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Today in Black History, 8/29/2014

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• August 29, 1910 Vivien Theodore Thomas, surgical technician and animal surgeon, was born in New Iberia, Louisiana. After graduating from high school, Thomas had hoped to go to college and become a doctor. However, the Great Depression derailed his plans. In 1930, he secured a job with Dr. Alfred Blalock at Vanderbilt University. Although doing the job of a laboratory assistant, Thomas was classified and paid as a janitor. In 1941, Blalock accepted the position of chief of surgery at John Hopkins Hospital and requested that Thomas accompany him. On November 29, 1944, using the tools adapted by Thomas from the animal lab and with Thomas at his shoulder coaching him, Blalock performed the first surgery to relieve “blue baby syndrome.” The operation came to be known as the Blalock-Taussig shunt and Thomas received no mention. Over his 38 years at John Hopkins, Thomas trained many surgeons that went on to become chiefs of surgical departments around the country and in 1968 they commissioned the painting of his portrait which hangs next to Blalock’s in the lobby of the Alfred Blalock Clinical Sciences Building. Thomas died November 26, 1985. The Vivian Thomas Young Investigator Awards are given by the Council on Cardiovascular Surgery and Anesthesiology and in 2004 the city of Baltimore opened the Vivian T. Thomas Medical Arts Academy. Thomas’ autobiography, “Partners of the Heart: Vivian Thomas and his Work with Alfred Blalock” was published in 1985 and in 2004 his story was told in the HBO film “Something the Lord Made.”

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Today in Black History, 8/28/2014

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• August 28, 1818 Jean Baptiste Pointe du Sable, The Father of Chicago, Illinois, died. Du Sable’s birth date is unknown but it is generally believed that he was born around 1745 in what is now Haiti. Not much is known of his early life. Du Sable first arrived on the western shores of Lake Michigan around 1779 where he built the first permanent non-indigenous settlement just east of the present Michigan Avenue Bridge. From 1780 to 1784, he managed a huge tract of woodlands on the St. Clair River. Du Sable also operated the first fur-trading post. He left Chicago in 1800 for Peoria, Illinois and in 1813 moved to St. Charles, Missouri where he died. In 1968, the State of Illinois and the City of Chicago declared Du Sable “the Founder of Chicago” and erected a granite marker at his grave. His home site in Chicago was designated a National Historic Landmark May 11, 1976 and in 1987 the United States Postal Service issued a commemorative postage stamp in his honor. DuSable High School and the DuSable Museum of African American History in Chicago are named in his honor. The DuSable Heritage Association in Chicago works to promote the legacy of DuSable.

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Today in Black History, 8/27/2014

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• August 27, 1884 Rose Virginia Scott McClendon, a leading Broadway actress of the 1920s, was born in Greenville, South Carolina. McClendon started acting in church plays as a child but did not become a professional actress until she won a scholarship to the American Academy of Dramatic Art when she was in her thirties. McClendon made her stage debut in the 1919 play “Justice.” She was one of the few Black actresses who worked consistently in the 1920s and was considered “the Negro first lady of the dramatic stage,” appearing in productions such as “Deep River” (1926), “Porgy” (1928), and “Mulatto” (1936). In 1935, she co-founded the Negro People’s Theatre in Harlem. McClendon died July 12, 1936. In 1937, the Rose McClendon Players was established in her honor.

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Today in Black History, 8/26/2014

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• August 26, 1843 Norbert Rillieux of New Orleans, Louisiana was granted patent number 3237 for the multiple-effect evaporation system for refining sugar. His invention addressed all of the shortcomings of prior sugar refining processes and by 1849 thirteen Louisiana sugar factories were using his invention. His invention was an important development in the growth of the sugar industry. Rillieux was born March 17, 1806 in New Orleans, Louisiana. As a Creole from a prominent family, he had access to education and privileges not available to many other Black people. In the early 1820s, he traveled to Paris, France to attend the prestigious Ecole Centrale, studying physics, mechanics, and engineering. He became an expert in steam engines and published several papers about the use of steam to work devices. At 24, Rillieux became the youngest teacher at Ecole Centrale. While in France, Rillieux started researching ways to improve the sugar refining process and after returning to the United States in 1833 began to develop the machine for which he was granted the patent. In the 1850s, Rillieux presented a plan to the government of New Orleans to eliminate the moist breeding grounds for the mosquitoes that were causing a Yellow Fever outbreak. His plan was turned down. Several years later, as the Yellow Fever outbreak continued, the city accepted a plan from White engineers that was similar to the plan proposed by Rillieux. In the late 1850s, Rillieux returned to France where he died October 8, 1894. Rillieux was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2004.

