• 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.
• 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.
• 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.
• February 14, 1760 Richard Allen, minister, educator and the founder of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, was born enslaved in Germantown, Pennsylvania. Allen taught himself to read and write and bought his freedom and that of his brother in 1777. He joined the Methodist Society at an early age and was qualified as a preacher in 1784. In 1786, he began to preach at St. George’s United Methodist Church. However due to the church’s segregationist policies, he and Absalom Jones led the Black members out of the church in 1787 to form the Free African Society, a non-denominational mutual aid society. Also that year, Allen purchased a lot that became the site of Bethel AME Church which was dedicated July 29, 1794. That lot is now the site of Mother Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church and is the oldest parcel of real estate in the United States continuously owned by Black people. Allen founded the independent denomination of the African Methodist Episcopal Church in 1816, the first fully independent Black denomination in the United States, and was elected its first bishop. From 1797 to his death March 26, 1831, Allen operated a station on the Underground Railroad for individuals escaping slavery. Allen published his autobiography, “The Life Experience and Gospel Labors of the Rt. Rev. Richard Allen: To Which Is Annexed the Rise and Progress of the African Methodist Episcopal Church in the United States,” in 1800. “Richard Allen: Apostle of Freedom” was published in 1935. Allen’s name is enshrined in the Ring of Genealogy at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit, Michigan.
• February 13, 1818 Absalom Jones, abolitionist and clergyman, died. Jones was born enslaved November 6, 1746 in Milford, Delaware. By 1785, he had bought his and his family’s freedom. Together with Richard Allen, Jones was one of the first African Americans licensed to preach by the Methodist Church. In 1787, they founded the Free African Society, conceived as a non-denominational mutual aid society to help newly freed enslaved people in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. In 1792, Jones founded the African Church of Philadelphia which opened its doors July 17, 1794 as the African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas, the first Black church in Philadelphia. Jones was ordained as the first African American priest in the Episcopal Church in 1804. Jones is listed on the Episcopal calendar of saints and blessed under the date of his decease. The Absalom Jones Episcopal Center at the Atlanta University Center and the Absalom Jones Senior Center in Wilmington, Delaware are named in his honor.
Late in January of 2015, Johnson Publishing Company, owner of Ebony and Essence magazines as well as a host of other Black publications, announced they would be selling their 70-year-old photo archives. The collection, which features iconic photos of Martin Luther and Coretta Scott King, Muhammad Ali and Floyd Patterson’s first fight, and glamorous photos of jazz and blues artist Billie Holiday, has been valued at $40 million by JPC. While many are outraged by JPC’s decision, company CEO Desiree Rogers told the Chicago Tribune, “We really need to monetize that in order to ensure growth in our core businesses.”
Monday February 9, the Michigan Chronicle announced the honorees for the 2015 Women of Excellence Award. Vice President of Community Engagement & Assessment, LaNesha DeBardelaben, was selected alongside Tonya Allen, CEO & President of the Skillman Foundation, Carol Gist the First Black Miss USA, and a variety of female professionals from metropolitan Detroit. Women of Excellence, in its 8th year, will take place on Friday, March 27th at the MGM Grand Casino Hotel.
Administrators at Dartmouth College, an Ivy League institute in Hanover, New Hampshire, have rallied to bring the #BlackLivesMatter phenomenon to the classroom. The African American studies and geography departments at the college have engaged 15 teachers from 10 different departments for a new course, “10 Weeks, 10 Professors: #BlackLivesMatter.” Following the non-indictment of Darren Wilson, the police officer who killed Ferguson teen Michael Brown, Dartmouth College was one of several college campuses where student and faculty formed protests and rallies.
“We hope that students will be able to understand that Ferguson is not just an event in 2014, but something that’s tethered in time to a long history and still-emerging ideas about race in the U.S. and how policing works in an age of social media and distributed surveillance,” says English professor Aimee Bahng.
• February 12, 1865 Henry Highland Garnet became the first African American minister to preach to the United States House of Representatives when he spoke about the end of slavery. Garnet was born enslaved December 23, 1815 near New Market, Maryland. His family escaped to freedom in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1824. They subsequently moved to New York City where he attended the African Free School and the Phoenix High School for Colored Youth from 1826 to 1833. Garnet went on to graduate, with honors, from Oneida Theological Institute of Whitesboro in 1839. He later joined the American Anti-Slavery Society and frequently spoke at abolitionist conferences. He delivered one of his most famous speeches, “Call to Rebellion,” to the National Negro Convention August 21, 1843. In that speech, he called for the enslaved to act for themselves to achieve total emancipation. By 1849, Garnet began to support emigration of Black people to Mexico, Liberia, or the West Indies and he founded the African Civilization Society. Garnet was appointed president of Avery College in 1868 and was appointed U. S. Minister to Liberia in 1881. Garnet died February 13, 1882. The Henry Highland Garnet School for Success in Harlem, New York and the HHG Elementary School in Chestertown, Maryland are named in his honor. His biographies include “Henry Highland Garnet: A Voice of Black Radicalism in the Nineteenth Century” (1977) and “Rise Now and Fly to Arms: The Life of Henry Highland Garnet” (1995).
