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Today in Black History, 3/4/2015

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• March 4, 1842 James Forten, abolitionist and businessman, died. Forten was born September 2, 1766 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. At 15, he served on a ship during the Revolutionary War and invented a device to handle ship sails. He started a very successful sailmaking company in 1786 and became one of the wealthiest African Americans in post-colonial America. Forten, with the help of Rev. Richard Allen and Absalom Jones, enlisted 2,500 African Americans to defend Philadelphia during the War of 1812. They also worked together to establish the Convention of Color in 1817. By the 1830s, Forten was one of the most powerful voices for people of color throughout the North. He helped William Lloyd Garrison and Robert Purvis form the American Anti-Slavery Society in 1833 and provided generous financial support to the organization over the years. When Forten died, he left behind an exemplary family, a sizable fortune, and a legacy of philanthropy and activism that inspired generations of Black Philadelphians. On April 24, 1990, a historical marker was dedicated in his honor in Philadelphia. His biography, “A Gentleman of Color: The Life of James Forten,” was published in 2002.

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Today in Black History, 3/3/2015

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• March 3, 1807 President Thomas Jefferson signed into law legislation to ban the importation of enslaved people effective January 1, 1808. While the law outlawed the importation of enslaved people to the United States, it did not end the buying and selling of enslaved people within the U. S. That would not occur until the end of the Civil War and the passage of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution December 6, 1865.

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Today in Black History, 3/2/2015

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• March 2, 1875 Charles Harmon Bullock, Sr., educator, was born in Charlottesville, Virginia. After graduating from the Jefferson Normal School in 1892, Bullock became a teacher in the segregated Charlottesville public school system. He also served as a correspondent for The Daily Progress, a local African American newspaper. After the Young Men’s Christian Association decided to create “Colored” YMCA’s, Bullock organized one in Charlottesville and served as executive secretary. He moved to Brooklyn, New York in 1900 and organized the first “Colored” YMCA in that borough and again served as executive secretary. From 1906 to 1916, Bullock managed the “Colored” YMCA in Louisville, Kentucky. During that time, he managed the construction of a new building for the YMCA. He transferred to Montclair, New Jersey in 1916 and served as the director of the “Colored” YMCA until his retirement in 1935 and again erected a new building. Bullock also served as campaign director of the New Jersey United War Work Campaign during World War I. Bullock died May 9, 1950. The Charles H. Bullock Elementary School in Montclair is named in his honor.

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Today in Black History, 3/1/2015

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• March 1, 1841 Blanche Kelso Bruce, the first elected African American United States Senator to serve a full term, was born enslaved in Prince Edward County, Virginia. Because his father was White, he was able to legally free Bruce and arrange for a trade apprenticeship. Bruce moved to Missouri in 1864 and established a school for Black children. During the Reconstruction Period, he became a wealthy landowner in the Mississippi Delta. Over the years, he won elections in Bolivar County, Mississippi to sheriff, tax collector, and supervisor of education. He was elected by the state legislature to the U. S. Senate in 1874 and served until 1881. Bruce was appointed by President James A. Garfield to be Register of the Treasury in 1881, the first African American whose signature appeared on United States paper currency. Bruce served on the Board of Trustees of Howard University from 1894 to his death March 17, 1898. The Blanche K. Bruce House in Washington, D. C. was declared a National Historic Landmark May 15, 1975 and the Blanche Kelso Bruce Academy School District in Detroit, Michigan is named in his honor. An account of Bruce’s political life and that of his descendents is given in “The Senator and the Socialite: The True Story of America’s First Black Dynasty” (2006).

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Today in Black History, 2/28/2015

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• February 28, 1894 Ernest Judson Wilson, hall of fame Negro Baseball League player and manager, was born in Remington, Virginia. Wilson’s professional career spanned from 1922 to 1945 and he had a career batting average of .351, ranking among the top five hitters in the league. After retiring from baseball, he worked for a road crew in Washington, D. C. Wilson died June 24, 1963. He was posthumously inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2006.

