Complete A-Z list of entries

Complete list of sources

Recent Additions / Updates

About NKAA

NKAA Brochure

African American Library Directors in the USA

Links of Interest




staff only

University of Kentucky Libraries

Notable Kentucky African Americans Database

<Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA)>

Return to search page.

African Americans Returning to the U.S from Honduras [Jimmy Johnson]
End Year : 1940
Jimmy Johnson was born in either 1911 or 1913 in Louisville, KY, and lived at 99 W. Springfield Street in Roxbury, MA. Not many African Americans from Kentucky had migrated to Massachusetts before or after the Civil War. The U.S. Census shows just one free African American from Kentucky living in Massachusetts in 1850, 28 in 1870, and in 1920, 184. Among those 184 there were three Johnson families, but Jimmy Johnson was not listed as a member of any of those families. According to the La Perla (ship) passenger list for July 1932, Johnson was described as a "USC (United States Citizen)=Stowaway=From Boston." The La Perla was owned by the United Fruit Company, a U.S. Corporation based in Boston, MA; the company traded in tropical fruit grown in the West Indies and Central American countries and sold in the U.S. and Europe. United Fruit Company was the largest employer in Central America and managed the postal service in Guatemala. Its steamers transported the fruit, mail, passengers, and cargo between the United States and Central America. In 1928, Roy T. Davis, the U.S. Minister to Costa Rica, wrote the Secretary of State, Frank B. Kellogg, to say the State Department had been informed that Marcus Garvey (UNIA) had received a large donation and monthly subscriptions from Negro employees of the United Fruit Company in Costa Rica. Garvey was denied a return visit to Costa Rica and prohibited from visiting Honduras. The exact number of American Negroes living in Honduras prior to the 1930s is not known. May Ford, a former slave from New Orleans, LA, had sailed to Honduras in 1868 with his former owner, George Henry Friarson, aboard the steamship Trade Winds. Friarson had plantation interests in Honduras and returned to the U.S. after a brief stay. May Ford decided to remain in Honduras and had various jobs, including work on fruit plantations. He was about 76 years old when he returned to the U.S. in 1904 aboard the Anselm (owned by the United Fruit Company); May's passage was paid for by Friarson's son. In 1910, six year old Beresford L. Grant, a U.S. citizen, returned from Honduras with his mother, Wilhelmina Grant (born in England). The Grants and two other Negroes born in England arrived at the Tampa, FL, Port on June 6, 1910, aboard the Carrie W. Babson. The Grants and one of the other passengers had been living in Belize, British Honduras. There were other American Negroes who returned to the U.S. from Honduras as stowaways. In 1932, Kentucky native Jimmy Johnson returned to the Boston, MA, Port aboard the La Perla; he had boarded the ship at the Puerto Castilla Port in Honduras. The port had been built by the United Fruit Company and was used to transport goods from the Castilla Division of the United Fruit Company. The Castilla Division operated until the late 1930s. It is not known why Jimmy Johnson went to Honduras, what his occupation was while there, or why he stowed away on the La Perla to return to the United States. Two other stowaways from Honduras were 20-year-old Amos Bailey from Hattiesburg, MS, and a man who went by the name Vans Miller (18 or 19 years old) and claimed to be a U.S. citizen from Philadelphia, PA. According to the Galveston, TX, Passenger List, Bailey and Miller had been laborers in Honduras, and both left from the Puerto Castilla Port aboard the Comoyagua (owned by the United Fruit Company) and returned to the U.S. at the Galveston Port on June 24, 1936. Bailey was admitted to the country as an American Negro citizen, but Miller, who spoke both English and Spanish, was denied. For more about the United Fruit Company see Bananas: how the United Fruit Company shaped the world, by P. Chapman. For more about the United Fruit Company in Honduras see M. Moberg, "Crown colony as Banana Republic: the United Fruit Company in British Honduras, 1900-1920," Journal of Latin American Studies, vol. 28, issue 2 (May 1996), pp. 357-381. For more about the fleets owned by the United Fruit Company, see The Ships List website for the United Fruit Company. For more about Marcus Garvey and Honduras, see The Marcus Garvey and Universal Negro Improvement Association Papers, vol. 12, edited by R. A. Hill. For more about May Ford, see "Back to slavery home," The Washington Post, 08/22/1904, p. 12.
Subjects: Migration Outside the U.S. and Canada, Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA)
Geographic Region: Louisville, Jefferson County, Kentucky / Roxbury, Massachusetts / New Orleans, Louisiana / Chicago, Illinois / Hattiesburg, Mississippi / Belize and Puerto Castilla, Honduras, Central America

