If a picture is worth a thousand words – here’s a million!
Fort Robinson, Nebraska (1874-1916)
Tenth Cavalry Football Team,
Fort Robinson, Nebraska, ca. 1905
Cape Verde Immigrants Arrive at New Bedford, Massachusetts, Oct. 5, 1914.
Davis, Ernie (1940-1963)
Ernie Davis with the Heisman Trophy, 1961 Ernie Davis is best known for being one of the greatest football players in college football history and the first black person to win the Heisman trophy. In the process, Davis became an icon for an integrated America and for African Americans achieving the American Dream in a manner similar to Jackie Robinson desegregating Major League Baseball in 1947.
Langston, Charles Henry (1817-1892)
Charles Henry Langston, the grandfather of poet Langston Hughes, was born a free man on a Virginia plantation in 1817 to Captain Ralph Quarles and Lucy Jane Langston, Quarles’ mulatto slave. He had two brothers, John Mercer (who would become a Virginia Congressman in 1888) and Gideon. After the death of his father in 1834, Charles inherited a large part of his father’s estate, and he went to be educated at Oberlin College in 1842 and 1843.
A versatile and prolific artist, Gordon Parks, Sr. warrants his status as a cultural icon. The poet, novelist, film director, and preeminent documentary and fashion photographer was born on November 30, 1912, in Fort Scott, Kansas, the youngest of fifteen children. Parks saw no reason to stay in Kansas after the death of his mother and moved to St. Paul, Minnesota, at age sixteen to live with hissister. After a disagreement with his brother-in-law, Parks soon found himself homeless, supporting himself by playing piano and basketball and working as a busboy.
While working on a train as a waiter, Parks noticed a magazine with photographs from the Farm Security Administration (FSA). The photos by such documentary photographers as Dorothea Lange, Russell Lee and Arthur Rothstein led him to Richard Wright’s 12 Million Black Voices, other photo essays about poverty and racism, and the social and artistic voice he had been seeking. Parks bought a used camera in 1938, deciding on a career in photography. In 1941, Parks received a fellowship from the Julius Rosenwald Foundation to work with Roy Stryker at the photography section of the FSA. In Washington, D.C., he trained as a photojournalist. He would work with Stryker for the next few years, producing work and honing the modernist and individualistic style he became known for by photographing small towns and industrial centers throughout America.
By the end of the 1940s, Parks was working with Life and Vogue and in that capacity did some of his most famous work. Traveling the globe and covering issues as varied as the fashion industry, poverty in Brazil, the Nation of Islam and gang violence, and eventually celebrity portraitures, Parks continued to develop and create new ways to convey meaning through his work.
Branching out from his photography in 1963, Parks directed his first film, The Learning Tree, based on his autobiographical novel of the same name. His filmmaking career launched, Parks went on to direct many films, including Shaft in 1971. In addition to film, Parks has composed music and written several books including: A Choice of Weapons (1966), To Smile in Autumn (1979), Voices in the Mirror (1990), Arias of Silence (1994), and a retrospective of his life and work titled Half Past Autumn (1997), which was recently made into an HBO special.
Parks passed away on March 7, 2006 at the age of 93.
Buffalo Soldiers in Montana (1888-1898)
Bell, James “Cool Papa” (1903-1991)
Leroy Robert “Satchel” Paige (7 July 1906 – 8 June 1982) was one of the greatest baseball pitchers of all time.
nickname Black Babe Ruth
(1911 – 1947)
(born December 21, 1911, Buena Vista, Georgia, U.S.—died January 20, 1947, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania) American professional baseball player called the black Babe Ruth, one of the greatest players kept from the major leagues by the unwritten rule (enforced until the year of his death) against hiring black ballplayers.
Gibson played as a catcher for the Pittsburgh Crawfords (1927–29 and 1932–36) and the Homestead Grays of Pennsylvania (1930–31 and 1937–46). Although precise records do not exist, he is believed to have led the Negro National League in home runs for 10 consecutive seasons and to have had a career batting average of .347. He hit 75 home runs for Homestead in 1931. His catching ability was praised by Walter Johnson and other major league stars against whom he played in exhibition games. Gibson was elected to the Baseball Hall of fame in 1972.
