BHM FACT #25
DR. MATTHEW WASHINGTON BULLOCK was a football player and coach, college professor and administrator, and lawyer. Born in 1881 in Dabney, North Carolina to slave parents, they fled the south in 1889 to Massachusetts with 7 children and $10 in cash. Despite the hardships of poverty and discrimination, Bullock distinguished himself as a high school student athlete earning election as captain of the baseball, football, and track teams. Still a senior in school, he also served as coach of the football team, making him the first African American coach at a predominantly White high school in 1900. That fall he started at Dartmouth College; playing varsity football and track, joining the glee club, and becoming a member of Palaeopitus (honor society). Bullock graduated in 1904 and went on to Harvard Law School graduating in 1907. He paid his way through law school by coaching at Massachusetts Agricultural College (now Univ of Mass). He was the first Black man to be a head coach at a predominantly White college. Over the next 10 years he served as Athletic Director and taught economics & sociology at Atlanta Baptist College (now Morehouse College), became the Dean of the Alabama State Agricultural and Mechanical College for Negroes, and practiced law in Atlanta. During World War I, he served as Educational Secretary for the YMCA and in the 369th Infantry in France. After the war he returned to Boston where he continued to practice law and was very active in civic affairs. He was a member of the Boston Urban League (Exec Secretary), Knight of Pythias, Masonic order, and Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc (13th Grand Basileus, 1929-1932). Bullock was part of the growing Black population that doubled in size in Boston; yet only constituted for 2.2% of Bostonians. In 1922, Bullock was elected to a State Rep position. His first legislative action was a 1923 bill describing the Ku Klux Klan as a "menace to the public peace," imposing a fine of $500 and 2years in jail for anyone caught joining or aiding the group. He was appointed State Assistant Attorney General (1925-1926) and to the Massachusetts Board of Parole in 1927, serving until retirement in 1946. In 1945, Bullock was asked by Secretary of the Navy to join a commission investigating conditions between African American and white enlisted men in the Pacific area; helping lead to integration of the military a few years later. Bullock continued activism and was a pillar in his community until death, passing in 1972 at the age of 91. He received numerous honors in his lifetime including an honorary degree from Harvard Law and an honorary Doctorate of Laws from Dartmouth a year before his death
BHM Fact #24
SIR SIDNEY POITIER is an outstanding Bahamian American actor, director, author, diplomat, and the first Black man to win an Academy Award for Best Actor. Born in 1927 in Miami, Florida to Bahamian farmers whom traveled to Miami to sell produce, Sidney was born while his parents were visiting. His birth was 2 months premature and he was not expected to survive, but his parents stayed in Miami 3 months to nurse him to health. Poitier grew up in the Bahamas living in poverty. Because of his birth in the United States, he automatically received American citizenship, so at the age of 15, he was sent to Miami to live with his brother. Two years later he moved to New York City with aspirations of becoming an actor. There he worked as a dishwasher, while sleeping in a bus terminal restroom. He learned to read the newspaper, receiving help from a waiter nightly for several weeks. Poitier briefly served in the US Army during the Korean War. After returning, Poitier further persued acting by auditioning for the American Negro Theatre, but was rejected largely due to his strong accent. Sidney dedicated the next six months to improving his acting skills and overcoming his accent. On his second attempt at the theater, he was noticed and given a leading role in the Broadway production "Lysistrata," receiving good reviews. By the end of 1949, he had to choose between leading roles on stage and an offer to work on films. He chose film and was featured in "No way Out," in the role of a doctor treating a Caucasian bigot. His performance was noticed and led to more roles, each considerably more prominent than those most Black actors of the time were offered. Poitier's breakout role was in "Blackboard Jungle" in 1955 where he played the leading role of a rebellious, yet musically talented student. Poitier was the first Black male actor nominated for an Academy Award in a leading role for "The Defiant Ones," (1958). He acted in the first production of "A Raisin in the Sun" on Broadway in 1959, and later starred in the film version released in 1961. Two years later, he became the first Black to win the Academy Award for Best Actor for "Lilies of the Field" (1963). Sidney was a supporter of the civil rights movement and attended the March on Washington that same year. By 1967, he was the most successful draw at the box office, with three popular films, "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner," "To Sir, with Love" and "In the Heat of the Night," often considered his BEST work. Those films were landmarks in breaking down social barriers between Blacks and whites; and Poitier's talent, integrity and likability placed him on equal footing with the White stars of the day. In the late 1960s, with the fallout from the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X, Poitier became the target of criticism from segments of the Black Community. Accused of being typecast as Black characters that were not permitted to have any sexuality or personality fault. Poitier was aware of this pattern himself, and wanted more varied roles; but he also felt obliged to set an example with his characters, by challenging old stereotypes as he was the only major Black actor being cast in leading roles in the American film industry at that time. He turned down an opportunity to play the lead in an NBC production of "Othello" with that spirit in mind. In the 1970s, Sidney took on directing and producing, to control his roles and acting patterns; achieving success in both arenas. Poitier directed a number of films, including "A Piece of the Action," "Uptown Saturday Night & Let's Do It Again," starring Poitier himself with Bill Cosby; "Stir Crazy," starring Richard Pryor & Gene Wilder; and "Ghost Dad," also with Cosby. After more than a decade of not acting, Poitier returned to the screen in the 1997 television docudrama "Mandela and de Klerk," playing the role of Nelson Mandela. From 1995 to 2003, he served as a member of the Board of Directors of The Walt Disney Company. In April 1997, Poitier was appointed ambassador of the Bahamas to Japan, a position he held until 2007. In 1999, the American Film Institute named Poitier among the 25 Greatest Male Stars of classic Hollywood cinema. In 2001, Poitier received an Honorary Academy Award in recognition of his "remarkable accomplishments as an artist and as a human being". In 2009, Poitier was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama. In 2016 he was awarded the BAFTA Fellowship for outstanding lifetime achievement in film
BHM Fact #23
MARIAN ANDERSON was an enchanting contralto singer and first Black to sing in the New York Metropolitan Opera. Born in 1897, in Philadelphia, she joined her church's junior choir at age 6 and got to perform solos & duets, often with her Aunt Mary. Anderson credited her Aunt's influence as the reason she pursued a singing career. Her Aunt arranged for Marian to sing for local functions. As she got into her early teens, Marian began to make as much as 5 dollars for singing; a considerable amount for time. Anderson attended Stanton Grammar School, graduating in the summer of 1912. Her family couldn't afford to send her to high school, nor pay for music lessons. Still, Anderson continued to perform wherever she could and learn from anyone who was willing to teach her. Throughout her teenage years, she remained active in church adult choir. Eventually church pastor, along with Black Community leaders raised the money she needed to get singing lessons and to attend South Philadelphia High, from which she graduated in 1921. After Anderson applied to the Philadelphia Music Academy, but was turned away because she was Black. Undaunted, Anderson pursued studies privately in her native city through the continued support of the Philadelphia Black community. Anderson auditioned for with vocal teacher Giuseppe Boghetti singing "Deep River" and he was immediately brought to tears. In 1925 Anderson got her first big break when she won first prize in a singing competition sponsored by the New York Philharmonic. As the winner she got to perform in concert with the orchestra in August 1925, a performance that scored immediate success with both audience and music critics. Over the next several years, she made a number of concert appearances in the United States, but racial prejudice prevented her career from gaining much momentum. In 1928, she sang for the first time at Carnegie Hall. Eventually she decided to go to Europe where she spent a number of months studying and launching a highly successful European singing tour, singing in several countries. Easter Sunday 1939, Anderson performed a critically acclaimed concert on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and was honored with NAACP's Spingarn Medal the same year.In 1955, she became the first Black person to perform at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City. She sang for both President Dwight D. Eisenhower's and John F. Kennedy's inauguration (1957 & 1961). Anderson was active in supporting the civil rights movement during the 1960s, giving benefit concerts for the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), the NAACP and the America-Israel Cultural Foundation. In 1963, she sang at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. That same year she was one of the original 31 recipients of the newly reinstituted Presidential Medal of Freedom. In 1964 she began her fairwell tour, beginning at Constitution Hall and ending at Carnegie Hall in April 1965. Although retired from singing, she continued to appear publicly on special occasions. She later worked as a delegate to the United Nations Human Rights Committee and as a "goodwill ambassadress" for the United States Department of State. Anderson died in 1993, at age 96. To her legacy, she was awarded the Kennedy Center Honors in 1978, the National Medal of Arts in 1986, and a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1991. In 1980, the US Treasury Department coined a half-ounce gold commemorative medal with her likeness, and in 1984 she was the first recipient of the Eleanor Roosevelt Human Rights Award of the City of New York. In 2006, a commemorative U.S. postage stamp honored Marian Anderson as 30th honoree of the Black Heritage series. The Marian Anderson House was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2011. She has been awarded honorary doctoral degrees from Howard University, Temple University and Smith College. In 2001, the 1939 documentary film, "Marian Anderson: the Lincoln Memorial Concert" was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress. For your listening pleasure, here is the Magnificent Marian Anderson singing the spiritual "He's Got the Whole World in his Hands"
