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Today in Black History, 10/14/2014

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• October 14, 1834 Henry Blair, the second African American inventor to receive a United States patent, received patent number 8447 for his invention of the corn seed planter. His invention allowed farmers to plant their corn much faster and with much less labor. The machine also helped with weed control. Not much is known of Blair’s life except that he was born in Montgomery County, Maryland in 1807 and he could not read or write. On August 31, 1836, Blair received another patent for the invention of the cotton planter. This machine was similar to the corn seed planter in the way it was put together. Blair died in 1860.

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Today in Black History, 10/13/2014

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• October 13, 1825 John Sweat Rock, teacher, doctor, dentist, lawyer and abolitionist, was born in Salem, New Jersey. Rock taught school in New Jersey from 1844 to 1848 and while teaching, studied medicine. In 1850, he opened a dental practice and in 1852 graduated from American Medical College. In 1851, he received a silver medal for the creation of an improved variety of artificial teeth. Rock was a passionate abolitionist and civil rights leader and was known as one of the most brilliant speakers in the anti-slavery movement. In 1860, Rock gave up his dental and medical practices and began to study law. He gained admittance to the Massachusetts Bar in 1861 and in 1865 became the first Black person admitted to the bar of the Supreme Court of the United States. In 1863, Rock helped assemble the 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment, the first officilally recognized African American unit in the Union Army during the Civil War. Rock died December 3, 1866.

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Today in Black History, 10/12/2014

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• October 12, 1882 John Preston “Pete” Hill, hall of fame Negro league baseball player and manager, was born in Culpeper, Virginia. Hill played in the Negro leagues from 1899 to 1925 and was considered the most important member of three of the most talented teams to ever play. He was also considered the most consistent hitter of his time, retiring with a career batting average of .326. From 1919 to 1921, Hill was player/manager of the Detroit Stars. His final position in professional baseball was as field manager for the Baltimore Black Sox. In 1930, Hill moved to Buffalo, New York to work as a railroad porter. He died December 19, 1951. Hill was posthumously inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2006.

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Today in Black History, 10/11/2014

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• October 11, 1778 George Augustus Polgreen Bridgetower, violinist and composer, was born in Biala, Poland. A child prodigy, Bridgetower made his debut as a soloist in 1789 to rave reviews. In 1791, the Prince of Wales took an interest in him and made Bridgetower first violinist of his private orchestra, a position Bridgetower held for 14 years. In 1802, Bridgetower met and performed with Ludwig von Beethoven who described Bridgetower as “an absolute master of his instrument.” Their relationship is dramatized in Rita Dove’s book “Sonata Mulattica” (2009). Bridgetower was elected to the Royal Society of Musicians in 1807 and earned his Bachelor of Music degree from the University of Cambridge in 1811. Bridgetower’s compositions include “Diatonica armonica” and “Henry: A Ballad.” He taught piano and performed throughout Europe. Bridgetower died February 29, 1860. A jazz opera, “Bridgetower – A Fable of 1807,” was commissioned for the 2007 City of London Festival to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the first parliamentary bill to abolish slavery in England.

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Today in Black History, 10/10/2014

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• October 10, 1800 Gabriel (also known as Gabriel Prosser) was executed for planning a large slave rebellion in the Richmond, Virginia area in the summer of 1800. Gabriel was born enslaved around 1776 in Henrico County, Virginia. He was taught to read and write and worked as a blacksmith. Prior to executing the planned revolt, Gabriel was betrayed and eventually captured, put on trial, and hung with his two brothers and 23 other enslaved men. In reaction to the planned rebellion, Virginia and other states passed restrictions on free Black people and prohibited the education, assembly, and hiring out of enslaved people in order to restrict their chances to learn and plan similar rebellions. In 2002, the City of Richmond passed a resolution in honor of Gabriel and in 2007 the Governor of Virginia gave Gabriel and his followers an informal pardon in recognition that their cause “the end of slavery and the furtherance of equality for people has prevailed in the light of history .” “Gabriel’s Rebellion: The Virginia Slave Conspiracies of 1800 & 1802” was published in 1993.

