Friday, February 28, 2014

BHM2014 - John Russwurm

In this day and age of social media, internet and blogging-- I take pride in introducing y'all to Mr. Russwurm. 

John Russwurm was a man ahead of his time. Centuries before scholars began debating such issues as “hegemony” and “the social construction of race,” Russwurm understood how the powerful used media to create and perpetuate destructive stereotypes of the powerless. He set out to challenge this practice, via a brand new form of media: African American journalism.

Although he helped to change the terms of debate on race in America, Russwurm was not a native of America. Born in Jamaica on October 1, 1799, he moved to Quebec as a child and then to Maine, where he attended Bowdoin College and wrote term papers on Toussaint L‘Ouverture, fiery leader of the Haitian Revolution. In 1826 Russwurm became only the second African American in the U.S. to earn a college degree. His graduation speech focused on the Haitian revolution.

The next year he moved to New York, where he met Samuel Cornish, an African American Presbyterian minister and editor. On March 16, 1827, Cornish and Russwurm published the first issue of Freedom’s Journal
The paper was strongly abolitionist, and it also sought to give African Americans pride in their communities. As such it included mini-biographies, poetry, sermons and birth, death and marriage announcements.

In September 1827, Russwurm assumed editorial control of the paper, but his tenure lasted only until early 1829. Frustrated over the seeming impossibility of ending slavery, he decided to relocate to Liberia, established in 1819 by the American Colonization Society. In 1833 he married Sarah McGill, the daughter of the Lieutenant-Governor of Monrovia, with whom he had a daughter and three sons. Russwurm spent the next 22 years learning African languages and actively participating in politics and journalism. He died in Liberia in 1851. At the time of his death, nearly 30 African American newspapers existed in the United States, all devoted to ending slavery.

BHM 2014 - Lucy Stanton Day Sessions

Lucy Stanton was born as a freed inhabitant of Cleveland, Ohio on October 16, 1831. Stanton became the first black American woman to complete a four-year college course when, in 1850, she graduated with a Literary Degree from the Ladies' Literary Course of Oberlin College. For over a century the Ohio college has recognized its early Literary Course program as equivalent to a degree program even though it did not award graduates with a bachelor’s degree. In 1862 Oberlin College formally awarded the first bachelor’s degree to an African American woman when Mary Jane Patterson graduated with a B.A. 

In 1846, Stanton enrolled in Oberlin Collegiate Institute (now Oberlin College), a progressive abolitionist institution. In 1849 she was elected president of the school’s Ladies Literary Society, and her commencement speech was a moving appeal for antislavery. 

Upon graduation in 1850, she moved to Columbus, Ohio to become principal of a school but two years later returned to Cleveland when she married Oberlin classmate William Howard Day, a librarian who edited an abolitionist newspaper, the Alienated American. In 1854, she became the first African American to have a fictional story published when she wrote a short story on slavery for her husband’s newspaper. 

Two years later, the couple moved to Buxton, Canada to teach fugitive slaves and in 1858 had a daughter, Florence. However, the following year William Day left on business for England, abandoning his family and requesting a divorce. Lucy returned to Cleveland, finding work as a seamstress to support her daughter but remained active as an abolitionist. In 1866 she was sponsored by the Cleveland Freedman’s Association to teach in Georgia and later Mississippi, where she met and married her second husband, Levi Sessions in 1878. 

The couple moved to Tennessee where Lucy Sessions continued her philanthropic work, including serving as president of the local Women’s Christian Temperance Union. She and her husband later moved to Los Angeles, California.  Lucy Stanton Day Sessions died in Los Angeles on February 18, 1910.

BHM2014 - Wilma Rudolph

Wilma Rudolph was born on June 23, 1940 in Bethlehem, Tennessee, one of eight children to parents Ed and Blanche Rudolph.  Wilma weighed only four-and-a-half pounds at birth and was born with polio and left for a time with only the use of her right leg because of it.  She suffered from double pneumonia twice and scarlet fever once before she was four years of age.  For two years, her mother brought her weekly to Meharry Medical College in Nashville for treatment.  Her family also massaged her leg at least four times daily.  From age five to nine, she wore a metal brace to correct her polio condition.  

By the age of 16, she was a bronze medalist in the 1956 Melbourne Olympics in the 4X100 m relay. In 1959, Rudolph won a gold medal in the 4×100 m relay at Pan American Games and an individual silver in the 100 m.  Wilma Rudolph entered the Rome 1960 Olympics and became the first American woman to win three gold medals: in the 100 meter dash, 200 meter dash and the 4 x 100 meter relay.  She also set world records for all three events.  Rudolph retired from track competition in 1962 at age 22.