• February 11, 1783 Jerena Lee, considered the first female preacher in the African Methodist Episcopal Church, was born in Cape May, New Jersey. In her early 20’s, Lee was converted, sanctified, and called to preach. However, her first request for approval was denied. A few years later, Bishop Richard Allen granted her official church approval to preach. Lee preached throughout New England, Canada, and Ohio. She recounted her experiences in her autobiography “The Life and Religious Experience of Jarena Lee, A Coloured Lady” (1836), the first autobiography to be published in the United States by an African American woman. She published an expanded version titled “Religious Experience and Journal of Mrs. Jerena Lee” in 1849. Nothing is known of her life or death after 1857.
The Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History and Ford Motor Company present "Oh, Freedom! A Musical Journey Through African American History," Sunday, March 1 beginning at 7 pm at the Detroit Opera House. This special production featuring Grammy Award-winner Patti Austin, a choir with 75 of Detroit’s finest voices, and orchestra is 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.
Of special note is the 75-voice choir comprised of voices from across metropolitan Detroit representing varying ages, races, and backgrounds. Included are singers representing dozens of choirs, churches, and schools, as well as noteworthy participants such as 30+ Detroit Music Award-winner and blues diva Thornetta Davis, and jazz/gospel/soul vocalist Joan Belgrave.
Grammy Award-winning singer Patti Austin will be available for interviews February 23 – 27. To schedule please contact Nikia Washington at (313) 494-5866 or via email at
Tickets for Oh Freedom! A Musical Journey Through African American History starring Patti Austin start at $25 and are available at the Detroit Opera House box office, all Ticketmaster outlets, and by phone at (800) 745-3000. For more information visit TheWright.org/ohfreedom. Oh Freedom! is made possible by support from Ford Motor Company and Macy’s.
The 2015 Grammy’s (@TheGRAMMYs) which took place this past Sunday, February 8, was filled with sociopolitical messages, including numerous references to the #BlackLivesMatter movement. Legendary musician Stevie Wonder made reference to the lives of Mike Brown and Eric Garner in his performance with musical artist Usher (@Usher) and actor/singer Jamie Foxx (@iamjamiefoxx). In her rendition of Ledisi’s “Take My Hand Precious Lord” from the feature film “Selma,” Beyonce’s (@beyonce) backup singers held their hands up mimicking last year’s “Hands Up Don’t Shoot” protests; she later explained in a behind the scenes look at her performance, she “felt like this [was] an opportunity to show the strength and vulnerability in black people." Pharrell William’s (@pharrell) dancers wore black hoodies to honor slain Florida teen Trayvon Martin and Prince made a brief speech on the need for unity.
Although the latest job market reports show that unemployment rates have decreased to 5.7% around the country, the unemployment rate for African Americans remains nearly double that number at 10.3%. Despite the new job gains of 257,000 in January, 329,000 in December, and 429,000 in November, Blacks are not seeing the benefits of economic progression. Congressman Jim Himes (@jahimes), a democrat from Connecticut cautioned, “As we watch a now strong economic recovery, we must not forget that the recovery is uneven.” On the same sentiment, Valerie Rawlston Wilson (@ValerieRWilson), director of Economic Policy Institute’s program on Race, Ethinicity, and the Economy warned against becoming complacent and missing the opportunity for a full recovery in the Black community.
This is the statistic that new nighttime talk show host Larry Wilmore (@larrywilmore) opened his show with last Wednesday, February 4. Sitting at a table with rapper Common, New York Times columnist Charles Blow (@CharlesMBlow), Center for Urban Families founder Joe Jones, and Nightly Show contributor and comedian Mike Yard (@mikeyardcomedy), Wilmore sought responses on the topic of Black fatherhood. A highly personal issue, the men gave their thoughts on the issue of unwed mothers, their individual childhood situations, and the challenge of the black father vs. the justice system.
