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Today in Black History, 11/15/2014

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• November 15, 1825 Sarah Jane Woodson Early, educator, activist, and the first African American female college instructor, was born in Chillicothe, Ohio. Early graduated from Oberlin College in 1856, one of the first African American female college graduates. She was hired by Wilberforce University in 1858 to teach English and Latin and to serve as lady principal and matron. In 1868, Early began teaching at a school for Black girls in North Carolina. Early taught school for nearly four decades, believing that education was critical for the advancement of her race. She also served as principal of large schools in four cities. In 1888, she was elected national superintendent of the Colored Division of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union and during her tenure gave more than one hundred speeches to groups in a five state region. At the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago, Illinois, she was named “Representative Woman of the Year.” Early published “The Life and Labors of Rev. J. W. Early, One of the Pioneers of African Methodism in the West and South,” a biography of her husband, in 1894. Early died August 15, 1907.

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Today in Black History, 11/14/2014

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• November 14, 1856 John Edward Bush, co-founder of the Mosaic Templars of America, was born enslaved in Moscow, Tennessee. Bush and his family were freed after the Civil War and moved to Little Rock, Arkansas. He graduated with honors from Capitol Hill City School in 1876 and served as its principal for two years immediately following graduation. In 1883, he co-founded MTA, an African American fraternal organization which by 1930 had grown to international scope, spanning 26 states and 6 foreign countries. It was one of the largest and most successful Black owned business enterprises in the world and Bush was acknowledged as one of the wealthiest Black men in Arkansas. In 1898, President William McKinley appointed Bush the receiver of the United States Land Office in Little Rock and he was subsequently reappointed four additional terms by Presidents Theodore Roosevelt, Jr. and William H. Taft. Bush died December 11, 1916.

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Today in Black History, 11/13/2014

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• November 13, 1837 James Thomas Rapier, lawyer and politician, was born in Florence, Alabama. In 1856, Rapier’s father sent him to Canada to further his education. There, he attended Montreal College where he studied law. He also attended the University of Glasgow and after returning to the United States Franklin College where he earned a teaching certificate in 1863. In 1866, Rapier returned to Alabama and was elected a delegate to the 1867 Republican state constitutional convention. Rapier’s political involvement was unacceptable to some White people and in 1868 the Ku Klux Klan drove him from his home and forced him to remain in seclusion for a year. In 1870, he returned to public life and became the first African American to run for statewide office in Alabama, unsuccessfully running for secretary of state. He also became involved in the Black labor movement and in 1870 was elected vice president of the National Negro Labor Union. In 1872, Rapier was elected to the U. S. House of Representatives where he pushed through a bill to make Montgomery, Alabama a port of delivery which was a significant boost to the city’s economy. He also supported the passage of the 1875 Civil Rights Act. Rapier lost his bid for re-election in 1874 and became a collector for the Internal Revenue Service. By 1879, he had become disenchanted with opportunities for African Americans in the South. He purchased land in Kansas and became a leading advocate for Black emigration to the West. Rapier died May 31, 1883. “James T. Rapier and Reconstruction” was published in 1978.

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Today in Black History, 11/12/2014

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• November 12, 1875 Egbert Austin “Bert” Williams, hall of fame comedian and the pre-eminent Black entertainer of his era, was born in Nassau, Bahamas. Williams moved to San Francisco, California to study civil engineering but instead joined a minstrel show. In 1893, he formed the team of Williams and Walker with his partner George Walker and they performed song and dance numbers, comic dialogues, and skits. In 1896, they headlined the Koster and Bial’s vaudeville house for 36 weeks and popularized the cakewalk dance. Williams and Walker appeared in a succession of hit shows, including “Sons of Ham” (1900), “In Dahomey” (1902), which became the first Black musical to open on Broadway February 18, 1903, and “Abyssinia” (1906). Williams composed and recorded many songs, including “Nobody” which sold between 100,000 and 150,000 copies, a phenomenal total for the era. In 1909, Walker was forced to leave their partnership due to ill health and in 1910 Williams joined the Ziegfeld Follies as the featured performer amid an otherwise all White show. By 1920, when 10,000 sales was considered a successful release, Williams had four songs that shipped between 180,000 and 250,000 copies and was one of the three most highly paid recording artists in the world. Williams died March 4, 1922. On November 18, 1944, the U. S. Liberty ship SS Bert Williams was launched in his honor and in 1996 he was posthumously inducted into the International Clown Hall of Fame. The many books about Williams include “Nobody: The Story of Bert Williams” (1970), “The Last Darky: Bert Williams, Black-on-Black Minstrelsy, and the African Diaspora” (2005), and “Introducing Bert Williams: Burnt Cork, Broadway, and the Story of America’s First Black Star” (2008). Williams’ 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, 11/11/2014