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Today in Black History, 8/25/2014

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• August 25, 1746 Native Americans attacked two White families in Deerfield, Massachusetts in an area called “The Bars.” Lucy Terry, an enslaved Black woman, composed a ballad about the attack titled “Bars Fight” which is considered the oldest known work of literature by an African American. Her poem was preserved orally until it was published in 1855. Terry was born around 1730 and stolen from Africa and sold into slavery as an infant. A successful Black man purchased her freedom and married her in 1756. A persuasive orator, Terry won a case against false land claims before the Supreme Court of Vermont in the 1790s. She also delivered a three hour address to the Board of Trustees of Williams College to support the admittance of her son to the college. Although unsuccessful, the speech was remembered for its eloquence and skill. Terry died July 11, 1821.

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Today in Black History, 8/24/2014

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• August 24, 1854 The National Emigration Convention of Colored People opened in Cleveland, Ohio. The convention was led by early African American nationalist Martin R. Delany and attracted 106 delegates from around the United States. The three day convention was called to discuss the merits of emigration and to develop a practical plan for African Americans to emigrate to the West Indies or Central or South America. Delegates approved a series of resolutions which commented on the political and social conditions of Black people in the U. S. They also approved a document, “Political Destiny of the Colored Race,” which urged emigration to areas of Central and South America “which provide opportunity for the enjoyment of civil and religious liberty.” The convention established a Board of Commissioners with Delany as president and William Webb and Charles W. Nighten as commissioners. The movement was dissolved in 1861.

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Today in Black History, 8/23/2014

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• August 23, 1899 Moses Williams, Congressional Medal of Honor recipient, died. Williams was born October 10, 1845 in Carrollton, Louisiana. Not much is known of his early life but by August 16, 1881, he was serving as a first sergeant in Company I of the 9th Cavalry Regiment during the Indian Wars. On that day, he participated in an engagement in the foothills of the Cuchillo Negro Mountains in New Mexico and his actions earned him the medal, America’s highest military decoration. His citation reads, “Rallied a detachment, skillfully conducted a running fight of 3 or 4 hours, and by his coolness, bravery, and unflinching devotion to duty in standing by his commanding officer in an exposed position under a heavy fire from a large party of Indians saved the lives of at least 3 of his comrades.” Williams was awarded the medal November 12, 1896. He later reached the rank of ordinance sergeant and left the army in 1898.

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Today in Black History, 8/22/2014

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• August 22, 1791 The African descended enslaved people of Saint Domingue (Haiti) rose in revolt and plunged the colony into a 12 year revolution that freed them from colonization and slavery. One of the most successful leaders of the revolution was Toussaint L’Ouverture. On January 1, 1804 Jean-Jacques Dessalines, the new leader of the revolution, declared the former colony independent and renamed it the Republic of Haiti, the first independent nation in Latin American and the first post-colonial independent Black led nation in the world.

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Today in Black History, 8/21/2014

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• August 21, 1831 Nat Turner’s rebellion began in Southampton County, Virginia. Turner was an enslaved Black man who started with a few trusted fellow enslaved men and grew into more than 50 enslaved and free Black men. The rebels traveled from house to house, freeing enslaved people and killing their White owners. The rebellion was suppressed within 48 hours with 55 White men, women and children killed. Turner 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, 8/20/2014

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• August 20, 1619 The first 20 Africans were brought to what would become Jamestown, Virginia aboard a Dutch ship. The Africans were traded for food and supplies as temporary indentured servants in the same way that English White people were owned as laborers in the New World. Their labor arrangement was for a specified period of time after which they were free to live their lives, just as the English laborers were. The permanent enslavement of Africans in America was implemented later.

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Today in Black History, 8/19/2014

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• August 19, 1791 Benjamin Banneker, a free African American astronomer, surveyor and almanac author, wrote a letter to United States Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson pointing out the hypocrisy of slavery. In the letter he stated, “I apprehend you will embrace every opportunity, to eradicate that train of absurd and false ideas and opinions, which so generally prevails with respect to us; and that your sentiments are concurrent with mine, which are, that one universal Father hath given being to us all; and that he hath not only made us all of one flesh, but that he has also, without partiality, afforded us all the same sensations and endowed us all with the same faculties; and that however variable we may be in society or religion, however diversified in situation or color; we are all of the same family, and stand in the same relation to him.” Jefferson responded to Banneker on August 30 stating, “No body wishes more than I do, to see such proofs as you exhibit, that nature has given to our black brethren talents equal to those of the other colors of men.” The complete correspondence between the two can be found by doing a search on “Benjamin Banneker letter to Thomas Jefferson.”