On May 27, 1963, she graduated from Tennessee State University and was offered a job as an elementary teacher and girl’s track coach at her old school, Clark Elementary School.   Wilma Rudolph was named United Press Athlete of the Year in 1960, the AP Woman Athlete of the Year in 1960 and 1961, and inducted into the Women’s Sports Hall of Fame in 1994.  She died in Clarksville in 1994 at the age of 54, a victim of both throat and brain cancer.

BHM2014 - Julia A. Perry

Julia Amanda Perry was a prolific composer of neoclassical music during her relatively brief life.  Born on March 25, 1924 in Lexington Kentucky, she spent most of her early years in Akron, Ohio. Her father, Dr. Abe Perry, was a doctor and amateur pianist. Her mother, America Perry, encouraged her children’s musical endeavors; both Julia and her sisters studied violin from a young age, Julia switched to the piano after two years of violin.

Upon graduating from Akron High School, Perry attended Westminster Choir College in Princeton, New Jersey from 1943 to 1948, where she graduated with a bachelors and masters in music. She continued her musical training at the Julliard School of Music and she also spent summers at the Berkshire Music Center in Tanglewood, Massachusetts. Her first major composition, the Stabat Mater, appeared in 1951.  Three years later in 1954 her opera, The Cask of Amontillado, was first staged at Columbia University.  She also wrote Homage to Vivaldi for performance by symphony orchestras.

In 1952 and 1954 Perry received two Guggenheim fellowships to study in Florence, Italy under the tutelage of Lugia Dallapiccola and in Paris, France with Nadia Boulanger. After spending nearly a decade in Europe studying with several prominent composers, she returned to the United States in 1959 to become part of the music faculty at Florida A & M College (now University) and later took a teaching position at Atlanta University.  She returned to Akron in 1960 and from an apartment above her father’s medical office she wrote Homunuclus C.F. (1960) for piano, harp, and a diverse group of percussion instruments. Her decision to use snare, timpani, and wood blocks, in addition to her frequent and creative changes in rhythm, illustrated her unusual sense of experimentation in her compositions  Throughout the 1960s she organized and conducted concerts around the world for the U.S. Information Service (USIS).
By the late 1960s her works had received wide acclaim and were performed by the New York Philharmonic and other major orchestras. The classical record label, Composers Recordings, released several of her compositions in 1969; she also won awards and accolades from the National Association of Negro Musicians, the Boulanger Grand Prix, and the National Institute of Arts and Letters, among others.

In 1971, however, Perry suffered the first of two strokes which left her hospitalized for several years.  She taught herself to write with her left hand so she could continue to compose. During her life, Perry completed 12 symphonies, two concertos, and three operas, in addition to numerous smaller pieces. Julia Amanda Perry died on April 29, 1979 in Akron, Ohio. 

BHM2014 - Robert Pinn

Pinn was born free to William and Zilphia Broxton-Pinn, in Stark County, Ohio on March 1, 1843.  His father William Pinn escaped from slavery and fled to Ohio at the age of eighteen.  He worked on farms for several years before marrying Zilphia Broxton, a white resident of Stark County.  Pinn and his nine siblings were born on the family farm in Stark County.  He married Emily J. Manzilla, in 1867, and the couple had one child, a daughter, Gracie Pinn-Brooks.

Pinn attempted to join the Union Army at the beginning of the Civil War but was blocked from enlisting because of his race.  He joined the 19th Ohio Infantry in 1861 as a civilian worker, marched south with the regiment, and despite his non-military status, fought at the Battle of Shiloh in Tennessee in 1862.  Afterwards he fought in several other engagements although not an enlisted soldier.  President Abraham Lincoln authorized the use of African American troops in combat after issuing the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863.  Pinn then joined the 5th United States Colored Troop (USCT), Infantry Regiment (also known as the 127th Ohio Volunteer Infantry) in Massillon, Ohio, on September 5, 1863.

Because of his combat experience, Pinn was promoted to Sergeant on October 18, 1863, just over a month after he joined the regiment.  Pinn received the Medal of Honor for his heroic action at The Battle of New Market Heights near Richmond on September 29, 1864.  He took command of his company after all the officers had been killed or wounded.  President Abraham Lincoln awarded him the Medal of Honor on April 2, 1865.  

