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Today in Black History, 1/29/2015

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• January 29, 1850 Sarah Loguen Fraser, physician, was born in Syracuse, New York. At a young age, Fraser gained experience by helping to treat the illnesses and injuries of formerly enslaved Black people who passed through her parent’s house which was a stop on the Underground Railroad. She earned her Doctor of Medicine degree in 1876 from Syracuse University College of Medicine (now Upstate Medical University of the State University of New York), the first woman to gain that degree from the school. She went on to intern in pediatrics and obstetrics in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and Boston, Massachusetts before opening her own practice in Washington, D. C. Fraser moved with her husband to the Dominican Republic in 1882 and became the country’s first female doctor and pediatric specialist. By law, she could only treat women and children. Because she also provided free treatment to the poor, Fraser became a revered figure in the nation. After her husband died, she returned to the United States and practiced pediatrics and mentored midwives from her home in Syracuse. She later moved back to D. C. where she joined the Order of Malachites, an African American professional services organization, and provided medical services to patients at a women’s clinic. Fraser died April 9, 1933. After her death, the Dominican Republic declared a nine-day period of national mourning with flags flown at half-mast. The Sarah Loguen Park in Syracuse and the child care center at Upstate Medical University are named in her honor.

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Today in Black History, 1/28/2015

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• January 28, 1896 Malvin Gray Johnson, painter, was born in Greensboro, North Carolina. Johnson started painting as a child and won top awards in local fairs and exhibitions as a teenager. He moved to New York City where he studied at the National Academy of Design. Johnson was one of the most versatile artist of his time and one of the first African American artist to paint in the cubist style. He won first prize at a Harmon Foundation exhibition in 1928 and won the Otto H. Kahn prize for painting in 1929. Johnson died October 4, 1934. In 2002, the North Carolina Central University Art Museum hosted the first retrospective exhibition devoted to his work. In 2010, Swann Galleries auctioned his work “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” (1928) for $228,000. His works “The Brothers” (1934) and “Self-Portrait” (1934) are in the collection of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

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Today in Black History, 1/27/2015

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• January 27, 1869 Will Marion Cook, violinist and composer, was born in Washington, D. C. Cook’s musical talents were apparent at an early age and at 15 he was sent to the Oberlin Conservatory to study violin. Cook studied at the Berlin Hochschule fur Musik in Germany from 1887 to 1889 and made his professional debut in 1889. He became director of a chamber orchestra in 1890 and composed “Scenes from the Opera of Uncle Tom’s Cabin.” His composition “Clorindy: or, The Origin of the Cakewalk” became the first all-Black show to play in a prestigious Broadway house July 4, 1898. Cook produced many successful musicals, including “Uncle Eph’s Christmas” (1901), “The Southerners” (1904), and “Swing Along” (1929). Cook died July 19, 1944. The Will Marion Cook House in New York City was declared a National Historic Landmark May 11, 1976. His biography, “Swing Along: The Musical Life of Will Marion Cook,” was published in 2008.

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Today in Black History, 1/26/2015

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• January 26, 1892 Elizabeth “Bessie” Coleman, hall of fame civil aviator, was born in Atlanta, Texas. In her early 20’s, Coleman became interested in flying but could not gain admittance to American flight schools because she was Blhttp://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/9/95/Bessie_Coleman_and_her_plane_(1922).jpgack and a woman. Therefore, she traveled to Paris, France where she learned to fly and became the first African American woman to earn an international aviation license June 15, 1921. After completing an advanced training course, Coleman became a barnstorming stunt flier known as Queen Bess. On April 30, 1926, while flying to an air show, her plane crashed and she died instantly. In 1990, a road at O’Hara Airport was renamed Bessie Coleman Drive. The United States Postal Service issued a commemorative postage stamp in her honor and she was posthumously inducted into the Women in Aviation Hall of Fame in 1995. Biographies of Coleman include “Bessie Coleman: The Brownskin Lady Bird” (1994) and “She Dared to Fly: Bessie Coleman” (1997). Coleman’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, 1/25/2015

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• January 25, 1890 The National Afro-American League was formed by Timothy Thomas Fortune. The organization was dedicated to racial solidarity and self-help. The league also sought equal opportunities in voting, civil rights, education, public accommodations and an end to lynchings in the South. It became defunct in 1893 due to lack of support and funding. It was reformed as the National Afro-American Council in 1898 and existed until 1908. Many of the supporters of the league and council later became supporters of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. “Broken Brotherhood: The Rise and Fall of the National Afro-American Council” was published in 2008.

