Born into slavery in Maryland around 1818, Frederick Douglass escaped bondage and became one of the most powerful voices for the abolition of slavery. In his efforts to end the cruel institution, Douglass employed various strategies that made a lasting impact on the abolition movement.
First and foremost, Douglass utilized his exceptional oratory skills to deliver powerful speeches and lectures, captivating audiences with his eloquence and passion. His speeches highlighted the inhumanity of slavery, emphasizing the inherent rights and dignity of all individuals. Through his powerful words, Douglass challenged the prevailing racist ideologies and exposed the brutal realities of slavery to the wider public.
Additionally, Douglass played a pivotal role in shaping public opinion through his autobiographical works. His best-known publication, "Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave," provided a firsthand account of his experiences as a slave and became a powerful tool in rallying support for abolition. The book revealed the horrors of slavery, debunking myths propagated by proponents of the institution and shedding light on the strength and resilience of enslaved individuals.
Furthermore, Douglass actively collaborated with other abolitionists and reformers, including William Lloyd Garrison and Harriet Tubman. He participated in abolitionist organizations and conventions, advocating for the immediate and complete emancipation of all enslaved individuals. Douglass believed in the power of unity and collective action, recognizing the strength that came from a unified front against slavery.
In summary, Frederick Douglass made significant contributions to the abolition movement through his powerful oratory, influential writings, and strategic collaborations. His efforts played a crucial role in raising awareness, mobilizing support, and ultimately contributing to the end of slavery in the United States. Douglass's legacy continues to inspire generations to fight for justice and equality.
Mary Ellen PleasantRead Now
Mary Ellen Pleasant had a life filled with drama and intrigue. She was born into slavery in Georgia on August 19, 1914, but she didn't let her circumstances define her. Instead, she used her intelligence, entrepreneurial spirit, and determination to fight for her freedom and become one of the most prominent figures in Black history.
When Mary Ellen was only nine years old, her mother arranged for her to be sent to New Orleans, where she was sold to a wealthy French merchant. She worked hard as a servant in his household, but she was determined to gain her freedom. When she was 18, she saved enough money to buy her own freedom and move to San Francisco, where she became an entrepreneur and a philanthropist.
Mary Ellen Pleasant quickly became known as a savvy businesswoman who could make a fortune from almost anything. She ran several successful businesses in San Francisco, including a boardinghouse and a catering company. She also invested in real estate, buying properties all over the city and renting them out to tenants.
But Mary Ellen's success didn't come without controversy. She was known as a successful negotiator who would do whatever it took to get what she wanted. She was rumored to have influenced the outcome of the California Supreme Court case that resulted in the desegregation of the city's public transportation system. She was also accused of practicing voodoo and using her powers to manipulate people.
Despite her controversies, Mary Ellen Pleasant was a champion of civil rights and a staunch supporter of the abolitionist movement. She used her wealth and influence to help fund the Underground Railroad and to provide shelter and support for escaped slaves. She also fought against discrimination and segregation in San Francisco, often using her wealth and connections to push for change.
Mary Ellen Pleasant lived a long and fascinating life, full of drama and adventure. She died in 1904, in San Francisco, California, but her legacy lives on as a symbol of Black excellence and perseverance. Ms. Mary Ellen Pleasant, we proudly stand on your shoulders.
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This BadassBlack Man Was A Spy, Blacksmith, and Soldier | Abraham GallowayRead Now
Gather around, family, and let me tell you about the legend of Abraham Galloway - a true Black American hero!
Born into slavery on February 8, 1837, in North Carolina, Galloway was determined to break free from the chains of oppression. He escaped from his plantation and became a conductor on the Underground Railroad, helping fellow enslaved blacks find their way to freedom.
But Galloway didn't stop there. He joined the Union Army during the Civil War and quickly became a spy for the North. He used his knowledge of the South to gather valuable information for the Union army and even helped plan a daring raid on a Confederate fort in Wilmington, North Carolina. The brother was a triple threat - a blacksmith, spy, and soldier!
After the Civil War, Galloway continued to fight for the rights of Black Americans. He became a politician and was instrumental in getting black men the right to vote in North Carolina. He even served in the state legislature.
But Galloway's journey was far from easy. He faced countless racism from those who wanted to keep Black Americans oppressed. He was once arrested for his activism and spent time in jail, but that didn't stop him from fighting for what he believed in.
Abraham Galloway died on September 1, 1870, of fever and jaundice. His life is a testament to the power of perseverance and the fight for justice. He showed us that anything is possible if we believe in ourselves and our abilities. So, if you're ever feeling down or unsure, remember the story of Abraham Galloway - a man who went from being a slave to a spy to a politician, and a true inspiration for all Black Americans. Abraham Galloway, we proudly stand on your shoulders.
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Gert SchrammRead Now
On November 28, 1928, Gert Schramm was born in Erfurt, Thuringia, which was a free state in Central Germany. Gert’s parents were Jack Brankson, an African American engineer working for an American steel company, and Marianne Schramm a German woman. Gert Schramn’s mixed-race heritage will become the reason his life is filled with adversity. Despite being barred from receiving vocational training, Gert began working as a help in a car repair shop. People of mixed race were denied basic human rights and their existence was essentially illegal and punishable by death. Gert’s father, Jack Brankson’s work contract expired and he was forced to leave Germany. He did visit his son on occasion, risking his life and freedom. Jack’s last trip to Germany turned out to be tragic, he was arrested by the Nazis for being black in Germany, and shipped to Auschwitz, where it is believed he died as a captive.
Gert was 15 years old in 1944, that is the year he was arrested by the Gestapo because he was not a pure-bred Aryan, and held in protective custody in a number of prisons. Within the prisons, Gert was tortured, interrogated, and beaten, before being transferred to the Buchenwald concentration camp. The number 49489 was tattooed on Gert’s left arm, marking him as a prisoner of the Nazis. For the crime of being mixed race, he was sentenced to serve no less than 15 years in the camp, but his total time of incarceration was unspecified. Gert was initially working in a stone quarry where up to 15 men died a day, he was moved to a camp with easier work filled with political prisoners. A move Gert says saved his life. White men in the concentration camp were killed without provocation, so Gert feared for his life as a black man in a concentration camp.
Gert was luckier than the average prisoner at Buchenwald, he was spared from being forced into the “death marches” by the Nazis. Being kept at the camp allowed him to survive the Nazis. Gert was freed from the concentration camp once the Nazis were defeated in WWII. He was able to return home to his mother to live his life. To support his mother, Gert found work at a uranium mine before finding work at a coal mine. He then moved to East Germany where he found work at a bus company. Gert’s next step was to further his education becoming a certified mechanic, and later a Master mechanic. He worked his way up to becoming the vehicle fleet department head for the Eberswalde civil engineering combine. Gert’s ultimate accomplishment was in 1985 when he started his own taxi company. Gert Schramm survived a Nazi concentration camp and then went on to work his way into creating his own business. He literally looked death in the eyes and survived. As he grew older, he would travel the world telling his story of survival and triumph. He also became one of the board members of the Buchenwald Memorial Foundation. This is the story of Gert Schramm. He died in 2016 having lived a complicated but remarkable life.
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On August 15, 1818, Bridget “Biddy” Mason was born a slave. She was the property of several owners in several states. Her birthplace is unknown but she was owned by slave owners who lived in South Carolina, Georgia, and Mississippi. Robert Smith was her last slave owner who lived in Mississippi. As a young girl, Biddy learned domestic, medicinal, and midwifery skills from fellow enslaved black women, these skills made Biddy a valued slave for the Smith family. Biddy was the mother of three girls born into slavery. Because of the high likelihood of sexual assault and slave breeding, the fathers of Biddy’s girls are unknown. Robert Smith converted to Mormonism around 1847 after a group of Mormon missionaries convinced him to follow the teachings. Because of Smith’s conversion to Mormonism, he, his family, and his slaves migrated West to the Salt Lake Valley, Utah, which became Salt Lake City, Utah.
The migration to Utah was grueling for Biddy, it is said that she walked over 1,700 miles behind a 300-wagon caravan, along with 33 other enslaved black people. During the trip to Utah, Biddy's responsibilities were cooking meals, midwifery, herding cattle, and setting up and breaking down the camp's tents, all while still having to care for her three children, one being an infant. When Smith’s camp settled in Utah, Biddy and the other enslaved blacks were forced to build log cabins and clear the land, which was the foundation for the cities of Cottonwood and Salt Lake City. The leader of the Mormon church Brigham Young instructed a number of his followers to move to California to spread Mormonism further west, Robert Smith was one of Young’s followers to move west. The caveat to moving to California specifically was that slavery was illegal in California. The religious leader Bringham Young was not opposed to slavery and warned his followers moving to California that there may be a chance they lose their slaves due to the laws. In 1851, despite the warning about losing his slaves, Smith, his family, and his slaves packed up once more and moved to California. The Smith family settled in San Bernadino, California. While in California Biddy learned from Charles and Elizabeth Rowan, free blacks, that California was a free state and she could sue for her freedom. Many blacks were earning their freedom through the California courts once their slave masters moved to the state.
California was potentially offering Biddy Mason something she wanted her whole life, freedom. After learning about California’s laws against slavery from the Rowans, Biddy befriended more free blacks, Robert and Minnie Owens who gave her more information about suing for her freedom. In 1855, Robert Smith was becoming very worried about losing his slaves so he decided to move to Texas. Robert Owens’ son was involved in a romantic relationship with one of Biddy’s daughters, so they were motivated to help Biddy gain her freedom and remain in California. As Robert Smith was beginning to leave for Texas, Robert Owens alerted the
Los Angeles County Sheriff that Rober Smith was illegally harboring slaves in the state. The Los Angeles Sheriff, Robert Owens, Robert's son, and many other men made up the group of men responsible for stopping Robert Smith from leaving California with slaves. Robert Smith was served with a court order for having slaves. Smith in a futile attempt to defend himself and retain his slaves, began to make-up stories about Biddy wanting to move to Texas. Smith even attempted to bribe Biddy’s lawyer to not show up in court. The trial was held on January 21, 1856, in Los Angeles. At the time blacks were not allowed to appear in court so Biddy did not attend the trial, but a blessing came her way when Robert Smith chose not to show up for the trial. Because of Smith’s absence, the Judge ruled in favor of Biddy Mason. Biddy, along with her family, and other blacks enslaved by Smith was freed by the Judge. The California courts gave Biddy a certified copy of her freedom papers in 1860. Biddy and her daughters moved to Los Angeles and lived with the Owens family for a time. Her daughter and the son of Robert Owens eventually married.
