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Today in Black History, 10/30/2013

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• October 30, 1895 Ossian Haven Sweet, physician, was born in Orlando, Florida. At the age of six, Sweet witnessed the lynching and burning of a neighbor who had been accused of raping a White girl. That memory would haunt Sweet throughout his life. In 1917, Sweet earned his Bachelor of Science degree from Wilberforce University and from there he went to Howard University where he earned his Doctor of Medicine degree in 1921. Sweet then moved to Detroit, Michigan where he could not find work at a hospital due to his race. He was able to establish an office in “Black Bottom” where overpopulation and an influx of migrants who lacked medical care caused diseases and created threats to life. Recognizing the need for further medical training, in 1923 Sweet moved to Vienna and Paris to study. In Paris, he was able to experience life without prejudice and for the first time was treated as an equal to White people. In 1924, Sweet returned to Detroit and started work at Dunbar Hospital, Detroit’s first Black hospital. In 1925, Sweet bought a house in an all-White neighborhood of Detroit. On September 9, the second day after the Sweets had moved in, a crowd of 300 to 400 White people gathered and began to throw stones at the house. Several of Sweet’s friends and relatives were in the house and armed. Shots were fired from the house and one White man was killed. All eleven African Americans in the house were arrested. After two trials, Sweet and the others were acquitted of murder charges by an all-White jury. After the acquittal, Sweet’s life went downhill due to the death of his daughter and wife and financial difficulties. On March 20, 1960, Sweet committed suicide. The Ossian H. Sweet House in Detroit was listed on the National Register of Historic Places April 4, 1985. “Arc of Justice: A Saga of Race, Civil Rights, and Murder in the Jazz Age” (2004) tells the story of Sweet and his battle for equality. Sweet’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, 10/29/2013

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• October 29, 1866 James Pierson Beckwourth, mountain man, fur trader and explorer, died. Beckwourth was born enslaved April 6, 1798 in Frederick County, Virginia. His owner emancipated him in 1824 and Beckwourth joined a fur trapping company on an expedition to explore the Rocky Mountains. In 1826, he was captured by the Crow Indians and for the next 8 or 9 years lived with them, rising in their society from warrior to chief. During the Mexican American War, Beckwourth served as a courier for the United States Army. In 1850, he was credited for discovering what came to be called the Beckwourth Pass, a passage through the Sierra Nevada Mountains. In the mid-1850s, Beckwourth began ranching in the Sierra and his ranch, trading post, and hotel were the starting settlement of what became Beckwourth, California. In 1996, in recognition of his contribution to the city’s development, the City of Marysville, California officially renamed the city’s largest park Beckwourth Riverfront Park. Beckwourth published his autobiography, “The Life and Adventures of James P. Beckwourth: Mountaineer, Scout and Pioneer, and Chief of the Crow Nation of Indians,” in 1856.

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Today in Black History, 10/28/2013

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• October 28, 1918 Edward Alexander Bouchet, educator and the first African American to earn a Ph. D. from an American university, died. Bouchet was born September 15, 1852 in New Haven, Connecticut. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Yale College in 1874, the first Black person to graduate from the school, and based on his academic performance was the first Black person nominated to Phi Beta Kappa but was not elected until 1884. Bouchet returned to Yale and in 1876 earned his Ph. D. in physics. Unable to find a university teaching position due to racism, he moved to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania where he taught physics and chemistry at the Institute for Colored Youth (now Cheney University) for the next 26 years. Bouchet resigned in 1902 and from 1905 to 1908 was director of academics at St. Paul’s Normal and Industrial School (now St. Paul’s College). From 1908 to 1913, he served as principal and teacher at a high school in Ohio before joining the faculty of Bishop College in 1913. Illness forced him to retire in 1916. The American Physical Society presents the Edward A. Bouchet Award to outstanding physicists for their contributions to physics and in 2005 Yale and Howard universities founded the Edward A. Bouchet Graduate Honor Society.

