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Today in Black History, 1/19/2015

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• January 19, 1887 Clementine Hunter, folk artist, was born at Hidden Hill Plantation in Natchitoches Parish, Louisiana. At 15, Hunter moved to Melrose Plantation where she spent most of her life picking cotton and never learning to read or write. Hunter was a self-taught artist who produced between four and five thousand paintings in her lifetime. In the 1940s, she sold her paintings for as little as a quarter. By the 1970s, they were selling for hundreds of dollars and today they are sold for thousands of dollars. Hunter was the first African American artist to have a solo exhibition at the New Orleans Museum of Art and although she became a respected artist and folk art legend, she spent most of her life in poverty. Hunter died January 1, 1988. Several biographies of Hunter have been published, including “Clementine Hunter: American Folk Artist” (1990), “Painting by Heart: The Life and Art of Clementine Hunter” (2000), and “Clementine Hunter: Her Life and Art” (2012).

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Today in Black History, 1/18/2015

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• January 18, 1856 Daniel Hale Williams, the first African American cardiologist in the United States, was born in Hollidaysbhttp://blackinventor.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/rotate-danielwilliams1.jpgurg, Pennsylvania. Williams earned his Doctor of Medicine degree from Chicago Medical College (now Northwestern University Medical School) in 1883. On May 4, 1891, he founded Provident Hospital, the first integrated hospital in the United States, and training school for nurses in Chicago, Illinois. On July 9, 1893, Williams performed an operation on a man that had been stabbed in the chest. The operation required that he open the man’s chest, and close the wound around the heart. This is often noted as the first successful surgery on the heart. He co-founded the National Medical Association for Black doctors in 1895. He became a charter member, and the only Black member, in the American College of Surgeons in 1913. He received honorary doctorate degrees from Howard University and Wilberforce University. Williams died August 4, 1931. Biographies of Williams include “Daniel Hale Williams: Negro Surgeon” (1968) and “Daniel Hale Williams: Open Heart Doctor” (1970). The Daniel Hale Williams Preparatory School of Medicine in Chicago is named in his honor.

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Today in Black History, 1/17/2015

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• January 17, 1759 Paul Cuffee, businessman and abolitionist, was born on Cuttyhunk Island, Massachusetts. At 16, Cuffee signed on to a whaling ship and by the time he was 21 owned a fleet of ships and a 116 acre farm. As Cuffee became more successful, he invested in more ships and made a sizable fortune. Cuffee believed that the emigration of Black people to colonies outside of the United States was a viable solution to the race problem in America and in 1811 launched his first expedition to Sierra Leone. While in Sierra Leone, he helped to establish the Friendly Society of Sierra Leone, a trading organization run by Black people. Cuffee died September 9, 1817. Biographies of Cuffee include “Paul Cuffee: Black America and the African Return” published in 1972 and “Paul Cuffee: Black Entrepreneur and Pan-Africanist” published in 1988. He is honored with a feast day on the liturgical calendar of the Episcopal Church on March 4.

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Today in Black History, 1/16/2015

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• January 16, 1865 Union General William T. Sherman issued Special Field Order No. 15 which confiscated as Federal property a strip of coastline stretching from Charleston, South Carolina to the St. John’s River in Florida. The order redistributed the 400,000 acres of land to newly freed Black families in 40-acre segments. In a later order, Sherman also authorized the army to loan mules to the newly settled Black farmers. This is the likely origin of the phrase “forty acres and a mule.” Unfortunately, the order was a short-lived promise for Black people. President Andrew Johnson overturned Sherman’s order in the fall of 1865 and returned the land to the planters who had originally owned it.

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Today in Black History, 1/15/2015

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• January 15, 1891 Bridget “Biddy” Mason, nurse, real estate entrepreneur and philanthropist, died. Mason was born enslaved August 15, 1818 in Hancock County, Georgia. She was given to a couple as a wedding present and they took her to Mississippi and then to California. California was a free state and any enslaved person brought into the state was supposed to be free. The couple refused to free Mason. Therefore, she petitioned a Los Angeles court and was granted her freedom. Mason worked as a nurse and a midwife and was one of the first African Americans to purchase land in the city. She amassed a fortune of nearly $300,000 which she shared with charities. She was instrumental in founding a traveler’s aid center and an elementary school for Black children. In 1872, Mason donated the land to, and was a founding member of, First African Methodist Episcopal Church, the city’s first and oldest Black church. Mason is an honoree in the California Social Work Hall of Distinction and is annually celebrated on Biddy Mason Day November 19th. Her biography, “The Life and Times of Biddy Mason,” was published in 1976.

