BHM Fact #13
DR. MAE CAROL JEMISON is the first Black woman to travel in space. Born in Decatur, Alabama, she relocated to Chicago at the age of 3. She had a fascination with science from an early age, going on to excel & graduate from Chicago’s Morgan Park High School and entered Stanford University at the age of 16. There she attained her a B.S. Degree in Chemical Engineering and a B.A. degree in African and African-American studies. Jemison also led the Black Students Union in college. She went on to earn her Doctorate in Medicine from Cornell University in 1981. During her years at Cornell, she also took modern dance lessons at Alvin Ailey School. Dr. Jemison briefly worked as a general practitioner, before serving 2 years as a Peace Corps volunteer, spending time in Sierra Leone and Liberia, and learning to speak Russian, Japanese and Swahili. After returning to the U.S., Dr. Jemison applied to NASA's astronaut program, becoming one of 15 candidates selected out of more than 2,000 people (1987). After a year of training, she became the first Black Female Astronaut. On September 12, 1992, Dr. Mae Jemison became the first Black Woman in space when the space shuttle Endeavour carried her and six other astronauts on 126 orbits around the Earth. A mission specialist, Jemison was a co-investigator of two bone cell research experiments, one of 43 scientific investigations that were done on mission STS-47. In her own words, “The first thing I saw from space was Chicago, my hometown". Aboard the shuttle, Dr. Jemison brought several small art objects from West African countries to symbolize that space belongs to all nations, a photo of Bessie Coleman (the very first licensed Black pilot), and her beloved Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority banner. The shuttle landed at Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Sept. 20, 1992, with Dr. Jemison logging 190 hours, 30 minutes, and 23 seconds in space. Dr. Jemison left NASA in 1993 and founded her own company, The Jemison Group. to promote science & technology research to schools around the world. She was also a Professor at Dartmouth College until 2002. Dr. Jemison continues to advocate strongly in favor of science education and getting minority students interested in science. A lover of arts, Dr. Jemison has a dance studio in her home and has choreographed & produced several shows of modern jazz and African dance. Dr. Jemison has received 8 honorary Doctorate degrees, has 5 schools named in her honor, has written several books and has received over 100 awards, and has been inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame as well as the International Space Hall of Fame. In 2008, Jemison was the featured speaker for the 100th anniversary of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. Dr. Mae Jemison currently lead’s the “100 Year Starship Project,” working to make human space travel beyond the solar system a reality within the next century
BHM Fact #12
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 # 11
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 #10
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 Black 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 Congress in 1985. The Illinois State Library is named in her honor.
BHM Fact #9
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 #8
The BLACK HERITAGE STAMP SERIESwas 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 2019 year, Gregory Hines, trailblazing dancer, actor and activist, is the 42nd honoree in the USPS Black Heritage Series
BHM Fact #7
Exactly 93 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 President 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 man (after W.E.B. Du Bois) to earn a Doctorate. He continued teaching in public schools, later joining the faculty at the prestigious 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 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, he went on to write "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 Black 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 an 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
CAROL ELIZABETH MOSLEY BRAUN is the first Black woman elected to the U.S. Senate, first Black U.S. Senator from the Democratic Party, first woman to defeat an incumbent U.S. Senator in an election, and first female Senator from Illinois. Born in 1947, in Chicago, to a Police Officer Father and Medical Technician Mother, she attended Parker High School (now Paul Robeson High), and grew up in a segregated middle-class neighborhood on Chicago’s South Side. She went on to earn a Bachelor Degree from University of Illinois-Chicago and a law degree from the University of Chicago, joining the Chicago U.S. Attorney’s office immediately afterwards in 1973. Attorney Mosley Braun’s work in housing, health policy, and environmental law won her the Attorney General's Special Achievement Award. In 1978, she was first elected to public office as a member of the Illinois House of Representatives. There, she rose to the post of assistant majority leader and became recognized as a champion for social causes; advocating for civil