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Today in Black History, 4/20/2014

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• April 20, 1906 Everett Frederick Morrow, businessman and the first African American to hold an executive position at the White House, was born in Hackensack, New Jersey. Morrow graduated from Bowdoin College in 1930 and was employed by the National Urban League and the NAACP as field secretary before entering the United States Army in 1942. He graduated from Officer Candidate School in 1943 and was discharged in 1946 as a major of artillery. In 1948, he earned his Juris Doctor degree from Rutgers University. In 1955, he joined President Dwight Eisenhower’s staff as administrative officer for special projects where he served until 1961. In 1963, Morrow published his account of the experience in his autobiography “Black Man in the White House.” In 1964, he became the first Black corporate executive at Bank of America. He received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Bowdoin in 1970. Morrow died July 20, 1994.

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Today in Black History 4/19/2014

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• April 19, 1841 Pierre Caliste Landry, the first African American to serve as mayor of an American city, was born enslaved in Ascension Parish, Louisiana. In 1854, Landry was sold at public auction to a prominent Louisiana family where he was educated in their primary and technical schools. After the Civil War ended, Landry was freed and he moved with his family to Donaldsonville, Louisiana. There he founded two Black schools, built a prosperous business, and became an influential leader in the Black community. In 1868, Landry was elected Mayor of Donaldsonville and served a one-year term. In 1872, he was elected to the Louisiana House of Representatives and in 1874 to the state senate where he served until 1880. While in the house, he authored the bill to create New Orleans University, the third Black private college in Louisiana. In 1891, Landry was elected to the highest position in the Methodist Episcopal Church, Presiding Elder of the South New Orleans District. He later served as principal and dean of several high schools. Landry died December 22, 1921.

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Today in Black History 4/18/2014

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• April 18, 1813 James McCune Smith, physician, abolitionist and author, was born in New York City. After graduating from the African Free School, Smith tried to attend several American colleges but was denied admission because of his race. Therefore, he attended the University of Glasgow in Scotland where he graduated at the top of his class with his Bachelor of Arts degree in 1835, his Master of Arts degree in 1836, and a medical degree in 1837. In 1837, he returned to New York as the United States’ first professionally trained African American physician. In 1846, he was appointed the only doctor for the Free Negro Orphan Asylum where he worked for more than 20 years. He also opened what is believed the first Black pharmacy in the U. S. Smith was a member of the American Anti-Slavery Society and in 1850 was one of the organizers of the Committee of Thirteen which was formed to resist the Fugitive Slave Law. During the mid-1850s, he worked with Frederick Douglass to establish the National Council of Colored People. Smith was a prolific writer whose works include “The Destiny of the People of Color” (1843) and “Ira Aldridge” (1860). He also wrote the introduction to Douglass’ second autobiography, “My Bondage and My Freedom” (1855), in which he stated “the worst of our institutions, in its worst aspect, cannot keep down energy, truthfulness, and earnest struggle for the right.” In 1863, Smith was appointed professor of anthropology at Wilberforce College but was too ill to take the position. He died November 17, 1865. James McCune Smith School in New York City is named in his honor.

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Today in Black History 4/17/2014

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• April 17, 1823 Mifflin Wistar Gibbs, businessman, politician and the first elected African American municipal judge, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. After the 1849 gold rush, Mifflin moved to San Francisco, California where he became a successful retail merchant and a leader of the San Francisco Black community. In 1855, he founded The Mirror of the Times, the first Black newspaper west of the Mississippi River. In 1858, he moved to Victoria, British Columbia to escape growing racial prejudice in California and in 1866 became the first Black man elected to the Victoria City Council. Gibbs returned to the United States in 1870 and in 1871 settled in Little Rock, Arkansas and began to study the law. He passed the bar examination in 1872 and in 1873 was elected Little Rock Police Judge, a position he held until 1875. In 1877, President Rutherford Hayes appointed Gibbs registrar of the Little Rock district land office. President Benjamin Harrison appointed him receiver of public monies in 1889 and President William McKinley appointed him U. S. consul to Madagascar in 1897. In 1903, Gibbs founded the Capital City Savings Bank which by 1905 had deposits of $100,000. Gibbs died July 11, 1915. Gibbs published his autobiography, “Shadow and Light: An Autobiography with Reminiscences of the Last and Present Century,” in 1902.

