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Today in Black History, 2/9/2014

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• February 9, 1902 Gabriel Leon M’ba, the first Prime Minister and first President of the Gabonese Republic, was born in Libreville, Gabon. After studying at a seminary, M’ba held a number of jobs before becoming a custom agent for the colonial administration. As a result of his political activism in favor of Black people, in 1931 M’ba was sentenced to three years in prison and ten years in exile. He returned to Gabon in 1946 and began his political ascent which culminated in his appointment as prime minister. When Gabon gained independence from France August 17, 1960, M’ba became president. He was re-elected in 1967 but died November 27, 1967. The Leon M’ba International Airport in Libreville is named in his honor.

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Today in Black History, 2/8/2014

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• February 8, 1831 Rebecca Davis Lee Crumpler, the first African American woman to become a physician in the United States, was born in Delaware. In 1852, Crumpler moved to Charleston, Massachusetts where she worked as a nurse for eight years. In 1864, she earned a medical degree from the New England Female Medical College, the first African American woman in the United States to earn that degree and the only African American to graduate from that college. After the end of the Civil War in 1865, Crumpler moved to Richmond, Virginia where she joined other Black physicians caring for formerly enslaved people who otherwise had no access to medical care. Crumpler authored “A Book of Medical Discourses” in 1883. She died March 9, 1895. Crumpler is featured in the “Inspiring Minds: African Americans in Science and Technology” exhibition at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit, Michigan.

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Today in Black History, 2/7/2014

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• February 7, 1887 James Hubert “Eubie” Blake, hall of fame composer, lyricist and pianist, was born in Baltimore, Maryland. Blake began taking music lessons at 7 and at 15 was playing piano in a bordello. In 1912, he began playing in vaudeville and shortly after World War I joined forces with Noble Sissle as the Dixie Duo. After vaudeville, the pair created “Shuffle Along” which premiered on Broadway May 23, 1921 and became the first hit Broadway musical written by and about African Americans. It also introduced the hit songs “I’m Just Wild About Harry” and “Love Will Find a Way.” By 1975, Blake had been awarded honorary doctorate degrees by a number of institutions, including Rutgers University, University of Maryland, Howard University, and Dartmouth College. The 1978 Broadway musical “Eubie” featured the works of Blake. On October 9, 1981, Blake received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, from President Ronald Reagan and in 1983 he was inducted into the Big Band and Jazz Hall of Fame. Blake died February 12, 1983. In 1995, the United States Postal Service issued a commemorative postage stamp in his honor. Also that year, Blake was posthumously inducted into the American Theater Hall of Fame. In 1998, the James Hubert Blake High School opened in Silver Springs, Maryland. In 2006, the album “The Eighty – Six Years of Eubie Blake” (1969) was included by the National Recording Preservation Board in the Library of Congress’ National Recording Registry as a recording of “cultural, historical, or aesthetical significance.” The Eubie Blake National Jazz Institute and Cultural Center in Baltimore is named in his honor. Blake’s biography, “Eubie Blake,” was published in 1979. “Reminiscing With Sissle and Blake” (2000) recounts the lives and music of Blake and Sissle.

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Today in Black History, 2/6/2014

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• February 6, 1872 Turner Byrd, Jr. of Williamsville, Michigan received patent number 123,328 for an improved harness rein holder. Byrd later received patent numbers 124,790 March 19, 1872 for an improved apparatus for detaching horses from carriages, 126,181 April 30, 1872 for an improved neck-yoke for wagons, and 157,370 December 1, 1874 for an improvement in railcar couplings. Not much else is known of his life.

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Today in Black History, 2/5/2014

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• February 5, 1858 Henry Beard Delany, the second African American bishop elected in the United States, was born enslaved in Saint Mary’s, Georgia. Delany graduated in theology from Saint Augustine’s School (now college) in 1885. After graduating, he joined the faculty of the school where he taught until 1908. Delany joined Ambrose Episcopal Church and steadily rose in the Episcopal Church hierarchy, becoming a deacon in 1889, a priest in 1892, an archdeacon in 1908, and a bishop in 1918, the first African American bishop elected in North Carolina. He was also active in promoting education among North Carolina’s African American community, helping to organize schools for Black people throughout the state. Although not formally trained as an architect, in 1895 Delany designed Saint Augustine’s chapel, the only surviving 19th century building on campus. In 1911, Shaw University awarded Delany an honorary Doctorate of Divinity degree. Delany died April 14, 1928. He was the father of Sadie and Bessie Delany who in 1993 published their joint autobiography “Having Our Say: The Delany Sisters’ First 100 Years.”

