On May 7th, 1845 Mary Eliza Mahoney was born in Dorchester, Massachusetts to parents Charles and Mary Jane Stewart Mahoney. Her family lived in Boston, Massachusetts where she would first gain interest in the nursing field as a teenager. Mahoney began working as a private-duty nurse for the New England Hospital for Women and Children; her next move was being admitted into the New England Hospital’s nursing program. As a nursing student Mahoney was challenged to endure and overcome the rigorous schedule on a nurse. She would work 16 hours a day to complete her objectives, while caring for 6 patients at a time. In 1879 Mahoney became the first African-American woman to graduate nursing school in America.
Because racism exists Mahoney had trouble finding nursing jobs so she began private nursing to make a living. She became well known for her skills and her ability to build relationships with her patients. Prominent members of the Boston community sought out Mahoney because of her impeccable reputation. She was a five foot tall, 90 pound force of nature; she looked racism in the eye, laughed and accomplished her goals. In 1909 she was recognized by the newly formed National Association of Colored Graduate Nurses (NACGN), as a leading pioneer in the field of nursing. She was invited to give the welcome address at the inaugural (NACGN) Convention in 1909, made a lifetime member and elected Chaplain. Mahoney was one of the first women to vote in Boston after the 19th amendment was ratified in 1920.
She briefly lived in Long Island, New York where she became the supervisor of the Howard Orphan Asylum for Black Children. In 1979 she was inducted into the Nursing Hall of Fame, and in 1993 she was inducted into the Women’s Hall of Fame. She lived until the age of 81 passing away from breast cancer in 1926. Mahoney was a fearless woman willing to challenge the status quo, racism and any other obstacle that stood in her way. Ms. Mary Eliza Mahoney, we proudly stand on your shoulders.
On October 18th, 1926 Charles Edward Anderson Berry was born in St. Louis, Missouri to parents Martha and Henry Berry. He was influenced by music at an early age playing in church and school. While attending Sumner High School he performed in the schools talent show and amazed the audience. Shortly after the performance he began learning guitar from Ira Harris a St. Louis Jazz legend; Harris taught Berry the basics fundamentals of becoming a great entertainer. As a teen Berry found himself in legal trouble, he and some friends dropped out of school and was arrested for robbery. Berry spent the next three years in a boy’s reform school in Jefferson, Missouri and was released on his 21st birthday. He needed to make a living so he began working in construction, photography, cosmetology, and on the assembly line at the General Motors Fisher body plant. In 1951 Berry begin playing in a band with former high school class mates; this move was helping Berry to become a household name.
In 1952 Berry joined the St. Johns Trio and the band allowed him to incorporate his upbeat brand of country music with pop and jazz. The band was a hit so much that they began attracting white people to their shows in a predominantly black community. Berry’s reputation as a showman was growing and his band was becoming well known, he was also becoming able to make music full time. He traveled to Chicago, Illinois in 1955 where he met Muddy Waters who arranged a meeting between Berry and Chess Records. In the meeting Berry played his song “Ida Red” for the executives and they immediately fell in love with his music. The record label renamed the song “Maybellene” which became Berry’s first top ten hit and the birth of “Rock & Roll.” During the late 1950’s Berry produced many more top ten hits such as “School Day,” “Rock & Roll Music” and “Sweet Little Sixteen.” During performances he would dazzled the crowd with his famous duck walk; he was also recognized for creating music that transcended music genres, race and culture.
Berry opened his own night in downtown St. Louis called Club Bandstand in 1958; the next year he met a young Native American girl in Mexico who was a waitress. Berry brought the girl back to St. Louis to work in his club; little did he know girl was 14 years old and sometimes worked as a prostitute. Berry fired the girl after working only working for a few weeks. She was later arrested for prostitution and Berry was charged in connection with her work. In 1961 he was convicted and served 20 months in prison in the state of Indiana. He was released from prison in 1964 to learn that bands such as the Beetles and the Rolling Stones were playing his rock and roll music. Berry did not let the new competition stop his shine, he went on to record such hits as “Nadine,” “No particular Place To Go” and “My Ding-A-Ling.”
In 1979 Berry released his last album Rock It which received fair reviews from the music world, but he was able to continue perfuming through the 1990’s. In 1985 he was honored with a lifetime achievement award at the Grammy’s. In 1986 Berry was the first musician to be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. He was literally one of the most influential American musicians of all-time. Berry was able to infuse country music, jazz and pop music to create a new genre of music. Rock & Roll music is often thought of music created by and for white America; this notion can’t be further from the truth. Chuck Berry like many other black musicians used their God given talent to express what was in their hearts. He did not set out to create a new genre of music but his destiny was fulfilled. Though he is often overlooked and forgotten hen we think of Rock & Roll, just know that neither the Beetles, Rolling Stones nor Rock& Roll its self would not exist if it were not for the genius of Chuck Berry. Mr. Charles Edward Anderson Berry, we proudly stand on your shoulders.
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