Biddy was able to work in Los Angeles as a midwife, she also used her knowledge of herbs to help fight a smallpox outbreak in Los Angeles, while working with the physician Dr. John Strother Griffin. While working as a midwife and also working with Dr. Griffin, Biddy was wise with her money and aggressively saved, eventually, she became one of the first black women to own land in Los Angeles. Over time, Biddy used her money to engage in several businesses which helped her to amass wealth, making her one of the wealthiest black women in Los Angeles. She used her wealth to help open a traveler's aid center, a school, daycare and fed the poor. In her spare time, she would visit prisoners to give them encouragement. She was a part of the founding group of the first black church in Los Angeles, the First African Methodist Episcopal Church of Los Angeles. In typical Biddy fashion, she donated the land the church was built on. Biddy died on January 15, 1891, leaving behind a legacy of resilience, spirit, encouragement, and empowerment. She was so generous that she was often called “Aunt Biddy” affectionately by her community. This is the fascinating story of Bridget Biddy Mason. Ms. Biddy Mason, we proudly stand on your shoulders.
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On March 3, 1902, Sarah Rector was born in the all-black town of Taft, Oklahoma, within the Muscogee Creek territory of Oklahoma. Joseph Rector and Rose Mcqueen were Sarah’s parents. Joseph and Rose are said to be the descendants of black Americans who were enslaved by the Muscogee and were classified as freedmen after their enslavement ended. Sarah and her family were classified as Muscogee and entitled to Muscogee land due to the treaty of 1866, which recognized the Muscogee as one of the five civilized tribes. Because Sarah was recognized as a member of the Muscogee tribe, she was one of the 600 black children given land, approximately 160 acres. The land was given to the children because the American government wanted to integrate the Native American territory with the territory of Oklahoma. The land given to Sarah was not the best land to live on or cultivate. The land was located in Glenpool, a city in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The black members of the Muscogee tribe were given the undesired land, while the members with less African features were given better plots of land. Not only was the land nearly barren, but Sarah’s family also had to pay an annual tax of $30, a price that was not affordable for her family. Sarah’s father petitioned the Muscogee County courts so he could sell the land, but his petition was denied and the family was stuck with bad land that no one wanted.
The Rector family was living in poverty struggling to pay taxes on land that was given to them by the government. To help pay the land taxes and provide for his family, Joseph Rector agreed to lease the land to either the Standard Oil Company or the Devonian Oil Company. Because the land was leased, it was used to drill for oil by B.B. Jones, an independent oil driller. 1913 was the year that the financial troubles of the Rector family came to an end. An oil well began to spew oil, so much oil it was called a “gusher”, spilling enough oil to fill 2,500 barrels of oil a day. Because the oil well was on Sarah’s plot she began to receive $300 a day. At the time, the law for the reservation required members of the Muscogee territory with wealth or assets of any kind to be assigned a white “supervisor”. Before oil was discovered on Sarah’s land, she was never pressured to have a supervisor, but after the oil, a white man named T.J. Porter was strongly suggested to be Sarah’s supervisor. Over time Sarah’s land came under the management of the Cushing-Drumright Oil Field and Sarah received royalties of $11,567.
At the age of 12, Sarah became famous for being a young girl with wealth. As the news of her wealth spread, adults from all over began asking and begging a 12-year-old girl for loans. Later in 1913, Because of the wealth Sarah gained, Oklahoma Legislature attempted to classify Sarah as white so she could benefit from white privilege. In 1914, nasty rumors about Sarah and her family began to spread, and some of the rumors were spread via The Chicago Defender newspaper. They claimed that her parents were ignorant, uneducated, and poor, and they lived in inhumane conditions. The claims were so bad and spread so far W.E.B. Dubois, Booker T. Washington, and the NAACP became interested in Sarah’s welfare. After an investigation and interviewing the Rector family, Dubois, Washington, and members of the NAACP learned that all of the claims were false. Not only was Sarah in great care, Washington, Dubois, and the NAACP learned of the racism and discrimination the black members and other members of the Muscogee nations were facing at the hands of the local white people. Not only was Sarah in great care, but she was an intelligent young lady who was sent to learn at a boarding school at the Tuskegee Institute. By 1920, Sarah was classified as a millionaire and celebrating her 18th birthday. It is said that Sarah owned stocks, bonds, land, a number of businesses, and a boarding house. The land she owned was 2,000 acres at the prime river bottomland. She married a man named Kenneth Campbell in 1920. The couple was married for 10 tears producing 3 children. In 1934, she remarried a man named William Crawford who was a restaurant owner. Sarah would eventually move her family to Kansas City, Missouri where she purchased her home called the Rector House on 12th Street. Because of her wealth, Sarah was able to live a comfortable life free of poverty with access to resources. She was even able to befriend the black celebrities of that day. Sarah died in 1967 at the age of 65 but was able to literally leave generational wealth for her children and their children. Her life started in poverty, she was given land no one wanted, the land turned out to have oil in it, and her life immediately changed once the oil was discovered. This is the story of the wealthiest young black girl of her time, and possibly the first black woman millionaire in American history.
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In November of 1854, Reverend Byrd Parker and his wife Jane Janette Johnson welcomed a baby girl named Lillian Parker Thomas while living in Chicago, Illinois. Reverend Parker was the head Pastor of Quinn African Methodist Episcopal Church, and Jane Thomas was a teacher. Reverend Parker moved his family to Oshkosh, Wisconsin when Lillian was a young girl, they also moved to Indianapolis, Indiana. Reverend Parker died in 1860 while living in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. Years later, Jane would marry a man named Robert E. Thomas, they would produce two children. Lillian began reading and writing at a very young age, this would benefit her as her family eventually moved to Indianapolis. She learned how to sew and became a freelance writer for newspapers to earn money for her family. Academically, she earned an education from the Indiana-Boston School of Elocution and the Indianapolis Institute for Young Ladies. Over the years, Lillian mastered her writing skills and by the age of 26 she became a reporter and correspondence editor for the Indianapolis Freeman, a well-known nationally distributed black-owned newspaper. She also gained a reputation as an excellent public speaker touring throughout the Midwest and the South several times representing various organizations.
In 1872, Lillian married a man named Wm. R. James, and the couple produced a daughter. The couple was married for 8 years before divorcing. In 1881, Lillian married Charles M. Thomas, they were married for 8 years, they divorced shortly after moving to Indianapolis, Indiana. Later in 1889, Lillian’s daughter would pass away. Lillian continued to build upon her career as a writer and a public speaker. In 1893, she married James E. Fox in Indianapolis, they were married for 5 years due to James Fox passing away in 1898. During her marriage to James Fox, Lillian retired from her job with the Indianapolis Freeman, but did continue her public speaking tours and writings from home. After the passing of Fox, she began writing for the Indianapolis News in 1900. This move made her the first African American to write a weekly column for the newspaper. In addition to writing and speaking, Lillian was active in her community. She joined several organizations aimed at improving, empowering, and protecting black communities in Indianapolis. She co-founded the Women's Improvement Club in 1903. In 1904, she was in charge of the organization that provided funding for the Indiana State Federation of Colored Women's Clubs. She also helped to advocate for their local health centers to treat black patients with tuberculosis.
Lillian used her writings to empower her people and was compared to Booker T. Washington. For 15 years, she wrote the column “News Of The Colored Folk” for the Indianapolis News and used her platform to promote local organizations, successes, progress, and the beauty of her community. As a speaker, she used her voice to amplify the messages in her writings. She became an Indiana state representative for the National Afro-American Council’s executive committee. She also became a representative for the Indianapolis Anti-Lynching League, and the National Association of Colored Women's Clubs. In 1895, Lillian was a guest speaker at the Atlanta Congress For Colored Women. As she aged she continued to write, speak, and collaborate with black organizations to uplift black Americans. As her health began to fail, she retired from the Indianapolis News in 1915. In August of 1917, Lillian Parker Thomas Fox died as a black pioneer in the state of Indiana. She opened the door for other black writers to not only write for black and white news papers, but to create their own lanes to write, and use their voices and their writings to make a living and make a difference. To Mrs. Lillian Parker Thomas Fox, we proudly stand on your shoulders.
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We begin our story in the village of Ajumako located on the coast of present-day Ghana. Quobna Ottobah Cugoano was said to be born around the year 1757, not much is known of his early life. At the age of 13, Ottobah was kidnapped and sold to slave traders, along with a number of other boys and girls while playing in a field. Ottobah spoke about him and other children attempting to escape but were unable because guns were used to threaten their lives. The Europeans shipped Ottobah and other captives to the island of Grenada to work on a plantation. For two years, he worked plantations in Grenada and other islands of the Lesser Antilles. In 1772, Ottobah was sold to a well-known slave owner named Alexander Campbell and shipped to London, England. Campbell baptized Ottobah in 1773 and changed his name to John Stuart. It seemed to be a strategy behind Ottobah being baptized and converting to Christianity. Becoming a Christian helped him not only escape being sold again, but he eventually gained his freedom. I do not know exactly how he gained his freedom, but it is believed that his conversion to Christianity helped him gain his freedom. Because of a previous court ruling known as the Summerset Case, it became unlawful for a freedman to be sold back into slavery.
As a free black man living in London, Ottobah dedicated himself to learning to read and write, skills he would use to advocate for his people. In 1784, Ottobah began working at the Schomberg House as a servant for Richard and Maria Cosway. During this time he began using his voice and his writings to campaign against the practice of slavery. Ottobah’s activism along with two other men helped to prevent a man named Harry Demane from being enslaved on an island in the Caribbean. Ottobah was making a name for himself as an advocate and activist against the enslavement of African people. He wrote several letters speaking out against slavery to the various London newspapers and influential men in London. In 1787, the once enslaved man published his first book titled, Thoughts and Sentiments on the Evil and Wicked Traffic of the Slavery and Commerce of the Human Species, Humbly Submitted to the Inhabitants of Great Britain. Ottobah wrote about his experience and the experience of other enslaved people to illustrate the horrors of slavery. His goal for the book was to inspire the abolition of slavery. Ottobah is known as the first black British author. His book is also considered a classic book and one of the greatest books of its era.
While working and living at the Schomgerg House, Ottobah was exposed to prominent members of society, he was even exposed to British royalty. The Cosways would host popular parties that were attended by people such as Edmund Burke and the Prince of Wales. The Prince of Wales is one person Ottobah would often write to condemning slavery. It is believed that the Prince of Wales read the second edition of Ottobah’s book. In 1791, Ottobah wrote a letter describing how he will be traveling to promote his book. This letter was the last time anyone heard or saw anything from Ottobah. Many believe he may have died in 1791. A young boy was taken from his family and land, shipped to the Caribbean, then to London, was converted to Christianity, gained his freedom, then spent the rest of his life fighting to free African people from slavery. To Ottobah Cugoano, we proudly stand on your shoulders.