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Today in Black History, 8/18/2014

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• August 18, 1899 Frank Smith Horne, ophthalmologist, poet and administrator, was born in New York City. Horne earned his Bachelor of Science degree from City College of New York in 1921 and his Doctor of Optometry degree from Northern Illinois College of Ophthalmology and Otology in 1923. In 1932, he earned his Master of Arts degree from the University of Southern California. Horne started writing while in college and his poems were included in the anthologies “Caroling Dusk: An Anthology of Verse by Negro Poets” (1927), “The Poetry of the Negro, 1746-1949” (1949), and “Haverstraw” (1963). From 1927 to 1936, Horne was professor, then dean, and interim president of Fort Valley High and Industrial School (now Fort Valley State College). From 1936 to 1955, he worked for the United States Housing Authority on minority housing issues. During the Franklin D. Roosevelt administration, Horne was a member of the president’s “Black cabinet.” From 1956 to his death September 7, 1974, Horne worked on housing issues in New York City, including assisting in the development of the nation’s first laws against discrimination in public housing.

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Today in Black History, 8/17/2014

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• August 17, 1849 Archibald Henry Grimke, lawyer, journalist, diplomat and community leader, was born enslaved in Charleston, South Carolina. Grimke and his family were freed by their owner at his death. Grimke went on to earn his Bachelor of Arts degree, with honors, and his Master of Arts degree from Lincoln University in 1870 and 1872, respectively. He earned his Bachelor of Laws degree from Harvard University in 1874 and did graduate work at Princeton Theological Seminary before becoming an ordained Presbyterian minister. Grimke served as the American Consul to the Dominican Republic from 1894 to 1898. He served as president of the American Negro Academy from 1903 to 1916 and was a co-founder of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in 1909. Throughout this period, Grimke published articles and pamphlets concerning Black life and history. In 1916, he testified against segregation before the House Committee on Reform in the Civil Service. In 1919, Grimke was awarded the NAACP Spingarn Medal. Grimke died February 25, 1930. His biography, “Archibald Grimke: portrait of a black independent,” was published in 1993.

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Today in Black History, 8/16/2014

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• August 16, 1893 Charles Lewis Reason, mathematician, educator and civil rights activist, died. Reason was born July 21, 1818 in New York City. A mathematics child prodigy, Reason began teaching the subject at fourteen at the African Free School. He later studied at McGrawville College. In 1847, Reason co-founded the Society for the Promotion of Education among Colored Children, an organization authorized by the state legislature to oversee Black schools in New York City. In 1849, he was appointed professor of fine writing, Greek, Latin, and French and adjunct professor of mathematics at New York Central College, the first African American professor at a predominantly White college. Reason left that position in 1852 to become principal of the Institute for Colored Youth (now Cheney University), a post he held until 1855. That year, he returned to New York City where he served as a teacher and administrator in the public school system until his retirement in 1892. Reason was committed to the antislavery cause and worked for improvements in Black civil rights. He founded the New York Political Improvement Association which won the right for a jury trial for previously enslaved fugitives in the state. He also headed the successful 1873 effort to outlaw segregation in New York schools.

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Today in Black History, 8/15/2014

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• August 15, 1817 George Washington, a leading African American pioneer of the Pacific Northwest and the founder of the town of Centralia, Washington, was born in Frederick County, Virginia. The son of a formerly enslaved man and a woman of English descent, he was raised by a White couple. That couple and Washington moved to the northwest to claim land. Washington could not buy land because he was Black, therefore the couple bought the land and Washington later repaid them for the land. Washington built a home and filed a plat for the town of Centerville (now Centralia), offering lots for $10 each. By the time of Washington’s death August 26, 1905, Centralia had grown to a large and prosperous town. Today the city has a population of over 16,000 with 90% of them White and less than 1% African American. A mural depicting Washington is located in historic downtown Centralia.

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Today in Black History, 8/14/2014

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• August 14, 1874 Jonathan Clarkson Gibbs, minister, educator, politician and the first African American Secretary of State and Superintendent of Public Instruction of Florida, died. Gibbs was born September 28, 1821 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. In 1852, he became the third African American to graduate from Dartmouth College and the second Black man to deliver a commencement address at a college. Gibbs attended Princeton Theological Seminary from 1853 to 1854 but had to drop out due to financial constraints. He was ordained a minister in 1856 and became active in the abolitionist movement. In 1864, Gibbs moved to Charleston, South Carolina to do missionary work and open a school for recently freed Black people. In 1867, he moved to Jacksonville, Florida where he opened an academy for young people and became involved in politics. He was elected to the State Constitutional Convention in 1868 and that same year was appointed Secretary of State, a position he held until 1872. In 1873, Gibbs was appointed Superintendent of Public Instruction. He also was elected to the Tallahassee, Florida City Council in 1872. Gibbs High School and Gibbs Junior College (now part of St. Petersburg College) in St. Petersburg, Florida are named in his honor.