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Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Celebration at The Wright Museum; Museum’s most popular day of the year features annual commemorative breakfast, youth forum, and film premiere

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The Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History presents its annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Celebration Monday, January 19, 2015. Featured events include the 15th Annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Commemorative Breakfast and the first Unknown Legacy of MLK Forum, hosted in partnership with Public Allies Metro Detroit. These highlights and a variety of other family friendly activities will be held at the museum, located at 315 East Warren Avenue in Midtown Detroit’s Cultural Center, on its most popular day of the year.

The Commemorative Breakfast precedes the day’s events, beginning at 8 am. Hosted by the Women’s and Friends’ Committees of the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History as an annual fundraiser for the museum, the breakfast will features guest speaker State Senator Coleman A. Young, II, The Detroit Delta Preparatory Academy Choir, The Institute of Music & Dance at Marygrove College, and a special presentation by University of Detroit Jesuit High School student and John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award nominee Saunders James Lee II. U.S. Congressman John Conyers, Jr. will serve as the Honorary Chairperson.

The Wright Museum opens to the public at 9 am and the day’s schedule includes arts & crafts, children’s activities and workshops, civil rights films on continued rotation, dance and musical performances, and the display of Martin Luther King artifacts including Table of Brotherhood, signed by luminaries such as the Rev. Jesse Jackson and Spike Lee, and an official maquette (scale model) of the Martin Luther King National Memorial in Washington, D.C.

Beginning at 10 am, Public Allies Metro Detroit explores the “Unknown Legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.” through a youth dialogue based on race, culture, and Detroit identity in leadership. Through presentations, workshops, and roundtable discussions, youth and young adults are invited to examine organizational policies, practices, attitudes, and initiatives to help them on their quest as NEW-NOW-NEXT community leaders, in addition to cultivating meaningful cross-cultural discussion on current social and civic issues. The forum is free but advance registration is encouraged at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/unknown-legacy-of-dr-martin-luther-king-jr-tickets-15068124165.

Making its southeastern Michigan premiere, the 2014 documentary, "Al Helm (The Dream): Martin Luther King in Palestine" will be presented in partnership with the Arab American National Museum. Following the screening is a discussion focusing on community building, service, and ways to diffuse racial and ethnic tensions. Panelists include Will See, youth coordinator at East Michigan Environmental Action Council; Amanda Ghannam of Kairos USA's board of directors and former Students for Justice in Palestine organizer; Dr. Jeffery D. Robinson, principal at Paul Robeson/Malcolm X Academy and pastor at Mt. Calvary Missionary Baptist Church, both in Detroit; and Zena Ozeir, activist/Public Ally. The film screening and discussion are free but advance registration is encouraged at http://bit.ly/mlkinpalestine.

Also taking place is the debut of the museum’s latest exhibit Shadow Matter: The Rhythm of Structure – Afro Futurism to Afro Surrealism, a one-man show featuring the works of New York sculptor and Inkster, Michigan-native M. Scott Johnson. Johnson studied under master artisans in Africa, and his work - which is influenced by African American techno music, Ndyuka and Saramaka graphic art forms, and Japanese-American artist Isamu Noguchi - has been exhibited in galleries across the United States and abroad including the National Gallery of Zimbabwe, Harvard University, and The New York Botanical Gardens.

Tickets for the Commemorative Breakfast are $35 and can be purchased online at www.TheWright.org, by calling (800) 838-3006, or at the museum during normal business hours. Discounted group tickets are available for $30 each when purchased in groups of 10, and all breakfast tickets include admission to MLK Day activities at the museum. Doors open at 7 am and breakfast will be served promptly at 8 am in the museum’s Ford Freedom Rotunda. Valet parking will be available.

