In 1964, the Deacons for Defense and Justice were formed by black men in Jonesboro, Louisiana to protect the black citizens and civil rights activist from the Ku Klux Klan. Armed self-defense was inconsistent with the non-violent philosophy adopted during the civil rights movement. Two military veterans named Earnest “Chilly Willy” Thomas and Frederick Douglass Kirkpatrick were the original founders of the Deacon for Defense. The organization grew in popularity because it appealed to sections of the civil rights movement who no longer believed that non-violence was a sound strategy. Thomas and Douglas created an organization that would discourage Klan attacks, as well as, help prevent activist and black community members from police and fire hose attacks. The Deacons made headlines when their defensive activities forced then Louisiana Governor John McKeithen and Jonesboro city leaders to compromise with civil rights activist.
As the Deacons grew in numbers and popularity they begin to open chapters in different cities. In 1965, Thomas and Kirkpatrick established a second chapter of the Deacons for Defense and Justice in Bogalusa, Louisiana. After working with the black leaders in Bogalusa, Thomas and Kirkpatrick left the chapter under the leadership of Robert “Bob” Hicks, Charles Sims, and A. Z. Young; the Klan was attacking the blacks in Bogalusa so the people organized to defend themselves. The first black Deputy Sheriff of Washington Parish, Louisiana was assassinated by racist whites; the murder increased the tension between the Klan and the Deacons. The tension grew so tough that federally regulated reconstruction-era laws were instituted to protect civil rights activist. In 1966, civil rights activist James Meridith was embarking on a march from Memphis, Tennessee to Jackson, Mississippi called the March Against Fear. Meridith was shot and severely wounded by white supremist, Stokely Carmichael and many other activists completed the march for Meridith but the idea of self-defense was more prominent.
Charmichael was instrumental in convincing Dr. Martin Luther King and other leaders that the Deacons can be integrated into the movement, provide protection and the unity of the movement would be maintained. By 1965, the Deacons were being investigated by J. Edgar Hoover and the FBI, COINTELPRO tactics were unleashed upon the Deacons enabling the FBI to obtain substantial information about the organization. Disloyal black FBI informants were feeding the FBI information about the activities the Deacons engaged in, these tactics helped members of the Deacons become continuously harassed, arrested and questioned by the FBI. As the years passed, other organizations emerged and began to overshadow the Deacons as far as public attention. The presence of the Black Panther Party took away much of the FBI attention that was usually reserved for the Deacons. By 1968, the Deacons disbanded but in their short time they made a huge impact.
The Deacons helped change the ideas and strategies of civil rights organizations and helped lay the foundation for organizations such as the Black Panther Party to exist. They understood that non-violence was a tactic that can be used, but non-violence is not always the best course of action. They often challenged the KKK and Louisiana police who were looking to harm black people. In all, the Deacons were able to organize twenty-one chapters and forty-six affiliate chapters across the country. Historian Lance Hill wrote the following about the Deacons; “the hard truth is that these organizations produced few victories in their local projects in the Deep South—if success is measured by the ability to force changes in local government policy and create self-governing and sustainable local organizations that could survive when the national organizations departed … The Deacons’ campaigns frequently resulted in substantial and unprecedented victories at the local level, producing real power and self-sustaining organizations.” The Deacons were not fully accepted when they were created, over time it was understood that they were not organized to incite violence but only to protect their people from white supremist. To the entire Deacons for Defense and Justice, we proudly stand on your shoulders.
Gina Maria Prince was born on June 10th, 1969, inNew York City, New York. At three weeks old she was adopted by Bob and MariaPrince, Bob was a computer programmer and Maria was a nurse. Gina was a child who grew up in a culturally diverse home, Bob was a white man and Maria was a woman of El Salvadorian and German ancestry. Gina’s birth mother was white and her father was a black man; Gina’s birth mother gave her up for adoption because her family didn’t want her to keep the baby. Growing up as one of five siblings in Pacific Grove, California she was interested in filmmaking as well as track and field. Gina graduated from Pacific Grove High School in 1987 then enrolled in UCLA’s film school while running track. Gina was an excellent student, her supreme skills as a film director earned her the Gene Reynolds Scholarship, and she went on to earn the Ray Stark Memorial Scholarship for OutstandingUndergraduates before graduating from UCLA in 1991.
Gina’s film career began in 1992 as a writer for the television show “A Different World,” three of the scripts she wrote for “ADifferent World” were aired as episodes of the television series. In 1994, she was a story editor and writer for the television show “South Central” before she became the story editor for “Sweet Justice” which was a courtroom drama series. In 1995, Gina began writing and co-producing for a television series titled “Courthouse” on the CBS network. Later in 1995, Gina made her television debut as a director with a CBS special titled “What About YourFriends?” which gave a new look into the lives of black teens growing up in America. The script was so successful that it opened the door for Gina to begin working on the television show “Felicity” as a consulting producer and a writer. All of the work Gina did over the years prepared her for her Hollywood debut that would inspire a generation of movie watchers and future moviemakers.
The film industry was put on notice at the 2000 SundanceFilm Festival when Gina debuted her first film “Love and Basketball”. The film was a cult classic and won twelve overall awards including best film and bestfilm poster at the Black Reel Awards, the film also won best first screenplay atthe Independent Spirit Awards. After the final numbers from the film weretotaled it was the ninth highest grossing basketball movie of all-time andearned over $27,728,000. Later in 2000, Gina directed the HBO movie”Disappearing Acts” starring Wesley Snipes and Sanaa Lathan, whichwas based on a novel by Terry McMillian. In 2003, she became a producer for themovie “Biker Boys” which went on to gross more than $25,000,000,later that year she wrote an episode for the television series “The BernieMac Show.” In 2005, she wrote episodes for the televisionshows “Everybody Hates Chris” and “Girlfriends”, before becoming a producer forthe documentary “Daddy’s Girl” in 2007.
In 2008, Gina wrote and directed the feature film “The Secret Life of Bees” which grossed over $42,000,000 in the US and Canada and won three awards. Expanding her career and her filmography she made another splash in Hollywood with the film “Beyond The Lights” in 2014 staring Nate Parker and Gugu Mbatha-Raw. She became a writer for the 2017 film “Before I Fall” and the 2018 film “Nappily Ever After.” Information suggests that Gina will be working on creating a film based off of the novel An Untamed State that was written by Roxane Gay. Gina met and married her husband Reggie “Rock” Bythewood who is a film writer, director and producer; the two met on the set of “A Different World.” In 2017, Gina and Reggie created a show for the Fox network titled Shots Fired. Gina Prince-Bythewood was either directly or partially responsible for movies and television shows that directly impacted children growing up in the 1990s and 2000s’. Films such as “Love And Basketball,” “Biker Boyz,” “The Secret Life of Bees,” and “Disappearing Acts” as well as television shows such as “A Different World,” “Everybody Hates Chris,” “Girlfriends” and “The Bernie Mac Show” literally helped to shape generations of children across cultural, racial, gender and economic lines. Mrs. Gina Prince-Bythewood literally was the voice of a generation and for that, we proudly stand on her shoulders.
On January 23, 1899, Ora Mae Washington was born in Caroline County, Virginia, to parents James and Laura O. Young-Washington. In 1912, her family moved to the Germantown area of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania looking for better working opportunities. For the first twenty-five years of her life, she was not seriously engaged in sports and never participated in an organized sport. Tragedy would striker her family when one of her sisters passed away; she struggled with grieving and sports was suggested as a means of therapy. Tennis was the original sport that Ora chose to play and she began her career at the Germantown YMCA. A year into playing tennis, she improved so much that she won her first national championship and entered a national tournament for black tennis players. Ora’s skills were on full display and she put the tennis world on notice that the reign on “The Queen of Tennis” was upon them. She became the dominant black tennis player of her era, winning the American Tennis Association’s national crown in 1929 and holding the crown until 1936. She was so much better than her opponents that she would go full seasons without losing a tennis match.
From the mid-1930’s through the early 1940’s Ora would win eight national singles crowns, twelve doubles crowns, and three mixed doubles crowns. She was the darling of the black sports world and was unknowingly inspiring future black tennis champions. Hellen Willis Moody was the best white female tennis player in the world at that time and Ora had her eyes on a match with Hellen. The Jim Crow era was alive and well in the United States and Ora’s tennis success did not shield her from the racism. Because Ora was a black woman Hellen refused to play her in a match to determine who the best female tennis player in America. Ora was disappointed but not deterred. She would continue to dominate tennis until the 1940’s. Unlike most female athletes of that era, Ora was not just a one sport woman, basketball was her second love.
The Germantown Hornets is the name of the team Ora played basketball for during the 1930’s and 1940’s. The Hornets were originally sponsored by the local YMCA before they became good enough to compete as a professional team. Ora helped lead her team to a 22-1 record and the female national championship. The Hornets followed up their national championship by winning thirty-three games in a row. What was unique about the Hornets is the team was composed of black women but they competed against black women’s teams, white women’s teams and, men’s teams; defeating them all. She would leave the Hornets and begin playing with the Philadelphia Tribune in 1932 as the team’s center and coach. The team was sponsored by a black-owned newspaper The Philadelphia Tribune which allowed it to travel across the country competing against a wide range of opponents. Not only was Ora the team’s best player but she was their leading scorer. The Tribune played any team that was not afraid to face them; Ora was considered the best black female basketball player in the world, she led her team to eleven consecutive championships demolishing their competition.
The 1940’s was the time period that Ora retired from playing both tennis and basketball; The “Queen of Tennis” set the basketball world on fire. To supplement the little pay she earned from tennis and basketball she worked as a domestic to make ends meet. After retiring from sports she became an entrepreneur, brought an apartment building, and secured herself financially for the rest of her life. She used her free time to hold tennis clinics for the Germantown youth to expose them to the sport. She was truly a titan within the sports world, over her career she won 201 championships from tennis and basketball but was virtually unknown outside of the black sports world. She would die in 1971 at the age of seventy-three as a pioneer in the world of women’s sports.
In 1976, she was inducted into the Black Athletes Hall of Fame for her accomplishments. In 1986, she was inducted into Temple University’s Sports Hall of Fame. And in 2009, she was inducted into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame. She is often forgotten but her impact on tennis and basketball is still felt today. She opened the tennis doors for future black players like Althea Gibson, Author Ashe, and the Williams sisters. Her dominance on the basketball court helped pave the way for black female basketball players such as Cheryl Miller, Lisa Lesley and Maya Moore. The WNBA is able to thrive today because she helped black women understand that not only can they play sports but they can dominate the sports. To the “Queen of Tennis” and women’s basketball legend Ora Mae Washington, we proudly stand on your shoulders.
When we think about the Wild West, the cowboys and the lawman that existed in that era, they are always white heroes. It has been proven that our black figures are left out of history even though they made great contributions to America over the centuries. The Lone Ranger character has its roots in the tale of a man named Bass Reeves who literally was the most feared man in the West. Bass Reeves was born into slavery in 1838 in Crawford County, Arkansas, on a plantation owned by the farmer and state legislator William Steele Reeves. Bass Reeves was named after his grandfather Basse Washington but was given the last name of his slave master William Reeves. In 1846, William Reeves moved his family and businesses to Grayson County, Texas while Bass was still a young man. Bass worked on the Reeves plantation as a water boy until he was old enough to work as a field hand. William Reeves was the principle owner of his plantation and the slaves but his son George R. Reeves was given ownership of Bass. George Reeves served as a sheriff, legislator and a Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives.