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On July, 15 1864, Maggie Lena Draper was born in Richmond, Virginia, on the Van Lew estate, in the St. John’s Church Historic District. Walker’s parents were Elizabeth Draper and Eccles Cuthbert. Walker’s mother, Elizabeth Draper was a formerly enslaved woman who worked as an assistant cook for Elizabeth Van Lew. Her father Eccles Cuthbert was a reporter for the New York Herald newspaper living in Virginia. Draper and Cuthbert met on the Van Lew estate. They never married and only produced one child together, according to my sources. Shortly after Walker was born, her mother married a man named William Mitchell who worked on the Van Lew estate as a butler. In 1870, William Mitchell and Elizabeth Draper produced a son, Johnny Mitchell. William Mitchell received a job as the head waiter at the Saint Charles Hotel, one of the most distinguished hotels in Richmond. William was able to move his family off of the Van Lew estate and into a small house near the Medical College of Virginia. Tragedy struck the Mitchell household in February of 1867. William Mitchell’s body was found floating in a river. His death was ruled self-inflicted, but Elizabeth Mitchell believed very strongly that her husband was killed. Following the death of William Mitchell, Elizabeth struggled to provide for her two children and her family was forced into poverty. To provide for her family, Elizabeth started a laundry business washing and drying clothes for white families. Walker would often help her mother by returning the clean and dried clothes to their owners. While transporting the cleaned clothes, Walker noticed a stark difference in the quality of living between blacks and whites.
“I was not born with a silver spoon in my mouth, but with a laundry basket practically on my head”, is a quote from Maggie Walker. A quote that explains her childhood. A time in her life that left a lasting impression, and inspired her to become a highly-successful woman. Walker received an education that can be thought of as privileged, despite living in poverty. She attend the newly formed Richmond Public Schools that were founded for black people and children to learn. She was in the number of black children who were able to attend school. Walker attended the Lancasterian School, the Navy Hill School, and the Richmond Colored Normal School. She graduated from the Richmond Colored Normal School in 1883, where she was trained to be a teacher. For three years, Walker taught at the Lancasterian School to make a living for herself. Walker met a man named Armstead Walker Jr., the two became a couple, then were married on September 14, 1886. Armstead worked as a construction worker while Maggie Walker worked as a teacher, until she was forced to quit her job. The Lancasterian School had a policy that married women could not teach. Maggie and Armstead produced three sons and adopted a daughter. The Walker’s were able to purchase a home for their family in Richmond’s Jackson Ward neighborhood, which was thought of as the “Harlem of the South”. Before graduating from the Richmond Colored Normal School, Walker became a member of The Independent Order of St. Luke, which was a subgroup of The United Order of St. Luke, an organization that focused on providing resources and care for the sick and dying.
At the time, the previously mentioned sororities were dedicated to helping black Americans advance in society. Walker, believed in focusing on our children and raising them up with the proper tools and education to be productive black citizens. Walker became the Grand Secretary of the Independent Order of St. Luke after the organization voted to replace William M.T. Forrester, because the organization was going bankrupt. Maggie Walker was a dedicated and focused leader. When she became Deputy Secretary of The Order it was in debt, but not only did she pull the organization out of debt, but she was able to raise over $3.5 million dollars during her tenure. She also expanded the organization by 100,000 members. In August of 1901, Walker gave a speech that would become iconic. She addressed The Order and gave her plans to expand The Order, but also uplift her community by founding a bank, newspaper, and department store. All owned and operated by black people. Within five years of giving her plans, Walker led her community to establishing their bank, newspaper, and department store. Self-sufficiency was Walker’s goal for her people. The St. Luke Herald was established in 1902, the St. Luke Penny Savings Bank in 1903, and the St. Luke Emporium in 1905. The establishing of these businesses made a huge impact on the economics of black Richmond. Black people were able to not only provide the necessities for their families, they also built enough wealth to create a middle class. To help The St. Luke Penny Savings Bank survive the Great Depression, Walker merged the bank with two other banks creating the Consolidated Bank and Trust Company. Walker often faced challenges because of operating a successful black owned business in the Southern United States in the early 1900s. A white fraternity attempted to start a bank similar to what Walker was able to do. The white fraternity failed, as a result, a new mandate was enacted, from then on fraternal organizations and banks had to be separate entities. Because Walker’s vision was working so well, the bank was able to be separated from The Order because of the support of the members, also the department store and the newspaper was still successful.
The St. Luke Emporium was forced to close down in 1911 because white business owners were jealous of Walker’s successful plans. Black people in Richmond were terrorized and threatened if they continued to patronize the St. Luke Emporium. Tragedy struck the Walker family in 1915, Maggie and Armstead’s son Russell Walker mistakenly shot and killed Armstead because he thought he was breaking into their home. Russell was tried but found not guilty of murder. That event negatively affected Russell’s mental health until his death in 1923. Maggie Walker was diagnosed with diabetes and later bound to a wheelchair because her health was continuing to fail her. Despite her health, Walker remained a force for change in black America. She continued to advocate for and assist in the advancement of black people in America. She co-founded the Richmond chapter of the NAACP and Council of Colored Women. She helped organize a bus boycott in 1904 that caused a Richmond bus company to go out of business. In 1921, Walker tried her hand at politics, as one of the candidates running on what was called the “lilly black republican ticket”. Walker was running for superintendent of public instruction but did not win the election. On December 15, 1934, Maggie Lena Walker died. She left behind a legacy that black people today can be proud of. She didn’t just talk about uplifting her community, she literally did it. Creating a bank, newspaper, and department store for her people to operate and patronize, that brought money into their community, helping their community to thrive, is exactly the example we need to change our situation. To the brilliant and brave leader, who literally lifted her people out of poverty, Mrs. Maggie Lena Walker, we proudly stand on your shoulders.
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One of the most notable Afro-Puerto Rican advocates, Sylvia del Villard, was born on February 28, 1928, in Santurce, Puerto Rico. She was the daughter of Agustín Villard and Marcolina Guilbert, parents who recognized their daughter was talented from a young age. Not only was Villard a very talented young girl, but she was an excellent student as well. She was one of the top students to graduate grade school in Santurce, Puerto Rico, her academic achievements earned her a scholarship from the Puerto Rican government to attend Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee. As an Afro-Puerto Rican attending college in the southern United States in the late 1940s, she faced blatant racism on a regular basis, so much so that she decided to leave Fisk and attend the University of Puerto Rico, where she earned her bachelor’s degree. Following her graduation from the University of Puerto Rico, Villard returned to the United States and enrolled in the City College of New York. During this time, Villard’s life would change for the better.
While living in Puerto Rico, Villard would start her professional career as a singer and poet in nightclubs, but her career would peak when she began receiving voice lessons from opera voice coach Leo Braun and Russian pianist Sonia Redd, as a student in New York. Villard joined a song and dance troupe called “Africa House” and she also became a member of the Carabalí Dancers. Being a part of these troupes exposed Villard to African history and culture. It was during this time she received her historical and cultural awakening. She was awakened to the beauty and richness of her African ancestry. From then on, she began integrating African poetry, music, dances, clothing, and culture into her performances. In 1979, Villard was invited to perform at the Pan-American Association Festival of the New World in Lagos, Nigeria. She also used her time in Nigeria to trace her family’s roots attempting to learn if her lineage traces back to Nigeria.
In 1968, Villard founded the Afro-Boricua El Coqui Theater, an organization that was recognized as the authority on Afro-Puerto Rican culture by the Panamerican Association. The organization earned a contract to visit other countries to spread Afro-Puerto Rican culture. As a theater actress, she played a leading role in more than 14 productions. She was able to play a role in 3 movies that were professional productions. As a dancer and choreographer, she was able to star in 10 productions in Puerto Rico and the United States. During the 1970s, Villard founded the Luis Palés Matos Theater after her favorite poet, a theater she used to impact her community until it was forced to close down. It is said that the theater closed down because of Villard’s promotion of Afro-Puerto Rican culture.
Following the closing of the theater, Villard moved back to New York where she founded the Soninke Company and became a teacher. In 1981, she became the first and only person as a director of the office of the Afro-Puerto Rican affairs of the Puerto Rican Institute of Culture. Sylvia del Villard died on February 28, 1990, due to lung cancer in Puerto Rico. She is remembered as one of, if not, the most outspoken people about Afro-Puerto Rican culture. Her spirit of activism was felt throughout her lifetime and is still being felt today. Her strength, courage, and tenacity are what helped her to live a legendary life. To Sylvia del Villard, we proudly stand on your shoulders.
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Felipe Luciano | Original Member of the Last Poets & Co-Founder of the Young Lords New York ChapterRead Now
On November 24, 1947, Phillip “Felipe” Luciano was born in East Harlem, New York. His parents were Aurora Olmo Luciano and Joseph Luciano, Jr. Aurora was a first-generation Puerto Rican born in America who worked as a factory worker and a practical nurse. I don’t have any information on Joseph Luciano, Jr., other than he wasn’t involved in Felipe’s life, according to my sources. Felipe lived with his mother in housing projects which was not the best environment for them to live in. Despite the conditions of their community, Aurora was a devout Pentecostal who prioritized reading to her child. Felipe’s teacher Ethel Schapiro, introduced him to the works of William Shakespeare and Earnest Hemingway, he also learned about Judaism and how to speak Yiddish. Although Felipe’s learning environment was rich, he was also influenced by the environment outside of his home. He became involved with a gang called the Canarsie Chaplain Gang. As a member of the gang, Felipe was involved in an incident that caused him to spend two years of his life incarcerated. During a scuffle with a rival gang, one of the members of the rival gang was stabbed to death. Felipe did not stab the boy, but he was one of the people charged and convicted of manslaughter. During his incarceration, he earned his GED and placed himself on a path to further his education.
After Felipe served his two years in prison, he began attending Queens College where he majored in political science. On May 19, 1968, Felipe Luciano, Gylan Kain, and David Nelson became the original members of the legendary Last Poets. The Last Poets were musicians and spoken word artists who created the foundation for Hip-Hop music. As a member of the Last Poets, Felipe’s first performance was held on May 19, 1968, the birthday of Malcolm X, in Harlem, New York. Felipe was beginning to build a reputation as an advocate and activist for the upliftment of his people and other communities. In 1968, Felipe co-founded the New York chapter of the Young Lords with a number of other young Puerto Ricans. The Young Lords were a Puerto Rican ally of the Black Panther Party that fought for human rights, civil rights, and empowerment for Puerto Ricans, Latinos, and colonized people. Felipe eventually became the chairman of the Young Lords. Under his leadership, the Young Lords changed their name to the Young Lords Party and became an asset to the communities they served. Like the Black Panther Party, the Young Lords Party provided food, education, and resources to their community. The Young Lords Party was becoming quite popular, attracting the attention of prominent black leaders, they also got the attention of their local mafia. It is believed that the mafia placed a $20,000 bounty on Felipe because of his community work.