Pinn mustered out of service at Carolina City, North Carolina, on September 20, 1865 and returned to Stark County, Ohio.  He studied at Oberlin College from 1874 to 1877.   He then taught school in Cairo, Illinois, and Newberry, South Carolina.  He returned to Ohio and Oberlin where he completed his law studies, and was admitted to the Ohio Bar in 1879, becoming the first black lawyer in Massillon County.

Pinn had a distinguished career as an attorney and a Pensions and Claims Agent for the U.S. Pension Bureau.  He was active in the Republican Party where he served as a delegate to the 1891 Ohio convention that nominated William McKinley for governor.  Pinn was the first African American Commander of Hart Post 134 of the Grand Army of the Republic and remained active in the GAR, until his death on January 1, 1911.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

BHM2014 - Grace Towns Hamilton

Grace Towns Hamilton was the first African American woman elected to the Georgia General Assembly.  She was a lifelong advocate of rights for the disadvantaged, and was instrumental in key district reapportionment efforts and black voter registration that helped bring minority representation into Georgia politics.

Hamilton was born in Atlanta, Georgia on February 10, 1907 to Harriet McNair and George Alexander Towns. Her father was a professor of English and pedagogy at Atlanta University. Hamilton was educated from grade school to college on the Atlanta University campus, from which she received an undergraduate degree in 1927. Hamilton left Atlanta to attend THE Ohio State University where she received a master’s degree in psychology in 1929.

Hamilton returned to Atlanta in 1929 to take a position as an assistant professor at Clark College (now Clark-Atlanta University) where she taught psychology. While there she met her future husband Henry Cooke "Cookie" Hamilton who was a fellow faculty member. The couple married in 1930 and had one daughter born in 1931.

In 1931, Grace and Henry Hamilton moved to Memphis, Tennessee where they taught at Le Moyne College. In 1941 they moved back to Atlanta when Henry was selected to head Atlanta University’s high school program. Instead of returning to teaching, Grace Hamilton was appointed executive director of the Atlanta Urban League (AUL) in 1943, becoming one of the first women to hold such a post in the National Urban League. Hamilton focused on working within the confines of segregation to improve schooling, housing, health care and voting rights for African Americans. However, her seeming acceptance of racial segregation led to her resignation in 1960. 

In 1965, Hamilton and seven African American men were elected to the Georgia Legislature, representing newly reapportioned districts with significant numbers of African Americans voters in Fulton County. The special election came as a result of a 1962 U.S. Supreme Court decision that increased the power of urban areas and created the dramatic growth of black registered voters in the city. Hamilton was one of the leaders in that voter registration campaign.

Hamilton represented her inner city Atlanta district from 1965 to 1985. While in the legislature she worked continuously to expand political representation for African Americans across the state. She was the principal architect of the 1973 Atlanta City Charter, which for the first time allowed blacks to be elected to the city council from districts. She also led a congressional reapportionment battle that placed most Atlanta blacks in the Fifth Congressional district. Andrew Young, who in 1972 became the first black Congressman from the new district, credited Towns with making his election possible.

Hamilton lost her seat in 1985 however when she sided with white leaders and refused the demands of black leaders in the early 1980s to insure that the Fifth Congressional District become gerrymandered into a black majority district. After her defeat Hamilton never held elected office again, but did serve as an advisor to the U.S. Civil Rights Commission (1985-1987).

Grace Towns Hamilton died in Atlanta on June 17, 1992 at the age of 85.

BHM2014 - Abram Lincoln Harris, Jr.

Abram Lincoln Harris, Jr., (January 17, 1899 – November 6, 1963) the grandson of slaves, was the first nationally recognized black economist. Harris was highly respected for his work that focused primarily on class analysis, black economic life, and labor to illustrate the structural inadequacies of race and racial ideologies.  As a social critic, Harris took an active radical stance on racial relations by examining historical black involvement in the workplace, and suggested that African Americans needed to take more action in race relations. Harris’s major published works include The Negro Population in Minneapolis: A Study of Race Relations (1926), The Black Worker: the Negro and the Labor Movement (1931), and a book co-authored with Sterling D. Spero, The Negro as Capitalist (1936).  His final book, Economics and Social Reform, appeared in 1958. 

Born in 1899 in Richmond, Virginia to parents Abram Lincoln Harris, Sr., a butcher, and Mary Lee, a teacher, Harris grew up as part of the black middle class community in Richmond. After high school Harris earned a bachelor of sciences degree from Virginia Union University in 1922. 