Bass grew into a fine well-mannered young man standing six feet two inches tall, but his reputation was about to change and he was about to become an American legend. During the Civil War Bass was able to free himself from the ownership of George Reeves because he beat up George after a card game. Information also suggests that Bass ran away from slavery after he learned about slaves receiving their freedom. Bass escaped into territory controlled by the Creek, Cherokee and Seminole tribes. While living with the various tribes he learned how to speak several tribal languages, track his targets, master the rifle, master the pistol, and improve his hunting skills. He became so accurate with his rifle that he was prohibited from participating in shooting competitions. After the passing of the Emancipation Proclamation and the 13th amendment slavery was legally abolished in the United States; these changes meant that Bass was no longer a slave and a fugitive of the law.
Bass moved to Van Buren, Arkansas as a free man where he became a farmer, a rancher and he even started a family. He met and married a woman named Nellie Jennie and the couple produced ten children. To help support his family Bass often worked as a scout and a guide for the U.S. Marshals tracking fugitives in the territory owned by the native tribes. Many fugitives ran into tribal territory to escape being arrested and jailed but the Van Buren Courts’ jurisdiction extended into the tribal territories. In 1875, a man named Isaac Parker became the federal judge over the tribal territory, Judge Parker named James Fagan as the U.S. Marshall, and Fagan’s first job was to hire 200 deputy marshals to help arrest the growing numbers of criminals. By this time Bass was well known for his exceptional shooting abilities, his knowledge of many tribal languages, and his tracking skills, so he was highly recommended to become a deputy marshal. Bass accepted the job and became the first black man to serve as a U.S. deputy marshal in the American west.
As a deputy marshal Bass served in Arkansas territory, Texas, Muscogee territory and several other tribal territories for thirty two years. He was very successful at capturing his targets which were some of the most notorious criminals in very dangerous areas. Bass could not read or write but his memory was exceptional, he would have an assistant read him the arrest warrant and he remembered how the warrant looked so he never pursued the wrong target or lost the actual warrant. Bass was successful and classy as a deputy marshal, he rode on a white horse and dressed in his finest clothes carrying two pistols on his side. He wore his pistols backwards so he could draw them from their holsters faster in a gun battle. A no nonsense man, he became known for capturing all the criminals he targeted, dead or alive. As a master of disguise he used his tricks to capture two outlaws near the Texas, Oklahoma Red River Valley. He dressed as a homeless man looking for refuge as he approached the house the outlaws occupied. At the time a woman that accompanied the outlaws welcomed Bass into the hose, she did not suspect Bass to be anyone other than who he portrayed himself as. When the outlaws arrived at the house the lady convinced them that Bass was safe and just passing through. When the outlaws fell asleep Bass was able to capture them and lead them into jail. Once again the original lone ranger completed his mission and collected his five hundred dollars.
Bass’ most famous capture was the outlaw named Bob Dozier who had a reputation for committing various crimes and escaping capture. Bass pursued Dozier for several months then captured him by killing him in a shootout. An ironic twist of fate led to Bass being arrested and placed on trial from the murder of a cook. He was eventually acquitted with the help of United States Attorney W.H.H. Clayton who spoke favorably about Bass to Judge Isaac Parker. Bass went on to be reassigned to work in Paris, Texas where he apprehended Tom Story of the Tom Story Gang, the outlaw Greenleaf, and outlaw Ned Christie. His wife died in 1896 at Fort Smith, he was later transferred to the Muskogee federal court in tribal territory where he met his second wife Winnie Sumter. Bass’ toughest manhunt was tracking down his own son who had a warrant for murder. As the greatest deputy marshal in the entire west, Bass delivered his son into the hands of the law, he was convicted and sentenced to serve life in prison. One of the last jobs Bass held was a patrolman for the Muskogee and Oklahoma Police Department; it is said that no crimes were committed while Bass was on patrol.
In 1910, Bass became sick and eventually died from the sickness as the greatest deputy marshal in the west. In his thirty five year career working with various law enforcement agencies he apprehended over three thousand criminals and killed fourteen. To say Bass Reeves was exceptional would be an understatement, he was one of, if not, the most successful deputy marshal of all-time. It is highly believed that the television show “The Lone Ranger” was based off of the life of this man. Who would have ever thought that a black man would inspire a white television hero? We are learning more and more that our black heroes have inspired a great deal of American culture. The Wild West wasn’t so wild while Bass patrolled the areas. A black man struck fear into the hearts of the most dangerous criminals of that time. Mr. Bass Reeves, we proudly stand on your shoulders.
Mary Ann Shadd was born in Wilmington, Delaware on October 9, 1823 to parents Abraham Doras Shadd and Harriet Burton Parnell. Mary was the eldest of thirteen children who were born free from slavery because Abraham and Harriet were free blacks. Social activism was in her bloodline, her great grandfather was Hans Schad aka John Shadd who was a foreigner. Hans was originally from Hesse-Cassel which was a state of the Holy Roman Empire in Europe. Hans came into the United States as a Hessian soldier fighting for the British Army in the French and Indian War. Abraham Shadd was a shoemaker with shoe shops in Wilmington, Delaware and Chester, Pennsylvania. He joined the American Anti-Slavery Society, became the president of the National Convention for the Improvement of Free People of Color in Philadelphia, and was a conductor for the Underground Railroad in both Delaware and Pennsylvania. Because Abraham and Harriet were active in fighting chattel slavery Mary often witnessed her parents harboring runaway slaves in their home.
The Shadd family was forced to relocate to Pennsylvania from Delaware because it became illegal to educate black people in the state of Delaware. Upon settling in Pennsylvania Mary begin attending a Quaker boarding school to complete her formal education. Mary didn’t live with her family while she attended the Quaker boarding school, she graduated the school and returned to West Chester, Pennsylvania where her family lived. She used her education and entrepreneurial spirit to found a school for black children that provided them with a chance at a bright future. She also established schools in New York City and Norristown, Pennsylvania. The Fugitive Slave Act was passed in 1850 which threatened the safety and freedom of the Shadd family. In 1853, Abraham moved his family to North Buxton, Ontario, Canada to continue living in freedom. While in Canada Abraham was elected as the Counselor of Raleigh Township, Ontario in 1858; this election made Abraham the first black man to be elected to political office in Canada.
Mary along with Isaac who was her brother, moved to Windsor, Ontario where she begin campaigning for free black people to move to Canada establishing themselves to thrive. In 1849, Mary published a twelve page pamphlet titled Hints to the colored People of the North encouraging black self-sufficiency; she also wrote a letter to Frederick Douglas criticizing black leaders, black churches and endorsed the use of education to help liberate blacks from slavery. During her time in Windsor Mary established an integrated school and published her second pamphlet titled Notes on Canada West in 1852. Notes on Canada West was written as a call to black Americans to move to the free lands of Canada. Between 1853 and 1854 Mary founded Canada’s first anti-slavery newspaper called the Provincial Freeman; she became the first woman editor-in-chief of a magazine in North America. Isaac, Mary’s brother contributed to the newspaper eventually became the manager and was also involved in social activism. The Provincial Freeman circulated throughout the United States and Canada as an instrument of empowerment specifically for blacks through positive information and imagery. The newspaper was in circulation from 1853 to 1861.
In 1855, Mary’s interest in joining the Philadelphia Colored Convention was met with resistance due to her stance on blacks immigrating to Canada; to be a part of the convention she had to be voted in and received enough votes by a slim margin. During the convention she gave a speech so powerful that she was allowed extra time to speak; Frederick Douglass feared that she was celebrated but not fully respected because she was a black woman. Mary married a black barber named Thomas F. Cary from Toronto in 1856, the couple had two children but Thomas unfortunately died in 1860. After the death of Thomas Cary, Mary moved back to the United States with her children and was recruited by abolitionist to help enlist black people into the Union Army. After the conclusion of the Civil War Mary continued teaching and enrolled into the Harvard School of Law. In 1883, at the age of 60 Mary became the second black woman in the United States to earn a law degree.
Mary’s age did not slow her down a bit. After completing law school she became a writer for the National Era and The People’s Advocate newspapers, organized the Colored Women’s Progressive Franchise in 1880, joined the National Woman Suffrage Association, and became the first black woman to vote in a national election. She died on June 5th, 1893 due to stomach cancer in Washington D.C. but left her mark on the world and the people she touched. She literally dedicated her life to the education and liberation of her people, just like her parents did for the Underground Railroad. Miss. Mary Ann Shadd Cary, we proudly stand on your shoulders.
Frances Luella Cress was born on March 18th, 1935 in Chicago, Illinois to parents Dr. Henry Cress and Mrs. Ida Mae Griffen. Dr. Henry Cress was a physician who earned his Ph. D. from the University Of Illinois College Of Medicine in 1931, Ida Mae Griffen was a school teacher. Her grandfather was a physician and surgeon named Dr. Henry Clay Cress. Dr. Welsing’s parents and grandparents created a sound foundation for her to set the world on fire with her intellect and courage. She graduated from Wendell Phillips High School in 1953 before attending Antioch College located in Yellow Springs, Ohio. During her time as a student at Antioch College Dr. Welsing was able to work in the medical school laboratory at Northwestern University. In 1955, she participated in a work study program that required the students to complete classroom work and gain full-time experience working in their chosen field. Her work consisted of serving as a lab technician for the bio-chemistry department of the New York State Psychiatric Institute. She graduated from Antioch College in 1957 earning a bachelor’s of science degree. Her next step was to enroll into Howard University’s College of Medicine where she earned her M.D. in 1962.
Following her graduation from Howard University’s college of Medicine Dr. Welsing completed a three year residency program at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in Washington D.C. She then concluded a two year fellowship in Child Psychology at Children’s Hospital which is also located in Washington D.C. She worked as a general and child psychiatrist before working as a physician for the Department of Human Services. She became the clinical director for a number of schools in the D.C. area working with emotionally troubled children before opening her own practice in 1967. In 1969, Dr. Welsing wrote a letter titled “Distorted Logic” that was published in the “Black Voices” column of the Afro Newspaper. The letter was the beginning of Dr. Welsing delivering her understanding of the global system of white supremacy/racism and how it responds to the melanated people of the world. The letter specifically questioned the My Lai massacre that happened in the south of Vietnam and the many massacres that happened to the Africans around the globe. Dr. Welsing noted that white America was hypocritical in its criticism of racism even though they continued to teach their children to uphold the legacy of white supremacy.
Later in 1969, Dr. Welsing wrote the Cress Theory of Color Confrontation which was a paper that further broke down the relationship between white supremacy and the worlds people of color, specifically the heavily melanated people. Within the paper she gave attention to a statement made by the Black Caucus of the American Psychological Association which stated, “Racism was the number one mental health problem in the nation and was the number one cause of mental health problems.” Around this time Dr. Welsing met a brilliant man named Neely Fuller Jr. who helped her understand that racism was a system of domination and control of every major area of human activity. Fuller Jr. is the author of the book The United-Independent Compensatory Code/System/Concept Textbook: A Compensatory Counter-Racist Code. The Cress Theory of Color Confrontation was officially published in 1974 and was the first of her major published works. In 1975, Dr. Welsing began having troubles with the administration at Howard University. She was denied tenure with the university because of her “controversial” views about racism, homosexuality and white supremacy.
The dean of the medical school did not want to promote Dr. Welsing from an assistant professor to an associate professor because of her views. The situation was officially reviewed by university officials because the medical school committee voted to promote Dr. Welsing but the dean was against the promotion. In 1975, Dr. Welsing was fired by Howard University without any substantial reason other than being afraid of Dr. Welsing’s views against white supremacy. In February of 1974, Dr. Welsing participated in a debate against a white man named Dr. William Shockley on the television show Tony Browns Journal. The debate centered on Dr. Shockley claiming that blacks were not suffering from racism rather they are genetically inferior beings compared to whites. Dr. Welsing used her research and superior intellect to systematically tear Dr. Shockley to shreds and damming his false claims. Black people have never been and never will be genetically inferior to whites or any other race of people.
