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Today in Black History, 1/9/2015

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• January 9, 1886 Aaron Anderson, Congressional Medal of Honor recipient, died. Anderson was born in 1811 in Plymouth, North Carolina. He enlisted in the Union Navy at 52 during the Civil War. On March 17, 1865, while serving as a landsman on board the U.S.S. Wyandank on a mission to attack Confederate forces in Mattox Creek in Virginia, his actions earned him the medal. His citation partially reads, “carried out his duties courageously in the face of a devastating fire which cut away half the oars, pierced the launch in many places and cut the barrel off a musket being fired at the enemy.” Anderson was awarded the medal, America’s highest military decoration, June 22, 1865. He left the navy after his term of service expired and little is known of his post-war life.

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Today in Black History, 1/8/2015

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• January 8, 1811 The German Coast Uprising, a slave revolt that took place in the Territory of Orleans, began. The uprising was led by Charles Deslondes, a free person of color from Haiti, and lasted for two days. During that time between 200 and 500 enslaved persons participated, burning five plantation houses and killing two White men. A total of 95 insurgents were killed in the aftermath of the rebellion, including Deslondes who was captured and “had his hands chopped off then shot in one thigh and then the other until they were broken, then shot in the body, and before he had expired was put into a bundle of straw and roasted.” The legislature of the Orleans Territory approved compensation of $300 to planters for each enslave person killed or executed. Books about the uprising include “On to New Orleans! Louisiana’s Heroic 1811 Slave Revolt” (1996), and “American Uprising” (2010).

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Today in Black History, 1/7/2015

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• January 7, 1890 William B. Purvis of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania received patent number 419,065 for the fountain pen. Purvis’ invention made the use of an ink bottle obsolete by storing ink in a reservoir within the pen which was then fed to the tip of the pen. Over his lifetime, Purvis received ten additional patents. He is also believed to have invented, but not patent, several other devices. Little else is known of Purvis’ life.

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Today in Black History, 1/6/2015

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• January 6, 1882 Thomas Boyne was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor, America’s highest military decoration. Boyne was born in 1849 in Prince George’s County, Maryland. In 1879, he was serving as a sergeant in Company C of the 9th Calvary Regiment in New Mexico during the Indian Wars. Boyne was cited for “bravery in action” at the Mimbres Mountains May 29, 1879 and at the Cuchillo Negro River September 27, 1879. He was discharged from the army in 1889 because of a disability and admitted to the U. S. Soldiers Home in 1890 where he lived until his death April 21, 1896.

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Today in Black History, 1/3/2015

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• January 3, 1624 William Tucker, the first recorded African American born in the American colonies, was born in Jamestown, Virginia. Tucker was the child of enslaved Africans and was sold to an English sea captain named William Tucker. Nothing else is known of Tucker’s life.

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Today in Black History, 1/2/2015

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• January 2, 1884 Oscar Devereaux Micheaux, author and film director, was born in Metropolis, Illinois. Micheaux formed his own movie company and in 1919 became the first African American to write, direct, and produce a motion picture, “The Homesteader.” Between 1919 and 1948, Micheaux wrote seven novels and wrote, directed, and produced 44 feature films, including “Within Our Gates” (1919), which attacked the racism depicted in “The Birth of a Nation,” and “Body and Soul” (1924) which introduced Paul Robeson. Micheaux died March 25, 1951. The Directors Guild of America posthumously honored him with a Golden Jubilee Special Award in 1986 and the Oscar Micheaux Award is presented annually by the Producers Guild of America. For his contribution to the motion picture industry, Micheaux has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and a documentary film, “Midnight Ramble,” was released about him in 1994. The United States Postal Service issued a commemorative postage stamp in his honor in 2010. Micheaux’s biography, “Oscar Micheaux, The Great and Only: The Life of America’s First Black Filmmaker,” was published in 2007 and the Oscar Micheaux Center in Gregory, South Dakota annually presents the Oscar Micheaux Film & Book Festival.

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Today in Black History, 1/1/2015

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• January 1, 1800 Clara Brown, pioneer and philanthropist, was born enslaved near Fredericksburg, Virginia. At 18, Brown married and had four children. Her owner died in 1835 and she and her family were sold separately to settle his estate. She was sold to a Kentucky plantation owner. Brown was granted her freedom in 1856 but had to leave the state according to Kentucky law. She was able to barter her service as a cook and maid to join families moving westward during the gold rush. Brown ended up in the Denver, Colorado area where she set up the first laundry in Gilpin County. She also worked as a mid-wife, cook, and maid. Brown invested her earnings and within several years was reported to own several lots and houses and $10,000 in savings. She gave generously to the construction of the first Protestant church in the Rocky Mountains and her home was a hospital and general refuge for those who were sick or in poverty. Brown died October 23, 1885. She was posthumously inducted into the Colorado Women’s Hall of Fame in 1989.

