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Underground Railroad Expert to Speak on the Legacy of Black Resistance; Free Event at The Wright Museum Celebrates Launch of New History Website

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Humanities scholar Mr. Hari Jones, Curator/Assistant Director of the National African American Civil War Museum of Washington D.C., will speak on the Underground Railroad and its legacy of Black resistance at a free event to mark the launch of a new educational website Sunday, November 10, 2013, at 2 pm at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History.

Created over three years with the collaborative effort of the museum, Eastern Michigan University’s School of Education, Michigan-based scholars, and with backing from the U.S. Department of Education, The Struggle Against Slavery website (www.UGRRonline.com) contains historical scholarship on the 19th century struggle for civil rights, using the Underground Railroad as a case study. It situates the American abolitionist movement as an important precursor to later and continuing struggles for civil rights. Designed for all ages, the website includes encyclopedic entries, interactive maps, and video interviews of descendants of abolitionists and freedom seekers, with a focus on activities in Michigan and the Midwest. In addition to numerous iconic photos and artworks, many visual elements included in the project have rarely been seen.

The website’s educational resources include K-12 lesson plans, classroom-ready PowerPoint presentations, and downloadable instructional materials, including a complete online course consisting of 12 lectures by Dr. Roy Finkenbine, Professor of History at the University of Detroit-Mercy. Voices of the Civil War, The Wright Museum’s monthly retrospective video series on African American perspectives during the great conflict, is also integrated into the site.

The November 10 launch event is free and open to the public, and will include a screening of select segments of the PBS film The Abolitionists as well as the lecture by Mr. Jones, noted scholar and expert on the Underground Railroad who has appeared on C-SPAN, NPR, and other national media outlets.

The Struggle Against Slavery is made possible by the United States Department of Education. Created Equal: America’s Civil Rights Struggle is made possible through a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities as part of its Bridging Cultures initiative, in partnership with the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History.

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Today in Black History, 11/7/2013

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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 deserted 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, 11/6/2013

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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.

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Today in Black History, 11/5/2013

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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 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, 11/4/2013

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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 Cincinnati NAACP 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, 11/3/2013

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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 the age of 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 the age of 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, 11/2/2013

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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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Literacy: We Are the Change Summit Conference to be held November 14; organizers hope to inspire community to eradicate illiteracy in Detroit within 5 years

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The challenge Detroit faces in respect to literacy should be news to no one. The awareness of this problem, however, has not yet reached a crescendo that compels concerted action across multiple fronts, and with the collaborative cooperation of the major spheres of societal influence and interest. The organizers of a new event centered on the issue of literacy aim to change that.

Presented by Beyond Basics, which provides targeted reading, writing, art and mentoring activities to students in participating Detroit schools; and the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History; the Literacy: We Are the Change Summit Conference will bring together under one roof leaders from the business, education, foundation, government, and non-profit communities. The goal is to discuss, devise, and enact strategies with the expressed purpose of eradicating illiteracy in the City of Detroit within 5 years.

The conference takes place Thursday, November 14, 2013, at The Wright Museum, located at 315 East Warren Avenue in Midtown Detroit. Following registration and networking from 8 until 9 am, attendees will hear from two plenary speakers: Martín Gómez, Vice Dean of University of Southern California (USC) Libraries and former head of the Los Angeles Public Library system, the largest public library system in the United States; and Carol Goss, President of The Skillman Foundation. Two roundtable discussions will follow. The first, on the facts of literacy, will include Jared David, Jared W. Finney High School; Lou Glazer, Michigan Future Inc.; Pam Good, Beyond Basics; Dr. Glenda Price, Detroit Public Schools Foundation; and Dr. Darryl Taylor, Cranbrook Schools Horizons-Upward Bound. The community outreach roundtable will involve Paula Brown, Reading Works; Ben Erulkar, Detroit Regional Chamber; Kirk Mayes, Brightmoor Alliance; and Michael Tenbusch, United Way for Southeastern Michigan. Other panelists have been invited and will be added as they are confirmed. The event will conclude with a strolling lunch reception at 11:30 am in the museum’s rotunda.

The Literacy: We Are The Change Summit Conference is free, but space is limited and an RSVP is required by November 12. To RSVP please email This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or call (313) 494-5863. The conference is made possible by the financial support of Quicken Loans.

About Beyond Basics

Beyond Basics is a child-centered, literacy nonprofit serving students in the lowest performing schools since 2002 by providing tutoring and supplemental programs – writing, art, mentoring, and partnerships – for students in grades Pre-K through 12. The work done by Beyond Basics staff and volunteers has been proven to help school children in economically disadvantaged neighborhoods change their destinies. Within six weeks, the Beyond Basics program typically has children reading at grade level or above. For more information please visit beyondbasics.org.

About The Wright Museum

Founded in 1965 and located at 315 East Warren Avenue in Midtown Detroit’s Cultural Center, the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History is the world's largest institution dedicated to the African American experience. For more information please visit TheWright.org.

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Today in Black History, 11/1/2013

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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, becoming 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 its 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, 10/31/2013

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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 became the fifth Black woman to make a record when 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 she 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, 10/30/2013

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• October 30, 1895 Ossian Haven Sweet, physician, was born in Orlando, Florida. At the age of 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. In 1924, Sweet returned to Detroit 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, 10/29/2013

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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, 10/28/2013

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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, the first Black person to graduate from the school, 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.

