• February 11, 1783 Jerena Lee, considered the first female preacher in the African Methodist Episcopal Church, was born in Cape May, New Jersey. In her early 20’s, Lee was converted, sanctified, and called to preach. However, her first request for approval was denied. A few years later, Bishop Richard Allen granted her official church approval to preach. Lee preached throughout New England, Canada, and Ohio. She recounted her experiences in her autobiography “The Life and Religious Experience of Jarena Lee, A Coloured Lady” (1836), the first autobiography to be published in the United States by an African American woman. She published an expanded version titled “Religious Experience and Journal of Mrs. Jerena Lee” in 1849. Nothing is known of her life or death after 1857.
The Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History and Ford Motor Company present "Oh, Freedom! A Musical Journey Through African American History," Sunday, March 1 beginning at 7 pm at the Detroit Opera House. This special production featuring Grammy Award-winner Patti Austin, a choir with 75 of Detroit’s finest voices, and orchestra is the capstone event for The Wright's 2015 Black History Month and celebrates the museum's 50th anniversary as it commemorates 500 years of African American history through music, song, and the spoken word.
Of special note is the 75-voice choir comprised of voices from across metropolitan Detroit representing varying ages, races, and backgrounds. Included are singers representing dozens of choirs, churches, and schools, as well as noteworthy participants such as 30+ Detroit Music Award-winner and blues diva Thornetta Davis, and jazz/gospel/soul vocalist Joan Belgrave.
Grammy Award-winning singer Patti Austin will be available for interviews February 23 – 27. To schedule please contact Nikia Washington at (313) 494-5866 or via email at
Tickets for Oh Freedom! A Musical Journey Through African American History starring Patti Austin start at $25 and are available at the Detroit Opera House box office, all Ticketmaster outlets, and by phone at (800) 745-3000. For more information visit TheWright.org/ohfreedom. Oh Freedom! is made possible by support from Ford Motor Company and Macy’s.
The 2015 Grammy’s (@TheGRAMMYs) which took place this past Sunday, February 8, was filled with sociopolitical messages, including numerous references to the #BlackLivesMatter movement. Legendary musician Stevie Wonder made reference to the lives of Mike Brown and Eric Garner in his performance with musical artist Usher (@Usher) and actor/singer Jamie Foxx (@iamjamiefoxx). In her rendition of Ledisi’s “Take My Hand Precious Lord” from the feature film “Selma,” Beyonce’s (@beyonce) backup singers held their hands up mimicking last year’s “Hands Up Don’t Shoot” protests; she later explained in a behind the scenes look at her performance, she “felt like this [was] an opportunity to show the strength and vulnerability in black people." Pharrell William’s (@pharrell) dancers wore black hoodies to honor slain Florida teen Trayvon Martin and Prince made a brief speech on the need for unity.
Although the latest job market reports show that unemployment rates have decreased to 5.7% around the country, the unemployment rate for African Americans remains nearly double that number at 10.3%. Despite the new job gains of 257,000 in January, 329,000 in December, and 429,000 in November, Blacks are not seeing the benefits of economic progression. Congressman Jim Himes (@jahimes), a democrat from Connecticut cautioned, “As we watch a now strong economic recovery, we must not forget that the recovery is uneven.” On the same sentiment, Valerie Rawlston Wilson (@ValerieRWilson), director of Economic Policy Institute’s program on Race, Ethinicity, and the Economy warned against becoming complacent and missing the opportunity for a full recovery in the Black community.
This is the statistic that new nighttime talk show host Larry Wilmore (@larrywilmore) opened his show with last Wednesday, February 4. Sitting at a table with rapper Common, New York Times columnist Charles Blow (@CharlesMBlow), Center for Urban Families founder Joe Jones, and Nightly Show contributor and comedian Mike Yard (@mikeyardcomedy), Wilmore sought responses on the topic of Black fatherhood. A highly personal issue, the men gave their thoughts on the issue of unwed mothers, their individual childhood situations, and the challenge of the black father vs. the justice system.
• February 10, 1854 Joseph Charles Price, founder and first president of Livingston College, was born in Elizabeth City, North Carolina. Price 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 October 25, 1893. He was elected president of the National Protective Association in 1890 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. A North Carolina Highway Historical Marker was dedicated in his honor in Elizabeth City in 1967.
