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President's Message, July 2013

Posted by Juanita Moore
Juanita Moore
Juanita Moore, President & CEO of the Charles H. Wright Museum of African Americ
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Brazil... the name alone conjures images of the Amazon rain forest, Corcovado towering over Rio de Janeiro, and Carnival. But our preconceptions don't do justice to this immense country, which is the fifth largest in the world, both in terms of geographical area and by population.

Which brings us to our newest exhibition. Opening its U.S. tour on August 15, 2013, the evening before African World Festival, is Bandits & Heroes, Poets & Saints: Popular Art of the Northeast of Brazil. We at The Wright are thrilled to partner with Con/Vida – Popular Arts of the Americas, the organizer of this exhibit. Through nearly 200 works of art, visitors will learn about slavery in Brazil, the plantation economy, popular heroes and heroic acts of resistance in the face of adversity, and the raucous escapades of legendary outlaws and bandits of Brazil’s “Wild West” - a history that inspires us to think of parallels to our own in the United States.

As the singer, songwriter, and activist Caetano Veloso, a native of the northeastern Brazilian state of Bahia, wrote in his 2002 memoir, Tropical truth: a story of music and revolution in Brazil:

"The parallel with the United States is inevitable. If all the countries in the world today must measure themselves against 'America,' position themselves in relation to the American Empire, and if the other countries in America have to do so in an even more direct way - comparing their respective histories to that of their stronger and more fortunate brother - Brazil's case is even more acute, since the mirror image is more evident and the alienation more radical. Brazil is America's other giant, the other melting pot of races and cultures, the other promised land to European and Asian immigrants, the Other. The double, the shadow, the negative image of the great adventure of the New World. The sobriquet ‘sleeping giant,’ which was applied to the United States by Admiral Yamamoto, will be taken by any Brazilian as a reference to Brazil..."

The parallels don't end there. When one thinks of the enormous cultural and societal impact that 500,000 enslaved Africans have had on the evolution of the United States of America, just imagine an influx of 5,000,000 – the number of enslaved Africans brought to Brazil during the trans-Atlantic slave trade. A recent headline in the Guardian declared, "Brazil comes to terms with its slave trading past." It was the last country in the Western hemisphere to abolish slavery, on May 13, 1888. Brazil's last census, in 2011, showed that brancos (whites) accounted for less than half the population for the first time since the 19th century.

This “sleeping giant” is waking up; the Brazilian economy is the world's sixth largest, and one of its fastest growing major economies. The eyes of the world will be on Brazil as it hosts two of the most prestigious international athletic events - the World Cup in 2014, and the Summer Olympics in 2016.

"From the depths of the dark solar heart of the southern hemisphere," we can learn much about this parallel society, with its rich amalgamation of humanity, a cultural stew that has created its own sophisticated artistic traditions, rhythms and history. How will you explore Brazil? We hope you'll join us to find out, because it will be a fascinating journey. Um beijo!

Q3 Member Newsletter 2013-cover-small

Click here to download our July 2013 Member Newsletter

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Today in Black History, 6/30/2013

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• June 30, 1853 Pierre Toussaint, hairdresser and philanthropist, died. Toussaint was born enslaved June 27, 1766 in Haiti. In 1787, his owners brought him to New York City where Toussaint became an apprentice to one of the city’s leading hairdressers. In 1807, he was freed from enslavement when his owner died and he went on to become quite wealthy as a hairdresser. As a result, Toussaint was able to purchase the freedom of the woman that would become his wife. They opened their home as a shelter for orphans, a credit bureau, an employment agency, and refuge for priests and poverty stricken travelers. They also funded the construction of a new Roman Catholic church. In 1990, the Archbishop of New York had Toussaint’s body exhumed and reinterred in the crypt below the altar at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, the first layman to be buried in the crypt. In 1996, Toussaint was declared Venerable by Pope John Paul II, the second step toward sainthood. Pierre Toussaint Academy in Detroit, Michigan and the Pierre Toussaint Family Health Care Center in Brooklyn, New York are named in his honor.