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Today in Black History, 10/27/2013

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• October 27, 1917 Oliver Reginald Tambo, co-founder of the African National Congress Youth League, was born in Pondoland, South Africa. Tambo won a scholarship to Fort Hare, the only college that Black people could attend, but was expelled in 1939 for participating in a student strike. He later studied law by correspondence and qualified as an attorney in 1952. In 1943, he along with Nelson Mandela and Walter Sisulu founded the ANC Youth League with Tambo as national secretary. In 1955, Tambo became secretary general of the ANC and in 1958 became deputy president. In 1959, Tambo was banned by the South African government and the ANC sent him to England, where he lived until 1990, to mobilize opposition to apartheid. He returned to South Africa and was elected national chairperson of the ANC in July, 1991. Tambo died April 24, 1993. In October, 2006, the airport in Johannesburg was renamed Tambo International Airport in his honor.

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Today in Black History, 10/26/2013

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• October 26, 1899 William Julius “Judy” Johnson, hall of fame Negro league baseball player, was born in Snow Hill, Maryland. Johnson began his baseball career in 1918 and reached the highest level of the Negro leagues in 1921. In 1930, Johnson was a player-coach for the Homestead Grays and in that capacity discovered fellow hall of famer Josh Gibson. From 1935 until his retirement as a player in 1938, Johnson was the captain of the Pittsburgh Crawfords, one of the greatest Negro league teams of all time. Johnson was also an accomplished talent scout, responsible for signing Bill Bruton and Dick Allen who later starred in the major leagues. He retired in 1973 and was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1975. Johnson died June 15, 1989.

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Today in Black History, 10/25/2013

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• October 25, 1893 Joseph Charles Price, founder and first president of Livingston College, died. Price was born February 10, 1854 in Elizabeth City, North Carolina. He graduated as class valedictorian from Lincoln University in 1879 and was appointed to the African Methodist Episcopal Church’s delegation to the World Ecumenical Conference in London, England. In London, Price amazed audiences with his powerful speaking and was called “The World’s Orator” by the British press. Over the next year, Price raised $10,000 and returned to North Carolina in 1882 to open Livingston College. Price served as president of the college until his death. In 1890, he was elected president of the National Protective Association and that same year was voted one of the “Ten Greatest Negroes Who Ever Lived”. His biography, “Joseph Charles Price, Educator and Race Leader,” was published in 1943. In 1967, a North Carolina Highway Historical Marker was dedicated in his honor in Elizabeth City.

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Today in Black History, 10/24/2013

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• October 24, 1896 Marjorie Stewart Joyner, inventor of the permanent wave machine, was born in Monterey, Virginia. In 1916, Joyner became the first African American to graduate from the A. B. Molar Beauty School in Chicago, Illinois. After graduating, she went to work for Madam C. J. Walker, overseeing 200 of her beauty schools as the national advisor. On November 27, 1928, she received patent number 1,693,515 for her invention of the permanent wave machine which could be used to curl or straighten hair by wrapping rods above the person’s head and then cooking them to set the hair. This method allowed hair styles to last several days. Because she was working for Walker, her invention was credited to Madam Walker’s company and she received almost no money for it. In 1945, Joyner co-founded the United Beauty School Owners and Teachers Association and in 1973, at the age of 77, she earned her Bachelor of Science degree in psychology from Bethune-Cookman College. Joyner died December 7, 1994.

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Today in Black History, 10/23/2013

