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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

Posted by Juanita Moore
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Juanita Moore, President & CEO of the Charles H. Wright Museum of African Americ
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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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Today in Black History, 12/30/2014

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• December 30, 1819 George Thomas Downing, businessman, abolitionist and activist, was born July 21, 1902 in New York City. Downing attended the African Free School and at 14 established a literary society to discuss the conditions of the Black race. He and his father lobbied the New York State legislature for equal suffrage and were delegates to the first convention of the American Reform Board of Disenfranchised Commissioners in 1841. Downing opened his first restaurant and catering business in New York in 1842 and opened another in Newport, Rhode Island in 1846. In 1854, he opened a hotel in Newport that was restricted to White people. The complex also included his residence, a restaurant, and catering business. In 1857, Downing began a successful nine year campaign to integrate the public schools in Providence, Newport, and Bristol, Rhode Island. Downing opposed any efforts for African Americans to migrate outside of the United States, believing that Black people should stay and fight for their freedom. During the Civil War, he moved to Washington, D. C. and organized several regiments for the Union Army. While in Washington, he managed the dining room of the U. S. House of Representatives. Downing was one of the organizers of the Colored National Labor Union in 1869 and served as the first vice president. He retired from business in the early 1880s. Downing died July 21, 1902.

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Today in Black History, 12/29/2014

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• December 29, 1853 Inman Edward Page, educator, was born enslaved in Warrenton, Virginia. During the Civil War, his family escaped slavery to Washington, D. C. Page attended Howard University for two years and then enrolled at Brown University. He was one of the first two Black students to graduate from the university in 1877 and was valedictorian of his class. Page became president of Lincoln Institute in 1888 and was selected the first president of the Colored Agricultural and Normal University (now Langston University) in 1898. In his 17 year tenure at the institution, Page increased enrollment from 40 to well over 600 and the faculty from 4 to 35. Page resigned in 1915 and later became president of Western College and Industrial Institute and Roger Williams University. He returned to Oklahoma City in 1920 and later became supervising principal of the city’s segregated Black school system. Page was awarded an honorary master’s degree by Brown in 1918 and an honorary Doctor of Laws degree by Wilberforce University. Page died December 21, 1935. The main library at Lincoln University and the Inman Page Black Alumni Association at Brown are named in his honor.

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Today in Black History, 12/28/2014

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• December 28, 1829 Elizabeth Freeman, the first enslaved African American to file a freedom suit in Massachusetts, died. Frhttp://www.elizabethfreemancenter.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/elizabeth-freeman-179x300.jpgeeman was born enslaved around 1742 in New York and given the name Bett. In 1746, her owner’s daughter married and Freeman was given to her as a wedding gift and taken to Sheffield, Massachusetts. Sometime after the Massachusetts Constitution was ratified, Freeman heard it read and remembered that it started “all men are born free and equal.” Based on that, she initiated a freedom suit against her owner. An enslaved male name Brom was later added to the suit. On August 22, 1781 in the case of Brom and Bett v. Ashley, a jury in Great Barrington, Massachusetts found that Brom and Bett were not the property of Ashley and awarded them damages. Two years later, this case was cited as precedent when the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled that “slavery is inconsistent with our own conduct and constitution” and effectively abolished slavery in Massachusetts. After the case Bett changed her name to Freeman and over the next 20 years earned enough money to buy a plot of land where she lived until her death.

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Today in Black History, 12/27/2014

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• December 27, 1857 Henry Plummer Cheatham, congressman and educator, was born enslaved in Henderson, North Carolina. After the Civil War, he was emancipated and went on to earn his bachelor’s degree, with honors, in 1882 and his master’s degree in 1887 from Shaw University. Cheatham became active in politics and encouraged the establishment of institutions for African Americans and the founding of state normal schools for the training of Black teachers. Cheatham was elected to the United States House of Representatives in 1888 and re-elected in 1890. While in Congress, he supported federal aid to education and the Federal Elections Bill to provide federal enforcement to safeguard the voting rights of African Americans in the South. After his congressional district was redrawn, Cheatham was defeated for re-election in 1892. From 1897 to 1901, he served as federal recorder of deeds for the District of Columbia. Cheatham was appointed superintendent of the Colored Orphan Asylum and held that position until his death November 29, 1935.

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Today in Black History, 12/26/2014

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• December 26, 1884 Felix Adolphe Eboue, French colonial administrator, was born in Cayenne, Guyana. Eboue was a brilliant scholar and won a scholarship to study in Bordeaux, France. After graduating in law from the Ecole Colonial in Paris, from 1909 to 1931 he served in Oubangui-Chari (now the Central African Republic). He was appointed secretary general of Martinique in 1932 and served until 1934 when he was transferred to the same position in French Sudan. Eboue was transferred to Chad in 1938 and served until 1940 when he was appointed general governor of all of French Equatorial Africa, a position he held until his death March 17, 1944. During his tenure as general governor, Eboue worked to improve the status of Africans. He placed some Gabonese civil servants into positions of authority and advocated the preservation of traditional African institutions. After his death, the French colonies in Africa brought out a joint stamp issue in his memory. Eboue’s ashes are in The Pantheon of Paris, the first Black man to be so honored. His biography, “Eboue,” was published in 1972.

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Today in Black History, 12/25/2014

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• December 25, 1745 Joseph Bologne the Chevalier de Saint-Georges, musician, swordsman and equestrian, was born in Guadeloupe but raised in France. While still a young man, he acquired reputations as the best swordsman in France, as a violin virtuoso, and as a classical composer. He was appointed maestro of the Concert des Amateurs in 1771 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-Georges also served in the French army and was appointed the first Black colonel and commanded a regiment of a thousand free colored volunteers. Despite his successes, Saint-Georges died destitute June 10, 1799. Biographies of Saint-Georges include “Joseph Boulogne called Chevalier de Saint-Georges” (1996) and “Joseph de Saint-Georges, le Chevalier Noir (The Black Chevalier)” (2006).

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Voices of the Civil War Episode 35: "African American Relief Organizations"

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DECEMBER 2014: 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 December 19, 1864, The Ladies’ Sanitary Association of St. Thomas Episcopal Church in Philadelphia gave a holiday fair for the benefit of sick and wounded black soldiers. For Civil War charities working year round, the holiday season became an important moment to remind Americans of the needs of soldiers, freedmen, and others who were suffering under the burdens of war. For African American communities, these fundraising efforts became vital tools for providing much needed food, clothing, and other forms of assistance to black troops, who often lacked the most basic supplies provided to white Union soldiers. One of the most well known women who raised money for African American soldiers and freedmen was Elizabeth Keckley.

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