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Today in Black History, 6/29/2013

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• June 29, 1867 Emma Azalia Smith Hackley, singer, educator, and political activist, was born in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, but raised in Detroit, Michigan. Hackley learned to play the piano at the age of three and later took private voice, violin, and French lessons. In 1900, she earned her Bachelor of Music degree from Denver University. Hackley was active in Denver’s civic and social life. She founded the Colored Women’s League and served as executive director of the local branch. She also founded the Imperial Order of Libyans which fought racial discrimination and encouraged patriotism amongst African Americans. In 1905, Hackley moved to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania where she became the director of music at the Episcopal Church of the Crucifixion. She also helped organize the People’s Chorus which later became the Hackley Choral Society. Hackley spent much of her life training other singers, including Marian Anderson, Roland Hayes, and R. Nathanial Dett. In 1916, she published her own collection of music, “Colored Girl Beautiful.” Hackley died December 13, 1922. Twenty years later, the National Association of Negro Musicians established the E. Azalia Hackley Memorial Collection of Negro Music, Drama and Dance at the Detroit Public Library. Her biography, “Azalia: The Life of Madame E. Azalia Hackley,” was published in 1947. Hackley’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, 6/28/2013

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• June 28, 1830 David Walker, abolitionist and author of “David Walker’s Appeal,” was found dead on the doorsteps of his home. Walker was born September 28, 1785 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 about slavery and racism. In 1828, he joined the Massachusetts General Colored Association which was committed to promoting the interests 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 of 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.

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Today in Black History, 6/27/2013

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• June 27, 1766 Pierre Toussaint, hairdresser and philanthropist, was born enslaved in Haiti. In 1787, his owners brought him to New York City where Toussaint became an apprentice to one of the city’s leading hairdressers. In 1807, he was freed from enslavement when his owner died and he went on to become quite wealthy as a hairdresser. As a result, Toussaint was able to purchase the freedom of the woman that would become his wife. They opened their home as a shelter for orphans, a credit bureau, an employment agency, and refuge for priests and poverty stricken travelers. They also funded the construction of a new Roman Catholic church. Toussaint died June 30, 1853. In 1990, the Archbishop of New York had Toussaint’s body exhumed and reinterred in the crypt below the altar at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City, the first layman to be buried in the crypt. In 1996, Toussaint was declared Venerable by Pope John Paul II, the second step toward sainthood. Pierre Toussaint Academy in Detroit, Michigan and the Pierre Toussaint Family Health Care Center in Brooklyn, New York are named in his honor.

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Today in Black History, 6/26/2013

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• June 26, 1879 Clinton Greaves received the Congressional Medal of Honor, America’s highest military decoration, for his actions during the Indian Wars. Greaves was born enslaved August 12, 1855 in Madison County, Virginia. He joined the United States Army in 1872 and by January 24, 1877 was serving as a corporal in Company C of the 9th Cavalry Regiment. On that day, his actions earned him the medal. His citation reads, “While part of a small detachment to persuade a band of renegade Apache Indians to surrender, his group was surrounded. Cpl. Greaves in the center of the savage hand-to-hand fighting, managed to shoot and bash a gap through the swarming Apaches, permitting his companions to break free.” Greaves rose to the rank of sergeant before leaving the army after 20 years of service. Greaves died August 18, 1906. Camp Greaves, a U.S. Army installation in the Republic of South Korea which was closed in 2004, was named in his honor.