Felipe was a member of the Young Lords Party from 1969 to 1971. After leaving the Young Lords, he began producing his award-winning radio shows, “Latin Roots” and “The Third Bridge” on the WRVR radio station. In 1976, Felipe became the first Puerto Rican news anchor for WNBC News as a weekend anchor. He served as the weekend anchor until 1980. During his time as the weekend anchor, Felipe won several Emmys for his excellent reporting. He was one of the original anchors for the Good Day New York Fox tv program and was one of the founders and original hosts of the Good Day Street Talk with Mayor Ed Koch program. In 1997, Felipe served as the commissioner of the New York City Task Force on Police and Community Relations. In 2006, he became the Air America vice president of news. He challenged Phillip Reed to represent Manhattan’s 8th District but lost twice. He co-founded the Eagle Academy, became a member of the 100 Hispanic Men, and traveled to China representing the Black Workers Congress in 1972. Felipe Luciano dedicated his life to the upliftment of his people and went about contributing to that upliftment in many ways. To Mr. Felipe Luciano, we proudly stand on your shoulders.
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Between the 1627 and 1792, the Dutch West India Company colonized a region between the Berbice and Canje rivers called Berbice, in the country of Guyana. Berbice was a small colony populated with around 3,800 enslaved Africans, 244 Indigenous Americans, and 346 white people, on 135 plantations. In addition to being a small colony, it was not very profitable, and resources were scarce at the time due to global European conflicts. In 1762, several of the Dutch soldiers patrolling the many plantation became sick due to a disease outbreak. The disease reduced the number of Dutch soldiers controlling the enslaved Africans. In July of 1762, plantation owner Laurens Kunckler traveled to Nassau, Bahamas. During his absence, the enslaved Africans raided his plantation and escaped into the interior of the country. According to my sources, a few of the Indigenous Americans helped Dutch soldiers attempt the recapture the Africans. A month later, the Africans were forced to relocate due to a lack of provisions.
1762 was also the year a number of the enslaved Africans attempted to rebel against the plantation owners and Dutch soldiers, but the rebellion was suppressed quickly. Though the rebellion was suppressed, the spirit of rebellion spread through Berbice. In 1763, due to the continued inhumane conditions and treatment, the enslaved Africans of Berbice revolted against the Dutch plantation owners. From plantation to plantation, Africans attacked and killed the Dutch to free themselves from slavery. Several plantations were set on fire as the Africans began revolting. The Magdalenenberg Plantation was burned down by the Africans enslaved on the plantation. They then traveled to fight the Dutch aligned with several Indigenous Americans along the Courantyne River. The Africans were defeated, but the rebellion was not over. At this point the Dutch had the advantage, that was until an African man enslaved in Berbice enters the picture. In February of 1763, Africans were leading a revolt at the plantation Hollandia, this revolt was a bit different because the Africans were organized as if they were a military. These Africans were led by an enslaved man born in Ghana named Coffy. Under the leadership of Coffy, the Africans began to gain victories and an advantage over the Dutch.
Coffy and the African rebels were able to take control of the southern portion of Guyana while the Dutch took control of the northern portion of the country. The Africans controlled southern Guyana for 12 months. Dutch control of Guyana was being threatened by the growing number of African rebels. Dutch reinforcements arrived in the form of 100 soldiers. The soldiers and the rebels battled, the Dutch were able to recapture a portion of the southern territory they previously lost. By this time Coffy declared himself the political leader of the rebels, and a man named Accra was the military leader. On April 2, 400 rebels led by Accra attacked the Dutch soldiers and regained the southern territory lost to the Dutch in the previous battle. The rebels were better equipped for battle than the Dutch expected. In response to the rebel victories, Dutch reinforcements were brought in along with a plan to retake all of Guyana. While the Dutch were formulating their plan of action, internal strife was brewing between Coffy and Accra. They began to have opposing views on how to manage their relationship with the Dutch. Coffy wanted to formally create a truce between the Dutch and the Africans, Accra disagreed with the truce. Coffy contacted Governor van Hoogenheim to negotiate peace, the Dutch responded by saying that Coffy would have to wait 3 or 4 months for a response from Amsterdam.
The attempt for peaceful negotiations caused a further rift between Coffy and Accra, so much so that the rebels split into two groups. Accra and his rebels were still attacking Dutch soldiers. Shortly after, Accra and his rebels attacked Coffy and his rebels. Following the battle between the rebel groups, Coffy ended his own life, leaving Accra as the official leader of the rebels. The Dutch continued to battle the rebels until the Dutch ended the rebellion in January of 1764. Soon after, Accra was overthrown and enslaved by the new rebel leader Atta. The irony in the story is that even though the rebels were fighting to free themselves from being enslaved by the Dutch, they still practiced slavery for status within their free colonies, according to my sources. Coffy was a leader with the idea of Africans being able to live in Guyana among the Dutch in peace, Accra never brought into Coffy’s idea. His idea was to gain freedom from the Dutch through war. Maybe Accra had a more realistic view of the Dutch, and his clash with Coffy was in line with gaining true freedom? Maybe Coffy’s idea of living in peace with the Dutch was something to help spark racial harmony? The tension between Coffy and Accra was detrimental to the success of the rebels. And the splitting of the rebels made them a weaker opponent to the Dutch. Without unity, we cannot gain true victories. Thank you for listening to the story of the Berbice Slave Rebellion.
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This Warrior Queen Fought The French & The Moors | Ndate Yalla Mbodj of the Waalo KingdomRead Now
In 1810, the Kingdom of Waalo was a vast and robust West African kingdom that existed near the lower Senegal River area, in present-day Senegal and Mauritania. The Waalo Kingdom was one of four Wolof Kingdoms, Cayor, Baol, and Jolof were the other three kingdoms. Brak Amar Fatim Borso Mbodj was the powerful king who ruled Waalo. His queen was Lingeer-Awo Fatim Yamar Khuri Yaye Mbodj. In the Waalo Kingdom, Brak was a title that meant king, Lingeer meant queen, and Lingeer-Awo meant the queen who was the king's first wife. Ndate Yalla was the youngest daughter of Brak Amar and Lingeer-Awo Fatim Yamar, they also produced an elder daughter named Ndjeumbeut Mbodj, who would later become Lingeer of Waalo. As young girls, Ndate Yalla and her sister learned how to rule a kingdom and were trained to fight with the Waalo army. When the men were away, the women were formidable opponents to any challengers. Like a number of other African nations, the Waalo women warriors were a part of their army. The women were seen as skilled and fierce. On one occasion in 1820, Brak Amar Fatim was away from his kingdom, a group of Moors attempted to invade Waalo, they were met and defeated by the women warriors of Waalo, led by Lingeer-Awo Fatim Yamar. Unfortunately, Brak Amar Fatim Borso Mbodj died in 1926. Shortly after defeating the Moors, the women warriors of Waalo were forced to fight the invading Moors again who returned with more soldiers. The number of soldiers the women were facing was too great and they were defeated. Before the defeat, Lingeer-Awo Fatim Yamar was able to escape with her two daughters.
The death of Brak Amar Fatim was significant for the Waalo Kingdom because he was known for resisting the Islamic faith and culture, he was also labeled as anti-Islamic for his rejection of Islam. Ndate Yalla married Brak Yerim Mbanyik Tigereleh Mbodj at the age of 16. Brak Yerim was her cousin, but the marriage occurred to maintain their family's dynasty. She later married the warrior and prince of Cayor Marosso Tassé Diop. Ndate Yalla would appoint Marosso Tasse as the commander of her army because of his immense skill as a warrior. Around the year 1846, Ndjeumbeut Mbodj was the Lingeer of Waalo until her death. Ndate Yalla was officially crowned Lingeer later in 1846. It didn’t take long for her to show her skill as a warrior, and intellect as a ruler. As Lingeer, Ndate Yalla enlarged the women warriors of Waalo, she would need the might because the French and the Moors would become her enemies. Lingeer Ndate Yalla had a disagreement with the French who occupied a French colony called Saint-Louis, over the taxing of the Soninke people as they passed through Waalo lands. The French accused Ndate Yalla of stealing a number of oxen as they taxed the Soninke. The French sent a letter to Ndate Yalla stating that if she doesn’t return the stolen oxen she would be treated as an enemy. Ndate Yalla did not appreciate being accused of stealing oxen and being threatened. Ndate Yalla reigned from 1846 to 1855, and from 1847 she was constantly at war against the French and the Moors of Trazar.
The Battle of Dioubouldy begin in 1855, Lingeer Ndate Yala and Marosso Tasse led the kingdom of Waalo against the French, who were determined to destroy the six main kingdoms of the Senegambia area, which included the four kingdoms of Waalo. Waalo was the first of the six Senegambian kingdoms to be attacked by the French, one because of its close proximity to Saint-Louis, and two, because it was led by a woman. The French saw Waalo as weak because Ndate ruled the kingdom. The warriors of Waalo were fierce and brave, they were outmanned and outgunned by the French but were still able to fight off the French for several months. Eventually, the French overwhelmed the Waalo warriors, men and women, fighting for their freedom. The kingdom was falling, but Marosso Tasse and his soldiers were still fighting the French. Ndate Yalla was able to escape with a few of her family members, upon her escape, she stated the following words to her soldiers: Today we are invaded by the conquerors. Our army is completely routed. The Tiedo of Waalo, valiant warriors though they are, have almost all fallen to the bullet of the enemy. The invader is stronger than we are, I know, but should we abandon Waalo to the hands of foreigners? The kingdom of Waalo had fallen, Ndate Yalla and Marosso Tasse were forced to relocate to the city of Cayor where they received protection from family members. The French threatened to invade the family if they did not surrender Ndate Yalla and her husband. The family refused the French and chose to protect their queen. Ndate Yalla died in 1860, she is remembered as one of the most powerful and legendary queens in the history of Waalo and the Senegambian region. She is highly revered and loved by her people. So much so that a statue of her was erected in the city of Dagana, Senegal. To Lingeer Ndate Yalla Mbodj, we proudly stand on your shoulders.
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On November 8, 1942, Sara Gomez was born in the Guanabacoa neighborhood of Havana, Cuba. I do not have any information about her parents, but I do know Sara was raised by her paternal grandmother and four aunts. Sara’s grandmother and aunts prioritized education and exposed her to Afro-Cuban culture, music, art, and literature. She learned to play the piano and was introduced to ethnography after learning about her Afro-Cuban culture. Her neighborhood of Guanabacoa was an Afro-Cuban cultural hub for scholars, musicians, business professionals, artists, dancers, and writers. A few of her family members were professional musicians who performed with the Havana Philharmonic Orchestra. As a young woman, Sara would attend dances held at a location called The Progressive Club. Dancers, musicians, and other young people who attended The Progressive Club inspired Sara to study music at the Havana Conservatory of Music. Sara’s interest and community could not keep her from experiencing racism and gender inequality as an Afro-Cuban woman. As she grew older, she would use her voice and talents to combat the racism and gender inequality in Cuba.
