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Black History Month

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Americans have recognized black history annually since 1926, first as "Negro History Week" and later as "Black History Month." What you might not know is that black history had barely begun to be studiedâ€â€or even documentedâ€â€when the tradition originated. Although blacks have been in America at least as far back as colonial times, it was not until the 20th century that they gained a respectable presence in the history books.

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(Dr. Carter G. Woodson)

Blacks Absent from History Books

We owe the celebration of Black History Month, and more importantly, the study of black history, to Dr. Carter G. Woodson. Born to parents who were former slaves, he spent his childhood working in the Kentucky coal mines and enrolled in high school at age twenty. He graduated within two years and later went on to earn a Ph.D. from Harvard. The scholar was disturbed to find in his studies that history books largely ignored the black American populationâ€â€and when blacks did figure into the picture, it was generally in ways that reflected the inferior social position they were assigned at the time.

Established Journal of Negro History

Woodson, always one to act on his ambitions, decided to take on the challenge of writing black Americans into the nation's history. He established the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (now called the Association for the Study of Afro-American Life and History) in 1915, and a year later founded the widely respected Journal of Negro History. In 1926, he launched Negro History Week as an initiative to bring national attention to the contributions of black people throughout American history.

Woodson chose the second week of February for Negro History Week because it marks the birthdays of two men who greatly influenced the black American population, Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln. However, February has much more than Douglass and Lincoln to show for its significance in black American history. For example:

February 23, 1868:

W. E. B. DuBois, important civil rights leader and co-founder of the NAACP, was born.

February 3, 1870:

The 15th Amendment was passed, granting blacks the right to vote.

February 25, 1870:

The first black U.S. senator, Hiram R. Revels (1822-1901), took his oath of office.

February 12, 1909:

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) was founded by a group of concerned black and white citizens in New York City.

February 1, 1960:

In what would become a civil-rights movement milestone, a group of black Greensboro, N.C., college students began a sit-in at a segregated Woolworth's lunch counter.

February 21, 1965:

Malcolm X, the militant leader who promoted Black Nationalism, was shot to death by three Black Muslims.

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It was the Summer of '62. I was a young, idealistic, college student with a strong sense of right and wrong. Because of what I am, I had been the object of prejudice. No, not the degree of prejudice suffered by my African-American brothers, but enough to know the feelings of hurt.

As a child, I was the subject of prejudice because I was a Jew. I had been called a Jew-B*st*rd so often, I thought it was a single word. Occasionally, someone would scream, “Let’s get the Jew,†and I was beaten up.

As I grew older, I was discriminated against because I was gay.

The difference was, however, that I could hide my religion and sexual preference, while my black brethren couldn’t.

Not only was I discontented with the situation, but the entire nation was just beginning to wake up.

Somehow, forty-eight of us, twenty four black and 24 white, mostly Jewish, thought it was wrong enough to take a little bus ride, TOGETHER, to North Carolina….

Well, they knew we were on the way and were waiting for us. A “welcoming committee†greeted us with fire hose and dogs at the ready. As we disembarked the bus,

A bullhorn blasted, “OK, you sons of b*tches, get back on the bus and go home.†The fire hoses were turned on and aimed at us. If you don’t think water can do much damage, think again. I was lucky, and only received 2 fractured ribs. Some of my friends weren’t so lucky, with one being thrown through a plate glass window and several receiving broken arms and legs. I guess we were lucky that they didn’t let the dogs loose.

No hospital would treat us until we reached northern Virginia. I guess they had been ‘warned.’

Anyway, we made our point!

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Thank you for always posting topics which are current and filled with information. I will try to post some bits of information which may not be common knowledge.

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Dorothy Maynor (Soprano)

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Born: September 3, 1910 - Norfolk, Va., USA

Died: 1996 - Norfolk, Virginia, USA

The noted black American soprano and music educator, Dorothy Maynor, the daughter and granddaughter of Norfolk clergymen, was one of the most highly praised singers of the 1940’s and 1950’s. She had "a soaring, bell-like soprano capable of exquisite musical effects, supported by a sincere and ardent temperament," wrote Nicolas Slonimsky.

Dorothy Maynor began singing in her father's church, and from 1924 was educated from at the Hampton Institute, receiving B.S. in 1933. She began her career singing in various choirs, and in 1929 toured with the institutes’s most famous chorus in Europe. After her graduation from Hampton in 1933, Maynor attended Westminster Choir College in Princeton, N.J. In 1936, she moved to New York to study privately William Kamroth and John Alan Haughton and led a church choir in Brooklyn.