After graduation from Virginia Union, Harris enrolled at the New York School of Social Work and worked briefly for the National Urban League (NUL) and the Messenger, the leading black Socialist newspaper.  Harris taught for one year at the West Virginia Collegiate Institute (now West Virginia State University) and then earned an M.A. from the University of Pittsburgh in 1924. Harris was appointed head of the Department of Economics at Howard University in 1928 and later completed his doctorate in economics from Columbia University in 1930. He taught in the economics department at Howard University from 1936 to 1945 and taught at the University of Chicago from then until his death.

In the 1940s Abram Harris, along with E. Franklin Frazier, Allison Davis, and Ralph Bunche, was selected by the Swedish economist Gunnar Myrdal as “insiders” to work on his ground breaking study An American Dilemma which was published in 1944.  Toward the end of the 1940s Harris began to retreat from his earlier work, progressive and race politics, and began to concentrate on economic philosophy. 

Abram Harris died in Chicago, Illinois on November 16, 1963.  He was 64.

Monday, February 24, 2014

BHM2014 - Georgiana Simpson

**For those of you who think you are too old to break ground and make a difference, I present Ms. Georgiana Simpson**

Three African American women earned PhDs at American Universities in 1921; they were the first African American women to do so. Georgiana Simpson was one. She received her degree in German from the University of Chicago in 1921, the same year that Sadie Tanner Mossell became the first black woman to be awarded the degree (from the University of Pennsylvania) and Eva Beatrice Dykes became the third to achieve the honor (from Howard University). Simpson was by far the oldest of the three.  She was fifty-five years old when the degree was conferred.

Georgiana Simpson was born in Washington, D.C. in 1866, where she attended public schools. She was then trained at a District of Columbia Normal School which prepared her to teach in the elementary schools in the city beginning in 1885. Encouraged by one of her former instructors, Dr. Lucy E. Moten, Sampson decided to spend a year and a half studying language and literature in Germany. After earning her B.A. in German language and literature at the University of Chicago in 1911, she returned to Washington, D.C. to teach at M. Street School, later Dunbar High School. 

Simpson first enrolled at the University of Chicago in 1907, and experienced racism almost immediately upon her arrival at the campus. Several white Southern female students protested Simpson being allowed to live in their dorm and a number of them moved out. Simpson, like other African American students at the school, often took summer courses to avoid interaction with white students as much as possible. She even took many of her courses via correspondence to limit her time on campus.

After earning a bachelor’s degree in 1911, Simpson returned to the University in 1917 to undertake her postgraduate studies in German philology, focusing on German romanticism. She was in residency on campus during the Chicago Race Riots of 1919.  Her presence, however, continued to generate controversy.  In 1920 University of Chicago President Harry Pratt insisted that Simpson find an alternative residence off campus. She was fifty-four years old at the time. Her situation sparked a national debate as to how African American students should be accommodated at top universities. Simpson, however, left the University of Chicago campus.
Nonetheless in 1921, she received her Ph.D.  Simpson immediately returned to high school teaching in Washington, D.C.  The fame and respect she garnered following her graduation eventually led Howard University to offer her a professorship in 1931. Simpson was sixty-five when she became a university professor.  She remained a member of the faculty until 1939.  Georgiana Simpson never married.  She died in her home in Washington, D.C. in 1944.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

BHM2014 - William Wells Brown

William Wells Brown was an African American antislavery lecturer, groundbreaking novelist, playwright and historian.  He is widely considered to have been the first African American to publish works in several major literary genres. Known for his continuous political activism especially in his involvement with the anti-slavery movement, Brown is widely acclaimed for the effectiveness of many of his writings.   

Brown was born to a white father and enslaved mother on a plantation outside of Lexington, Kentucky, most likely in 1814.  He spent his childhood and much of his young adult life as a slave in St. Louis, Missouri working a variety of trades.  Brown slipped away from his owner's steamboat while it was docked in Cincinnati and thereafter declared himself a free man on New Year’s Day 1834.  Shortly thereafter he was taken in and helped to safety by Mr. and Mrs. Wells Brown, a white Quaker family. William would adopt their names in respect for the help they provided him.    