rights, education, health care and against the death penalty. In what became a landmark reapportionment case, “Crosby v. State Board of Elections,” Representative Mosley Braun victoriously sued the Democratic Party and the State of Illinois on behalf of Black and Hispanic citizens. Leaving the state legislature in 1987, her colleagues recognized her in a resolution as "the conscience of the House." That same year, she was elected as Cook County, Illinois Recorder of Deeds, a post she held for four years. In 1991, backed by the political coalition built by the late Mayor Harold Washington, Recorder Mosley Braun ran for U.S Senate, WINNING on November 3, 1992, she was elected the first Black woman to be elected to the United States Senate. Her election marked the first time Illinois had elected a woman and the first time a Black Democrat was elected to the U.S Senate. She was a strong supporter of public education, voting against school vouchers and requiring schools to allow voluntary prayer. Consistently Senator Moseley Braun fought discrimination against women, sexual orientation, and immigrants, in a distinguished six-year senate voting record. She also voted against the death penalty and in favor of gun control measures. In 1993, she boldly convinced the Senate Judiciary Committee not to renew a design patent for the United Daughters of the Confederacy because it contained the Confederate flag. Senator Mosley Braun became the first woman to serve on the Senate Finance Committee. At the time of her election, Women were not allowed to wear pants on the U.S. Senate floor. In 1993, Senators Moseley Braun and Barbara Mikulski wore pants onto the floor in defiance of the rule; female support staff followed soon after, with the rule being amended later that year to allow women to wear pants on the floor so long as they also wore a jacket. As a Black woman, Moseley Braun felt compelled to reach out to countries in Africa as part of her responsibility to bridge the gap in her heritage. She was criticized for meeting with high ranking African leaders whom had questionable human rights records and her career suffered as a result. Senator Moseley Braun was a one-term Senator, losing her re-election bid in 1998. In 1999, President Clinton appointed her to be a U.S. Ambassador to New Zealand; serving until 2001. Ambassador Mosley Braun briefly ran for President in 2004, dropping out after the D.C. primary. In 2011, she again sought office, running in Chicago’s mayoral election, but ultimately being defeated. The Honorable Carol Mosley Braun still resides in Chicago and is on the advisory board of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation. She is a member of the Delta Sigma Theta sorority Inc, and has an Illinois school named in her honor. She is one of two Black people to serve in the Senate in the 20th century and was the sole Black person in the Senate for her entire term. Of the 1,974 Senators in U.S. History, Carol Mosley Braun is one of the fifty six (56) women, one of ten (10) Black people, and one of just TWO Black women (Senator Kamala Harris) to serve in the capacity.
BHM Fact #4
DR. DOROTHY IRENE HEIGHT is an underrated GIANT of civil rights, women's rights and humanity. Born in Richmond, Virginia in 1912; Height showed great oratory talent as a youth. By high school, Height's speaking skills took her to the Elks' national oratory competition, where she won First place and was awarded a college scholarship. She was accepted to Barnard College in NY, but was later rejected stating they had "met their quota for Black students;" which was two (2). Undeterred, she applied to and entered New York University (NYU), earning a Bachelor's degree in Education and Master's in Psychology. After college, she worked as a social worker for NYC Welfare Dept and then at the Harlem Young Women's Christian Association (YWCA) in 1937. While working there, Height met educator & founder of the National Council of Negro Women (NCNW) Mary McLeod Bethune; Bethune and US first lady Eleanor Roosevelt were on a facility visit. Through Bethune's influence (and friendship), at just 25 yrs old Height became very active with NCNW; fighting for equal rights for both African Americans and women. By 1944 she joined the national staff of the YWCA and 2 years later directed the integration of all of its Centers across the nation. In 1947, she was elected 10th National President of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority; serving until 1956 and remaining active throughout her life, she was key in developing Delta's "Five Point Thrust" program to benefit Black Communities. Following her reign of Delta, in 1957 Height became President of the National Council of Negro Women and was soon one of the leading figures of the Civil Rights Movement. She was one of the organizers of the famed 1963 March on Washington, standing close to Dr. King when he delivered his "I Have a Dream" speech. Despite her skills as a speaker and leader, neither Height nor any other female spoke at the March. Though disappointed, she was more motivated to establish respect for women. The day after the March, Height convened an