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Today in Black History, 9/5/2013

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• September 5, 1846 John Wesley Cromwell, historian, educator, and lawyer, was born enslaved in Portsmouth, Virginia. After his father gained the family’s freedom, Cromwell graduated from the Institute for Colored Youth (now Cheney University) in 1864. In 1873, he graduated from Howard University Law School and the next year was admitted to the District of Columbia bar. In 1876, Cromwell founded the weekly paper The People’s Advocate. On December 22, 1887, Cromwell became the first African American lawyer to argue a case before the Interstate Commerce Commission when he served as counsel for the plaintiff in William H. Heard v. Georgia Railroad Company. A gifted organizer, Cromwell helped organize the Virginia Educational and Historical Association and the National Colored Press Association. He was a founder of the Bethel Literary and Historical Association and in 1897 was a founding member of the American Negro Academy, an organization created to stimulate and demonstrate intellectual capabilities among African Americans. In 1914, Cromwell published his most influential work, “The Negro in American History: Men and Women Eminent in the Evolution of the American of African Descent” which influenced Carter G. Woodson to found the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History the following year. Cromwell also published “The First Negro Churches in The District of Columbus” in 1917. Cromwell died April 14, 1927.

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President's Message, September 2013

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As the summer sun sets and we enter September, we are filled with wonderful memories from the past few months. These include thrilling performances at July's Concert of Colors, Complex Movements' riveting Beware of the Dandelions immersive art installation, celebrations honoring the 95th birthday of Nelson Mandela and career of Ingrid Saunders Jones, and a pair of extraordinary opening events whose vibrance and diversity perfectly complimented the Bandits & Heroes, Poets & Saints: Popular Art of the Northeast of Brazil exhibition.

To top it all off was the 31st African World Festival - we could not have asked for better weather, and the sunny skies and comfortable clime made last year's homecoming come to fruition as tens of thousands of visitors made their way through the museum, rivaling our busiest days of Black History Month all weekend long. All told, close to 140 vendors and upwards of 150,000 attendees made this year's festival the best yet. A big, 150,000-person strong hug goes out to festival director Njia Kai, who once again took on a seemingly insurmountable challenge in making this year's festival a reality, and not only made it happen, but made it magical! The Wright Museum salutes her dedication, which goes far beyond African World Festival in having a profound impact on many of the city's cultural activities, and which was rightfully recognized in this glowing article by Cassandra Spratling in the Detroit Free Press.

We are also so appreciative of and grateful for our neighbors in the surrounding community. It is not easy to host a three-day festival in your backyard, and those living around the museum are true partners in helping to sustain this Detroit tradition. Finally, to our tireless volunteers, whether on fundraising or planning committees, or on their feet throughout our programs and events, you help us do what we do - and we could not do it without you!

The momentum continues this month with an appearance by ABC's Extreme Weight Loss star Trina Miller at the kick off to season 4 of 30 Days To Lose It!, and our ever-popular Grandparents Day celebration. Before the tragedy of Trayvon Martin was the murder of Emmett Till, and the link between these events will be explored at the season premier of the Liberation Film Series. And the 2013 Wright Gala Annual Benefit rounds out the month, which will be a Brazilian experience unlike any other.

Simply put, there's no reason the memories should end with summer!

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Today in Black History, 9/4/2013

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• September 4, 1848 Lewis Howard Latimer, draftsman and hall of fame inventor, was born in Chelsea, Massachusetts. Latimer joined the United States Navy at the age of 15 and after receiving an honorable discharge joined a patent law firm as a draftsman at the age of 17. On February 10, 1874, Latimer shared patent number 147,363 for an improved toilet system for railroad cars called the Water Closet for Railroad Cars. This was the first of the seven patents that he received over his career. In 1876, Alexander Graham Bell employed Latimer to draft the drawings required to receive a patent for Bell’s telephone. Although Thomas Edison is credited with the invention of the light bulb, Latimer made significant contributions to its further development. On January 17, 1882, he received patent number 252,386 for the Process of Manufacturing Carbons, an improved method for the production of carbon filaments for light bulbs. Latimer died December 11, 1928. He was posthumously inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2006 for his work on electric filament manufacturing techniques and Lewis H. Latimer School in Brooklyn, New York is named in his honor. His biography, “Lewis Latimer: Bright Ideas,” was published in 1997. Latimer’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, 9/3/2013