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President's Message, April 2014

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Detroit Free Press columnist Rochelle Riley wrote a series of articles this past February drawing attention to the financial needs of The Wright Museum. The museum has weathered a 63% reduction in funding from the City of Detroit since 2009, while at the same time increasing programming and attendance. The need for funding has never been greater, especially as we approach our 50th anniversary in 2015.

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 her columns do make an important point: that The Wright needs both city and community support to be sustainable. To that end, donations have spiked over the past few months, thanks in part to the efforts of Judge Craig Strong, who had great success with his annual membership drive. But we’ve had many individuals ask, “What else can I do to help?”

GIVE A GRAND
Our Give a Grand, Make a Million program aims to create a long-term, sustainable base of committed supporters who want to have a major impact on the museum’s present and future. We need 1,000 individuals to pledge $1,000 each year, resulting in $1 million in annual community support to maintain general operations. This can also be leveraged for additional funding from corporate and foundation sources. No other institution that we know of has such a program, and this will be a real “game changer” for the museum – to learn more, call us at (313) 494- 5853, visit TheWright.org/giveagrand, or see the article inside this newsletter. Your support now can help us do more than ever before.

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The Honorable Damon J. Keith with Juanita Moore during the judge’s 27th Annual Soul Food luncheon (Courtesy of The Detroit News Archives)

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Today in Black History 4/16/2014

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• April 16, 1861 Isaac Burns Murphy, hall of fame jockey, was born in Frankfort, Kentucky. Murphy competed in 11 Kentucky Derby’s and was the first jockey to ride three derby winners, Buchanan in 1884, Riley in 1890, and Kingman in 1891. Over his career, Murphy won 628 of the 1,412 starts, a winning percentage of 44.5% that historians feel “there is no chance that his record of winning will ever be surpassed.” At his peak in the late 1880s, he was the highest paid athlete in America, earning close to $20,000 a year. Murphy died February 12, 1896. He was the first jockey inducted into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in 1955 and the official Kentucky Derby website states, “Isaac Murphy is considered one of the greatest race riders in American history.” Since 1995, the National Turf Writers Association has given the Isaac Murphy Award to the jockey with the highest winning percentage for the year. “Perfect Timing: How Isaac Murphy Became One of the World’s Greatest Jockeys” was published in 2006 and a book of poetry, “Isaac Murphy: I Dedicate This Ride,” was published in 2010.

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Today in Black History 4/15/2014

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• April 15, 1791 John Marrant, one to the first African American preachers and missionaries, died. Marrant was born June 15, 1755 in New York City but raised in Charleston, South Carolina. During the Revolutionary War, the British forced him into the navy where he served for seven years. In 1782, he began training as a Methodist minister and was ordained in 1785. That year, he was sent to Nova Scotia to minister to several thousand African Americans who had fled north during the Revolutionary War. In 1788, Marrant became the chaplain of the Prince Hall Grand Lodge Free and Accepted Masons in Boston, Massachusetts. In 1790, Marrant traveled to London, England where he died. Marrant published his memoir, “A Narrative of the Lord’s Wonderful Dealings with John Marrant, A Black,” in 1785. His memoir was so popular that it was reprinted more than 17 times. A sermon he delivered in 1789 and his journal from 1785 to 1790 were also published.

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Today in Black History 4/14/2014

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• April 14, 1816 The Bussa Rebellion, the first of three large-scale rebellions in the British West Indies that shook public faith in slavery, started in Barbados. The rebellion was led by an enslaved man named Bussa who had been born free in Africa but was captured by African slave merchants and brought to Barbados. Bussa commanded approximately 400 freedom fighters and was killed in battle. In 1985, the Bussa Emancipation Statue was unveiled in Barbados and in 1999 Bussa was named the first national hero of Barbados.