interracial gathering that pulled in women from civil rights groups and such organizations as the National Council of Catholic Women and the National Council of Jewish Women; rising as a champion for women's rights. Height soon began a column entitled "A Woman's Word" in NY's Amsterdam News. She also encouraged President Lyndon B. Johnson to appoint Black women to positions in government, and in 1971 helped found the National Women's Political Caucus. Still active with the YWCA she traveled to expand Centers internationally (in Africa and Asia) and established its Center for Racial Justice in 1965; running it until she retired in 1977. Height continued to run the NCNW until 1998, focused on strengthening the Black family, and launching a war against drugs, illiteracy & unemployment. She was deemed NCNW Chair & President Emerita, and remained the organization's chair of the board until her death in 2010 at 98 yrs of age. Height received many honors for her contributions to society including: Presidential Citizens Medal (1989), NAACP Spingarn Medal (1993), Presidential Medal of Freedom (1994), Congressional Gold Medal (2004), 6 honorary doctorate degrees (one from the school that originally denied her entry) and the NCNW Headquarters is named in her honor. She was honored as the 40th member of the USPS Black Heritage Stamp collection. At her funeral, 44th US President Barack Obama properly acknowledged Dorothy Height as "Godmother of the Civil Rights Movement"
BHM Fact #3
HAROLD WARREN MOON is the First and ONLY Black Quarterback (QB) named to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. A true throwing QB born in Los Angeles, CA, he was recruited by numerous colleges, but MOST wanted to convert Moon to another position; as was the norm for many major colleges recruiting black high school quarterbacks. He first attended West Los Angeles College from 1974–75 where he was a record-setting QB. The next year he transferred to Univ of Washington playing 4 seasons. In 1978 he led Washington to a Rose Bowl Victory and was named Game MVP. Despite his collegiate success, Warren Moon went undrafted in the NFL and turned to the Canadian Football League (CFL). In the CFL Moon led his team to 5 Straight League Championships (Grey Cups) from 1978 – 1982. He became the FIRST PROFESSIONAL QUARTERBACK to pass for 5,000 yards in a season by reaching exactly 5,000 yards in 1982. In 1984, Moon joined the NFL signing with the Houston Oilers and later played for Minnesota Vikings, Seattle Seahawks and Kansas City Chiefs. He was named to 9 Pro Bowls and was in the NFLs top 5 all-time when he retired (2000) for passing yards, passing touchdowns, pass attempts, and pass completions. Combining his NFL and CFL stats, Moon's numbers are unmatched in professional football: 5,357 completions in 9,205 attempts for 70,553 yards and 435 touchdowns. Warren Moon was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 2001 and NFL Hall of Fame in 2006, becoming the first CFL Hall of Famer, first undrafted quarterback, and the First (and ONLY) Black quarterback to be so honored.
BHM Fact #2
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 University (PA) from 1918 to 1920. He led Lincoln to two Thanksgiving Classic (the first HBCU Classic) victories over the prestigious Howard University. 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 Black 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-Black 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 #1
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 people attended his wake in the lobby of Chicago 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 University, Harold Washington Park and Harold Washington Cultural Center in the Bronzeville neighborhood he grew up in
BHM Fact #27
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 #26
ANNA JULIA COOPER is the “Mother of Black Feminism" and fourth Black woman U.S. history to earn a Doctoral Degree. Born into slavery in 1858 in Raleigh, NC, by 1868 she enrolled in the newly established Saint Augustine’s Normal School & Collegiate Institute, a school for freed slaves. Anna excelled quickly, teaching math part-time at age 10. While at Saint Augustine’s, Anna had a feminist awakening when she realized that her male classmates were encouraged to study more rigorous curriculum than female students. She fought to take the same classes and developed a passion for advocating for Black women’s education. She went on to Oberlin College (Ohio), graduating with a B.A degree in 1884 and earning a Master’s Degree in Math in 1887. That same year, Cooper became a faculty member at M Street High School in Washington, DC. During this period, she began writing and publishing works that earned renowned scholarly distinction. Her best-known book, “A Voice from the South, by a Black Woman of the South,” was published in 1892 – emphasizing the nature and role of Black women, it is widely considered to be the first written articulation of Black feminism. Cooper held that women were specially qualified to lead Blacks in their efforts to improve their lives, and advocated women’s advancement through education & social