In 1991, Dr. Wesling published a masterpiece of a book titled The IsIs Papers: The Keys To The Colors, which was a collection of the essays she wrote as she gained a better understanding of the system of white supremacy. The book gave a great overview of how white supremacy is ingrained in every facet of life and how symbols, mis-education, social engineering, violence and other methods are used to help maintain white supremacy and prevent genetic annihilation by African people. She wrote about how the black male’s genitals were constantly under attack and how homosexuality, abortions and constant killings of black people are used to maintain low numbers of blacks and decrease reproduction.
Dr. Welsing was a titan in the black conscious movement for over fifty years. Her theories though controversial to those who did not believe in black liberation, were revolutionary in helping to understand what has happened to African people because of white supremacy. She spent many years traveling around the world lecturing and teaching her theories to thousands of students who were honored to learn from her. She was such a powerful figure that many of her opponents waited until her death in January of 2016 to challenge her theories. They knew of her brilliance and were afraid to challenge her while she was alive. Though the world lost a great person she left an amazing legacy that will never die. She helped us understand what racism was and how it impacted African people. Neely Fuller Jr stated, “If you don’t understand White Supremacy (Racism) – what it is, and how it works – everything else that you understand, will only confuse you.” She is greatly loved and greatly missed by the black community. Dr. Frances Cress Welsing we proudly, proudly, stand on your shoulders.
Little Known Black History Fact: Dr. Frances Cress Welsing
In 1788, Mary Prince was born to enslaved parents in Brackish Pond, which is now Devonshire Parish, Bermuda. Mary’s father was owned by David Trimmingham and worked as a sawyer, her mother was a house servant owned by Charles Myners. In 1788, Myners died which caused Mary along with her mother, brothers and sisters to be sold to Captain Darrell Williams. Captain Williams then gave Mary’s mother to his wife Sarah Williams as a servant; Mary was gifted to Betsey Williams the granddaughter of Captain Darrell. In 1798, Sarah Williams died, Captain Williams would meet a new woman and Marry her two years later. To pay for the wedding Captain Williams sold Mary to Captain John Ingham separating her from her family. She was twelve years old, away from her family and facing constant abuse from the Ingham family. The Ingham’s constantly beat their slaves. Mary once witnessed her pregnant friend Hetty beaten to death by the Ingham’s. She would grow tired of the beatings and escape the Ingham plantation seeking refuge with her mother. Mary’s mother and other enslaved women helped Mary hide in a cave for several months before she returned to the Ingham plantation.
The Ingham’s decided to sell Mary in 1805 to an enslaver known as Mr. D who owned a salt pond in the Turks and Caicos Islands. Mr. D’s workers were extracting salt from the salt ponds for up to seventeen hours a day. The conditions of the salt ponds were inhumane and hazardous to the health of the workers. The men who worked the salt ponds were at risk of losing limbs because they were knee deep in salt water almost all day every day. Mary and the other women were charged with packaging the salt that was collected by the men. Workers would die or become very ill often because of the working conditions, Mary developed rheumatism and St. Anthony’s fire. Mr. D decided to give up salt mining and moved to Bermuda with his family taking Mary along with him. Unfortunately Mr. D was no different than the Ingham’s, he also abused Mary along with his daughter. Mary was forced to bathe Mr. D daily which was some of the sexual abuse she suffered at his hands. Mr. D contracted Mary out to a place named Cedar Hill working as a clothes washer, the money Mary earned washing clothes Mr. D collected.
Mr. D sold Mary to John Adams Wood of Antigua for $300 in 1815. She once again worked as a servant while suffering from the effects of rheumatism; often she could not work because of her declining physical condition. Wood traveled often, during his travels Mary would take advantage of his absence and make money for herself washing clothes and selling food. She learned to read after joining the Moravian Church which was something she feared the Wood’s would not approve of. She also married a man named Daniel James in 1826, a free black man who brought his freedom working as a carpenter and cooper. Because Mary married a free black man Wood abused her out of fear of her running away. The Wood family traveled to England in 1828, geographically Mary was free because slavery was abolished in the United Kingdom by the Slave Trade Act of 1807. Adams Wood unofficially freed Mary but still retained the rights to her. He would tell her she could leave but went out of his way to make sure she couldn’t make a living.
Eventually, Mary would escape enslavement with the help of the Moravian church in Hatton Garden, London. Contrary to what Wood believed or told Mary, she found work with the writer and abolitionist Thomas Pringle; she also joined the Anti-Slavery Society as their secretary. Mary’s fight for her freedom was far from over, if she wanted to return to Antigua and live with her husband as a free woman, Wood needed to grant her freedom, Wood refused to grant her freedom. The Anti-Slavery Society would petition the parliament for Mary’s freedom but was not successful. Several petitions and bills were proposed to end slavery in the West Indies but at that time all were turned down. Pringle hired Mary to work for him in 1829 and also convinced her to have her life story recorded by Susanna Strickland. The History of Mary Prince was officially published in 1831, this was the first time a book was published describing the life of an enslaved black woman in the United Kingdom. The book upset many of the people who supported and participated in the slave trade because it exposed the terrible conditions the slaves endured. Two human rights cases arouse out of the controversy the book caused by exposing the true conditions of slavery. The Slavery Abolition Act was passed in 1833 which ended slavery but allowed slavers time to transition the wealth they gained.
The book The History of Mary Prince forced the people of the United Kingdom to view slavery through the eyes of an abused slave. Her book helped to push for the overall abolition of slavery within the West Indian Islands and other English territories. The book was so popular that it sold out three times and three different editions were published within its first year. Much is not known about Mary Prince’s life following the years after her book was published, but her life’s story is one of many stories we have that gives accurate accounts of the lives of slaves. Many people think that slavery outside of the United States was less cruel, but stories like Mary’s give us a different narrative. She used her experience to help others live a life free of enslavement. Mrs. Mary Prince, we proudly stand on your shoulders.
In 1797, a young girl named Isabella was born into slavery in Ulster County, New York. Her parents were named James and Betsy, they were owned by Colonel Johannes Hardenbergh. As a young girl Isabella did not speak English, she only spoke what is called low Dutch and she could not read or write. Isabella would marry a man named Thomas who was also enslaved and the couple produced five children. Between 1815 and 1826 she was sold to four different slave owners on four different occasions. In 1826, Isabella had enough and decided to escape slavery and claim her freedom.
She made her home in New York City until 1843 when she began traveling the country as a Preacher fighting injustices. One of the major changes Isabella made in her life was the changing of her name; she chose the name Sojourner Truth. Her name fit her mission as an abolitionist; she was determined to combat slavery. Throughout her travels Truth would live in Massachusetts and Ohio, she slowly built a name for herself from the Midwest to the Southeast. She was able to build alliances with fellow abolitionist and freedom fighters; she also found a way to support herself by selling self-portraits. Truth also made a living by selling her biography, The Narrative of Sojourner Truth, A Northern Slave, which was written by Olive Gilbert in 1850.
Sammy Banks, the grandson of Truth joined her in her fight against slavery, he could read and write so he was very useful to her. In 1856, she traveled to Battle Creek, Michigan via invite to speak in front of a group of Quakers who were considered radical. She would eventually move to Battle Creek, Michigan ten years later, converting an old barn into her home. During the 1860’s, Truth found herself working for the Freedman’s Bureau at a time when ex-slaves were looking for refuge. Her mission with the bureau was to push for improved conditions for blacks at the Freedman’s Village. A huge number of ex-slaves were coming from Washington D.C. with no place to live or turn. Many were able to live at the Freedman’s Village but still managed to experience inhumane conditions. The children of the slaves were often kidnapped by the residents of Maryland, and when the parents complained they were punished.
Truth became aware of the conditions the people were living in and lead a protest against the village. She was threatened immediately with detainment, but as a true hero she took the mission head on. Truth became instrumental in helping ex-slaves travel across the country to start a new life. She was relentless in her efforts to lobby the government for free land for the ex-slaves, and to cover the cost of their relocation. Truth is most notable for the speech widely but inaccurately known as “Ar’n’t I a Woman?” She gave an address at a women’s rights convention in 1851, but the speech she gave was not the “Aint I a Woman” version. The original version of the speech was published by Marius Robinson in the 1852 issue of The Anti-Slavery Bugle. The “Ar’n’t I A Woman?” version was published by Frances Gage; she added the “Ar’n’t I A Woman?” phrase and added a more southern dialect. The Gage version of the speech was published in 1863. The purpose of the address was to bring awareness to the plight of women and to fight for equality. On September 26th, 1883 Sojourner Truth died in her home at the age of 86. It is reported that 1,000 people attended her funeral to honor her. Truth devoted her life to literally freeing her people from enslavement, and helping to improve race relation throughout the country. Madame Sojourner Truth, we proudly stand on your shoulders.
Did you know that thirteen of the fifteen jockeys in the first Kentucky Derby were black men? Black horse jockeys were black America’s first sports stars, winning fifteen of the first twenty-eight Kentucky Derby’s. Black jockeys would dominate the sport for its first thirty years. The first Kentucky derby was ran in 1875 at Church Hill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky. Oliver Lewis a black jockey was the first winner of the Kentucky Derby, the three-year old thoroughbred horse he rode named Aristides recorded the fastest time ever for a horse that size. Blacks learned to master horses and horse racing through the time they spent caring for horses during slavery. Slave masters forced blacks to serve as the riders, groomers and trainers of their horses. Because of the amount of time blacks spent with the horses, black riders had a superior connection with the horses compared to the white riders and trainers. Black jockeys dominated horse racing in the South through the Emancipation period while white jockeys dominated horse racing in the North.
Ansel Williamson was a former slave and trainer who trained the horse Aristides who won the first Kentucky Derby. Williamson was able to defeat fellow black jockey Oliver Lewis is a later race; Lewis rode the horse named Chesapeake. Ed Brown was the black Jockey that won the 1877 Kentucky Derby riding the horse Baden-Baden, Brown would also go on to own his own stables for horse racing. Horse Jockey Isaac Murphy is considered the greatest jockey in American history and was one of the most popular sports figures of his time. He was the son of a former slave and would win one third of the races he entered. He was he first rider to win back to back Kentucky Derby’s and the first rider to win three Kentucky Derby’s total. His career was threatened when he was accused of drinking on the job, he was not found guilty and bounced back by winning the following Kentucky Derby. The horse Murphy rode was owned by a black man named Dudley Allen a former slave who is the only black man to own a winning Kentucky Derby horse. Black jockey Jimmy Winkfield won back to back Kentucky Derby’s in 1902 becoming the second rider to do so. Winkfield was a very successful jockey in America and abroad, the Jim Crow era forced black jockeys from the race tracks so Winkfield raced in Russia, Poland and Germany ending his racing career with 2,600 wins.
The black presence at the Kentucky Derby came to an end because of systematic racism which was allowed at Church Hill Downs. The rise of unequal segregation and Jim Crow gave whites the gumption to literally force black jockeys off of the race track. In 1900, the white jockeys band together to sabotage black riders and keep them off of the tracks. White jockeys would often force black riders to have accidents by literally boxing them in and forcing them to crash into other horses or the rails. They would beat the black jockeys with their whips during the race causing them to fall off of their horses; black jockeys would become critically injured or even killed because of the actions of the white jockeys. The white race officials often turned a blind eye to the terrorism the white jockeys were inflicting upon the black jockeys. Willie Simms is the only black jockey to win the Triple Crown, but even he couldn’t race because of the systematic racism. 1904 is said to be the year that black jockeys were unofficially banned from horse racing; information shows that the banning was significant because no black jockey participated in horse racing from 1921 until the year 2000. In the year 2000 jockey Marlon St. Julien was the first black to race in over seventy years and earned a seventh place finish.