At the 1939 Berkshire Festival in Tanglewood, Massachusetts, Dorothy Maynor sang for Serge Koussevitzky, conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. He arranged for her to give a performance at a picnic, which led to a rave review in The New York Times.

"Her voice is a miracle," the conductor declared, "a musical revelation that the world must hear." Most of the critics echoed Koussevitzky's praise after Maynor's New York debut in November 1939, and she was soon "a fixture in the elite group of black artists that included [Marian] Anderson, Roland Hayes and Paul Robeson," Rosalyn M. Story wrote in "And So I Sing: African-American Divas of Opera and Concert." She nonetheless learned arias from dozens of operas and featured them in her concerts. One, Depuis le jour, from Charpentier's Louise, became her signature piece, guaranteed to provoke standing ovations. At the peak of her career, she performed with most of the major American orchestras and was one of the most sought-after and highly paid singers in the concert world. Her recordings were bestsellers and she was regularly heard on popular radio shows.

In 1942, Dorothy Maynor married the Rev. Shelby Rooks, pastor of St. James Presbyterian Church in Harlem. When her husband became ill, she retired from performing to care for him and became active in church affairs. She was soon planning a venture that would resonate as powerfully as her singing: founding a school for young black artists. The Harlem School of the Arts began in 1963 with Maynor teaching piano to 12 youngsters in a church annex. By 1979, when she retired from direction of the school, it occupied a $2 million, 37,000-square-foot facility and enrolled more than 1,000 students in college preparatory programs in performing and visual arts.

In 1975, Dorothy Maynor, never able to sing at New York's Metropolitan Opera, became the first African-American to join its board of directors. She spent her last years out of the limelight, living with her husband in a small town in Pennsylvania.

Source: Baker’s Biographical Dictionary of 20th Century Classical Musicians (1997); Biography Resource Center Website; Time Dispatch Website (February 2001)

Contributed by Aryeh Oron (January 2002)

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Booker T. Washington<]

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Booker Taliaferro was born a mulatto slave in Franklin Country on 5th April, 1856. His father was an unknown white man and his mother, the slave of James Burroughs, a small farmer in Virginia. Later, his mother married the slave, Washington Ferguson. When Booker entered school he took the name of his stepfather and became known as Booker T. Washington.

After the Civil War the family moved to Malden, West Virginia. Ferguson worked in the salt mines and at the age of nine Booker found employment as a salt-packer. A year later he became a coal miner (1866-68) before going to work as a houseboy for the wife of Lewis Ruffner, the owner of the mines. She encouraged Booker to continue his education and in 1872 he entered the Hampton Agricultural Institute.

The principal of the institute was Samuel Armstrong, an opponent of slavery who had been commander of African American troops during the Civil War. Armstrong believed that it was important that the freed slaves received a practical education. Armstrong was impressed with Washington and arranged for his tuition to be paid for by a wealthy white man.

Armstrong became Washington's mentor. Washington described Armstrong in his autobiography as "a great man - the noblest rarest human being it has ever been my privilege to meet". Armstrong's views of the development of character and morality and the importance of providing African Americans with a practical education had a lasting impact on Washington's own philosophy.

After graduating from the Hampton Agricultural Institute in 1875 Washington returned to Malden and found work with a local school. After a spell as a student at Wayland Seminary in 1878 he was employed by Samuel Armstrong to teach in a program for Native Americans.

In 1880, Lewis Adams, a black political leader in Macon County, agreed to help two white Democratic Party candidates, William Foster and Arthur Brooks, to win a local election in return for the building of a Negro school in the area. Both men were elected and they then used their influence to secure approval for the building of the Tuskegee Institute.

Samuel Armstrong, principal of the successful Hampton Agricultural Institute, was asked to recommend a white teacher to take charge of this school. However, he suggested that it would be a good idea to employ Washington instead.

The Tuskegee Negro Normal Institute was opened on the 4th July, 1888. The school was originally a shanty building owned by the local church. The school only received funding of $2,000 a year and this was only enough to pay the staff. Eventually Washington was able to borrow money from the treasurer of the Hampton Agricultural Institute to purchase an abandoned plantation on the outskirts of Tuskegee and built his own school.

The school taught academic subjects but emphasized a practical education. This included farming, carpentry, brickmaking, shoemaking, printing and cabinetmaking. This enabled students to become involved in the building of a new school. Students worked long-hours, arising at five in the morning and finishing at nine-thirty at night.