Sara gained experience as a writer working for a youth magazine called Mella, she would follow that by becoming a writer for the Communist Party newspaper News of Today. These experiences would lead her to accept a position directing films for the Instituto Cubano Del Arte e Industria Cinematográficos, or the ICAIC. Becoming a film director catapulted Sara Gomez into the Cuban history books, she became the first woman to direct films in Cuban history. An Afro-Cuban woman became a filmmaking pioneer. She began her directing career making documentary films, which helped her to focus more on creating a realistic depiction of the Cuban people and culture. When Sara began working at the ICAIC it was a new organization and she was one of two Afro-Cuban filmmakers in the organization. Until her death, Sara Gomez was the only woman to direct films for the ICAIC. She used her films to highlight the plight Afro-Cuban people faced daily. The messages in her films exposed the racism of Cuba, which was the root cause of all of the disparities the Afro-Cuban people faced. She not only highlighted the issues, but she included ideas to solve their problems. Her films held a mirror to the Government while holding a magnifying glass to the Cuban people's eyes so they could see the root of their issues.
Sara was a celebrated filmmaker. She directed 13 short films and 1 feature-length film. She was also the assistant director for 3 films. Her feature-length film One Way Or Another received critical acclaim because it explored racism and gender inequality in Cuba, issues that Sara experienced as a young woman. She married a man named Hector Veitia, the couple produced a daughter. Years later, Sara married a man named Germinal Hernandez and they produced two children. Sara Gomez died on June 2, 1974. She is remembered as a Cuban filmmaking pioneer, who was brave and creative enough to put a lens on the Cuban issues that led to the existence of the revolution. To Cuba’s first woman film director, Sara Gomez, we proudly stand on your shoulders.
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On October 9, 1895, Eugene Jacques Bullard was born in Columbus, Georgia as the 7th of 10 children born to his parents. William Bullard was the name of his father who was also called Octave, a black man born in Stewart County, Georgia. Josephine Thomas, who was called Joyakee was Eugene Bullard’s mother. Joyakee was of black and Muscogee Creek indigenous American origins. She died when Eugene was 6 years old. Eugene would attend the 28th Street School in Columbus, Georgia until the fifth grade. During these years, Eugene witnessed acts of racial terrorism against blacks. A mob of angry white men attempted to lynch Octave Bullard over a work dispute. The racism in Columbus, Georgia was becoming too much for Eugene to deal with and he wanted to escape it. His father would often tell him stories about France abolishing slavery and black men being treated as humans and not animals. These stories resonated with a young Eugene and sparked a flame that would lead him to France. At the age of 11, Eugene decided to run away from home in hopes of eventually making it to France. He traveled to Atlanta, Georgia where he became acquainted with the Stanley's, a group of British Gypses who allowed him to work as a care taker to their horses, and they also taught him how to ride and race horses. The Stanley’s told him stories about black people in Brittan being free of the racial discrimination blacks faced in America. The stories increased Eugene's desire to reach Europe.
Around 1911, Eugene was in Dawson, Georgia working as a stable-boy and aspiring jockey for the Turner family. Because of his hard work and dedication, the Turner family allowed Eugene to be their jockey at the 1911 County Fair in Dawson, Georgia. The following year, Eugene made his way to Norfolk, Virginia, where he snook onto a German Merchant Freight Ship. He was eventually discovered and kicked off the ship in Aberdeen, Scotland. During his stay in Aberdeen he found odd jobs to survive. He traveled to Glasgow, Scotland where he worked more odd jobs. He then arrived in London and eventually Liverpool where he became a prize-fighter and comedian within the Freedman Pickaninnies. Eugene’s boxing trainer was Aaron Lister Brown, or better known as the boxer the Dixie Kid. The Dixie Kid arranged for Eugene to fight in Paris, France, which was a dream come true for Eugene, because he would finally make it to France. After the fight, Eugene decided to live in France for a while and continue boxing. He also found work in a music hall. Germany declared war on France on August 3, 1914, World War 1 had began on July 28, of 1914. In October of 1914, Eugene Bullard enlisted in the French Army’s Foreign Legion. Eugene was involved in active combat against the Germans, first as a machine gunner, then involved in the Second Battle of Champagne. He served with the 3rd Marching Regiment of the 1st Foreign Regiment, the 2nd Marching Regiment of the 1st Foreign Regiment, 170th French Infantry Regiment, and the 2nd Marching Regiment of the 2nd Foreign Regiment in the 1st Moroccan Division.
The French Army’s 1st Moroccan Division was one of the army’s most highly decorated divisions. The Foreign Legion suffered casualties that caused them to be reassigned as a reinforcement unit. In addition to Eugene participating in the 2nd Battle of Champaign, he participated in the battles of Somme and Verdun. He was severely injured in the battle of Verdun. While recovering from his injuries, Eugene decided to join the 170th French Infantry Regiment, who were nicknamed the “Swallows of Death”. Injuries didn’t keep Eugene from being awarded the Croix de guerre medal for his valor and service. While recovering from their injuries, a white soldier named Jeff Dickson bet Eugene $2,000 that he would not become a military pilot. His injuries prevented him from serving in the infantry so his next choice was volunteering for the French Air Service in 1916. He started as a gunner before receiving flight training at Châteauroux and Avord, then receiving his pilots license in 1917. In November of 1916, Eugene joined the Lafayette Flying Corps. They would accompany French pilots on missions to bomb their enemies and perform reconnaissance. Eugene received a promotion to Corporal in June of 1917 and was involved in 20 combat missions as a member of Squadron N.85. He is credited with shooting down German planes, but the number of planes shot down are disputed. After World War 1, Eugene worked as a Jazz drummer in French nightclubs. He eventually opened a night club and athletic club. Legendary performers such a Louis Armstrong and Josephine Baker would perform in Eugene’s club.
Eugene would marry a woman named Marcelle Straumann in 1923, they were married for 12 years before Marcelle left Eugene and their two daughters. As World War II began, the French need Eugene's help and skills to spy on the Germans who would frequent his nightclubs. He served in Frances 51st Infantry Regiment during the German Invasion of 1940. Eugene was wounded during the invasion but managed to escape to Spain and eventually made his way to the United States. He would be admitted to a hospital in New York to seek treatment for his injuries. Now further injured from World War II, Eugene was living in New York seeking to make a living as he did in France but found that the U.S. was still racist. He found odd jobs to support himself and often worked as an interpreter for Louis Armstrong in Europe. The nightclubs he owned in France were destroyed during the war but the French government gave him a settlement check, he used the money to purchase an apartment in New York. Bullard was severely beaten by police officers during a Paul Robeson concert. The incident was captured on film but noting was done to the police officers. Later in life, Bullard worked as an elevator operator in New York before he died in 1961 of stomach cancer. During his life Eugene Bullard was awarded 14 medals by the French Army and Government. He was Knighted by the French General Charles de Gaulle in 1959. He was inducted into the Georgia Aviation Hall of Fame in 1989, posthumously appointed to second lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force, and a statue of him was placed into the Museum of Aviation in Warner Robins, Georgia in 2019. He became the first African-American to become a military pilot, but he had to join the French Army to do so because of American racism. To Mr. Eugene Bullard, we proudly stand on your shoulders.
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In the year 1883, the Nigerian-Turkish couple Zenciye Emine Hanım and Ali Bey were living in the city of Izmir, in the Aidin Valley of the Ottoman Empire. The couple produced a baby boy named Ahmet Ali Celikten. Stories exist stating that Ahmet’s grandmother was a Nigerian slave serving as a concubine to the Ottoman ruler, which also serves as the story of the origins of Ahmet’s family living in Turkey. Zenciye Emine Hamin is said to be a Yoruba woman and Ali Bey was said to possibly be of Arab and Nigerian or Somalian and Turkish origins. As a young boy, Ahmet dreamed of becoming a sailor. In 1904, Ahmet enrolled in the Haddehane Mektebi Naval Technical School, four years later he graduated as a First Lieutenant. As the world was nearing its first world war, Turkey needed an Air Force to compete against its enemies, the Yeşilköy Naval Aircraft School was founded in 1914, and Ahmet was among the first class of cadets to enroll in the school. Ahmet was able to continue his military education and Turkey was able to build its air force. Ahmet graduated from the aircraft school on November 11, 1916, making him the first black person to become a military pilot. Other men given credit are Eugene Bullard and Pierre Réjon. I will cover these two men at a later time.
Izmirli Alioğlu Ahmed is the birth name of Ahmet Ali Celikten, he changed his name during the time he graduated from aircraft school. Ahmet graduated a month before the start of World War I, becoming the first black military piolet, and one of less than 10 black pilots fighting in the war. During the War, Ahmet married a Greek woman named Hatice Hanim, the couple produced five children, and two of their sons became pilots. I do not have information about Ahmet’s battles during World War I, but I do know he received advanced-level flight training in France and Germany, and he was also promoted to Captain. Following his promotion, he was appointed to serve for the Izmir Naval Aircraft Company. World War I ended in 1918, but the war in Turkey was not over.
The Turkish War of Independence began in the 1920s and Ahmet chose to participate in the war. He volunteered to help steal airplanes from the Konya Military Air Base, in Konya, Turkey, he also volunteered to use the stolen planes to monitor any aircraft activity over the Black Sea. Ahmet was rewarded for his skills and ability to carry out his missions. He was appointed as the undersecretary of the Konya Military Air Base and was awarded the Bahri Aircraft Medal. Ahmet Ali Celikten not only became the first black military pilot in the world, but he was able to work with the 2nd and 3rd black men to become military pilots. He retired from the military in 1949, inspiring many more black people around the world to become pilots. He also greatly influenced his family to become pilots. In addition to his two sons becoming pilots, his wife his sister, two daughters, a niece, nephew, and sister-in-law, all became pilots. Ahmet died in 1969, but his influence on black pilots will never be forgotten. He was able to overcome barriers to literally fly high. Ahmet Ali Celikten, we proudly stand on your shoulders.
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During the early 1820s, the great Shaka was King of the Zulu Nation, who was in conflict against other factions of the Zulu who broke away to begin their own kingdoms. The battles were fierce and many of Shaka’s male family members were competing to become king of the Zulu. Mpande was the half-brother of Shaka and the father of Cetshwayo. At the time, Mpande was a Zulu warrior and soon-to-be king following the deaths of Shaka and Dingane. Cetshwayo was born in 1826 in Eshowe, Zululand but raised in Engakavini after Mpande fled Eshowe to preserve his life. In 1828, Shaka was assassinated by his brother Dingaan who then took the power of the Zulu Kingdom. Mpande and Dingaan would battle in 1840 with the Mpandes army being victorious making Mpande the King of the Zulu. After becoming the sole ruler of the Zulu Kingdom Mpande declared Cetshwayo the heir to the throne. Cetshwayo was described as a physically intimidating person, standing between 6’6 and 6’8, weighing around 350 pounds. Even though, Cetshwayo was the heir to the throne his brothers and other family members were now rivaling for his position.