Black Jockeys were forced to take their talents to Europe, some were able to find success others were not. Pike Barnes and Soup Perkins were black jockeys who would earn large amounts of money from winning races until they were kicked out of the sport they helped to popularize. Perkins won the Kentucky Derby at the age of 15 but died at the age of 31 from drinking because he was locked out of horse racing. White riders demanded and received segregated races to further keep blacks out of the sport. Black jockeys faced severe hardships because they could not earn a living through racing, some committed suicide, some found other ways to make a living, while others died from the compounding effects of systematic racism. The story of black horse racing is another example of why black Americans have to learn to protect what we build as long as we exist within the grasp of white supremacy. To all of the black horse jockeys who paved the way for the Kentucky Derby and horse racing to thrive, we proudly stand on your shoulders.
Betty Wright Harris was born on July 29th, 1940 to parents Henry Hudson “Jake” Wright and Legertha Evelyn Thompson Wright, in Ouachita Parish, Monroe, Louisiana. She was one of eleven children raised on the farm her parents worked on until they were able to buy the farm. Harris was a brilliant child and even enrolled into Southern University at the age of sixteen; her mother Legertha was a school teacher and taught her children the value of gaining an education. At the age of nineteen Harris graduated from Southern University with a bachelor’s degree in science, she next moved to Atlanta, GA to attend Atlanta University, she would go on to graduate with a master’s degree in chemistry. After earning her bachelor’s and master’s degrees Harris was employed by Mississippi Valley State University, Southern University and Colorado College as an assistant professor of chemistry and mathematics. Harris met and married a man named Alloyd A. Harris and they would have three children.
Harris began completing doctoral level chemistry classes at the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee before accepting a position to work at IBM. She next accepted a position to work as a visiting staff member at the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) located in New Mexico. She had a desire to further her learning and enrolled in the University of New Mexico, graduating in 1973 with her Ph.D. in chemistry. Her dissertation titled “Reactions of 2-Aminopyridine with Picryl Halides” was so prolific that it was published in The Journal of Heterocyclic Chemistry. While working at the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) her concentrations were explosives and nuclear weapons, cleanup of hazardous materials and environmental restoration. She also gave much attention to explosives detection, characterization of insensitive high explosives, synthesis, sensitivity of weathered high explosives, and safing liquids. Harris was known for using the local Girl Scouts to get young black girls interested in chemistry, she also developed a Girl Scouts badge for chemistry.
Harris’ brilliance was on full display during her time at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, she gained a wealth of knowledge which led to her creating her invention the TATB Spot Test or U.S. Patent number 4,618,452. In 2002, Harris retired from the Los Alamos National Laboratory and took a position as the chief of chemical technology managing technical laboratories, and investigated cold-end corrosion of super alloys, for Solar Turbine Inc. Harris also worked as a certified document reviewer for the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Classification. She had access to data that was considered “restricted” due to a special clearance called a “Q” clearance. In 1999, she received a governor’s award and was considered one of the most outstanding women in New Mexico. She was the president of the New Mexico Business and Professional Women’s Organization, Women in Science and Engineering, the American Society for the Advancement of Science, and was also a member of the American Chemical Society for fifty years. Harris is one of the world’s leading experts in explosives, her TATB Spot Test has helped the U.S. military and The Department of Homeland Security to detect different types of explosives. Her brilliance was nurtured early in her life by her parents, her nurturing led to her being able to literally revolutionize the world of chemistry. Dr. Betty Wright Harris, we proudly stand on your shoulders.
On July 1, 1936, Wallace Amos, Jr. was born in Tallahassee, FL where he would live until the age of twelve. After his parents divorced he moved to Manhattan, New York to live with his aunt Della. While living with his aunt Amos found a love for cookies and baking. His aunt was the first to introduce him to baking chocolate chip cookies, which would change his life forever. His love for baking would lead him to enrolling into the Food Trades Vocational High School. At the high school he would take his aunts cookie recipe and improve on it ultimately creating his “Famous Amos” cookie recipe. Before Amos could complete high school he dropped out and joined the United States Air Force. While in the Air Force he gained his high school equivalency diploma before earning an honorable discharge.
After the Air Force Amos had to earn a living, so he began working in the stock room at Saks Fifth Avenue. He was constantly over worked and under paid until he decided to quit Saks Fifth Avenue and try his hand in the entertainment industry. His first taste of the industry was with the William Morris Talent Agency. Similar to his start at Saks Fifth Avenue he had to work his way up. Amos started working in the mail room but that would only last a year. He became the first black talent agent at William Morris. His promotion would turn out to be a great move for the agency and “Famous” Amos. Mr. He would go on to book such acts as The Supremes, Simon & Garfunkel and Marvin Gaye.
Taking all he learned from the William Morris Talent Agency Amos started his own theatrical management agency. His next step was to pack up and move to Los Angles, California. There he started baking again as a way to relax him from his days. His leisure cookie baking turned into an idea for a gourmet cookie stand. Amos was able to borrow $25,000 and built the first freestanding store on Sunset Boulevard, in Hollywood, California. Famous Amos cookies were born. Amos used his knowledge of show business to create a unique and successful marketing plan for his cookies. In 1985 Amos would lose control of the Famous Amos Cookie brand, but would later bounce back with his Uncle Wally’s Muffin Company.
Amos would find a new focus in life after show business and baking, he focused his attention on battling illiteracy. He served as the national spokesperson for Literacy Volunteers of America from 1979 to 2002. He also served on the boards of the National Center for Family Literacy, Read to Me International, and Communities in Schools. In 2005 Amos and his wife co-founded the Chip & Cookie Read Aloud Foundation. Amos has also received the President’s Award for Entrepreneurial Excellence, the Horatio Alger Award, and the National Literacy Honors Award. Wally Amos is an author of eight books, a motivational speaker and a true role model. His latest project is baking cookies as the “Cookie Kahuna” in Oahu, in Kailua Town, Hawaii. “Famous” Amos has touched the hearts, stomachs, and lives of many people worldwide. He used his fame to uplift others and help future generations thrive. Mr. Wallace “Wally” Amos, we stand on your shoulders.
J. A. Ward
On November 17, 1904, William Henry Hastie Jr. was born to parents William Henry Hastie Sr. and Roberta Hastie, in Knoxville, Tennessee. In 1916, the Hastie family moved from Knoxville, Tennessee to Washington D.C. where Hastie would attend Paul Lawrence Dunbar High School and graduate as the valedictorian of his 1921 senior class. After graduation Hastie would move to Amherst, Massachusetts where he would attend Amherst College, he graduated magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa, in 1925. For two years he would become a teacher in Brodertown, New Jersey, he then attended Harvard Law School where he would earn his Bachelor of law (LL.B), his Doctor of Judicial Science (S.J.D.) in 1930, and he became a member of the Harvard Law Review. Also in 1930, Hastie would pass the bar exam for Washington D.C. before beginning his work as a solicitor for the Department of Interior until 1937; he was an advisor for the Department of Interior on racial issues. Hastie would create a partnership with Charles Hamilton Houston who ran his own law firm called, The Law Firm of Charles Hamilton Houston, where Houston and his father William Houston led the firm before the partnership with Hastie, creating the Law Firm of Houston, Houston and Hastie. William Houston was the dean of the Howard Law School and soon became a professor and teaching the legendary lawyer Thurgood Marshall.
“Don’t buy where you can’t work,” was the motto of the New Negro Alliance an organization in which Hastie was a founding member of. The New Negro Alliance was an organization based originally in Washington D.C. which used protest and other forms of public demonstration to promote civil rights. One of Hastie’s most popular cases was the New Negro Alliance v. The Sanitary Grocery Co.. Blacks were issued an injunction by a local court for picketing the grocery store because they did not hire blacks. Hastie got off to a slow start in overturning the injunction, he lost the case in an initial trial, as well as in an appeals court, but the case was finally overturned in a U.S. Supreme Court. Hastie’s persistence led to a landmark victory which gave blacks and other groups of people the right to peaceful labor protesting without the fear of an injunction; this particular decision was named the Norris-LaGuardia Act. The success of the case made Hastie a popular figure in the civil rights movement, it led to Hastie becoming an advisor on racial matters for Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1933. As an advisor Hastie drafted legislation which affected policies in the U.S. Virgin Islands. The legislation changed policies which allowed the residents of the Virgin Islands to vote without facing discrimination.
Following the legislation Hastie was appointed as a District Judge in the U.S. Virgin Islands by President Roosevelt, the appointment made Hastie the first black Federal Judge in the U.S.; Hastie didn’t complete his four year term because he became the dean of Howard Law School in 1939. Hastie became a law professor while serving as the dean of the Howard Law School, and even had the pleasure of becoming a professor to Thurgood Marshall. Later in Hastie’s and Marshall’s law career they would work together as co-lawyers in the Smith v. Allwright case that ruled against poll taxes being levied against black voters. In 1940, Hastie would work with the Secretary of War Henry Stimson to fight for the equal treatment of black soldiers in the armed forces. On January 15, 1943 Hastie gave up his position in protest of the continued unequal treatment of black soldiers. Later in 1943, he would receive the NAACP’s Spingarn Medal for his work in the fight for equal rights for black Americans. In 1946, Hastie was appointed the Territorial Governor of the U.S. Virgin Islands by President Harry S. Truman; the appointment made Hastie the first black governor in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Hastie was also appointed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in 1949 by President Truman, this particular appointment made Hastie the first black to serve as an appellate judge, a position he served in for twenty-two years. In 1950, he was confirmed and commissioned by the United States as an appellate judge, but was never appointed to the Supreme Court because he was a black man. In 1968, Hastie became the Chief Judge of the Third Circuit Court. Hastie died in 1976, but not before breaking barriers, as well as fighting for the rights of blacks in America. He used his passion for his people and the prominence of his legal positions to help make significant changes in the legal system for blacks in the U.S. Judge William Henry Hastie, we proudly stand on your shoulders.
On September 24, 1825, Frances Ellen Watkins was born in Baltimore, Maryland to parents who were freed from slavery. Harper was her parent’s only child; not much is known about her father and her mother died when she was three years old. She was orphaned until she was adopted by her aunt Harriet and Uncle Rev. William Watkins; many of Rev. Watkins’ jobs included teaching, head of the Academy for Negro Youth, preaching, shoe making, medicine, and a civil rights activist. Harper was well educated at her uncles Academy for Negro Youth; after graduation she would become a seamstress. Working as a seamstress for a white family she took advantage of her access to the multitude of books and began reading as much as she could. She would soon begin writing poetry which led to her composing and publishing her first book of poems, Forrest Leaves, in 1845. Harper had strong relationships with legendary abolitionist William Still and William Lloyd Garrison which helped her get the best support in publishing and selling her book. She would also become a popular speaker on the anti-slavery lecture tour, her popularity allowed her to earn enough money to contribute to funding the Underground Railroad.
Harper published her second book titled Poems On Miscellaneous Subjects in 1854, which became a very popular book being reprinted a number of times. She published a short story titled “The Two Officers” in Anglo-African Magazine in 1859; this publication would make her the first black woman to publish a short story. Iola Leroy is the name of the book that is considered her first novel which was published in 1888. In 1892 the book was published under a new title, Shadows Uplifted. She used her writings to help bring attention to the social issues the plagued black Americans regularly. Harper would move to Ohio in 1850 and became the first female teacher at the Union Seminary. The Union Seminary was established by the AME Church along with Wilberforce University, which is the first black college in the United States. Harper was able to use her oratory skills once again when becoming a lecturer and member of the American Anti-Slavery Society. Her first lecture was so successful that it led to her touring with the society for the next two years, a stint that lasted into the 1860’s.
The abolition of slavery and women’s suffrage were two of the many causes Harper gave her attention to. She was well known for writing her letter to famous abolitionist John Brown and publishing her popular poem “Bury Me In A Free Land”. She refused to give up her seat to a white person on a segregated trolley in 1858, she became another black woman who was disrespected by white America and forgotten. She was brave enough to make sure she included fighting for the rights of black women in her speech at the National Women’s Rights Convention, in 1866. Usually black women’s rights are overlooked or excluded from the women’s rights fight. She published poems in 1872 titled Sketches of Southern Life which was written to bring attention to the dire living conditions of free blacks.