MLK Day activities and exhibits are free with museum admission, which is $8 for adults (ages 13-61), $5 for seniors (62+) and youth ages (3-12), and free for museum members and children under 3. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day programming is made possible by a grant from the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs.

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Today in Black History, 1/14/2015

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• January 14, 1904 Issac Payne, Congressional Medal of Honor recipient, died. Payne was born in 1854 in Coahuila, Mexico. He was a descendant of runaway enslaved Black people who lived with the Seminole Indian tribe. Payne immigrated to the United States in 1871 when the U. S. Army promised the Black Seminoles land, rations, and pay to serve as scouts. He enlisted as a trumpeter and on April 25, 1875 he and three other men “participated in a charge against 25 hostiles while on a scouting patrol” by the Pecos River in Texas. His actions earned him the medal, America’s highest military decoration. Payne left the army in 1901 and not much else is known of his life.

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Today in Black History, 1/13/2015

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• January 13, 1835 Isaac Myers, labor leader, was born in Baltimore, Maryland. Myers received his early education from a private day school because Maryland provided no public education for African American children. At 16, he became an apprentice to a Black ship caulker. Four years later, he was supervising the caulking of clipper ships operating out of Baltimore. Soon after the end of the Civil War, Myers founded the Colored Caulkers Trade Union Society. On February 12, 1866, the society purchased a shipyard and railway which they named the Chesapeake Marine Railway and Dry Dock Company. Within months, the company employed 300 Black caulkers. The company ceased operation in 1884. On January 13, 1869, the Colored National Labor Union was founded with Myers as the first president. The union was founded to pursue equal representation for African Americans in the workforce. Although the CNLU welcomed all workers no matter their race, gender, or occupation, the dominant society and government did not take it seriously and it disbanded in 1871. Myers went on to organize and become president of the Maryland Colored State Industrial Fair Association, the Colored Businessmen’s Association of Baltimore, the Colored Building and Loan Association, and the Aged Ministers Home of the African Methodist Episcopal Church. Myers died in 1891. The Frederick Douglass – Isaac Myers Maritime Park in Baltimore is an educational and national heritage site that highlights African American maritime history.

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Today in Black History, 1/12/2015

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• January 12, 1850 John Lewis Waller, the first Black person to cast an electoral ballot for President of the United States, was born enslaved in New Madrid County, Missouri. Waller and his family were freed by a Union infantry regiment in 1862. Wallehttp://www.blackpast.org/files/blackpast_images/waller_john.jpgr moved to Cedar Rapids, Iowa in 1874 and began to study for the law. He was admitted to the Iowa bar in 1877 and moved to Leavenworth, Kansas in 1878 and opened a law practice. In 1882, he founded the Western Recorder, the first Black newspaper in Kansas. Waller was appointed deputy city attorney for Topeka, Kansas in 1887. The next year, he was selected a member of the presidential electoral college. Waller ran for Kansas State Auditor in 1890 but lost. In 1891, President Benjamin Harrison appointed him U. S. Consul to Madagascar. When his term ended in 1874, the island’s monarchy granted him 15,000 acres of land which Waller planned to use for Black Americans who wished to relocate. The French government viewed this as a threat to their colonial ambitions and had Waller sentenced to 20 years in prison. He was released after 10 months as the result of intervention by President Grover Cleveland. Waller returned to the U. S. and was an officer with the 23rd Kansas Volunteers who fought in Cuba during the Spanish-American War. Waller died in October, 1907. “A Black Odyssey: John Lewis Waller and the Promise of American Life, 1878-1900” was published in 1981.