BHM Fact #28
FRED HAMPTON was an activist, revolutionary and Deputy Chairman of the Black Panther Party. Born in 1948, raised in Chicago suburb of Maywood, Hampton went on to graduate from Proviso East High with honors. He then enrolled at Triton Junior College majoring in pre-law. Hampton also became involved in civil rights movement joining his local branch NAACP. His dynamic leadership and organizational skills in the branch enabled him to rise to Youth Council President. There Hampton built up a membership of 500 people who successfully lobbied city officials to create better academic services and recreational facilities. At the time of Hampton's successful NAACP organizing, the Black Panther Party started rising to national prominence. Fred was quickly attracted to their approach, and joined in 1968. Using his NAACP experience, he soon headed the Panther's Chicago chapter. As President, he organized weekly rallies, worked closely with their Clinic, taught political education classes every morning at 6 am, launched a project for community supervision of the police, and was instrumental in the Panther's Free Breakfast Program. The Panthers also established a truce between Chicago's most powerful street gangs; emphasizing that racial conflict between gangs would only keep its members in poverty. Hampton further strove to forge a multi-racial alliance with other progressive groups of the time. He started a national "Rainbow Coalition" between the Panthers, Young Lords (Puerto Rican nationalist), Students for a Democratic Society, Brown Berets, and Red Guard Party to name a few. Hampton's organizing & oratorical skills allowed him to rise quickly in the Black Panthers, becoming Chairman of the Illinois state Black Panther Party and National Deputy Chair. Shortly thereafter, he was to assume the position of Chief of Staff and major spokesman. While Hampton impressed many as a talented leader, those very qualities marked him as a major threat in the eyes of then, FBI Chief J. Edgar Hoover, whom was determined to prevent the formation of a cohesive Black movement. In 1969, Hampton was on the verge of creating a merger between the Black Panthers and a southside street gang with thousands of members, which would have doubled the size of the national Black Panther Party, uniting them with white and Latino organizers. Hoover viewed this as an ultimate threat and ordered an intensified FBI crackdown. Hoover saw Hampton as a frightening steppingstone toward the creation of a revolutionary body that could cause a radical change in the US. To counteract the growth, the FBI sent an informant to infiltrate the Party, whom quickly rose in the organization, becoming Director of Chapter security and Hampton's bodyguard. Determined to prevent any more enhancement of Hampton's effectiveness, the FBI and Chicago Police conspired to set up an armed raid on Hampton's apartment. The informant provided them with detailed information about the layout and room in which Hampton slept. On December 4, 1969 at 4 am, 12 officers raided the apartment and opened fire, killing the 21 year old Hampton and Panther Mark Clark, also seriously wounding 4 other Panthers, including his 8 month pregnant girlfriend. Many in the Chicago Community were outraged over the unnecessary deaths. Over 5,000 people attended Hampton's funeral where Rev Ralph Abernathy and Jesse Jackson eulogized him. The families of Hampton and Clark filed a civil suit in 1970 with the suit finally settled for $1.85 Million in 1982. To his legacy, Maywood's "Fred Hampton Family Aquatic Center" is named in his honor. In 1990 and 2004, the Chicago City Council passed resolutions commemorating December 4 as "Fred Hampton Day". The resolution read in part: "Fred Hampton, who was only 21 years old, made his mark in Chicago history not so much by his death as by the heroic efforts of his life and by his goals of empowering the most oppressed sector of Chicago's Black community, bringing people into political life through participation in their own freedom fighting organization". Hampton's most famous quote, often chanted by others, was "I AM A REVOLUTIONARY". For your viewing and listening pleasure, the late Fred Hampton. Feel the Passion of this man Gone Too Soon:
"ALL POWER TO THE PEOPLE"?
BHM Fact #27
HATTIE MCDANIEL was the FIRST Black person to win an Academy Award (Oscar), doing so in 1940. Born in 1893 in Wichita, Kansas, she was her parents' 13th child. In 1901, her family moved to Denver, Colorado, where Hattie was one of only two black students in her elementary school class. A gifted singer from birth, she began singing in church, at school and in her home. While in High School, McDaniel started professionally singing, dancing and performing skits in Minstrel shows. In 1909, she dropped out of school in to fully focus on a career in acting & singing and two years later organized an all-women's minstrel show, one of the first of its kind. By the 1920s, McDaniel worked and toured with several orchestras and vaudeville troops. By mid-decade, she was invited to perform on Denver's KOA radio station, becoming one of the first Black women on the radio. Following her radio performance, McDaniel continued to work the vaudeville circuit and established herself as a blues artist, writing her own work. In 1929 McDaniel became a steady vocalist at a Suburban Inn in Milwaukee. In 1931, Hattie moved to Los Angeles, initially appearing on radio, where she became a big hit. The same year she scored her first small film role as an extra in a Hollywood musical. Then in 1932, she was featured as a housekeeper in “The Golden West”. McDaniel landed a major on-screen role in 1934, singing a duet with Will Rogers in “Judge Priest”. The following year, she was awarded the role of Mom Beck, starring opposite Shirley Temple in “The Little Colonel”. The part gained McDaniel the attention of Hollywood directors, and was followed by a steady stream of offers, including the part of Queenie in the 1936 film “Showboat”.In 1939, she starred in the classic film “Gone With the Wind” as house servant “Mammy”.Despite the films regal appear and acclaim, all of the film's black actors, including McDaniel, were barred from attending the film's premiere in Atlanta. In spite of the racism of the time, McDaniel earned the 1940 Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress, becoming the first Black to win an Oscar. Through the mid-1940s, McDaniel appeared in additional films, but came under attack from Black media and the NAACP for taking roles that perpetuated a negative stereotype of Blacks as servants & slaves. Hattie responded that it was HER prerogative to accept whatever roles she chose, asserting that characters like Mammy proved themselves as more than just taking orders from their employers. As Civil Rights became a major issue in the late 1940s , the sort of roles for which McDaniel was typecast began to gradually disappear and she was no longer a popular choice for films. In 1947, she returned to radio in “The Beulah Show”. Although McDaniel was again playing a maid, she managed to use her talents to break racial stereotypes rather than reinforce them. In 1951, she unexpectedly suffered a heart attack and was later diagnosed with breast cancer. In 1952, Hattie McDaniel lost her battle with cancer, passing away at the age of 59. To her legacy, she has been posthumously awarded two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. In 1975, Hattie was inducted into the Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame. Her long overdue biography was published in 2005: “Hattie McDaniel: Black Ambition, White Hollywood”. In 2006, she was honored with a commemorative U.S. postage stamp
BHM Fact #26
SAMUEL "SAM" COOKE is one of the pioneers and founders of Soul Music. He was the son of a Baptist Minister, born in Clarksdale, Mississippi in 1931 and relocated to Chicago, Illinois at the age of 3. His music talents of singing & writing started in the church with gospel, and later crossed over to R&B, soul and pop. In 1950 he became lead singer of Gospel Group "The Stirrers," releasing several Gospel hits written by Sam himself. By 1956, Cooke made the jump to secular music, leading to him having 29 top-40 hits from 1957-1964. He was also among the first modern Black performers & composers to tend to the business side of his musical career, founding record label and publishing company SAR Records. He also took an active part in the Civil Rights Movement making several songs in dedication to civil rights. Sam Cooke became known as the "King of Soul" for his distinctive vocal abilities and influence on the modern world of music. His contribution in pioneering soul music led to the rise of Aretha Franklin, Bobby Womack, Al Green, Curtis Mayfield, and popularized the likes of Otis Redding and James Brown. In 1964, Sam Cooke was fatally shot and killed in Los Angeles, at the age of 33. After death Cooke was mourned worldwide, with Greats of Ray Charles and Lou Rawls singing at his funeral. He received many posthumous honors including: Rock and Roll Hall of Fame - Charter Inductee (1986), Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award (1999) and being named to Rolling Stone Magazine's "Greatest Singer of All Time" List at #4 (2008). Right after Cooke's Death, his record company released his song "A Change Is Gonna Come". Sam wrote this in response to Bob Dylan's "Blowin' in the Wind". It was his most pointedly political song and went on to become a "Civil Rights Anthem" and timeless hit played until the present day. For your viewing & listening pleasure, here is the Late Great Sam Cooke's "A Change is Gonna Come"
BHM Fact # 13
ALTHEA GIBSON was the first Black person to be a competitor on the world tennis tour. Born in 1927, in Silver, SC going to high school in Wilmington, NC, she excelled in tennis since being a youth. She went to college at Florida A&M University graduating in 1953. While there she began competing on a world scale in tennis. From 1952 to 1958 she was ranked in the top 10 players in the world, reaching the World No. 1 Ranking for 1957 and 1958. In 1956 she became the first Black of any sex to to win a Grand Slam title, winning the French Open. She then became the first Black to win Wimbledon in 1957 & 58 and the US Open in 1957 & 58. In the same era she won 6 doubles championships. She broke the color barrier in national and international tournament tennis at a time when prejudice and racism were far more pervasive in society and sports. She’s been inducted in several Hall of Fames, and is a pioneer in sports.