She became very popular for her activity in many organizations created to help improve the living and social conditions of black Americans. She worked extensively with the National Woman’s Christian Temperance Union; she believed the organization could manipulate federal power to help her causes. She fought tirelessly for the rights and protection of women, especially black women and became a mentor to influential women such as Ida B. Wells-Barnett, Kate D. Chapman, Victoria E. Matthews, and Mary Shadd Cary. Harper joined forces with Mary Church Terrell in 1894 to form the National Association of Colored Women. The organization was formed when Harper became disenchanted with white feminist, Frances Willard, because she overlooked black women’s issues for white women’s issues. In 1860, Frances Ellen Watkins married Mr. Fenton Harper and they both lived on their farm in Ohio. Harper was a brave woman who often put the safety of others before her own safety. She would challenge white supremacy as often as she could, with all her might. Harper died in 1911, but left an honorable legacy of elite artistry and social activism. Mrs. Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, we proudly stand on your shoulders.
Mary Eugenia Charles was born on May 15th, 1919 in Pointe Michel, Dominica to parents John Baptiste and Josephine Charles; Eugenia’s family who was considered to be of the black bourgeoisie class. Her father John Baptiste was a successful entrepreneur who started as a small stone mason and farmer, he eventually opened up a successful exporting business where he shipped produce to the United States and Brittan; John Baptiste also owned one of the largest estates on the island of Dominica. He owned The Dominica Co-operative Bank, was appointed to the senate in the Upper House of the Federal Parliament of the West Indies in 1958, and served as the Mayor of the Dominica’s capital city of Roseau. Eugenia would attend the all-girls secondary school the Convent School in Dominica. She would work at the colonial magistrate’s court where she would gain an interest in law which led her to working as an assistant for Sir Alastair Forbes, President of the Courts of Appeal for St Helena, the Falkland Islands and British Antarctic Territories. She attended college at The University of Toronto before moving to the United Kingdom to attend the London School of Economics. Before her graduation college she would become a member of the Sigma Gamma Rho sorority.
Eugenia would pass the bar in the United Kingdom then returned home to Dominica to opened her own law firm, this move would make her the first woman on the island of Dominica to practice law. In the 1960’s Eugenia would become active in politics, her first political fight was opposing the islands restrictions on freedom of press. In the 1970’s she was a co-founder of the Dominica Freedom Party, she became the leader of the party from the early days of the party until 1995. In 1970, Eugenia was elected to the House of Assembly and was served when the Island of Dominica gained its independence from Brittan in 1978. During Dominica’s 1980 elections each member of the Dominica Freedom Party was elected to the position they were campaigning for. The party’s very first victory was Eugenia Charles being elected as Prime Minister of the island of Dominica; Eugenia’s election made her Dominica’s first woman Prime Minister, the second woman Prime Minister in the Caribbean, and the first woman government head in the Americas. In addition to serving as Prime Minister she was Dominica’s Foreign Minister and chairperson of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States.
Eugenia showed her toughness and resilience when she was able to survive two attempts at a coups d’état. In 1981, Frederick Newton attacked the Roseau police headquarters in an attempt to take control of the headquarters. Newton’s plans eventually failed and he was executed in 1986. Later in 1981, mercenaries from Canada and America joined forces with white supremacist groups and planned to replace Eugenia with Patrick John the former Prime Minister; American federal agents spoiled their plans in New Orleans, Louisiana. In 1991 Eugenia was knighted as Dame of the Order of Bath by Queen Elizabeth II at Harare, Zimbabwe during the Commonwealth Heads of Government Conference. Eugenia retired as the Prime Minister of Dominica in 1995, the same year her Dominica Freedom Party lost the general elections. In 2005, Eugenia was hospitalized because of hip-replacement surgery; unfortunately she died from a pulmonary embolism. She was recognized and criticized as the Prime Minister of Dominica, her actions helped the island and she also participated in the United States invasion of Grenada. Dame Mary Eugenia Charles, we stand on your shoulders.
On April 23, 1856 Granville Woods was born in Columbus, Ohio to parents Cyrus Woods and Martha Brown. His family experienced poverty so Woods only attended school until the age of ten, he then began working to help his family survive. He worked in a machine shop where he would learn mechanics; information also suggests that he worked as a railroad engineer, engineer on a British ship, railroad worker and blacksmith. Woods became interested in electrical engineering and began learning as much as he could about electricity and its concepts. From 1876 to 1878 he was enrolled into a technical college where he studied electrical and mechanical engineering, upon graduation he began working on a steamship called the “Ironsides”. After working on the “Ironsides” for two years Woods was promoted to the Chief Engineer of the “Ironsides”. Upon returning to his home state of Ohio he began working at the pumping stations for the Springfield, Jackson and Pomeroy Railroad Company. His next step was becoming an engineer with the Dayton and Southwestern Railroad Company.
Woods was a very brilliant and capable engineer, but he was still a black man working in a white mans world. He was continuously being denied opportunities and losing out on promotions because of his race. Channeling his frustrations, Woods and his brother Lyates created the Woods Electric Company. During the time Woods was traveling as an engineer he developed the ideas for one of his most popular inventions, the multiplex telegraph. He gained his first patents in 1884 for the steam boiler furnace and the telephone transmitter. His next patent was for an apparatus that combined a telephone and a telegraph called the “telegraphony”, the invention allowed someone from a telegraph station to send messages through a single wire. The invention became very popular and Woods would sell the rights of the device to the American Bell Telephone Company. In 1887, he gained another patent for a device that allowed the train stations and the engineers on the trains to communicate while the trains were moving; the device is called a synchronous multiplex railway telegraph.
White supremacy began to rear its ugly head again, Thomas Edison attempted to steal Woods’ patent for the synchronous multiplex railway telegraph. Edison filed a lawsuit but was not successful, after the legal matters were settled Edison offered Woods a position in the Edison Electric Light Company, Woods declined the offer and remained the owner of his own company and inventions. In 1892, he created an electrical system that supplied electricity to trains every twelve feet without having wires or batteries exposed; it allowed the trains to travel without the fear of electrical malfunctions. Woods was responsible for inventing the power pickup device in 1901, and he gained patents for the improved air brake systems from 1902 through 1905. He was responsible for creating over fifteen appliances for railways and held close to sixty patents for his inventions. On January 30, 1910 Woods died in New York City as one of, if not, the greatest inventor in American history. Granville T. Woods, we proudly stand on your shoulders.
April 16, 1921, Marie Maynard Daly was born in Queens, New York to parents Ivan Daly and Helen Page. Her father was a postal clerk from the British West Indies and her mother was a native of New York. Marie was inspired by her father who attended Cornell University and studied chemistry but did not graduate because of financial trouble. She was also inspired by her grandfather’s extensive library where she was able to read about science and famous scientist. Her love for reading led her to read the book The Microbe Hunters by Paul de Kruif, a book that helped her make her decision on what she wanted to pursue professionally. Marie attended Hunter College High School, an all-girls magnet school for gifted young girls. After graduating Hunter College High School she attended Queens College in Flushing, New York. In 1942, she graduated Queens College magna cum laude with a degree in chemistry and was named the Queens College Scholar. Her next step was earning her master’s degree from New York University in 1943; she also worked as a laboratory assistant at Queens College to make a living. After working as a laboratory assistant she would work as a chemistry tutor as she pursued her doctoral degree from Columbia University.
While working on her doctorate Marie was supervised by Dr. Mary L. Caldwell, who holds a doctorate in nutrition; with the help of Dr. Caldwell Marie was able to learn how the body produced chemicals to digest food. In 1947, Marie was able to successfully complete her thesis titled “A Study of the Products Formed By the Action of Pancreatic Amylase on Corn Starch”, and earned her PhD. in chemistry; Marie Daly became the first African-America woman to earn a PhD. in chemistry. From 1947 to 1948 Marie worked as a physical science instructor at Howard University while conducting research with Herman Branson on the side. She was awarded an American Cancer Society grant to help her conduct postdoctoral research; her research led her to joining Dr. A.E. Mirsky at the Rockefeller Institute to study the cell nucleus. At the institute Marie was able to determine the base compositions of the deoxypentose nucleic acids present by studying the nuclei of a cell. She explored the cytoplasmic ribonucleoprotein and how it played a role in protein synthesis, she was also able to use mice to study how protein metabolism differed between fasting and eating conditions.
Daly’s fortunes changed in 1953 when an abundance of funding was available for the research she was conducting. She began working with Dr. Quentin B. Deming to study the effects of aging, hypertension and atherosclerosis on the wall of an artery. She became an assistant professor of biochemistry and medicine at Albert Einstein College of Medicine at Yeshiva University. Daly had a passion for teaching and was adamant about helping to increase the number of black youth interested and attending medical school. Daly had an interest in learning how hypertension affected a person’s circulatory system, her interest helped her to serve as an investigator for the American Heart Association. She researched the effects of smoking on the lungs and served as a member of the prestigious board of governors of the New York Academy of Sciences. She received awards from American Association for the Advancement of Science, New York Academy of Sciences, and Council on Arteriosclerosis of the American Heart Association. She received a designation of a career scientist by the Health Research Council of the City of New York before her retirement in 1986. In 1988, she created a scholarship for African American students majoring in chemistry and physics at Queens College, in memory of her father. In 1999, she became one of the top 50 women in science, engineering and technology, a title given to her by the National Technical Association. On October 28, 2003 Daly died at the age of 82 as the first African-American woman in history to earn a PhD. in chemistry. Dr. Marie Maynard Daly, we proudly stand on your shoulders.
The legend John Horse was born near Micanopy, Florida during the time of the War of 1812, his mother was an African woman who was a slave of his father, who was a Seminole Indian slave trader named Charley Cavallo. John Horse and his mother were the property of Cavallo but lived in one of the Oconee Seminole settlements populated by black people along the Suwannee River. In 1817 during the First Seminole War, John Horse’s settlements along with others were raided by American forces led by then President Andrew Jackson. They displaced many families and enslaved a number of the black people they captured; following the displacement of the Seminoles John Horse was living amongst the Oconee Seminoles near the Tampa Bay. As a child John Horse was known as Juan, he earned the name “Gopher John” after it was discovered that he was swindling his personal cook, he would sell him the same tortoise pretending it was different tortoises, in exchange for the cook’s meals; the particular tortoise he was using was the gopher tortoise.
As John Horse grew into manhood he would join his fellow Seminole warriors in their fight against the American forces. The Second Seminole War began in 1835 and the American forces were trying to force the Seminoles and the blacks off of their lands. During the war John Horse served as a field officer, translator, War Chief and political negotiator for the Seminoles. As the war drew on John Horse and other blacks were promised freedom and allies if they would surrender to the American troops and agree to be relocated. Horse agreed to the terms and was later “granted” his freedom papers by General William J. Worth and was quickly shipped to Indian Territory in Mississippi; John Horse also learned that he was lied to because all the blacks who agreed to relocate were not freed, including his second wife and children. During his time as an active body in the Second Seminole War John Horse served the Americans as a scout and translator, this experience helped him have a better view of their American enemies as he became a leader of the black Seminoles in Mississippi. This experience also helped John Horse return to Florida and continued to work as a go between for the Seminoles and the American forces. He allowed himself to be used in convincing fellow Seminole Chief Wild Cat to give up his land and move to the territory in Mississippi; once his job was done he too was shipped back to the territory.