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Today in Black History, 12/31/2014

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• December 31, 1864 Joachim Pease received the Congressional Medal of Honor, the United States military’s highest decoration, for his conduct during the Civil War battle between the USS Kearsarge and the Confederate CSS Alabama. His citation reads, “Served as seaman on board the USS Kearsarge when she destroyed the Alabama off Cherbourg, France, 19 June 1864. Acting as loader on the No. 2 gun during this bitter engagement, Pease exhibited marked coolness and good conduct and was highly recommended by the divisional officer for gallantry under fire.” Other than the fact that he was born in 1842, not much else is known of Pease’s life before or after the war.

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Today in Black History, 12/30/2014

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• December 30, 1819 George Thomas Downing, businessman, abolitionist and activist, was born July 21, 1902 in New York City. Downing attended the African Free School and at 14 established a literary society to discuss the conditions of the Black race. He and his father lobbied the New York State legislature for equal suffrage and were delegates to the first convention of the American Reform Board of Disenfranchised Commissioners in 1841. Downing opened his first restaurant and catering business in New York in 1842 and opened another in Newport, Rhode Island in 1846. In 1854, he opened a hotel in Newport that was restricted to White people. The complex also included his residence, a restaurant, and catering business. In 1857, Downing began a successful nine year campaign to integrate the public schools in Providence, Newport, and Bristol, Rhode Island. Downing opposed any efforts for African Americans to migrate outside of the United States, believing that Black people should stay and fight for their freedom. During the Civil War, he moved to Washington, D. C. and organized several regiments for the Union Army. While in Washington, he managed the dining room of the U. S. House of Representatives. Downing was one of the organizers of the Colored National Labor Union in 1869 and served as the first vice president. He retired from business in the early 1880s. Downing died July 21, 1902.

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Today in Black History, 12/29/2014

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• December 29, 1853 Inman Edward Page, educator, was born enslaved in Warrenton, Virginia. During the Civil War, his family escaped slavery to Washington, D. C. Page attended Howard University for two years and then enrolled at Brown University. He was one of the first two Black students to graduate from the university in 1877 and was valedictorian of his class. Page became president of Lincoln Institute in 1888 and was selected the first president of the Colored Agricultural and Normal University (now Langston University) in 1898. In his 17 year tenure at the institution, Page increased enrollment from 40 to well over 600 and the faculty from 4 to 35. Page resigned in 1915 and later became president of Western College and Industrial Institute and Roger Williams University. He returned to Oklahoma City in 1920 and later became supervising principal of the city’s segregated Black school system. Page was awarded an honorary master’s degree by Brown in 1918 and an honorary Doctor of Laws degree by Wilberforce University. Page died December 21, 1935. The main library at Lincoln University and the Inman Page Black Alumni Association at Brown are named in his honor.

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Today in Black History, 12/28/2014

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• December 28, 1829 Elizabeth Freeman, the first enslaved African American to file a freedom suit in Massachusetts, died. Frhttp://www.elizabethfreemancenter.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/elizabeth-freeman-179x300.jpgeeman was born enslaved around 1742 in New York and given the name Bett. In 1746, her owner’s daughter married and Freeman was given to her as a wedding gift and taken to Sheffield, Massachusetts. Sometime after the Massachusetts Constitution was ratified, Freeman heard it read and remembered that it started “all men are born free and equal.” Based on that, she initiated a freedom suit against her owner. An enslaved male name Brom was later added to the suit. On August 22, 1781 in the case of Brom and Bett v. Ashley, a jury in Great Barrington, Massachusetts found that Brom and Bett were not the property of Ashley and awarded them damages. Two years later, this case was cited as precedent when the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled that “slavery is inconsistent with our own conduct and constitution” and effectively abolished slavery in Massachusetts. After the case Bett changed her name to Freeman and over the next 20 years earned enough money to buy a plot of land where she lived until her death.