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Today in Black History, 2/4/2014

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• February 4, 1900 John Percial Parker, inventor, Underground Railroad conductor and businessman, died. Parker was born February 2, 1827 in Norfolk, Virginia. At eight, he was sold into slavery. By 1845, he had earned enough money to buy his freedom for $1,800. As a free man, Parker became involved in abolitionist activities and aided in the freeing of over a thousand enslaved people. During the Civil War, Parker served as a recruiter for the Union Army and supplied castings for the war effort. In 1854, Parker established the Ripley Foundry and Machine Company and received patent number 304,552 September 2, 1886 for the Follower-Screw for Tobacco Presses. On May 19, 1885, he received patent number 318,285 for the Portable Screw Press, popularly known as the Parker Pulverizer. Parker’s foundry employed more than 25 workers and remained in operation until 1918. His home in Ripley, Ohio was designated a National Historic Landmark February 18, 1997. Parker’s autobiography, “His Promised Land: The Autobiography of John Parker, Former Slave and Conductor on the Underground Railroad,” was published in 1996.

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Today in Black History, 2/3/2014

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• February 3, 1879 Charles W. Follis, the first African American professional football player known as “The Black Cyclone, was born in Cloverdale, Virginia but raised in Wooster, Ohio. Follis played baseball and football for Wooster High School and after graduating in 1901 entered Wooster College. In 1904, he signed a contract with the Shelby Blues, the first African American contracted to play professional football. Follis’ professional football career was short lived due to a career ending injury suffered on Thanksgiving Day, 1906. He went on to a briefly successful professional baseball career before dying April 5, 1910. Follis Field, the football field/outdoor track facility at Wooster High School, was dedicated in his honor in 1998.

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Today in Black History, 2/2/2014

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• February 2, 1827 John Percial Parker, inventor, Underground Railroad conductor and businessman, was born in Norfolk, Virginia. At eight, Parker was sold into slavery. By 1845, he had earned enough money to buy his freedom for $1,800. As a free man, he became involved in abolitionist activities and aided in the freeing of over a thousand enslaved people. During the Civil War, Parker served as a recruiter for the Union Army and supplied castings for the war effort. In 1854, Parker established the Ripley Foundry and Machine Company and received patent number 304,552 September 2, 1884 for the Follower-Screw for Tobacco Presses. On May 19, 1885, he received patent number 318,285 for the Portable Screw Press, popularly known as the Parker Pulverizer. Parker’s foundry employed more than 25 workers and remained in operation until 1918. Parker died February 4, 1900. His home in Ripley, Ohio was designated a National Historic Landmark February 18, 1997. His autobiography, “His Promised Land: The Autobiography of John P. Parker, Former Slave and Conductor on the Underground Railroad,” was published in 1996.

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Today in Black History, 2/1/2014

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• February 1, 1810 Charles Lenox Redmond, orator, abolitionist and military organizer, was born in Salem, Massachusetts. Redmond began his activism against slavery as an orator while in his twenties. In 1838, the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society chose him as one of its agents and in 1840 he went to the World’s Anti-Slavery Convention in London, England. Redmond had a reputation as an eloquent lecturer and is reported to have been the first Black public speaker on abolition. During the Civil War, Redmond recruited Black soldiers in Massachusetts for the Union Army. After the war, he worked in the Boston Customs House and as a street lamp inspector. Redmond died December 22, 1873.

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Today in Black History, 1/31/2014

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• January 31, 1904 Henry Johnson, Congressional Medal of Honor recipient, died. Johnson was born June 11, 1850 in Boydton, Virginia. On October 5, 1879, Johnson was serving as a sergeant in Company D of the 9th Cavalry Regiment at Milk River, Colorado during the Indian Wars when his actions earned him the medal. His citation reads,” Voluntarily left fortified shelter and under heavy fire at close range made the rounds of pits to instruct the guards, and fought his way to the creek and back to bring water to the wounded.” In recognition of his heroic actions, Johnson was awarded the medal, America’s highest military decoration, September 22, 1890. Not much else is known of Johnson’s later life except that he was buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

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Today in Black History, 1/30/2014

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• January 30, 1844 Richard Theodore Greener, the first African American to graduate from Harvard College, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. After three years at Oberlin College, Greener transferred to Harvard and earned his Bachelor of Arts degree with honors in 1870. After teaching for two years at the Institute for Colored Youth (now Cheney University) and serving as principal of the Preparatory School for Colored Children (now Dunbar High School), he accepted a professorship at the University of South Carolina. From 1878 to 1880, Greener served as dean of the Howard University School of Law. From 1885 to 1892, he served as secretary of the Grant Monument Association and from 1885 to 1890 as a civil service examiner in New York City. In 1898, Greener was appointed the United States Commercial Agent in Russia, a position he held until 1905. He received honorary Doctorate of Laws degrees from Monrovia College in Liberia in 1882 and Howard University in 1907. Greener died May 2, 1922. Phillips Academy annually awards the Robert T. Greener 1865 Endowed Scholarship.

