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Today in Black History, 9/27/2013

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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 U. S. 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, 9/26/2013

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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 the age of 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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Today in Black History, 9/25/2013

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• September 25, 1824 William Craft, daring escapee from enslavement, was born enslaved in Macon, Georgia. Craft’s wife Ellen was at least three-quarters European by ancestry and very fair. In December, 1848, they escaped enslavement by traveling openly by train and steamboat. She posed as a White male planter and he as her personal servant. Their escape was widely publicized and over the next two years, they made numerous public appearances to recount their escape. As a result, they were among the most famous of fugitives from slavery. In 1850, the United States Congress passed the Fugitive Slave Act which made it a federal crime to aid an escaped slave and required law enforcement even in free states to aid efforts to recapture fugitives. Threatened by this act, the Crafts moved to England where they lived for the next 19 years. In 1860, they published their story in “Running a Thousand Miles for Freedom: Or, The Escape of William and Ellen Craft from Slavery”. The Crafts returned to the U. S. in 1868 and in 1870 bought 1800 acres of land near Savannah, Georgia where in 1873 they founded the Woodville Co-operative Farm School for the education and employment of freedmen. Ellen Craft died in 1897 and William died January 29, 1900.

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Today in Black History, 9/24/2013

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• September 24, 1825 Francis Ellen Watkins Harper, abolitionist and poet, was born in Baltimore, Maryland. Harper had her first volume of poems, “Forest Leaves,” published in 1845 and her second book, “Poems on Miscellaneous Subjects,” published in 1854. Other works by Harper include “Poems” (1857), “The Martyr of Alabama and Other Poems” (1892), and “Atlanta Offering” (1895). In 1853, Harper joined the American Anti-Slavery Society and became a traveling lecturer for the group. She was also a strong supporter of prohibition and women’s suffrage. In 1892, Harper published “Iola Leroy, or Shadows Uplifted,” one of the first novels by an African American woman. In 1897, she was elected vice president of the National Association of Colored Women. Harper died February 22, 1911.

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Today in Black History, 9/23/2013

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• September 23, 1863 Mary Church Terrell, civil and suffrage rights activist, was born in Memphis, Tennessee. Terrell earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in 1884 and her Master of Arts degree in 1888 from Oberlin College, making her one of the first African American women to earn a college degree. She also served as editor of the Oberlin Review. After college, Terrell taught at a Black secondary school and at Wilberforce College. In 1895, she was appointed to the District of Columbia Board of Education where she served until 1906, the first Black woman to hold such a position in the United States. In 1896, she was elected the first president of the newly formed National Association of Colored Women’s Clubs. In 1904, she was invited to speak at the International Congress of Women in Berlin, Germany, the only Black woman at the conference. In 1909, Terrell and Ida B. Wells-Barnett were the only Black women invited to attend the organizational meeting of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. In 1913, she was one of the organizers of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority and 26 years later wrote its creed, setting up a code of conduct for Negro women. Terrell’s autobiography, “A Colored Woman in a White World,” was published in 1940. Terrell died July 24, 1954. The Mary Church Terrell House in Washington, D. C. was designated a National Historic Landmark May 15, 1975. Terrell was among 12 pioneers of civil rights commemorated by the United States Postal Service with a series of postage stamps in 2009. Terrell’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, 9/22/2013

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• September 22, 1839 Michael Augustine Healy, the first person of African descent to command a United States government ship, was born enslaved near Macon, Georgia. Although he was three-quarters European ancestry, he was considered enslaved and could not be formally educated in Georgia. Therefore, his father sent him North for education. In 1854, while in England, Healy signed on to an American East Indian clipper as a cabin boy. He quickly became an expert seaman and rose to the rank of officer. In 1864, he returned to the United States and was accepted as a third lieutenant in the Revenue Cutter Service (now the U. S. Coast Guard). He attained the rank of captain in 1880 and in 1882 was given command of the USRC Thomas Corwin. For the next twenty years, Healy was the federal government’s law enforcement presence in the Alaskan territory. Healy died August 30, 1904. The USCGC Healy was commissioned by the United States Coast Guard November 10, 1999. Healy’s biography, “Captain “Hell Roaring” Mike Healy: from American slave to Arctic hero,” was published in 2003. “Passing for White: Race, Religion, and the Healy Family, 1820-1920” was published in 2003.

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Today in Black History, 9/21/2013

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• September 21, 1872 The United States Naval Academy, Annapolis, Maryland admitted the first Black midshipman, John Henry Conyers of South Carolina. After enduring ostracism and being subjected to discrimination, Conyers resigned from the academy. Two other Black midshipmen also attempted to endure the hostile environment at Annapolis but both resigned after a few months. It was not until 1949 that an African American, Wesley Brown, graduated from the academy and received his commission.

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Voices of the Civil War Episode 20 "The Medal of Honor"

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SEPTEMBER 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.