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• November 11, 1831 Nathaniel “Nat” Turner, rebellion leader, was executed by hanging in Jerusalem, Virginia after initiating a rebellion of enslaved and free Black people. Turner was born enslaved October 2, 1800 in Southampton County, Virginia. He learned to read and write at a young age and was deeply religious. By early 1828, he was convinced that he “was ordained for some great purpose in the hands of the Almighty” and that God had given him the task of “slaying my enemies with their own weapons.” On August 13, 1831, there was a solar eclipse and Turner took that as his signal. On August 21, he began the rebellion with a few trusted enslaved Black men that grew into more than 50 enslaved and free Black men. The rebels traveled from house to house, freeing enslaved people and killing their White owners. The rebellion was suppressed within 48 hours with approximately 55 White men, women, and children killed. Turner was captured October 30 and was convicted and sentenced to death November 5. The state executed 56 other Black men suspected of being involved in the uprising and another 200 Black people, most of whom had nothing to do with the uprising, were beaten, tortured, and murdered by angry White mobs. Also, the Virginia General Assembly passed new laws making it unlawful to teach enslaved or free Black and Mulatto people to read or write and restricting Black people from holding religious meetings without the presence of a licensed White minister. Numerous books have been written about the rebellion, including “Nat Turner’s Slave Rebellion” (1966), “The Confessions of Nat Turner” (1993), and “The Rebellious Slave: Nat Turner in American Memory” (2004). Turner’s 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, 11/10/2014

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• November 10, 1828 Lott Cary, the first American Baptist missionary to Africa, died. Cary was born enslaved in 1780 in Charles City County, Virginia. As a young man, he learned to read from the bible and later attended a school for enslaved youth. Because of his education, diligence, and valuable work, Cary was rewarded by his owner with small tips from the money he earned. Cary was able to purchase his freedom and that of his two children for $850 in 1813. That same year, he became an official Baptist minister. In 1821, Cary led a missionary team to Liberia where they engaged in evangelism, education, and health care. He also established the first Baptist church in Liberia, the Providence Baptist Church in Monrovia which celebrated its 175th anniversary in 2001, and several schools. In August, 1828, Cary became acting Governor of Liberia. Cary Street and the Carytown shopping district in Richmond, Virginia are named in his honor and the Lott Cary House was added to the National Register of Historic Places July 30, 1980. The Lott Cary Foreign Mission Convention helps churches extend their Christian witness to the end of the earth. “Biography of Elder Lott Cary, Late Missionary to Africa” was published in 1837.

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Today in Black History, 11/9/2014

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• November 9, 1731 Benjamin Banneker, astronomer, surveyor and almanac author, was born in Ellicott’s Mills, Maryland. When Banneker was old enough to help on his parent’s farm, his formal education ended. In 1753, he carved a wooden clock that struck hourly, using a pocket watch as a model, and continued to work until his death. He began to study astronomy using borrowed books and equipment in 1788. In 1791, Banneker was hired to assist in the survey of what is now the District of Columbia, however due to illness he only worked on the project for three months. Banneker made astronomical calculations that predicted solar and lunar eclipses that he included in a series of almanacs from 1792 to 1797. The almanacs included the times for the rising and setting of the sun and moon and were commercially successful. Banneker expressed his views on slavery and racial equality, including a plea for justice for African Americans, in a 1791 letter to United States Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson. Banneker died October 9, 1806. His biography, “The Life of Benjamin Banneker: The First African-American Man of Science,” was published in 1972. In 1977, a commemorative obelisk was erected near his grave site by the Maryland Bicentennial Commission and the State Commission on Afro-American History and Culture. In 1980, the United States Postal Service issued a commemorative postage stamp in his honor and in 1998 the Benjamin Banneker Historical Park located on the site of his former farm was dedicated. Banneker’s 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, 11/8/2014

