1994, The African Heritage Network served as an executive producer for A Tribute to Alex Haley, a program highlighting the accomplishments of the Roots author. In 1996, Mercado-Valdes secured the weekend syndication rights of the popular police drama New York Undercover, making The African Heritage Network the first minority-owned company to purchase a major network series for syndication. In 1997, Mercado-Valdes also purchased the rights to Kensington Publishing Group’s Arabesque Books, the first and only African American romance book line. In 2002, Mercado-Valdes developed the televisions shows The Source: All Access, based on the popular hip-hop magazineThe Source, and N’Gear, a behind-the-scenes look at urban fashions, designers, and models. Later that year, The African Heritage Network was renamed to The Heritage Networks, and Mercado-Valdes developed the television program Livin’ Large, a hip-hop version of Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous. In 2003, Mercado-Valdes secured syndication and production rights for Showtime at the Apollo. He resigned from The Heritage Network in 2004, and served as the chief strategic officer for Soul of the South Television from 2011 to 2014. Mercado-Valdes became the managing director of Fair Market Value Consultants and the executive director of San Juan Hill Partners in 2016.

Frank Mercado-Valdes was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on April 30, 2018.

Accession Number

A2018.075

Sex

Male

Interview Date

4/30/2018

Last Name

Mercado-Valdes

Maker Category
Organizations
First Name

Frank

Birth City, State, Country

New York

HM ID

MER03

Favorite Season

Spring

State

New York

Favorite Vacation Destination

Catskill Mountains

Favorite Quote

It's Up To You To Make It Happen.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New York

Birth Date

5/18/1962

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

New York

Favorite Food

Pork Chops

Short Description

Broadcast executive Frank Mercado-Valdes (1962- ) launched The African Heritage Network, a syndication and production company.

Favorite Color

Purple