• February 10, 1854 Joseph Charles Price, founder and first president of Livingston College, was born in Elizabeth City, North Carolina. Price graduated as class valedictorian from Lincoln University in 1879 and was appointed to the African Methodist Episcopal Church’s delegation to the World Ecumenical Conference in London, England. In London, Price amazed audiences with his powerful speaking and was called “The World’s Orator” by the British press. Over the next year, Price raised $10,000 and returned to North Carolina in 1882 to open Livingston College. Price served as president of the college until his death October 25, 1893. He was elected president of the National Protective Association in 1890 and that same year was voted one of the “Ten Greatest Negroes Who Ever Lived.” His biography, “Joseph Charles Price, Educator and Race Leader,” was published in 1943. A North Carolina Highway Historical Marker was dedicated in his honor in Elizabeth City in 1967.
• February 9, 1902 Gabriel Leon M’ba, the first Prime Minister and first President of the Gabonese Republic, was born in Libreville, Gabon. After studying at a seminary, M’ba held a number of jobs before becoming a custom agent for the colonial administration. As a result of his political activism in favor of Black people, in 1931 M’ba was sentenced to three years in prison and ten years in exile. He returned to Gabon in 1946 and began his political ascent which culminated in his appointment as prime minister. When Gabon gained independence from France August 17, 1960, M’ba became president. He was re-elected in 1967 but died November 27, 1967. The Leon M’ba International Airport in Libreville is named in his honor.
• February 8, 1831 Rebecca Davis Lee Crumpler, the first African American woman to become a physician in the United States, was born in Delaware. Crumpler moved to Charleston, Massachusetts in 1852 and worked as a nurse for eight years. She earned a medical degree from the New England Female Medical College in 1864, the first African American woman in the United States to earn that degree and the only African American to graduate from that college. After the end of the Civil War in 1865, Crumpler moved to Richmond, Virginia where she joined other Black physicians caring for formerly enslaved people who otherwise had no access to medical care. She authored “A Book of Medical Discourses” in 1883. Crumpler died March 9, 1895.
• February 7, 1887 James Herbert “Eubie” Blake, hall of fame composer, lyricist and pianist, was born in Baltimore, Maryland. Blake began taking music lessons at 7 and at 15 was playing piano in a bordello. He began playing in vaudeville in 1912 and shortly after World War I joined forces with Noble Sissle as the Dixie Duo. After vaudeville, the pair created “Shuffle Along” which premiered on Broadway May 23, 1921 and became the first hit Broadway musical written by and about African Americans. It also introduced the hit songs “I’m Just Wild About Harry” and “Love Will Find a Way.” By 1975, Blake had been awarded honorary doctorate degrees by a number of institutions, including Rutgers University, University of Maryland, Howard University, and Dartmouth College. The 1978 Broadway musical “Eubie” featured the works of Blake. On October 9, 1981, Blake received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, from President Ronald W. Reagan and he was inducted into the Big Band and Jazz Hall of Fame in 1983. Blake died February 12, 1983. The United States Postal Service issued a commemorative postage stamp in his honor in 1995. Also that year, Blake was posthumously inducted into the American Theater Hall of Fame. The James Hubert Blake High School opened in Silver Springs, Maryland in 1998. The album “The Eighty – Six Years of Eubie Blake” (1969) was included by the National Recording Preservation Board in the Library of Congress’ National Recording Registry in 2006 as a recording of “cultural, historical, or aesthetical significance.” The Eubie Blake National Jazz Institute and Cultural Center in Baltimore is named in his honor. Blake’s biography, “Eubie Blake,” was published in 1979. “Reminiscing With Sissle and Blake” (2000) recounts the lives and music of Blake and Sissle.
• Cutting edge innovation is the key to Africa’s future.According the Africa Progress Panel (@africaprogress), technological advances will provide a much-needed push for modernization of the agriculture and financial industries. Such advances are already occurring, such as Kenya’s M-PESA, a mobile payment system which provides a problem-to-solution response to the fact that only 25% of Africans have a bank account, while 75% have access to mobile phones. To do your part in ensuring there is a brighter future for Africa, bring your youngest to The Wright Museum’s Links To Science Saturdays, where members of the Renaissance Chapter of the Links, Incorporated educate youth on technology and other S.T.E.M. related subjects.
