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Today in Black History, 7/21/2014

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• July 21, 1818 Charles Lewis Reason, mathematician, educator and civil rights activist, was born 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 (later Cheyney 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 to a jury trial for previously enslaved fugitives in the state. He also headed the successful 1873 effort to outlaw segregation in New York schools. Reason died August 16, 1893.

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Today in Black History, 7/20/2014

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• July 20, 1874 William Henry Ferris, minister, author and one of the founding fathers of African studies, was born in New Haven, Connecticut. Ferris earned his Bachelor of Arts degree from Yale University in 1895. He then studied for the ministry at Harvard Divinity School and earned his Master of Arts degree in journalism from Harvard University in 1900. He then taught school for a number of years before being ordained a minister in the African Methodist Episcopal Church in 1910. Ferris was an active defender of civil rights for African Americans and was a member of the Niagara Movement and the American Negro Academy which promoted higher education for African Americans. In 1913, Ferris published “The African Abroad, or His Evolution in Western Civilization, Tracing His Development under Caucasian Milieu” which challenged societal norms in history, theology, and philosophy as they pertained to African Americans. In 1919, he became assistant president general and literary editor on the Universal Negro Improvement Association’s Negro World newspaper. Ferris died in 1941.

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Today in Black History, 7/19/2014

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• July 19, 1783 Richard Potter, the first successful Black magician in the United States, was born in Boston, Massachusetts. Potter was the son of an English baronet and an African American serving woman. As a result, he was educated in Europe and traveled widely before becoming an entertainer. Potter was known for his skills in ventriloquism, hypnosis, and magic and performed throughout New England and Canada. He became a wealthy man and in 1813 bought a 175 acre farm in Andover, New Hampshire in a village now known as Potter Place. Potter died September 20, 1835.

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Today in Black History, 7/18/2014

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• July 18, 1753 Lemuel Haynes, the first African American to serve as a pastor of a White congregation, was born in West Hartford, Connecticut. At five months, Haynes was given over to indentured servitude and remained until he was freed at 21. After being freed, Haynes joined the minutemen and served during the Revolutionary War. After the war, he began to write extensively, criticizing the slave trade and slavery as an institution. He wrote “liberty is equally as precious to a Black man, as it is to a White one, and bondage as equally as intolerable to the one as it is to the other.” By the early 1780s, Haynes had become a leading Calvinist minister and starting in 1783 ministered to Rutland’s West Parish in Vermont for 30 years. In 1804, Middlebury College granted Haynes an honorary Master of Arts degree, the first advanced degree bestowed upon an African American. Haynes died September 28, 1833. His home for the last 11 years of his life in South Granville, New York was declared a National Historic Landmark May 15, 1975. His biography, “Black Puritan, Black Republican: The Life and Thought of Lemuel Haynes, 1753 – 1833” was published in 2003.

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Today in Black History, 7/17/2014

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• July 17, 1794 The African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas, the first Black church in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and the first Black Episcopal Church in the United States, opened its doors. The church was founded in 1792 by Absalom Jones as the African Church of Philadelphia. It developed from the Free African Society, a non-denominational group formed by Jones and Richard Allen who left St. George Methodist Church because of discrimination. While the church has been located in several different building, it has operated continuously since its founding. The church was the first Black church in the country to purchase a pipe organ and the first to hire a Black woman as organist. A historical marker was erected at the original location in 1984 by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission. In 1966, the church dedicated the Absalom Jones chapel with a Festal Eucharist and enshrined his ashes in the altar.