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• September 3, 1843 Andrew Jackson Smith, Congressional Medal of Honor recipient, was born enslaved in Kentucky. With the outbreak of the Civil War, Smith’s owner joined the Confederate military with the intention of taking Smith with him. When Smith learned of his intentions, he escaped and joined the Union Army. By November 30, 1864, Smith was serving as a corporal in the 55th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry. On that day, he participated in the Battle of Honey Hill in South Carolina and his actions during the battle earned him the medal, America’s highest military decoration. His citation partially reads, “Forced into a narrow gorge crossing a swamp in the face of the enemy position, the 55th’s Color-Sergeant was killed by an exploding shell, and Corporal Smith took the Regimental Colors from his hands and carried them through heavy grape and canister fire. Although half of the officers and a third of the enlisted men engaged in the fight were killed or wounded, Corporal Smith continued to expose himself to enemy fire by carrying the colors throughout the battle. Through his actions, the Regimental Colors of the 55th Infantry Regiment were not lost to the enemy.” Smith was promoted to color sergeant before leaving the army. He was initially nominated for the medal in 1916, but was denied. He died March 4, 1932. It was not until January 16, 2001 that President William Clinton presented the medal to Smith’s descendants.

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Today in Black History, 9/2/2013

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

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Today in Black History, 9/1/2013

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• September 1, 1869 Robert Tanner Freeman became the first African American to receive a dental degree when he graduated from Harvard University Dental School. Freeman was born in 1846 in Washington, D.C. and was encouraged to pursue a career in dentistry as a way to help alleviate the suffering of other African Americans. Freeman applied to, and was rejected by, two colleges before he was accepted in the inaugural class at Harvard. Upon graduation, he returned to Washington, D.C. to set up a private practice. Unfortunately Freeman died four years later. The Washington, D.C. chapter of the National Dental Association in named The Robert T. Freeman Dental Society.

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Today in Black History, 8/31/2013

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• August 31, 1842 Josephine St. Pierre Ruffin, civil and women’s rights leader and publisher, was born in Boston, Massachusetts. After marrying in 1858, Ruffin and her husband became active in the fight against slavery. During the Civil War, they helped recruit Black soldiers for the Union Army. Ruffin also supported women’s suffrage and in 1869 co-founded the American Woman Suffrage Association. In 1884, she founded Women’s Era, the country’s first newspaper published by and for African American women. Ruffin served as editor and publisher from 1890 to 1897. The paper called on Black women to demand increased rights for their race. In 1895, she organized the National Federation of Afro-American Women which the next year merged with the Colored Women’s League to form the National Association of Colored Women’s Clubs. Ruffin served as vice president of the merged organization. In 1910, Ruffin helped found the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and in 1918 co-founded the League of Women for Community Service. Ruffin died March 13, 1924.

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Today in Black History, 8/30/2013

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• August 30, 1901 Roy Wilkins, civil rights leader, was born in St. Louis, Missouri. Wilkins earned his Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Minnesota in 1923. In 1931, he became assistant executive secretary of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. From 1934 to 1949, he served as the editor of the Crisis magazine, the official organ of the organization. In 1955, Wilkins was named executive secretary (renamed director in 1964) of the NAACP. In 1950, he co-founded the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights. Wilkins participated in the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in 1963, the Selma to Montgomery march in 1965, and the March Against Fear in 1966. In 1964, Wilkins was awarded the NAACP Spingarn Medal. He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, by President Lyndon B. Johnson January 20, 1967. Wilkins retired from the NAACP in 1977. He died September 8, 1981. His autobiography, “Standing Fast: The Autobiography of Roy Wilkins,” was published in 1982. The Roy Wilkins Centre for Human Relations and Human Justice was established at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs in 1992.

