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Today in Black History, 10/7/2014

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• October 7, 1821 William Still, abolitionist, Underground Railroad conductor, writer and historian, was born in Burlington County, New Jersey. Still moved to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1844 and began working as a clerk for the Pennsylvania Anti-Slavery Society. When Philadelphia abolitionists organized a committee to aid runaways, Still became its chairman. By the 1850s, Still was a leader in Philadelphia’s African American community. Often called “the father of the Underground Railroad,” Still helped as many as 60 enslaved people a month escape to freedom and in 1872 published “The Underground Railroad Records” which chronicled the stories and methods of 649 people who escaped to freedom. He also helped to establish an orphanage for Black youth and the first Young Men Christian Association for African Americans. Still died July 14, 1902. “Stand by the River” a musical based on Still’s life and rescue of a formerly enslaved woman was produced in 2003.

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Today in Black History, 10/6/2014

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• October 6, 1824 Thomas Mundy Peterson, the first African American to cast a vote after the passage of the 15th Amendment to the United States Constitution, was born in Metuchen, New Jersey. By March 31, 1870, he was serving as a school custodian and general handyman in Perth Amboy, New Jersey. On that date, Peterson cast his vote in a local election to revise the town’s charter. After that was approved, he was appointed to the committee to revise the charter. Peterson later became the town’s first African American to hold elected office and also the first to serve on a jury. Peterson died February 4, 1904. Decades later, the school where he worked was renamed in his honor. In New Jersey, March 31 is annually celebrated as Thomas Mundy Peterson Day in recognition of his historic vote.

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Today in Black History, 10/5/2014

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• October 5, 1878 George Boyer Vashon, the first African American graduate of Oberlin College, died. Vashon was born July 25, 1824 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. At an early age, Vashon displayed an aptitude for languages, speaking Sanskrit, Hebrew, and Persian and being well versed in Greek and Latin. In 1844, Vashon earned his Bachelor of Arts degree from Oberlin and was valedictorian of his class. In his speech titled “Liberty of Mind” he stated, “genius, talent and learning are not withheld by our common Father from people of color.” In 1846, Vashon applied for admission to the Allegheny County bar but his application was rejected because of his race. He therefore moved to New York State and successfully completed their bar examination in 1848, the first Black lawyer in New York. In 1849, Vashon moved to Port-au-Prince, Haiti where he served as professor of Latin, Greek, and English. In 1851, he returned to the United States and joined the faculty of the predominantly White New York Central College. While there, he wrote “Vincent Oge” (1854), an epic poem on the Haitian insurrection. In 1863, Vahon became the second Black president of Avery College. He later became a professor of mathematics and ancient and modern languages at Alcorn College where he served until his death.

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Today in Black History, 10/4/2014

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• October 4, 1864 The New Orleans Tribune, the first Black daily newspaper in the United States, was founded by Dr. Louis C. Roudanez. Born in St. James Parish and raised in New Orleans, Louisiana, Roudanez studied medicine in Paris where he received his first degree and then studied at Dartmouth College where he received his second medical degree. He used the newspaper and his medical practice to bridge the gap between African Americans and the majority population. The Tribune was dedicated to social justice and civil rights for all Louisiana citizens and was published in French and English. The newspaper closed in 1868 and was re-established in 1985. It continues to be dedicated to social justice and civil rights for all Louisiana citizens. “My Passage at the New Orleans Tribune: A Memoir of the Civil War Era” was published in 1984.

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Today in Black History, 10/3/2014

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• October 3, 1829 James Theodore Holly, missionary and the first African American Bishop in the Episcopal Church, was born in Washington, D. C. Holly joined the Protestant Episcopal Church and became a deacon in 1855 and a priest in 1856. He believed that African Americans had no future in the United States and the only answer was emigration. He was a delegate to the National Emigration Convention held in Cleveland, Ohio August 24 through August 26, 1854 and the next year represented the National Emigration Board as commissioner. Holly promoted emigration to Haiti and delivered a series of lectures that were published in 1857 as “Vindication of the Capacity of the Negro Race for Self Governance and Civilized Progress.” In 1861, Holly led 110 African Americans to Haiti and the next year became a Haitian citizen. In 1874, he was consecrated Missionary Bishop of Haiti and in 1878 was recognized as Bishop of the Orthodox Apostolic Church of Haiti. Holly died March 13, 1911. The Episcopal Church in the U. S. remembers Holly on their liturgical calendar with a feast day on March 13.

