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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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Today in Black History, 10/26/2014

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• October 26, 1885 Robert Reed Church, Jr., businessman and political activist, was born in Memphis, Tennessee. Church earned his Bachelor of Arts degree from Oberlin College in 1904 and his Master of Business Administration degree from the Packard School of Business. After returning to Memphis, he became president of Solvent Savings Bank and presided over the family’ real estate holdings. In 1916, Church founded and financed the Lincoln League which was established to increase Black voter registration and participation. Within a short time, the league had registered more than 10,000 voters. Church organized the Memphis branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in 1917 and was elected to the national board representing 14 southern states in 1919. He was a prominent Republican and served as a delegate to eight consecutive Republican National Conventions between 1912 and 1940. With the advent of the New Deal in the 1930s and African American defection to the Democratic Party, Church’s political influence dwindled and he moved to Chicago, Illinois where he was elected chair of the Republican American Committee, a group of 200 Black Republican leaders who pressured Republican congressmen to vote in favor of civil rights legislation. Church died April 17, 1952. “The Robert R. Churches of Memphis: A Father and Son Who Achieved in Spite of Race” was published in 1974.

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Today in Black History, 10/25/2014

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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, 10/24/2014

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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, 10/23/2014

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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 K. Polk hired him as the United States Vice Consul to Mexico. 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, 10/22/2014

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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 14. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Howard University in 1873. Bland toured the United States and Europe, spending 20 years in London, England. 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 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, 10/21/2014

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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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Today in Black History, 10/20/2014

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• October 20, 1849 William Washington Browne, educator, minister and businessman, was born enslaved in Habersham County, Georgia. At 15, Browne ran away and joined the Union Army during the Civil War. After the war, he attended school in Wisconsin and then returned to the South in 1869 to teach in Georgia and Alabama. After becoming a Methodist minister in 1876, he urged the formation of groups to pool money and buy land. In 1889, he organized the True Reformers Savings Bank in Richmond, Virginia, the first Black bank in the United States to receive a charter. At its peak in 1907, it took in more than $1 million in deposits. Browne was one of only eight men, including Booker T. Washington, selected to represent African Americans at the Cotton States and International Exposition in 1895. Browne died December 21, 1897 and his funeral was one of the largest ever seen in Richmond’s Black community.

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Today in Black History, 10/19/2014

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• October 19, 1859 Byrd Prillerman, co-founder of West Virginia State College, was born enslaved in Shady Grove, Virginia. After being freed, Prillerman began school at 12 and earned his Bachelor of Science degree in 1889 from Knoxville College. He earned his Master of Arts degree from Westminster College in 1894 and his Doctor of Letters degree from Selma University in 1919. In 1891, along with Rev. C. H. Payne, Prillerman secured legislative action to create the West Virginia Colored Institute which opened its doors the following year with Prillerman as the head of the Department of English. He taught in that capacity until 1909 when he was elected president of the institution, a position he held until his retirement in 1919. Prillerman was also one of the organizers, and for many years president, of the West Virginia Teachers’ Association. One of his favorite sayings was “a well painted two-story house owned by a Negro is sharper than a two-edged sword.” Prillerman died April 25, 1929. Byrd Prillerman High School in Amigo, West Virginia is named in his honor.

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