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Today in Black History, 7/16/2014

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• July 16, 1862 Ida Bell Wells-Barnett, journalist and civil and women’s rights activist, was born enslaved in Holly Springs, Mississippi. Wells was freed at the end of the Civil War. She attended Rust College but was expelled for her rebellious behavior after confronting the president of the college. In 1889, Wells became co-owner and editor of Free Speech and Headlight, an anti-segregationist newspaper in Memphis, Tennessee. In 1891, a grocery store owned by three Black men was perceived to be taking away a substantial amount of business from a White owned grocery store across the street. The Black owned store was invaded by a mob resulting in three White men being shot and injured. The three Black owners, who were friends of Wells, were jailed and subsequently lynched. The murder of her friends sparked Wells’ interest in investigative journalism about lynching and becoming the leader of the anti-lynching crusade. In 1892, she published “Southern Horrors: Lynch Law in all Its Phases” and in 1895 published “A Red Record, 1892-1894” which documented lynchings since the Emancipation Proclamation. In 1893, Wells and other Black leaders organized a boycott of the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, Illinois to protest lynchings in the South. Wells was also significantly involved in the founding of the National Association of Colored Women, the National Afro-American Council, which later became the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and the Women’s Era Club, which was renamed the Ida B. Wells Club. Wells spent the latter 30 years of her life working on urban reform in Chicago. Wells died March 25, 1931. In 1990, the United States Postal Service issued a commemorative postage stamp in her honor. “Crusade for Justice: The Autobiography of Ida B. Wells” was published in 1970. Her life is also the subject of a musical drama, “Constant Star,” which debuted in 2006. The Ida B. Wells Housing Project in Chicago is named in her honor. Wells-Barnett’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, 7/15/2014

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• July 15, 1864 Maggie Lena Walker, hall of fame businesswoman, educator and the first female bank president, was born in Richmond, Virginia. Walker attended the Colored Normal School to be trained as a teacher and received her diploma, with honors, in 1883. After graduation, she taught for three years. In 1899, Walker was elected Right Worthy Grand Secretary-Treasurer of the Independent Order of St. Luke, a Black social and civic organization. In 1902, Walker founded the order newspaper, St. Luke Herald, and opened the St. Luke Penny Savings Bank with her as president November 2, 1903. By 1920, the bank had loaned money to purchase 600 homes. In 1930, the bank merged with two other Black owned banks in Richmond to become the Consolidated Bank and Trust Company with Walker as chairman of the board. The bank operates today as the oldest continuously operating minority-owned bank in the country. As a result of her business acumen, the order became financially successful and by 1924 had 100,000 members, 1500 local chapters, and assets of almost $400,000. Walker served as the leader of the Independent Order of St. Luke and chairman of the bank until her death December 15, 1934. She was the founder and lifelong head of the Colored Women’s Council of Richmond which raised money for local projects and maintained a community house. She was the co-founder and vice president of the Richmond branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and served on the national board for ten years. She also served as a trustee of Hartshorn College and Virginia Union University. Her home in Richmond was designated a National Historic Landmark May 15, 1975 and was opened as a museum in 1985. The Maggie L. Walker Governor’s School for Government and International Studies in Richmond is named in her honor. In 2001, Walker was posthumously inducted into the Junior Achievement U. S. Business Hall of Fame. “Maggie L. Walker and the I. O. of St. Luke: The Woman and Her Work” was published in 1927.

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Today in Black History, 7/14/2014

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• July 14, 1848 Walter “Wiley” Jones, one of the first wealthy African Americans in the South, was born enslaved in Madison County, Georgia but raised in Jefferson County, Arkansas. When Jones’s owner enlisted in the Confederate Army in 1861, Jones became a camp servant. After the war, he moved to Pine Bluff, Arkansas and worked as a barber and waiter in a hotel. He saved his money and invested in real estate and opened several businesses, including a successful saloon and horse-racing park. In 1886, Jones became one of the first African Americans to receive a franchise to operate a mule-drawn streetcar system, the Wiley Jones Street Car Lines. Although he never ran for office, Jones was one of the most influential political citizens in Arkansas during the 1880s and 1890s. He was a delegate to several Republican National Coventions and served as Circuit Clerk of Jefferson County from 1892 to 1894. Jones also supported the Colored Industrial Institute and donated land to the St. James Methodist Church. When Jones died December 7, 1904, he was the richest Black person in the state with an estate valued at $300,000.