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Today in Black History, 2/27/2015

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• February 27, 1830 Patrick Francis Healy, the first American of African ancestry to be president of a predominantly White college, was born enslaved in Macon, Georgia. Although he was at least three-quarters European in ancestry, Healy was legally considered a slave and Georgia law prohibited the education of enslaved people. Therefore, Healy’s father arranged for him to move north to obtain an education. Healy graduated from the College of the Holy Cross in 1850 and entered the Jesuit order. The order sent him to Europe to study in 1858 because his African ancestry had become an issue in the United States. He earned his doctorate degree from the University of Leuven in Belgium, the first American of African descent to earn a Ph. D. Healy was ordained to the priesthood September 3, 1864, the first Jesuit priest of African descent. Healy returned to the U. S. in 1866 and began teaching at Georgetown University. On July 31, 1874, he was named president of the institution. During his tenure, he helped transform the small 19th century college into a major university for the 20th century. He modernized the curriculum and expanded and upgraded the schools of law and medicine. He also oversaw the construction of Healy Hall which was designated a National Historic Landmark December 23, 1987. He left the college in 1882. Healy died January 10, 1910. The Georgetown Alumni Association established the Patrick Healy Award in 1969 to recognize people who have “distinguished themselves by a lifetime of outstanding achievement and service to Georgetown, the community and his or her profession.” Patrick Francis Healy Middle School in East Orange, New Jersey is named in his honor. “Passing for White: Race, Religion, and the Healy Family, 1820-1920” was published in 2003.

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Voices of the Civil War Episode 37: "Martin Delany"

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FEBRUARY 2015: The Voices of the Civil War is a five-year film series dedicated to celebrating and commemorating the Civil War over the course of the sesquicentennial. Each month, new episodes cover pertinent topics that follow the monthly events and issues as they unfolded for African Americans during the Civil War. Within these episodes there are various primary sources – letters and diaries, newspaper reports, and more - to recount various experiences of blacks during this period. We encourage your feedback and commentary through our Voices of the Civil War web blog.

Click here to visit the Voices of the Civil War blog to see previous episodes.

In February 1865, Martin Robison Delany was commissioned as the first black combat major in the Union army, achieving the highest rank of an African American during the Civil War. In his life he worked to bring educational and economic opportunities to newly freed African Americans, and encouraged emigration back to Africa.

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Today in Black History, 2/26/2015

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• February 26, 1844 James Edward O’Hara, lawyer and congressman, was born in New York City. O’Hara studied law in North Carolina and at Howard University and served as a clerk for the 1868 North Carolina state convention that drafted a new state constitution. He completed his law apprenticeship and passed the North Carolina bar exam in 1871. From 1872 to 1876, O’Hara served as chairman of the board of commissioners for Halifax, North Carolina and from 1883 to 1887 served in the United States House of Representatives. During his time in Congress, O’Hara introduced one of the first bills to make lynching a federal crime. He also introduced a bill to prohibit gender based salary discrimination in education. After being defeated for reelection, he resumed his private law practice. O’Hara died September 15, 1905.

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Today in Black History, 2/25/2015

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• February 25, 1837 Cheyney University, the oldest institution of higher learning for African Americans, was founded in Cheyney, Pennsylvania west of Philadelphia. At its founding, the university was named the African Institute however the name was changed several weeks later to the Institute for Colored Youth. In subsequent years, the school was named Cheyney Training School for Teachers, Cheyney StateTeacher’s College, and Cheyney State College. Today, the university has approximately 1,300 undergraduate students, 180 graduate students, and 125 faculty members. Notable alumni include Bayard Rustin, Ed Bradley, Robert W. Bogle, Congressman Curt Weldon, and Ambassador Joseph M. Segars.

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Today in Black History, 2/24/2015

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• February 24, 1811 Daniel Alexander Payne, clergyman, educator, college administrator and author, was born in Charleston, South Carolina. While studying at home, Payne taught himself mathematics, physical science, and classical languages. He opened his first school in 1829 but was forced to close it in 1835 after South Carolina enacted a law making teaching literacy to free and enslaved people of color subject to imprisonment. Payne joined the African Methodist Episcopal Church in 1840 and was elected a bishop in 1852. In 1856, Payne was a founding member of the board of directors of Wilberforce University which was sponsored by the AME denomination to provide collegiate education to African Americans. He served as president of the university from 1865 to 1877. Payne authored his memoir, “Recollections of Seventy Years,” in 1888 and “The History of the A. M. E. Church” in 1891. Payne died November 2, 1893. Daniel Payne College, a historically Black college in Alabama that closed in 1979, was named in his honor. Payne Theological Seminary in Wilberforce, Ohio is also named in his honor.

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Music Legends Join Patti Austin for The Wright’s 50th Anniversary Celebration; “Oh, Freedom!” honors Black History Month with Grammy Award-winners & local talent

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Several noteworthy additions have been made to the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History’s 50th anniversary concert, "Oh, Freedom! A Musical Journey Through African American History," taking place Sunday, March 1 at 7 pm at the Detroit Opera House. Joining the program are Gospel Superfest lifetime achievement award-winner Vanessa Bell Armstrong; Official Jazz Master Laureate for the City of Detroit Marcus Belgrave; Grammy Award-winning Motown producer Sanchez Harley; keyboardist & musical director for Michael Jackson, Greg Phillinganes; and founder and director of The American Playwright Theatre, Barry Scott.

Presented by Ford Motor Company, “Oh, Freedom!” features Grammy Award-winning singer Patti Austin, a choir with 75 of Detroit’s finest voices, and orchestra in the capstone event for The Wright's 2015 Black History Month, and celebrates the museum's 50th anniversary as it commemorates 500 years of African American history through music, song, and the spoken word. Previous performances by Ms. Austin of “Oh, Freedom!” have been lauded in San Francisco, Nashville, and Memphis. The show will include a tribute to the original founders of The Wright Museum, a medley produced by and starring Phillinganes, who served as musical director for the best-selling album of all time – Michael Jackson’s Thriller, and feature performances by Grammy-nominated gospel artist Vanessa Bell Armstrong, jazz trumpet master Marcus Belgrave, and 30-time Detroit Music Award-winning blues artist Thornetta Davis. The 50th anniversary choir includes Grammy-nominated artist Joan Belgrave, as well as singers from over 20 metropolitan church choirs, the Detroit School of Arts and West Bloomfield High School.

Tickets for Oh Freedom! start at $25 and are available at the Detroit Opera House box office, all Ticketmaster outlets, and by phone at (800) 745-3000. The Wright Museum is also giving away 2 pairs of tickets per day through a promotional text-to-win contest. To enter, entrants can text “Patti” to 72727 anytime from February 23 through February 27. Winners will be selected and notified daily.

For more information visit TheWright.org/ohfreedom. Oh Freedom! is made possible by support from Ford Motor Company, Macy’s, and AARP Michigan.

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Today in Black History, 2/23/2015

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• February 23, 1868 William Edward Burghardt Du Bois, civil rights activist, historian and author, was born in Great Barrington, Massachusetts. Du Bois earned his Bachelor of Arts degree from Fisk University in 1888. He went on to Harvard Univershttp://image1.findagrave.com/photos250/photos/2008/103/6876927_120811469516.jpgity where he earned another Bachelor of Arts degree, cum laude, in 1890, his Master of Arts degree in 1891, and his Ph. D. in 1895, the first African American to earn a doctorate at the university. Du Bois authored 22 books, including “The Philadelphia Negro” (1899), “The Souls of Black Folks” (1903), and “Black Folks, Then and Now” (1939), and helped establish four academic journals. Du Bois was the most prominent intellectual leader and political activist on behalf of African Americans in the first half of the 20th century. He helped found the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in 1909 and for 25 years served as the editor-in-chief of The Crisis magazine. Du Bois was awarded the 1920 NAACP Spingarn Medal. In 1963, Du Bois and his wife became citizens of Ghana where he died April 27, 1963. After his death, the Ghanaian government honored him with a state funeral and the W. E. B. Du Bois Memorial Centre which is located in the Cantonments district of Accra. The site of the house where Du Bois grew up in Great Barrington was designated a National Historic Landmark May 11, 1976 and the United States Postal Service issued a commemorative postage stamp in his honor in 1992. Several structures at universities around the country are named in his honor. The many books about Du Bois include “W. E. B. Du Bois: Negro Leader in a Time of Crisis” (1959) and “W. E. B. Du Bois, American Prophet” (2007). Du Bois’ 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, 2/22/2015