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Today in Black History, 1/24/2015

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• January 24, 1874 Arturo Alfonso Schomburg, historian, writer and activist, was born in Santurce, Puerto Rico. While in grade school, one of his teachers claimed that Black people had no history, heroes, or accomplishments. This inspired Schomburg to prove the teacher wrong. Schomburg was educated at St. Thomas College in the Virgin Islands where he studied Negro literature. He immigrated to New York City in 1891 and began teaching Spanish in 1896. Schomburg co-founded the Negro Society for Historical Research in 1911 and later became president of the American Negro Academy. In 1925, Schomburg published his widely read and influential essay “The Negro Digs Up His Past” in 1925. In 1928, the New York Public Library system purchased his collection of literature, art, and other materials and appointed him curator of the Schomburg Collection of Negro Literature and Art (later renamed the Arthur Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture). Schomburg died June 8, 1938. His biography, “Arthur Alfonso Schomburg: Black Bibliophile & Collector,” was published in 1989. Schomburg’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, 1/23/2015

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• January 23, 1837 Amanda Berry Smith, evangelist, was born enslaved in Long Green, Maryland. As a child, Smith’s father worked for years to save enough money to buy his family’s freedom and when she was 13 she moved to Pennsylvania to work. Smith became well known for her beautiful voice and evangelized throughout the South and West. She was invited to speak and sing in England in 1876 and ended up staying for a year and a half conducting religious services. After her return to the United States, she founded the Amanda Smith Orphans’ Home for African American children in a suburb of Chicago, Illinois. She continued to evangelize and became known as “God’s image carved in ebony.” Her autobiography, “The Story of the Lord’s Dealings with Mrs. Amanda Smith, the Colored Evangelist,” was published in 1893. Smith retired to Florida in 1912 where she lived until her death February 24, 1915.

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Today in Black History, 1/22/2015

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• January 22, 1822 Barney Launcelot Ford, businessman and civic leader, was born enslaved in Virginia. Ford escaped via the Underground Railroad in 1840 and went to Chicago, Illinois. While sailing to California in 1848, he landed in Nicaragua where he saw many business opportunities. He opened the United States Hotel and Restaurant in 1851 which became very successful and provided him $5,000 in savings. Ford returned to Denver, Colorado where he eventually owned two hotels, a restaurant, and a barbershop and by the 1870s was worth over $250,000. With his wealth, Ford gave money, food, and jobs to newly freed African Americans and opened a school for Black children. In 1882, he and his wife were the first African Americans to be invited to a Colorado Association of Pioneers dinner. Ford died December 22, 1902. His portrait, in the form of a stained glass window, is in the rotunda of the Colorado State Capitol Building. The Barney Ford House Museum is located in Breckenridge, Colorado and the Barney L. Ford Building is in Denver. A new Denver elementary school was named in his honor in 1973. Biographies of Ford include “Adventures of Barney Ford, a Runaway Slave” (1969) and “Barney Ford: Black Baron” (1973).

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Today in Black History, 1/21/2015

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• January 21, 1913 Fannie Jackson Coppin, educator and journalist, died. Coppin was born enslaved October 15, 1837 in Washington, D.C. She gained her freedom at 12 when her aunt, who worked for $6 per month and saved $125, was able to purchase Coppin’s freedom. Coppin enrolled at Oberlin College in 1860 and was the first African American student to be appointed in the college’s preparatory department. While attending Oberlin, she established an evening school for previously enslaved Black people. Coppin earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in 1865 and began to teach at the Institute for Colored Youth (now Cheyney University). Coppin became principal of the institute in 1869, the first African American woman to receive that title. She served in that position until 1906. In addition to teaching, Coppin founded homes for working and poor women and wrote an influential column in the local newspapers that defended the rights of women and Black people. Coppin and her husband went to South Africa in 1902 and founded the Bethel Institute, a missionary school that emphasized self-help programs. Her book “Reminiscences of School Life, and Hints on Teaching” was published shortly after her death. In 1926, a teacher training school was named the Fannie Jackson Coppin Normal School in her honor. That school is now Coppin State University. Coppin’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, 1/20/2015

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• January 20, 1888 Leadbelly, hall of fame folk musician, was born Huddle William Ledbetter in Mooringsport, Louisina. From 1915 to 1934, Leadbelly spent considerable time in prisons where hundreds of his songs, including “Midnight Special” and “Goodnight Irene,” were recorded for the Library of Congress. By 1935, Leadbelly had gained fame and Life magazine ran a three page article in the April 19, 1937 issue titled “Lead Belly-Bad Nigger Makes Good Minstrel.” Leadbelly performed on radio shows and toured around the world until his death December 6, 1949. Despite this, he died penniless. His vast songbook has provided material for numerous folk, country, pop, and rock acts. Leadbelly was posthumously inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 1986 and the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1989. The United States Postal Service issued a commemorative postage stamp in his honor in 1998. A film, “Leadbelly,” loosely based on his life was released in 1976 and the book, “The Life and Legend of Leadbelly,” was published in 1999.