BHM Fact #12
The BLACK HERITAGE STAMP SERIES was created in 1978 by the United States Postal Service (USPS) as a tribute to outstanding Blacks. Harriet Tubman was the first person observed in the series. Although the first official Black Heritage stamp was not issued until 1978, more than 100 Blacks have been on stamps dating back to 1940, with Booker T. Washington being the first Black on a USPS stamp. For the 2018 year, Lena Horne, trailblazing singer and activist, is the 41st honoree in the USPS Black Heritage Series
BHM Fact #11
DR. LEROY TASHREAU WALKER was the first African American to coach a United States Olympic Team and first Black President of the US Olympic Committee. Born in Atlanta, GA in 1918 and raised in Harlem, NY; he was the youngest of 13 children and first one in his family to attend college. Walker attended Benedict College in Columbia, South Carolina excelling as an Honor student. He also excelled in sports playing on the Benedict Basketball team and walking onto the football team his Junior year; leading them to a conference championship in route to being named a College All-American - Benedict's first player to receive such honors. Graduating in 1940, Walker returned to NY and earned a Master's Degree from Columbia Univ in 1941. Soon after, he was hired by Benedict as the Physical Education Dept Chair. In 1945, Walker moved on to North Carolina Central Univ (NCCU) as Head Coach of the Track Team where he remained for 40 years, building up a quality track team for decades; with NCCU track athletes being in ALL Olympic Games between the years 1956 and 1980. Walker's all Black teams often encountered discrimination when traveling to different meets and would have to drive as far as 100 miles away to find a place that would serve them. While coaching, Walker furthered his education earning a PhD in Exercise Physiology & Biomechanics from New York Univ in 1957. Between 1960 and 1972, he served as a track consultant for several foreign Olympic teams: Israel, Ethiopia, Trinidad & Tobago, Jamaica and Kenya. In 1976, Walker was named head coach of the US Men's Olympic Track Team, making history as the first Black Coach of an American Olympic Team and led the team to 19 medals, 6 being Gold. Walker retired from NC Central in 1986 and was deemed Chancellor-Emeritus; in his tenure NCCU track athletes won 11 gold medals, 80 were named All-American and 35 had national championships. In 1992, Dr. Walker became President of the US Olympic Committee; the first Black to do so. In 1996, he served as Director of Sports for the Atlanta Olympic Games Committee and presided over the 1999 Special Olympic World Games. Dr. Walker died in 2012 at 93 yrs of age. He received numerous honors in his lifetime, including 15 honorary degrees, US Olympic Hall of Fame (1987) and the Olympic Order; the highest honor awarded by the International Olympic Committee
BHM Fact #10
HAITI is the world's oldest Black Republic. Called Ayiti by its original inhabitants and renamed Hispaniola after Spanish intrusion (in 1492), it became a haven for pirates during the 1600s with European nations competing for control. France and Spain settled hostilities, dividing Hispaniola between them. France received the western third and named it Saint-Domingue. France imported thousands of slaves from Africa to develop it into sugar cane plantations. By 1789, French in Saint-Domingue were vastly outnumbered by a ten to one ratio of African slaves. Over time, French provided some rights to free Blacks; those mixed-race descendants. More of the free people of color lived in the south region near Port-au-Prince where they worked, owned property and soon petitioned the colonial government to expand their freedoms and civil rights. Inspired by the French Revolution, Revolts broke out in 1791, with the fierce & wise Toussaint L'Ouverture risen from slavery being the rebellion leader. In 1792, the French government sent troops to reestablish control. To build an alliance with slaves, the French abolished slavery in the colony. Freed for the moment, the former slaves agreed to help France defeat their enemies. L'Ouverture and his army drove out Spanish and British invaders who threatened the colony. In 1801 L'Ouverture created a separatist constitution with equal rights for Blacks in the colony and himself as its ruler. New Power Hungry Dictator of France, Napoleon Bonaparte, came after French colonies in a fury for supremacy. He reinstated slavery and in 1802 sent more than 20,000 men to retake total control of Saint-Dominque. The French captured L'Ouverture, transporting and imprisoning him in France until death in 1803.However, the slaves and free Blacks continued their fight for independence. Led by Toussaint's second in command, Jean-Jacques Dessalines they defeated French troops in a deciding battle that led to France totally withdrawing remaining troops from the island and from the Americas. Independence of Saint-Domingue was proclaimed on January 1, 1804 as the "Republic of Haiti;" modifying the spelling of the original name (Ayiti). Haiti was the first Black Republic, first independent nation in the Caribbean, the only nation in the world established as a result of a successful slave revolt, and the second republic in the Americas; and all the first leaders of government were former slaves. Despite their independence, world powers refused to recognize Haiti and boycotted trade with them until 1825. Haiti was forced to pay France 150 million gold francs to lift trade boycotts by France, Britain, and the US. The Debt was not paid in full until 1947 and has affected their economy to present day. Haiti is the only predominantly Francophone independent nation in the Americas. It is one of only two independent nations in the Americas (along with Canada) to designate French as an official language. With 9.7 million people, Haiti is the most populous full member-state of the Caribbean Community
BHM Fact #9
PINCKNEY BENTON STEWART PINCHBACK was the first Black Governor of a U.S. State. Born Pinckney Benton Stewart in 1837 in Macon, Georgia, his Mother was a former slave and Father her former master. His parents however lived together as husband and wife because interracial marriage was forbidden by state law. Pinckney was raised as white and sent north to Cincinnati to attend school. He left school early to work on boats and travel the Midwest. During the Civil War, Stewart fought on the Union side, stationed in New Orleans. He was part of the Union's all-black 1st Louisiana Native Guards Regiment, commissioned as Captain and then Company Commander; one of few Black Commissioned Officers. Despite that feat, he encountered much prejudice from white officers and resigned his commission in 1863. Racial tensions during the Post war Reconstruction Era resulted in shocking levels of violence, prompting Stewart to jump into politics to make a difference. Stewart took his father's surname of Pinchback and became active in the Republican Party, participating in Reconstruction state conventions. In 1868, Pinchback was elected as a State Senator. He was a favorable politician as the population of Blacks and Whites in Louisiana was nearly equal at the time. Rising in the state, in 1871 Pinchback became Lieutenant Governor of the state. In 1872, the incumbent Governor was under impeachment investigation and ordered to step down temporarily, with Pinckney Pinchback taking the oath as Acting Governor for the remainder of the terms (35 days), thus making him the first Black Governor in the United States. It wasn't until 1990 that another Black (L Douglas Wilder - VA) served as governor of any U.S. state. After his brief governorship, Pinchback remained active in politics and public service. In 1874, he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives and in 1876 elected to the U.S. Senate; he was the state's first Black representative to Congress. Both elections provoked violence and intimidation to Black in attempts to repress their vote. This period marked the beginning of a reversal of the political gains which Blacks had achieved since the Civil war's end. Pinchback later served on the Louisiana State Board of Education and was instrumental in establishing Southern University and served on their Board of Trustees. In 1892 Pinchback was part of the Comite des Citoyens (Citizens' Committee) which set up the New Orleans civil-rights actions of Homer Plessy as a challenge to state segregation in public transportation. The case went to the U.S. Supreme Court as Plessy v. Ferguson, getting the ruling that the state's "separate but equal" accommodations were constitutional. In his later years, he worked as a US Marshal in Washington, D.C passing away in 1922. Pinchback is the maternal grandfather of Jean Toomer, known as an author of the Harlem Renaissance
BHM Fact #8