Mercy was shown to John Horse by the Seminole Counsel and Chief Micanopy as they agreed to grant John Horse his nominal freedom from ownership of the Seminole Nation; this was his third time being freed. It is said that the Seminole Indian transplants into the territory in Mississippi were living under the jurisdiction of the Creek Indians who had different cultural practices. One of the cultural differences was the practice of chattel slavery; the Seminoles did not practice chattel slavery and lived in harmony with free blacks. The other Indian tribes did not want the free blacks to associate with the Seminoles and tempt their black slaves to seek freedom. The free blacks and black Seminoles soon became targets of raids by the other tribes and whites to capture and enslave as many of the blacks as they could. This prompted John Horse and Wild Cat to organize and resist the raids. When Seminole War Chief Dembo Factor was captured John Horse, Wild Cat and the Creek counsel protested the kidnaping and eventually won the release of Dembo Factor. In 1844, John Horse would travel to Washington D.C. to argue for a separate land grant for the Seminole Indians outside of Creek territory. They were denied but John Horse was determined to get change for his people. He traveled to Washington D.C. once again by himself to appeal to General Jesup, he convinced Jesup to visit the Indian Territory for himself, following Jesup’s visit two new facilities were built for the Seminoles outside of Fort Gibson under the protection of their Army.
Large numbers of Seminoles moved to the facilities but they still lived under the threat of raids by the Creeks, whites and others. John Horse was attacked once and shot by what was considered as a creek assassination attempt, after the attack John and his family moved back into the walls of the fort. Marcellus and William Duval were two white men with connections in Washington working to reinstate chattel slavery for black Seminoles; they were working hard to persuade then President James Polk to enslave the black Seminoles. General Jesup’s granting for the freedom the black Seminole was deemed illegal by John Mason and the Seminole Counsel, the black Seminoles were once again considered chattel slaves of the Seminoles. The Seminoles were forced back into the territory of the Fort in Mississippi and because the free blacks and the black Seminoles were considered slaves again up to 280 of them were kidnapped and enslaved. John Horse and Coacoochee led a protest against the enslavement of blacks and black Seminoles, the two men would also led over one hundred blacks into Texas fleeing slavery from 1849 to 1850; and they were pursued by Texas Ranger’s and the Duval’s.
John Horse and Coacoochee had a brief encounter with Comanche forces but managed to escape and meet up with Major John L. Sprague, at the springs of Las Moras close to the Mexican border. It was later learned that someone within the fleeing party tipped off Texas rangers of the whereabouts of John Horse, Coacoochee, Sprague and the fleeing blacks. Trying desperately to reach free lands the fleeing blacks made a dash for the Mexican border, as they reached the Rio Grande the Texas Rangers caught up with them but not soon enough. The blacks made it across the river and connected with Mexican officials in state of Coahuila. In exchange for their hospitality John Horse and his band agreed to help Mexico fight off any raids from Texas. In 1882, as a seventy year old one of his last fights came when the land the Mexican Government promised the Seminoles was being threatened by greedy land owners. John Horse rode into Mexico City to secure written agreements giving the land to the Seminoles. Unfortunately he died during his mission, but it was typical of the type of man he had become; John Horse had no problem putting the safety of his people over his own safety. He made some questionable moves during his time as a Seminole leader, some which led to increased hardships for his people, but ultimately he understood that the freedom of black people was more important to him than anything else. John Horse, we proudly stand on your shoulders.
Amy Euphemia Jacques Garvey was born in Kingston, Jamaica on December 31st, 1895 to parents George Samuel Jacques and Charlotte Henrietta Jacques. She was raised in a middle class Jamaican family which gave her access to opportunities and resources other youth did not have access to. Charlotte Jacques was of mixed race, her mother was a black woman and her father was a white English farmer. The status of Amy’s parents helped to provide her with an education from the finest schools in Jamaica; her father would also help to develop her as an intellectual, engaging with her in regular discussions about politics and other worldly affairs. Amy was also taught to play the piano while studying music appreciation, and was known to be more interested in learning than anything else. During her high school years she would attend St. Patrick’s School, Deaconess High School and Wolmer Girl School in Jamaica. Shortly after graduating high school she would work as a legal secretary for the family of TR McMillan before moving to Harlem, New York in 1917.
Amy decided to attend a community meeting one day and at this meeting she would first encounter the Honorable Marcus Garvey. Impressed by his passion, charisma and knowledge she asked him how she can help in his movement. The next day Amy Jacques became a business assistant for Marcus Garvey, she helped him manage the numerous businesses he owned or operated. A few of the titles she held were secretary to the Negro Factories Corporation, office manager of the U.N.I.A, personal secretary to Marcus Garvey, editor of the Negro World Newspaper, and the Secretary General of the U.N.I.A. As editor of the Negro World Newspaper she was able to use her voice to empower black women, while the newspaper became the largest black owned and circulated newspaper in the country. Amy became well known as a great fundraiser and speaker for the Marcus Garvey and the U.N.I.A. In 1922 after Marcus Garvey divorced his first wife Amy Ashwood, he and Amy Jacques were married, a union that made the U.N.I.A. and Marcus Garvey a much stronger force. The couple would have two son’s Marcus Garvey Jr. and Dr. Julius Garvey. In 1920, Amy became the first woman of the Interim-Provisional Government of Africa of the U.N.I.A. and African Communities League; she believed that black people should be exposed to messages of self-empowerment, self-reliance and nation building. From 1923 through 1940 Amy would edit and publish all three volumes of The Philosophy and Opinions of Marcus Garvey. Later, Marcus Garvey was unjustly imprisoned on mail fraud charges; Amy was responsible for not only rising their boys but raising funds for Garvey’s legal defense.
After Marcus Garvey was released from prison he was deported back to Jamaica along with his wife and children, Amy continued her role in the U.N.I.A. as well as the editor of The Negro World. Marcus Garvey died in 1940, but Amy and her son’s would continue to uphold the Garvey name and legacy. In 1944, Amy Garvey was one of the people responsible for the U.N. adopting an Africa Freedom Charter using her writings titled “A Memorandum Correlative of Africa, West Indies and the Americas.” In 1963 she published her book Garvey and Garveyism, and later published two essay collections titled Black Power in America and The Impact of Garvey in Africa and Jamaica. She continued to use her voice and her pen to promote the ideas of black self-reliance, nation building and black empowerment until her death in 1973 in Kingston, Jamaica. Many people around the world know who Marcus Garvey is, but may not understand the important role his wife Amy Garvey played in helping to build the U.N.I.A, as well as spreading his messages. One thing I have learned to be true, behind great men, you will usually find great women, who the great man is working to keep up with. She is a true unsung hero of African history, American history and world history. Miss. Amy Euphemia Jacques Garvey, we proudly stand on your shoulders.
Samuel Sharpe was born a slave in Montego Bay, Jamaica in 1780, and was owned by a white lawyer named Samuel Sharpe. He became a leader within the Burchell Baptist Church after being baptized. As a leader, Sharpe was allowed to preach to his fellow slaves but his message was about freedom from slavery. At the time labor laws did not exist and the slaves had not human rights protection; Sharpe was fought for the labor laws to be created for his people. The British Parliament held discussions about the abolition of slavery in 1831; the slave owners in Jamaica were ready to defend their property, which were their slaves. When Sharpe became aware of the refusal to abolish slavery he made his congregation aware of the news immediately. He began making plans to organizing his people to resist any unfavorable decision the slave owners made. Shape and his people were falsely informed that freedom was granted to his people, later they learned that the slave owners were refusing to free them. On December 31st, 1831, Sharpe organized a work stoppage amongst the slaves, they refused to cut the sugar cane which would ruin the crops and make the slave owners lose money.
The House of Assembly passed laws that reduced the days the slaves would have off from work during the Christmas holidays, from three days to two days. In 1831 Christmas came on a Sunday and the slaves were expecting to be off the following Monday and Tuesday. The assembly was only willing to grant the slaves Christmas Day and the following day Boxing Day. Sharpe was adamant about his people being granted their days off and being paid for the days unless they would go on strike. The strike began and quickly spread to other areas of Jamaica that held slaves; the slaves were held on areas called parishes throughout the island of Jamaica. Sharpe started a peaceful strike against the slave owners who were against the liberation of his people, the strike grew into an aggressive confrontation between the slaves and the British on December 28th. A British militia confronted Sharpe and his people and this confrontation led to the burning of the Kensington Estate Great House; it also led to an eight day rebellion killing 186 slaves and 14 slavers. The rebellion was suppressed and over 500 slaves were captured and convicted of rebelling against the slave owners.
Sharpe was labeled as the leader of the rebellion and was hanged for his actions in May of 1832 in Montego Bay. Sharpe’s owners were given $20 a slave as reparations for the number of slaves they lost in the rebellion. After Sharpe’s death he was initially buried in the Montego Bay Harbor and labeled as a criminal, later his remains were moved beneath the pulpit of the Burchill Baptist Church. Sharpe was eventually honored by his people when the Samuel Sharpe Teachers’ College Found was created, as well was the Samuel Sharpe square in Montego Bay; he is also displayed on the Jamaican $50 bill. Samuel Sharpe was a man who wanted a better life for his people and did what he could to free his people from the burden of slavery. He was intelligent enough to use his platform to educate and empower his people, so they would be willing to fight for their freedom. Mr. Samuel Sharpe, we proudly stand on your shoulders.
On December 27th, 1867, Sarah Breedlove was born to parents Owen and Minerva Anderson Breedlove near Delta, Louisiana. Her parents were born slaves and still resided on a cotton plantation; year’s later Walker would be born on the same plantation as both of her parents. Walker was the Breedlove’s fifth child and the first to be born free from slavery. Her mother died in 1872 and her father would die a few years later leaving Walker as an orphan by the age of seven. She moved to Vicksburg, Mississippi to live with her sister Louvinia where she became a domestic worker and picked cotton to make money. She married Mr. Moses McWilliams at the age of fourteen to escape the abuse she endured from Jesse Powell, her brother-in-law. Walker and McWilliams had one daughter named A’Lelia Walker who was born in 1885. Two years later Moses McWilliams would die, Walker then moved to St. Louis with her four brothers who were barbers.
Walker was able to send her daughter to the city’s public school by Working as a washerwoman for $1.50 a day; she also attended the public night school to further her education. Walker was being exposed to more of what the world has to offer by becoming affiliated with the women who attended St. Paul A.M.E. Church and the National Association of Colored Women. She would marry her second husband Mr. John Davis in 1894, but would leave him in 1903 before moving to Denver, Colorado in 1905. Before her move, Walker would have hair loss due to a disorder with her scalp. Searching for a remedy led her to meeting Annie Malone, an entrepreneur, founder of the Poro Institute and creator of the black hair care industry. While living in Colorado Walker worked as a sales agent for Annie Malone selling products from Malone’s Poro brand, she also would meet and marry Mr. Charles Joseph Walker a newspaperman from St. Louis. Shortly after the marriage she changed her name from Sarah Breedlove to Madame C.J. Walker. Her next step was to found her own haircare business and sold her first product the “Madame Walkers Wonderful Hair Grower,” a formula she said that come to her in a dream.
Walker is known for inventing the straightening comb and the perm but Annie Malone created these products before Walker created her haircare products. Walker would travel door to door selling and promoting her products for a year and a half throughout the Southeast. In 1908 she moved to Pittsburg, Pennsylvania where she opened the Lelia College which trained her Walker “hair culturist,” or in other words her students. In 1910 she built a factory, beauty salon and school in Indianapolis, Indiana; a year later she was known nationwide for contributing $1,000 dollars to fund the building of the YMCA designated for black people in the city. In 1913 Walker expanded her business throughout the Caribbean and Central America; her daughter A’Lelia moved to New York and lived in a marvelous townhouse and operated her business out of a salon designed by black architect Vertner Tandy. Walker would move to New York in 1916 allowing Ransome and Alice Kelly to operate her company in Indianapolis. Walker operated her company out of her office in Harlem, New York where she became a socialite and beacon within her community. She would donate $5,000 to the NAACP anti-lynching movement; she also joined a group of Harlem leaders to present an anti-lynching petition to the legislation during visit to the White House.