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Today in Black History, 6/25/2013

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• June 25, 1792 Thomas Peters, a “Founding Father” of Sierra Leone, died. Peters was born in 1738 in Nigeria. At the age of 22, Peters was captured by slave traders and after being sold several times ended up in Wilmington, North Carolina. In 1776, at the start of the American Revolution, he escaped and joined the Black Pioneers, a black unit made up of formerly enslaved African Americans fighting for the British. The British had promised freedom in exchange for fighting for them. Peters rose to the rank of sergeant and was wounded in battle twice. After the war, Peters and the other loyalists were taken by the British to Nova Scotia, Canada where they stayed from 1783 to 1791. In 1791, Peters traveled to London, England to protest the broken promises of land by the British government. While there, he convinced the government to allow them to settle a new colony in Sierra Leone that was to become Freetown. In 1792, Peters and about 1,100 other black people arrived at St. George Bay Harbor in Sierra Leone. Peters died that same year and is considered by some to be the “George Washington of Freetown.” In 2007, street in Freetown was named in his honor and in 2011 a statue of him was unveiled. “From Slavery to Freetown: Black Loyalists after the American Revolutionary” was published in 2006.

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Today in Black History, 6/24/2013

Posted by The Wright Museum
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• June 24, 1933 Samuel Jones, hall of fame basketball player, was born in Wilmington, North Carolina. Jones graduated from North Carolina Central University where he was a three-time All-Conference selection. He was selected by the Boston Celtics in the 1957 NBA Draft and spent his entire 12 season professional career with the team. Over his career, Jones was a five-time NBA All-Star and ten-time NBA champion, second only to Bill Russell in NBA history. His peers called him “Mr. Clutch.” After retiring in 1969, Jones coached at Federal City College, North Carolina Central University, and served as an assistant for the NBA New Orleans Jazz. In 1984, he was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame and in 1996 was named one of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History. Jones was inducted into the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame in 2006.

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Today in Black History, 6/23/2013

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• June 23, 1895 Thomas Shaw, Congressional Medal of Honor recipient, died. Shaw was born in 1846 in Covington, Kentucky and served in the United States Army as a Buffalo Soldier during the Indian Wars. By August 12, 1881, he was serving as a sergeant in Company K of the 9th Cavalry Regiment. On that day, he participated in an engagement at Carrizo Canyon in New Mexico. His citation reads, “Forced the enemy back after stubbornly holding his ground in an extremely exposed position and prevented the enemy’s superior numbers from surrounding his command.” For his actions, Shaw received the medal, America’s highest military decoration, December 7, 1890. Shaw was buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

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Today in Black History, 6/22/2013

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• June 22, 1865 Aaron Anderson was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor, America’s highest military decoration. While serving as a landsman on board the U.S.S. Wyandank on a mission to attack Confederate forces in Mattox Creek in Virginia, his actions earned him the medal. His citation partially reads, “carried out his duties courageously in the face of devastating fire which cut away half the oars, pierced the launch in many places and cut the barrel off a musket being fired at the enemy.” Anderson was born in 1811 in Plymouth, North Carolina and enlisted in the Union Navy at the age of 52. He left the navy after his term of service expired and little is known of his post-war life except that he died January 9, 1886.

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Today in Black History, 6/21/2013

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• June 21, 1832 Joseph Hayne Rainey, the first African American to be directly elected to Congress, was born enslaved in Georgetown, South Carolina. Shortly after Rainey’s birth, his father bought their family’s freedom. In 1861, Rainey was drafted into the Confederate Army to work on fortifications. After a year, he and his wife were able to escape to Bermuda. In 1866, after the Civil War’s end, Rainey returned to South Carolina and joined the executive committee of the state Republican Party. In 1868, he was a delegate to the convention that wrote the state’s new constitution and in 1870 he was elected to the State Senate. Later that year, Rainey was elected to the United States House of Representatives where he served until 1879. During his terms in Congress, Rainey focused on supporting legislation to protect the civil rights of southern blacks. He also served on the Committee on Indian Affairs and opposed legislation to limit the number of Asian immigrants to the U.S. In April, 1874, he took the chair from the Speaker of the House and became the first African American to preside over the House of Representatives. After leaving Congress, he was appointed internal revenue agent of South Carolina, a position he held for two years. Rainey engaged in banking and the brokerage business in Washington, D.C. before retiring in 1886. He died August 1, 1887. His biography, “Detour – Bermuda, Destination – U.S. House of Representatives: The Life of Joseph Hayne Rainey,” was published in 1977.