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• November 8, 1865 Decatur Dorsey received the Congressional Medal of Honor, America’s highest military decoration. Dorsey was born enslaved in 1836 in Howard County, Maryland. During the Civil War, he joined Company B of the 39th United States Colored Infantry Regiment in 1864 and was promoted to corporal less than two months after joining. On July 30, 1864, he took part in the Battle of the Crater in Petersburg, Virginia. During the battle, White Union soldiers were trapped in a crater by Confederate forces. Dorsey’s division was ordered in to reinforce the attack and rescue the trapped soldiers. His citation reads, “Planted the colors on the Confederate works in advance of his regiment, and when the regiment was driven back to the Union works he carried the colors there and bravely rallied the men.” During a second assault, the men of the 39th breached the Confederate works and engaged in hand to hand combat, capturing two hundred prisoners before withdrawing. Dorsey was subsequently promoted to first sergeant. After the war, Dorsey married and lived in Hoboken, New Jersey where he died July 10, 1891. A Decatur Dorsey Maryland Civil War Marker is located in Ellicott City, Maryland.

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Today in Black History, 11/7/2014

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• November 7, 1775 Lord Dunmore, the Royal Governor of Virginia, issued a proclamation promising freedom to all enslaved Black men who escaped and fought for the British. Thousands of Black people escaped to the British, serving as orderlies, laborers, scouts and guides. Despite Dunmore’s promise, the majority were not given their freedom. In January, 1776, George Washington lifted the ban on Black men enlisting in the Continental Army and at least 5,000 Black soldiers fought for the country in the American War of Independence.

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Today in Black History, 11/6/2014

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• November 6, 1746 Absalom Jones, abolitionist and clergyman, was born enslaved in Milford, Delaware. By 1785, Jones had bought his and his family’s freedom. Together with Richard Allen, Jones was one of the first African Americans licensed to preach by the Methodist Church. In 1787, they founded the Free African Society, conceived as a non-denominational mutual aid society to help newly freed enslaved people in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. In 1792, Jones founded the African Church of Philadelphia which opened its doors July 17, 1794 as the African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas, the first Black church in Philadelphia. Jones was ordained as the first African American priest in the Episcopal Church in 1804. Jones died February 13, 1818. He is listed on the Episcopal calendar of saints and blessed under the date of his decease. The Absalom Jones Episcopal Center at the Atlanta University Center and the Absalom Jones Senior Center in Wilmington, Delaware are named in his honor.

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Today in Black History, 11/5/2014

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• November 5, 1889 Willis Richardson, playwright, was born in Wilmington, North Carolina but raised in Washington, D. C. In 1921, Richardson staged his first play, “The Deacon’s Awakening.” In 1923, he became the first African American playwright to have a non-musical production on Broadway with “The Chip Woman’s Fortune.” This was followed by “Mortgaged” (1923), “The Broken Banjo” (1925), and “Bootblack Lover” (1926). The last two plays were awarded the Amy Spingarn Prize for Art and Literature. Richardson edited the anthology “Plays and Pageants from the Life of the Negro” in 1930 and co-edited “Negro History in Thirteen Plays” in 1935. Richardson died November 7, 1977. He was posthumously awarded the Audience Development Committee (AUDELCO) prize for his contribution to American theater.

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Today in Black History, 11/4/2014

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• November 4, 1865 Wendell Phillips Dabney, newspaper editor and author, was born in Richmond, Virginia. In his senior year of high school, Dabney led a protest of the separation of Black and White students for graduation. The successful protest resulted in the first integrated graduation at the school. Dabney spent 1883 at Oberlin College where he was first violinist at the Oberlin Opera House and a member of the Cademian Literary Club. From 1884 to 1890, Dabney taught at a Virginia elementary school. In 1894, he moved to Cincinnati, Ohio and in 1895 became Cincinnati’s first African American license clerk. From 1898 to 1923, he served as assistant, and then head paymaster in the Cincinnati Department of Treasury. In 1907, Dabney founded The Union newspaper whose motto was “For no people can become great without being united, for in union there is strength.” Dabney edited the paper from its founding until his death June 5, 1952. The paper was influential in shaping the political and social opinions of Cincinnati’s African American citizens. Dabney also served as the first president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Cincinnati chapter when it was established in 1915. He compiled and published “Cincinnati’s Colored Citizens” in 1926 and wrote “Maggie L. Walker: The Woman and Her Work” in 1927. In 1950, the National Convention of Negro Publishers honored Dabney as a pioneer and leader in African American journalism.