More than 180,000 African American soldiers served in the Union Army during the Civil War and of these, sixteen earned the Medal of Honor. Soldiers like Sergeant William H. Carney, Private James Daniel Gardner, Corporal Miles James, Thomas R. Hawkins and Christian Fleetwood were awarded for personal acts of valor that were above and beyond the call of duty. Fourteen of the sixteen Medals of Honor awarded were given away for actions at the Battle of New Market Heights, where over 50 percent of the black troops were killed, wounded, or captured.

Credits

1, 3, 10 Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History

2 Clements Library of the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor

4, 7-10, 12, 14-18 Library of Congress

5 Massachusetts Historical Society

6 National Archives and Records Administration

11 General Research & Reference Division, Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, The New York Public Library, Astor, Lenox and Tilden Foundations

13 County of Henrico, Virginia, Historic Preservation and Museum Services

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Today in Black History, 9/20/2013

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• September 20, 1664 Maryland enacted the first Anti-Amalgamation Law to specifically outlaw marriage between Black men and White women. Soon after, similar laws were passed in a number of other colonies. Prior to the laws, interracial marriages were fairly common between White indentured servants and enslaved Black people. It was not until June 12, 1967 that the United States Supreme Court, in the Loving vs. Virginia case, declared all such laws unconstitutional and not until 2000 that Alabama became the last state to eliminate its law banning interracial marriages.

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Today in Black History, 9/19/2013

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• September 19, 1889 Sarah Louise “Sadie” Delany, educator, author and civil rights pioneer, was born in Lynch Station, Virginia. Delany graduated from Saint Augustine’s School (now college) in 1910 and moved to New York City in 1916 where she began teaching in the public school system. She earned her bachelor and master’s degrees in education from Columbia University in 1920 and 1925, respectively. Delany was the first Black person permitted to teach domestic science at the high school level in New York City public schools. She retired from teaching in 1960. In 1993, Delany and her sister Bessie published “Having Our Say: The Delany Sisters’ First 100 Years” which dealt with the trials and tribulations the sisters had faced during their century of life. The book was on the New York Times hardcover best seller list for 28 weeks and on the paperback list for 77 weeks. In 1999, it was made into a television movie. In 1994, the sisters published “The Delany Sisters’ Book of Everyday Wisdom” and after Bessie’s death, Delany in 1997 published “On My Own At 107: Reflections on Life Without Bessie”. In 1993, Delany and her sister were included in the Guinness Book of World Records as the world’s oldest authors. Delany died January 25, 1999.

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Today in Black History, 9/18/2013

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• September 18, 1895 Booker T. Washington delivered his famous “Atlanta Compromise” speech at the Cotton States and International Exposition in Atlanta, Georgia. Considered the definitive statement of Washington’s accommodationist strategy, it is regarded as one of the most significant speeches in American history. In the speech, Washington responded to the “Negro problem,” what to do about the abysmal social and economic conditions of Black people. Washington promised the audience that he would encourage Black People to become proficient in agriculture, mechanics, commerce, and domestic services, and to encourage them to “dignify and glorify common labor”. Washington also eased many White people’s fears about social integration by stating that both races “could be as separate at the fingers, yet one as the hand in all things essential to mutual progress”. The entire speech can be easily found on the internet.

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Today in Black History, 9/17/2013

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• September 17, 1858 Dred Scott, an enslaved Black man that unsuccessfully sued for his freedom, died. Scott was born enslaved in Southampton County, Virginia in the 1790s. In 1847, Scott sued for his freedom in a Missouri state court on the basis that he and his wife had been taken by their owner to states and territories where slavery was illegal. Scott lost that case but pursued the issue to the United States Supreme Court in the Dred Scott v. Sandford case of 1857. The Supreme Court ruled against him finding that he, nor any person of African ancestry, could claim citizenship in the United States and therefore could not bring suit in federal court. In effect, the Court ruled that enslaved people were property and not citizens and therefore had no claim to freedom. Ironically, Scott was granted his freedom by his owner less than three months after the Supreme Court decision. “Dred and Harriett Scott: A Family’s Struggle for Freedom” was published in 2004.

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Today in Black History, 9/16/2013

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• September 16, 1839 James Daniel Gardner, Congressional Medal of Honor recipient, was born 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. Gardner died September 29, 1905. In 2006, a memorial commemorating him was unveiled in his hometown.

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Today in Black History, 9/15/2013

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• September 15, 1830 The first National Negro Convention began in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Forty African Americans from nine states attended the meeting to consider if Black people should be encouraged to emigrate to Canada. From the meeting emerged a new organization, The American Society of Free People of Colour for Improving Their Condition in the United States; for Purchasing Lands; and for the Establishment of a Settlement in the Province of Canada. Bishop Richard Allen was named president.