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Today in Black History, 10/9/2014

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• October 9, 1806 Benjamin Banneker, astronomer, surveyor and almanac author, died. Banneker was born November 9, 1731 in Ellicott’s Mills, Maryland. When he was old enough to help on his parent’s farm, his formal education ended. In 1753, he carved a wooden clock that struck hourly, using a pocket watch as a model, and continued to work until his death. He began to study astronomy using borrowed books and equipment in 1788. In 1791, Banneker was hired to assist in the survey of what is now the District of Columbia, however due to illness he only worked on the project for three months. Banneker made astronomical calculations that predicted solar and lunar eclipses that he included in a series of almanacs from 1792 to 1797. The almanacs included the times for the rising and setting of the sun and moon and were commercially successful. Banneker expressed his views on slavery and racial equality, including a plea for justice for African Americans, in a 1791 letter to the United States Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson. The complete correspondence between the two can be found by doing a search on “Benjamin Banneker letter to Thomas Jefferson.” His biography, “The Life of Benjamin Banneker: The First African-American Man of Science,” was published in 1972. In 1977, a commemorative obelisk was erected near his grave site by the Maryland Bicentennial Commission and the State Commission on Afro-American History and Culture. In 1980, the United States Postal Service issued a commemorative postage stamp in his honor and in 1998 the Benjamin Banneker Historical Park and Museum located on the site of his former farm was dedicated. Banneker’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, 10/8/2014

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• October 8, 1837 Powhatan Beaty, Congressional Medal of Honor recipient, was born enslaved in Richmond, Virginia. Beaty gained his freedom around 1861 and in 1863 enlisted in the Union Army’s 5th United States Colored Infantry Regiment. By 1864, he had risen to the rank of first sergeant. On September 29, 1864 at the Battle of Chaffin’s Farm, his regiment unsuccessfully attempted to attack the Confederate defenses at New Market Heights. During the regiment’s retreat, their color bearer was killed. Beaty returned under enemy fire to retrieve the flag. Only 16 of the original 91 members of the regiment, including Beaty, survived the attack unwounded. With no officers remaining, Beaty took command of the company and led a second attack against the Confederate lines. That attack was successful and drove the Confederates from their fortified positions. For his actions, Beaty was awarded the medal, America’ highest military decoration, April 6, 1865. By the time he retired from the army, Beaty had participated in 13 battles and numerous skirmishes. After retiring, he returned to Cincinnati, Ohio and successfully pursued a career in acting and public speaking until his death December 6, 1916. In 2003, an Ohio Historical Marker was unveiled in his honor at his burial site in the Union Baptist Cemetery in Cincinnati.

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Today in Black History, 10/7/2014

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• October 7, 1821 William Still, abolitionist, Underground Railroad conductor, writer and historian, was born in Burlington County, New Jersey. Still moved to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1844 and began working as a clerk for the Pennsylvania Anti-Slavery Society. When Philadelphia abolitionists organized a committee to aid runaways, Still became its chairman. By the 1850s, Still was a leader in Philadelphia’s African American community. Often called “the father of the Underground Railroad,” Still helped as many as 60 enslaved people a month escape to freedom and in 1872 published “The Underground Railroad Records” which chronicled the stories and methods of 649 people who escaped to freedom. He also helped to establish an orphanage for Black youth and the first Young Men Christian Association for African Americans. Still died July 14, 1902. “Stand by the River” a musical based on Still’s life and rescue of a formerly enslaved woman was produced in 2003.

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Today in Black History, 10/6/2014

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• October 6, 1824 Thomas Mundy Peterson, the first African American to cast a vote after the passage of the 15th Amendment to the United States Constitution, was born in Metuchen, New Jersey. By March 31, 1870, he was serving as a school custodian and general handyman in Perth Amboy, New Jersey. On that date, Peterson cast his vote in a local election to revise the town’s charter. After that was approved, he was appointed to the committee to revise the charter. Peterson later became the town’s first African American to hold elected office and also the first to serve on a jury. Peterson died February 4, 1904. Decades later, the school where he worked was renamed in his honor. In New Jersey, March 31 is annually celebrated as Thomas Mundy Peterson Day in recognition of his historic vote.

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Today in Black History, 10/5/2014

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• October 5, 1878 George Boyer Vashon, the first African American graduate of Oberlin College, died. Vashon was born July 25, 1824 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. At an early age, Vashon displayed an aptitude for languages, speaking Sanskrit, Hebrew, and Persian and being well versed in Greek and Latin. In 1844, Vashon earned his Bachelor of Arts degree from Oberlin and was valedictorian of his class. In his speech titled “Liberty of Mind” he stated, “genius, talent and learning are not withheld by our common Father from people of color.” In 1846, Vashon applied for admission to the Allegheny County bar but his application was rejected because of his race. He therefore moved to New York State and successfully completed their bar examination in 1848, the first Black lawyer in New York. In 1849, Vashon moved to Port-au-Prince, Haiti where he served as professor of Latin, Greek, and English. In 1851, he returned to the United States and joined the faculty of the predominantly White New York Central College. While there, he wrote “Vincent Oge” (1854), an epic poem on the Haitian insurrection. In 1863, Vahon became the second Black president of Avery College. He later became a professor of mathematics and ancient and modern languages at Alcorn College where he served until his death.