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Today in Black History, 10/2/2014

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• October 2, 1800 Nathaniel “Nat” Turner, rebellion leader, was born enslaved in Southampton County, Virginia. Turner 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 fellow enslaved men. The rebels traveled from house to house, freeing enslaved people and killing their White owners. The rebels grew to a group of more than 50 enslaved and free Black men and they eventually killed 55 White men, women, and children. Turner’s rebellion was suppressed within two days and he was captured October 30. On November 5, he was convicted and sentenced to death and was hung November 11, 1831. 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 or Mulatto people to read or write and restricting Black people from holding religious meetings without the presence of a licensed White minister. “The Confessions of Nat Turner,” a novel, won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1968 and a film “Nat Turner: A Troublesome Property” was released in 2003. 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, 10/1/2014

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• October 1, 1799 John Brown Russwurm, abolitionist and newspaper editor, was born enslaved in Port Antonio, Jamaica. In 1807, Russwurm was sent by his White father to Quebec, Canada to attend school and in 1812 moved with his father to Portland, Maine. He graduated from Hebron Academy in his early twenties and taught at an African American school in Boston, Massachusetts. In September, 1826, Russwurm earned his Bachelor of Arts degree from Bowdoin College, the first African American to graduate from Bowdoin. In 1827, Russwurm moved to New York City and along with his co-editor, Samuel Cornish, published the first edition of Freedom’s Journal, an abolitionist newspaper dedicated to opposing slavery, March 16, 1827. Freedom’s Journal was the first newspaper in the United States owned and operated by African Americans. In 1829, Russwurm immigrated to Liberia where he served as the colonial secretary for the American Colonization Society until 1834. He also worked as editor of the Liberia Herald and served as the superintendent of education. In 1836, he became the first Black Governor of the Maryland section of Liberia, a post he held until his death June 17, 1851. There is a statue of Russwurm at his burial site in Harper, Cape Palmas, Liberia. The Russwurm African American Center on the campus of Bowdoin was dedicated in 1970 and the John B. Russwurm House in Portland was listed on the National Register of Historic Places July 21, 1983. John B. Russwurm Elementary School in New York City is named in his honor. Biographies of Russwurm include “John Brown Russwurm” (1970) and “The Struggles of John Brown Russwurm: The Life of a Pan-Africanist Pioneer, 1799-1851” (2010).

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The 2014 Wright Gala: The Ball Promises to be the “FunRaising” Production of the Season with Art Deco Glam, Broadway Magic, and Studio 54 Tribute

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There are galas, and there is THE Gala. In only its fourth year, The Wright Gala has become one of Detroit’s most highly anticipated annual events. It is the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History’s largest fundraiser, drawing hundreds of leading figures from corporations, culture, government, and the media. This year’s event, themed “The Ball,” takes place Saturday, October 11, 2014 beginning at 6:30 pm at the museum, located at 315 East Warren Avenue.

The Ball LOGO

The theme of the 2014 Wright Gala is inspired by the museum’s current exhibition, A Theatre of Color: Costume Design for the Black Theatre by Myrna Colley Lee. Guests will experience the excitement and magic of Broadway, including celebrity guests, high fashion, eclectic dining, and “Studio 54” disco dancing into the night.

"The Wright Gala is a key fundraising initiative that helps support ongoing educational programming at the museum," said Juanita Moore, president & CEO of the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, which celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2015. "This signature event helps raise significant funding to pursue our mission of opening minds and changing lives through the exploration and celebration of African American history and culture.”

Highlights of the black-tie extravaganza will include:

  • Indulgent libations in a monumental tent that will take over the museum grounds until sunset
  • Red carpet arrival and reception in the museum’s transformed Ford Freedom Rotunda with cocktails, hors d’oeuvres and a peak at the playbills for the evening’s Broadway-style show
  • Decadent dinner cuisine served in a supper club atmosphere, recognition program emceed by WDIV’s Lauren Campbell-Sanders, and toast to a “surprise” Tony Award-winning guest
  • Silent auction of works by some of Detroit’s most prominent artists, exotic travel packages, and tickets to the most coveted sporting and entertainment events
  • Dessert and dance-till-you-drop Studio 54 disco party

TICKET INFORMATION:

Tickets for The Wright Gala start at $350 each and include open bar, dinner, Studio 54 party and complimentary valet parking. Tickets are available online at TheWrightGala.com, by phone at (800) 838-3006, or at the museum’s Information Desk.

