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Today in Black History, 3/13/2014

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• March 13, 1873 Joe Walcott (also known as Barbados Joe Walcott), hall of fame boxer, was born in Demerara, British Guyana. As a youngster, Walcott got a job as a cabin boy on a ship sailing to Boston, Massachusetts. After settling in Boston, he got a job at a gym and began boxing. Walcott made his professional debut in 1890 and won the World Welterweight Boxing Championship in 1901. He held the title until 1904. Walcott retired from boxing in 1911 with a record of 92 wins, 25 losses, and 24 draws. Walcott lost most of the money that he earned as a fighter and worked as a custodian until his death October 4, 1935. He was posthumously inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1991.

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Today in Black History, 3/12/2014

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• March 12, 1864 Charles Young, the third African American graduate of West Point, was born in Mayslick, Kentucky. After graduating from high school at 16, Young taught at a Black high school in Ripley, Ohio. In 1884, he entered the United States Military Academy at West Point and graduated in 1889. In 1903, he was appointed superintendant of Sequoia and General Grant national parks, becoming the first Black superintendant of a national park. During the 1916 Punitive Expedition into Mexico, Young commanded a squadron of the 10th Calvary (Buffalo Soldiers) and due to his exceptional leadership was promoted to lieutenant colonel. Young was awarded the NAACP Spingarn Medal in 1916. He was medically retired from the military in 1917 and spent most of 1917 and 1918 as a professor at Wilberforce University. In late 1918, he was reinstated, promoted to colonel, and assigned as a military attaché to Liberia where he died January 8, 1922. The Charles E. Young Elementary School in Washington, D. C. is named in his honor and the Colonel Charles Young House near Wilberforce was designated a National Historic Landmark May 30, 1974. Several biographies of Young have been published, including “Colonel Charles Young: Soldier and Diplomat” (1985), “For Race and Country: The Life and Career of Charles Young” (2003),and “Black Officer in a Buffalo Soldier Regiment: The Military Career of Charles Young” (2010).

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Today in Black History, 3/11/2014

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• March 11, 1884 William Edouard Scott, artist, was born in Indianapolis, Indiana. Scott lived in Chicago, Illinois from 1904 to 1909 and trained at the School of the Art Institute. Later, he moved to Paris, France where he continued his education and was able to build a reputation from himself more easily than his race allowed in America. In 1931, he received a Rosenwald Foundation grant which allowed him to travel to Haiti “to paint those who had maintained their African heritage.” Two of his more famous paintings are “Night Turtle Fishing in Haiti” (1931) and “Haitian Market” (1950). Scott portrayed Black people on canvas in positions of prominence doing noble deeds and through his paintings hoped to reverse the stereotypical perceptions of African Americans and eventually foster an understanding among the races. In addition to paintings, Scott did 75 murals, including “Douglass Appealing to President Lincoln” (1943) for the Recorder of Deeds Building in Washington, D. C. Scott died May 15, 1964. His work is in the collections of the Indianapolis Museum of Art and the Wichita Art Museum.

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Today in Black History, 3/10/2014

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• March 10, 1849 Hallie Quinn Brown, educator, writer and activist, was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Brown earned her Bachelor of Science degree from Wilberforce University in 1873 and then taught at schools in Mississippi and South Carolina. From 1885 to 1887, she was dean of Allen University and from 1892 to 1893 lady principal of Tuskegee Institute. She became professor of elocution at Wilberforce in 1893 and frequently lectured on African American issues, the temperance movement, and women’s suffrage. Brown spoke in London, England at the International Woman’s Christian Temperance Union conference in 1895 and the International Congress of Women in 1899. Brown was a founder of the Colored Women’s League which in 1894 merged into the National Association of Colored Women. She served as president of the Ohio State Federation of Colored Women’s Clubs from 1905 to 1912 and the National Association of Colored Women from 1920 to 1924. She also spoke at the Republican National Convention in 1924. Brown authored four books, “Bits and Odds: A Choice Selection of Recitations” (1880), “Elocution and Physical Culture” (1910), “First Lessons in Public Speaking” (1920), and “Homespun Heroines and Other Women of Distinction” (1926). Brown died September 16, 1949. The Hallie Q. Brown Community Center in St. Paul, Minnesota and the Hallie Q. Brown Memorial Library at Central State University are named in her honor.