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• October 23, 1810 William Alexander Leidesdorff, one of the earliest Black settlers in California and often called the first Black millionaire, was born in St. Croix, Virgin Islands. Leidesdorff left St. Croix when he was 15 for schooling in Denmark and after that went to New Orleans, Louisiana where he worked as a ship captain from 1834 to 1840. In 1841, he moved to California where he launched the first steamboat to operate on San Francisco Bay and the Sacramento River. He also built the first hotel and the first shipping warehouse. In 1844, Leidesdorff became a naturalized Mexican citizen and received a land grant of 35,521 acres. He went on to establish extensive commercial relations throughout Hawaii, Alaska, and Mexican California. When the United States took over California, Leidesdorff was one of three members on the first San Francisco school board and was later elected city treasurer. He also donated the land for the first public school. In 1845, President James Polk hired him as the United States Vice Consul to Mexico. When Leidesdorff died May 18, 1848, he was one of the wealthiest men in California and on the day of his burial, flags were flown at half-mast, business was suspended, and the schools were closed. When his estate was auctioned in 1856, it was valued at more than $1,445,000. Leidesdorff streets in San Francisco and Folsom, California are named in his honor. His biography, “William Alexander Leidesdorff: First Black Millionaire, American Consul and California Pioneer,” was published in 2005.

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Voices of the Civil War Episode 21 "Sojourner Truth"

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OCTOBER 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.

The women's rights movement in America was directly influenced by the work of the abolitionist movement. By 1863, the abolitionist and women's rights advocate Sojourner Truth had spent more than twenty years speaking out against slavery. She was a remarkable case, but the Civil War saw many female heroes. During the war, American women threw themselves into public life with an enthusiasm born out of a sense of duty.

Credits

1, 2, 11 New York Public Library

3-5, 7-8, 12-13, 15-16, 18, 20, 22, 23, 25-27, 29-30 Library of Congress

6 Corbis

9, 17, 28, 31 Public Domain

10 Willard Library

14, 24 Documenting the American South, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Libraries

19 Detroit Public Library

21 Savannah College of Art and Design, Charles White

32 U.S. Army Center of Military History - Army Military History Institute Collection

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Today in Black History, 10/22/2013

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• October 22, 1854 James Alan Bland, hall of fame songwriter and musician, was born in Flushing, New York but raised in Washington, D.C. Bland began performing professionally at the age of 14. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Howard University in 1873. Bland toured the United States and Europe, spending 20 years in London. While in Europe, he performed for Queen Victoria and the Prince of Wales. Bland wrote more than 700 songs, including “In the Evening by the Moonlight,” “O Dem Golden Slippers,” and “Carry Me Back to Old Virginny” which in a slightly modified form was made the official state song of Virginia in 1940. Although Bland made as much as $10,000 per year, he died penniless May 5, 1911 and was buried in an unmarked grave without a funeral. In 1939, his grave was found by the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) who landscaped it and erected a monument. Bland was posthumously inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1970. Housing projects in Flushing and Alexandria, Virginia are named in his honor.

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Today in Black History, 10/21/2013

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• October 21, 1864 Alfred B. Hilton, Congressional Medal of Honor recipient, died of wounds received at the Battle of Chaffin’s Farm during the Civil War. Hilton was born in Harford County, Maryland in 1842. On September 29, 1864, Hilton was serving as a sergeant in the 4th Regiment Colored Infantry when his unit participated in the Battle of Chaffin’s Farm on the outskirts of Richmond, Virginia. During the battle, Hilton carried the American flag as part of the unit’s color guard. As he charged the enemy fortifications, he grabbed the regimental colors from a wounded comrade. When he was seriously wounded, he called out “Boys, save the colors.” Two of his fellow soldiers grabbed the flags before they could touch the ground. On April 6, 1865, Hilton was posthumously awarded the medal, America’s highest military decoration, for his actions during the battle. Sergeant Major Christian Fleetwood and Private Charles Veale, both African Americans, also received the Congressional Medal of Honor for their actions during the battle.

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Today in Black History, 10/20/2013

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• October 20, 1849 William Washington Browne, educator, minister, and businessman, was born enslaved in Habersham County, Georgia. At 15, Browne ran away and joined the Union Army during the Civil War. After the war, he attended school in Wisconsin and then returned to the South in 1869 to teach in Georgia and Alabama. After becoming a Methodist minister in 1876, he urged the formation of groups to pool money and buy land. In 1889, he organized the True Reformers Savings Bank in Richmond, Virginia, the first Black bank in the United States to receive a charter. At its peak in 1907, it took in more than $1 million in deposits. Browne was one of only eight men, including Booker T. Washington, selected to represent African Americans at the Cotton States and International Exposition in 1895. Browne died December 21, 1897 and his funeral was one of the largest ever seen in Richmond’s Black community.