“We are forever grateful to the members of the gala’s Host Committee, who donate their time, influence, and resources to help The Wright,” said Moore. “Our committee of dedicated volunteers, as well as our sponsors, represent a wide array of the Detroit community, and it’s great to see so much support for art, literacy and culture.”

The 2014 Wright Gala Host Committee:

Rumia Ambrose Burbank, Yvette Bing, Rosalind Brewer, Betty Brooks, Lauren Campbell-Sanders, Julianne Carroll, Janice Cosby-Bridges, Eva Cunningham, Brenda Davis, Retha Douglas, Eleanor Ford, Linda Forte, Mary Anne Gargaro, Linda Gillum Ph.D., Gretchen Gonzales Davidson, Barbara Hughes Smith Ph.D., Roberta Hughes Wright Ph.D., Denise Ilitch, Sharon James, Marion Jones, Florine Mark, Terri Moon, Vivian Pickard, Glenda Price Ph.D., Suzanne Shank, Barbara Whittaker, Jacqueline Wilson

The 2014 Wright Gala Sponsors:

  • General Motors Company, Presenting Gala Co-Sponsor
  • Ford Motor Company, Presenting Gala Co-Sponsor
  • General Motors Foundation, Arts and Education Partner
  • MGM Grand Detroit, VIP Reception Sponsor
  • Bank of America, Entertainment Sponsor
  • St. John Providence Health System, Entertainment Sponsor
  • Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, Theatre Arts Workshop Sponsor

RUN OF SHOW:

6:30 pm               VIP Reception

7:15 pm               Gala Cocktail Reception

8:00 pm               The Ball Seated Dinner & Show

10:00 pm             Studio 54 Party

A Theatre of Color: Costume Design for the Black Theatre by Myrna Colley-Lee is sponsored by General Motors Foundation. The exhibit is on display until January 4, 2015 and is free with museum admission

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Today in Black History, 9/30/2014

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• September 30, 1872 Jermain Wesley Loguen, Bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church and abolitionist, died. Loguen was born Jarm Logue February 5, 1813 enslaved in Davidson County, Tennessee. In 1834, he escaped bondage to Canada. He learned to read in Canada before moving to Rochester, New York in 1837 and studying at the Oneida Institute. In 1841, he moved to Syracuse, New York where he worked as a school teacher and opened schools for Black children. His house was one of the most openly operated stations on the Underground Railroad. It is estimated that more than 1,500 previously enslaved people passed through his house. Loguen became an elder in the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church and held various church posts before being appointed a bishop in 1868. He published his autobiography, “The Rev. J. W. Loguen, as a Slave and as a Freeman, a Narrative of Real Life,” in 1859.

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Today in Black History, 9/29/2014

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• September 29, 1905 James Daniel Gardner, Congressional Medal of Honor recipient, died. Gardner was born September 16, 1839 in Gloucester, Virginia. He worked as an oysterman before enlisting in the Union Army in 1863. On September 29, 1864, Gardner was serving as a private in Company I of the 36th Regiment United States Colored Troops when his actions at the Battle of Chaffin’s Farm earned him the medal, America’s highest military decoration. Gardner’s regiment was among a division of Black troops assigned to attack the Confederate defenses. The attack was met with intense fire and over fifty percent of the Black troops were killed, captured, or wounded. Gardner advanced ahead of his unit into the Confederate fortifications, “shot a rebel officer who was on the parapet rallying his men, and then ran him through with his bayonet.” The day after the battle, Gardner was promoted to sergeant and received the medal April 6, 1865. In 2006, a memorial commemorating him was unveiled in his hometown.