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Today in Black History 4/13/2014

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• April 13, 1873 The Colfax Massacre occurred in Colfax, Louisiana when White men armed with rifles and a small canon overpowered Black freedmen and state militia trying to control the parish courthouse after a contested election for governor. A military report to Congress in 1875 identified 81 Black men by name who had been killed and estimated that 15 to 20 bodies were thrown in the Red River and another 18 secretly buried. An attempt to prosecute a few of the perpetrators led to the 1876 Supreme Court decision in United States v. Cruikshank, that the protections of the Fourteenth Amendment did not apply to the actions of individuals, but only to actions of the state. More information about the massacre can be found in “The Colfax Massacre: The Untold Story of Black Power, White Terror, & The Death of Reconstruction” (2007) and “The Day Freedom Died: The Colfax Massacre, the Supreme Court and the Betrayal of Reconstruction” (2008).

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Today in Black History, 4/12/2014

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• April 12, 1825 Richard Harvey Cain, minister, abolitionist and congressman, was born in Greenbrier County, Virginia. Cain attended Wilberforce University and a divinity school in Missouri. He joined the African Methodist Episcopal Church in 1848 and in 1865 moved to South Carolina as superintendent of AME missions. In 1872, Cain was elected to the United States House of Representatives from South Carolina. He did not seek re-election in 1874 but was elected a second time in 1876 and served one term. In 1880, Cain was ordained an AME bishop serving the diocese of Louisiana and Texas and during that time helped found Paul Quinn College, serving as president until 1884. Cain died January 18, 1897.

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Today in Black History, 4/11/2014

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• April 11, 1881 Spelman College, the oldest historically Black college for females, was founded as the Atlanta Baptist Female Seminary by two teachers from Massachusetts with 11 students and $100. In 1883, the school relocated to a nine acre site and in 1884 John D. Rockefeller provided funding to retire the debt on the property. The name of the school was changed to Spelman Seminary in honor of Rockefeller’s wife. In 1888, Sophia B. Packard was appointed the first of Spelman’s nine presidents. In 1924, the school became Spelman College, in 1929 it became part of the Atlanta University Center, and in 1932 it was accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. Today, the campus consists of 26 buildings on 39 acres with 2,400 students and 175 faculty members. Notable alumnae include Pearl Cleage, Marian Wright Edelman, Bernice Johnson Regon, and Alice Walker.

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Today in Black History, 4/10/2014

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• April 10, 1926 Johnnie Tillmon Blackston, welfare reformer, was born in Scott, Arkansas. The daughter of sharecroppers, Blackston never finished high school. When things went bad in Arkansas, she left her first husband and moved to Los Angeles, California with her six children. There she worked in a laundry and received Aid to Families With Children. During that time, welfare inspectors routinely invaded the privacy of recipients, checking on their possessions and ensuring that they were not living with men. In 1963, Blackston organized a meeting of other welfare recipients to protest these invasions. Out of that meeting came a statewide organization, Aid to Needy Children Mothers Anonymous. That organization inspired the creation of the National Welfare Rights Organization with Blackston as executive director. The NWRO successfully campaigned for reforms that removed many of the system’s paternalistic trappings. After the NWRO closed in 1974, Blackston worked as a legislative aide and served on state and local committees concerned with welfare until her death November 22, 1995.

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Liberation Film Series presents Lumumba at The Wright Museum; Free film screening & discussion includes current challenges in the Congo

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The Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History’s Liberation Film Series presents a free screening of Lumumba, the true story of the rise to power and brutal assassination of the formerly vilified and later redeemed Prime Minister of the independent Congo, Patrice Lumumba. The screening will be followed by a discussion on “Lumumba: The Man, His Ideas, and Today's Challenge in the Congo,” led by Dr. Rita Kiki (Nkiru) Edozie of Michigan State University and Maurice Carney of the Friends of the Congo organization. This free event takes place Saturday, April 12, 2014, starting at 2 pm at the museum, located at 315 East Warren Avenue in Detroit.