Walker’s business grew exponentially and her number of hair culturist grew so much that a Madame C.J. Walker Hair Culturist Union of America convention was created. The convention was held in 1917 and was one of the largest businesswomen conventions in the country. Walker did not allow her success or admiration for the American dream to blind her from the oppression her people faced. In a conversation about her success and racism Walker stated; “This is the greatest country under the sun, “but we must not let our love of country, our patriotic loyalty cause us to abate one whit in our protest against wrong and injustice. We should protest until the American sense of justice is so aroused that such affairs as the East St. Louis riot be forever impossible.” She would die of hypertension in 1919 at the age of 51 at her New York estate she built for herself. At her death, Walkers company was worth one million dollars and her personal net worth was around seven hundred thousand, making her one of the first women in America to become a millionaire. Walker left one-third of her estate to her daughter A’Leia; in 1927 a project she started before her death, the Walker Building opened as an African American cultural center, the Walker center is now a historic landmark. In 1998, Walker became a part of the “Black Heritage Series” by being depicted on a US postage stamp. Mrs. Walker used her knowledge, skills, will, and entrepreneurial spirit to help further change the world. She took the black haircare industry to the next level, as well as using her wealth to help protect her people from white supremacy. Madame C.J. Walker, we proudly stand on your shoulders.
Madison Washington was a man born into slavery in Virginia who managed to escape, but risked his own freedom to help free his beloved Susan. Washington was described as having extraordinary African features, superb leadership qualities and a fierce spirit. He was considered a fugitive for escaping slavery and heading north to Canada, eventually finding work with a farmer named Mr. Dickenson. Even as a small child he would rebel against the inhumane treatment of him and his people; but rebellion is what eventually earned Washington his place in history. Around the age of twenty Washington would meet the love of his life, the beautiful Susan who he would make his wife. His plan was to escape from slavery freeing himself and his wife, but his plans didn’t quite work out. His plans to escape were found out, and to prevent himself from being sold away from his wife, he escaped from the farm and hid into the woods for months. While in hiding he was able to keep an eye on his wife and he also began planning to lead a rebellion. His plans once again failed and he eventually traveled north to Canada to live in free lands.
While in Canada Washington’s plan was to get a job and save enough money to buy the freedom of his wife Susan. He was becoming discouraged in carrying out his plans because he realized it would take five years to raise the money needed to free his wife. Washington had made his mind up that he would return back into the grasp of slavery, if it meant the freedom his Susan. Mr. Dickenson the farmer tried his best to persuade Washington to take another course of action. He eventually left Canada with his wages and his freedom papers heading south to Virginia. He was able to reach an area close to the farm where his wife was held, but had to conceal his identity to prevent being captured. Washington was still considered a fugitive and anyone who recognized his would have blown his cover. Being a man of tact and organization, Washington carried miniature files and saws within the lining of his coat; these would help him break out of any chains used to restrain him. “Liberty is worth nothing to me while my wife is a slave;” uttered Washington as he held conversations with fellow travelers who tried to convince him to abandon up his plans.
As he traveled closer and closer to the farm that held his wife, he was forced to travel at night for fear of being recognized by someone. Washington would find temporary shelter in the woods near the farm where his wife was held; he would often try to gain information about her but was unsuccessful. One night while in hiding, he heard singing off in the distant woods and the singing was coming closer and closer to where he was hiding. As he investigated the singing he eventually became a part of the singing, there he learned that he stumbled upon a “corn shucking.” A corn shucking was a mass gathering of slaves who pealed loads of corn, and after pealing the corn they were able to have a huge dinner with whiskey and dancing, which was provided by the owner of the plantation where the corn shucking took place. Washington refused to eat the food for fear of being discovered, he also was very careful to ask only a few questions and remain in the shadows. At the corn shucking he did manage to learn that his wife had not been sold and was still on the old farm.
Being too eager to see his wife, Washington entered the parameter of the farm but was spotted by an overseer, the overseer alerted other white men on the farm. The first three men to approach Washington were struck in the face and knocked to the ground unconscious. Eventually Washington was subdued, shipped to Richmond, Virginia and sold to the slave owners Johnson and Eperson. New Orleans was the destination for The Creole, a ship controlled by Captain Enson and owned by Johnson and Eperson. Washington and one-hundred and forty four other slaves were loaded upon The Creole along with other cargo the men were carrying to New Orleans. As the slaves were loaded upon The Creole the men were placed in one cabin and the women were placed in another. For fear of rebellion the men were heavily chained; Washington particularly was chained to the floor of the cabin, the women were not chained and able to roam the cabin freely.
As Washington lay chained to the floor his attitude was rather jovial than the expected gloom the other slaves displayed. The overseers didn’t know that while Washington was displaying a docile and cooperative attitude, he was secretly picking the men he would use to overthrow The Creole. They also didn’t know that Washington concealed mini saws and files within the lining on his coat to use when the time was right. In 1841, on the ninth day of the voyage, The Creole encountered rough seas which made a number of the slaves very sick. Because a number of the slaves were sick the overseers did not watch them properly, this created the perfect opportunity for Washington and his men to attack. Washington used his mini saw and file to free himself and at least eighteen other men. Once free, the slaves found weapons and made their way to the deck where the ship’s crew was stationed. When the slaves attacked the ship’s crew it was unexpected as well as startling to the crew, the men barley moved making them easy targets for the slaves.
Hewell the Negro slave driver and others from the crew drew their guns and begin shooting some of the slaves. Washington spotted Hewell wielding his gun, approached Hewell from behind, and struck him in the head wounding him severely. Washington led his men into battle with iconic flair, fueling his men to earn their victory; the slaves then dominated the crew and gained control of The Creole. Washington’s men wanted to kill the remaining crew members who were still alive but Washington did not allow any more killing. For some reason Washington was not very interested in killing the men, only gaining the freedom of his people, and his wife. The next morning Madison Washington was named “Captain Washington” the commander of The Creole, by his men. That same morning, Washington requested that the cook prepare a wonderful meal for the men and women who were once captives on the ship. This meal would be the first time the men and women would see each other. Little did Washington know his beautiful wife Susan was one of the women held in the cabin on The Creole. As the meal ensued and the men and women mingled, while Washington and Susan shared a tearful reunion. After years of being separated because of slavery, Madison and Susan Washington were once again husband and wife.
Once Washington and his men defeated the crew of the Creole, he ordered that the men not be killed and their wounds treated. Once the wounds of the white men healed they tried to regain control of the ship but were defeated once more. Because of the bravery and brilliance of Washington one-hundred and forty four people were able to gain their freedom upon The Creole. The Creole didn’t make it to New Orleans, Washington and his men landed in Nassau, Bahamas because they learned it was a free island. Washington was able to use the love he had for his wife, to free his wife, as well as free others who he did not know. The Story of Madison Washington and The Creole is a story many of us have never heard before; a man of African lineage who embraced freedom was able to not only change history, but literally change the lives of others. This story is important because it shows that once organized black people can gain their freedom, it also showed the commitment of a black man to his black wife, which is counter to the normal narrative which usually degrades the black family. If we unite and trust each other was can make the impossible, possible. Mr. Madison Washington, we proudly stand on your shoulders.
On February 18th, 1924, Velvalea Rodgers was born on the South Side of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She attended North Davidson High School; she was an excellent student so she graduated earning a scholarship to attend Howard University. She would graduate from Howard University with a bachelor’s of arts degree in 1946. In 1947 Phillips would meet Mr. Dale Phillips, the man she would eventually marry before they both enrolled into Wisconsin–Madison Law School. Vel Phillips would graduate from Wisconsin-Madison Law School in 1951 making her the first African-American woman to earn a law degree from that institution. Both Dale and Vel Phillips would move to Milwaukee and become the first husband and wife to be admitted to the Wisconsin Bar. Vel Phillips would try her hand at becoming an elected official; she ran for a seat on the school board of the Milwaukee public schools in 1953 and made it past the non-partisan citywide primary election. She would lose in the run-off but she was beginning to make her mark.
Vel and Dale Phillips both joined the Milwaukee chapter of the NAACP and also became active in their community. At the time there had been no African-Americans to serve on the Common Counsel in Milwaukee. History was made once again when Vel Phillips became the first woman and the first African-American to serve on the Common Counsel in Milwaukee. Her new title was Madame Alderman Vel Phillips; even though she was a pioneer it would be many years to come before another African-American would serve on the Common Counsel. Vel Phillips became a voice for the district of Milwaukee she represented which was called the “Inner Core.” The inner core was the African-American part of town that endured failing schools, poor living conditions, little to no representation, no jobs, and blacks could barely gain housing outside of the inner core. Vel became active in the non-violent civil rights protest during the 1960’s, and in 1962 she used her elected position to propose a Fair Housing Law to outlaw housing discrimination. In 1968 after a federal anti-discrimination law was passed Phillips’ Fair Housing Law was passed making any form of housing discrimination illegal.
In 1967 a riot broke out in Milwaukee where black houses and establishments were fire bombed by white rioters, the aftermath of the riot revealed four people were dead and Vel Phillips was arrested. The summer of 1967 was labeled the “long hot summer nationally because of the racism the African-Americans were facing. Also in 1967, Phillips began marching in protest for the rights of African-Americans with Father James Groppi. They would lead up to 200 people marching from the Inner Core to South Milwaukee as angry whites spewed racial slurs and threw objects at them. Phillips would serve on the Common Counsel from 1956 until 1971 when she resigned to yet again make history by becoming the first woman and African-American to be appointed to the judiciary of Wisconsin. She did not serve a second term due to her opponent using her activism as a means to say she was not judicial material.
She would go on to become a lecturer at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and she would also serve as a law professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Law School. In 1978 Phillips became the first woman and first non-white person to be elected as the Secretary of State in Wisconsin. She would briefly serve as the acting Governor of Wisconsin during the absence of the Governor and the Lieutenant Governor. Phillips also became the highest ranking woman to hold an office in the state of Wisconsin in the 20th century. Phillips has served on the boards of both the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music and America’s Black Holocaust Museum. Marquette University’s School of Law named her “Distinguished Professor of Law.” She was the chair of the campaign which produced Milwaukee, Wisconsin’s first African-American and first female member of the United States House of Representatives, Gwen Moore. In 2006 she founded the Vel Phillis Foundation to help African-Americans gain social and civil justice. It has been stated that Phillips is currently in the production stages of a first-person memoir of the civil rights movement in Milwaukee. She used her talents and relentlessness to help change the landscape for African-Americans in Milwaukee and the state of Wisconsin. Miss. Vel Phillips, we proudly stand on your shoulders.
In 1782, in the Mexican village of Tixtla which borders the city of Acapulco was born a baby boy named Vicente Ramón Guerrero Saldaña. No one would have predicted that this boy from such humble beginnings would become powerful enough to fight Spanish colonialism and liberate his people. Guerrero was the son of an Afro-Mexican man named Pedro Guerrero, and a Mestizo mother named Guadalupe Saldana. As a child he worked with his father as a mule driver which allowed him to travel to various cities throughout Mexico. As he traveled he would learn about different ideologies of independence; these ideas would counter his parent’s ideas which were in support of Spanish colonialism. Guerrero refused his father’s wishes of pledging his allegiance to the Viceroy of New Spain, instead he joined General Jose Maria Morelos y Pavon, leader of the rebel army against Spain in the Mexican War of Independence in 1810. Guerrero was stationed in Southern Mexico when he joined Pavon in the war; his skills as a soldier and leader would first be on display during the battle of Izúcar in 1812. The battle of Izucar occurred on February 23rd between the royal Spanish forces and the Mexican rebels at Izúcar de Matamoros, Puebla, Mexico.