PATRICIA ROBERTS HARRIS was the first Black woman to serve in a United States Cabinet, and the first to enter the line of succession to the Presidency. Born in 1924, in Mattoon, Illinois, Harris was an exceptional student and later attended the prestigious Howard University. At Howard, she was elected Phi Beta Kappa, and participated in one of the nation's first lunch counter sit-ins (1943) and graduated Summa Cum Laude in 1945. Afterwards, Harris did postgraduate work at the University of Chicago and at American University, and went on to work as Assistant Director of the American Council on Human Rights until 1953. An active member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc, Harris became Delta's First National Executive Director (1953), serving until 1959. Afterwards, Roberts went on to George Washington University Law School, finishing in 1960 and ranking number one out of a class of 94 student. Harris returned to Howard University in 1961 as an Associate Dean of students and Law Lecturer. In 1963, President John F. Kennedy appointed her co-chair of the National Women's Committee for Civil Rights. In 1964, Harris was elected a delegate to the Democratic National Convention from the District of Columbia and worked on Lyndon Johnson's presidential campaign. Soon after his victory, President Johnson appointed her Ambassador to Luxembourg, Germany from 1965 to 1967. In 1969, Harris was named Dean of Howard University's School of Law, the first Black female chosen Dean of a law school, and served until 1972. The following year, she was appointed member-at-large of the Democratic National Committee and chair of the Credentials Committee. When the Democrats won the presidency in 1976, President Jimmy Carter appointed Harris as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), thus becoming the first Black woman to enter a Presidential cabinet and be in the line of Presidential succession, at number 13. As HUD Secretary, Harris funneled millions of dollars into upgrading deteriorating neighborhoods rather than wiping them out through slum clearance. For her successful efforts, President Carter appointed Harris to her largest cabinet post, Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare (HEW), in 1979. Her most important work there was the protection of social programs during a period of budget cutting. When Congress created a separate education department in 1980, Harris became the first Secretary of Health and Human services, remaining until President Carter left office in 1981. Harris remained active in politics, running for Washington, DC Mayor in 1982, but losing to incumbent Mayor Marion Barry in the primary. After her unsuccessful bid, she took a professor position at George Washington University Law serving until her death from breast cancer in 1985 at the age of 60. To her legacy, Harris received numerous honorary Doctorate Degrees, George Washington Univ has an Annual Banquet & Excellence Award named in her honor (going back 39 years), she is an inductee of the National Women's Hall of Fame, and she was the 23rd honoree in the USPS Black Heritage Stamp Collection in 2000
BHM Fact #7
Exactly 92 years ago to this date, February 7, 1926, DR. CARTER G. WOODSON established Negro History Week to share the historical journeys and accomplishments of persons of African decent, in a time when NO Blacks were mentioned in America's school history books. He chose the second week of February because it marked the birthdays of Pres. Abraham Lincoln and Abolitionist Frederick Douglass. The week gained popularity by Woodson creating & distributing educational kits for children. In 1976 it evolved into Black History Month. It was his vision that persons of African decent would celebrate, appreciate and obtain knowledge about their history and share it with the world. In his own words, Dr. Woodson believed "Those who have no record of what their forebears have accomplished lose the inspiration which comes from the teaching of biography and history". He further philosophized that "If a race has no history, if it has no worthwhile tradition, it becomes a negligible factor in the thought of the world, and it stands in danger of being exterminated". Further about his life, DR. CARTER GOODWIN WOODSON was a historian, author, journalist and educator. Born in Buckingham County, Virginia in 1875, the son of former slaves, through self-instruction Woodson mastered the fundamentals of common school subjects by age 17. Wanting more education, Carter went to earn a living as a miner in the coal fields. He was able to devote only a few months each year to his schooling. In 1895, at the age of 20, Woodson entered Douglass High School, where he received his diploma in less than two years. From 1897 to 1900, Woodson taught school and in 1900 he was selected as the principal of Douglass High School. He went on to earn his Bachelor of Literature degree from Berea College in Kentucky in 1903 by taking classes part-time between 1901 and 1903. From 1903 to 1907, Woodson was a school supervisor in the Philippines. Later, he attended the University of Chicago, where he was earned A.B. and A.M. in 1908. He was a member of the first Black professional fraternity "Sigma Pi Phi" and a member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity. He completed his PhD in history at Harvard University in 1912, where he was the second Black (after W.E.B. Du Bois) to earn a doctorate. He continued teaching in public schools, later joining the faculty at Howard University as a professor, and Dean of the College of Arts & Sciences. Convinced that the role of Black history and the history of other cultures was being ignored or misrepresented among scholars, Woodson saw a need for research into the neglected past and published "The Education of the Negro Prior to 1861" in 1915. The same year, through frequent visits and experiences in Chicago's Bronzeville neighborhood, he was inspired to create the "Association for the Study of Negro Life and History" (ASAALH). The Association worked to preserve the history of Blacks and accumulated a collection of thousands of artifacts and publications. Woodson noted that Black contributions "were overlooked, ignored, and even suppressed by the writers of history textbooks and the teachers who use them ... the inevitable outcome of to the effect that the Negro has never contributed anything to the progress of mankind." In 1926, Woodson pioneered "Negro History Week" to combat this; the week of recognition is now known as BLACK HISTORY MONTH. A literary genius, Woodson wrote "The History of the Negro Church" and "The Mis-Education of the Negro". Woodson was placed at the center of a circle of Black intellectuals and activists from the 1920s to 1940s. He corresponded with W. E. B. Du Bois, Marcus Garvey and others; becoming a regular columnist for Garvey's weekly Negro World. Woodson saluted efforts by West Indians to include materials related to Black history and culture into their school curriculum. At the time, educators in America felt that it was wrong to teach or understand African-American history. According to these educators, "Negroes" were simply Americans, darker skinned, but with no history apart from that of any other. Thus Woodson's efforts to get Black culture and history into the curricula of institutions were often unsuccessful. In the late 1940s, Dr. Woodson worked on a n ever completed six-volume Encyclopedia Africana until his death in 1950, at the age of 74. More than a decade after his death, schools started teaching Black History. Today African Heritage studies have become specialized fields in history, music, culture, literature and other areas. To his legacy, the Carter G. Woodson Book Award was established in 1974, for the most distinguished social science books for young readers that depict ethnicity in the United States; his Washington, DC home has been preserved and designated the Carter G. Woodson Home National Historic Site; and the U.S. Postal Service issued a stamp in his honor in 1984, seventh in the Black Heritage stamp collection. One of Dr. Woodson's most profound quotes: "If you can control a man's thinking, you don't have to worry about his actions. If you can determine what a man thinks you do not have to worry about what he will do. If you can make a man believe that he is inferior, you don't have to compel him to seek an inferior status, he will do so without being told and if you can make a man believe that he is justly an outcast, you don't have to order him to the back door, he will go to the back door on his own and if there is no back door, the very nature of the man will demand that you build one"
BHM Fact #6