progress. Cooper became active on the lecture circuit, promoting these same themes of self-determination and improvement. She co-founded the Colored Women’s League in 1892. In 1893, she attended the World’s Congress of Representative Women, held (in Chicago), delivering a speech entitled, “The Intellectual Progress of Colored Women of the United States Since Emancipation” – one of five Black women invited to speak. At the first Pan-African Conference, held in London in 1900, Cooper was a member of the executive committee and one of only two women to address the gathering, delivering “The Negro Problem in America”. She later was one of the founders of the Colored Women’s YWCA and the Colored YMCA, advancing the view that it was the duty of educated and successful Black women to support their underprivileged peers in achieving their goals. In 1902 Cooper was named principal of the M Street High School, enhancing the academic reputation of the school with an emphasis on college prep courses. In 1906, Cooper went on to teach at Lincoln University in Missouri. In 1910 she was returned to M Street High as a Latin teacher. Cooper began doctoral work at Columbia University in 1911, but interrupted her studies when her brother died leaving five grandchildren orphaned. She adopted all five, and in 1924, with the children at boarding school, she resumed work on her degree at the University of Paris in France. She completed her dissertation, “The Attitude of France toward Slavery in the Revolution,” in 1925, earning her Ph.D. at 67, and became the fourth Black woman to do so. Dr. Cooper continued her teaching career at M Street (now Paul Laurence Dunbar) High until 1930. From 1930 to 1941 she served as President of the Frelinghuysen University, a night school for Black adults. Dr. Cooper continued writing up to her death in 1964 at age of 105. The prestigious Howard University holds Cooper's personal papers: https://dh.howard.edu/ajcooper/. To her legacy, Wake Forest University established The Anna Julia Cooper Center on Gender, Race, and Politics in the South; in 2009 a USPS commemorative stamp was released in her honor; Pages 24 and 25 of the 2016 United States passport contain her famed quote: "The cause of freedom is not the cause of a race or a sect, a party or a class – it is the cause of humankind, the very birthright of humanity."
BHM Fact # 25
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 #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 # 24
SIR SIDNEY POITIER was the first Black man to win an Academy Award (Oscar) for Best Actor. Born in 1927 in Miami, Florida to Bahamian farmers who 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
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 #22
SAMUEL "SAMMY" DAVIS, JR was a legendary dancer and entertainer. Born in 1925 in NYC to two parents who were dancers, he started dancing at the age of 3, eventually joining his Dad and Uncle in a dance trio. Davis Jr went on to join the US Army, serving in WW II on the Integrated Entertainment Special Services Unit. His dance and singing talent entertained the troops and lessened the prejudice treatment of the times. After his discharge, Davis achieved success on his own, singing title tracks for films and starring in Broadway plays, leading to him joining the performing sensations known as the "Rat Pack" led by Frank Sinatra & Dean Martin. In 1954, Davis lost his eye in a car accident, but never let that deter him. In that same era he converted to the Jewish belief. By the 60s, he was a world famous recording artist, TV and film star, having his own variety TV show, "The Sammy Davis Jr Show" in 1966. Despite the fame, he was a victim of racism throughout his life, and was a large financial supporter of civil rights causes. His signature comment came on a golf course in the 70s when asked what his handicap was. He replied "Handicap? Talk about handicap - I'm a one-eyed Negro Jew." In the late 80s, Davis re-united with the "Rat Pack," touring with them until his death in 1990. His honors include the NAACP Spingarn Medal, Kennedy Center Honors in 1987 and (posthumously) 2001 Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award
BHM Fact # 21
OTIS BOYKIN is a pioneering technologist and inventor. Born in 1920 in Dallas, Texas, he went on to attend Fisk University and Illinois Institute of Technology, where he started his career as a laboratory assistant testing automatic controls for aircrafts. Though he attended both schools, Otis never made it to graduation as he was focused on being an inventor and never found time to go back and complete his degree pursuit. He received his first patent in 1959 for a wire resistor that allowed a precise amount of electricity to flow to a component. Two year later, he created an even better resistor that could be manufactured inexpensively and withstand extreme temperature changes and shock. A low-cost product that was more reliable, the invention brought Otis Boykin to the forefront of American electronics. Consumer electronics manufacturers, the United States military and IBM all placed orders for the resistor. It would come to be used in household