Mbuyazi, Cetshwayo’s brother was favored by their father while the Zulu lands were experiencing a severe drought. Cetshwayo was promised to be the successor of his father but Mbuyazi was being favored by Mpande at this time. Mbuyazi was given a large portion of the land and Mpande was not communicating with Cetshwayo about his succession. A civil war was already happening among the many factions of the Zulu kingdom. As Mbuyazi and his followers moved into the lands granted to them by Mpande, they were removing a number of Cetshwayo’s supporters. So a conflict between the brothers was inevitable. Cetshwayo and Mbuyazi engaged in the battle of Ndondakusuka, with Mbuyazi being backed by Mpande and others against Cetshwayo. The final outcome of the battle was Cetshwayo being the victor and was now a threat to take the throne from his father who supported Mbuyazi. Mpande was able to appeal to Theophilus Shepstone, the British Secretary for Native Affairs for help. Shepstone was able to get Cetshwayo and his father to agree to terms for the rulership of Zululand. Mpande would remain the king of Zululand while Cetshwayo would have control over Zululand. As time passed Cetshwayo would yield more power and influence than his father. Cetshwayo was adamant about eliminating any threat to his throne.
Mpande died in 1872, giving Cetshwayo the full rulership of Zululand. In 1875, Cetshwayo and his army were prepared to defend their lands when the Boers began claiming parts of southern Zululand. Cetshwayo and his army caused the Boers to retreat and rethink their plans of battle. There was another problem and threat to Cetshwayo’s power, this threat was the British Empire. The British annexed the South African Republic in 1877 but were threatened by Cetshwayo’s growing Army. The British wanted to colonize Zululands without resistance. In 1878, the British gave the Zulu a choice to either give up their lands and sovereignty or be wiped out. Cetshwayo chose war and this was the beginning of the Anglo-Zulu War of 1879. The Zulu were a formidable opponent for the British. Actually, the British became cocky and underestimated the Zulu, despite the Zulu’s reputation for being fierce and victorious warriors. The Zulu were able to gain victories over the British, but they lost a decisive battle, the battle of Ondini. Cetshwayo was able to escape from the battlegrounds but he was eventually captured by British soldiers and imprisoned. Around 1882, Cetshwayo traveled to London and met the Queen of England, who granted him permission to return to his own land and rule a portion of the land. Cetshwayo began a rivalry with Zibhebhu, who was placed in charge of the northern Zulu lands by the British. Cetshwayo did challenge Zibhebhu’s army but was defeated and could not regain control of the lands that were now being controlled by the British. Cetshwayo died in 1888. Many believe he was poisoned by one of his rivals. We are not clear about how Cetshwayo died, but we do know that he is considered the last great Zulu king. To Cestchwayo and the mighty Zulu Kingdom, we proudly stand on your shoulders.
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The Little George Ship RevoltRead Now
By the 1700s the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade transported a great number of African people to the western world. Many African people were successful in resisting enslavement and in regaining their freedom. This is a little-known story of African people escaping their enslavement to live their lives as free human beings. The setting was the Little George slave ship sailing from the coast of Guinea West Africa. Six days prior, 96 Africans were kidnapped and forced upon the Little George en route to the United States to be sold in Rhode Island. The Little Gorge sailed from the coast of Guinea on June 1, 1730, five days later while still at sea on June 6, 1730, the enslaved Africans began their revolt against the ship's crew.
At 4:00 A.M. on June 6, 1730, the Africans were heavenly chained to the ship but a few of them escaped their chains, broke through the covering of the hull of the ship, and attacked the ships, watchmen before they could notify any other crew members. The enslaved Africans were captured from different tribes but worked together to free themselves. Out of the Africans who initially freed themselves and attacked the ship's crew, they split in half, one half freeing the remaining Africans, and the other half continued to attack and subdue the ship's crew. The Africans were overwhelming the crew and managed to kill a great number of crew members as more Africans were freed from their chains.
The ship was originally captained by George Scott, but Scott and a few crew members were captured and locked in the captain's cabin. A few of the Africans made and detonated a bomb on the ship, killing crew members, and almost damaging the ship. Shortly after the bomb detonated, the remaining crew members surrendered to the Africans and were locked away on the ship. The Africans took full control of the ship, rerouted their course, and reached the Sierra Leone River which lead them to the shores of Sierra Leone. The Africans departed from the ship leaving it on the shores and returned to their homelands. Captain Scott and other crew members were able to survive the revolt but the Africans were able to continue to live as free humans. This is the story of the Little George Ship Revolt. To the Africans who gained their freedom by revolting, we proudly stand on your shoulders.
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This woman was the daughter of a pioneer and expert bacteriologist and pathologist who helped find a treatment for syphilis. She followed in her father's footsteps to help develop treatments for gonorrhea. On May 1, 1919, Ada Hawes gave birth to a baby girl named Jane Hinton in the state of Massachusetts. William Augustus Hinton was Jane’s father. William Hinton was the son of a formerly enslaved person who became the first black person to be a professor at Harvard, he was also the first black person to write and publish a textbook. He became an expert bacteriologist and pathologist because he was not allowed to gain an internship in medicine while living in Boston. William used his expertise to help develop testing, a diagnosis, and treatment for syphilis. Jane Hinton’s mother, Ada Hawes was a school teacher and social worker in Boston, Massachusetts. When Jane Hinton was a young girl, William Hinton moved his family to Europe seeking a better living, free of racist barriers. Jane Hinton was exposed to many activities and organizations as a young grade school student in Europe. She became involved in activities such as student government, orchestra, glee clubs, theater, and basketball. Jane Hinton returned to the United States in 1939 to attend Simms College in Boston, Massachusetts, where she received her bachelor's degree at the age of 20.
William Hinton was instrumental in helping his daughter achieve her career goals. In 1931, William created a Medical Laboratory Techniques course for the students at Harvard. What was pioneering about this course is, that it included women. This was the first time women were included in such a course. Jane Hinton would become a research assistant at Harvard University, assisting the bacteriologist John Howard Mueller. Mueller became known for discovering the amino acid methionine in 1921. Both Dr. Jane Hinton and Howard Mueller co-developed the Mueller-Hinton Agar. The Mueller-Hinton Agar was developed to isolate the bacteria that caused gonorrhea and meningococcal meningitis. They learned that starch will help the bacteria grow, but it also prevented the toxins from the bacteria to impede the testing of antibiotics. The Muller-Hinton Agar became the standard medium for culturing the Neisseria bacteria. Moving into the 1960s, the Muller-Hinton Agar was also being used to determine if certain bacteria were receptive to antibiotics. Because of the Mueller-Hinton Agar, the Kirby-Bauer technique was adopted by the Clinical and Laboratory Standards Institute as the new test for antibiotics.
Dr. Hinton worked as a lab technician in Arizona during World War II before transitioning into veterinary medicine after the war. She attended the University of Pennsylvania where she earned her doctorate degree in Veterinary Science in 1949. Dr. Hinton became one of the only two black women to receive a Doctorate in Veterinary Science in 1949. She was the fifth black woman at the time to receive her Doctorate in Veterinary Science from the University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Hinton along with Dr. Alfreda Webb became the first two black women to become members of the Women's Veterinary Medicine Association. As a veterinarian, Dr. Hinton operated a veterinarian practice in Canton, Massachusetts, and she also became an inspector for the federal government. In 1984, Dr. Jane Hinton was honored by the University of Pennsylvania for becoming the fifth black woman to earn a doctorate degree in veterinary science. She would die in 2003, as a pioneer and legend in the field of biology. She used the information she had to develop the technology we need to help fight sexually transmitted diseases. And let’s not forget the achievements of her father William Hinton, who set a great foundation for his daughter to become a legend. To Dr. Jane Hinton, we proudly stand on your shoulders.
Julia De BurgosRead Now
On February 17, 1914, Julia Constanza Burgos García was born on a farm near the town of Carolina, Puerto Rico, to a working-class family. Francisco Burgos Hans was her father and Paula García de Burgos was her mother. Francisco was a farm owner and member of the Puerto Rico National Guard. Paula was a homemaker who sold the produce she harvested. Francisco and Paula produced thirteen children, Julia was their eldest child. Unfortunately, six of their thirteen children died before reaching adulthood because of malnutrition. In 1928, the Burgos family moved to the district of Rio Piedras, following Julia’s graduation from the Muñoz Rivera Primary School. She attended the University of Puerto Rico’s Rio Piedras Campus at the age of sixteen, she graduated in 1931 at the age of nineteen earning her teaching degree. After graduating college, Julia began teaching in the city of Naranjito, Puerto Rico at Feijoo Elementary School. In addition to teaching, Jilua worked a side job as a writer for a children’s radio show on Puerto Rican public radio. The messages coming from the radio program Julia wrote for were considered politically incorrect at the time. As a result, Julia was fired from Feijoo Elementary School. This was the beginning of the end of Julia’s teaching career.
Julia married a man named Ruben Rodriguez Beauchamp in 1934. After the couple was married, Julia would never teach again. She was active in Puerto Rican politics and became a member of the Puerto Rican Nationalist Party in 1936. The Daughters of Freedom was the women’s offshoot of the Puerto Rican Nationalist Party, she was elected as the secretary general for The Daughters of Freedom. Writing was a skill and outlet Julia often used to express her feelings about her life experiences. She was a published writer during her time as a teacher and working with the Puerto Rican Nationalist Party. She published several poems and writings in Puerto Rican newspapers and magazines. She eventually published her books, Songs of the Simple Truth, and I Was My Own Path. She was able to capture the essence of what it is to be a Puerto Rican who was oppressed and discriminated against by their government. She was also able to capture the voices of the women of Puerto Rico fighting for their equality. Being a black Puerto Rican woman who experienced poverty, death, oppression, love, and having the experience of fighting for a better way of life, had a great influence on her poetry. It allowed her to say what the average oppressed Puerto Rican was feeling and experiencing during that time.
During the late 1930s, Julia traveled to Havana, Cuba to attend the University of Cuba before leaving school to work as a journalist for the Pueblos Hispanos newspaper. She would also work several odd jobs to make a living. She married Armondo Martin in 1943, but the couple divorced in 1947. It is said that after this divorce and other failed relationships, she suffered from depression which led to alcoholism. In 1953, Julia was hospitalized because of health complications. During this time, she wrote her last poem "Farewell in Welfare Island." It is believed that she predicted her death within this poem. Julia died on July 6, 1953, in Manhattan, New York. Tragically, at the time of her death, no family or friends knew of her death and were not present to identify her body. Eventually, she was identified by a relative and was given a proper burial. Her poetry was rediscovered by later generations and she inspired readers because her poetry was so relevant to the reader. Julia’s legacy was able to continue living because of the life that Julia injected into her poetry and other writings. A total of ten of her literary works were published, two biopics were made about her life, her poems inspired musical compositions, and received over 17 honors, including being inducted into the New York Writers Hall of Fame in 2011. To Julia De Burgos, we proudly stand on your shoulders.