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Today in Black History, 12/27/2014

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• December 27, 1857 Henry Plummer Cheatham, congressman and educator, was born enslaved in Henderson, North Carolina. After the Civil War, he was emancipated and went on to earn his bachelor’s degree, with honors, in 1882 and his master’s degree in 1887 from Shaw University. Cheatham became active in politics and encouraged the establishment of institutions for African Americans and the founding of state normal schools for the training of Black teachers. Cheatham was elected to the United States House of Representatives in 1888 and re-elected in 1890. While in Congress, he supported federal aid to education and the Federal Elections Bill to provide federal enforcement to safeguard the voting rights of African Americans in the South. After his congressional district was redrawn, Cheatham was defeated for re-election in 1892. From 1897 to 1901, he served as federal recorder of deeds for the District of Columbia. Cheatham was appointed superintendent of the Colored Orphan Asylum and held that position until his death November 29, 1935.

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Today in Black History, 12/26/2014

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• December 26, 1884 Felix Adolphe Eboue, French colonial administrator, was born in Cayenne, Guyana. Eboue was a brilliant scholar and won a scholarship to study in Bordeaux, France. After graduating in law from the Ecole Colonial in Paris, from 1909 to 1931 he served in Oubangui-Chari (now the Central African Republic). He was appointed secretary general of Martinique in 1932 and served until 1934 when he was transferred to the same position in French Sudan. Eboue was transferred to Chad in 1938 and served until 1940 when he was appointed general governor of all of French Equatorial Africa, a position he held until his death March 17, 1944. During his tenure as general governor, Eboue worked to improve the status of Africans. He placed some Gabonese civil servants into positions of authority and advocated the preservation of traditional African institutions. After his death, the French colonies in Africa brought out a joint stamp issue in his memory. Eboue’s ashes are in The Pantheon of Paris, the first Black man to be so honored. His biography, “Eboue,” was published in 1972.

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Today in Black History, 12/25/2014

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• December 25, 1745 Joseph Bologne the Chevalier de Saint-Georges, musician, swordsman and equestrian, was born in Guadeloupe but raised in France. While still a young man, he acquired reputations as the best swordsman in France, as a violin virtuoso, and as a classical composer. He was appointed maestro of the Concert des Amateurs in 1771 and later director of the Concert de la Loge Olympique, the biggest orchestra of his time. He was eventually selected for appointment as director of the Royal Opera of Louis XVI but was prevented from taking the position because three Parisian divas felt that “it would be injurious to their professional reputations for them to sing on stage under the direction of a mulatto.” Saint-Georges also served in the French army and was appointed the first Black colonel and commanded a regiment of a thousand free colored volunteers. Despite his successes, Saint-Georges died destitute June 10, 1799. Biographies of Saint-Georges include “Joseph Boulogne called Chevalier de Saint-Georges” (1996) and “Joseph de Saint-Georges, le Chevalier Noir (The Black Chevalier)” (2006).

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Today in Black History, 12/24/2014

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• December 24, 1848 Levi Jenkins Coppin, missionary, editor and bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, was born in Frederick Town, Maryland. His mother taught him to read and write. At 17, Coppin moved to Wilmington, Delaware and in 1876 received his license to preach. He became editor of the A. M. E. Church Review in 1888 and held that position until 1896. Coppin became a bishop of the A. M. E. Church in 1900 and was assigned to Cape Town, South Africa in 1902 where he organized the Bethel Institute. He returned to the United States in 1912. Coppin died June 25, 1924. His autobiography, “Unwritten History,” was published in 1919.

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Today in Black History, 12/23/2014

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• December 23, 1815 Henry Highland Garnet, orator, educator and abolitionist, was born enslaved near New Market, Maryland. Garnet’s family escaped to freedom in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1824. They subsequently moved to New York City where from 1826 to 1833 Garnet attended the African Free School and the Phoenix High School for Colored Youth. Garnet went on to graduate, with honors, in 1839 from the Oneida Theological Institute of Whitesboro. He later joined the American Anti-Slavery Society and frequently spoke at abolitionist conferences. He delivered one of his most famous speeches, “Call to Rebellion,” to the National Negro Convention August 21, 1843. In that speech, he called for the enslaved to act for themselves to achieve total emancipation. By 1849, Garnet began to support emigration of Black people to Mexico, Liberia, or the West Indies and he founded the African Civilization Society. On February 12, 1865, he became the first Black minister to preach to the United States House of Representatives when he spoke about the end of slavery. Garnet was appointed president of Avery College in 1868 and was appointed U. S. Minister to Liberia in 1881. Garnet died February 13, 1882. The Henry Highland Garnet School for Success in Harlem, New York and the HHG Elementary School in Chestertown, Maryland are named in his honor. His biographies include “Henry Highland Garnet: A Voice of Black Radicalism in the Nineteenth Century” (1977) and “Rise Now and Fly to Arms: The Life of Henry Highland Garnet” (1995).