SHIRLEY GRAHAM DUBOIS was an award-winning author, playwright, composer, and activist; and wife of renowned W.E.B. DuBois. She was born Lola Shirley Graham, Jr. in Indianapolis, Indiana, in 1896, as the only daughter among six children. In June 1915, Shirley graduated from Lewis and Clark High School in Spokane, Washington. She married her first husband, Shadrach T. McCants, in 1921 and had two children from this union; but was divorced by 1927. Graham then moved to Paris, France, to study music composition at the Sorbonne. Meeting Africans and Afro-Caribbean people in Paris introduced her to new music and cultures. In Paris, Graham composed the musical score and libretto of Tom Tom: An Epic of Music, and "The Negro," an opera. She used music, dance and the book to express the story of Africans' journey to the North American colonies, through slavery and to freedom. The opera attracted 10,000 people to its premier and 15,000 to the second performance. In 1931, Graham returned to the US and entered Oberlin College as an advanced student earning her BA degree in 1934, and completing a master's degree in music in 1935. In 1936, she was appointed director of the Chicago Negro Unit of the Federal Theatre Project, part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's Works Progress Administration. Graham's theatre works included "Deep Rivers" (1939), a musical; "It's Morning" (1940), a one-act tragedy about a slave mother who contemplates infanticide; "I Gotta Home" (1940), a one-act drama; "Track Thirteen" (1940), a comedy for radio and her only published play; and "Dust to Earth" (1941), a three-act tragedy. In the late 1940s, Graham became a member of Sojourners for Truth and Justice - a Black Empowerment organization working for global Women's liberation. Around the same time, she joined the American Communist Party. Joining the party made it difficult in getting musicals or plays produced and published, thus Graham turned to literature. She wrote in a variety of genres, specializing from in biographies of leading Blacks and world figures for young readers. She wanted to increase the number of books that dealt with notable Blacks in elementary school libraries. Her book subjects included: Paul Robeson, Kwame Nkrumah, Frederick Douglass, Phillis Wheatley, and Booker T. Washington; as well as Gamal Abdul Nasser, and Julius Nyerere. In 1951, at the age of 54 she met and married W.E.B. Du Bois (whom was 83). They later emigrated to Ghana, where they received citizenship in 1961 and he died in 1963. Selections from her correspondence with her husband (both before and after their relationship began) appear in the three volume collection "Correspondence of W.E.B. Du Bois". In 1967, Shirley moved to Cairo, Egypt, where she continued writing. There she wrote her last novel, "Zulu Heart" (1974), a sympathetic portrayals of whites in South Africa despite racial conflicts. Shirley Graham DuBois died of breast cancer in 1977, aged 80, in Beijing, China, where she had gone for treatment. To her legacy, Graham won the Messner and the Anisfield-Wolf prizes for her literary works, and she is the subject of "Race Woman: The Lives of Shirley Graham Du Bois"
BHM Fact #5
Ted Poston was the first Black journalist to work at a mainstream newspaper. Born in 1906, in Hopkinsville, Kentucky, he was raised by his 8 older siblings, while his father, Ephraim, taught at the Kentucky State Industrial College for Negroes (now Kentucky State Univ), which was located over 200 miles away. By the age of 15, Poston had begun his career writing articles for his family’s paper, the Hopkinsville Contender. He graduated from Tennessee Agricultural and Industrial College (now Tennessee State Univ) in 1928 and moved to New York to pursue a career in journalism. He found work as a reporter for the Amsterdam News in Harlem in 1928, eventually becoming Editor of the paper. Shortly after his promotion Poston led an attempt to unionize his fellow reporters and instigated a strike - He was fired because of his activities. Following his dismissal, he was hired by the New York Post in 1936, making him only the third Black person hired as a reporter for a major New York City daily paper. Poston remained at the New York Post for the next 35 years. While working there, he engaged in “race work,” the effort to improve the lives of Blacks. Poston covered many important stories of the day, such as Jackie Robinson's entrance into Major League Baseball, the Brown v. Board of Education case, the Little Rock Nine and the Scottsboro Boys trials in Alabama, where authorities would not allow a black journalist to report in the segregated South and Poston resorting to disguising himself as a preacher and turning his stories in secretly with the help of white colleagues. In 1949, he was chased by white mobs while covering the Groveland Four Case in Lake County, Florida; to which he was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in journalism. In the 1940s he also became part of the famed “Black cabinet,” an informal group of African American policy advisors to President Franklin Roosevelt. Poston provided vital information to Black newspapers across the nation in the campaign to integrate the industry workforce. He retired from the New York Post in 1972 to work on a collection of autobiographical short stories until his death in 1974. Poston was one of the first journalists inducted into the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) Hall of Fame when it opened in 1990. In 1999, his series on the Groveland Case was named to the 100 most important journalistic works of the 20th century. His book of short stories was published posthumously in 1991 as The Dark Side of Hopkinsville. Poston is often referred to as the "Dean of Black Journalists".
BHM Fact #4
FREDERICK "FRITZ" POLLARD was the first Black head coach in the NFL (APFA). Born & raised in Chicago in 1894, he was a 3 sport athlete in HS: football, baseball, track.. He briefly played football for Northwestern, Harvard and Dartmouth before receiving a scholarship from the Rockefeller family to attend Brown University in 1915. Pollard majored in chemistry and played running back on the football team, leading Brown to the 1916 Rose Bowl game. He was the first African American to play in the Rose Bowl, and the second to be named an All-American in college football. After college, Fritz served during World War I and went on to coach football at Lincoln Un iv (PA) from 1918 to 1920. He led Lincoln to two Thanksgiving Classic (the first HBCU Classic) victories over the prestigious Howard Univ. Pollard signed to play for the Akron Pros in the American Professional Football League (APFA) and led Akron to a championship in 1920. He along with Bobby Marshall were the first two African American players in Professional football history. In 1921, Fritz was named head coach of the Pros while continuing to play on the team as well. The APFA was renamed the NFL in 1922, making Pollard the first African American coach in NFL history. He went on to coach & play for NFL teams in Indiana and Milwaukee. In 1926, Fritz Pollard along with all 9 of the Black players in the NFL at the time, were ousted from the NFL in a decision to segregate the League. Continuing his love for the game, in 1928, Pollard organized and coached the Chicago Black Hawks, an all-African American professional team that played against white teams around Chicago, and West Coast teams. He also organized the Harlem Brown Bombers in the 1930s. Fritz retired from football in 1937 to pursue a career in business. Despite being the first in many aspects for the Black race, he experienced extreme racism. In the NFL he was called racial slurs on a regular basis, booed by fans, had things thrown at him entering & leaving the field, and frequently changed clothes in his car because of discriminatory locker room treatment. Fritz spent many years urging the NFL to open its doors to African Americans, with the ban of People of Color being lifted in 1946. Fritz Pollard passed away in 1986. To his legacy, "The Fritz Pollard Alliance," a group promoting minority hiring throughout the NFL, was founded and named in his honor. In 2005, Fritz Pollard was inducted to the Pro Football Hall of Fame posthumously
BHM Fact #3
HARRY TYSON MOORE was a pioneering leader of the civil rights movement in Florida and the southern United States. Born in Houston, Florida in 1905 and excelling in studies, he went on to graduate from Bethune-Cookman College. He went on to become the Principal of the Titusville Colored School in Brevard County, FL, where he met his wife Harriette Vyda Simms, marrying her on December 25, 1926. The Moores founded the Brevard County chapter of the NAACP in 1934. Soon after, Harry helped organize the Statewide NAACP Organization and in 1941 was named President of Florida's NAACP. He pursued a variety of efforts for civil rights, including equal pay, investigation of lynching and voter registration discriminatory state laws. After 1943, he became involved in reviewing every lynching case in Florida. Moore also led the Progressive Voters League in voter registration drives that succeeded in registering 116,000 black people, 31% of those eligible to vote in Florida; 51% higher than the proportion of blacks registered to vote in any other southern state. In 1946, the public school system fired the Moores and blacklisted them because of Harry's political activism. Moore then became a full-time NAACP activist, increasing the membership in the state to a peak of 10,000 in the next two years. On Christmas night, 1951, Harry and Harriette Moore (age 46 and 49) were killed at home by a bomb that went off beneath their house. It was the Moores' 25th Wedding Anniversary. Harry Moore was the first NAACP official murdered in the civil rights struggle and has been called the first martyr in the Civil Rights Movement. The murders caused a national and international outcry. The NAACP held a huge rally in New York, where the renowned poet Langston Hughes read a poem written in memory of Moore In 1952, Harry Moore was posthumously awarded the NAACP Spingarn Medal. In 1999, the Moores' homesite was labeled a Florida Historical Heritage Landmark. In 2004 Brevard County had created the Harry T. and Harriette Moore Memorial Park and Interpretive Center at the homesite in Mims. The Brevard County Justice Center is named in honor of the Moores and includes material there about their lives and work. Harry T Moore Ave in Mims, FL is named in his honor as well. The Book "Before His Time: The Untold Story of Harry T. Moore, America's First Civil Rights Martyr" tells Moore's story