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Today in Black History, 10/27/2013

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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, where he lived until 1990, to mobilize opposition to apartheid. He returned to South Africa and was elected national chairperson 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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Today in Black History, 10/26/2013

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• October 26, 1899 William Julius “Judy” Johnson, hall of fame Negro league baseball player, was born in Snow Hill, Maryland. Johnson began his baseball career in 1918 and reached the highest level of the Negro leagues in 1921. In 1930, Johnson was a player-coach for the Homestead Grays and in that capacity discovered fellow hall of famer Josh Gibson. From 1935 until his retirement as a player in 1938, Johnson was the captain of the Pittsburgh Crawfords, one of the greatest Negro league teams of all time. Johnson was also an accomplished talent scout, responsible for signing Bill Bruton and Dick Allen who later starred in the major leagues. He retired in 1973 and was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1975. Johnson died June 15, 1989.

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Today in Black History, 10/25/2013

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• October 25, 1893 Joseph Charles Price, founder and first president of Livingston College, died. Price was born February 10, 1854 in Elizabeth City, North Carolina. He graduated as class valedictorian from Lincoln University in 1879 and was appointed to the African Methodist Episcopal Church’s delegation to the World Ecumenical Conference in London, England. In London, Price amazed audiences with his powerful speaking and was called “The World’s Orator” by the British press. Over the next year, Price raised $10,000 and returned to North Carolina in 1882 to open Livingston College. Price served as president of the college until his death. In 1890, he was elected president of the National Protective Association and that same year was voted one of the “Ten Greatest Negroes Who Ever Lived”. His biography, “Joseph Charles Price, Educator and Race Leader,” was published in 1943. In 1967, a North Carolina Highway Historical Marker was dedicated in his honor in Elizabeth City.

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Today in Black History, 10/24/2013

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• October 24, 1896 Marjorie Stewart Joyner, inventor of the permanent wave machine, was born in Monterey, Virginia. In 1916, Joyner became the first African American to graduate from the A. B. Molar Beauty School in Chicago, Illinois. After graduating, she went to work for Madam C. J. Walker, overseeing 200 of her beauty schools as the national advisor. On November 27, 1928, she received patent number 1,693,515 for her invention of the permanent wave machine which could be used to curl or straighten hair by wrapping rods above the person’s head and then cooking them to set the hair. This method allowed hair styles to last several days. Because she was working for Walker, her invention was credited to Madam Walker’s company and she received almost no money for it. In 1945, Joyner co-founded the United Beauty School Owners and Teachers Association and in 1973, at the age of 77, she earned her Bachelor of Science degree in psychology from Bethune-Cookman College. Joyner died December 7, 1994.

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Today in Black History, 10/23/2013

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• October 23, 1810 William Alexander Leidesdorff, one of the earliest Black settlers in California and often called the first Black millionaire, was born in St. Croix, Virgin Islands. Leidesdorff left St. Croix when he was 15 for schooling in Denmark and after that went to New Orleans, Louisiana where he worked as a ship captain from 1834 to 1840. In 1841, he moved to California where he launched the first steamboat to operate on San Francisco Bay and the Sacramento River. He also built the first hotel and the first shipping warehouse. In 1844, Leidesdorff became a naturalized Mexican citizen and received a land grant of 35,521 acres. He went on to establish extensive commercial relations throughout Hawaii, Alaska, and Mexican California. When the United States took over California, Leidesdorff was one of three members on the first San Francisco school board and was later elected city treasurer. He also donated the land for the first public school. In 1845, President James Polk hired him as the United States Vice Consul to Mexico. When Leidesdorff died May 18, 1848, he was one of the wealthiest men in California and on the day of his burial, flags were flown at half-mast, business was suspended, and the schools were closed. When his estate was auctioned in 1856, it was valued at more than $1,445,000. Leidesdorff streets in San Francisco and Folsom, California are named in his honor. His biography, “William Alexander Leidesdorff: First Black Millionaire, American Consul and California Pioneer,” was published in 2005.

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Today in Black History, 10/22/2013

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• October 22, 1854 James Alan Bland, hall of fame songwriter and musician, was born in Flushing, New York but raised in Washington, D.C. Bland began performing professionally at the age of 14. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Howard University in 1873. Bland toured the United States and Europe, spending 20 years in London. While in Europe, he performed for Queen Victoria and the Prince of Wales. Bland wrote more than 700 songs, including “In the Evening by the Moonlight,” “O Dem Golden Slippers,” and “Carry Me Back to Old Virginny” which in a slightly modified form was made the official state song of Virginia in 1940. Although Bland made as much as $10,000 per year, he died penniless May 5, 1911 and was buried in an unmarked grave without a funeral. In 1939, his grave was found by the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) who landscaped it and erected a monument. Bland was posthumously inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1970. Housing projects in Flushing and Alexandria, Virginia are named in his honor.

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Today in Black History, 10/21/2013

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• October 21, 1864 Alfred B. Hilton, Congressional Medal of Honor recipient, died of wounds received at the Battle of Chaffin’s Farm during the Civil War. Hilton was born in Harford County, Maryland in 1842. On September 29, 1864, Hilton was serving as a sergeant in the 4th Regiment Colored Infantry when his unit participated in the Battle of Chaffin’s Farm on the outskirts of Richmond, Virginia. During the battle, Hilton carried the American flag as part of the unit’s color guard. As he charged the enemy fortifications, he grabbed the regimental colors from a wounded comrade. When he was seriously wounded, he called out “Boys, save the colors.” Two of his fellow soldiers grabbed the flags before they could touch the ground. On April 6, 1865, Hilton was posthumously awarded the medal, America’s highest military decoration, for his actions during the battle. Sergeant Major Christian Fleetwood and Private Charles Veale, both African Americans, also received the Congressional Medal of Honor for their actions during the battle.

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