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Today in Black History, 8/29/2013

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• August 29, 1910 Vivien Theodore Thomas, surgical technician and animal surgeon, was born in New Iberia, Louisiana. After graduating from high school, Thomas had hoped to go to college and become a doctor. However, the Great Depression derailed his plans. In 1930, he secured a job with Dr. Alfred Blalock at Vanderbilt University. Although doing the job of a laboratory assistant, Thomas was classified and paid as a janitor. In 1941, Blalock accepted the position of chief of surgery at John Hopkins Hospital and requested that Thomas accompany him. On November 29, 1944, using the tools adapted by Thomas from the animal lab and with Thomas at his shoulder coaching him, Blalock performed the first surgery to relieve “blue baby syndrome.” The operation came to be known as the Blalock-Taussig shunt and Thomas received no mention. Over his 38 years at John Hopkins, Thomas trained many surgeons that went on to become chiefs of surgical departments around the country and in 1968 they commissioned the painting of his portrait which hangs next to Blalock’s in the lobby of the Alfred Blalock Clinical Sciences Building. Thomas died November 26, 1985. The Vivian Thomas Young Investigator Awards are given by the Council on Cardiovascular Surgery and Anesthesiology and in 2004 the city of Baltimore opened the Vivian T. Thomas Medical Arts Academy. Thomas’ autobiography, “Partners of the Heart: Vivian Thomas and his Work with Alfred Blalock” was published in 1985 and in 2004 his story was told in the HBO film “Something the Lord Made.”

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Today in Black History, 8/28/2013

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• August 28, 1818 Jean Baptiste Pointe du Sable, The Father of Chicago, Illinois, died. Du Sable’s birth date is unknown, but it is generally believed that he was born around 1745 in what is now Haiti. Not much is known of his early life. Du Sable first arrived on the western shores of Lake Michigan around 1779 where he built the first permanent non-indigenous settlement just east of the present Michigan Avenue Bridge. From 1780 to 1784, he managed a huge tract of woodlands on the St. Clair River. Du Sable also operated the first fur-trading post. He left Chicago in 1800 for Peoria, Illinois and in 1813 moved to St. Charles, Missouri where he died. In 1968, the State of Illinois and the City of Chicago declared Du Sable “the Founder of Chicago” and erected a granite marker at his grave. His home site in Chicago was designated a National Historic Landmark May 11, 1976 and in 1987 the United States Postal Service issued a commemorative postage stamp in his honor. DuSable High School and the DuSable Museum of African American History in Chicago are named in his honor.

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Today in Black History, 8/27/2013

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• August 27, 1884 Rose Virginia Scott McClendon, a leading Broadway actress of the 1920s, was born in Greenville, South Carolina. McClendon started acting in church plays as a child, but did not become a professional actress until she won a scholarship to the American Academy of Dramatic Art when she was in her thirties. McClendon made her stage debut in the 1919 play “Justice.” She was one of the few Black actresses who worked consistently in the 1920s and was considered “the Negro first lady of the dramatic stage,” appearing in productions such as “Deep River” (1926), “Porgy” (1928), and “Mulatto” (1936). In 1935, McClendon co-founded the Negro People’s Theatre in Harlem. She died July 12, 1936. In 1937, the Rose McClendon Players was established in her honor.

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ABC’s Extreme Weight Loss Star to Kick Off Season 4 of 30 Days To Lose It!

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Oakwood nurse Trina Miller, whose year-long quest to transform her life was featured this summer on the hit ABC television show, Extreme Weight Loss, will be the keynote speaker at the upcoming season kick-off of the women’s health and fitness program 30 Days To Lose It!, taking place Tuesday, September 3 at 6 pm at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, located at 315 East Warren Avenue in Midtown Detroit.

