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Liberation Film Series presents "Ida B. Wells: A Passion for Justice;" free film screening and discussion highlight fight against lynching, past and present

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IdaBWells-APassionForJustice-nocrops-1On the heels of the conviction of Michael Dunn for three counts of attempted second-degree murder, and a mistrial in the first-degree murder charge for the death of Jordan Davis, the February installment of the Liberation Film Series features the documentary, Ida B. Wells: A Passion for Justice, focused on Ms. Wells’ mission which remains relevant today given the tragic results of contemporary “stand your ground” laws, racial profiling, stop-and-frisk police tactics, the escalating incarceration of black males, and the culture of violence with which American communities continue to struggle. The film will be followed by a discussion led by Dr. Melba Joyce Boyd, Distinguished Professor and Chair of Africana Studies, Wayne State University, entitled, “Our Strongest Voice Against the Ubiquitous Lynching of Black America.” This free event takes place Saturday, February 22, 2014 at 2 pm at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, located at 315 East Warren Avenue in Detroit.

Passion for Justice provides an overview of the life of Ida Bell Wells Barnett (1862 - 1931).  Born into slavery on July 16, 1862, in Holly Springs, Mississippi, she became one of the leading African American journalists and activists of her time. She came into the national spotlight in 1884, when she refused to give up her seat on a train and had to be ejected by two men.  She sued the railroad company for discrimination and won, but this decision was subsequently overturned by a higher court.

Wells’ stand against discrimination and racial violence became the mantra for her activist journalism, especially on the subject of lynching. She was the co-owner of the Memphis Free Press, and in 1892 when three of her friends, Thomas Moss, Calvin McDowell, and Henry Stewart, were lynched because their small grocery store had taken away customers from a competing white business, Wells reported the crime in her paper. Consequently, her printing equipment was destroyed by a mob and her life publically threatened in an article that appeared in the Memphis daily newspaper. Forced into exile, she began writing for Thomas T. Fortune’s newspaper, The New York Age, under the pseudonym “Iola.”

After she married Attorney Ferdinand Barnett and permanently moved to Chicago, she became the editor of The Conservator, a newspaper Barnett had previously owned and operated. Throughout her life Ida B. Wells advocated for equal rights for blacks and for women. She was a part of the leadership of major activist organizations, alongside persons such as Frederick Douglass, Susan B. Anthony, Frances E.W. Harper, and W.E.B. Du Bois. She even sought elected office later in life. Her name is the one most often associated with the fight against lynching and other terrorist activities that threatened and undermined the African American community during the late nineteenth century and the early twentieth century. 

Directed by William Greaves, Passion for Justice has appeared on public television stations and in classrooms throughout the nation and internationally. It provides an excellent introduction and overview of Wells’ dynamic life and the critical roles she played to advance democratic and economic rights from African Americans and women.

About the Liberation Film Series

The Liberation Film Series is supported by the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, and the Black/African Studies Departments of Michigan State University, University of Michigan - Dearborn, University of Michigan - Ann Arbor, Wayne State University, Eastern Michigan University, Wayne County Community College District, Oakland University, and University of Massachusetts – Amherst, National Council of Black Studies, Dr. Errol Henderson (Pennsylvania State University), Media Education Foundation, The Walter P. Reuther Library – Wayne State University, Fashion International, Black & White Look Optical Corporation, Wayne State University Press, Bentley Historical Library - University of Michigan, University Prep Science & Math High School, Nandi’s Book Store, community activists, and individual contributors.

The 2013 - 2014 season of the Liberation Film Series runs through June 2014, and is free and open to the public. For more information, including the complete series schedule and respective speaker profiles, discussion topics, trailers, reading lists, supplemental educational links, and insightful statements of endorsement, please visit www.thewright.org/liberation.

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Today in Black History, 2/19/2014

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• February 19, 1872 Robert Elijah Jones, the first African American general superintendent for the Methodist Episcopal Church, was born in Greensboro, North Carolina. Jones entered the ministry and was licensed to preach at 19. He earned his Bachelor of Arts degree from Bennett College in 1895 and his Bachelor of Divinity degree from Gammon Theological Seminary in 1897. From 1897 to 1901, he served as assistant manager of the Southwestern Christian Advocate, an African American newspaper published by the Methodist Church. In 1904, Jones was elected editor of the Advocate, a position he held for the next 16 years. In 1908, he was elected to the General Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church and was the only African American minister on the Joint Commission on the Unification of the Methodist Episcopal Church and the Methodist Episcopal Church South. Jones was elected general superintendent in 1920 and became resident bishop of the New Orleans area responsible for 1,905 churches. In 1923, Jones founded the Gulfside Assembly which purchased a large piece of land along the Gulf Coast. This was the only location along the Gulf Coast accessible to African Americans for recreational purposes. Jones was president of the Negro Business League in Louisiana, helped found the Dryades Street YMCA, and was prominent in the establishment of the Flint-Goodridge Hospital. He was also chairman of the board of Wiley and Sam Houston Colleges and one of the founding trustees of Dillard University. Jones received several honorary doctorate degrees, including Doctor of Law degrees from Howard University in 1911, Morgan College in 1937, and Lincoln University in 1940. He retired from the ministry in 1944. Jones died May 18, 1960.