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Today in Black History, 3/9/2014

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• March 9, 1841 The United States Supreme Court in United States v. Libellants and Claimants of the Schooner Amistad affirmed an 1840 federal court ruling that the Africans captured on the Amistad had been illegally transported across the Atlantic, because the international slave trade had been abolished, and therefore were not legally enslaved but free. Furthermore, because they were illegally confined, the Africans were entitled to take what legal measures necessary to secure their freedom, including the use of force. The case resulted from a rebellion aboard the Amistad by a group of captives that had been kidnapped in Africa and sold into slavery. The Africans were later apprehended on the vessel Amistad near Long Island, New York by the U. S. Navy and taken into custody. In 1997, a film version of the events, “Amistad,” was released and in 2000 a replica of the Amistad was launched with the mission to educate the public on the history of slavery, discrimination, and civil rights. The Amistad Memorial, a monument of Sengbe Pieh, also known as Joseph Cinque, the leader of the rebellion, was dedicated September 26, 1992 outside the City Hall building in New Haven, Connecticut. Books regarding the mutiny and trial include “Mutiny on the Amistad: The Saga of a Slave Revolt and its Impact on American Abolition, Law, and Diplomacy” (1987) and “The Amistad Rebellion: An Atlantic Odyssey of Slavery and Freedom” (2012).

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Today in Black History, 3/8/2014

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• March 8, 1825 Alexander Thomas Augusta, surgeon, professor of medicine and Civil War veteran, was born in Norfolk, Virginia. Augusta attempted to study medicine at the University of Pennsylvania but was not allowed due to his race. Therefore, he enrolled at Trinity Medical College of the University of Toronto and in 1856 earned his Bachelor of Medicine degree. Augusta remained in Toronto and established his medical practice, supervised staff at Toronto General Hospital, directed an industrial school, and founded the Provincial Association for the Education and Elevation of the Colored People of Canada. In 1860, he returned to the United States and in 1863 received a major’s commission as surgeon for African American troops in the Union Army, the first African American physician and the highest ranking African American in the army. After the war, Augusta accepted an assignment with the Freedman’s Bureau, heading Lincoln Hospital. He also served on the staff of the Washington, D. C. Freedman’s Hospital from 1868 to 1877. Augusta died December 21, 1890. He was interred with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery.

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Today in Black History, 3/7/2014

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• March 7, 1897 Harriet Ann Jacobs, author and abolitionist speaker, died. Jacobs was born enslaved February 11, 1813 in Edenton, North Carolina. As a young woman, she was sexually harassed by her owner and by 1835 the situation had become so unbearable that she decided to escape. She did so by hiding in her grandmother’s small attic for seven years before escaping to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1842. In 1849, Jacobs moved to Rochester, New York where she joined the Anti-Slavery Society and became more politicized. In 1861, she published her autobiography, “Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl,” which was popular among abolitionist. During the Civil War, Jacobs worked in Alexandria, Virginia to help organize, feed, and shelter Black people escaping slavery and the poor free Black people of the region. On January 11, 1864, the Jacobs Free School was opened. Jacobs also contributed to the building of hospitals, churches, schools, and homes for newly freed Black people.

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Today in Black History, 3/6/2014

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• March 6, 1857 The United States Supreme Court ruled in Dred Scott v. Sandford, commonly referred to as the Dred Scott decision, that people of African descent imported into the United States and enslaved, or their descendants, enslaved or free, were not protected by the Constitution and could never be citizens of the United States. It also ruled that because enslaved people were not citizens, they could not sue in court, that Congress had no authority to prohibit slavery in federal territories and that enslaved people, as private property, could not be taken away from their owner without due process. “The Dred Scott Case: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives on Race and Law” (2010) provides a history of the case and its afterlife in American law and society.