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Today in Black History, 9/14/2013

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• September 14, 1735 Prince Hall, the founder of “Black Freemasonry,” was born in Barbados. Not much is known of his youth and how he ended up in Boston, Massachusetts. It is known that he was a property owner and a registered voter and that he worked as an abolitionist and civil rights activist. He fought for laws to protect Black people from kidnapping by slave traders and campaigned for schools for Black children. On March 6, 1775, Hall and fourteen other free Black men were initiated into Military Lodge No. 441, a lodge attached to the British Army. On July 3, 1776, the Black Masons were granted a dispensation for limited operations as African Lodge No. 1 which then served as the mother lodge to new Black lodges in other cities. In 1791, Black Freemasons formed the African Grand Lodge of North America and unanimously elected Hall Grand Master, a position that he held until his death December 4, 1807. The African Grand Lodge was later renamed Prince Hall Grand Lodge in his honor. Hall’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, 9/13/2013

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• September 13, 1856 Maria Louise Baldwin, educator and civic leader, was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Baldwin graduated from the Cambridge training school for teachers in 1875 and taught in Chestertown, Maryland for two years. In 1881, she was hired to teach at the Agassiz Grammar School of Cambridge. She became principal of the school in 1889, making her the first African American female principal in Massachusetts. In 1916, a new school was erected, including higher grades, and Baldwin was made master, supervising twelve White teachers and 500 mostly White students. She was one of two women and the only African American master in the Cambridge school system. Baldwin served as master of Agassiz for forty years and under her leadership it was considered one of the best schools in Cambridge. She also taught summer courses for teachers at Hampton Institute and the Institute for Colored Youth (now Cheney State University). Baldwin also lectured throughout the country on women’s suffrage, poverty, and history. Baldwin died January 9, 1922. Her home in Cambridge was designated a National Historic Landmark May 11, 1976 and February 12, 2004 the Agassiz school was renamed the Maria L. Baldwin School.

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Today in Black History, 9/12/2013

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• September 12, 1840 Mary Jane Patterson, the first Black woman to graduate from an established college with a four year degree, was born enslaved in Raleigh, North Carolina. Patterson’s family gained their freedom in 1852 and moved to Oberlin, Ohio in 1856. Patterson enrolled in Oberlin College in 1857 and earned her Bachelor of Arts degree, with highest honors, in 1861. After graduation, Patterson taught at various schools, including the Institute for Colored Youth in Philadelphia (now Cheyney University) and the Preparatory High School for Colored Youth (now Dunbar High School) in Washington, D. C. Patterson served as the latter school’s first Black principal from 1871 to 1872. She was reappointed to the position from 1873 to 1884. During her administration, the school grew from less than 50 to 172 students. Patterson continued to teach at the school until her death September 24, 1894.

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Today in Black History, 9/11/2013

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• September 11, 1854 Christopher J. Perry, Sr., founder of the Philadelphia Tribune, was born in Baltimore, Maryland but raised in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. At the age of 13, Perry began writing articles for the local newspapers. In 1881, he began writing for the Northern Daily and eventually became editor of the colored section of The Sunday Mercury. On November 22, 1884, Perry founded the Philadelphia Tribune which quickly became one of the leading African American newspapers in the country. Perry died in 1921 but the Tribune continues to be published and is the oldest continuously published African American newspaper in the nation.

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Today in Black History, 9/10/2013

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• September 10, 1847 John Roy Lynch, the first African American Speaker of the House in Mississippi, was born enslaved in Concordia Parish, Louisiana. Lynch and his family were freed in 1863 after the Emancipation Proclamation was issued. After the Civil War, Lynch learned the photography trade and managed a successful business. He educated himself by reading books and newspapers and eavesdropping on classes at a White school. From 1869 to 1873, he served in the Mississippi House of Representatives, serving the last term as Speaker of the House. In 1873, he was elected to the United States House of Representatives where he served until 1877. He was re-elected in 1880 and served from April, 1882 to March, 1883. During his time in Congress, Lynch worked to support the Civil Rights Act of 1875 to ban discrimination in public accommodations. During the Spanish–American War of 1898, Lynch was appointed treasury auditor and paymaster of the army. In 1901, he joined the regular army and served until his retirement in 1911. After leaving the army, he moved to Chicago, Illinois where he practiced law until his death November 2, 1939. He was buried with military honors in Arlington National Cemetery. In 1913, Lynch authored “The Facts of Reconstruction” which argued that Black people had made substantial contributions to the country during the Reconstruction Period. Lynch’s biography, “Reminiscences of an Active Life: The Autobiography of John Roy Lynch”, was published in 1970.

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Today in Black History, 9/9/2013

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• September 9, 1739 The Stono Rebellion, the largest slave uprising in the British mainland colonies, began. The rebellion started with about 20 enslaved Africans at the Stono River in the colony of South Carolina. As the group marched south, they were joined by nearly 60 additional enslaved Africans. The Africans killed about 25 White people before encountering a South Carolina militia. In that battle, 20 White people and 44 Africans were killed and the rebellion was ended. In response to the rebellion, the South Carolina legislature passed the Negro Act of 1740 restricting slave assembly, education and movement. It also enacted a 10 year moratorium against importing enslaved Africans and established penalties against slaveholders’ harsh treatment of enslaved Africans. Now known as the Stono River Slave Rebellion Site, it was declared a National Historic Landmark May 30, 1974. “Cry Liberty,” an interpretation of the events of the rebellion, was published in 2010.

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