BHM Fact #2
MYRLIE EVERS-WILLIAMS is a civil rights activist of over 60 years. Native of Vicksburg, Mississippi, she met & later married the late Medgar Evers in 1951. Myrlie soon began working alongside Medgar with the NAACP. The Evers' fought for voting rights, equal rights & public access. Sadly they became targets for violence: receiving threats, having their home firebombed and in 1963 Medgar being gunned down in front of their home. Myrlie later moved to Los Angeles and carried on her activism. She co-wrote "For Us, the Living," which chronicled her late husband's life & work and was involved in politics. She made 2 unsuccessful bids for Congress, but found success becoming L.A.'s first Black female Board of Public Works Commissioner. Thru all that, Myrlie fought for 31 years to get justice for Medgar's murder until the culprit was convicted in 1994. 1995-98, Myrlie was National Chairwoman of the NAACP. After leaving the NAACP, she established the Medgar and Myrlie Evers Institute in Jackson, MS. She also wrote her autobiography, Watch me fly : what I learned on the way to becoming the Woman I Was Meant to Be (1999) and edited The Autobiography of Medgar Evers: A Hero's Life and Legacy Revealed (2005). Evers-Williams has received numerous honors: National Freedom Award from the National Civil Rights Museum, NAACP's Springarn Medal and to Ebony Magazine "100 Most Fascinating Black Women of the 20th Century" list. In the movies, Whoopi Goldberg played Evers-Williams in Ghosts of Mississippi. Myrlie Evers-Williams delivered the invocation at the second inauguration (2013) of President Barack Obama. She was the first woman and the first layperson to deliver the invocation at a presidential inauguration
BHM Fact # 1
JAMES ARTHUR BALDWIN was an iconic writer; an essayist, playwright and novelist, breaking new literary ground with the exploration of racial and social issues in his many works. Born in 1924, in Harlem, NY, he developed a passion for reading at an early age. Baldwin worked for his high school's magazine and published numerous poems, short stories and plays. He also became a youth minister in his teens. Graduating high school in 1942, he soon moved to Greenwich Village, a New York City neighborhood popular with artists and writers. Devoting himself to writing a novel, Baldwin took odd jobs to support himself. He befriended writer Richard Wright, and through Wright was able to land a fellowship in 1945 to cover his expenses. Baldwin started getting essays and short stories published in national periodicals. Three years later, he moved to Paris, France on another fellowship. There Baldwin felt free to write more about his personal and racial background saying "Once I found myself on the other side of the ocean, I see where I came from very clearly. I am the grandson of a slave, and I am a writer. I must deal with both". In 1953, Baldwin published his first novel, "Go Tell It on the Mountain". In 1955, he published "Giovanni's Room" - the work broke new ground for its complex depiction of homosexuality, a then-taboo subject. Baldwin was openly about his homosexuality, yet believed the focus on such rigid categories was just a way of limiting freedom. Writing for the stage, he wrote "The Amen Corner," produced at the prestigious Howard University in 1955, and later on Broadway in the mid-1960s. Baldwin returned to the U.S. in 1957 and wanted to report & write about happenings in the South. He traveled to Charlotte and Montgomery, Alabama, conducting interviews and meeting Rev Martin Luther King, Jr. The result was two essays on the Black experience in America: "The Hard Kind of Courage" and "Nobody Knows My Name" - hitting the bestsellers list, with more than a million copies sold. Subsequent Baldwin articles on the movement followed, with like "Down at the Cross" and "The Fire Next Time". While he wrote about the movement, Baldwin aligned himself with the ideals of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE). In 1963 he conducted a CORE lecture tour of the South, traveling to North Carolina and New Orleans, lecturing about his racial ideological position between the muscular approach of Malcolm X and nonviolent program of Martin Luther King Jr. By the spring of 1963, Baldwin emerged as one of the leading voices in the Civil Rights Movement for his compelling work on race and was featured on the cover of Time Magazine on the turmoil in Birmingham, AL. "There is not another writer-white or black-who expresses with such poignancy and abrasiveness the dark realities of the racial ferment in North and South," Time said in the feature. In 1964, Baldwin's play, "Blues for Mister Charlie", based on the murder of Emmett Till, debuted on Broadway. In March 1965, Baldwin joined marchers who walked 50 miles from Selma, Alabama, to the capitol in Montgomery under the protection of federal troops. Despite his involvement, he rejected the notion of being in the civil rights movement, instead calling it, "The Latest Slave Rebellion". In early 1972 he wrote a collection of essays, "No Name in the Street," a piercing literary reflection on the assassinations of three of his personal friends: Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King, Jr. He also worked on a screenplay around this time, trying to adapt The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Alex Haley for the big screen. As his literary fame faded in the late 70s, he spent his later years as a college professor. Baldwin died in 1987. His works stretched on after death, with the December 2016 film "I am Not Your Negro" being based on one of Baldwin's unfinished novels. An influence to Maya Angelou and Toni Morrison, James Baldwin regarded writings as his personal mission of bearing "witness to the truth"
BHM Fact #22
DR. ROBERT HENRY LAWRENCE, JR. was the first Black astronaut. Born in 1935 in Chicago, Illinois, Robert excelled in math and science. At age 16, he graduated High School in the top 10% of his class. At age 20, he graduated from Bradley University with a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry. At Bradley, Lawrence distinguished himself as Cadet Commander in the Air Force ROTC and received the commission of second lieutenant in the Air Force Reserve Program. He also joined the illustrious Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Incorporated. At age 21, he was designated as a U.S. Air Force pilot after completing flight training at Malden Air Force Base, Missouri. At 22, Robert married childhood sweetheart Barbara Cress. By the time he was 25, he had completed an Air Force assignment as an instructor pilot in the T-33 training aircraft - He was a Senior USAF pilot, accumulating well over 2,500 flight hours, 2,000 of which were in jets. Lawrence flew many tests in the Lockheed F-104 Starfighter to investigate the gliding flight of various unpowered spacecrafts returning to Earth from orbit, such as the North American X-15 rocket-plane. NASA cited Lawrence for accomplishments and flight maneuver data that "contributed greatly to the development of the Space Shuttle." In 1965, at age 30, he earned a PhD in Physical Chemistry from Ohio State University. In June 1967, Dr. Lawrence successfully completed the U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School (Class 66B) at Edwards AFB, California. The same month, he was selected by the USAF as an astronaut in the Air Force's Manned Orbital Laboratory (MOL) program, thus becoming the first Black astronaut. On December 8, 1967, at age 32, Dr. Lawrence was tragically killed in the crash of an F-104 Starfighter at Edwards AFB while flying backseat on the mission as the instructor pilot for a flight test trainee. Had Lawrence lived, he likely would have been among the MOL astronauts who became NASA Astronaut Group 7 after MOL's cancellation, all of whom went on to fly on the Space Shuttle. During his brief career, Dr. Lawrence earned the Air Force Commendation Medaland the Outstanding Unit Citation. 30 years after his death, Dr. Robert Lawrence was FINALLY inscribed on the Space Mirror Memorial at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida in 1997.