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Today in Black History, 1/11/2015

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• January 11, 1924 Slim Harpo, hall of fame blues harmonica player and singer, was born James Isaac Moore in Lobdell, Louisiana. After his parents died, Harpo dropped out of school and worked as a longshoreman and construction worker while performing in bars, picnics, and on the streets. He started his recording career in 1957 with “I’m a King Bee” which was a regional hit. His first national hit was “Rainin’ In My Heart” (1961) which reached number 17 on the Billboard R&B chart. By 1964, a number of British bands had recorded versions of his singles, including The Rolling Stones, The Yardbirds, and Pink Floyd. Harpo had his biggest commercial success in 1966 with “Baby Scratch My Back” which reached number one of the Billboard R&B chart and number 16 on the Pop chart. Harpo died January 31, 1970. He was posthumously inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 1985. The Slim Harpo Music Awards are awarded annually in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

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Today in Black History, 1/10/2015

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• January 10, 1750 James Varick, founder and the first Bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, was born near Newburgh, New York. Varick acquired an elementary education and for many years worked as a shoemaker and tobacco cutter. After leaving the predominantly White church he had been associated with for 30 years over their racial policies in 1800, Varick and other Black members established the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church. Varick was ordained a deacon in 1806 and was elected the first bishop in 1822. He was re-elected in 1824. Varick was a fierce opponent of slavery and fought for equal rights for African Americans. He was one of the Black leaders that petitioned the New York State Constitutional Convention to grant Black people the right to vote. He also actively supported the establishment of Freedoms Journal, the first Black newspaper in the United States. Varick died July 22, 1827. The James Varick Community Center was established in New York City in 1973.

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Today in Black History, 1/9/2015

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• January 9, 1886 Aaron Anderson, Congressional Medal of Honor recipient, died. Anderson was born in 1811 in Plymouth, North Carolina. He enlisted in the Union Navy at 52 during the Civil War. On March 17, 1865, while serving as a landsman on board the U.S.S. Wyandank on a mission to attack Confederate forces in Mattox Creek in Virginia, his actions earned him the medal. His citation partially reads, “carried out his duties courageously in the face of a devastating fire which cut away half the oars, pierced the launch in many places and cut the barrel off a musket being fired at the enemy.” Anderson was awarded the medal, America’s highest military decoration, June 22, 1865. He left the navy after his term of service expired and little is known of his post-war life.

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Today in Black History, 1/8/2015

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• January 8, 1811 The German Coast Uprising, a slave revolt that took place in the Territory of Orleans, began. The uprising was led by Charles Deslondes, a free person of color from Haiti, and lasted for two days. During that time between 200 and 500 enslaved persons participated, burning five plantation houses and killing two White men. A total of 95 insurgents were killed in the aftermath of the rebellion, including Deslondes who was captured and “had his hands chopped off then shot in one thigh and then the other until they were broken, then shot in the body, and before he had expired was put into a bundle of straw and roasted.” The legislature of the Orleans Territory approved compensation of $300 to planters for each enslave person killed or executed. Books about the uprising include “On to New Orleans! Louisiana’s Heroic 1811 Slave Revolt” (1996), and “American Uprising” (2010).

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Today in Black History, 1/7/2015

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• January 7, 1890 William B. Purvis of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania received patent number 419,065 for the fountain pen. Purvis’ invention made the use of an ink bottle obsolete by storing ink in a reservoir within the pen which was then fed to the tip of the pen. Over his lifetime, Purvis received ten additional patents. He is also believed to have invented, but not patent, several other devices. Little else is known of Purvis’ life.

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Today in Black History, 1/6/2015

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• January 6, 1882 Thomas Boyne was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor, America’s highest military decoration. Boyne was born in 1849 in Prince George’s County, Maryland. In 1879, he was serving as a sergeant in Company C of the 9th Calvary Regiment in New Mexico during the Indian Wars. Boyne was cited for “bravery in action” at the Mimbres Mountains May 29, 1879 and at the Cuchillo Negro River September 27, 1879. He was discharged from the army in 1889 because of a disability and admitted to the U. S. Soldiers Home in 1890 where he lived until his death April 21, 1896.

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Today in Black History, 1/3/2015

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• January 3, 1624 William Tucker, the first recorded African American born in the American colonies, was born in Jamestown, Virginia. Tucker was the child of enslaved Africans and was sold to an English sea captain named William Tucker. Nothing else is known of Tucker’s life.