Miller, a 47-year-old wife and mother of three, will share her battles and ultimate success in losing 145 pounds before a national television audience. Miller was selected from thousands of applicants around the country to be a part of Season 3 of Extreme Weight Loss after an open casting call in Detroit in February 2012. Nearly 300 pounds at the time, she found out shortly after that six fellow Oakwood Healthcare nurses, also struggling with their weight, would join her to form “Team Trina.” With lots of exercise, nutritional improvements, self-motivation and team support, the women collectively lost more than 500 pounds.

30 Days To Lose It! launched at The Wright Museum in March 2010 as a one-month initiative for Women’s History Month but quickly expanded into a year-long campaign. The weekly workouts that are at the program’s core, held every Tuesday at the museum from September through June, are free for museum members and $5 for non-members per session. Non-members who attend 8 consecutive sessions receive a complimentary museum membership, making their next 12 months free. Sponsors of 30 Days To Lose It! include St. John Providence Health System and Beaumont.

In addition to Miller and others from “Team Trina,” the Season 4 kickoff event on September 3rd will also feature healthy refreshments courtesy of Beans & Cornbread restaurant in Southfield, free health screenings by the Henry Ford Health System, and prizes from Weight Watchers and Detroit’s new Whole Foods Market to those who bring the most guests to work out. Plus, Carla Triplett, a former contestant on NBC’s The Biggest Loser, will make a special appearance. The evening will conclude with a one-hour workout conducted by former Miss USA, Carole Gist Stramler, so attendees are encouraged to bring bottled water and an exercise mat, and come dressed for exercising.

Before beginning any exercise program, an individual should first consult with a physician or other qualified healthcare provider. 30 Days To Lose It! attendees should enter the museum through its rear entrance off of Farnsworth. Parking is free on Brush Street, and available in the Cultural Center parking lot behind the museum for $5 before 4 pm and $3 afterwards. Metered parking on Warren and Farnsworth is enforced until 10 pm Monday through Saturday. For more information, please email 30 Days To Lose It! program coordinator Angela King at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Founded in 1965 and located in the heart of Midtown Detroit’s Cultural Center, the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History is the world's largest institution dedicated to the African American experience. For more information visit www.TheWright.org.

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Today in Black History, 8/26/2013

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• August 26, 1843 Norbert Rillieux of New Orleans, Louisiana was granted patent number 3237 for the multiple-effect evaporation system for refining sugar. His invention addressed all of the shortcomings of prior sugar refining processes and by 1849 thirteen Louisiana sugar factories were using his invention. His invention was an important development in the growth of the sugar industry. Rillieux was born March 17, 1806 in New Orleans, Louisiana. As a Creole from a prominent family, he had access to education and privileges not available to many other Black people. In the early 1820s, he traveled to Paris to attend the prestigious Ecole Centrale, studying physics, mechanics, and engineering. He became an expert in steam engines and published several papers about the use of steam to work devices. At the age of 24, Rillieux became the youngest teacher at Ecole Centrale. While in France, Rillieux started researching ways to improve the sugar refining process and after returning to the United States in 1833 began to develop the machine for which he was granted the patent. In the 1850s, Rillieux presented a plan to the government of New Orleans to eliminate the moist breeding grounds for the mosquitoes that were causing a Yellow Fever outbreak. His plan was turned down. Several years later, as the Yellow Fever outbreak continued, the city accepted a plan from White engineers that was similar to the plan proposed by Rillieux. In the late 1850s, Rillieux returned to France where he died October 8, 1894.

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Today in Black History, 8/25/2013

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• August 25, 1746 Native Americans attacked two White families in Deerfield, Massachusetts in an area called “The Bars.” Lucy Terry, an enslaved Black woman, composed a ballad about the attack titled “Bars Fight” which is considered the oldest known work of literature by an African American. Her poem was preserved orally until it was published in 1855. Terry was born around 1830 and stolen from Africa and sold into slavery as an infant. A successful Black man purchased her freedom and married her in 1756. A persuasive orator, Terry won a case against false land claims before the Supreme Court of Vermont in the 1790s. She also delivered a three hour address to the Board of Trustees of Williams College to support the admittance of her son to the college. Although unsuccessful, the speech was remembered for its eloquence and skill. Terry died July 11, 1821.