BHM Fact #21
ROLIHLAHLA NELSON MANDELA was a South African anti-apartheid activist and revolutionary for the ages. Born in 1918 in Mvezo, South Africa, he stems from royalty as his Great grandfather was King of the Thembu people (in the 1830s) and his Father was Chief of Mvezo (in 1920s). The first member of his family to attend college, he was given the English name "Nelson" by a teacher and went on to study law at Fort Hare University and the University of Witwatersrand. Mandela began actively participating in politics in the 1940s, joining the African National Congress (ANC) Youth League and sitting on their Executive Board. When the "National Party" Government implemented apartheid in 1948, Mandela rose to prominence in the ANC's 1952 Defiance Campaign, being elected president of the Transvaal ANC branch and overseeing the 1955 Congress of the People, calling on all South Africans to send in proposals for an anti-apartheid era. Influenced by Mahatma Ghandi, Mandela initially became an anti-apartheid NON-VIOLENT activist. Working as a lawyer, he was repeatedly arrested for speaking against apartheid and with the ANC leadership stood on a Treason Trial from 1956 to 1961. After years of increasing oppression & violence, Mandela became convinced that non-violent protest against apartheid could not achieve any progress. As a last resort, he moved to armed struggle. Nelson co-founded "Umkhonto we Sizwe," the armed wing of the African National Congress in 1961 and led a militant campaign against government targets. In 1962 he was arrested and convicted of sabotage and conspiracy to overthrow the government, being sentenced to life imprisonment. He served in Robben Island and then Pollsmoor Prison, while an international campaign lobbied for his release. While in jail, he studied, earned a law degree via mail from the University of London, and taught prisoners about life and his civic beliefs. Mandela wrote letters and corresponded with several U.S. Civil Right Leaders, including the Late Rev Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He also wrote and received letters from many worldwide freedom fighters. Although in prison, his reputation grew to be the most significant Black leader in South Africa. Nelson was released from prison in 1990 after 27 years. Recommitting to the non-violent stance of Ghandi, Mandela led his party in negotiations for multi-racial democracy in 1994. That same year he was elected President of South Africa, serving until 1999. He was the first South African President to be elected in a fully representative multi-racial democratic election, winning in a land slide. As president, he created a new constitution and initiated the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to investigate past human rights abuses, while introducing policies aimed at land reform, combating poverty and expanding healthcare. Internationally, he acted as mediator between Libya and the United Kingdom in the Pan Am Flight 103 bombing trial, and oversaw a military intervention in Lesotho. Nelson Mandela has received more than 250 awards over four decades, including the 1993 Nobel Peace Prize. In 2009, the United Nations declared Nelson Mandela's Birthday, July 18 as "Mandela Day," an International Celebration of his legacy and a day dedicated to Promoting Global Peace. Nelson Mandela passed away on December 5, 2013 at the age of 95 years old. More than 90 Heads of States from around the world attended his Memorial Services in South Africa
BHM Fact #20
DAVID WALKER was one of the earliest Black Freedom Fighters and author of "Walker's Appeal to the Coulored Citized of the World". Born free in 1797 to a slave father & free mother in Wilmington, North Carolina, he witnessed firsthand degradations of slavery at an early age; including seeing a son forced to whip his mother until she died. As a young adult, he moved to Charleston, South Carolina, a Mecca for upwardly mobile free Blacks and became affiliated with the AME Church community of activist. By the 1820s, he settled in Boston where the level of Black competency and activism was high as slavery had been abolished in Massachusetts since 1780. There he opened a clothing store and began to associate with prominent Black activists, Freemasons and religious groups whom denounced slavery and aided runaway slaves. Walker also contributed articles to NYC's "Freedom's Journal," the first newspaper owned & operated by African American in the US. By 1828 David Walker had become Boston's leading spokesman against slavery. In 1829, he published "David Walker's Appeal to the Coloured Citizens of the World" to encourage readers to take an active role in fighting their oppression, regardless of the risk, and to press White Americans to realize the moral & religious failure of slavery. Walker wrote against published assertions of black inferiority and lesser humanity stating, "I say that unless we refute Mr. (Thomas) Jefferson's arguments respecting us, we will only establish them". Walker argued, "America is more our country, than it is the whites - we have enriched it with our blood and tears". The book rejected notions that the Bible sanctioned slavery and offered a version of Christianity that was purged of racist heresies; one which held that God was a God of justice to all His creatures. He believed Blacks had to assume responsibility for themselves if they wanted to overcome oppression and envisioned all Blacks reading The Appeal: "It is expected that all coloured men, women and children, of every nation, language and tongue under heaven, will try to procure a copy of this Appeal and read it, or get someone to read it to them, for it is designed more particularly for them". Walker distributed his book through black communication networks along the Atlantic coast, even sewing copies into the lining of clothing for sailors to take down south. The Appeal was inspiring to slaves and instilled a sense of hope. Whites in the South were angered by the book, leading to laws forbidding Blacks from reading and banning antislavery literature; they offered a $10,000 reward for Walker's capture. In the wake of threats, Walker stood his ground believing he served a glorious and heavenly cause stating "Somebody must die in this cause. I may be doomed to the stake and the fire, or to the scaffold tree, but it is not in me to falter if I can promote the work of emancipation". David Walker died in 1830, just two months after publishing a third edition of his Appeal; it was speculated (but never proven) that he was poisoned. Years after his death, the Great Frederick Douglass said of Walker: "Walker's Appeal is the first sustained written assault upon slavery and racism to come from a Black man in the United States". You can read "Walker's Appeal" online at:
BHM Fact #19
BARACK HUSSEIN OBAMA II is the 44th President of the United States of America. He is the FIRST and ONLY Black Man to hold the office. Born in 1961 in Honolulu, Hawaii, to Barack Obama Sr. (of Rachuonyo, Kenya) and Ann Dunham (of Wichita, Kansas), he is the ONLY President born in Hawaii. In 1965, Obama's parents separated, and his Mom remarried the next year. In 1967, Obama and family moved to Indonesia where they lived for 4 years. At the age of 10, Barack moved back to Hawaii, while his Mom remained in Indonesia. Living with his Grandparents, Obama remained in Hawaii until completing high school in 1979. He then went on to Occidental College in Los Angeles, CA; where he gave his first public speech about the nations response to apartheid in South Africa. His Junior year, Obama transferred to Columbia University, graduating with a political science degree in 1983. The year before graduation, his father Barack Sr. was killed in a car accident in Kenya; with Barack Jr. last seeing him in 1971. Obama worked for two New York business groups after college, and in 1985, moved to Chicago, Illinois to work at Developing Communities Project as a community organizer until 1988. That Summer, Barack traveled to his Dad’s hometown of Kenya, meeting many of his sibling and relatives for the first time. Fall 1988, he entered Harvard Law School, where he excelled academically, and became the first Black President of the Harvard Law Review. While in law school he spent summers interning in Chicago at different law firms. In summer 1989 he met and began dating his advisor Michelle Robinson. Graduating from Harvard Law in 1991, Obama returned to Chicago as a University of Chicago law school professor and got engaged to Michelle, marrying her October 1992. That same year, Barack directed Illinois’ Project Vote – Registration Initiative, leading to 150,000 Blacks getting registered that year. In 1993, he joined a civil rights litigation firm. In 1995, Barack wrote and published his first book: “Dreams from my Father”. That same year he served on the board of directors of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge, as serving as chairman until 1999. Crain's Chicago Business named Obama to its list of "40 under Forty Powers to Be”. In 1997, Barack was elected to his first public office, serving in the Illinois State Senate for 2 terms. In 2004, he gave a keynote address at the Democratic National Convention on his way to being elected to the U.S. Senate representing Illinois. In 2006, he wrote and published his second book "The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream". Obama began his presidential campaign in February 2007 with the theme of “YES WE CAN,” and after tireless efforts and a blazingly well run campaign, on November 4, 2008, Barack Obama was elected U.S. President, the FIRST BLACK MAN TO BE ELECTED PRESIDENT. After a trying, but productive first term, Barack Obama was re-elected president on November 6, 2012; becoming only the 14th President to be Re-elected for consecutive terms (winning both by landslides) and serving until Jan 20, 2017. Under President Obama’s leadership, he successfully reduced the national debt, reduced the employment rate, ended two wars in Iraq and established Universal Healthcare. As a family man first, Barack has eight siblings, remains married to Michelle Obama, FIRST BLACK FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES, and is the father of two Beautiful Daughters: Malia (19) and Sasha (16). To his legacy at 56 years young, President Obama has received dozens of honorary doctorate degrees, served as a commencement speaker on numerous occasions, last speaking at the prestigious Howard University in 2016, and was named the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize laureate.