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Today in Black History, 2/18/2014

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• February 18, 1874 James H. Harris was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor, America’s highest military decoration, for his actions during the Civil War. Harris was born in 1828 in Saint Mary’s County, Maryland. He worked as a farmer before enlisting in the Union Army in 1864 as a private in Company B of the 38th Regiment United States Colored Troops. He was quickly promoted to corporal and then to sergeant. At the Battle of Chaffin’s Farm, September 29, 1864, Harris’ regiment was among a division of Black troops assigned to attack the center of the Confederate defenses at New Market Heights. The attack was met with intense Confederate fire, killing, capturing or wounding over 50 percent of the Black troops, and stalling the effort. When a renewed effort began, Harris and two other men ran at the head of the assault and were the first to breach the Confederate defenses and engage them in hand to hand combat. That attack was successful and the Confederate forces were routed. Not much else is known of Harris’ life after the war except that he died January 28, 1898 and was buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

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Today in Black History, 2/17/2014

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• February 17, 1863 The First Michigan Colored Infantry was formed. The regiment was organized on a farm with 845 Black men from Detroit, southern Michigan, and Ontario, Canada. Many of the volunteers had escaped slavery via the Underground Railroad and others were fighting to free family members still in slavery. On May 23, 1864, the unit was re-designated the 102nd Regiment United States Colored Troops. The 102nd fought throughout South Carolina, eastern Georgia, and Florida during the Civil War. After the war, they served occupation duty until they were disbanded October 17, 1865. A Michigan Historical Marker commemorating the regiment was installed April 12, 1968 in Detroit, Michigan.

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Today in Black History, 2/16/2014

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• February 16, 1852 William Sanders Scarborough, generally believed to be the first African American classical scholar, was born enslaved in Macon, Georgia. Despite prohibitions against educating enslaved Black children, Scarborough learned to read and write by ten. He earned his bachelor’s degree, with honors, in classics in 1875 and his Master of Arts degree from Oberlin College. From 1877 to 1908, he served as a professor in the classical department of Wilberforce University. During that time, he published “First Lessons in Greek” (1881) and “Birds of Aristophanes” (1886). Also, he became the first African American member of the Modern Language Association. In 1908, Scarborough was appointed president of Wilberforce, a position he held until 1921. In 1921, he was appointed by President Warren G. Harding to a position in the United States Department of Agriculture which he occupied until his death September 9, 1926. The Modern Language Association annually award the William Sanders Scarborough Prize for an outstanding scholarly study of Black American literature or culture published the previous year. “The Autobiography of William Sanders Scarborough: An American Journey From Slavery to Scholarship” was published in 2005.

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Today in Black History, 2/15/2014

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• February 15, 1943 The USS Miller, a World War II era Fletcher-class destroyer, was launched by the United States Navy. Between 1944 and 1964, the ship was commissioned for a number of active duty assignments. It was stricken from the Naval Vessel Registry in 1974 and sold for scrap. The ship was named for Doris “Dorie” Miller. Miller was born October 12, 1919 in Waco, Texas. He enlisted in the United States Navy in 1939. On December 7, 1941, Miller was serving as a cook on the USS West Virginia in Pearl Harbor when it was attacked by the Japanese. Although he had no anti-aircraft training, Miller took control of one and fired until the gun ran out of ammunition. On May 27, 1942, he was awarded the Navy Cross, the first African American to receive the decoration, for his extraordinary courage in battle. The Navy Cross is the highest decoration bestowed by the Department of the Navy. Miller died November 24, 1943 while serving on the USS Liscome Bay which was hit by a Japanese torpedo and sank. There are many schools, streets, and parks named in Miller’s honor and his story was told in “A Man Named Doris,” published in 2003.

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Today in Black History, 2/14/2014

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• February 14, 1760 Richard Allen, minister, educator and the founder of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, was born enslaved in Germantown, Pennsylvania. Allen taught himself to read and write and in 1777 bought his freedom and that of his brother. Allen joined the Methodist Society at an early age and was qualified as a preacher in 1784. In 1786, he began to preach at St. George’s United Methodist Church. However due to the church’s segregationist policies, in 1787 he and Absalom Jones led the Black members out of the church to form the Free African Society, a non-denominational mutual aid society. Also in 1787, Allen purchased a lot that became the site of Bethel AME Church which was dedicated July 29, 1794. That lot is now the site of Mother Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church and is the oldest parcel of real estate in the United States continuously owned by Black people. In 1816, Allen founded the independent denomination of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, the first fully independent Black denomination in the United States, and was elected its first bishop. From 1797 to his death March 26, 1831, Allen operated a station on the Underground Railroad for individuals escaping slavery. Allen published his autobiography, “The Life Experience and Gospel Labors of the Rt. Rev. Richard Allen: To Which Is Annexed the Rise and Progress of the African Methodist Episcopal Church in the United States,” in 1800. “Richard Allen: Apostle of Freedom” was published in 1935. Allen’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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President's Message, February 2014: Rochelle Riley Writes: "Do The Wright Thing!"