appliances, computers and guided missiles – and is still used in many of those devices to this very day. Ultimately Boykin developed more than 25 electronic devices. These innovations in resistor design contributed to significant cost reductions in electronic components for both military and commercial applications. Thirty seven derivative products from these inventions have been manufactured in Paris and distributed throughout Western Europe. Boykin’s most outstanding invention was the control unit for the pacemaker—the device uses electrical impulses to maintain a steady heartbeat; helping to extend the lives of hundreds of thousands of individuals. Boykin's accomplishments didn't stop there. He continued to invent throughout the duration of his life, working as a consultant for firms in America and Europe. All in all, he earned 11 patents and invented 28 different electronic devices. Some of his lesser known inventions include a burglar-proof cash register and a chemical air filter – both of which were never produced. Boykin died of a heart failure in 1982
BHM Fact #20
DR. PATRICIA ERA BATH is the first Black female Doctor to receive a patent for a medical purpose, and broke ground for women and Blacks in a number of areas. Born 1942 in Harlem, NY to Trinidadian parents, she excelled in science at an early age. While in high school, Bath applied for and won a National Science Foundation Scholarship, leading her to involvement in a research project at Yeshiva University and Harlem Hospital Center on cancer. Still a teenager, Bath won the "Merit Award" of Mademoiselle magazine for her contribution to the project in 1960. She went on to Manhattan's Hunter College obtaining a degree in Chemistry in 1964. Patricia then attended the prestigious Howard University College of Medicine, earning a Doctoral degree in 1968. While at Howard, she was president of the Student National Medical Association and received fellowships from the National Institutes of Health and the National Institute of Mental Health. Bath interned at Harlem Hospital Center, subsequently serving as a fellow at Columbia University from 1968 to 1970. She served her residency in ophthalmology at New York University from 1970 to 1973, the first African American to do so in her field. During this period Patricia became aware that the eye care practice was uneven among racial minorities and poor populations, with much higher incidence of blindness among her black and poor patients. She addressed this issue by persuading her professors from Columbia to operate on blind patients at Harlem Hospital Center, which had not previously offered eye surgery, at no cost. Bath pioneered the worldwide discipline of "community ophthalmology", a volunteer-based outreach to bring necessary eye care to underserved populations. After completing her education, she served briefly as an assistant professor at Jules Stein Eye Institute at UCLA and Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science, becoming the first woman on faculty at the Eye Institute. In 1978, Bath co-founded the American Institute for the Prevention of Blindness, serving as its first President. In 1983, she became the head of a residency in her field at Charles R. Drew, the first woman ever to head such a department. In 1993, she retired from UCLA, which subsequently elected her the first woman on its honorary staff. Dr. Bath then relocated back east as a professor of Ophthalmology at Howard University's School of Medicine and later as a professor of Telemedicine and Ophthalmology at St. Georges University. She is a co-founder of the King-Drew Medical Center ophthalmology training program. Dr. Bath holds four patents in the United States. She conceived the Laserphaco Probe, a medical device that improves laser use to remove cataracts, and cataract lenses. The device was completed in 1986 and patented in 1988, making her the first Black female doctor to receive a patent for a medical purpose. Three of Bath's four patents relate to the Laserphaco Probe. In 2000, she was granted a patent for a method she devised for using ultrasound technology to treat cataracts. Dr. Patricia Bath has lectured internationally and authored over 100 papers. She's received numerous honors including "Hunter College 1988 Hall of Fame" induction and "Howard University Pioneer in Academic Medicine" award in 1993
BHM Fact #19
LAWRENCE DOUGLAS WILDER is the second Black person to serve as Governor of a U.S. state, and the first elected Black governor in U.S. History. Born in 1931, in the segregated Church Hill neighborhood of Richmond, VA, Wilder was named after poet laureate Paul Laurence Dunbar and Abolitionist Frederick Douglass. He attended Armstrong High in Richmond and went on to Virginia Union University, earning a chemistry degree in 1951 and pledging Omega Psi Phi Fraternity (Zeta Chapter). After college, Wilder joined the Army, serving in the Korean War and earning a Bronze Star for heroism. After the war, he worked in the Virginia state medical examiner’s office as a chemist. He later enrolled at the prestigious Howard University Law School, graduating in 1959; and soon afterwards