BHM Fact 18
HAROLD LEE WASHINGTON is the first and ONLY elected Black Mayor of Chicago, Illinois. Born in 1922, Washington grew up in the Bronzeville neighborhood of Chicago; the center of Black culture for the entire Midwest in the early & mid 1900s. He attended DuSable High and was a member of its first graduating class. At age 20 Harold was drafted in the US Army for WWII, serving overseas & rising to the rank of First Sergeant. Returning to Chicago a war veteran at 24, he enrolled at Roosevelt College; obtaining a BA in 1949 and pledging Phi Beta Sigma. Washington then entered Northwestern Univ Law School, graduating in 1952; He was the only Black student in his class. From then until 1965, Harold worked in the offices of Chicago's 3rd Ward Alderman where he began to organize the 3rd Ward's Young Democrats (YD) organization. The 3rd Ward YD pushed for numerous resolutions in the interest of Blacks. Eventually, other Black YD organizations would come to the 3rd Ward headquarters for advice. In 1960, Washington and others founded the Chicago League of Negro Voters, one of the first Black political organizations in the city. In 1965, they gained enough traction within the city to get Harold elected as a State Representative. Washington's years in the Illinois House were focused on becoming an advocate for Black rights. He worked on the Fair Housing Act, and to strengthen the Fair Employment Practices Commission (FEPC). Washington also passed bills honoring civil rights figures, including a resolution honoring James J. Reeb, a Unitarian minister beaten to death in Selma, Alabama. By 1976, Washington was elected to the Illinois Senate where his main focus was to to pass Illinois Human Rights Act. In 1980, Harold was elected to the US. House of Representatives in Illinois' 1st Congressional District and re-elected in 1982. Washington's major congressional accomplishment involved legislation to extend the Voting Rights Act. In 1983, Washington turned his attention to Chicago mayoral election. With 100,000 new registered voters that year, Washington was elected as Chicago's 51st Mayor on April 12, 1983, the FIRST Black Mayor in the city's history. As mayor, he stressed reforming the Chicago patronage system and jobs programs in the tight economy. Washington also established the Political Education Project (PEP), an organization to help organize political candidates for statewide elections. PEP managed Washington's participation in the 1984 Democratic National Convention and his 1987 mayoral election, where we was reelected. November 1987, just 7 months into his second term, Mayor Harold Washington passed away from a sudden heart attack while in his office. Reactions to his death were of shock and sadness, as many Blacks believed Washington was the only top Chicago official who would address their concerns. Thousands of Chicagoans attended his wake in the lobby of City Hall. Various city facilities and institutions were named or renamed to commemorate his legacy including: Harold Washington College, Harold Washington Library Center, Harold Washington Elementary School, Harold Washington Hall on the campus of Chicago State Univ, Harold Washington Park and Harold Washington Cultural Center in the Bronzeville neighborhood he grew up in
BHM Fact #17
ELIZABETH "BESSIE" COLEMAN was the first licensed Black pilot in the world. Born in 1892 in Atlanta, Texas, she began school at age 6 and had to walk 4 miles each day to an all-black, one-room school. She attended college at the now Langston University. She took up an interest in aviation. In seeking pilot schooling, no one would teach her because she was black and a woman. Following her dreams, Bessie traveled to France and received aviation training in Paris. On June 15, 1921, Coleman became the first Black person in the world to earn an international aviation license. Afterwards, she received advanced training from Chief Pilots in Netherlands and Germany. Returning to the US she appeared in many Air Shows and Stunt Flying Exhibitions, inspiring pilots of all races. In 1926, Bessie was killed in a plane accident at the age of 34. To her legacy and courage, the Bessie Coleman Aero Club was named in her honor in 1929. In 1995, she was honored with her image on a U.S. postage stamp, and was inducted into the Women in Aviation Hall of Fame
BHM Fact #16
GWENDOLYN BROOKS was the first Black person to win the Pulitzer Prize in poetry. Growing up in Chicago in the 1920s and 30s, she developed a writing gift at an early age. She published her first poem in a children’s magazine at the age of 13. By age 16 she had a portfolio of 75 published poems. At 17, she was submitting poetry to the Chicago Defender. By 18 she was putting on poetry workshops. In 1945, at the age of 27 she published her first book of poetry, “ A Street in Bronzeville,” earning instant critical acclaim. She released her 2nd Book, “Annie Allen,” in 1950, winning the Pulitzer Prize for this collection and becoming the first African-American to do so. Brooks went on to read poetry at many public functions, including for President John F. Kennedy in 1962. She later taught at several universities in the 60s & 70s, and became Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to The Library of Congressgress in 1985. The Illinois State Library is named in her honor.
BHM Fact #15
KATIE BEATRICE HALL authored & sponsored the Rev Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. National Holiday Law legislation and was the first Black person to represent the state of Indiana in the United States Congress. Born 1938 in Mound Bayou and growing up on a farm with 10 siblings, she went on to attend Mississippi Vocational College (now Mississippi Valley State University) and pledged Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc. In college, she met & married USAF Officer John Hall (husband of 54 years). Graduating with a BS in 1960, she immediately left the south and moved to Gary, Indiana. Katie first worked as a substitute teacher with the Gary Community School Corporation. After a few years, she secured a permanent position, teaching US history, Government and Economics, and obtained a Master's degree in Education from Indian University. While teaching, she sponsored annual Educational Tours to Washington DC, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, the US Naval Academy and other historical sites. Developing an interest in politics, Katie actively worked on the Mayoral campaign for Richard Hatcher, helping him become the first Black mayor of a major US city - Gary, IN in 1967. By the 1970s, Hall launched her own political campaigns, serving in the Indiana House of Representatives and Senate. She chiefly served on the House & State Education Committee and authored many pieces of legislation that improved the lives of the citizens of Gary and State of Indiana. Katie Hall became Indiana's first Black US House Rep in 1982. As a freshman congresswoman, she introduced legislation to make Dr. Martin Luther King Jr's birthday a national holiday; an effort stalled in the US House for 16 years. Through Katie's rigorous efforts, on November 2, 1983, President Ronald Reagan signed the bill into law; the first federal legislation to honor the life an African-American. One of her main Congressional Studies was "Famine in Ethiopia", an extensive study of causes, scope, devastating effects, and recommendations of the problems of hunger in Ethiopia in 1983. Leaving a legacy for women, Congresswoman Hall was a charter member of the National Congress of Black Women in 1984. She exited congress in 1985 and resumed her career as a Government & Economics teacher, retiring from the Gary school system in 2004. In that same span she remained active civically, becoming Chair of the Indiana State Democratic Convention, Assistant Coordinator of Jesse Jackson for President Campaign and serving as City Clerk for Gary from 1988 to 2003. As Clerk, she digitized the city's records, improved quality of service and gave many young women & men a chance to work & earn money for college. Katie Hall passed away in 2012 at the age of 73. In her lifetime, Congresswoman Hall received more than 500 awards for outstanding service in religion, education, politics, community service and legislature. To her legacy, the Katie Hall Educational Foundation was developed in her honor, and there is a “Katie Hall Public Service Awards Luncheon” held in Gary, Indiana Annually
BHM Fact #14
LIFT EVERY VOICE AND SING is the Black National Anthem. It was first performed as a poem to celebrate President Abraham Lincoln's Birthday in February 1900 by 500 children at the segregated Stanton Grade School in Jacksonville, FL;.Stanton being the first school designated for Blacks in the state of Florida. Principal James Weldon Johnson wrote the poem to introduce guest speaker for the day, renown Freedom Fighter Booker T Washington. In 1905, James' Brother John thought enough of the poem to set it to music. The song was shared with friends and civic groups across the nation, spreading rapidly. Over the next decade, the song grew to mean unity and hope for Blacks. In 1919 the NAACP adopted Lift every Voice and Sing as the Black National Anthem. By the 1920s, the song could be found in hymnals of Black churches. Today, "Lift Every Voice and Sing" is known across the globe and sang to open functions with a majority Black audience. Below is a clip to an awesome soulful singing rendition of Lift Every Voice and Sing, by the"Winston-Salem State University Choir and Alumni Choir"