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Little Known Mississippi Blues History | Charley Patton King of the Delta BluesRead Now
The blues is one of America’s oldest, most prominent, and alluring forms of music. The blues was created by black Americans who were formerly enslaved, but still lived in oppressive conditions. It was a form of musical expression that portrayed the raw emotions black Americans expressed, because of the conditions they lived in. Charley Patton was born in April of 1891, in Hinds County, Mississippi, but was raised in Sunflower County, Mississippi, within the Mississippi Delta. Bill and Annie Patton were Charley’s parents; though many believed that Patton’s father was a man named Henderson Chatman, a formerly enslaved black man who fathered many musicians. Charley Patton was 5’5 tall, fair-skinned, and believed to be of black American and Native American ancestry. Stories exist about Patton being of Cherokee or Choctaw tribes, the Cherokee claim is believed because Patton made the song “Down in the Dirt Road Blues” about visiting the Cherokee tribe. 1897 was the year the Patton family moved from Sunflower County, Mississippi to the Dockery Plantation in Ruleville, Mississippi.
Moving to Ruleville, Mississippi would prove to be a pivotal decision in Patton’s life. Henry Sloan is the name of a legendary Mississippi Delta musician and the man that influenced Charley Patton’s style of music. Henry Sloan created the foundation for what we know as Mississippi Delta Blues. Patton learned a lot about music and Mississippi Delta Blues from Sloan, soon after, Patton was making a name for himself within the Mississippi Delta. He quickly became one of the most talented and popular blues artists in the delta. He would travel from plantation to plantation performing and gaining notoriety. We would begin to forge friendships with fellow delta blues legends such as Howlin’ Wolf, Willie Brown, Fiddlin’ Joe Martin, Tommy Johnson, and Robert Johnson. Because he was older than these musicians he would become a mentor to them. Patton’s talent and popularity grew to where he was invited to perform all over the South, New York, Chicago, and throughout the United States. His performance schedule was unusual at the time for a delta blues player because he had consistent scheduled performances. A performance schedule that others would soon adopt. Patton was a very talented musician, not only was he a master at playing Mississippi Delta Blues, but he could also masterfully play various genres of music including ballads and what was considered “hillbilly songs”.
Showmanship is an attribute that was used to describe Patton as a performer. While playing the guitar, Patton would dramatically drop to his knees, then swing the guitar behind his head and back, continuing to play effortlessly, as the crowds roared in amazement. Many believe Patton created the foundation for Rock & Roll. Patton’s influence could be heard and seen in the way the delta musicians and musicians of other genres played their chords and their stage presence, some mimicking Patton’s dance moves and guitar swinging. Patton’s voice was very influential as well. It is said that Patton's voice could be heard from 500 yards away with no microphone. A number of people believe he influenced the way Howlin’ Wolf used his voice. In 1933, Patton and his common-law wife Bertha Lee moved to Holly Ridge, Mississippi. Their relationship was not healthy, they were combative with each other, which resulted in them being incarcerated. Patton’s career was not as long and successful as it should have been, due to the way black artists were exploited during the early 1900s. His final recording session was from January through February of 1934. He would die on April 28th, 1934 of a heart condition. Patton’s death was not reported by any news outlets, and his legacy was all but forgotten until his music and legacy were rediscovered. But his influence was already imprinted on the music industry.
Considered the “father of the Delta Blues”, Charley Patton was responsible for contributing to over 54 music recordings between 1929 and 1934. Patton’s Screamin' and Hollerin' the Blues: The Worlds of Charley Patton was packaged and rereleased to the public in 2001, winning 3 Grammy awards in 2003. In 2006, Patton’s song “Pony Blues” was added to the National Recording Preservation Board of the Library of Congress. The documentary American Epic was released in 2017, depicting Patton's life. He was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 2006, and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2021. This is the story of Mr. Charley Patton, the world of music stands on your shoulders.
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General Benjamin O. Davis Jr.Read Now
On December 18, 1912, Benjamin O. Davis, Jr. was born in Washington, D.C. His father was Benjamin O. Davis, Sr., a U.S. Army brigadier general who served 41 years in the military. Benjamin Jr’s mother was named Elnora Dickerson Davis. Not much information is available about her life. She was a mother and a wife who died in 1916 after giving birth to her third child. Benjamin Davis, Sr. taught his son about racism and to not allow anyone or anything to prevent him from being successful. Benjamin Davis, Jr’s interest to become a piolet was piqued at the age of 13 being able to fly along with a barnstorming piolet in Washington, D.C., from then on he was focused on becoming a pilot. In 1929, Davis graduated from high school in Cleveland, Ohio during the Great Depression, after graduating from Central High School, he began attending Western Reserve University, a research university in Cleveland. He would soon leave Western Reserve and attend the University of France and the University of Chicago, before attending the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1932.
Racism, discrimination, and isolation are three words to describe what Davis experienced while attending West Point. His white classmates refused to speak to him, refused to become his roommate, and refused to offer any help to a fellow academy member. Davis was completely on his own as a cadet. His white academy members only talked to him in the line of duty. Despite the discriminations Davis faced, he graduated from West Point in 1936 35th in a class of 276 cadets. He was the first black man to graduate from West Point since 1889 and the fourth black man overall to graduate from West Point following in the footsteps of Henry Ossian Flipper, John Hanks Alexander, and Charles Young. Davis’ white classmates attempted to run him out of the academy, but he persevered and graduated as one of the best cadets in his class, he also gained the respect of his classmates. Davis applied for the U.S. Army Air Corps in 1934 but was denied because they did not accept black men. Davis was commissioned to become a second lieutenant. At the time, Benjamin Davis, Jr., along with his father Benjamin Davis, Sr., were the only two black Army officers who were not chaplains. Davis, Jr. married Agatha Scott in 1936 shortly after graduating from West Point. Later in 1936, Davis was assigned to the 24th Infantry Regiment in Fort Benning, Georgia, one of the original all-black buffalo soldier regiments. Neither Davis, nor his fellow soldiers were allowed to enter the base officer’s club because they were black. Davis began attending Fort Benning’s U.S. Army Infantry School in 1937, he was then assigned the Tuskegee Institute to teach military tactics, a position his father held at Tuskegee.
Franklin D. Roosevelt ordered the U.S. War Department to create an all-black flying unit in response to demands for more black men in the military. 1941 was the year the first class of cadets entered their training at the Tuskegee Army Air Field, Benjamin O. Davis, Jr., was one of the initial cadets to enter and graduate class 42-C-SE from the Tuskegee Army Air Field in 1942. Davis graduated from aviation cadet training with Captain George S. Roberts, 2nd Lt. Charles DeBow Jr., 2nd Lt. Mac Ross, and 2nd Lt. Lemuel R. Custis. These were the first four black men to become combat fighter piolets in U.S. military history. Later in 1942, Davis was promoted to lieutenant colonel, he also became the commander of the 99th Pursuit Squadron, the U.S. Military’s first all-black pilot unit. In 1943, Davis’ unit was sent to Tunisia as one of their first missions. The Tuskegee Airman were also involved in a dive-bombing mission against the Germans during Operation Corkscrew, and supported the Allied forces invading Sicily. Davis was instructed to become the commander of the 332nd fighter group, an exceptional all-black air pilot unit. Shortly after Davis began leading his new unit, white senior officers were trying to stop Davis and his unit from being deployed into combat. Davis and his unit were said to be underperforming by their white counterparts. Davis did not sit and allow his men to be insulted and dismissed. Davis was angered by the proposals to dismiss his units, so he held a press conference at the Pentagon presenting all the facts of successes his units were having. The American Army General at the time George Marshall did not dismiss the Tuskegee Airman, but he did hold a review of their performance. The results of the review showed that the Tuskegee Airmen were performing at the same level or better than their white counterparts. In January of 1944, The Tuskegee Airmen were able to defeat 12 German piolets during combat while protecting the Anzio beachhead.
Davis led the “Red Tails”, a nick-name given to the Tuskegee Airmen; a four-squadron group on many successful missions penetrating deep into German territory. As time passed, Davis became the commander of more and more all-black air units. One reason was because Davis was an excellent leader, another was no whites wanted to be lead by a black man. Out of the many missions led by Davis, the Tuskegee Airmen were able to shoot down 112 planes, and disabled around 273 planes on the ground, and only losing 66 total planes during the 15,000 missions. Davis personally embarked upon 67 missions flying various fighter planes and receiving awards for his performances such as the United States Silver Star Medal, and the Distinguished Flying Cross award. In 1948, President Harry S. Truman signed the executive order to end racial discrimination within the military. Davis was one of the military officers to help draft the integration order, helping the Air Force become the first branch of the U.S. Military to become fully integrated. After graduating from Air War College, Davis began working at the Pentagon and abroad for a twenty year period. During those twenty years he helped to develop the Air Force’s Thunderbird flight demonstration team.
In 1953, Davis became commander of the 51st Fighter-Interceptor Wing in the Korean War. He became the vice-commander of the Thirteenth Air Force and commander of the Air Task Force 13, and temporarily promoted to brigadier general. In 1957, Davis became the chief of staff of the Twelfth Air Force, U.S. Air Forces in Europe in Western Germany. He was again temporarily promoted to major general in 1959 before permanently becoming the brigadier general in 1960. In 1961, he became the director of manpower and organization, and became the deputy chief of staff for programs and requirements. In 1962, he was permanently promoted to major general, and in 1965 he became the assistant deputy chief of staff, programs and requirements. Later in 1965, Davis was again promoted to chief of staff for the United Nations Command and U.S. Forces in Korea. Benjamin Davis, Jr. retired from the military in 1970. In 1998, Davis was promoted to general, U.S. Air Force (retired) by President Bill Clinton. Davis began as a 2nd lieutenant in 1936 and ended as a Four Star General in the U.S. Military. He died on March 10, 2002, but left an honorable legacy and broad shoulders for the next generations to stand upon. To General Benjamin O. Davis, Jr., we proudly stand on your shoulders.
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January 4, 1867, is said to be the birth date of Elizabeth Carter, a black woman whose mother was enslaved by a U.S. President. New Bedford, Massachusetts is Elizabeth’s birthplace. Martha Webb was the name of her mother, and former U.S. President John Tyler was the man who owned Martha Webb. Webb became a well-known abolitionist and conductor of the Underground Rail Road. Her passion for helping black people gain their freedom was inherited by Elizabeth Carter and would help to shape her future. Elizabeth developed an interest in architecture while attending New Bedford High School and the Swain Free School in New Bedford, Massachusetts. She not only created an interest, but she began developing her skills to become a future black architect. In addition to developing her skills in architecture, she attended the Harrington Normal School for teachers and earned a teaching certificate after becoming the first black person to graduate from the Harrington Normal School.