William Wells Brown settled briefly in Cleveland, Ohio where he married a free African American woman, Elizabeth Schooner.   They had three daughters, one of whom died shortly after birth.  Later Brown moved his family to Buffalo, New York where he spent nine years working both as a steamboat worker on Lake Erie and a conductor for the Underground Railroad. It was in Buffalo that he began his career in the abolitionist movement by regularly attending meetings of the Western New York Anti-Slavery Society, by boarding antislavery lecturers at his home, speaking at local abolitionist gatherings, and by traveling to Cuba and Haiti to investigate emigration possibilities.  By that time he also became deeply committed to lecturing on behalf of women’s rights and temperance laws.  It was this involvement as a prominent speaker that many historians and scholars suggest provided the trajectory for his later career as a writer.  By 1845, in the wake of the tremendous success of Frederick Douglass’s narrative autobiography, Brown published his own Narrative of William W. Brown, a Fugitive Slave, Written by Himself.  The resounding success of his narrative led Brown to travel across Europe between 1849 and 1854 where he delivered more than a thousand speeches.  Brown's historical writings include The Black Man, The Negro in the American Rebellion, and The Rising Son.

Three Years in Europe, published in 1852, was the first travel book ever to be written by an African American while Clotel, which appeared a year later, is one of the earliest novels written by an African American and the first to be published by a British publishing house.  Clotel tells the story of daughters and granddaughters of President Thomas Jefferson. In 1858 his play The Escape became the first play ever to be published by an African American. He completed his last book, My Southern Home; or the South and Its people, in 1880.

As slavery ended, Brown’s career as a traveling speaker slowed and he eventually settled in Boston where he lived until his death in 1884.  

Thursday, February 20, 2014

BHM2014 - Martin Robison Delany

Martin Robison Delany was an African American abolitionist, the first African American Field Officer in the U.S Army, a journalist, physician, writer and one of the earliest African Americans to encourage a return to Africa. 

Delany was born in Charleston, Virginia (now West Virginia), on May 6, 1812, to a slave father and a free mother.  Delany’s mother took her children to Pennsylvania in 1822 to avoid their enslavement and persecution brought on by attempting to teach her children to read and write, which was illegal in the state at that time. In 1833 Martin Delany began an apprenticeship with a Pittsburgh physician and soon opened a successful medical practice in cupping and leeching (it was not necessary to be certified to practice medicine prior to 1850).  While in Pittsburgh, Delany became politically active. In 1843 he began publishing a newspaper in Pittsburgh called The Mystery, Later Delany joined Frederick Douglass to produce and promote The North Star in Rochester, New York. Also in 1843 Delany met and married Catherine A. Richards. The couple had eleven children, seven of whom survived into adulthood. The parents stressed education and some of their children graduated from college.

Martin R. Delany entered Harvard Medical School in 1850 to finish his formal medical education (along with two other black students) but was dismissed from the institution after only three weeks as a result of petitions to the school from white students.  Two years later he published The Condition, Elevation, Emigration, and Destiny of the Colored People of the United States, Politically Considered claiming that even abolitionists would never accept blacks as equals and thus the solution to the black condition lay in the emigration of all African Americans back to Africa.  In 1859 Delany led an emigration commission to West Africa to explore possible sites for a new black nation along the Niger River, “We are a nation within a nation, we must go from our oppressors” he wrote.   

When the Civil War began in 1861 Delany returned to the United States.  Jettisoning for a time his emigrationist views, Delany recruited thousands of men for the Union Army.  In February 1865, after meeting with President Abraham Lincoln to persuade the administration to create an all-black Corps led by African American officers, Delaney was commissioned a Major in the 52nd U.S. Colored Troops Regiment.  With that appointment he became the first line officer in U.S. Army history.   

When Reconstruction began Delany was assigned to the Freedman’s Bureau in South Carolina.  There he called for black pride, the enforcement of black civil rights and land for the freedpeople. Delany became active in local Republican politics, losing a close election for Lieutenant Governor of South Carolina but later serving briefly as a judge in Charleston, South Carolina.  As the Republicans lost power in the state Delany renewed his calls for emigration, becoming in 1878 an official in the Liberian Exodus Joint Stock Steamship Company.  He also wrote in 1879 The Principia of Ethnology, a book that argued for race pride and purity.   

In 1880 Delany withdrew from the Liberian Exodus Company and moved first to Boston and then to Wilberforce College in Xenia, Ohio.  Martin R. Delany, considered my many as the “father of black nationalism,” died in Xenia, Ohio on January 12, 1885. 