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Today in Black History, 9/28/2014

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• September 28, 1785 David Walker, abolitionist and author of “David Walker’s Appeal,” was born in Wilmington, North Carolina. Walker moved to Boston, Massachusetts during the 1820s where he served as the local distributor of “Freedom’s Journal,” a weekly abolitionist newspaper, and began to speak and write against slavery and racism. In 1828, he joined the Massachusetts General Colored Association which was committed to promoting the interest and rights of African Americans. In 1829, Walker published a 76 page pamphlet entitled “Walker’s Appeal, in Four Articles; Together with a Preamble, to the Coloured Citizens of the World, but in Particular, and Very Expressly, to Those of the United States of America.” In the appeal, Walker argued that African Americans suffered more than any other people in the history of the world and called for immediate, universal, and unconditional emancipation. He also openly praised enslaved people who used violence in self-defense against their masters and overseers and suggested that enslaved people kill their masters in order to gain freedom. Many historians believe that this was the first written assault on slavery and racism to come from a Black man in the United States. Southern slave owners labeled the pamphlet seditious and placed a price on Walker’s head. On June 28, 1830, Walker was found dead on the doorsteps of his home. “To Awaken My Afflicted Brethren: David Walker and the Problem of Antibellum Slave Resistence” was published in 1996.

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Today in Black History, 9/27/2014

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• September 27, 1827 Hiram Rhodes Revels, the first African American to serve in the United States Senate, was born in Fayetteville, North Carolina. Revels was ordained an African Methodist Episcopal minister in 1845 and in 1846 was given a pastorship in Natchez, Mississippi. Revels was elected an alderman in Natchez in 1868 and elected to the Mississippi State Senate in 1869. At that time the state legislature elected U. S. Senators and Revels was elected to finish the term of one of the state’s seats left vacant since the Civil War. On February 25, 1870, he took the seat in the senate where he served until resigning March 3, 1871, two months before the end of his term, to become the first president of Alcorn Agricultural and Mechanical College (now Alcorn State University) where he served until his retirement in 1882. Revels died January 16, 1901.

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Today in Black History, 9/26/2014

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• September 26, 1795 Alexander Lucius Twilight, educator, minister, politician and the first Black person known to have earned a bachelor’s degree from an American college, was born in Corinth, Vermont. From 8 to 21, he was forced to work as an indentured servant. Twilight earned his bachelor’s degree from Middlebury College in 1823. He also studied for the ministry with the Congregational Church. In 1829, Twilight was hired as principal of Vermont Grammar School and in 1836 designed and built a massive four-story granite building called Athenian Hall to serve as a dormitory for the school, the first granite public building in Vermont. The building now serves as the Orleans County Historical Society and Museum. Also in 1836, he was elected to the Vermont General Assembly, the first African American elected to a state legislature. Twilight died June 19, 1857. The Alexander Twilight House was added to the National Register of Historic Places as part of the Brownington Village Historic District May 9, 1973. The Alexander Twilight Auditorium at Lyndon State College and Alexander Twilight Hall at Middlebury College are named in his honor. Alexander Twilight College Preparatory Academy is located in Sacramento, California. His biography, “Alexander Twilight, Vermont’s African American Pioneer,” was published in 1998.

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Today in Black History, 9/25/2014

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• September 25, 1824 William Craft, daring escapee from enslavement, was born enslaved 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 and William died January 29, 1900.

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Today in Black History, 9/24/2014

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• September 24, 1786 Jupiter Hammon delivered his “Address to the Negroes of the State of New York” at the inaugural meeting of the African Society. In that speech he stated “if we should ever get to Heaven, we shall find nobody to reproach us for being Black, or for being slaves.” He also said that, while he personally had no wish to be free, he did wish others, especially “the young Negroes, were free.” Hammon went on to say that Black people should maintain their high moral standards precisely because slaves on earth had already secured their place in heaven. Hammon was born enslaved October 17, 1711 in Long Island, New York. Unlike most enslaved people, he was allowed to attend school and could read and write. He published his first poem, “An Evening Thought. Salvation by Christ with Penitential Cries,” Christmas Day, 1760, the first African American published writer in America (several years earlier Phyllis Wheatley’s poems had been published in England). Hammon remained enslaved his whole life and died around 1806. His story is told in “America’s First Negro Poet: The Complete Works of Jupiter Hammon of Long Island” (1970) and “Jupiter Hammon and the Biblical Beginnings of African American Literature” (1993).