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Today in Black History, 7/13/2014

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• July 13, 1863 The New York Draft Riots started. Initially intended to express anger at the draft for the Civil War, the protests turned ugly and degraded into “a virtual racial pogrom, with uncounted numbers of Blacks murdered in the streets.” Numerous buildings were destroyed, including an orphanage for Black children. Many of the protesters were immigrants and viewed freed African Americans as competition for scarce jobs. Order was restored after four days and it is estimated that 120 people were killed and 2,000 injured. At least eleven Black men were lynched. Several books have been written about the riots, including “The Armies of the Streets: The New York City Draft Riots of 1863” (1974) and “The New York City Draft Riots: Their Significance for American Society and Politics in the Age of the Civil War” (1990).

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Today in Black History, 7/12/2014

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• July 12, 1849 William Hooper Councill, educator, author, and first principal of what is now Alabama A&M University, was born enslaved in Fayettville, North Carolina. In 1857, Councill, his mother and one of his brothers were sold and eventually ended up in Alabama. His two other brothers were sold separately and he never saw them again. Councill and his family escaped to the North during the Civil War. Councill returned to Alabama in 1865 to attend a freedmen’s school and graduated in 1867. In 1869, he opened Lincoln School in Huntsville, Alabama to educate Black children in the region. In 1875, he was appointed the first principal of the State Colored Normal School at Huntsville (now Alabama A&M University) with the mission to train Black teachers for Alabama’s segregated school system. In 1877, Coucill founded the Huntsville Herald which he edited and published until 1884. He also founded St. John African Methodist Episcopal Church. Council wrote several books, including “Lamp of Wisdom” (1898), “Negro Development in the South” (1901), and “The Bright Side of the Southern Question” (1903). Councill died April 9, 1909. Hooper Councill High School, the first high school for Black students in Huntsville, was named in his honor and operated from 1867 to the 1960s.

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Today in Black History, 7/11/2014

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• July 11, 1821 Lucy Terry, creator of the oldest known work of literature by an African American, died. Terry was born around 1730 and stolen from Africa as an infant and sold into slavery in Rhode Island. On August 25, 1746, Native Americans attacked two White families in Deerfield, Massachusetts in an area called “The Bars.” Terry composed a ballad about the attack titled “Bars Fight” which earned her local acclaim. A successful free Black man purchased Terry’s 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. Her poem was preserved orally until it was published in 1855.

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Today in Black History, 7/10/2014

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• July 10, 1826 Peter Williams, Jr. became the second African American Episcopal priest ordained in the United States. Williams was born in 1786 in New Brunswick, New Jersey. His family moved to New York City where he attended the African Free School. He was also privately taught by the leader of the Episcopal Church. In 1818, Williams led the organization of St. Phillip’s African Church and on this date was ordained a priest. In 1827, he was a co-founder of Freedom’s Journal, the first African American owned and operated newspaper in the U. S. In 1833, he founded the Phoenix Society which provided assistance for impoverished Black New Yorkers. He also served on the executive board of the American Anti-Slavery Society. He helped raise money for the emigration of African Americans to Canada. Williams died in October, 1840.

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Today in Black History, 7/9/2014

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• July 9, 1793 The Act Against Slavery was passed by Upper Canada, that part of Canada that would eventually become Ontario, to prohibit the continuation of slavery. It was the first attempt to abolish slavery in the British Empire. The Act did not immediately abolish slavery but ensured the eventual elimination. The Act stated that all enslaved people in the province would remain enslaved until death, that no new enslaved people could be brought into Upper Canada, and that children born to enslaved females would be freed at age 25. It further stated that any children born to this second generation while they were still enslaved would be free from birth. The Act remained in force until 1833 when the British Slavery Abolition Act abolished slavery in most parts of the British Empire.