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Today in Black History, 11/3/2014

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• November 3, 1639 Saint Martin de Porres, Dominican lay brother, died. de Porres was born December 9, 1579 in Lima, Peru. At 15, he was admitted into the Dominican Convent of the Rosary as a servant boy. His piety and miraculous cures led his superiors to drop the racial limits on admission to the Order and he was made a full Dominican brother. At 24, de Porres was given the habit of a coadjutor brother and was assigned to the infirmary where many miracles were attributed to him. Although he never left Lima, many people around the world attributed their salvation to him. By the time of his death, he was known as a saint throughout the region. Martin de Porres was beatified in 1837 and canonized May 6, 1962. Many buildings around the world are named in his honor, including Saint Martin de Porres High School in Detroit, Michigan. His biography, “St. Martin de Porres: Apostle of Charity,” was published in 1963.

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Today in Black History, 11/2/2014

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• November 2, 1787 The African Free School was founded by the New York Manumission Society to provide education to free and enslaved Black children. Members of the society were all White, male, wealthy, influential, and advocates for the full abolition of slavery. The school started as a one room school house with about 40 students and by 1835, when it was integrated into the public school system, had grown to seven schools and had educated thousands of Black children. Notable alumni of the school include Dr. James McCune Smith, Ira Aldridge, Henry Highland Garnet, and Alexander Crummell.

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Today in Black History, 11/1/2014

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• November 1, 1848 Caroline Still Wiley Anderson, educator and physician, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. In 1868, Anderson graduated from Oberlin College, where she was the only Black woman in her class, and returned to Philadelphia to teach. She later taught music, drawing, and elocution at Howard University. Anderson then decided to become a medical doctor and in 1878 graduated from the Women’s Medical College of Pennsylvania, the state’s first Black female doctor. In addition to her private practice, Anderson ran the Berean Dispensary and the Berean Cottage which served poor women and children. She also helped found the Berean Manual Training and Industrial School and acted as assistant principal and taught elocution, physiology, and hygiene. In the early 1900s, Anderson helped to establish Philadelphia’s first Black Young Women’s Christian Association. She was also treasurer for the Women’s Medical College Alumnae Association, president of the Berean Women’s Christian Temperance Union, and on the board of the Home for Aged and Infirm Colored People of Philadelphia. Anderson died June 1, 1919.

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Today in Black History, 10/31/2014

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• October 31, 1896 Ethel Waters, hall of fame gospel, blues and jazz vocalist and actress, was born in Chester, Pennsylvania. Waters began singing professionally in 1913 and for several years toured on the Black vaudeville circuit. In 1921, she recorded “The New York Glide” and “At the New Jump Steady Ball.” In 1933, Waters starred in the all-Black film “Rufus Jones for President.” That same year, she took a role in the Broadway musical revue “As Thousands Cheer” where she was the first Black woman in an otherwise White show. In 1949, Waters was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for the film “Pinky” and in 1950 won the New York Drama Critics Award for her performance in the play “The Member of the Wedding.” Also in 1950, she starred in the television series “Beulah” but quit after complaining that the scripts portrayal of African Americans was degrading. In 1962, Waters was nominated for the Emmy Award for Outstanding Single Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role for an appearance on the television show “Route 66.” Waters died September 1, 1977. She was posthumously inducted into the Gospel Music Association Hall of Fame in 1984. In 1994, the United States Postal Service issued a commemorative postage stamp in her honor. Waters’ recordings “Dinah” (1925), “Am I Blue” (1929), and “Stormy Weather” (1933) were inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame as “qualitatively or historically significant.” In 2004, “Stormy Weather” was listed on the National Recording Registry at the Library of Congress as “culturally, historically, or aesthetically important.” Waters authored two autobiographies, “His Eye is on the Sparrow: An Autobiography” (1951) and “To Me, It’s Wonderful” (1972). A biography, “Heat Wave: The Life and Career of Ethel Waters,” was published in 2011.