**Info found on BlackPast.Org** 

BHM2014 - Margaret Danner

Margaret Danner was born on January 12, 1915 to Caleb and Naomi Esse. She came to age in Chicago, during the Great Migration. 

Danner later attended Loyola and Northwestern Universities, where she was taught by Karl Shapiro and Paul Engle. She continued her writing while in Chicago and first became recognized in 1945 when she won second place in the Poetry Workshop of the Midwestern Writers Conference at Northwestern University.  In 1951, while in Chicago, Danner become an editorial assistant for Poetry: the Magazine of Verse. It was this publication that introduced her poem series “Far From Africa” for which she is best known.  These poems won Danner the John Hay Whitney Fellowship on 1951, which was intended to fund a trip to Africa scheduled for that same year.  Danner postponed the trip for personal reasons and in fact did not go to Africa until 1966.  In 1955 Margaret Danner became the first African American to hold the position of Assistant Editor of Poetry: The Magazine of Verse

During her lifetime, Margaret Danner was married twice and had one daughter with her first husband. A number of her later poems were inspired by her grandson, Sterling, which she referenced as “Muffin Poems.” In 1961, Danner became poet-in-residence at Wayne State University in Detroit.  It was during this time that Danner became involved in the Baha'i faith, which would influence her poetry.  From that point many of her poems would refer to that faith.

In 1966, Danner took her long-desired trip to Africa through the John Hay Whitney Fellowship to join prominent African-American cultural figures at the First World Festival of Negro Arts in Dakur, Senegal.  In the late 1960s and 1970s, Danner published her third and fourth volumes of poetry, Iron Lace (1968) and The Down of a Thistle: Selected Poems, Prose Poems, and Songs (1976). Her work continued to draw upon African (as well as Western) art, flora and fauna, relationships with her fellow poets and scenes from urban life. Several of her poems address or discuss her grandson, Sterling Washington, Jr., whom she calls “Muffin,” and who seems to represent an African-American future. Her writing has been called a celebration of black people, their history, as well as their struggles.

Margaret Danner died in Chicago on January 1, 1984.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

BHM2014 - Macon Bolling Allen

Here is a person near and dear to my heart. For all of you followers who didn't know, I went to law school and, at one time, thought that I would make a living rescuing the injured from jail and an overly oppressive legal system. A legal system where the field will never be level; one that takes advantage of the poor and makes scapegoats of some minorities… so needless to say when I read about Macon Bolling Allen about 25 years ago, I was awe inspired. 

Macon Bolling Allen (born Allen Macon Bolling; August 4, 1816 – June 11, 1894, is believed to be the first black man in the United States who was licensed to practice law and is believed to be the first African American to hold a judicial position. 
Very little is known about Allen’s early years other than the fact that he was named A. Macon Bolling when he was born a free Negro in Indiana in 1816, the same year Indiana was admitted as the nineteenth state to join the Union. He was a self-taught lawyer who gained his knowledge and legal skills by serving as an apprentice and law clerk to practicing white lawyers in the pre-Civil War era. 

In his late twenties, Allen moved to Portland, Maine, where he changed his name from A. Macon Bolling to Macon Bolling Allen. Allen became a friend of the local anti-slavery leader, General Samuel Fessenden, who established a law firm and took on Allen as an apprentice. 

After passing the Maine bar exam, Allen was granted his license to practice law on July 3, 1844. 
Finding work in Maine, however, was difficult. There were few blacks there willing and able to hire Allen and most whites were unwilling to have a black man represent them in court. In 1845 Allen moved to Boston, Massachusetts where he met his wife Hannah Allen. They had five sons together, most of whom became teachers. 

Allen had to take the Massachusetts Bar exam in order to practice in the state. He walked fifty miles to the bar exam test site because he could not afford transportation, and passed the exam, on May 5, 1845, despite his fatigue. Shortly afterwards he and Robert Morris, Jr., opened the first black law office in the United States.  Allen soon set his sights even higher; in 1848 he passed another rigorous exam to become Justice of the Peace for Middlesex County, Massachusetts. In addition to his license to practice law he is believed to be the first black man to hold a judiciary position.