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By now you’ve probably seen one of Rochelle Riley's columns about the financial needs of The Wright Museum in the Detroit Free Press:

"Wright museum needs financial footing in Detroit bankruptcy plan,"

"Detroit's African-American museum needs to be spared, too,"

"Who will step up to inspire the Wright museum's salvation?"

We are most grateful for Rochelle’s words of support, and in response, the outpouring of support we’ve received from the community. Rest assured, with your help the museum is not going anywhere. But the columns do make an important point – that The Wright needs both city and community support to be sustainable, and there’s no better time than Black History Month, when all eyes are trained on the museum and its programming, to make those needs known. 

Dr. Carter G. Woodson, known as the founder of Black History Month and “father” of Black history, could only dedicate a few months per year to schooling, and didn’t enter high school until the age of 20. By his 37th birthday, however, he had earned his Bachelor of Literature degree from Berea College in Kentucky, served as a school supervisor in the Philippines, was awarded Bachelor of Arts and Masters degrees from the University of Chicago, and completed his PhD in history at Harvard University, only the second African American (after W.E.B. DuBois) to do so. Dr. Woodson understood the impact education and knowing one's history could have, as illustrated by his fervent commitment to it. He believed all people needed to know and understand African American history, both as a source of pride and self-respect for Black people, and as a basis for equality and respect from society as a whole.

Dr. Charles Wright wanted much the same thing, and The Wright is a direct result of his passion for African American history and culture, and belief in the impact access to it could have on the community. As Rochelle stated, “Leaders… realized that the museum’s value was not just in teaching African-American children about their heritage, but… in teaching all Americans about African-American contributions through history.”

Nevertheless, support from the City of Detroit, which owns the museum, its property, and its collections, has dropped more than 63% since 2009, and staffing has been reduced by 66%. We have done everything possible to do more, with less. Your support now can help us do more than ever before. Please give.

African American history was clearly worthy of the passion and interest of Dr. Woodson and Dr. Wright, and is certainly worthy of our support. You can do the “Wright” thing today – and there’s no better time than Wright now!

do-the-wright-donate-now2

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Today in Black History, 2/13/2014

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• February 13, 1818 Absalom Jones, abolitionist and clergyman, died. Jones was born enslaved November 6, 1746 in Milford, Delaware. By 1785, he 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 is listed on the Episcopal calendar of saints and blessed under the date of his decease.

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Today in Black History, 2/12/2014

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• February 12, 1865 Henry Highland Garnet became the first African American minister to preach to the United States House of Representatives when he spoke about the end of slavery. Garnet was born enslaved December 23, 1815 near New Market, Maryland. In 1824, his family escaped to freedom in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. They subsequently moved to New York City where from 1826 to 1833 he attended the African Free School and the Phoenix High School for Colored Youth. Garnet went on to graduate, with honors, in 1839 from 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. Garnet was appointed president of Avery College in 1868 and in 1881 was appointed U. S. Minister to Liberia. 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, 2/11/2014

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• February 11, 1783 Jerena Lee, considered the first female preacher in the African Methodist Episcopal Church, was born in Cape May, New Jersey. In her early 20’s, Lee was converted, sanctified, and called to preach. However, her first request for approval was denied. A few years later, Bishop Richard Allen granted her official church approval to preach. Lee preached throughout New England, Canada, and Ohio. She recounted her experiences in her autobiography “The Life and Religious Experience of Jarena Lee, A Coloured Lady” (1836), the first autobiography to be published in the United States by an African American woman. In 1849, she published an expanded version titled “Religious Experience and Journal of Mrs. Jerena Lee.” Nothing is known of her life or death after 1857.

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Today in Black History, 2/10/2014

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• February 10, 1854 Joseph Charles Price, founder and first president of Livingston College, was born in Elizabeth City, North Carolina. Price 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 October 25, 1893. 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, 2/9/2014

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

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Today in Black History, 2/8/2014

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

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Today in Black History, 2/7/2014

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

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Today in Black History, 2/6/2014

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

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Today in Black History, 2/5/2014

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

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Today in Black History, 2/4/2014

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

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Today in Black History, 2/3/2014

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

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Today in Black History, 2/2/2014

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

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