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Today in Black History, 1/2/2015

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• January 2, 1884 Oscar Devereaux Micheaux, author and film director, was born in Metropolis, Illinois. Micheaux formed his own movie company and in 1919 became the first African American to write, direct, and produce a motion picture, “The Homesteader.” Between 1919 and 1948, Micheaux wrote seven novels and wrote, directed, and produced 44 feature films, including “Within Our Gates” (1919), which attacked the racism depicted in “The Birth of a Nation,” and “Body and Soul” (1924) which introduced Paul Robeson. Micheaux died March 25, 1951. The Directors Guild of America posthumously honored him with a Golden Jubilee Special Award in 1986 and the Oscar Micheaux Award is presented annually by the Producers Guild of America. For his contribution to the motion picture industry, Micheaux has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and a documentary film, “Midnight Ramble,” was released about him in 1994. The United States Postal Service issued a commemorative postage stamp in his honor in 2010. Micheaux’s biography, “Oscar Micheaux, The Great and Only: The Life of America’s First Black Filmmaker,” was published in 2007 and the Oscar Micheaux Center in Gregory, South Dakota annually presents the Oscar Micheaux Film & Book Festival.

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President's Message, January 2015

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50 years. One half-century. That is the length of time from the initial founding of the museum until today, initiated by Detroit obstetrician Dr. Charles H. Wright and a racially integrated group of citizens concerned about preserving the history and inspiring the aspirations of a people.

50 years. One half-century. Selma. The Voting Rights Act. The assassinations of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr. The election of Coleman Young. The release of Nelson Mandela and the end of Apartheid. Our first African American President of these United States of America, Barack Obama.

50 Years. One half-century. The International Afro-American Museum at 1549 West Grand Boulevard. The IAM traveling museum. The Museum of African American History at 301 Frederick Douglass Avenue. The groundbreaking at 315 East Warren Avenue. The renaming of the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History.

50 years. One half-century. Of learning, of exploration, of edification, of pride, of celebration, of community. For the community, with the community, and by the community. Thank you for being an integral part of the first 50 years of The Wright Museum.

Let the Celebration Begin
In honor of our 50th anniversary, we are pleased to present our 2015 calendar featuring vibrant photography, information on upcoming museum programs and events, quotes from community leaders, and important dates in African American history. These commemorative keepsakes are available for purchase in the museum store, or as a courtesy copy when making a donation. To learn more, call (313) 494-5800 or speak with a guest services associate on your next visit.

This anniversary is a milestone for the museum, its supporters, the City of Detroit and the entire metropolitan region. Our celebration will continue throughout 2015, with many highlights along the way. There has never been a better time to visit, or to join us as a member, donor, or volunteer. Our vision is of a world in which the adversity and achievement of African American history inspire everyone toward greater understanding, acceptance, and unity. African American history is American history, and we all share its stories. This museum belongs to each and every one of us. Come be a part of it!



Click here to download our January 2015 Member Newsletter

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Today in Black History, 1/1/2015

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• January 1, 1800 Clara Brown, pioneer and philanthropist, was born enslaved near Fredericksburg, Virginia. At 18, Brown married and had four children. Her owner died in 1835 and she and her family were sold separately to settle his estate. She was sold to a Kentucky plantation owner. Brown was granted her freedom in 1856 but had to leave the state according to Kentucky law. She was able to barter her service as a cook and maid to join families moving westward during the gold rush. Brown ended up in the Denver, Colorado area where she set up the first laundry in Gilpin County. She also worked as a mid-wife, cook, and maid. Brown invested her earnings and within several years was reported to own several lots and houses and $10,000 in savings. She gave generously to the construction of the first Protestant church in the Rocky Mountains and her home was a hospital and general refuge for those who were sick or in poverty. Brown died October 23, 1885. She was posthumously inducted into the Colorado Women’s Hall of Fame in 1989.

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Today in Black History, 12/31/2014

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• December 31, 1864 Joachim Pease received the Congressional Medal of Honor, the United States military’s highest decoration, for his conduct during the Civil War battle between the USS Kearsarge and the Confederate CSS Alabama. His citation reads, “Served as seaman on board the USS Kearsarge when she destroyed the Alabama off Cherbourg, France, 19 June 1864. Acting as loader on the No. 2 gun during this bitter engagement, Pease exhibited marked coolness and good conduct and was highly recommended by the divisional officer for gallantry under fire.” Other than the fact that he was born in 1842, not much else is known of Pease’s life before or after the war.

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