Using newly discovered historical evidence, Lumumba renders an emotional and tautly woven account of the mail clerk and beer salesman with a flair for oratory and an uncompromising belief in the capacity of his homeland to build a prosperous, independent, and truly African nation free of its former Belgium overlords. Lumumba emerges as the heroic sacrificial lamb dubiously portrayed by the international media and led to slaughter by commercial and political interests in Belgium, the United States, the international community, and Lumumba's own administration. It is a true story of political intrigue and murder where political entities, captains of commerce, and the military dovetail in their quest for economic and political hegemony.

The Berlin (Congo) Conference of 1884 - 1885 established agreements for Europeans to increase their colonialism of Africa to gain access to vast mineral resources, free labor, wealth and geostrategic locations. In 1878, King Léopold II of Belgium joined forces with Henry Morton Stanley, under the guise of philanthropic interests, to obtain the Congo Free State - what is today the Democratic Republic of the Congo - as his personal property. Leopold criminally “owned and ruled” the Congo Free State for 23 years (1885 - 1908) and earned the equivalent of one billion dollars primarily from the extraction of rubber, ivory, and the exploitation of free African labor. King Léopold II’s reign resulted in the mutilation and murder of over 13 million Congolese, approximately half of the population of the region. The historian Walter Rodney’s 1972 magnum opus, entitled “How Europe Underdeveloped Africa,” further delineates this atrocity. For 52 years following King Léopold II, from 1908 to 1960, the Congolese people suffered under the foot of Belgian colonization.

Patrice Émery Lumumba (born Élias Okit'Asombo, July 2, 1925 – January 17, 1961) was a Congolese, pan African revolutionary leader who helped his country win its independence from Belgium in June 1960 and became the first democratically elected Prime Minister of the Republic of the Congo (now known as the Democratic Republic of the Congo). On January 17, 1961, after being beaten and tortured, Patrice Lumumba was assassinated. This criminal act, sanctioned by U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower, was coordinated by CIA Director Allan Dulles (and attempted by his agents Victor Hedgman and Joseph Scheider) and Belgian, British (M16) and United Nation forces in collusion with United States-financed Congolese mercenaries Joseph-Desiré Mobutu, Joseph Kasavubu, Moïse Kapenda Tshombe, and their associates.

Directed by Raoul Peck, the story of Lumumba serves as one of many possible entry points for examining the history of Africa’s exploitation and how it continues to inform the continent’s present and future, and serves as a substantive comparison to the continuing fight for justice and rights of African Americans.

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, The African History Network Show, 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, 4/9/2014

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• April 9, 1866 The Civil Rights Act of 1866 was passed by the United States Congress. The act provided that “All persons within the jurisdiction of the United States shall have the same right in every State and Territory to make and enforce contracts, to sue, be parties, give evidence, and to the full and equal benefit of all laws and proceedings for the security of persons and property as is enjoyed by white citizens, and shall be subject to like punishment, pains, penalties, taxes, licenses, and exactions of every kind and to no other.” The problem with the act was that it contained no remedies for violations and because those being discriminated against had limited access to legal help, it essentially left victims without any recourse.

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Today in Black History, 4/8/2014

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• April 8, 1872 Ruth Ada Gaines-Shelton, playwright, was born in Glasgow, Missouri. Shelton-Gaines graduated from Wilberforce University in 1895 and taught school until 1898. After marrying, Gaines wrote many plays but her only known published work is “The Church Fight” which was published in the Crisis Magazine in May, 1926. This play is significant because it documents the creative activities of Black women within their own communities during a time when most other avenues of opportunity were closed. “The Church Fight” continues to be performed today. Not much else is known of Gaines-Shelton’s life, including the date of her death.