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Today in Black History, 6/20/2013

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• June 20, 1858 Charles Waddell Chesnutt, author and political activist, was born in Cleveland, Ohio. By the age of 13, Chesnutt was a pupil/teacher at the Howard School in Fayetteville, North Carolina. He eventually became assistant principal at the normal school now known as Fayetteville State University. In 1887, Chesnutt passed the Ohio bar exam and established a successful legal stenography business in Cleveland. His first short story, “The Goophered Grapevine,” was published in The Atlantic Monthly in 1887 and his first book, “The Conjure Woman,” was published in 1899. Other novels by Chesnutt include “The House Behind the Cedars” (1900) and “The Marrow of Tradition” (1901). In 1906, his play “Mrs. Darcy’s Daughter” was produced. Chesnutt served on the general committee of the NAACP and was one of the early 20th century’s most prominent activists and commentators. In 1917, he protested and successfully shutdown showings in Ohio of the film “Birth of a Nation.” In 1928, Chesnutt was awarded the NAACP Spingarn Medal. More than 50 years before Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, Chesnutt concluded one of his speeches, “Looking down the vista of time I see an epoch in our nation’s history, not in my time or yours, but in not the distant future, when there shall be in the United States but one people, molded by the same culture, swayed by the same patriotic ideals, holding their citizenship in such high esteem that for another to share it is of itself to entitle him to fraternal regard; when men will be esteemed and honored for their character and talents.” Chesnutt died November 15, 1932. In 2002, the Library of America added a major collection of Chesnutt’s works to its important American authors series and in 2008 the United States Postal Service issued a commemorative postage stamp in his honor.

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Voices of the Civil War Episode 17 "Combahee River Raid"

Posted by The Wright Museum
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JUNE 2013: 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 Episode 17, written by James Easley, we look at the events of June 2, 1863, when Union Colonel James Montgomery led the 2nd South Carolina Colored Infantry Regiment and the 3rd Rhode Island Heavy Artillery up the Combahee River, to raid Confederate outposts and rice plantations. Harriet Tubman worked with Colonel Montgomery to plan the raid and scout the Combahee River for mines. The aftermath of this successful raid greatly reduced Confederate supplies, established a Union blockade on the river and freed nearly 700 enslaved men and women.

Credits

1. Kansas Historical Society

2, 3, 6, 7, 9 - 13, 15, 22 - 24. Library of Congress

8. Wikimedia Commons

18. National Archives and Records Administration

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Today in Black History, 6/19/2013

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• June 19, 1845 Bruce Anderson, Congressional Medal of Honor recipient, was born in Mexico, New York. Anderson was a farmer prior to enlisting in the Union Army in 1864 during the Civil War. On January 15, 1865, he was serving as a private in Company K of the 142nd New York Infantry when he participated in an attack on Fort Fisher in North Carolina. He and twelve other men volunteered to advance ahead of the main attack and cut down the palisade which blocked their path. Despite intense fire from the Confederate defenders, they were successful in destroying the obstacle. Anderson and the others were recommended for the medal, but the recommendation was lost. In 1914, Anderson hired a lawyer to petition for the medal and December 28, 1914 was awarded the medal, America’s highest military decoration. Not much is known of Anderson’s later life other than he died August 22, 1922.