• This evening, the N.A.A.C.P. will host the 46th Annual Image Awards. The Image Awards (@naacpimageaward), this year hosted by Anthony Anderson (@anthonyanderson), historically acknowledge outstanding individuals of color in film, music, literature and television. This year’s notable nominations include Carmen Ejogo (@carmenejogo) of Selma and Quvenzhane Wallis (@IAMQUVENZHANE) of Annie battling for “Outstanding Actress in a Motion Picture,” Al Jarreau (@AlJarreau) for “Outstanding Jazz Album,” and Selma’s Ava Duvernay (@AVAETC) for “Outstanding Directing in a Motion Picture.” On March 1, The Wright Museum will host 2008 Image Award Nominee for “Best Jazz Artist” and Grammy Award-winner Patti Austin (@pattiaustin) as the feature performer of “Oh, Freedom: A Musical Journey Through African American History” at the Detroit Opera House. Tickets can be purchased through Ticketmaster, (800) 745-3000 or at the Detroit Opera House (@DetOperaHouse) box office.
• February 6, 1872 Turner Byrd, Jr. of Williamsville, Michigan received patent number 123,328 for an improved harness rein holder. Byrd later received patent numbers 124,790 March 19, 1872 for an improved apparatus for detaching horses from carriages, 126,181 April 30, 1872 for an improved neck-yoke for wagons, and 157,370 December 1, 1874 for an improvement in railcar couplings. Not much else is known of his life.
• February 5, 1813 Jermain Wesley Loguen, Bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church and abolitionist, was born Jarm Logue enslaved in Davidson County, Tennessee. Loguen escaped bondage to Canada in 1834. He learned to read in Canada before moving to Rochester, New York in 1837 and studying at the Oneida Institute. He moved to Syracuse, New York in 1841 and worked as a school teacher and opened schools for Black children. His house was one of the most openly operated stations on the Underground Railroad. It is estimated that more than 1,500 previously enslaved people passed through his house. Loguen became an elder in the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church and held various church posts before being appointed a bishop in 1868. He published his autobiography, “The Rev. J. W. Loguen, as a Slave and as a Freeman, A Narrative of Real Life,” in 1859. Loguen died September 30, 1872.
• Spoken word artist Ernestine Johnson tells the world why she is not "The Average Black Girl." Johnson's (@E_OnTheScene) piece dismisses the stereotypical woes which black women are expected to fall into to legitimize their blackness, while capturing the very essence of what a black woman represents. Since being featured on the Arsenio Hall Show, her performance went viral – you can see why here!In the mood for spoken word? Then you don't want to miss Mahogany @ The Museum #5: #BLKLUV February 13 at 8 pm ($15 online/$20 door).
• February 4, 1900 John Percial Parker, inventor, Underground Railroad conductor and businessman, died. Parker was born February 2, 1827 in Norfolk, Virginia. At eight, he was sold into slavery. By 1845, he had earned enough money to buy his freedom for $1,800. As a free man, Parker became involved in abolitionist activities and aided in the freeing of over a thousand enslaved people. Parker established the Ripley Foundry and Machine Company in 1854. His foundry employed more than 25 workers and remained in operation until 1918. During the Civil War, Parker served as a recruiter for the Union Army and supplied castings for the war effort. Parker received patent number 304,552 September 2, 1886 for the Follower-Screw for Tobacco Presses. On May 19, 1885, he received patent number 318,285 for the Portable Screw Press, popularly known as the Parker Pulverizer. His home in Ripley, Ohio was designated a National Historic Landmark February 18, 1997. Parker’s autobiography, “His Promised Land: The Autobiography of John Parker, Former Slave and Conductor on the Underground Railroad,” was published in 1996.
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• Washington D.C. makes a $20 million investment in the education of males of color.New D.C. Mayor, Muriel E. Bowser (@MurielBowser), and D.C. Public Schools Chancellor, Kaya Henderson (@HendersonKaya), join together to push the initiative “Empowering Males of Color,” which focuses on improving educational opportunities for preK – grade 12 Black and Latino males. The $20 million will be dedicated towards funding a prep school for D.C.’s young males of color, set to open in 2017. On Thursday, February 5 you can join in “Living Legacies of Hope: Desegregation, Literacy and Black Education Achievement,” a panel discussion at The Wright Museum sponsored by The National Sorority of Phi Delta Kappa, Inc., in partnership with Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc., and Gamma Phi Delta Sorority, Inc. The event begins at 6 PM and is free of charge.
• This year, the legacy of J Dilla, late hip hop producer and Detroit native, is being celebrated across the world. Dilla, who passed away in 2006 due to Lupus-related complications, maintains a worldwide fan base. The Wright Museum has partnered with The Foundation for Women in Hip Hop (@WeFoundHipHop) and the J Dilla Foundation (@JDilla_Fndn) to present J Dilla Youth Day. On Sunday, Feb 8, free of charge, kids can discover the world of hip hop, while also engaging in leadership seminars led by the N.A.A.C.P. Detroit Branch and interactive activities focused around S.T.E.M. (Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics).