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Today in Black History, 6/21/2012

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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. “Detour – Bermuda, Destination – U.S. House of Representatives: The Life of Joseph Hayne Rainey” was published in 1977.

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Voices of the Civil War Episode 5 "A White Man's War"

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JUNE 2012: 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 on the links below to view prior episodes:

• Episode 1 Part 1 click here

• Episode 1 Part 2 click here

• Episode 2 click here

• Episode 3 click here

• Episode 4 click here

Many northerners were determined to keep their conflict with the South a ‘white man’s war.’  Whenever recruiting offices were opened, black men offered themselves and were rejected.  Nonetheless, they were confident that the opportunity to serve the Union was a matter of time.[1]  The Lincoln administration, Republican press and even some anti-slavery newspapers stated that the goal of the war was the restoration of the Union, and that the issues of slavery and blacks had nothing to do with the conflict.  Such actions dampened the rising enthusiasm of African Americans for the Union cause. In episode 5 we learn about the first African American men who were prepared to fight in the Civil War.

[1] William Wells Brown, The Negro in the American Rebellion: His Heroism and His Fidelity, (Athens, Ohio: Ohio University Press, 2003), 30.

Credits

Shots 1 - 5 Library of Congress
Shot 6 Courtesy of the South Carolina Senate
Shot 7 John Baptiste LePaon, Lafayette at Yorktown, Easton, Pennsylvania. Lafayette College, Art Collection
Shot 8 Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History
Shots 9 -10 Library of Congress
Shot 11 Architect of the Capitol
Shot 12 The Walters Art Museum, Baltimore
Shot 13 Library of Congress
Shots 14 -16 Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History
Shots 17 -18 Library of Congress

 

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Today in Black History, 6/20/2012

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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 Chesnutt’s honor.

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A Historic Date : June 19, 1865

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Leah Johnson shares her thoughts on what Juneteenth means to her.

 

Happy Juneteenth!

 

 June 19th, 1865 is the date associated with the ending of slavery in the United States.

 

This was another significant date that I did not know about until my college studies of African American history.

 

Needless to say, Juneteenth definitely prompts reflection.

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Today in Black History, 6/19/2012

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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 on 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, 6/18/2012

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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 and annually, on the last weekend of July, Emancipation Day is celebrated in Nicodemus.

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Today in Black History, 6/17/2012

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• June 17, 1851 John Brown Russwurm, abolitionist and newspaper editor, died. Russwurm was born enslaved on October 1, 1799 in Port Antonio, Jamaica. In 1807, he was sent by his white father to Quebec to go to school and in 1812 he 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 1826, Russwurm earned his bachelor’s degree from Bowdoin College, becoming 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. 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 and his biography, “John Brown Russwurm,” was published in 1970.

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Today in Black History, 6/16/2012

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• June 16, 1837 John Lawson, Congressional Medal of Honor recipient, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. On August 5, 1864, while serving as a member of the USS Hartford’s berth deck ammunition party during the Battle of Mobile Bay, Alabama during the Civil War, Lawson’s actions earned him the medal, America’s highest military decoration. His citation partially reads, “Wounded in the leg and thrown violently against the side of the ship when an enemy shell killed or wounded the 6-man crew as the shell whipped on the berth deck, Lawson, upon regaining his composure, promptly returned to his station and, although urged to go below for treatment, steadfastly continued his duties throughout the remainder of the action.” Lawson was awarded the medal on December 31, 1864 and died May 3, 1919. Over time, the tombstone that marked his grave was destroyed and on April 24, 2004 a new tombstone was dedicated in his honor.

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Today in Black History, 6/15/2012

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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 on 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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"Witness: The Art of Jerry Pinkney" Opens at The Wright Museum; Exhibit Features Works by Celebrated Artist and Children’s Book Illustrator

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Opening today, the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History presents the exhibition, Witness: The Art of Jerry Pinkney, organized by the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. The exhibit features over 140 works by the popular and critically acclaimed artist, who has illustrated over one hundred children’s books that have been translated into sixteen languages and published in fourteen countries.

 

This exhibition, celebrating an artistic journey that has continued for 50 years, offers memorable perspectives on life’s small but extraordinary moments and on significant historical events that are brought into focus through his art. The power of classic literature and the meaning of visual storytelling in our lives are made clear in the work of Jerry Pinkney, who became “the voice that others may not have had.”

 

“This new exhibition examines how this talented artist managed to overcome obstacles and create powerful stories that have literally become the country’s collective memory,” says Norman Rockwell Museum Deputy Director Stephanie Plunkett, who co-curated the exhibition. “Jerry Pinkney is the master of the American picture book,” says Rockwell Center for American Visual Studies curator Dr. Joyce K. Schiller. “He has managed to bring historical events to life through the magic of his beautiful and sometimes fanciful imagery.”