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Today in Black History, 10/4/2014

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• October 4, 1864 The New Orleans Tribune, the first Black daily newspaper in the United States, was founded by Dr. Louis C. Roudanez. Born in St. James Parish and raised in New Orleans, Louisiana, Roudanez studied medicine in Paris where he received his first degree and then studied at Dartmouth College where he received his second medical degree. He used the newspaper and his medical practice to bridge the gap between African Americans and the majority population. The Tribune was dedicated to social justice and civil rights for all Louisiana citizens and was published in French and English. The newspaper closed in 1868 and was re-established in 1985. It continues to be dedicated to social justice and civil rights for all Louisiana citizens. “My Passage at the New Orleans Tribune: A Memoir of the Civil War Era” was published in 1984.

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Today in Black History, 10/3/2014

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• October 3, 1829 James Theodore Holly, missionary and the first African American Bishop in the Episcopal Church, was born in Washington, D. C. Holly joined the Protestant Episcopal Church and became a deacon in 1855 and a priest in 1856. He believed that African Americans had no future in the United States and the only answer was emigration. He was a delegate to the National Emigration Convention held in Cleveland, Ohio August 24 through August 26, 1854 and the next year represented the National Emigration Board as commissioner. Holly promoted emigration to Haiti and delivered a series of lectures that were published in 1857 as “Vindication of the Capacity of the Negro Race for Self Governance and Civilized Progress.” In 1861, Holly led 110 African Americans to Haiti and the next year became a Haitian citizen. In 1874, he was consecrated Missionary Bishop of Haiti and in 1878 was recognized as Bishop of the Orthodox Apostolic Church of Haiti. Holly died March 13, 1911. The Episcopal Church in the U. S. remembers Holly on their liturgical calendar with a feast day on March 13.

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Today in Black History, 10/2/2014

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• October 2, 1800 Nathaniel “Nat” Turner, rebellion leader, was born enslaved in Southampton County, Virginia. Turner learned to read and write at a young age and was deeply religious. By early 1828, he was convinced that he “was ordained for some great purpose in the hands of the Almighty” and that God had given him the task of “slaying my enemies with their own weapons.” On August 13, 1831, there was a solar eclipse and Turner took that as his signal. On August 21, he began the rebellion with a few trusted fellow enslaved men. The rebels traveled from house to house, freeing enslaved people and killing their White owners. The rebels grew to a group of more than 50 enslaved and free Black men and they eventually killed 55 White men, women, and children. Turner’s rebellion was suppressed within two days and he was captured October 30. On November 5, he was convicted and sentenced to death and was hung November 11, 1831. The state executed 56 other Black men suspected of being involved in the uprising and another 200 Black people, most of whom had nothing to do with the uprising, were beaten, tortured, and murdered by angry White mobs. Also the Virginia General Assembly passed new laws making it unlawful to teach enslaved or free Black or Mulatto people to read or write and restricting Black people from holding religious meetings without the presence of a licensed White minister. “The Confessions of Nat Turner,” a novel, won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1968 and a film “Nat Turner: A Troublesome Property” was released in 2003. Turner’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, 10/1/2014

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• October 1, 1799 John Brown Russwurm, abolitionist and newspaper editor, was born enslaved in Port Antonio, Jamaica. In 1807, Russwurm was sent by his White father to Quebec, Canada to attend school and in 1812 moved with his father to Portland, Maine. He graduated from Hebron Academy in his early twenties and taught at an African American school in Boston, Massachusetts. In September, 1826, Russwurm earned his Bachelor of Arts degree from Bowdoin College, the first African American to graduate from Bowdoin. In 1827, Russwurm moved to New York City and along with his co-editor, Samuel Cornish, published the first edition of Freedom’s Journal, an abolitionist newspaper dedicated to opposing slavery, March 16, 1827. Freedom’s Journal was the first newspaper in the United States owned and operated by African Americans. In 1829, Russwurm immigrated to Liberia where he served as the colonial secretary for the American Colonization Society until 1834. He also worked as editor of the Liberia Herald and served as the superintendent of education. In 1836, he became the first Black Governor of the Maryland section of Liberia, a post he held until his death June 17, 1851. There is a statue of Russwurm at his burial site in Harper, Cape Palmas, Liberia. The Russwurm African American Center on the campus of Bowdoin was dedicated in 1970 and the John B. Russwurm House in Portland was listed on the National Register of Historic Places July 21, 1983. John B. Russwurm Elementary School in New York City is named in his honor. Biographies of Russwurm include “John Brown Russwurm” (1970) and “The Struggles of John Brown Russwurm: The Life of a Pan-Africanist Pioneer, 1799-1851” (2010).

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The 2014 Wright Gala: The Ball Promises to be the “FunRaising” Production of the Season with Art Deco Glam, Broadway Magic, and Studio 54 Tribute

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There are galas, and there is THE Gala. In only its fourth year, The Wright Gala has become one of Detroit’s most highly anticipated annual events. It is the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History’s largest fundraiser, drawing hundreds of leading figures from corporations, culture, government, and the media. This year’s event, themed “The Ball,” takes place Saturday, October 11, 2014 beginning at 6:30 pm at the museum, located at 315 East Warren Avenue.

The Ball LOGO

The theme of the 2014 Wright Gala is inspired by the museum’s current exhibition, A Theatre of Color: Costume Design for the Black Theatre by Myrna Colley Lee. Guests will experience the excitement and magic of Broadway, including celebrity guests, high fashion, eclectic dining, and “Studio 54” disco dancing into the night.

"The Wright Gala is a key fundraising initiative that helps support ongoing educational programming at the museum," said Juanita Moore, president & CEO of the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, which celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2015. "This signature event helps raise significant funding to pursue our mission of opening minds and changing lives through the exploration and celebration of African American history and culture.”

Highlights of the black-tie extravaganza will include:

  • Indulgent libations in a monumental tent that will take over the museum grounds until sunset
  • Red carpet arrival and reception in the museum’s transformed Ford Freedom Rotunda with cocktails, hors d’oeuvres and a peak at the playbills for the evening’s Broadway-style show
  • Decadent dinner cuisine served in a supper club atmosphere, recognition program emceed by WDIV’s Lauren Campbell-Sanders, and toast to a “surprise” Tony Award-winning guest
  • Silent auction of works by some of Detroit’s most prominent artists, exotic travel packages, and tickets to the most coveted sporting and entertainment events
  • Dessert and dance-till-you-drop Studio 54 disco party

TICKET INFORMATION:

Tickets for The Wright Gala start at $350 each and include open bar, dinner, Studio 54 party and complimentary valet parking. Tickets are available online at TheWrightGala.com, by phone at (800) 838-3006, or at the museum’s Information Desk.

“We are forever grateful to the members of the gala’s Host Committee, who donate their time, influence, and resources to help The Wright,” said Moore. “Our committee of dedicated volunteers, as well as our sponsors, represent a wide array of the Detroit community, and it’s great to see so much support for art, literacy and culture.”

The 2014 Wright Gala Host Committee:

Rumia Ambrose Burbank, Yvette Bing, Rosalind Brewer, Betty Brooks, Lauren Campbell-Sanders, Julianne Carroll, Janice Cosby-Bridges, Eva Cunningham, Brenda Davis, Retha Douglas, Eleanor Ford, Linda Forte, Mary Anne Gargaro, Linda Gillum Ph.D., Gretchen Gonzales Davidson, Barbara Hughes Smith Ph.D., Roberta Hughes Wright Ph.D., Denise Ilitch, Sharon James, Marion Jones, Florine Mark, Terri Moon, Vivian Pickard, Glenda Price Ph.D., Suzanne Shank, Barbara Whittaker, Jacqueline Wilson

The 2014 Wright Gala Sponsors:

  • General Motors Company, Presenting Gala Co-Sponsor
  • Ford Motor Company, Presenting Gala Co-Sponsor
  • General Motors Foundation, Arts and Education Partner
  • MGM Grand Detroit, VIP Reception Sponsor
  • Bank of America, Entertainment Sponsor
  • St. John Providence Health System, Entertainment Sponsor
  • Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, Theatre Arts Workshop Sponsor

RUN OF SHOW:

6:30 pm               VIP Reception

7:15 pm               Gala Cocktail Reception

8:00 pm               The Ball Seated Dinner & Show

10:00 pm             Studio 54 Party

A Theatre of Color: Costume Design for the Black Theatre by Myrna Colley-Lee is sponsored by General Motors Foundation. The exhibit is on display until January 4, 2015 and is free with museum admission

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Today in Black History, 9/30/2014

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• September 30, 1872 Jermain Wesley Loguen, Bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church and abolitionist, died. Loguen was born Jarm Logue February 5, 1813 enslaved in Davidson County, Tennessee. In 1834, he escaped bondage to Canada. He learned to read in Canada before moving to Rochester, New York in 1837 and studying at the Oneida Institute. In 1841, he moved to Syracuse, New York where he 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.