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Today in Black History, 7/8/2014

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• July 8, 1777 The Commonwealth of Vermont abolished slavery in their constitution. The constitution declared that all men are born equally free and independent and that no male over the age of 21 or female over the age of 18 may serve another in the role of servant, slave, or apprentice. When Vermont was admitted to the union in 1791, it carried over that constitution and thus became the first state in the United States to have abolished slavery.

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Today in Black History, 7/7/2014

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• July 7, 1851 Charles Albert Tindley, hall of fame gospel music composer, was born in Berlin, Maryland. At birth, Tindley’s father was enslaved but his mother was free, therefore Tindley was considered free. Tindley was primarily self-educated but did attend night courses and took correspondence courses at the Boston University School of Theology, eventually earning a doctorate while working as a janitor at Calvery Methodist Episcopal Church. Tindley became the pastor of that church which under his leadership grew from 130 to a multiracial congregation of 12,500. After serving the congregation for over 30 years, the church was renamed Tindley Temple United Methodist Church in 1924. Tindley was also a noted songwriter and composer of gospel hymns and his composition “I’ll Overcome Someday” (1901) is considered by many to be the basis for the Civil Rights anthem “We Shall Overcome.” Tindley composed more than 60 other hymns, including “Stand by Me” (1905), “Nothing Between” (1905), “Some Day” (1906), and “Leave It There” (1916). Tindley was the first hymn writer to have a hymn copyrighted and in 1916 published a collection of hymns titled “New Songs of Paradise.” Tindley died July 26, 1933. He was posthumously inducted into the Gospel Music Association Hall of Fame in 1993. The Charles Albert Tindley Institute in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania is named in his honor.

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Today in Black History, 7/6/2014

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 • July 6, 1914 Viola Davis Desmond, businesswoman and civil libertarian, was born in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. Desmond wished to train as a beautician but was not allowed to in Halifax because of her race. Therefore, she trained in Montreal, Atlantic City, and New York. After training, Desmond returned to Halifax and started her hair salon. She also established The Desmond School of Beauty Culture, to train other Black females, and Vi’s Beauty Products. While on a business trip in 1946, Desmond’s car broke down in New Glasgow, Nova Scotia and she was told that the repair would take a day. As a result, she decided to see a movie. At the ticket counter, Desmond requested a ticket for a seat on the main floor and believing that was what she was given took a seat on the main floor. Subsequently, the manager of the theater approached her and informed her that it was against their policy to sell a main floor ticket to a Black person and she should move to the balcony where Black people sat. Desmond refused to move and was forcibly removed from the theater and jailed. She was eventually convicted of not paying the one-cent difference in tax between a main floor ticket and a balcony ticket. With the assistance of the Nova Scotia Association for the Advancement of Coloured People, Desmond fought the conviction in court but was ultimately unsuccessful. After that, she closed her business and eventually moved to New York where she died February 7, 1965. On April 14, 2010, Desmond was granted a free pardon, the first such pardon granted in Canada, which admits that the government made a mistake and the law was wrong. A documentary, “Long Road to Justice: The Viola Desmond Story” is available on youtube and a children’s book, “Viola Desmond Won’t Be Budged” was published in 2010. The Viola Desmond Chair in Social Justice at Cape Breton University was established in 2010 and in 2012 Canada Post issued a commemorative postage stamp in her honor. Desmond’s portrait hangs in Government House in Halifax. “Sister to Courage: Stories from the World of Viola Desmond” was published in 2010.

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Today in Black History, 7/5/2014

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• July 5, 1878 Jesse Max Barber, journalist, dentist and civil rights activist, was born in Blackstock, South Carolina. Barber attended Virginia Union University where he was student editor of the University Journal and president of the Literary Society and earned his bachelor’s degree in 1903. In 1904, he began working for the Voice of the Negro, eventually rising to editor-in-chief. The magazine argued for Black civil rights and stressed the importance of chronicling historical events for future generations. By 1906, it was the leading Black magazine in the United States with a circulation of 15,000. After the Atlanta Riots in 1906, Barber was threatened by White vigilantes and was forced to move to Chicago, Illinois. Unable to get financing in Chicago, the magazine folded in 1907. In 1905, Barber was one of the founders of the Niagara Movement. Barber graduated from the Philadelphia Dental School in 1912 and opened an office in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. From 1919 to 1921, he served as president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Philadelphia Chapter and later served as president of the John Brown Memorial Association. Barber died September 20, 1949.