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Today in Black History, 8/24/2013

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• August 24, 1854 The National Emigration Convention of Colored People opened in Cleveland, Ohio. The convention was led by early African American nationalist Martin R. Delany and attracted 106 delegates from around the United States. The three day convention was called to discuss the merits of emigration and to develop a practical plan for African Americans to emigrate to the West Indies or Central or South America. Delegates approved a series of resolutions which commented on the political and social conditions of Black people in the U.S. They also approved a document, “Political Destiny of the Colored Race,” which urged emigration to areas of Central and South America “which provide opportunity for the enjoyment of civil and religious liberty.” The convention established a Board of Commissioners with Delany as president and William Webb and Charles W. Nighten as commissioners. The movement was dissolved in 1861.

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Today in Black History, 8/23/2013

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• August 23, 1899 Moses Williams, Congressional Medal of Honor recipient, died. Williams was born October 10, 1845 in Carrollton, Louisiana. Not much is known of his early life, but by August 16, 1881, he was serving as a first sergeant in Company I of the 9th Cavalry Regiment during the Indian Wars. On that day, he participated in an engagement in the foothills of the Cuchillo Negro Mountains in New Mexico and his actions earned him the medal, America’s highest military decoration. His citation reads, “Rallied a detachment, skillfully conducted a running fight of 3 or 4 hours, and by his coolness, bravery, and unflinching devotion to duty in standing by his commanding officer in an exposed position under a heavy fire from a large party of Indians saved the lives of at least 3 of his comrades.” Williams was awarded the medal November 12, 1896. He later reached the rank of ordinance sergeant and left the army in 1898.

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Today in Black History, 8/22/2013

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• August 22, 1791 The African descended enslaved people of Saint Domingue (Haiti) rose in revolt and plunged the colony into a 12 year revolution that freed them from colonization and slavery. One of the most successful leaders of the revolution was Toussaint L’Ouverture. On January 1, 1804 Jean-Jacques Dessalines, the new leader of the revolution, declared the former colony independent and renamed it the Republic of Haiti, making it the first independent nation in Latin American and the first post-colonial independent Black-led nation in the world.

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Voices of the Civil War Episode 19 "Douglass and Lincoln"

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AUGUST 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.

On August 9, 1863, Frederick Douglass met with President Abraham Lincoln to discuss the fair treatment and equal pay of African American soldiers within the Union Army. Although African American soldiers had proven themselves in battle, recruitment declined as black soldiers still faced racial discrimination and prejudice. Douglass expressed three specific grievances directly to President Lincoln and Secretary of War, Edwin M. Stanton, in an effort to improve the treatment of African American soldiers.

Credits

1-3, 6-7, 9-13, 16-20, 23 Library of Congress

4 Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History

5, 21 National Archives and Records Administration

8, 22 Massachusetts Historical Society

14-15 Wikimedia Commons

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Today in Black History, 8/21/2013

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• August 21, 1831 Nat Turner’s rebellion began in Southampton County, Virginia. Turner was an enslaved Black man who started with a few trusted fellow enslaved men and grew into more than 50 enslaved and free Black men. The rebels traveled from house to house, freeing enslaved people and killing their White owners. The rebellion was suppressed within 48 hours with 55 White men, women and children killed. Turner 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, 8/20/2013

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• August 20, 1619 The first 20 Africans were brought to what would become Jamestown, Virginia aboard a Dutch ship. The Africans were traded for food and supplies as temporary indentured servants in the same way that English White people were owned as laborers in the New World. Their labor arrangement was for a specified period of time after which they were free to live their lives, just as the English laborers were. The permanent enslavement of Africans in America was implemented later.

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