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Today in Black History, 4/7/2014

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• April 7, 1803 Francois-Dominique Toussaint L’Ouverture, Haitian patriot and revolutionary leader, died. Toussaint was born enslaved May 20, 1743 in Saint-Domingue, Hispaniola (now Haiti). At an early age, Toussaint’s master recognized his superior intelligence and taught him French, gave him duties which allowed him to educate himself, and freed him at 33. Beginning in 1791, Toussaint led enslaved Black people in a long struggle for independence from French colonizers. By 1796, Toussaint was the dominant figure in Haiti and tried to rebuild the collapsed economy and reestablish commercial contacts with the United States and Britain. However, in 1802 he was kidnapped by the French and died in a French prison. Toussaint figures importantly in the early 19th century writings of several authors as a symbol and exemplar of resistance to slavery and as an example of the potential of the Black race. He also inspired a number of 20th century works, including Leslie Pinckey Hill’s “Toussaint L’Ouverture: A Dramatic History” (1928) and Aime Cesaire’s “Toussaint Louverture” (1960). Toussaint’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 4/6/2014

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• April 6, 1712 The New York City Slave Revolt started when 23 enslaved Africans killed nine Whites and injured six. As a result, 70 Black people were arrested and jailed, 27 were put on trial and 21 were convicted and executed. Also laws governing the lives of Black people in New York were made more restrictive. Africans were not permitted to gather in groups of more than three, crimes such as property damage, rape, and conspiracy were made punishable by death, and free black people were not allowed to own land.

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Today in Black History, 4/5/2014

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• April 5, 1839 Robert Smalls, businessman and politician, was born enslaved in Beaufort, South Carolina. In 1862, while serving as a helmsman on a Confederate military transport, he and other Black crewman took over the ship and handed it over to the Union Navy. This action made Smalls famous in the North and Congress passed a bill rewarding Smalls and his crewman prize money for the captured ship. Smalls returned to Beaufort and purchased the estate of his former master. Smalls served as a member of the South Carolina House of Representatives from 1865 to 1870, the South Carolina Senate from 1871 to 1874, and the United States House of Representatives from 1875 to 1879 and 1882 to 1883. Smalls also served as U. S. Collector of Customs from 1889 to 1911. Smalls died February 23, 1915. The Robert Smalls House in Beaufort was designated a National Historic Landmark May 30, 1973 and Robert Smalls Middle School in Beaufort is named in his honor. On September 15, 2007, the U. S. Army commissioned a Logistics Support Vessel in his name, the first army vessel named for an African American. Biographies of Small include “From Slavery to Public Service: Robert Smalls, 1839 – 1915” (1971) and “Gullah Statesman: Robert Smalls From Slavery to Congress, 1839 – 1915” (1995). In 2012, an exhibition, “The Life and Times of Congressman Robert Smalls,” was curated by the South Carolina State Museum.

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Today in Black History, 4/4/2014

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• April 4, 1910 Barthelemy Boganda, the first Prime Minister of the Central African Republic, was born. Boganda was adopted and educated by Roman Catholic missionaries. In 1938, he was ordained as the first Roman Catholic priest from his region. In 1946, Boganda was elected to the French National Assembly where he maintained a political platform against racism and the colonial regime. He also founded the Movement for the Social Evolution of Black Africa. On December 1, 1958, Boganda declared the establishment of the Central African Republic and became the first prime minister. Boganda died March 29, 1959 in an airplane crash. A little more than a year after his death, the Central African Republic attained formal independence from France. Boganda is considered a hero and the father of his nation. Many places in the CAR are named in his honor and March 29 is Boganda Day, a public holiday.

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Today in Black History, 4/3/2014

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• April 3, 1838 John Willis Menard, the first African American elected to the United States Congress, was born in Kaskaskia, Illinois. During the Civil War, Menard worked in the U. S. Department of Interior and in 1863 was sent to British Honduras to investigate a proposed colony for previously enslaved African Americans. After the war, Menard moved to New Orleans, Louisiana. In 1868, he was elected to Congress to fill an unexpired term but was denied the seat due to a challenge by the loser. After hearing the arguments of both candidates, the House decided to seat neither man. During the process, Menard became the first African American to address the U. S. House of Representatives. Later, Menard moved to Florida where he served in the Florida House of Representatives and as justice of the peace for Duval County. He also was the editor of the Florida News and the Southern Leader from 1882 to 1888. Menard died October 8, 1893.

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