established Wilder, Gregory and Associates law Firm. In 1969 Wilder entered politics, winning a seat in the Virginia State Senate during a special election, becoming the first Black state senator in Virginia since Reconstruction; serving until 1985. That same year, Senator Wilder ran for and was elected as the 35th Lieutenant Governor of Virginia; the first Black to win a statewide election in Virginia. Four years later, on November 8, 1989, Lt Governor Wilder was elected Governor, becoming the first black elected Governor in U.S. history. On January 13, 1990 L. Douglas Wilder was sworn in as the 66th Governor of Virginia, only second Black man to be Governor U.S State (First being Pinckney Pinchback in 1872, Louisiana). During his tenure as governor, Governor Wilder worked on crime and gun control initiatives. He also worked to fund Virginia's transportation initiatives, passing state bond issues to support improving transportation. In May 1990 Governor Wilder ordered state agencies and universities to divest themselves of any investments in South Africa because of its policy of apartheid, making Virginia the first Southern state to take such action. In 1994 Governor Wilder commuted the sentence of Earl Washington, Jr, an intellectually disabled man sentence to life in prison, and granted a pardon to Allen Iverson, a popular high school basketball player who was accused of assault. Although a Democrat for most of his career, Governor Wilder developed a reputation as a law and order fiscal conservative, appealing to many conservative voters in Virginia. He left office in 1994 because of Virginia's prohibition of successive gubernatorial terms. In 2001, Governor Wilder founded the United States National Slavery Museum in Fredericksburg, Virginia. In 2005, L. Douglas Wilder returned to politics as Mayor of Richmond (VA), becoming the first directly elected mayor of Richmond in sixty years; serving until 2009. In 2015, Mayor Wilder published the autobiography “Son of Virginia: A Life in America's Political Arena”. He has received numerous awards, including the NAACP Spingarn Medal. The Virginia Union University Library, Norfolk State University Performing Arts Center, Virginia State University Cooperative Extension Building, a Hampton University dormitory and a Richmond Middle school are all named in Governor Wilder’s honor. Virginia Commonwealth University named its School of Government & Public Affairs in his as well, with Governor Wilder currently serving as an adjunct faculty member at the school.
BHM Fact #18
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 #17
EARL LLOYD was the first Black man to play a game in the National Basketball Association (NBA). Born in 1928 in Alexandria, Virginia, Lloyd was an instant standout in basketball from an early age. He attended Parker-Grey High School where he excelled academically and athletically, graduating in 1946 and earning a basketball scholarship to West Virginia State University. Lloyd led West Virginia State to two CIAA Tournament Championships, and was named National All-American twice. In 1947–48, West Virginia State was the ONLY UNDEFEATED team in the United States. In 1950, Lloyd was drafted to NBA’s Washington Capitols - one of three Black players to enter the NBA at the same time. On October 31, 1950, Earl Lloyd, a 6’5” tall 225 lb forward, became the first Black man to play an NBA game, scoring 6 points. Only because of the order of team's season openers was he the first Black to actually play; one day ahead of Boston Celtics’ Chuck Cooper and four days before New York Knicks’ Nat Clifton. Lloyd played in over 560 games in nine seasons, averaging 8.4 points and 6.4 rebounds per game. His best year was 1955, when he averaged 10.2 points and 7.7 rebounds playing for the Syracuse Nationals and winning the NBA Championship. Lloyd and Jim Tucker were the first Black men to play on an NBA championship team. Lloyd faced Extreme racism as a Black player, refused service multiple times, and enduring an incident where a fan in Indiana spit on him. He retired in 1961, spending his last two seasons with the Detroit Pistons. In 1965, Lloyd was named Assistant Coach for the Piston, first Black assistant coach in the NBA, and was named head coach in 1971, making him the third Black NBA head coach, after John McLendon and Bill Russell. Lloyd was fired from coaching in 1950 and was an NBA scout the remainder of the 70s. After his basketball career, Lloyd worked running programs for underprivileged children teaching job skills. In the 1990s he served as a Community Relations Director for the Bing Group, a Detroit manufacturing company, retiring in 1999. Earl Lloyd was inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in 2003. Lloyd died in 2015 at the age of 86
BHM Fact #16
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 University), 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 University) 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 #15
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 #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, Florida;.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 (WSSU) Choir