By 1888 the school owned 540 acres of land and had over 400 students. Washington was able to attract good teachers to his school such as Olivia Davidson , who was appointed assistant principal, and Adella Logan. Washington's conservative leadership of the school made it acceptable to the white-controlled Macon County. He did not believe that blacks should campaign for the vote, and claimed that blacks needed to prove their loyalty to the United States by working hard without complaint before being granted their political rights.

Southern whites, who had previously been against the education of African Americans, supported Washington's ideas as they saw them as means of encouraging them to accept their inferior economic and social status. This resulted in white businessmen such as Andrew Carnegie and Collis Huntington donating large sums of money to his school.

In September, 1895, Washington became a national figure when his speech at the opening of the Cotton States and International Exposition in Atlanta was widely reported by the country's newspapers. Washington's conservative views made him popular with white politicians who were keen that he should become the new leader of the African American population. To help him in this President William McKinley visited the Tuskegee Institute and praised Washington's achievements.

In 1901, President Theodore Roosevelt invited Washington to visit him in the White House. To southern whites this was going too far. One editor wrote: "With our long-matured views on the subject of social intercourse between blacks and whites, the least we can say now is that we deplore the President's taste, and we distrust his wisdom."

Washington now spent most of his time on the lecture circuit. His African American critics who objected to the way Washington argued that it was the role of blacks to serve whites, and that those black leaders who demanded social equality were political extremists.

In 1900 Washington helped establish the National Negro Business League. Washington, who served as president, ensured that the organization concentrated on commercial issues and paid no attention to questions of African American civil rights. To Washington, the opportunity to earn a living and acquire property was more important than the right to vote. Like those who helped fund the Tuskegee Institute, Washington was highly critical of the emerging trade union movement in the United States.

Washington worked closely with Thomas Fortune, the owner of the New York Age. He regularly supplied Fortune with news stories and editorials favorable to himself. When the newspaper got into financial difficulties, Washington became secretly one of its principal stockholders.

Washington's autobiography was published in The Outlook magazine and was eventually published as Up From Slavery in 1901. His critics argued that the views expressed in his books, articles and lectures were essentially the prevailing views of white Americans.

In 1903 William Du Bois joined the attack on Washington with his essay on his work in The Soul of Black Folks. Washington retaliated with criticisms of Du Bois and his Niagara Movement. The two men also clashed over the establishment of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in 1909.

The following year, William Du Bois and twenty-two other prominent African Americans signed a statement claiming: "We are compelled to point out that Mr. Washington's large financial responsibilities have made him dependent on the rich charitable public and that, for this reason, he has for years been compelled to tell, not the whole truth, but that part of it which certain powerful interests in America wish to appear as the whole truth."

Although he now had a large number of critics, Washington continued to be consulted by powerful white politicians and had a say in the African American appointments made by Theodore Roosevelt (1901-09) and William H. Taft (1909-13).

Booker Taliaferro Washington was taken ill and entered St. Luke's Hospital, New York City, on 5th November, 1915. Suffering from arteriosclerosis he was warned that he did not have long to live. He decided to travel to Tuskegee where he died on 14th November. Over 8,000 people attended his funeral held in the Tuskegee Institute Chapel.

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The Tuskegee Airmen

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99th Fighter Squadron Just one of many

Lineage: Constituted 99th Pursuit Squadron 10 March 1941. Activated on 22 March 1941. Redesignated 99th Fighter Squadron on 15 May 1942. Inactivated 1 July 1949

Aircraft: P-39, P-40, P-47,P-51

Operations: Combat in Mediterranean Theater of Operations and European Theather of Operations, 2 June 1943 - 30 April 1945.

Campaigns: Sicily; Naples-Foggia; Anzio; Rome-Arno; Normandy; Northern France; Southern France; North Apennines; Rhineland; Central Europe; Po Valley; Air Combat, EAME Theater.

Decorations: Distinguished Unit Citations: Sicily, June-July 1943; Cassino, 12-14 May 1944; Germany, 24 March 1945.

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Ella Fitgerald, the first lady of American song. Singers today only dream of having the talent that she had.