Guerrero’s performance helped to improve on his military reputation during the battle of Izucar. He was able to lead his troops to victory during the capture of the city of Oaxaca in November of 1812; he was also promoted to lieutenant colonel of the rebel army. December of 1815, Jose Maria Morelos y Pavon was captured and executed by the royal Spanish forces. Guerrero became the “Commander in Chief” of the rebel forces after the death of Pavon. Pedro Guerrero the father of Vicente Guerrero attempted to once again persuade his son to surrender and end the resistance against Spanish tyranny. Guerrero refused his father’s wishes by stating “My Motherland Comes First,” this became the motto that the state of Guerrero would adopt. Under Guerrero the rebel army was very successful winning close to 500 battles using guerrilla warfare tactics to confuse and defeat the Spanish.
Guerrero would begin petitioning for Agustín de Iturbide to join his forces in the Mexican fight for independence against Spain. Iturbide was initially summoned by Spain to help suppress Guerrero and his rebel army. He eventually accepted Guerrero’s offer and aligned with him under the plan de Iguala, or the plan of three guarantees. The plan of three guarantees proclaimed that Mexico would implement Catholicism as its primary religion, Mexico would gain its Independence from Spain, and equality would be implemented amongst the different social and racial groups of the Mexican society. Article 12 of the plan read: All inhabitants . . . without distinction of their European, African or Indian origins are citizens . . . with full freedom to pursue their livelihoods according to their merits and virtues. After Guerrero and Iturbide joined forces, Iturbide was declared the Emperor of Mexico by its congress and immediately abandoned the agreements made in the plan of three guarantees. Iturbide reinstated racism and classism into the Mexican society; Guerrero would then partner with Guadalupe Victoria and many others to rebel against Iturbide and his oppressive empire. Guerrero and Victoria were able to defeat Iturbide in March of 1823, which lead to Guerrero becoming a member of the Mexican congress.
In September of 1828, Guadalupe Victoria became the first president of an Independent Mexico, while Guerrero became head of the “People’s Party.” In 1829, Guerrero became the second president of Mexico and the first president of African and indigenous Mestizo heritage. He used his power to change policies to end oppression in Mexico; he lobbied for public schools, land reforms, the development of Mexican industries and much more. September 16th, 1829 slavery was abolished by Guerrero, in doing so he created enemies and a rebellion began against his administration. Anastasio Bustamante, the Vice-President of Mexico did not agree with Guererro’s policies of ending slavery and racism, so he led a rebellion against Guerrero. Bustamante and his followers were able to remove Guerrero from the presidency in 1830, but Guerrero did not go without a fight. He returned to Southern Mexico and began a rebellion against Bustamante’s administration.
Guerrero was eventually captured, tried and executed on February 14th, of 1831. It is stated that he angered the people of Mexico who wanted to maintain a system of Spanish European supremacy; therefore he died fighting to retain the freedom of the African and indigenous people of Mexico. Guerrero was a man with dark skin and profound African and indigenous features, who became the first president of Mexico to not resemble or reinforce Spanish European culture or colonialism. As a young mule driver traveling across the Mexican country Guerrero was a stout opponent against Spain and its oppressive rule. As a man he became a leader for his people and a national hero for his constant rebellions against Spain, and anyone who tried to oppress his people. Vicente Guerrero, we proudly stand on your shoulders.
April 16th, 1955 Clive Campbell was born in Kingston, Jamaica to parents Keith and Nettie Campbell. Clive was exposed to Jamaican Dance Hall music and toasting as a child. Toasting is the act of the Jamaican Dance Hall Selectors (the equivalent to Hip Hop DJ’s) rapping or engaging into call and response with the crowd. These early influences would help to set a piece of the foundation of what we call Hip Hop today. In 1967 the Campbell family immigrated to the United States seeking better opportunities for their children, they settled in the Bronx, New York at 1520 Sedgwick Avenue, which would become the birthplace of Hip Hop. During the 1960’s the Bronx experienced the fall out of the construction of the Cross Bronx Expressway which displaced thousands of families opening the door for poverty, crime and gang culture. The Bronx also experienced “white flight” as property values dropped and landlords resulted to burning their buildings and collecting the insurance money. Campbell attended Alfred E. Smith High School and was known to spend most of his time in the schools weight room. Over time he would grow to be known as “Hercules” because of his towering stature over the other teens around him.
Campbell would begin a graffiti crew called the Ex-Vandals where he would take the name that history would remember him by “ Kool Herc.” He always had a love for music and would often host parties with his sister Cindy in the recreation room of their building located at 1520 Sedgwick Avenue. Campbell owned a collection of records he would play at his parties that included James Brown’s “Sex Machine”, “Give It Up Or Turnit A Loose”, Booker T & the MG’s’ “Melting Pot”, and music by the Ohio Players; but his main influence was the Jamaican Dance Hall music. Campbell’s fortunes changed when his father brought him a “Vocal Master” PA system with two turntables and two amplifiers. A readymade audience of young people who hated disco and commercial radio and were looking for somewhere they can have fun and escape the poverty for a while. August 11th, 1973 Campbell’s sister Cindy asked him to play music at her party, this party turned out to be one of if not, the first Hip Hop party ever. We do know that Hip Hop started at 1520 Sedgwick Avenue due to the particular style Campbell would present his music.
As I stated earlier Hip Hop has its roots in Jamaican dance hall music as well as many other music genres; the dance hall deejay’s would use a technique called the “merry go round” which Campbell adopted, where they would find the “break” in a song, isolate the break using two records of the same song, switching from break to break as each break would end, which would extend the break from a thirty second to or minute part of a song to a five minute instrumental dancers could dance to. The “break” is the instrumental portion of the song that would be included into songs to inspire listeners to dance to the song. Campbell was known for including songs within his routine such as James Brown’s “Give It Up or Turnit a Loose”, “Bongo Rock” by The Incredible Bongo Band and “The Mexican by the English rock. He was also known for helping to develop what we know of as rapping by using the “toasting” technique which is the call and response. Extending the break also gave birth to breakdancing, B-Boys and B-Girls. With the elements of the DJ, the call and response or the prototype of the emcee, the break dancers and the graffiti artist, Hip Hop was born and the young people of the South Bronx had a culture to call their own. Campbell’s reputation grew as big as his stature, eventually he was playing his music and introducing Hip Hop throughout the Bronx and New York.
Campbell formed a group to perform at parties named the Herculords that consisted of Coke LA Rock his emcee and is often said to be recognized as the first emcee or rapper, Clark Kent as well and his dancers The Nigga Twins. The Herculords were known for their style of music and sheer volume at which they would play their music. With Campbell laying the foundation for Hip Hop it opened the doors for other pioneers such as Grand Master Flash and Afraka Baambaata to take the music style and improve on it. Grand Master Flash was the first to take the djing techniques created by Campbell and then use the turntables as if they were instruments. The birth of Hip Hop helped to alleviate the growing street gang issues in the Bronx, the young people now had another outlet to channel their energy. Hip Hop would be transformed from something thought of as a crazy music phase troubled kids created, to a worldwide cultural phenomena that is one of the most influential art forms ever.
The recording of “Rappers Delight” in 1979 helped to propel Hip Hop into the future and on the music charts forever, but we must know the origins of this thing we hold so dearly to our hearts. Hip Hop is the music of the oppressed, the impoverished, it is the voice of the voiceless and the heart of streets. It was born out of struggle as an instrument to heal, escape and eventually empower its listeners. Clive Campbell was a musical visionary who helped change the course of not only American music history but the history of music worldwide. He used his imagination, early dance hall influences and creativity to create Hip Hop. August 11th, 1973 Hip Hop was born at 1520 Sedgwick Avenue in the Bronx, New York. Clive Campbell aka DJ Kool Herc, we proudly stand on your shoulders.
December 19th, 1875 James Henry and Anne Eliza Woodson gave birth to one of the greatest minds of the 20th century, Carter G. Woodson, in New Canton, Virginia. As a young child Woodson’s family was poor and sharecropping was a means his family used to support themselves. As Woodson grew older he would work as a day laborer in Virginia before his family moved to Fayette County, West Virginia in search of better opportunities. Woodson would begin working as a coal miner and his father would find work doing railroad construction. Because of his family’s financial situation Woodson was not attending school regularly, however he began learning on his own and mastering the subjects the school taught. As a twenty year old he began attending Frederick Douglass High School, two years later he graduated high school and moved to Kentucky to enroll into Berea College. Brea College was established in the 1850’s by abolitionist who wanted ex-slaves to receive an education. Woodson earned his bachelor’s degree from Berea College in 1903, later that same year he became a school supervisor in the Philippines a position he would hold until 1907.
In the fall of 1907 Woodson would become a full-time student at the University of Chicago where he would earn his master’s and bachelor’s in European history. In 1909 Woodson would earn a scholarship to attend Harvard University and eventually earn a Ph.D. in History making him the second African-American to earn a Ph.D. from Harvard. After leaving Harvard Woodson would move to Washington D.C. and become a teacher at both Armstrong and Dunbar/M Street high schools from 1909 to 1919. From 1919 to 1920 he worked as a professor of history, dean of arts and sciences, and head of the graduate program in history at Howard University. He furthered his career as a professor at the West Virginia Collegiate Institute from 1920 to 1922. Finally later in 1922 he would become the director of the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History in his return to Washington D.C. 1915 was the year Woodson founded the Association for the Study of Afro-American Life and History, he noticed the need to bring history of African people and culture to the forefront. It was no secret that the history of African people was purposely hidden and overlooked, this was unacceptable to Woodson. He would next create his own publication called the Journal of Negro History in 1916, and in 1921 he also established the African American Owned Associated Publishers Press.
The February of 1926 was the year Woodson would create Negro History Week to educate African American people about the richness of the history of African people. Woodson would work extensively lobbying to make Negro History Week recognized federally by the United States. It was important to Woodson that African history was available for every African American, with that thought in mind the Negro History Bulletin began to be published in 1937 to help Woodson reach his goal. The Journal of Negro History was used by Woodson to provide a realistic depiction of black life in America it portrayed blacks as human beings from many different walks of life. Because of the publication black people were able to learn that we were more that slaves and sharecroppers. Woodson would choose the second week of February to celebrate Negro History Week because of the birth days of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln. He also would provide many different types of black institutions with information and instructions on what Negro History Week was and why it had a need to be celebrated. Woodson along with Rayford W. Logan, Charles H. Wesley, Lorenzo J. Green, and A.A. Taylor would become true champions of the history of African people. They used the information they gathered through research to write about and teach an alternative history of African people, these stories were different from what African American people were used to being taught. Woodson and his colleagues were able to provide the people with information directly from African American people and other African people around the world. In 1926 the NAACP honored Woodson with the Spingarn Medal for his efforts in the promotion and education of African history.
Woodson’s association which was his main vehicle for educating black America about its past was initially funded by white corporations; Woodson refused to affiliate his organization with HBCU’s so he lost his funding, from that point on he was supported by the black community. 1915 was the first time Woodson became a published author with his work The Education of the Negro Prior to 1861; he also published four monographs, five textbooks, five collections of source materials, thirteen articles, and five collaborative sociological studies. He was dedicated to educating black people about their history and also promoted people researching for themselves. Woodson is noted as one of the first scholars to study slavery from the experiences of the slaves, he was able to capture the true horrors and terror African people faced on a daily bases. He was noted for publishing such works as The Negro Wage Earner, The Negro Professional Man and the Community, A Century of Negro Migration, A History of the Negro Church, The Negro in Our History, The Mis-Education of the Negro, and The African Background Outlined. Woodson would die 1950 in Washington D.C. being regarded as the “Father of Black History” because of his contributions to history of African people as well as being the champion behind Negro History Week, which eventually became Black History Month. If it were not for people like Carter G. Woodson and J.A. Rogers it would be even more difficult now for us to know our story. Dr. Carter G. Woodson, we proudly proudly stand on your shoulders.
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