Cole, I. Willis
Birth Year : 1887
Death Year : 1950
I. Willis Cole was born in 1887 in Memphis, Tennessee. He was a graduate of Le Moyne Junior College [now Le Moyne College]. When Cole came to Kentucky, he was a salesman who shortly thereafter became the founder of the African American newspaper, the Louisville Leader, the leading African American newspaper in Louisville. Cole used the medium to protest discrimination toward African Americans. He was a supporter of the Garvey Movement and served as the regional director of the National Negro League. In 1921, Cole was unsuccessful in his campaign for the Kentucky Senate. For more see The Fascinating Story of Black Kentuckians, by A. A. Dunnigan; River Jordan: African American Urban Life in the Ohio Valley, by J. W. Trotter & J. W. Trotter, Jr.; Life Behind a Veil: Blacks in Louisville, Kentucky, 1865-1930, by G. C. Wright; and p. 363 of The Marcus Garvey and Universal Negro Improvement Association Papers: 1826-August 1919, by R. A. Hill, M. Garvey, & the Universal Negro Improvement Association.

See photo image of I. Willis Cole at Hall of Fame 2001, a Kentucky Commission on Human Rights website. 
Subjects: Activists, Civil Rights, Journalists, Newspapers, Magazines, Book Publishers, Music Publishers, Migration North, Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA)
Geographic Region: Memphis, Tennessee / Louisville, Jefferson County, Kentucky

Kentucky Divisions of the Universal Negro Improvement Association
Start Year : 1914
August 1, 1914, Marcus Garvey founded the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) in Jamaica, with the goal of uniting all of African ancestry. The organization's motto was "One God! One Aim! One Destiny!" The New York Division of UNIA was established in 1917 with a membership of over 3,000. By 1920, there were more than 1,000 UNIA divisions in over 40 countries. In Kentucky, there were at least 11 divisions in Benham, Clay, Coxton, Daniel Boone, Florence, Erlanger, Louisville, Madisonville, Sassafras, and Sergent, and a chapter in Oakland Addition (Louisville). For more see Race First by T. Martin; The Official UNIA website; and The Marcus Garvey and Universal Negro Improvement Association Papers, edited by R. A. Hill.
Subjects: Activists, Civil Rights, Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA)
Geographic Region: Kentucky: Benham and Coxton, Harlan County / Erlanger, Kenton County / Florence, Boone County / Louisville, Jefferson County / Madisonville, Hopkins County / Sassafras, Knott County / Sergent, Letcher County

Leavell, Louis A.
Birth Year : 1874
Louis A. Leavell was a teacher, a lawyer, and an inventor. He was a teacher in Colored District "A" in Lancaster, KY, in 1898. He was removed from the job because 25% of the number of colored children in the district did not attend school for more than 20 consecutive days. In 1901, Leavell was a lawyer in Lexington, KY, and was also the editor of the Twentieth Century Literary Digest, published in Harrodsburg, KY. The Lexington Leader newspaper referred to the publication as one of the best colored literary magazines. In 1902, Leavell was back at the Lancaster Colored School, he was the school principal and the student attendance was at a high. Leavell was also admitted to the bar in Lancaster, and is thought to be the first African American in that organization.  Also in 1902, an article was published in The American Telephone Journal about a telephone answering and recording machine that L. A. Leavell had invented, but did not have the funding to manufacture the machine. The previous year he had filed for a patent on his buggy brake that worked on the hubs of the front wheels with best results on rubber tires. By 1905, Leavell had left Kentucky and moved to New York and was admitted to the bar. His office was located at 104 W. 30th Street in New York City. He was a member of the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) and ran unsuccessfully for the New York Legislature, and for U.S. Congress in 1922 and 1924.  He was also unsuccessfully in his bid for New York City magistrate in 1925. For more information see "Change in Colored school," Central Record, 01/07/1898, p.1; "A Colored magazine," Leader, 04/07/1901, p.3; "Colored Notes," Leader, 03/26/1905, p.2; "Lawyer L. A. Leavell...," Central Record, 10/16/1902, p.1; "An Automatic recorder," The American Telephone Journal, vol. 6, no.4, 07/26/1902, p.53; and "A Good invention," Central Record, 08/22/1901, p.3. See Louis A. "Lavelle" in Emancipation: the making of the black lawyer, 1844-1944 by J. C. Smith, Jr.
Subjects: Education and Educators, Inventors, Journalists, Newspapers, Magazines, Book Publishers, Music Publishers, Lawyers, Migration North, Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA), Telephone Company Employees, Telephone Inventions, Telephones and Race
Geographic Region: Lancaster, Garrard County, Kentucky / Lexington, Fayette County, Kentucky / Harrodsburg, Mercer County, Kentucky / New York City, New York