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• February 22, 1839 Octavius Valentine Catto, educator and civil rights activist, was born in Charleston, South Carolina but raised in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Catto graduated from the Institute for Colored Youth (now Cheyney University) in 1858. http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/d/db/Octavius_Catto.jpg/220px-Octavius_Catto.jpgHe did a year of post-graduate work, including private tutoring in Greek and Latin and then returned to ICY to teach English and mathematics. In an 1864 commencement address, Catto spoke on the potential insensitivity of White teachers to the needs and interest of African American students. He stated, “It is at least unjust to allow a blind and ignorant prejudice to so far disregard the choice of parents and the will of the colored tax-payers, as to appoint over colored children white teachers, whose intelligence and success, measured by the fruits of their labors, could neither obtain or secure for them positions which we know would be more congenial to their tastes.” Also in 1864, he was elected corresponding secretary of the Pennsylvania Equal Rights League. He also served as vice president of the State Convention of Colored People in 1865. During the Civil War, Catto helped raise eleven regiments of United States Colored Troops in the Philadelphia area and was commissioned a major. On Election Day, October 10, 1871, Black voters faced intimidation and violence from White people opposed to their voting. On his way to vote, Catto was harassed and shot dead. The man that shot him was not convicted. The Octavius V. Catto Community School in Camden, New Jersey is named in his honor and the Major Octavius V. Catto Medal is awarded by the Philadelphia National Guard.

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Today in Black History, 2/21/2015

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• February 21, 1864 St. Francis Xavier Church in East Baltimore, Maryland, the first Catholic Church in the United States officially established for Negroes, was dedicated. In July, 1791, between 500 and 1,000 Black people fleeing the Haitian Revolution had arrived in Baltimore on six French ships. Most of them were free, wealthy, educated, Catholic, and spoke fluent French. In October, 1863, a group of the refugees purchased the church. By 1871, the church was very active with three Sunday masses, a home for the aged poor, an orphanage, a night school for adults, an industrial school, and a lending library. The church moved to its current location in Baltimore in 1968 and continues to operate today.

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Today in Black History, 2/20/2015

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• February 20, 1895 Frederick Douglass, abolitionist, women’s suffragist, editor, author and statesman, died. Douglass was born enslaved February 14, 1818 in Tuckahoe, Maryland and named Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey. He taught himself to read and write and escaped from slavery in 1838. Douglass delivered his first abolitionist speech at the 1841 Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society’s annual convention. He published his autobiography, “Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave,” in 1845 and within three years it had been reprinted nine times and there were 11,000 copies in circulation. Douglass lectured throughout the United Kingdom to enthusiastic crowds from 1845 to 1847. During that time, he became officially free when his freedom was purchased by British supporters. After returning to the United States, he began producing The North Star and other newspapers. He attended the first women’s rights convention in 1848 and declared that he could not accept the right to vote himself as a Black man if women could not also claim that right. During the Civil War, Douglass helped the Union Army as a recruiter for the 54th Massachusetts Regiment and after the war served as president of the Freedman’s Savings Bank, marshal of the District of Columbia, minister-resident and consul-general to the Republic of Haiti, and charge d’affaires for the Dominican Republic. In 1877, Douglass bought Cedar Hill in Washington, D. C. which was designated the Frederick Douglass National Historic Site February 12, 1988. The United States Postal Service issued a commemorative postage stamp in his honor in 1965 and numerous streets, schools, and other buildings are named in his honor. The many biographies of Douglass include “Slave and Citizen: The Life of Frederick Douglass” (1980) and “Frederick Douglass, Autobiography” (1994). Douglass’ 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, 2/19/2015

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

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Today in Black History, 2/18/2015

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

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Today in Black History, 2/17/2015

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

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Today in Black History, 2/16/2015

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

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Today in Black History, 2/15/2015

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• February 15, 1923 Charles Henry Turner, behavior scientist, zoologist and educator, died. Turner was born February 3, 1867 in Cincinnati, Ohio. He earned his Bachelor of Science degree in 1891 and Master of Science degree in 1892 in biology from the University of Cincinnati. He taught at Clark College (now Clark Atlanta University) from 1893 to 1905. Turner earned his Ph. D. in zoology from the University of Chicago in 1907. Despite his advanced degrees, he taught science at a high school in St. Louis, Missouri from 1908 to his retirement in 1922. He also did significant insect research and published more than 70 papers. One of his more important findings was that insects could modify their behavior based on experience. He also discovered that ants find their way back to their nest in a circular pattern. Turner was also a leader in the Civil Rights Movement in St. Louis, arguing that only through education could the behavior of both White and Black racists be changed, Turner Middle School in St. Louis is named in his honor.

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