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Today in Black History, 1/29/2014

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• January 29, 1900 William Craft, daring escapee from enslavement, died. Craft was born enslaved September 25, 1824 in Macon, Georgia. Craft’s wife Ellen was at least three-quarters European by ancestry and very fair. In December, 1848, they escaped enslavement by traveling openly by train and steamboat. She posed as a White male planter and he as her personal servant. Their escape was widely publicized and over the next two years, they made numerous public appearances to recount their escape. As a result, they were among the most famous of fugitives from slavery. In 1850, the United States Congress passed the Fugitive Slave Act which made it a federal crime to aid an escaped slave and required law enforcement, even in free states, to aid efforts to recapture fugitives. Threatened by this act, the Crafts moved to England where they lived for the next 19 years. In 1860, they published their story in “Running a Thousand Miles for Freedom: Or, The Escape of William and Ellen Craft from Slavery.” The Crafts returned to the U. S. in 1868 and in 1870 bought 1800 acres of land near Savannah, Georgia where in 1873 they founded the Woodville Co-operative Farm School for the education and employment of freedmen. Ellen Craft died in 1897.

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Today in Black History, 1/28/2014

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• January 28, 1896 Malvin Gray Johnson, painter, was born in Greensboro, North Carolina. Johnson started painting as a child and won top awards in local fairs and exhibitions as a teenager. He moved to New York City where he studied at the National Academy of Design. Johnson was one of the most versatile artist of his time and one of the first African American artist to paint in the cubist style. In 1928, he won first prize at a Harmon Foundation exhibition and in 1929 won the Otto H. Kahn prize for painting. Johnson died October 4, 1934. In 2002, the North Carolina Central University Art Museum hosted the first retrospective exhibition devoted to his work. In 2010, Swann Galleries auctioned his work “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” (1928) for $228,000. His works “The Brothers” (1934) and “Self-Portrait” (1934) are in the collection of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

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Today in Black History, 1/27/2014

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• January 27, 1869 Will Marion Cook, violinist and composer, was born in Washington, D. C. Cook’s musical talents were apparent at an early age and at 15 he was sent to the Oberlin Conservatory to study violin. From 1887 to 1889, Cook studied at the Berlin Hochschule fur Musik and in 1889 made his professional debut. In 1890, he became director of a chamber orchestra and composed “Scenes from the Opera of Uncle Tom’s Cabin.” His composition “Clorindy: or, The Origin of the Cakewalk” became the first all-Black show to play in a prestigious Broadway house July 4, 1898. Cook produced many successful musicals, including “Uncle Eph’s Christmas” (1901), “The Southerners” (1904), and “Swing Along” (1929). Cook died July 19, 1944. The Will Marion Cook House in New York City was declared a National Historic Landmark May 11, 1976. His biography, “Swing Along: The Musical Life of Will Marion Cook,” was published in 2008.

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Today in Black History, 1/26/2014

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• January 26, 1892 Elizabeth “Bessie” Coleman, hall of fame civil aviator, was born in Atlanta, Texas. In her early 20’s, Coleman became interested in flying but could not gain admittance to American flight schools because she was Black and a woman. Therefore, she traveled to Paris, France where she learned to fly and became the first African American woman to earn an international aviation license June 15, 1921. After completing an advanced training course, Coleman became a barnstorming stunt flier known as Queen Bess. On April 30, 1926, while flying to an air show, her plane crashed and she died instantly. In 1990, a road at O’Hara Airport was renamed Bessie Coleman Drive. In 1995, the United States Postal Service issued a commemorative postage stamp in her honor and she was posthumously inducted into the Women in Aviation Hall of Fame. Biographies of Coleman include “Bessie Coleman: The Brownskin Lady Bird” (1994) and “She Dared to Fly: Bessie Coleman” (1997). Coleman’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, 1/25/2014

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• January 25, 1890 The National Afro-American League was formed by Timothy Thomas Fortune. The organization was dedicated to racial solidarity and self-help. It became defunct in 1893 due to lack of support and funding. In 1898, it was reformed as the National Afro-American Council and existed until 1908. Many of the supporters of the league and council later became supporters of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

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Today in Black History, 1/24/2014