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Today in Black History, 9/23/2014

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• September 23, 1863 Mary Church Terrell, civil and suffrage rights activist, was born in Memphis, Tennessee. Terrell earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in 1884 and her Master of Arts degree in 1888 from Oberlin College, one of the first African American women to earn a college degree. She also served as editor of the Oberlin Review. After college, Terrell taught at a Black secondary school and at Wilberforce College. In 1895, she was appointed to the District of Columbia Board of Education where she served until 1906, the first Black woman to serve in that capacity in the United States. In 1896, she was elected the first president of the newly formed National Association of Colored Women’s Clubs. In 1904, she was invited to speak at the International Congress of Women in Berlin, Germany, the only Black woman at the conference. In 1909, Terrell and Ida B. Wells-Barnett were the only Black women invited to attend the organizational meeting of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. In 1913, she was one of the organizers of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority and 26 years later wrote its creed, setting up a code of conduct for Negro women. Terrell’s autobiography, “A Colored Woman in a White World,” was published in 1940. Terrell died July 24, 1954. The Mary Church Terrell House in Washington, D. C. was designated a National Historic Landmark May 15, 1975. Terrell was among 12 pioneers of civil rights commemorated by the United States Postal Service with a series of postage stamps in 2009. Terrell’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, 9/22/2014

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• September 22, 1839 Michael Augustine Healy, the first person of African descent to command a United States government ship, was born enslaved near Macon, Georgia. Although he was three-quarters European ancestry, he was considered enslaved and could not be formally educated in Georgia. Therefore, his father sent him North for education. In 1854, while in England, Healy signed on to an American East Indian clipper as a cabin boy. He quickly became an expert seaman and rose to the rank of officer. In 1864, he returned to the United States and was accepted as a third lieutenant in the Revenue Cutter Service (now the U. S. Coast Guard). He attained the rank of captain in 1880 and in 1882 was given command of the USRC Thomas Corwin. For the next twenty years, Healy was the federal government’s law enforcement presence in the Alaskan territory. Healy died August 30, 1904. The USCGC Healy was commissioned by the United States Coast Guard November 10, 1999. Healy’s biography, “Captain “Hell Roaring” Mike Healy: from American slave to Arctic hero,” was published in 2009. “Passing for White: Race, Religion, and the Healy Family, 1820-1920” was published in 2003.

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Today in Black History, 9/21/2014

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• September 21, 1872 The United States Naval Academy, Annapolis, Maryland admitted the first Black midshipman, John Henry Conyers of South Carolina. After enduring ostracism and being subjected to discrimination, Conyers resigned from the academy. Two other Black midshipmen also attempted to endure the hostile environment at Annapolis but both resigned after a few months. It was not until 1949 that an African American, Wesley Brown, graduated from the academy and received his commission.

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Today in Black History, 9/20/2014

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• September 20, 1664 Maryland enacted the first Anti-Amalgamation Law to specifically outlaw marriage between Black men and White women. Soon after, similar laws were passed in a number of other colonies. Prior to the laws, interracial marriages were fairly common between White indentured servants and enslaved Black people. It was not until June 12, 1967 that the United States Supreme Court, in the Loving v. Virginia case, declared all such laws unconstitutional and not until 2000 that Alabama became the last state to eliminate its law banning interracial marriages.

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Today in Black History, 9/19/2014

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• September 19, 1889 Sarah Louise “Sadie” Delany, educator, author and civil rights pioneer, was born in Lynch Station, Virginia. Delany graduated from Saint Augustine’s School (now college) in 1910 and moved to New York City in 1916 where she began teaching in the public school system. She earned her bachelor and master’s degrees in education from Columbia University in 1920 and 1925, respectively. Delany was the first Black person permitted to teach domestic science at the high school level in New York City public schools. She retired from teaching in 1960. In 1993, Delany and her sister Bessie published “Having Our Say: The Delany Sisters’ First 100 Years” which dealt with the trials and tribulations the sisters had faced during their century of life. The book was on the New York Times hardcover best seller list for 28 weeks and on the paperback list for 77 weeks. In 1999, it was made into a television movie. In 1994, the sisters published “The Delany Sisters’ Book of Everyday Wisdom” and after Bessie’s death, Delany in 1997 published “On My Own At 107: Reflections on Life Without Bessie.” In 1993, Delany and her sister were included in the Guinness Book of World Records as the world’s oldest authors. Delany died January 25, 1999.

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