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Today in Black History, 10/30/2014

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• October 30, 1895 Ossian Haven Sweet, physician, was born in Orlando, Florida. At six, Sweet witnessed the lynching and burning of a neighbor who had been accused of raping a White girl. That memory would haunt Sweet throughout his life. In 1917, Sweet earned his Bachelor of Science degree from Wilberforce University and from there he went to Howard University where he earned his Doctor of Medicine degree in 1921. Sweet then moved to Detroit, Michigan where he could not find work at a hospital due to his race. He was able to establish an office in “Black Bottom” where overpopulation and an influx of migrants who lacked medical care caused diseases and created threats to life. Recognizing the need for further medical training, in 1923 Sweet moved to Vienna and Paris to study. In Paris, he was able to experience life without prejudice and for the first time was treated as an equal to White people. Sweet returned to Detroit in 1924 and started work at Dunbar Hospital, Detroit’s first Black hospital. In 1925, Sweet bought a house in an all-White neighborhood of Detroit. On September 9, the second day after the Sweets had moved in, a crowd of 300 to 400 White people gathered and began to throw stones at the house. Several of Sweet’s friends and relatives were in the house and armed. Shots were fired from the house and one White man was killed. All eleven African Americans in the house were arrested. After two trials, Sweet and the others were acquitted of murder charges by an all-White jury. After the acquittal, Sweet’s life went downhill due to the death of his daughter and wife and financial difficulties. On March 20, 1960, Sweet committed suicide. The Ossian H. Sweet House in Detroit was listed on the National Register of Historic Places April 4, 1985. “Arc of Justice: A Saga of Race, Civil Rights, and Murder in the Jazz Age” (2004) tells the story of Sweet and his battle for equality. Sweet’s 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, 10/29/2014

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• October 29, 1866 James Pierson Beckwourth, mountain man, fur trader and explorer, died. Beckwourth was born enslaved April 6, 1798 in Frederick County, Virginia. His owner emancipated him in 1824 and Beckwourth joined a fur trapping company on an expedition to explore the Rocky Mountains. In 1826, he was captured by the Crow Indians and for the next 8 or 9 years lived with them, rising in their society from warrior to chief. During the Mexican American War, Beckwourth served as a courier for the United States Army. In 1850, he was credited for discovering what came to be called the Beckwourth Pass, a passage through the Sierra Nevada Mountains. In the mid-1850s, Beckwourth began ranching in the Sierra and his ranch, trading post, and hotel were the starting settlement of what became Beckwourth, California. In 1996, in recognition of his contribution to the city’s development, the City of Marysville, California officially renamed the city’s largest park Beckwourth Riverfront Park. Beckwourth published his autobiography, “The Life and Adventures of James P. Beckwourth: Mountaineer, Scout and Pioneer, and Chief of the Crow Nation of Indians,” in 1856.

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Today in Black History, 10/28/2014

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• October 28, 1918 Edward Alexander Bouchet, educator and the first African American to earn a Ph. D. from an American university, died. Bouchet was born September 15, 1852 in New Haven, Connecticut. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Yale College in 1874 and based on his academic performance was the first Black person nominated to Phi Beta Kappa but was not elected until 1884. Bouchet returned to Yale and in 1876 earned his Ph. D. in physics. Unable to find a university teaching position due to racism, he moved to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania where he taught physics and chemistry at the Institute for Colored Youth (now Cheney University) for the next 26 years. Bouchet resigned in 1902 and from 1905 to 1908 was director of academics at St. Paul’s Normal and Industrial School (now St. Paul’s College). From 1908 to 1913, he served as principal and teacher at a high school in Ohio before joining the faculty of Bishop College in 1913. Illness forced him to retire in 1916. The American Physical Society presents the Edward A. Bouchet Award to outstanding physicists for their contributions to physics and in 2005 Yale and Howard universities founded the Edward A. Bouchet Graduate Honor Society. The Edward Bouchet Abdue Salam Institute in South Africa is named in his honor.

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Today in Black History, 10/27/2014

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• October 27, 1917 Oliver Reginald Tambo, co-founder of the African National Congress Youth League, was born in Pondoland, South Africa. Tambo won a scholarship to Fort Hare, the only college that Black people could attend, but was expelled in 1939 for participating in a student strike. He later studied law by correspondence and qualified as an attorney in 1952. In 1943, he along with Nelson Mandela and Walter Sisulu founded the ANC Youth League with Tambo as national secretary. In 1955, Tambo became secretary general of the ANC and in 1958 became deputy president. In 1959, Tambo was banned by the South African government and the ANC sent him to England to mobilize opposition to apartheid. He returned to South Africa in 1990 and was elected national chair of the ANC in July, 1991. Tambo died April 24, 1993. In October, 2006, the airport in Johannesburg was renamed Tambo International Airport in his honor.

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