Allen moved to Charleston, South Carolina after the Civil War to open a new legal practice. In 1873 he was appointed as a judge in the Inferior Court of Charleston and one year later was elected judge probate for Charleston County, South Carolina. After Reconstruction, Allen moved again, this time to Washington, D.C. where he worked as an attorney for the Land and Improvement Association. He continued to practice law right until his death at age 78.  Macon Bolling Allen was survived by his wife and one son, Arthur Allen.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

BHM2014 - Granville T. Woods

Granville Tailor Woods (April 23, 1856 – January 30, 1910) was born in Columbus, Ohio. He attended school until age 10. After that he worked in a machine shop that repaired locomotives. While working there he became interested in electricity. In 1872, at the age of 16, Woods headed west. He got a job as a fireman on a railroad and later became an engineer. During the long train rides he read all that he could about electricity.

In 1876, Woods traveled to the East Coast to attend a technical school. During the days he worked in a machine shop. Each night he attended school, studying electrical and mechanical engineering. Woods graduated in two years and then became an engineer aboard a British steamship. While working on the ship he traveled all around the world. In 1880, Woods returned to Cincinnati, once again working for a railroad company. 

During the 1880s, Woods patented many inventions. These included a furnace and boiler, automatic railroad brakes, an electrical powered incubator to hatch chicken eggs, a new type of battery and several devices that improved streetcars and electrical rail cars. Perhaps his most important inventions was a telegraph that could transmit messages to and from moving trains. That device saved many lives by reducing the number of train wrecks. 

After receiving the patent for the multiplex telegraph, he reorganized his Cincinnati company as the Woods Electric Co, but in 1892 he moved his own research operations to New York City, where he was joined by a brother, Lyates Woods, who also had several inventions of his own.

Over the course of his lifetime Granville Woods would obtain more than 50 patents for inventions. He is also the first American of African ancestry to be a mechanical and electrical engineer after the Civil War. Woods was never famous during his lifetime and is sometimes called "Ohio's forgotten inventor." He died on January 30, 1910 in New York City, having sold a number of his devices to such companies as Westinghouse, General Electric and American Engineering.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

BHM2014 - Charlotta A. Bass

Charlotta Bass (February 14, 1874 - April 12, 1969) was an American educator, newspaper publisher-editor and a civil rights activist. Bass is thought to be the first African-American woman to own and operate a newspaper in the United States; she published the California Eagle from 1912 to 1951. In 1952, Bass became the first African American woman to be nominated for Vice President, as a member of the Progressive Party. 

When the reigns of the California Eagle were turned over to Bass, she had something very specific in mind. Her purpose for theCalifornia Eagle was to write about the wrongs of society. The newspaper served as a source of both information and inspiration for the black community, which was often ignored or negatively portrayed by the predominant white press. As publisher, Bass was committed to producing a quality periodical. In her weekly column, "On the Sidewalk", begun in 1927, she drew attention to unjust social and political conditions for all Los Angeles minority communities and campaigned vigorously for reform.  In the 1940s, Bass's newspaper pioneered multi-ethnic politics, advocating Asian-American and Mexican-American civil rights.  Bass wrote her last column for the California Eagle on April 26, 1951, and sold the paper soon after. During her years of retirement, she maintained a library in her garage for the young people in her neighborhood. (My kind of lady!) It was a continuation of her long fight to give all people opportunities and education. She died in Los Angeles on April 12, 1969 from a cerebral hemorrhage. 

Sunday, February 09, 2014

BHM2014 - Jane Edna Hunter

Jane Edna Hunter (December 13, 1882 – January 13, 1971) was born in South Carolina and trained as a nurse before becoming one of the leading settlement house workers and institution-builders in the country. When she arrived in Cleveland in 1905 she could not find decent housing or professional work because of segregation laws and practices. Having no friends or relatives, her first residence turn out to be a place where prostitutes stayed. With the help of other women, she formed the Working Girl's Home Association, which eventually became known as the Phyllis Wheatley Association. The purpose of this voluntary association was to build a safe residence for the homeless, unprotected and working women and girls of the race. The first home was a 23 room facility that opened in 1913 with the second and more expanded facility opening in 1917. In 1925, Hunter graduated from the Cleveland Law School, which was affiliated with Baldwin Wallace College.

In 1930, Hunter became Director of the Phyllis Wheatley Department of the National Association of Colored Women (NACW). The purpose of the Department was to build a national network of Phyllis Wheatley Associations that will not only house self-supporting, self-respecting African American women and girls, but provide a meeting place for clubwomen. These facilities were to be a "lighthouse of service" in their communities. They epitomized the self-help and social debt response to those less fortunate.