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Today in Black History, 10/19/2013

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• October 19, 1859 Byrd Prillerman, co-founder of West Virginia State College, was born enslaved in Shady Grove, Virginia. After being freed, Prillerman began school at the age of 12 and earned his Bachelor of Science degree in 1889 from Knoxville College. He also earned his Master of Arts degree from Westminster College in 1894 and his Doctor of Letters degree from Selma University in 1919. In 1891, along with Rev. C. H. Payne, Prillerman secured legislative action to create the West Virginia Colored Institute which opened its doors the following year with Prillerman as the head of the Department of English. He taught in that capacity until 1909 when he was elected president of the institution, a position he held until his retirement in 1919. Prillerman was also one of the organizers, and for many years president, of the West Virginia Teachers’ Association. One of his favorite sayings was “a well painted two-story house owned by a Negro is sharper than a two-edged sword”. Prillerman died April 25, 1929. Byrd Prillerman High School in Amigo, West Virginia is named in his honor.

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Author & Scholar to Speak on Midwest Renaissance & Origins of Black Chicago & Detroit; DPTV and The Wright Museum Team Up to Help Educators Teach Black History

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During the period known as the Great Migration, over 5 million African Americans moved north and west across the United States in search of a better life. Author, scholar, and professor of African American Studies and History at Northwestern University Dr. Darlene Clark Hine will discuss African American geographic movement and its impact on American history in a free lecture Thursday, October 24, 2013, at 6 pm. Preceding the lecture will be a special professional development opportunity for educators centered on the new PBS mini-series, The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross. Both programs take place at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American located at 315 East Warren Avenue in Detroit.
 Clark-Hine
Dr. Darlene Clark Hine’s historical research has been expansive and groundbreaking, and she has written a variety of scholarly works and textbooks, many of which are used in high school and college settings. Dr. Hine’s recent work on the impact of the Great Migration to Midwestern cities like Chicago and Detroit sheds light on the ways in which African Americans created and re-created a sense of cultural community and renaissance in the midst of oppressive conditions. After the lecture, Dr. Hine will sign copies of The Black Chicago Renaissance (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2012), co-edited by Darlene Clark Hine and John M. McCluskey. This free event is co-sponsored by the Detroit organizing branch of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH).
 
Detroit Public Television, in partnership with The Wright Museum and The Michigan Historical Museum, will host a professional development opportunity from 1 pm until 5 pm on Thursday, October 24, 2013, in which educators will have an opportunity to tour The Wright Museum, hear from an expert on Michigan’s African American history, learn about local history resources, and be given a demonstration of the educational resources and lesson plans offered with The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross. This six-part mini-series is hosted by scholar-activist Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and examines the 400-year history of African Americans, from the origins of slavery in Africa to President Obama’s election. It premieres on DPTV on October 22, 2013, at 8 PM EST. Staff members from LAB@Thirteen and WNET’s Educational and Community Outreach Department in New York will lead the series overview and lesson plan demonstration.
 
The professional development opportunity program is free for educators, but attendees should RSVP by contacting Heather Forgione at Detroit Public Television at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or (248) 305-3707. The Great Migration lecture and book signing by Dr. Darlene Clark Hine is free and open to the public.

Educators-Event-10.24.13-revised2

About Dr. Darlene Clark Hine

Since 2004, Darlene Clark Hine has been Professor of African American Studies and Professor of History at Northwestern University. Previously, she was Professor of History at Michigan State University (1987-2004). She has taught at Purdue University (1974-1987), and at South Carolina State University (1972-1974). She is a graduate of Roosevelt University (1968, Chicago, IL) and earned her PhD at Kent State University (1975). Hine is the author of Black Victory: The Rise and Fall of the Democratic White Primary in Texas (1979, rev. 2005, University of Missouri Press); and Black Women in White: Racial Conflict and Cooperation in the Nursing Profession, 1890-1950 (Indiana University Press, 1989). She is co-editor (with Rosalyn Terborg-Penn and Elsa Barkley Brown) of Black Women in America: An Historical Encyclopedia ( 2 vols.1994), and editor of Black Women in America (3 vols, Oxford University Press, 2005). She is co-editor with Trica Daniele Keaton and Stephen Smalls of Black Europe and the African Diaspora (2009). Hine is past-president of The Organization of American Historians, and of The Southern Historical Association. She is a Fellow in the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (2006). Hine has held fellowships at the National Humanities Center, The Center for Advanced Studies in the Behavioral Sciences, and at the Radcliffe Institute.

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Today in Black History, 10/18/2013

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• October 18, 1763 John Chavis, minister and educator, was born in North Carolina. Little is known of his early life although it is believed that he worked as an indentured servant. Chavis enlisted in the army during the Revolutionary War and served in the 5th Virginia Regiment for three years. After the war, he took private classes and in 1795 enrolled at the Liberty Hall Academy (now Washington and Lee University). In 1800, he graduated with high honors and was granted a license to preach. From 1800 to 1807, he served as a circuit riding missionary ministering to enslaved and free Black people in Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina. In 1808, Chavis opened a school in his home in Raleigh, North Carolina where he taught White and Black children. His school was one of the best in the state and the children of some of the most prominent White families studied there. After the Nat Turner Rebellion in 1831, North Carolina passed laws that forbade Black people to teach or preach. As a result, Chavis had to close his school and give up preaching. He had to rely on charity until his death June 15, 1838. Chavis Heights Apartments and Chavis Park in Raleigh are named in his honor.

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Today in Black History, 10/17/2013

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• October 17, 1711 Jupiter Hammon, the first African American published writer in America (several years earlier Phyllis Wheatley’s poems had been published in England), was born enslaved in Long Island, New York. Unlike most enslaved people, Hammon was allowed to attend school and could read and write. His first published poem, “An Evening Thought. Salvation by Christ with Penitential Cries,” was published Christmas Day, 1760. On September 24, 1786, he delivered his “Address to the Negroes of the State of New York” in which he stated “If we should ever get to Heaven, we shall find nobody to reproach us for being Black, or for being slaves”. He also said that Black people should maintain their high moral standards precisely because slaves on earth had already secured their place in heaven. Hammon remained enslaved his whole life and died around 1806. Hammon’s story is told in “America’s First Negro Poet: The Complete Works of Jupiter Hammon of Long Island” (1970) and “Jupiter Hammon and the Biblical Beginnings of African American Literature” (1993).

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Today in Black History, 10/16/2013

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• October 16, 1831 Lucy Ann Stanton, the first African American woman to complete a four-year collegiate course of study, was born in Cleveland, Ohio. Stanton entered Oberlin Collegiate Institute (now Oberlin College) in 1846 and in 1849 was elected president of the school’s Ladies Literary Society. Stanton graduated in 1850 with a literary degree. At her graduation, Stanton delivered an address entitled “A Plea for the Oppressed,” an anti-slavery speech which was published in the Oberlin Evangelist. After graduating, she moved to Columbus, Ohio to become principal of a school but two years later returned to Cleveland to marry. In 1854, Stanton wrote a short story for her husband’s newspaper, making her the first Black woman to publish a fictional story. Stanton and her husband moved to Buxton, Canada in 1856 to teach previously enslaved Black people. After divorcing her husband in 1859, Stanton returned to Cleveland. In 1866, she was sponsored by the Cleveland Freedman’s Association to teach in Georgia and later Mississippi. Stanton moved to Tennessee in the 1880s where she was an officer in the Women’s Relief Corps, a grand matron of the Order of Eastern Star, and president of the local chapter of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union. Stanton died February 18, 1910.