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• January 24, 1874 Arturo Alfonso Schomburg, historian, writer and activist, was born in Santurce, Puerto Rico. While in grade school, one of his teachers claimed that Black people had no history, heroes, or accomplishments. This inspired Schomburg to prove the teacher wrong. Schomburg was educated at St. Thomas College in the Virgin Islands where he studied Negro literature. He immigrated to New York City in 1891 and in 1896 began teaching Spanish. In 1911, Schomburg co-founded the Negro Society for Historical Research and later became president of the American Negro Academy. In 1925, Schomburg published his widely read and influential essay “The Negro Digs Up His Past.” In 1928, the New York Public Library system purchased his collection of literature, art, and other materials and appointed him curator of the Schomburg Collection of Negro Literature and Art (later renamed the Arthur Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture). Schomburg died June 8, 1938. His biography, “Arthur Alfonso Schomburg: Black Bibliophile & Collector,” was published in 1989. Schomburg’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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The Wright Museum Hosts Screening & Discussion of “The House I Live In;” Sundance Grand Jury Prize-Winning Documentary Offers Poignant and Disturbing Look at the Devastating Impact of the War on Drugs

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The Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History will host a free screening of the thought-provoking documentary, “THE HOUSE I LIVE IN” on Thursday, January 30 at 6:30 pm. Immediately following will be a panel discussion featuring the film’s producer along with local activists and educators. This event is free and open to the public, and takes place at the museum, located at 315 East Warren Avenue in Detroit.

Since the 1970’s the war on drugs has accounted for 45 million arrests and cost more than $1 trillion. As a result, the United States has become the world’s largest jailer, and the high volume of drug arrests have destroyed low-income communities, creating a vicious cycle that must be stopped. Written and directed by award-winning filmmaker Eugene Jarecki, “THE HOUSE I LIVE IN ” offers a poignant look inside U.S. drug policy and its far-reaching impact. Executive Producers include Danny Glover, John Legend, Russell Simmons, and Brad Pitt. The film won the prestigious Grand Jury Prize at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival.

Following the screening will be panel discussion and Q&A session with the film’s producer, David Kuhn, who is partnering with a vast array of advocacy groups, legislators and law enforcement to spread the film’s message about the disastrous consequences of the failed war on drugs. Local panelists include Vondra Glass, Principal, Detroit Premier Academy; Yodit Mesfin Johnson, Director of Business Development, NEW; Kirk Mayes, Executive Director, Brightmoor Alliance; poet, author, and activist Jessica Care Moore; and author and community activist Yusef Shakur. This special event is hosted and moderated by recording and performance artist Mike Ellison.

THE HOUSE I LIVE IN Official Trailer:

WWW.THEHOUSEILIVEIN.ORG

www.Facebook.com/DrugWarMovie

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Today in Black History, 1/23/2014

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• January 23, 1837 Amanda Berry Smith, evangelist, was born enslaved in Long Green, Maryland. As a child, Smith’s father worked for years to save enough money to buy his family’s freedom and when she was 13 she moved to Pennsylvania to work. Smith became well known for her beautiful voice and evangelized throughout the South and West. In 1876, she was invited to speak and sing in England and ended up staying for a year and a half conducting religious services. After her return to the United States, she founded the Amanda Smith Orphans’ Home for African American children in a suburb of Chicago, Illinois. She continued to evangelize and became known as “God’s image carved in ebony.” In 1893, her autobiography, “The Story of the Lord’s Dealings with Mrs. Amanda Smith, the Colored Evangelist,” was published. Smith retired to Florida in 1912 where she lived until her death February 24, 1915.

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Today in Black History, 1/22/2014

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• January 22, 1822 Barney Launcelot Ford, businessman and civic leader, was born enslaved in Virginia. In 1840, Ford escaped and went to Chicago, Illinois. In 1848, while sailing to California, he landed in Nicaragua where he saw many business opportunities. In 1851, he opened the United States Hotel and Restaurant which became very successful and provided him $5,000 in savings. Ford returned to Denver, Colorado where he eventually owned two hotels, a restaurant, and a barbershop and by the 1870s was worth over $250,000. With his wealth, Ford gave money, food, and jobs to newly freed African Americans and opened a school for Black children. In 1882, he and his wife were the first African Americans to be invited to a Colorado Association of Pioneers dinner. Ford died December 22, 1902. His portrait, in the form of a stained glass window, is in the rotunda of the Colorado State Capitol Building. The Barney Ford House Museum is located in Breckenridge, Colorado and the Barney L. Ford Building is in Denver. In 1973, a new Denver elementary school was named in his honor. Biographies of Ford include “Adventures of Barney Ford, a Runaway Slave” (1969) and “Barney Ford: Black Baron” (1973).

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