• February 9, 1902 Gabriel Leon M’ba, the first Prime Minister and first President of the Gabonese Republic, was born in Libreville, Gabon. After studying at a seminary, M’ba held a number of jobs before becoming a custom agent for the colonial administration. As a result of his political activism in favor of Black people, in 1931 M’ba was sentenced to three years in prison and ten years in exile. He returned to Gabon in 1946 and began his political ascent which culminated in his appointment as prime minister. When Gabon gained independence from France August 17, 1960, M’ba became president. He was re-elected in 1967 but died November 27, 1967. The Leon M’ba International Airport in Libreville is named in his honor.
• February 8, 1831 Rebecca Davis Lee Crumpler, the first African American woman to become a physician in the United States, was born in Delaware. Crumpler moved to Charleston, Massachusetts in 1852 and worked as a nurse for eight years. She earned a medical degree from the New England Female Medical College in 1864, the first African American woman in the United States to earn that degree and the only African American to graduate from that college. After the end of the Civil War in 1865, Crumpler moved to Richmond, Virginia where she joined other Black physicians caring for formerly enslaved people who otherwise had no access to medical care. She authored “A Book of Medical Discourses” in 1883. Crumpler died March 9, 1895.
• February 7, 1887 James Herbert “Eubie” Blake, hall of fame composer, lyricist and pianist, was born in Baltimore, Maryland. Blake began taking music lessons at 7 and at 15 was playing piano in a bordello. He began playing in vaudeville in 1912 and shortly after World War I joined forces with Noble Sissle as the Dixie Duo. After vaudeville, the pair created “Shuffle Along” which premiered on Broadway May 23, 1921 and became the first hit Broadway musical written by and about African Americans. It also introduced the hit songs “I’m Just Wild About Harry” and “Love Will Find a Way.” By 1975, Blake had been awarded honorary doctorate degrees by a number of institutions, including Rutgers University, University of Maryland, Howard University, and Dartmouth College. The 1978 Broadway musical “Eubie” featured the works of Blake. On October 9, 1981, Blake received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, from President Ronald W. Reagan and he was inducted into the Big Band and Jazz Hall of Fame in 1983. Blake died February 12, 1983. The United States Postal Service issued a commemorative postage stamp in his honor in 1995. Also that year, Blake was posthumously inducted into the American Theater Hall of Fame. The James Hubert Blake High School opened in Silver Springs, Maryland in 1998. The album “The Eighty – Six Years of Eubie Blake” (1969) was included by the National Recording Preservation Board in the Library of Congress’ National Recording Registry in 2006 as a recording of “cultural, historical, or aesthetical significance.” The Eubie Blake National Jazz Institute and Cultural Center in Baltimore is named in his honor. Blake’s biography, “Eubie Blake,” was published in 1979. “Reminiscing With Sissle and Blake” (2000) recounts the lives and music of Blake and Sissle.
• Cutting edge innovation is the key to Africa’s future.According the Africa Progress Panel (@africaprogress), technological advances will provide a much-needed push for modernization of the agriculture and financial industries. Such advances are already occurring, such as Kenya’s M-PESA, a mobile payment system which provides a problem-to-solution response to the fact that only 25% of Africans have a bank account, while 75% have access to mobile phones. To do your part in ensuring there is a brighter future for Africa, bring your youngest to The Wright Museum’s Links To Science Saturdays, where members of the Renaissance Chapter of the Links, Incorporated educate youth on technology and other S.T.E.M. related subjects.
• This evening, the N.A.A.C.P. will host the 46th Annual Image Awards. The Image Awards (@naacpimageaward), this year hosted by Anthony Anderson (@anthonyanderson), historically acknowledge outstanding individuals of color in film, music, literature and television. This year’s notable nominations include Carmen Ejogo (@carmenejogo) of Selma and Quvenzhane Wallis (@IAMQUVENZHANE) of Annie battling for “Outstanding Actress in a Motion Picture,” Al Jarreau (@AlJarreau) for “Outstanding Jazz Album,” and Selma’s Ava Duvernay (@AVAETC) for “Outstanding Directing in a Motion Picture.” On March 1, The Wright Museum will host 2008 Image Award Nominee for “Best Jazz Artist” and Grammy Award-winner Patti Austin (@pattiaustin) as the feature performer of “Oh, Freedom: A Musical Journey Through African American History” at the Detroit Opera House. Tickets can be purchased through Ticketmaster, (800) 745-3000 or at the Detroit Opera House (@DetOperaHouse) box office.