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Today in Black History, 8/13/2014

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• August 13, 1893 Eva Beatrice Dykes, the first Black female to fulfill the requirements for a doctorial degree, was born in Washington, D. C. Dykes earned her Bachelor of Arts degree, summa cum laude, from Howard University in 1914. She then attended Radcliffe College where she earned her second Bachelor of Arts degree, magna cum laude, in 1917 and her Master of Arts degree in 1918. She also was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. In 1921, Dykes completed the requirements for her doctorial degree but because Radcliff held its graduation later than some other universities, she was the third Black female to actually receive her Ph. D. From 1929 to 1944, Dykes taught English at Howard University and from 1944 to her retirement in 1975 was chair of the English department at Oakwood College. Dykes co-authored “Readings from Negro Authors for Schools and Colleges” in 1931 and authored “The Negro in English Romantic Thought: Or a Study in Sympathy for the Oppressed” in 1942. In 1973, the Oakwood College library was named in her honor. Dykes died October 29, 1986.

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Today in Black History, 8/12/2014

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• August 12, 1825 Orindatus Simon Bolvar Wall, the first Black man commissioned as captain in the United States Army, was born enslaved in Richmond County, North Carolina. Wall was freed in 1837 when his father sent him to the Harveyburg Black School in what is now Ohio. He attended Oberlin College before establishing a successful boot and shoemaking business. At the start of the Civil War, he raised recruits for the 104th Colored Infantry Volunteers and in March, 1865 was commissioned as captain in the army. In 1867, Wall moved to Washington, D. C. where he graduated from the Howard University Law School. He established a law practice and served as a police magistrate and justice of the peace. For many newly freed African Americans in the district, he was the law. Wall was also elected to two terms in the district legislature, representing a majority White district. Wall died April 26, 1891. He was buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

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Today in Black History, 8/11/2014

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• August 11, 1777 Free Frank McWorter, the first African American to incorporate a municipality in the United States, was born enslaved in South Carolina. In 1795, McWorter’s owner moved to Kentucky and took him along to build and manage his holdings and to lease him out to work for others. McWorter used his earnings to create a successful saltpeter production operation. By 1817, he had earned enough to buy the freedom of his wife and two years later his own. In 1830, McWorter and his family moved to Pike County, Illinois and in 1836 he founded the town of New Philadelphia, Illinois. By the time of his death September 7, 1854, McWorter had bought the freedom of 16 members of his family. McWorter’s gravesite was listed on the National Registry of Historical Places April 19, 1988 and a portion of I-72 in Pike County is designated the Frank McWorter Memorial Highway. The New Philadelphia town site was listed on the National Registry of Historical Places in 2005 and designated a National Historic Landmark January 16, 2009. McWorter’s biography, “Free Frank: A Black Pioneer on the Antebellum Frontier,” was published in 1983.

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Today in Black History, 8/10/2014

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 • August 10, 1858 Anna Julia Haywood Cooper, author, educator and scholar, was born in Raleigh, North Carolina. At nine, Cooper received a scholarship to attend Saint Augustine’s Normal School and Collegiate Institute, a school for training teachers to educate formerly enslaved Black people. Cooper earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in 1884 and her Master of Arts degree in mathematics in 1887 from Oberlin College. In 1892, Cooper published her first book, “A Voice from the South: By A Woman from the South,” which is widely considered the first articulation of Black feminism. Its central thesis was that the educational, moral, and spiritual progress of Black women would improve the general standing of the entire African American community and that it was the duty of educated and successful Black women to support their underprivileged peers in achieving their goals. In 1914, Cooper began courses for her doctorate degree at Columbia University but due to family obligations was forced to stop. In 1924, she earned her Ph. D. in history from the University of Paris-Sorbonne, the fourth Black woman to earn a Doctorate of Philosophy degree. Cooper died February 27, 1964. On pages 26 and 27 of every new United States passport there is the following quote from Cooper, “The cause of freedom is not the cause of a race or a sect, a party or a class – it is the cause of humankind, the very birthright of humanity.” In 2009, the United States Postal Service issued a commemorative postage stamp in her honor. The Anna Julia Cooper Episcopal School in Richmond, Virginia is named in her honor.

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