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Today in Black History, 7/4/2014

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• July 4, 1819 George Latimer, famous fugitive from slavery, was born enslaved in Norfolk, Virginia. In his early years, Latimer was a domestic servant until 16 when his labor was hired out. On two separate occasions he spent time in prison as a result of his master’s debt. On October 4, 1842, Latimer and his wife ran away. They hid beneath the deck of a northbound ship that took them to Baltimore, Maryland and eventually made their way to Boston, Massachusetts. Soon after their arrival in Boston, Latimer was recognized as an escapee and was arrested with the intent to return him to his owner. His arrest caused an uproar in Boston and a Latimer Committee was formed. The committee created the Great Massachusetts Petition and collected more than 64,000 signatures for delivery to the State Assembly. The petition significantly contributed to the passage of 1843 Personal Liberty Act, also known as the Latimer Law, which prevented Massachusetts officials from assisting in the detention of suspected fugitive slaves and banned the use of state facilities to detain such suspects. The committee also raised money and eventually purchased Latimer’s freedom for $400. After gaining his freedom, Latimer worked as a paperhanger in Lynn, Massachusetts. Latimer died around 1896. One of his sons was the inventor Lewis Howard Latimer.

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Today in Black History, 7/3/2014

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• July 3, 1844 Macon Bolling Allen became the first African American licensed to practice law in the United States after passing the State of Maine bar exam and earning his recommendation. Allen was born Allen Macon Bolling August 4, 1816 in Indiana. He grew up a free man and learned to read and write on his own. In the early 1840s, he moved to Portland, Maine where he earned his license to practice law. However, because White people were unwilling to have a Black man represent them in court, in 1845 Allen moved to Boston, Massachusetts. Allen passed the Massachusetts bar exam that same year and he and Robert Morris, Jr. opened the first Black law office in the U. S. In 1848, Allen passed another exam to become Justice of the Peace for Middlesex County. After the Civil War, Allen moved to Charleston, South Carolina and in 1873 was appointed Judge in the Inferior Court of Charleston. The next year, he was elected Judge Probate for Charleston County. Later, Allen moved to Washington, D. C. where he worked as an attorney for the Land and Improvement Association. Allen practiced law right up until his death June 11, 1894.

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Today in Black History, 7/2/2014

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• July 2, 1822 Denmark Vesey was executed for planning what would have been one of the largest slave rebellions in the United States. It is thought that Vesey was born around 1767 on the island of St. Thomas. In 1781, he was purchased by Captain Joseph Vesey who eventually settled in Charleston, South Carolina. In 1799, Vesey won $1500 in a city lottery which he used to purchase his freedom and began working as a carpenter. In 1816, he co-founded a branch of the African Methodist Church. Inspired by the revolutionary spirit and actions of enslaved people during the 1791 Haitian Revolution, Vesey began to plan a slave rebellion. His insurrection, which was to take place July 14, 1822, became known to thousands of Black people along the Carolina coast. Their plan was to sail to Haiti after the revolt. The plot was leaked and 67 men were convicted and 35 hanged, including Vesey. Many antislavery activists came to regard Vesey as a hero and during the Civil War Frederick Douglas used Vesey’s name as a battle cry to rally African American regiments. Vesey was the subject of a 1939 opera named after him and a 1980s made for television drama, “Denmark Vesey’s Revolt.” A biography, “He Shall Go Free: The Lives of Denmark Vesey,” was published in 2004.

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