• February 6, 1872 Turner Byrd, Jr. of Williamsville, Michigan received patent number 123,328 for an improved harness rein holder. Byrd later received patent numbers 124,790 March 19, 1872 for an improved apparatus for detaching horses from carriages, 126,181 April 30, 1872 for an improved neck-yoke for wagons, and 157,370 December 1, 1874 for an improvement in railcar couplings. Not much else is known of his life.
• February 5, 1813 Jermain Wesley Loguen, Bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church and abolitionist, was born Jarm Logue enslaved in Davidson County, Tennessee. Loguen escaped bondage to Canada in 1834. He learned to read in Canada before moving to Rochester, New York in 1837 and studying at the Oneida Institute. He moved to Syracuse, New York in 1841 and worked as a school teacher and opened schools for Black children. His house was one of the most openly operated stations on the Underground Railroad. It is estimated that more than 1,500 previously enslaved people passed through his house. Loguen became an elder in the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church and held various church posts before being appointed a bishop in 1868. He published his autobiography, “The Rev. J. W. Loguen, as a Slave and as a Freeman, A Narrative of Real Life,” in 1859. Loguen died September 30, 1872.
• Spoken word artist Ernestine Johnson tells the world why she is not "The Average Black Girl." Johnson's (@E_OnTheScene) piece dismisses the stereotypical woes which black women are expected to fall into to legitimize their blackness, while capturing the very essence of what a black woman represents. Since being featured on the Arsenio Hall Show, her performance went viral – you can see why here!In the mood for spoken word? Then you don't want to miss Mahogany @ The Museum #5: #BLKLUV February 13 at 8 pm ($15 online/$20 door).
• February 4, 1900 John Percial Parker, inventor, Underground Railroad conductor and businessman, died. Parker was born February 2, 1827 in Norfolk, Virginia. At eight, he was sold into slavery. By 1845, he had earned enough money to buy his freedom for $1,800. As a free man, Parker became involved in abolitionist activities and aided in the freeing of over a thousand enslaved people. Parker established the Ripley Foundry and Machine Company in 1854. His foundry employed more than 25 workers and remained in operation until 1918. During the Civil War, Parker served as a recruiter for the Union Army and supplied castings for the war effort. Parker received patent number 304,552 September 2, 1886 for the Follower-Screw for Tobacco Presses. On May 19, 1885, he received patent number 318,285 for the Portable Screw Press, popularly known as the Parker Pulverizer. His home in Ripley, Ohio was designated a National Historic Landmark February 18, 1997. Parker’s autobiography, “His Promised Land: The Autobiography of John Parker, Former Slave and Conductor on the Underground Railroad,” was published in 1996.
Welcome to the inaugural edition of #TodayInBlackCulture. Let us know what you think in the comments or by emailing
• Washington D.C. makes a $20 million investment in the education of males of color.New D.C. Mayor, Muriel E. Bowser (@MurielBowser), and D.C. Public Schools Chancellor, Kaya Henderson (@HendersonKaya), join together to push the initiative “Empowering Males of Color,” which focuses on improving educational opportunities for preK – grade 12 Black and Latino males. The $20 million will be dedicated towards funding a prep school for D.C.’s young males of color, set to open in 2017. On Thursday, February 5 you can join in “Living Legacies of Hope: Desegregation, Literacy and Black Education Achievement,” a panel discussion at The Wright Museum sponsored by The National Sorority of Phi Delta Kappa, Inc., in partnership with Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc., and Gamma Phi Delta Sorority, Inc. The event begins at 6 PM and is free of charge.
• This year, the legacy of J Dilla, late hip hop producer and Detroit native, is being celebrated across the world. Dilla, who passed away in 2006 due to Lupus-related complications, maintains a worldwide fan base. The Wright Museum has partnered with The Foundation for Women in Hip Hop (@WeFoundHipHop) and the J Dilla Foundation (@JDilla_Fndn) to present J Dilla Youth Day. On Sunday, Feb 8, free of charge, kids can discover the world of hip hop, while also engaging in leadership seminars led by the N.A.A.C.P. Detroit Branch and interactive activities focused around S.T.E.M. (Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics).