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Today in Black History, 1/19/2015

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• January 19, 1887 Clementine Hunter, folk artist, was born at Hidden Hill Plantation in Natchitoches Parish, Louisiana. At 15, Hunter moved to Melrose Plantation where she spent most of her life picking cotton and never learning to read or write. Hunter was a self-taught artist who produced between four and five thousand paintings in her lifetime. In the 1940s, she sold her paintings for as little as a quarter. By the 1970s, they were selling for hundreds of dollars and today they are sold for thousands of dollars. Hunter was the first African American artist to have a solo exhibition at the New Orleans Museum of Art and although she became a respected artist and folk art legend, she spent most of her life in poverty. Hunter died January 1, 1988. Several biographies of Hunter have been published, including “Clementine Hunter: American Folk Artist” (1990), “Painting by Heart: The Life and Art of Clementine Hunter” (2000), and “Clementine Hunter: Her Life and Art” (2012).

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Today in Black History, 1/18/2015

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• January 18, 1856 Daniel Hale Williams, the first African American cardiologist in the United States, was born in Hollidaysbhttp://blackinventor.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/rotate-danielwilliams1.jpgurg, Pennsylvania. Williams earned his Doctor of Medicine degree from Chicago Medical College (now Northwestern University Medical School) in 1883. On May 4, 1891, he founded Provident Hospital, the first integrated hospital in the United States, and training school for nurses in Chicago, Illinois. On July 9, 1893, Williams performed an operation on a man that had been stabbed in the chest. The operation required that he open the man’s chest, and close the wound around the heart. This is often noted as the first successful surgery on the heart. He co-founded the National Medical Association for Black doctors in 1895. He became a charter member, and the only Black member, in the American College of Surgeons in 1913. He received honorary doctorate degrees from Howard University and Wilberforce University. Williams died August 4, 1931. Biographies of Williams include “Daniel Hale Williams: Negro Surgeon” (1968) and “Daniel Hale Williams: Open Heart Doctor” (1970). The Daniel Hale Williams Preparatory School of Medicine in Chicago is named in his honor.

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Today in Black History, 1/17/2015

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• January 17, 1759 Paul Cuffee, businessman and abolitionist, was born on Cuttyhunk Island, Massachusetts. At 16, Cuffee signed on to a whaling ship and by the time he was 21 owned a fleet of ships and a 116 acre farm. As Cuffee became more successful, he invested in more ships and made a sizable fortune. Cuffee believed that the emigration of Black people to colonies outside of the United States was a viable solution to the race problem in America and in 1811 launched his first expedition to Sierra Leone. While in Sierra Leone, he helped to establish the Friendly Society of Sierra Leone, a trading organization run by Black people. Cuffee died September 9, 1817. Biographies of Cuffee include “Paul Cuffee: Black America and the African Return” published in 1972 and “Paul Cuffee: Black Entrepreneur and Pan-Africanist” published in 1988. He is honored with a feast day on the liturgical calendar of the Episcopal Church on March 4.

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Today in Black History, 1/16/2015

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• January 16, 1865 Union General William T. Sherman issued Special Field Order No. 15 which confiscated as Federal property a strip of coastline stretching from Charleston, South Carolina to the St. John’s River in Florida. The order redistributed the 400,000 acres of land to newly freed Black families in 40-acre segments. In a later order, Sherman also authorized the army to loan mules to the newly settled Black farmers. This is the likely origin of the phrase “forty acres and a mule.” Unfortunately, the order was a short-lived promise for Black people. President Andrew Johnson overturned Sherman’s order in the fall of 1865 and returned the land to the planters who had originally owned it.

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Today in Black History, 1/15/2015

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• January 15, 1891 Bridget “Biddy” Mason, nurse, real estate entrepreneur and philanthropist, died. Mason was born enslaved August 15, 1818 in Hancock County, Georgia. She was given to a couple as a wedding present and they took her to Mississippi and then to California. California was a free state and any enslaved person brought into the state was supposed to be free. The couple refused to free Mason. Therefore, she petitioned a Los Angeles court and was granted her freedom. Mason worked as a nurse and a midwife and was one of the first African Americans to purchase land in the city. She amassed a fortune of nearly $300,000 which she shared with charities. She was instrumental in founding a traveler’s aid center and an elementary school for Black children. In 1872, Mason donated the land to, and was a founding member of, First African Methodist Episcopal Church, the city’s first and oldest Black church. Mason is an honoree in the California Social Work Hall of Distinction and is annually celebrated on Biddy Mason Day November 19th. Her biography, “The Life and Times of Biddy Mason,” was published in 1976.

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Today in Black History, 1/14/2015

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• January 14, 1904 Issac Payne, Congressional Medal of Honor recipient, died. Payne was born in 1854 in Coahuila, Mexico. He was a descendant of runaway enslaved Black people who lived with the Seminole Indian tribe. Payne immigrated to the United States in 1871 when the U. S. Army promised the Black Seminoles land, rations, and pay to serve as scouts. He enlisted as a trumpeter and on April 25, 1875 he and three other men “participated in a charge against 25 hostiles while on a scouting patrol” by the Pecos River in Texas. His actions earned him the medal, America’s highest military decoration. Payne left the army in 1901 and not much else is known of his life.

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Today in Black History, 1/13/2015

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• January 13, 1835 Isaac Myers, labor leader, was born in Baltimore, Maryland. Myers received his early education from a private day school because Maryland provided no public education for African American children. At 16, he became an apprentice to a Black ship caulker. Four years later, he was supervising the caulking of clipper ships operating out of Baltimore. Soon after the end of the Civil War, Myers founded the Colored Caulkers Trade Union Society. On February 12, 1866, the society purchased a shipyard and railway which they named the Chesapeake Marine Railway and Dry Dock Company. Within months, the company employed 300 Black caulkers. The company ceased operation in 1884. On January 13, 1869, the Colored National Labor Union was founded with Myers as the first president. The union was founded to pursue equal representation for African Americans in the workforce. Although the CNLU welcomed all workers no matter their race, gender, or occupation, the dominant society and government did not take it seriously and it disbanded in 1871. Myers went on to organize and become president of the Maryland Colored State Industrial Fair Association, the Colored Businessmen’s Association of Baltimore, the Colored Building and Loan Association, and the Aged Ministers Home of the African Methodist Episcopal Church. Myers died in 1891. The Frederick Douglass – Isaac Myers Maritime Park in Baltimore is an educational and national heritage site that highlights African American maritime history.

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Today in Black History, 1/12/2015

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• January 12, 1850 John Lewis Waller, the first Black person to cast an electoral ballot for President of the United States, was born enslaved in New Madrid County, Missouri. Waller and his family were freed by a Union infantry regiment in 1862. Wallehttp://www.blackpast.org/files/blackpast_images/waller_john.jpgr moved to Cedar Rapids, Iowa in 1874 and began to study for the law. He was admitted to the Iowa bar in 1877 and moved to Leavenworth, Kansas in 1878 and opened a law practice. In 1882, he founded the Western Recorder, the first Black newspaper in Kansas. Waller was appointed deputy city attorney for Topeka, Kansas in 1887. The next year, he was selected a member of the presidential electoral college. Waller ran for Kansas State Auditor in 1890 but lost. In 1891, President Benjamin Harrison appointed him U. S. Consul to Madagascar. When his term ended in 1874, the island’s monarchy granted him 15,000 acres of land which Waller planned to use for Black Americans who wished to relocate. The French government viewed this as a threat to their colonial ambitions and had Waller sentenced to 20 years in prison. He was released after 10 months as the result of intervention by President Grover Cleveland. Waller returned to the U. S. and was an officer with the 23rd Kansas Volunteers who fought in Cuba during the Spanish-American War. Waller died in October, 1907. “A Black Odyssey: John Lewis Waller and the Promise of American Life, 1878-1900” was published in 1981.

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Today in Black History, 1/11/2015

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• January 11, 1924 Slim Harpo, hall of fame blues harmonica player and singer, was born James Isaac Moore in Lobdell, Louisiana. After his parents died, Harpo dropped out of school and worked as a longshoreman and construction worker while performing in bars, picnics, and on the streets. He started his recording career in 1957 with “I’m a King Bee” which was a regional hit. His first national hit was “Rainin’ In My Heart” (1961) which reached number 17 on the Billboard R&B chart. By 1964, a number of British bands had recorded versions of his singles, including The Rolling Stones, The Yardbirds, and Pink Floyd. Harpo had his biggest commercial success in 1966 with “Baby Scratch My Back” which reached number one of the Billboard R&B chart and number 16 on the Pop chart. Harpo died January 31, 1970. He was posthumously inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 1985. The Slim Harpo Music Awards are awarded annually in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

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Today in Black History, 1/10/2015

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• January 10, 1750 James Varick, founder and the first Bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, was born near Newburgh, New York. Varick acquired an elementary education and for many years worked as a shoemaker and tobacco cutter. After leaving the predominantly White church he had been associated with for 30 years over their racial policies in 1800, Varick and other Black members established the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church. Varick was ordained a deacon in 1806 and was elected the first bishop in 1822. He was re-elected in 1824. Varick was a fierce opponent of slavery and fought for equal rights for African Americans. He was one of the Black leaders that petitioned the New York State Constitutional Convention to grant Black people the right to vote. He also actively supported the establishment of Freedoms Journal, the first Black newspaper in the United States. Varick died July 22, 1827. The James Varick Community Center was established in New York City in 1973.

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