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Today in Black History, 9/29/2014

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• September 29, 1905 James Daniel Gardner, Congressional Medal of Honor recipient, died. Gardner was born September 16, 1839 in Gloucester, Virginia. He worked as an oysterman before enlisting in the Union Army in 1863. On September 29, 1864, Gardner was serving as a private in Company I of the 36th Regiment United States Colored Troops when his actions at the Battle of Chaffin’s Farm earned him the medal, America’s highest military decoration. Gardner’s regiment was among a division of Black troops assigned to attack the Confederate defenses. The attack was met with intense fire and over fifty percent of the Black troops were killed, captured, or wounded. Gardner advanced ahead of his unit into the Confederate fortifications, “shot a rebel officer who was on the parapet rallying his men, and then ran him through with his bayonet.” The day after the battle, Gardner was promoted to sergeant and received the medal April 6, 1865. In 2006, a memorial commemorating him was unveiled in his hometown.

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Today in Black History, 9/28/2014

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• September 28, 1785 David Walker, abolitionist and author of “David Walker’s Appeal,” was born in Wilmington, North Carolina. Walker moved to Boston, Massachusetts during the 1820s where he served as the local distributor of “Freedom’s Journal,” a weekly abolitionist newspaper, and began to speak and write against slavery and racism. In 1828, he joined the Massachusetts General Colored Association which was committed to promoting the interest and rights of African Americans. In 1829, Walker published a 76 page pamphlet entitled “Walker’s Appeal, in Four Articles; Together with a Preamble, to the Coloured Citizens of the World, but in Particular, and Very Expressly, to Those of the United States of America.” In the appeal, Walker argued that African Americans suffered more than any other people in the history of the world and called for immediate, universal, and unconditional emancipation. He also openly praised enslaved people who used violence in self-defense against their masters and overseers and suggested that enslaved people kill their masters in order to gain freedom. Many historians believe that this was the first written assault on slavery and racism to come from a Black man in the United States. Southern slave owners labeled the pamphlet seditious and placed a price on Walker’s head. On June 28, 1830, Walker was found dead on the doorsteps of his home. “To Awaken My Afflicted Brethren: David Walker and the Problem of Antibellum Slave Resistence” was published in 1996.

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Today in Black History, 9/27/2014

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• September 27, 1827 Hiram Rhodes Revels, the first African American to serve in the United States Senate, was born in Fayetteville, North Carolina. Revels was ordained an African Methodist Episcopal minister in 1845 and in 1846 was given a pastorship in Natchez, Mississippi. Revels was elected an alderman in Natchez in 1868 and elected to the Mississippi State Senate in 1869. At that time the state legislature elected U. S. Senators and Revels was elected to finish the term of one of the state’s seats left vacant since the Civil War. On February 25, 1870, he took the seat in the senate where he served until resigning March 3, 1871, two months before the end of his term, to become the first president of Alcorn Agricultural and Mechanical College (now Alcorn State University) where he served until his retirement in 1882. Revels died January 16, 1901.

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Today in Black History, 9/26/2014

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• September 26, 1795 Alexander Lucius Twilight, educator, minister, politician and the first Black person known to have earned a bachelor’s degree from an American college, was born in Corinth, Vermont. From 8 to 21, he was forced to work as an indentured servant. Twilight earned his bachelor’s degree from Middlebury College in 1823. He also studied for the ministry with the Congregational Church. In 1829, Twilight was hired as principal of Vermont Grammar School and in 1836 designed and built a massive four-story granite building called Athenian Hall to serve as a dormitory for the school, the first granite public building in Vermont. The building now serves as the Orleans County Historical Society and Museum. Also in 1836, he was elected to the Vermont General Assembly, the first African American elected to a state legislature. Twilight died June 19, 1857. The Alexander Twilight House was added to the National Register of Historic Places as part of the Brownington Village Historic District May 9, 1973. The Alexander Twilight Auditorium at Lyndon State College and Alexander Twilight Hall at Middlebury College are named in his honor. Alexander Twilight College Preparatory Academy is located in Sacramento, California. His biography, “Alexander Twilight, Vermont’s African American Pioneer,” was published in 1998.

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