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Today in Black History, 3/5/2014

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• March 5, 1770 Crispus Attucks, the first martyr of the American Revolution, was killed in the Boston Massacre. Attucks was born enslaved around 1723 and was of mixed African and Native American heritage. He escaped slavery in 1750 and by 1770 was a dockworker in Boston, Massachusetts. On the night of this date, he led a group of sailors against British soldiers who were occupying Boston. Attucks was the first of four men shot and killed during the fighting. On November 14, 1889, a monument honoring Attucks was dedicated on Boston Common. As an African American patriot, Attucks represents the 5,000 African Americans who fought for America’s independence. In 1998, the United States Treasury issued The Black Revolutionary War Patriots Silver Dollar featuring Attucks’ image on one side. There are a number of schools around the country named for Attucks, including the Crispus Attucks High School in Indianapolis, Indiana, the Attucks Middle School in Hollywood, Florida, and the Crispus Attucks Elementary School in Kansas City, Missouri. Attucks’ name is enshrined in the Ring of Genealogy at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit, Michigan.

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Today in Black History, 3/4/2014

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• March 4, 1842 James Forten, abolitionist and businessman, died. Forten was born September 2, 1766 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. At 15, he served on a ship during the Revolutionary War and invented a device to handle ship sails. In 1786, he started a very successful sailmaking company and became one of the wealthiest African Americans in post-colonial America. Forten, with the help of Rev. Richard Allen and Absalom Jones, enlisted 2,500 African Americans to defend Philadelphia during the War of 1812. They also worked together to establish the Convention of Color in 1817. By the 1830s, Forten was one of the most powerful voices for people of color throughout the North. In 1833, he helped William Lloyd Garrison and Robert Purvis form the American Anti-Slavery Society and provided generous financial support to the organization over the years. When Forten died, he left behind an exemplary family, a sizable fortune, and a legacy of philanthropy and activism that inspired generations of Black Philadelphians. On April 24, 1990, a historical marker was dedicated in his honor in Philadelphia. His biography, “A Gentleman of Color: The Life of James Forten,” was published in 2002.

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Today in Black History, 3/3/2014

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• March 3, 1807 President Thomas Jefferson signed into law legislation to ban the importation of enslaved people effective January 1, 1808. While the law outlawed the importation of enslaved people to the United States, it did not end the buying and selling of enslaved people within the U. S. That would not occur until the end of the Civil War and the passage of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution December 6, 1865.

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Today in Black History, 3/2/2014

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• March 2, 1932 Frank E. Petersen, Jr., the first African American Marine Corps aviator and the first African American Marine Corps general, was born in Topeka, Kansas. Petersen enlisted in the United States Navy in 1950 as a seaman apprentice. In 1952, after completing flight training, he was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps. Petersen served combat tours in the Korean and Vietnam Wars, flying over 350 combat missions with over 4,000 hours in various flight attack aircraft. He was the first African American to command a fighter squadron, a fighter air group, an air wing, and a major base. He earned his Bachelor of Arts degree and Master of Arts degree in international affairs from George Washington University in 1967 and 1973, respectively. In 1979, he was promoted to brigadier general, in 1983 to major general, and in 1986 to lieutenant general. Petersen retired from the Marine Corps in 1988. He then managed the corporate aviation fleet for DuPont DeNemours until retiring in 1997. Petersen published his autobiography, “Into the Tiger’s Jaws: America’s First Black Marine Aviator,” in 1998.