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Today in Black History, 6/18/2013

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• June 18, 1877 The first settlers arrived in Nicodemus, Kansas, the only remaining western community established by African Americans. The town was named for an individual that came to America on a slave ship and later purchased his freedom. Formerly enslaved people in the South were encouraged to settle in Nicodemus. The town was portrayed as a place for African Americans to establish black self-governance. By 1880, Nicodemus had a population of almost 500, a bank, two hotels, three churches, a newspaper, a drug store, and three general stores. However in 1888, the Union Pacific Railroad bypassed Nicodemus and established an extension six miles away and across the river. Businesses moved to the new extension and Nicodemus began to experience a long gradual decline. The decline was accelerated by the 1929 depression and the severe droughts from 1932 to 1934. By 1935, the town was reduced to a population of 76 people. Today, approximately 20 people live in Nicodemus and the only remaining business is the Nicodemus Historical Society Museum. On November 12, 1996 Nicodemus was designated a National Historical Site. Annually, on the last weekend of July, Emancipation Day is celebrated in Nicodemus.

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Today in Black History, 6/17/2013

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• June 17, 1851 John Brown Russwurm, abolitionist and newspaper editor, died. Russwurm was born enslaved October 1, 1799 in Port Antonio, Jamaica. In 1807, he was sent by his white father to Quebec to attend school and in 1812 moved with his father to Portland, Maine. Russwurm 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, on March 16, 1827. Freedom’s Journal was the first newspaper in the United States to be 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. There is a statue of Russwurm at this burial site in Liberia. The Russwurm African American Center on the campus of Bowdoin was dedicated in 1970. 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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Today in Black History, 6/16/2013

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• June 16, 1792 Francis B. “Frank” Johnson, bugler, bandleader and composer, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Not much is known of Johnson’s early life but by 1818 he was a well known musician in Philadelphia. That year, Johnson published “A Collection of New Cotillions,” making him the first published African American composer. He went on to compose more than 300 pieces of music with over 250 of his pieces being published. In 1824, Johnson composed much of the music for the triumphal return to Philadelphia of Revolutionary War hero General Lafayette. In 1837, he led his band to Europe, becoming the first black American musicians to visit Europe, where they performed for Victoria shortly before she became Queen of England. Johnson returned to the United States at the end of 1838 and toured widely through the U.S. and Canada until 1844. White bands often refused to perform in parades when Johnson’s band was performing. Johnson died April 6, 1844 but his band continued to perform until about the time of the Civil War. A Pennsylvania state historical marker in Philadelphia was dedicated to Johnson October 3, 1992.

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Today in Black History, 6/15/2013

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• June 15, 1755 John Marrant, one of the first African American preachers and missionaries, was born 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, Marrant 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 April 15, 1791. He 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, 6/14/2013

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• June 14, 1854 Nat Love, one of the most famous cowboys of the Old West, was born enslaved in Davidson County, Tennessee. Although he had no formal education, Love learned to read and write on his own. After the end of the Civil War, Love and his family were freed and Love headed west. Over the next few years, he worked as a ranch hand for several different ranches. In 1876, he entered a 4th of July competition in Deadwood, South Dakota involving roping, bridling, saddling, and shooting. Love won every competition and was nicknamed Deadwood Dick. Love continued to work as a cowboy until 1889 when he married and took a job as a Pullman porter. He published his autobiography, “Life and Adventures of Nat Love, Better Known in Cattle Country as Deadwood Dick,” in 1907. Love died in 1921.

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Today in Black History, 6/13/2013

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• June 13, 1828 St. Francis Academy, the oldest continuously operated school for black Catholic children in the United States, opened in Baltimore, Maryland under the name Baltimore School for Colored Girls. The founding mission was to teach children of color to read the bible. In 1870, the school moved to its current location where its main building has served as a convent, an orphanage, a dormitory, and a school for young women. By the turn of the 20th century, the school had been renamed St. Francis Academy. In 2002, the campus was expanded with a facility housing additional classrooms, new computer labs, a health suite, meeting rooms, and a gymnasium. Since its inception, the academy has addressed the societal forces disrupting the potential of children and their families.

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