 

Jerry Pinkney’s work has been displayed internationally in countries including Japan, Russia, Italy, and Taiwan, and his clients include former First Lady Laura Bush, who commissioned him to illustrate and design the White House Christmas program, as well as the US Postal Service and the NASA Art Collection of the John F. Kennedy Space Center. Mr. Pinkney was recently presented with the prestigious Caldecott Medal, awarded to the illustrator of the most distinguished American picture book for children that year. The recipient of five Caldecott Honor Medals, five Coretta Scott King Awards, four Coretta Scott King Honor Awards, and a lifetime achievement award from the Society of Illustrators in New York, the artist has also served on the Board of the National Endowment for the Arts, and on the National Postal Service’s Citizen Stamp Advisory Council.

 

Accompanying the exhibit is a 96-page catalog tracing illustrator Jerry Pinkney's 50-year career producing some of the most highly acclaimed children's books of our time. The catalog is filled with wonderful color illustrations and essays written by Jerry Pinkney, Stephanie Haboush Plunkett, Dr. Gerald L. Early, Steven Heller, Leonard S. Marcus, and Dr. Joyce K. Schiller. Witness: The Art of Jerry Pinkney has been organized by the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Massachusetts.


The Wright Museum, located at 315 East Warren Avenue in Midtown Detroit’s Cultural Center, is open Tuesday through Saturday from 9 am until 5 pm, and on Sundays from 1 until 5 pm. Witness: The Art of Jerry Pinkney is on display through September 9, 2012, and is free with museum admission, which is $8 for adults (ages 13-61), and $5 for seniors (62+) and youth (3-12). Admission is free for Museum members and children under 3.

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Today in Black History, 6/14/2012

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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, 6/13/2012

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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. Over the last 15 years, enrollment has more than doubled to 325. Since its inception, the academy has addressed the societal forces disrupting the potential of children and their families.

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Today in Black History, 6/12/2012

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• June 12, 1868 King Solomon White, hall of fame Negro League baseball player, manager, executive and author, was born in Bellaire, Ohio. White joined the Pittsburgh Keystones of the National Colored Baseball League in 1887, starting a playing career that lasted until 1912. He made a name for himself in the predominantly white minor leagues before blacks were excluded from playing. White was instrumental in the 1902 formation of the Philadelphia Giants and the later development and operation of various leagues. In 1907, his book “Sol White’s History of Colored Baseball” was published, the first definitive history of black baseball. White spent most of his remaining years as a journalist for African American newspapers. White died August 26, 1955 and was posthumously inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2006.

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Today in Black History, 6/11/2012

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• June 11, 1850 Henry Johnson, Congressional Medal of Honor recipient, was born in Boydton, Virginia. On October 5, 1879, Johnson was serving as a sergeant in Company D of the 9th Cavalry Regiment at Milk River, Colorado during the Indian Wars when his actions earned him the medal. His citation reads, “Voluntarily left fortified shelter and under heavy fire at close range made the rounds of pits to instruct the guards and fought his way to the creek and back to bring water to the wounded.” In recognition of his heroic actions, on September 22, 1890 Johnson was awarded the Medal of Honor, America’s highest military decoration. Not much is known of Johnson’s later life except that he died January 31, 1904 and was buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

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Today in Black History, 6/10/2012

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• June 10, 1799. Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-George, musician, swordsman, and equestrian, died. Saint-Georges was born December 25, 1739 in Guadeloupe, but raised in France. While still a young man, he acquired multiple reputations: as the best swordsman in France, as a violin virtuoso, and as a classical composer. In 1771, he was appointed maestro of the Concert des Amateurs, and later director of the Concert de la Loge Olympique, the biggest orchestra of his time. He was eventually selected for appointment as director of the Royal Opera of Louis XVI, but was prevented from taking the position because three Parisian divas felt that “it would be injurious to their professional reputations for them to sing on stage under the direction of a mulatto.” Saint-George also served in the French army and was appointed the first black colonel, commanding a regiment of a thousand free colored volunteers. Despite his successes, Saint-Georges died destitute. Several biographies have been published on Saint-George, including “Joseph Boulogne called Chevalier de Saint-Georges” (1996) and “Joseph de Saint-Georges, le Chevalier Noir (The Black Chevalier)” (2006).

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Today in Black History, 6/9/2012

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• June 9, 1929 Johnny Ace, rhythm & blues singer, was born John Marshall Alexander, Jr. in Memphis, Tennessee. After serving in the navy during the Korean War, Ace played piano in several bands, including the B. B. King band. When King left the band, Ace took over vocal duties and renamed the band The Beale Streeters. In 1952, he released his debut recording, “My Song,” which topped the R&B charts for nine weeks. In the next two years, he had eight hits in a row, including “Cross My Heart” (1953), “Please Forgive Me” (1954), “Yes Baby” (1954), and “Never Let Me Go” (1954). In December, 1954, he was named the Most Programmed Artist Of 1954 by trade weekly Cash Box. Three of his 1954 recordings sold more than 1,750,000 records. On December 25, 1954, Ace accidently killed himself while playing with a loaded gun. His funeral was attended by an estimated 5,000 people and his last recording, “Pledging My Love” which was released in 1955, posthumously topped the R&B chart for ten weeks. Ace’s biography, “The Late, Great Johnny Ace and the Transition from R&B to Rock and Roll,” was published in 1999.

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Today in Black History, 6/8/2012

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• June 8, 1874 Virginia Estelle Randolph, educator and pioneer of vocational training, was born in Richmond, Virginia. Randolph began her career as a teacher when she opened the one room Mountain Road School in Henrico County, Virginia. In addition to academics, she taught her students woodworking, sewing, cooking, and gardening. In 1908, Randolph was named the United States’ first “Jeanes Supervising Industrial Teacher,” becoming the recipient of funding to maintain and assist rural schools for African Americans in the South. As the overseer of 23 elementary schools, Randolph developed the first in-service training program for black teachers. She also authored the “Henrico Plan” which became a reference book for southern schools receiving funding from the Jeanes Foundation. Randolph’s teaching philosophy and techniques were later adopted by Great Britain in their African colonies. Also in 1908, she founded the first Arbor Day Program in Virginia. She and her students planted 12 Sycamore trees. In 1976, the trees still standing were named the first notable trees in Virginia by the National Park Service. Randolph retired in 1949 and in 1954 the Virginia Randolph Foundation was formed to annually award scholarships to Henrico County high school students who will be attending college. Randolph died March 16, 1958 and in 1976 the Virginia Randolph Home Economics Cottage was named a National Historic Landmark by the National Park Service. Virginia Randolph Community High School in Glen Allen, Virginia is named in her honor.

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Today in Black History, 6/7/2012

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• June 7, 1917 Gwendolyn Elizabeth Brooks, poet, and novelist, was born in Topeka, Kansas but raised in Chicago, Illinois. Brooks published her first poem in a children’s magazine at 13 and by the time she was 16 she had a portfolio of 75 published poems. In 1945, her first book of poetry, “A Street in Bronzeville,” was published and it received instant critical acclaim. She received her first Guggenheim Fellowship and was one of the “Ten Young Women of the Year” in Mademoiselle Magazine. Her second book of poetry, “Annie Allen,” was published in 1949 and won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry, the first won by an African American. In 1962, Brooks began teaching creative writing at several institutions, including Northeastern Illinois University and Columbia University. Her book length poem, “In the Mecca” (1968), was nominated for the National Book Award for Poetry. Also in 1968, Brooks was appointed Poet Laureate of Illinois and in 1985 she was selected the Library of Congress’s Consultant in Poetry (now titled Poet Laureate). Brooks was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame in 1988 and in 1994 was chosen as the National Endowment for the Humanities’ Jefferson Lecturer, the highest award in the humanities given by the federal government. In 1995, she was presented the National Medal of Arts, the highest honor bestowed on an individual artist by the United States, by President William Clinton. Brooks was awarded more than 75 honorary degrees from colleges and universities worldwide and there are a number of schools in Illinois named in her honor. Brooks died December 3, 2000. Her biography, “A Life of Gwendolyn Brooks,” was published in 1990.

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Today in Black History, 6/6/2012

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• June 6, 1902 James Melvin Lunceford, bandleader and alto saxophonist, was born in Fulton, Mississippi but raised in Denver, Colorado. Lunceford earned his Bachelor of Music degree from Fisk University in 1926. While teaching high school in Memphis, Tennessee, he formed a student band which eventually became the Jimmy Lunceford Orchestra. In 1934, the band began an engagement at the Cotton Club in Harlem, New York and by 1935 they had achieved a national reputation as one of the top black swing bands. The Lunceford Orchestra recorded 22 hits, including the number one “Rhythm Is Our Business” in 1935. It was the first black band to play New York’s Paramount Theater and tour white colleges. Glen Miller was quoted as saying, “Duke Ellington is great, Count Basie remarkable, but Lunceford tops them all.” By 1942, the band began to have internal problems and suffered a decline in popularity. Lunceford died July 12, 1947. The Jimmy Lunceford Jamboree Festival is held annually in Memphis and in 2011 a Mississippi Blues Trail marker dedicated to Lunceford was unveiled.

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Today in Black History, 6/5/2012

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• June 5, 1893 Mary Ann Camberton Shadd, educator and publisher, died. Shadd was born October 9, 1823 in Wilmington, Delaware. In 1840, she moved to West Chester, Pennsylvania and established a school for black children. When the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850 threatened to return free northern blacks to bondage, Shadd moved to Windsor, Ontario where she founded a racially integrated school. In 1853, Shadd founded The Provincial Freeman newspaper which promoted temperance, moral reform, civil rights, and black self-help. Published until 1859, it was one of the longest published black newspapers before the Civil War. In 1861, Shadd published “Voice from Harper’s Ferry,” a tribute to John Brown’s unsuccessful raid. That same year, she returned to the United States and during the Civil War served as a recruiting officer to enlist black volunteers for the Union Army. After the war, she moved to Washington, D.C. where she taught school and attended Howard University Law School. In 1883 she graduated, becoming the second black woman to earn a law degree in the United States. She also joined the National Women’s Suffrage Association and became the first black woman to cast a vote in a national election. In 1976, Shadd’s former residence in Washington, D.C. was declared a National Historic Landmark. Her biographies include “Shadd: The Life and Times of Mary Shadd Cary” (1977) and “Mary Ann Shadd Cary: The Black Press and Protest in the Nineteenth Century” (1998).

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