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Today in Black History, 3/1/2014

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• March 1, 1841 Blanche Kelso Bruce, the first elected African American United States Senator to serve a full term, was born enslaved in Prince Edward County, Virginia. Because his father was White, he was able to legally free Bruce and arrange for a trade apprenticeship. In 1864, Bruce moved to Missouri where he established a school for Black children. During the Reconstruction Period, he became a wealthy landowner in the Mississippi Delta. Over the years, he won elections in Bolivar County, Mississippi to sheriff, tax collector, and supervisor of education. In 1874, he was elected by the state legislature to the U. S. Senate where he served until 1881. In 1881, Bruce was appointed by President James Garfield to be Register of the Treasury, making him the first African American whose signature appeared on United States paper currency. Bruce served on the Board of Trustees of Howard University from 1894 to his death March 17, 1898. The Blanche K. Bruce House in Washington, D. C. was declared a National Historic Landmark May 15, 1975 and the Blanche Kelso Bruce Academy School District in Detroit, Michigan is named in his honor. An account of Bruce’s political life and that of his descendents is given in “The Senator and the Socialite: The True Story of America’s First Black Dynasty” (2006).

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Today in Black History, 2/28/2014

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• February 28, 1894 Ernest Judson Wilson, hall of fame Negro league baseball player and manager, was born in Remington, Virginia. Wilson’s professional career spanned from 1922 to 1945 and he had a career batting average of .351, ranking among the top five hitters in the league. After retiring from baseball, he worked for a road crew in Washington, D. C. Wilson died June 24, 1963. He was posthumously inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2006.

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Today in Black History, 2/27/2014

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• February 27, 1830 Patrick Francis Healy, the first American of African ancestry to be president of a predominantly White college, was born enslaved in Macon, Georgia. Although he was at least three-quarters European in ancestry, Healy was legally considered a slave and Georgia law prohibited the education of enslaved people. Therefore, Healy’s father arranged for him to move north to obtain an education. Healy graduated from the College of the Holy Cross in 1850 and entered the Jesuit order. In 1858, the order sent him to Europe to study because his African ancestry had become an issue in the United States. He earned his doctorate from the University of Leuven in Belgium, the first American of African descent to earn a Ph. D. Healy was ordained to the priesthood September 3, 1864, the first Jesuit priest of African descent. In 1866, Healy returned to the U. S. and began teaching at Georgetown University. On July 31, 1874, he was named president of the institution. During his tenure, he helped transform the small 19th century college into a major university for the 20th century. He modernized the curriculum and expanded and upgraded the schools of law and medicine. He also oversaw the construction of Healy Hall which was designated a National Historic Landmark December 23, 1987. He left the college in 1882. Healy died January 10, 1910. In 1969, the Georgetown Alumni Association established the Patrick Healy Award to recognize people who have “distinguished themselves by a lifetime of outstanding achievement and service to Georgetown, the community and his or her profession.” Patrick Francis Healy Middle School in East Orange, New Jersey is named in his honor. “Passing for White: Race, Religion, and the Healy Family, 1820-1920” was published in 2003.

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Today in Black History, 2/26/2014

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• February 26, 1844 James Edward O’Hara, lawyer and congressman, was born in New York City. O’Hara studied law in North Carolina and at Howard University and served as a clerk for the 1868 North Carolina state convention that drafted a new state constitution. In 1871, he completed his law apprenticeship and passed the North Carolina bar exam. From 1872 to 1876, O’Hara served as chairman of the board of commissioners for Halifax, North Carolina and from 1883 to 1887 served in the United States House of Representatives. During his time in Congress, O’Hara introduced one of the first bills to make lynching a federal crime. He also introduced a bill to prohibit gender based salary discrimination in education. After being defeated for reelection, he resumed his private law practice. O’Hara died September 15, 1905.

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Today in Black History, 2/25/2014

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• February 25, 1837 Cheyney University, the oldest institution of higher learning for African Americans, was founded in Cheyney, Pennsylvania west of Philadelphia. At its founding, the university was named the African Institute however the name was changed several weeks later to the Institute for Colored Youth. In subsequent years, the school was named Cheyney Training School for Teachers, Cheyney StateTeacher’s College, and Cheyney State College. Today, the university has approximately 1,300 undergraduate students, 180 graduate students, and 125 faculty members. Notable alumni include Bayard Rustin, Ed Bradley, Robert W. Bogle, Congressman Curt Weldon, and Ambassador Joseph M. Segars.