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Today in Black History, 12/22/2014

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• December 22, 1870 Jefferson Franklin Long, the first African American from Georgia to be elected to the United States House of Representatives, was seated. Long was born enslaved March 3, 1836 near Knoxville, Georgia and was self-educated. By 1867, he was a prominent member of the Republican Party, traveling throughout the South urging formerly enslaved men to register to vote. Partially as a result of his efforts, 37 African Americans were elected to the Georgia Constitutional Convention of 1867 and 32 to the state legislature. Long advocated for public education, higher wages, and better terms for sharecroppers. He also helped organize the Union Brotherhood Lodge, a Black mutual aid society in Macon, Georgia. Long was elected to fill a vacancy and served in Congress until March 3, 1871. On February 1, 1871, Long became the first African American to speak on the floor of the United States House of Representatives. He spoke against the Amnesty Bill which exempted former Confederate politicians from swearing allegiance to the Constitution. Despite his efforts, the bill passed. Long did not seek re-election but did serve as a delegate to the Republican National Convention in 1880. After serving in Congress, Long resumed business as a merchant tailor in Macon and died there February 4, 1901.

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Today in Black History, 12/21/2014

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• December 21, 1872 Robert Scott Duncanson, landscape painter, died. Duncanson was born in 1821 in Seneca County, New York and went to live with his father in Canada as a young boy. He returned to the United States in 1841 with a desire to be an artist and taught himself by painting portraits and copying prints. Duncanson traveled the world in pursuit of his art and in 1845 moved to Detroit, Michigan. In 1846, the Detroit Daily Advertiser praised Duncanson for his skill and color usage, adding “Mr. Duncanson deserves, and we trust will receive the patronage of all lovers of the fine arts.” With the onset of the Civil War, Duncanson exiled himself to Canada and the United Kingdom where his work was well received and the London Art Journal declared him a master of landscape painting. His paintings “Drunkard’s Plight” (1845), “At the Foot of the Cross” (1846), and “Uncle Tom and Little Eva” (1853) are in the collection of the Detroit Institute of Arts.

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Today in Black History, 12/20/2014

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• December 20, 1935 William Julius Wilson, sociologist, educator and author, was born in Derry, Pennsylvania. Wilson earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in 1958 from Wilberforce University, his Master of Arts degree in 1961 from Bowling Green State University, and his Ph. D. in 1966 from Washington State University. He taught at the University of Massachusetts Amherst from 1965 to 1972 and the University of Chicago from 1972 to 1996. He was appointed the Lucy Flower University Professor and director of the University of Chicago’s Center for the Study of Urban Equality in 1990. Wilson joined the faculty of Harvard University in 1996 and is currently the Lewis P. and Linda L. Geyser University Professor. Wilson has authored a number of books, including “The Declining Significance of Race: Blacks and Changing American Institutions” (1978), “The Truly Disadvantaged: The Inner City, the Underclass, and Public Policy” (1987), and “More Than Just Race: Being Poor and Black in the Inner City” (2009). He is past president of the American Sociological Association and has been elected to the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Wilson has received many honors, including more than 40 honorary doctorate degrees, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur “Genius” Award in 1987, and the only non-economist to receive the Seidman Award in Political Economy. He received the National Medal of Science, the highest honor the United States bestows on scientist, engineers, and inventors, from President William J. Clinton December 8, 1998 and the Anisfield-Wolf Book Lifetime Achievement Award in Nonfiction in 2010.

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Today in Black History, 12/19/2014

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• December 19, 1864 William Cooper Nell became the first African American to work in the federal civil service when he became a postal clerk in Boston, Massachusetts. Nell was born December 16, 1816 in Boston. He studied law in the early 1830s but was never certified as a lawyer because he would not swear allegiance to the Constitution of the United States which he believed advocated the enslavement of African Americans in the South. Nell was influential in organizing the Freedom Association and the Committee of Vigilance which were all-Black organizations that helped previously enslaved Black people that had fled to the North. From 1848 to 1851, Nell worked with Frederick Douglass on the abolitionist publication The North Star and was instrumental in the 1855 decision to allow African American students in Massachusetts to study alongside their White classmates. Nell was a prolific author and wrote two exhaustive studies of African Americans in war, “Services of Colored Americans in the Wars of 1776 and 1812” (1851) and “Colored Patriots of the American Revolution” (1855). Nell died May 25, 1874. “William Cooper Nell: Abolitionist, Historian and Integrationist; Selected Writings, 1832-1874” was published in 2002.

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