Migration to Ethiopia [Fannie B. Eversole, 1865-1951]
Start Year : 1930
End Year : 1935
Beginning in 1930, a number of African Americans and West Indians migrated to Ethiopia in search of the "Promised Land" in the Back to Africa Movement affiliated with Marcus Garvey's Universal Negro Improvement Association. The exact number of persons who left the U.S. was in question, with estimates as high as 100, and as low as 25. The group was led by Arnold Ford, rabbi of Beth B'nai Abraham [Harlem, NY, Black Jews]. The migrating families were promised land, livestock, and a farming life, but the promises were unfulfilled. In 1932, the U.S. State Department issued a release to discourage others from migrating to Ethiopia due to the number of destitute American immigrants, and because there were no government funds for transportation back to the States. By 1934, thirty-five immigrants had returned to the U.S. In 1935, the Italy-Ethiopia War put an absolute end to any further immigration, and all but two of the prior immigrants returned to the U.S. September 1935, U.S. Legation Officials warned that any Americans who remained in Ethiopia did so against the advice of the State Department. Three of the last African Americans to leave were the wife of Baron Jackson and her daughter, Predonia, from Alabama, and Mrs. Fannie B. Eversole. They had all gone to Ethiopia in 1931 as part of the Back to Africa Movement. The American Negro Benevolent Society paid their fare back to the U.S. Seventy year old Fannie Eversole (b.1865 in Paris, KY) arrived in New York Harbor, October 8, 1935, aboard the ship Berengaria, according to the New York Passenger List. Fannie Eversole had been the wife of Man G. Eversole (b.1865 in VA), and according to the 1910 U.S. Federal Census, they had been homesteaders in Glade, Washington. Fannie Eversole was living in Los Angeles, CA before leaving for Ethiopia in 1931. She had been a cook and a housekeeper. Upon her return to the U.S., she made her home at 1621 W. 35th Street in Los Angeles and is listed as retired in the 1940s California Voter Registration Records. According to the California Death Index, Fannie Eversole died in Los Angeles on June 22, 1951. For more see "Legation Officials advise Americans to leave Ethiopia," Florence Morning News, 09/11/1935, pp.1 & 6; ** "Addison E. Southard, U. S. Ambassador to Ethiopia, to U.S. Secretary of State in The Marcus Garvey and Universal Negro Improvement Association Papers; Africa for the Africans, 1923-1945, Volume X by R. A. Hill; Judaising Movements, by T. Parfitt, et al.; and Black Zion by Y. P. Chireau and N. Deutsch.

**[Addison E. Southard, 1884-1970,  was born in Kentucky.]
Subjects: Migration West, Religion & Church Work, Migration Outside the U.S. and Canada, Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA), Benevolent Societies
Geographic Region: Paris, Bourbon County, Kentuck / Glade, Washington / Los Angeles, California / Ethiopia, Africa

Poston, Ulysses and Robert
Robert (1895-1924) and Ulysses S. Poston (1892-1955) were older brothers of Ted Poston, the sons of Mollie Poston and Ephraim Poston, all from Hopkinsville, KY. The brothers owned and edited The Hopkinsville Contender and later, The Detroit Contender. Both were associated with Marcus Garvey, and while with him in New York, U. S. Poston created The Negro World, a successful African American daily paper, then later created The New York Contender. U. S. Poston was a 1915 graduate of Kentucky Normal and Industrial School [now Kentucky State University]. Robert Poston was assistant secretary-general of the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA). He was head of a delegation that went to Liberia in 1924 to talk with the government; Poston died of pneumonia on the return trip to the U.S. For more see The Fascinating Story of Black Kentuckians, by A. A. Dunnigan; "Ulysses S. Poston, real estate man. Former newsman, a crusader for Negro Rights dead - wrote for Magazines," New York Times, 05/15/1955, p. 23; and Dark Side of Hopkinsville, by T. Poston. For more on Robert Poston see "Lady Augusta Savage, a Garvyite wife, 1923-1924" in New Negro Artists in Paris: African American painters and sculptors in the City of Light, 1922-1934, by T. A. Leininger-Miller.
Subjects: Activists, Civil Rights, Journalists, Newspapers, Magazines, Book Publishers, Music Publishers, Liberia, Liberian Presidents & Diplomats, Migration North, Realtors, Real Estate Brokers, Real Estate Investments, Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA)
Geographic Region: Hopkinsville, Christian County, Kentucky / Detroit, Michigan / New York

Ware, William, Sr.
Birth Year : 1872
Ware was born in Lexington, KY. He was a fraternal worker at Main St. Baptist Church in Lexington and Antioch Baptist Church in Cincinnati. He founded the Welfare Association for Colored People of Cincinnati in 1917, serving as president 1917-1920. He was also a long-time president of the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) of Cincinnati, beginning in 1920. He was the husband of Lucie Ware, born 1878 in KY; in 1920 the family of 11 lived on Barr Street in Cincinnati, according to the U.S. Federal Census. The family moved to Cincinnati in 1903. William Ware, Sr. was the son of Alfred and Jane Ware. For more see Who's Who in Colored America, 1928-29, and Cincinnati's Colored Citizens, by W. P. Dabney.
Subjects: Welfare (Social Services) Organizations, Kentucky African American Churches, Religion & Church Work, Social Workers, Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA)
Geographic Region: Lexington, Fayette County, Kentucky / Cincinnati, Hamilton County, Ohio

 

Return to the search page.