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Today in Black History, 2/24/2014

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• February 24, 1811 Daniel Alexander Payne, clergyman, educator, college administrator and author, was born in Charleston, South Carolina. While studying at home, Payne taught himself mathematics, physical science, and classical languages. In 1829, he opened his first school which he was forced to close in 1835 after South Carolina enacted a law making teaching literacy to free and enslaved people of color subject to imprisonment. In 1840, Payne joined the African Methodist Episcopal Church and in 1852 was elected a bishop. In 1856, Payne was a founding member of the board of directors of Wilberforce University which was sponsored by the AME denomination to provide collegiate education to African Americans. Payne served as president of the university from 1865 to 1877. Payne authored his memoir, “Recollections of Seventy Years,” in 1888 and “The History of the A. M. E. Church” in 1891. Payne died November 2, 1893. Daniel Payne College, a historically Black college in Alabama that closed in 1979, was named in his honor. Payne Theological Seminary in Wilberforce, Ohio is also named in his honor.

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Today in Black History, 2/23/2014

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• February 23, 1868 William Edward Burghardt Du Bois, civil rights activist, historian and author, was born in Great Barrington, Massachusetts. In 1888, Du Bois earned his Bachelor of Arts degree from Fisk University. He went on to Harvard University where he earned another Bachelor of Arts degree, cum laude, in 1890, his Master of Arts degree in 1891, and his Ph. D. in 1895, the first African American to earn a doctorate at the university. Du Bois authored 22 books, including “The Philadelphia Negro” (1899), “The Souls of Black Folks” (1903), and “Black Folks, Then and Now” (1939), and helped establish four academic journals. Du Bois was the most prominent intellectual leader and political activist on behalf of African Americans in the first half of the 20th century. In 1909, he helped found the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and for 25 years served as the editor-in-chief of The Crisis magazine. Du Bois was awarded the NAACP Spingarn Medal in 1920. In 1963, Du Bois and his wife became citizens of Ghana where he died April 27, 1963. After his death, the Ghanaian government honored him with a state funeral and the W. E. B. Du Bois Memorial Centre which is located in the Cantonments district of Accra. The site of the house where Du Bois grew up in Great Barrington was designated a National Historic Landmark May 11, 1976 and in 1992 the United States Postal Service issued a commemorative postage stamp in his honor. Several structures at universities around the country are named in his honor. The many books about Du Bois include “W. E. B. Du Bois: Negro Leader in a Time of Crisis” (1959) and “W. E. B. Du Bois, American Prophet” (2007). Du Bois’ name is enshrined in the Ring of Genealogy at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit, Michigan.

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Today in Black History, 2/22/2014

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• February 22, 1839 Octavius Valentine Catto, educator and civil rights activist, was born in Charleston, South Carolina but raised in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Catto graduated from the Institute for Colored Youth (now Cheyney University) in 1858. He did a year of post-graduate work, including private tutoring in Greek and Latin and then returned to ICY to teach English and mathematics. In an 1864 commencement address, Catto spoke on the potential insensitivity of White teachers to the needs and interest of African American students. He stated, “It is at least unjust to allow a blind and ignorant prejudice to so far disregard the choice of parents and the will of the colored tax-payers, as to appoint over colored children white teachers, whose intelligence and success, measured by the fruits of their labors, could neither obtain or secure for them positions which we know would be more congenial to their tastes.” Also in 1864, he was elected corresponding secretary of the Pennsylvania Equal Rights League. He also served as vice president of the State Convention of Colored People in 1865. During the Civil War, Catto helped raise eleven regiments of United States Colored Troops in the Philadelphia area and was commissioned a major. On Election Day, October 10, 1871, Black voters faced intimidation and violence from White people opposed to their voting. On his way to vote, Catto was harassed and shot dead. The man that shot him was not convicted. The Octavius V. Catto Community School in Camden, New Jersey is named in his honor and the Major Octavius V. Catto Medal is awarded by the Philadelphia National Guard.

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