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President's Message, October 2013

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Autumn provides an opportunity for reflection amidst the unceasing changes and cycles of life. The same holds true for The Wright Museum, which can be said to have its own annual cycles of growth and renewal. Of course, this doesn't mean the museum slows down in manifesting its mission through lively exhibits and events, including the Liberation Film Series, Noel Night, or our ever-popular Kwanzaa celebrations. But given the extraordinary accomplishments of the past few months, I’d like to reflect on a concept critical to our work: Legacy.



Everyone involved in the museum, from its Board of Trustees, staff, and volunteers, to donors, members, and visitors, are a part of continuing the legacy begun by Dr. Charles Wright and his visionary partners in 1965. The 2013 Wright Gala, held September 28 at MGM Grand Detroit, was the culmination of three years of intense effort led by museum trustee Yvette Bing. Mrs. Bing, museum board chair Betty Brooks, and their committed host committee have produced a legacy event in The Wright Gala that has helped keep the museum operating.

Another example of legacy building is that of museum member Thomas K. Burke, founder of the Jackson, Michigan-based Save Our Youth Inc., who has brought groups to the museum each of the past three years. This past August, Mr. Burke, with support from the Jackson Area Civil Rights Association, brought youth from homeless shelters to tour the museum, with each child receiving a museum backpack as a souvenir of their visit. Can you imagine the impact a visit like this will have on a homeless child's life? We salute Mr. Burke and his organization for instilling a legacy of dignity and pride in children most in need.

Finally, we were pleased to hear that on May 10, 2013, Louisa Wright Griggs received her M.D. degree from the University of Illinois School of Medicine, and is proudly following in the footsteps of her grandfather, Dr. Charles H. Wright, and specializing in obstetrics and gynecology. During her last rotation in medical school, Louisa spent seven weeks in Ghana working at two medical facilities thanks to a scholarship from the National Medical Fellowship Foundation – paralleling her grandfather’s work in Nigeria, Sierra Leone, and Liberia with Operations Crossroads Africa and the U.S. Department of Public Health. Dr. Wright Griggs, the daughter of William and Stephanie Wright Griggs, has started her residency at Advocate Illinois Masonic Hospital Medical Center in Chicago, Illinois. We wish her the very, very best in continuing the legacy of Dr. Wright’s caring and care for the community.

Legacy lives and breathes at The Wright Museum, in these stories, and those yet to be told. Speaking of which, on November 10, 2013, the museum launches The Struggle Against Slavery, a digital history website that features extensive information about the Underground Railroad, including online courses, an interactive map and timeline, interviews with historians, educational resources, and much more. Made possible by a grant from the U.S. Department of Education, this project and event will speak to the legacy of the Underground Railroad and black resistance. We hope you will join us, as well as log on to www.UGRRonline.com, November 10.



Click here to download our October 2013 Member Newsletter

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Today in Black History, 10/15/2013

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• October 15, 1837 Fannie Jackson Coppin, educator and journalist, was born enslaved in Washington, D. C. Coppin’s aunt worked for $6 per month and saved $125 to purchase Coppin’s freedom when she was 12 years old. In 1860, Coppin enrolled at Oberlin College and was the first African American student to be appointed in the college’s preparatory department. While attending Oberlin, she established an evening school for previously enslaved Black people. After earning her Bachelor of Arts degree in 1865, she began to teach at the Institute for Colored Youth (now Cheyney University) in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. In 1869, Coppin became principle of the institute, making her the first African American woman to receive that title. She served in that position until 1906. In addition to teaching, Coppin founded homes for working and poor women and wrote an influential column in the local newspaper that defended the rights of women and Black people. In 1902, Coppin and her husband went to South Africa and founded the Bethel Institute, a missionary school that emphasized self-help programs. Coppin died January 21, 1913. Her book “Reminiscences of School Life, and Hints on Teaching” was published later that year. In 1926, a teacher training school was named the Fannie Jackson Coppin Normal School in her honor. That school is now Coppin State University. Coppin’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, 10/14/2013

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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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