She wrote an autobiographical book entitled A Nickel and Prayer, which was published in 1940. She served as executive director of the Phillis Wheatley Association of Cleveland until she retired in 1947. Her health began to fail in the 1950s and she lived in a nursing home until her death on January 13, 1971 at age 89. 

Saturday, February 08, 2014

BHM2014 - Benjamin O. Davis, Sr.

When people think about Black people in the military, I am sure that one of the first names to come to mind is Colin Powell. Rightfully so, I mean he is (kinda) current; his accomplishments are numerous. But today- for my first entry on a person for BHM2014, I want to introduce y'all to another Black military man, Benjamin O. Davis, Sr.

Benjamin Oliver Davis, Sr. was born on July 1, 1877 in Washington, DC. He began his military career as a volunteer in the Spanish-American war in 1898. Receiving his commission in 1901, Davis was made a second lieutenant in the regular army. Despite the widespread prejudice against African-Americans, he rose up the ranks, becoming a brigadier general on October 25,1940, becoming the first African American general in the Army. During his decades of military service, Davis spent much of his time teaching others as a professor of military science and tactics at Wilberforce University in Ohio and the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama. 

A well-regarded military officer and an important member of the black community, Davis offered his advice and counsel on how to improve this tense situation and lobbied for the full integration of U.S. troops. Leaving the military in 1948, Davis had spent 50 years serving his country. During his exemplary career, he was awarded the Bronze Star Medal and the Distinguished Service Medal. Davis died of leukemia on November 26, 1970.

Friday, February 07, 2014

BHM2014 - An Education Waiting to Happen

A few years ago I wrote this. And two years ago, I wrote this. Put those two posts together and you can see that I really had no intention of writing about Black History Month (BHM2014) at all. I am really of the mindset that if a group wants others to know more about their culture, then they would 1. teach their children about said culture and 2. teach others - all the time- about the outstanding culture that they come from. I never see that during BHM. I mean,  ok, I have a couple friends on Facebook who will post about BHM, but even those posts are of the more well known activists, educators and civil rights figures. Not that I care about that, I am just excited that someone is making an effort. But two, possibly three, friends… out of 800? I think I am safe with the assumption that the biggest secret of BHM is that Black people are more than slavery and the Civil Rights Movement; which is a shame. Still, I have to say that I was going to skip out on participating in BHM2014 because I am always interested in seeing exactly WHAT people will do when they notice a problem going unchecked.

Then, February 1st happened. February 1, 2014, the google doodle- heard around the world- was of Harriet Tubman, raising a lamp. The responses were quick and very different. Some people were glad to see that Google put forth some effort to welcome BHM. Some people complained (to be expected) that Google wanted to be sure to remind Black people that we were once slaves. These are (I'm sure) the same people who would also complain if Google did nothing, or not say anything to the companies that put forth absolutely no effort. Then came the foolishness that Zimmerman is going to be involved in a celebrity fight. First, I was unaware that Zimmerman was a "celebrity" and second, I am sure thousands of people will actually watch that fight. The misguided people will watch, cheering for Zimmerman to get knocked the fuck out, all the while helping to line his pockets with money and endorsements… because people don't think about the consequences of their watching. They just have short sighted goals.

Going with the idea of NOT being shortsighted, I have decided that I should participate in the public celebration of BHM2014. For one simple reason: If I don't, I will have no one else to blame for people not knowing Black History. Y'all I am so tired of seeing BHM just comprised of Martin Luther King, Jr, Malcolm X, Rosa Parks, Harriet Tubman and all the rest of the regulars. I hate it. The Black community is so much more than the 1800s and the 1960s. You know, a LOT of shit happened between the time we were imported here and the death of MLK. Let the school books tell it, Black History Month should be  a constant repeat of those mentioned above and possibly throw in Rosa Parks, possibly Booker T. Washington and WEB DuBois, if you are being fancy. If you ask SOME people, Black History Month is not necessary because ere since we elected a Black President we have because post-racial America. Oh, the ignorance. That, my friends, is unacceptable… Hot, Black and Bitter to the rescue. Starting tomorrow I will post (at least ) 28 of the unsung heroes of this movement known as Black Life in America. Some people you will have never heard of, which is cool because I am going to use this as a teaching experience. Because I have moved back to my hometown- I will let you know, I am definitely going to include some Black Ohioans. Watch the blog for the rest of the month, learn something new and share it.

No one should be comfortable being completely ignorant of American History and that what Black History month is about… American History, the good, the bad and everything in between. Let's get to learning, y'all.

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