Around the year 1890, Elizabeth began her teaching career at the Howard Colored Orphan Asylum in Brooklyn, New York, an orphanage founded by black Americans. In 1895, she began her work with the National Association of Colored Women's Clubs (NACWC). She became the secretary of the organization's convention in 1896. From 1906 to 1908, Elizabeth served as the vice-president of the National Association of Colored Women’s Clubs. 1901, was the year that Elizabeth began teaching at New Bedford’s Taylor School, making her the first black person to teach in New Bedford. In 1908, she became the president of the National Association of Colored Women’s Clubs after serving as the vice-president. She served as president until 1912. This is around the time when Elizabeth learned about the NAACP and decided to found her own chapter of the NAACP in New Bedford, Massachusetts. She later became a founder of the New England Federation of Women’s Clubs. She would serve as the president of the New England Federation of Women’s Clubs for over 27 years. As the president, she worked to make sure community organizations and organizations in need received the necessary resources to operate. She helped community centers receive funding, helped support scholarship funds, and supported the building of daycare centers in communities in need.
In 1918, Elizabeth was recruited and named the overseer of the building of the Phyllis Wheatly YWCA in Washington D.C. Elizabeth’s community work seemed to never end. She was instrumental in helping the New Bedford Home for the Aged be constructed, by ensuring it was funded and contributing to the design of the organization's final and main location. To help maintain the several locations for the New Bedford Home for the Aged, Elizabeth arranged for the Women's Loyal Union to become the organization responsible for maintaining the locations. In typical Elizabeth Carter fashion, she became the president of the New Bedford Home for the Aged and the Women’s Loyal Union, maintaining those roles until 1930. The year earlier, she married a man named W. Sampson Brooks, the bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Denomination of the Bethel Church. The two were married for five years before W. Sampson Brooks passed away. The couple moved to San Antonio, Texas, but Elizabeth moved back to New Bedford after her husband's death. The love for architecture never left Elizabeth’s heart. She would take on the task of preserving historical black properties and buildings in 1939. Elizabeth purchased and memorialized the home of the black military officer and hero William Carney. Elizabeth Carter Brooks died in 1951 in New Bedford, but will forever be remembered as a pioneer, educator, architect, activist, organizer, historian, and champion for the human rights of black Americans. To Mrs. Elizabeth Carter Brooks, we proudly stand on your shoulders.
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On June 29, 1867, Emma Azalia Smith was born in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, her parents were Henry B. and Corilla Smith. Henry worked as a blacksmith while Corilla was a school teacher and taught singing lessons. Corilla founded a school for formerly enslaved people and their children. On many occasions, during singing lessons, Corolla and her students were threatened by several white terrorist groups. To keep his family safe, Henry moved his family to Detroit, Michigan in 1870. While in Detroit, Emma became the first black student to attend public school. At age three, she began taking singing lessons and learning to play the piano. She developed her talent very quickly and was considered a child prodigy. To help bring money into her home, Emma would perform at high school dances. In addition to developing her musical talents, Emma was a brilliant student. In 1887, she completed the graduation requirements for her high school and the Washington Normal School. A year later she earned her teaching certificate and began teaching at Clinton Elementary School. While teaching, she also began taking French lessons. To pay for her singing and piano lessons, Emma continued to teach singing lessons, voice lessons, continued to perform her music, and give voice recitals for her students. Emma became a singer for the Detroit Musical Society, which helped to bring more attention to her talents. Because she was very fair-skinned, she was encouraged by other black people to pass as white and use the privilege, but she was too proud of who she was to pretend to be a white woman.
In 1894, Emma Smith met and married a man named Edwin Henry Hackley. She quit her job as a teacher and moved to Denver, Colorado with her husband. Mr. Hackley was the co-founder of The Colorado Statesman, a newspaper publishing company and worked as a lawyer. He was the first black person admitted to the Colorado bar. Emma and Henry had similar goals, so they combined their talents to create the Imperial Order of Libyans, an organization working to eliminate racial injustices. In 1900, Edwin sold his portion of The Colorado Statesman. He used the money and co-founded the newspaper the Statesman-cum-Denver Star with his wife Emma. Unfortunately, Denver’s high altitude caused Emma to begin having health issues so severe that she was forced to move to Philadelphia. When she originally moved, her husband was still living in Denver, but he eventually moved to Philadelphia with Emma. To make a living, Henry found a job as a newspaper carrier while Emma gave singing lessons and became a music teacher. Later in 1900, Emma earned her bachelor's degree from the Denver School of Music, making her the first black person to graduate from the school. She would become the assistant choir director for one of Denver’s largest choirs and the director of her church’s choir. She was also trained to sing in the bel canto vocal style and used that style as a soprano in a Denver concert choir.
Emma gained a reputation for using her music to promote black pride among the people who supported her music. The Denver Post newspaper once wrote an article highlighting how her music caught the attention of many black people. She used her voice and her pen to help educate black Americans about black history and black culture. She became the editor for the Statesman Exponent, the women’s section of the Colorado Statesman newspaper. She founded the Denver branch of the Colorado Women’s League. The Colorado Women’s League was founded to improve the living conditions of black women in Colorado. In 1901, Emma held her first performance on her tour as a singer, she also moved back to Philadelphia and became the music director at Philadelphia's Episcopal Church of the Crucifixion. In 1904, Emma founded the Hackley Choir, which was a 100-member choir. She organized festivals for folk music, introducing her community to folk music made by black people. She took voice lessons in Paris from a notable opera singer and vocal coach, Jean de Reszke. During this time, she was able to give voice training to legendary black musicians such as Marian Anderson and R. Nathaniel Dett. Emma would often hold benefit concerts to raise funds for students to receive vocal and musical training abroad. In 1912, Emma founded the Vocal Normal Institute in Chicago, Illinois. In 1916, she published her book The Colored Girl Beautiful and became a lecturer until her health began to decline. Emma Hackley died in December of 1922, as a woman who used her legendary vocals to inspire black people to learn more about themselves. She also wrote several newspaper and magazine articles to educate black people about black history. To Mrs. Emma Azalia Smith Hackley, we proudly stand on your shoulders.
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Dr. Jose Celso Barbosa Alcala | An Afro-Puerto Rican Physician, Politician, and EducatorRead Now
On July 27, 1857, Jose Celso Barbosa Alacala was born in Bayamón, Puerto Rico, to a working class parents Hermógenes Barbosa and Carmen Alcalá. Hermogenes worked as a brick mason and was the overseer of a sugar mill in San Antonio, Puerto Rico. Barbosa grew up in an environment where he was encouraged to use his education to achieve greatness. He was a great student which allowed him to attend Puerto Rico’s most prominent Jesuit seminary school. Barbosa graduated from the Jesuit seminary school in 1875, making him the first person of African descent to graduate from the seminary. Soon after graduation, Barbosa began working as a tutor for the children of his father's boss to pay for college. He was an excellent tutor, in addition to being a great student and a great young man. He was so impressive that his father’s boss decided to help Barbosa pay to attend college. After saving enough money to pay for college, Barbosa moved to New York City in 1875 to attend a prep school. At this prep school, Barbosa was able to become fluent in speaking English, fluent enough for Barbosa to attend college in the United States.
Barbosa experienced a change of fate within his educational career that affected his life for the better. He became sick with pneumonia in 1876 while living in New York. After being diagnosed by his doctor, he was encouraged to study medicine, Barbosa's original plan was to study law. Later in 1876, Barbosa began attending Fort Edward College in New York. In 1877, he applied to attend the College of Physicians and Surgeons at Columbia University but was denied admission. Some sources say he was denied because he was a black man. He would later apply to attend the University of Michigan’s Medical School and was accepted. In 1880, Jose Barbosa graduated as the first person of Afro-Puerto Rican descent from the University of Michigans Medical School. He not only graduated with his medical degree, but he graduated as Valedictorian. Shortly after graduation, Dr. Barbosa returned to Puerto Rico to practice medicine with his people. He opened a practice in Bayamon, his hometown, and developed a reputation for providing great medical care to poor Afro-Puerto Rican people. His reputation reached the Spanish authorities, who quickly refused to recognize his medical credentials. At the time, the Spanish authorities only acknowledged medical degrees from Spain.
With his medical practice in jeopardy of being shut down, Barbosa reached out to, and received help, from the American counsel. After a heated panel discussion, Dr. Barbosa was allowed to continue to practice medicine in his hometown. He became a member of Logia Estrella de Luquillo Masonic Lodge in 1885. Dr. Jose Barbosa married a woman named Jacinta Belén Sánchez Jiménez in 1887, they produced 11 children. He became an educator in 1888, teaching anatomy, obstetrics, midwifery, and natural science at the Puerto Rican Athenaeum, Puerto Rico’s oldest cultural institution. Later in 1888, Dr. Barbosa became the Under-Secretary of Education for Puerto Rico. Dr. Barbosa is credited with developing a prototype of a health insurance system, the first credit union in Puerto Rico, and establishing a worker’s cooperative called El Ahorro Colectivo in 1893. Dr. Barbosa became active in Puerto Rico’s political movement in 1883, by becoming involved with various political parties he either founded or became a member of. He founded the Puerto Rican Republican Party in 1899 as an advocate for Puerto Rico becoming free from Spanish rulership. He wanted Puerto Rico to have the freedoms of the United States and supported the U.S. annexation of Puerto Rico. Dr. Barbos’a political ideas and activism garnered him the title of “Father of the Puerto Rican Statehood Movement.” He also founded Puerto Rico’s first bilingual newspaper El Tiempo in 1907. Dr. Barbosa was receiving much support from fellow Afro-Puerto Ricans, they even joined his Republican Party because they believed in his political ideas of autonomy and independence from Spain.
Dr. Barbosa became the first black person to be appointed to the Puerto Rican executive cabinet by four U.S. Presidents from 1900 to 1917. He was also elected to the Puerto Rican Senate in 1917 and served until 1921. Dr. Barbosa was inspired by African American abolitionists, educators, scholars, etc, he used that inspiration to continue providing great medical care to his people, use his political platform to help improve living conditions, and published forty years' worth of articles about civil rights and justice for Afro-Puerto Rican people, and African people throughout the diaspora. Dr. Barbosa was given the Cruz de la Orden del Mérito Naval award in 1898 and awarded honorary degrees from the University of Puerto Rico. Dr. Barbosa died on September 21, 1921, in San Juan, Puerto Rico. He dedicated over 30 years of his life to serving his people as a doctor, educator, and politician because he wanted his people to live free, healthy, and prosperous lives. To Dr. Jose Celso Barbosa Alcala, we proudly stand on your shoulders.
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