• February 3, 1867 Charles Henry Turner, behavior scientist, zoologist and educator, was born in Cincinnati, Ohio. Turner earned his Bachelor of Science degree in 1891 and Master of Science degree in 1892 in biology from the University of Cincinnati. He taught at Clark College (now Clark Atlanta University) from 1893 to 1905. Turner earned his Ph. D. in zoology from the University of Chicago in 1907. Despite his advanced degrees, he taught science at a high school in St. Louis, Missouri from 1908 to his retirement in 1922. He also did significant insect research and published more than 70 papers. One of his more important findings was that insects could modify their behavior based on experience. He also discovered that ants find their way back to their nest in a circular pattern. Turner was also a leader in the Civil Rights Movement in St. Louis, arguing that only through education could the behavior of both White and Black racists be changed. Turner died February 15, 1923. Turner Middle School in St. Louis is named in his honor.
• February 2, 1827 John Percial Parker, inventor, Underground Railroad conductor and businessman, was born in Norfolk, Virginia. At eight, Parker was sold into slavery. By 1845, he had earned enough money to buy his freedom for $1,800. As a free man, he became involved in abolitionist activities and aided in the freeing of over a thousand enslaved people. Parker established the Ripley Foundry and Machine Company in 1854. His foundry employed more than 25 workers and remained in operation until 1918. During the Civil War, Parker served as a recruiter for the Union Army and supplied castings for the war effort. Parker received patent number 304,552 September 2, 1884 for the Follower-Screw for Tobacco Presses. On May 19, 1885, he received patent number 318,285 for the Portable Screw Press, popularly known as the Parker Pulverizer. Parker died February 4, 1900. His home in Ripley, Ohio was designated a National Historic Landmark February 18, 1997. His autobiography, “His Promised Land: The Autobiography of John P. Parker, Former Slave and Conductor on the Underground Railroad,” was published in 1996.
• February 1, 1810 Charles Lenox Redmond, orator, abolitionist and military organizer, was born in Salem, Massachusetts. Redmond began his activism against slavery as an orator while in his twenties. The Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society chose him as one of its agents in 1838 and he went to the 1840 World’s Anti-Slavery Convention in London, England. Redmond had a reputation as an eloquent lecturer and is reported to have been the first Black public speaker on abolition. During the Civil War, Redmond recruited Black soldiers in Massachusetts for the Union Army. After the war, he worked in the Boston Customs House and as a street lamp inspector. Redmond died December 22, 1873.
• January 31, 1904 Henry Johnson, Congressional Medal of Honor recipient, died. Johnson was born June 11, 1850 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, Johnson was awarded the medal, America’s highest military decoration, September 22, 1890. Not much else is known of Johnson’s later life except that he was buried at Arlington National Cemetery.
• January 30, 1844 Richard Theodore Greener, the first African American to graduate from Harvard College, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. After three years at Oberlin College, Greener transferred to Harvard and earned his Bachelor of Arts degree, with honors, in 1870. After teaching for two years at the Institute for Colored Youth (now Cheney University) and serving as principal of the Preparatory School for Colored Children (now Dunbar High School), he accepted a professorship at the University of South Carolina. From 1878 to 1880, Greener served as dean of the Howard University School of Law. He served as secretary of the Grant Monument Association from 1885 to 1892 and as a civil service examiner in New York City from 1885 to 1890. Greener was appointed the United States Commercial Agent in Russia in 1898, a position he held until 1905. He received honorary Doctorate of Laws degrees from Monrovia College in Liberia in 1882 and Howard University in 1907. Greener died May 2, 1922. Phillips Academy annually awards the Robert T. Greener 1865 Endowed Scholarship.
The Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History will present a wide range of exciting, insightful, and inspirational programming in celebration of Black History Month. The museum will be open every day of February to accommodate the expected record visitation by school groups and the general public as a result of the museum’s yearlong 50th anniversary celebration. Unless otherwise noted, all events take place at the museum, located at 315 East Warren Avenue in Midtown Detroit’s Cultural Center, and are free and open to the public. A complete listing of events is attached; of special note are the following:
JANUARY 2015: TheVoices 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.
On the evening of January 12, 1865, Secretary of War, Edwin M. Stanton and Union General, William T. Sherman met with twenty of Georgia’s black ministers to discuss what some historians now call the nation’s first act of Reconstruction. The purpose of the meeting was for Sherman and Stanton to gather information on how freedmen understood the war, and how they imagined their future in a post-war America. Based on the conversation that took place that evening, on January 16, 1865, William T. Sherman issued Special Field Order No. 15. Upon Sherman’s order, 400,000 acres of land, including Georgia’s Sea Islands and the mainland thirty miles in from the coast, were redistributed to newly freed slaves.