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13 Grammy awards

A-Tisket, A-Tasket entered into the Grammy Hall of Fame

Kennedy Center for Performing Arts' Medal of Honor Award

National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences' Lifetime Achievement Award

Pied Piper Award

American Society of Composers

Women at Work organization's Bicentennial Woman

Authors and Publishers' highest honor

George And Ira Gershwin Award for Outstanding Achievement

National Medal of Art

Honorary chairmanship of the Martin Luther King Foundation

Received first ASCAP award in recognition of an artist

Honorary doctorate degrees from Dartmouth, Talladega, Howard and Yale Universities

Peabody Award for Outstanding Contributions in Music

The first Society of Singers Lifetime Achievement Award, named "Ella" in her honor

NAACP Award for lifetime achievement

We were lucky enough to see her three times in concert, just wish it could have been more.

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George Washington Carver devoted his life to research projects connected primarily with southern agriculture. The products he derived from the peanut and the soybean revolutionized the economy of the South by liberating it from an excessive dependence on cotton.

Born a slave in the spring of 1864 in Diamond Grove, Missouri, Carver was only an infant when he and his mother were abducted from his owner's plantation by a band of slave raiders. His mother was sold and shipped away, but Carver was ransomed by his master in exchange for a race horse.

While working as a farm hand, Carver managed to obtain a high school education. He was admitted as the first black student of Simpson College, Indianola, Iowa. He then attended Iowa Agricultural College (now Iowa State University) where, while working as the school janitor, he received a degree in agricultural science in 1894. Two years later he received a master's degree from the same school and became the first African American to serve on its faculty. Within a short time his fame spread, and Booker T. Washington offered him a post at Tuskegee.

Carver revolutionized the southern agricultural economy by showing that 300 products could be derived from the peanut. By 1938, peanuts had become a $200 million industry and a chief product of Alabama. Carver also demonstrated that 100 different products could be derived from the sweet potato.

Although he did hold three patents, Carver never patented most of the many discoveries he made while at Tuskegee, saying "God gave them to me, how can I sell them to someone else?" In 1938 he donated over $30,000 of his life's savings to the George Washington Carver Foundation and willed the rest of his estate to the organization so his work might be carried on after his death. He died on January 5, 1943.

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Alex Palmer Haley (1921-1992)

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American biographer, scriptwriter, author who became famous with the publication of the novel ROOTS. In it Haley traced his ancestry back to Africa and covered seven American generations, starting from his ancestor, Kunta Kinte. The book was adapted to television series, and woke up an interest in genealogy, particularly among African-Americans. Haley himself commented that the book was not so much history as a study of mythmaking: "What Roots gets at in whatever form, is that it touches the pulse of how alike we human beings are when you get down to the bottom, beneath these man-imposed differences."

Alex Haley was born in Ithaca, New York, as the son of Simon Alexander Haley and the former Bertha George Palmer. Haley's father was a teacher of agriculture - he taught at several Southern colleges. In 1921 the family moved to the small town of Henning, Tennessee. Alex lived there for five years. His grandfather owned the local lumber company and when he died, Haley's father took over the business. Alex's mother taught in the local elementary school. She died when Alex was 10 and his father remarried two years later. In Henning Alex heard stories from his maternal grandmother, Cynthia Palmer, who traced the family genealogy to Haley's great-great-great-great-grandfather, who was an African, called "Kin-tay". He was brought by slave-ship to America and named Toby.

Haley did not excel at school or university. From 1937 to 1939 he studied at Elizabeth City Teachers College in North Carolina. During WW II Haley enlisted in the Coast Guard as a messboy. In 1941 he married Nannie Branch. The marriage ended in divorce in 1964, and in the same year Haley married Juliette Collins. They in divorced in 1972. Haley's third wife was the former Myra Lewis of Los Angeles. "I'm just not a stationary husband," Haley once said.

Haley started to write adventure stories to stave off the boredom, and getting a new rating - Chief Journalist. For his fellow sailors he composed love letters, which they sent to their girlfriends and wives. His other writings Haley submitted for magazines for eight years and received countless rejection slips, before his first text was published. However, during these frustrating years he learned the basics of his craft. After twenty years of service, Haley left the Coast Guard in 1959 to become a full-time writer. After 30 years of service he was entitled to a pension. He wrote for Reader's Digest biographical features, interviewed Miles Davis for Playboy, and produced THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MALCOLM X, his first major work. It appeared in 1965 and had an immense effect on the black power movement in the United States. Haley worked with the spokesman for the Nation of Islam (Black Muslim) movement, Malcolm X (Malcolm Little, 1925-1965), for nearly two years, one year writing the text. From their conversations he created the story of Malcolm X, told in his own words. The book sold more than six million copies by 1977 in the United States and other countries.

A foundation was started in Annapolis Maryland here is a link to that foundation:


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