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Albert Black

Encouraged Early To Get An Education

Albert Wesley Black, Jr., was born in Chicago on April 25, 1939. His father, Albert Wesley Black, Sr., had run away from his Missouri home at the age of fourteen and ended up in Detroit, Michigan. A few years later he met Grace Green, who had left her parents' farm in South Carolina to live with her aunt in the big city of Detroit. Albert and Grace married and had four children, two boys and two girls. Albert Senior supported his family by working two jobs. During the day, he was a maintenance worker for Children's Hospital, while in the evenings he ran a janitorial business. From an early age, Albert Junior and his brother worked with their father every evening cleaning office buildings. When the boys complained about scrubbing toilets, their father gave them the same answer so often that it became a private joke between them: "If you don't like cleaning the white man's toilets, get an education." Though they laughed, both boys followed their father's advice.

However, even with Albert Senior's two jobs, Grace Black's work as a beautician, and the help of the children, the Blacks knew real poverty. Winters are icy cold in Detroit, and when there was not enough money to pay for the gas heat, the water froze in the toilets and the children slept in their coats. The lack of money caused stress within the family, simply because it made life very difficult.

The Black family lived in a working-class neighborhood populated by Polish immigrants and blacks. There was little tension between the two groups, but they lived separately and had very little social contact. Black grew to respect his hardworking immigrant neighbors, whose yards were like immaculate fenced islands within an otherwise close-knit African-American community. Church and family were the most important institutions in young Black's world. His playmates were most often his brother, sisters, and cousins, and each Saturday evening boys and girls alike ironed their best clothes to wear to church on Sunday morning.

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Brief BiographiesBiographies: Shennen Bersani (1961-) Biography - Personal to Mark Burgess Biography - PersonalAlbert Black Biography - Encouraged Early To Get An Education, Success In High School Led To College, Became Interested In Sociology