Freedom Rides (1961)
Great Migration, The (1915-1960)
Black Family Arrives in Chicago from the South, ca. 1919 The Great Migration was the mass movement of about five million southern blacks to the north and west between 1915 and 1960. During the initial wave the majority of migrants moved to major northern cities such as Chicago, Detroit, Pittsburgh, and New York. By World War II the migrants continued to move North but many of them headed west to Los Angeles, Oakland, San Francisco, Portland and Seattle.
Hampton Institute Student Teaching Freedpeople to Read, ca. 1880.
O’Ree, Willie (1935- )
Willie O’Ree, the National Hockey League’s (NHL) first black player with Boston Bruins on January 18, 1958 against the Montreal Canadiens
William Hooper Councill (1848–1909) was a former slave and the first president of Huntsville Normal School, which is today Alabama Agricultural and Mechanical University in Huntsville, Alabama.
Anderson, Caroline Still Wiley (1848-1919)
Caroline Still Wiley Anderson, physician and educator, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to William and Letitia Still. Supporting his family through coal mining investments and a stove store, William Still, a prominent antebellum abolitionist, helped escaped slaves on the Underground Railroad. He wrote about these fugitive slaves in his book The Underground Railroad.
MARY FIELDS (known as “STAGECOACH MARY”)
Mary Fields was born as a slave in Hickman County, Tennessee in year of 1832. Mary’s life started to unfold after her family died and during her days of freedom right after the Civil War (1861-1865). When she grew into adulthood, Mary Fields was described as a big woman of six feet tall. She was noted as being tough. Mary knew how to ride a horse and shoot a rifle and six-shooter. In her late twenties, Mary Fields worked for Mother Amadeus of the Catholic Ursuline Convent in Toledo, Ohio.
By 1881, Mother Amadeus went to the far northwest state of Montana to set up a school for women and girls of the Blackfeet Indian Tribe in the town of Cascade, Montana. In 1884, Mary Field joined her friend, Mother Amadeus, at the school in Casade. Mary Fields’ fearless temperament landed her the job of delivering freight for the school’s nuns.
One day, while on the job, Mary was involved in an insulting dispute with one of the handymen at the school. This situation escalated into a shootout, and Mary Fields was fired from her job. Mary went on to open a restaurant in Cascade, but this was a failure. Again, Mother Amadeus helped Mary to land work as a mail route courier with a route between the Mission School and the town of Cascade. For eight years, Mary drove her stagecoach on the mail route dressed in a man’s hat and coat. She also smoked a big cigar and everyone knew her as “Stagecoach Mary.”
At age 71, in 1903, Mary Fields decided to open up her own laundry business. It is said no one took advantage of Mary Fields. One male customer received his laundry but insulted Mary by not paying his bill. Mary later recognized that customer in the local saloon she frequently patronized (Note: women did not drink in all-male saloons, but Mary Fields was granted permission by the Mayor of Cascade). Mary went over to this man and knocked him flat out with one fisted punch. She announced to everyone “that his laundry bill was now paid.” The people of Cascade loved Mary Fields. When she died in 1914 at age 82, she became a memorable icon for her life as a true westerner of the American frontier.
Jane Bolin becomes the first African American woman to receive a law degree from Yale.
Queen Mother Audley E. Moore
In Honor Of A Warrior Woman
On December 6 and 7, 1991, the Department of Pan-African Studies at Kent State University dedicated the entire third floor of the Center of Pan-African Culture to Queen Mother Audley E. Moore, a “Warrior Woman,” born on July 27, 1898, who devoted her life to active struggle on behalf of all people of African descent. She was honored for having organized on many fronts, from the great influenza epidemic of 1918 in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, where she worked as a volunteer nurse, to the United Nations, where she presented petitions in the 1950s charging genocide and demanding reparations to descendants of former slaves.
Bose Ikard was born a slave, but after he gained his freedom, he rode for many years with the Texas cattle barons, Charles Goodnight and Oliver Loving. Their adventures served as the basis for Larry McMurty’s novel, Lonesome Dove, which became a television miniseries in 1989. Ikard was the real-life model for McMurtry’s character, Joshua Deets, who was played by Danny Glover. Goodnight and Loving provided the inspiration for Woodrow F. Call and Augustus McCrae who were played by Tommy Lee Jones and Robert Duvall.
John Brown and the Harpers Ferry Raid
On October 16, 1859, abolitionist John Brown and several followers seized the United States Armory and Arsenal at Harpers Ferry. The actions of Brown’s men brought national attention to the emotional divisions concerning slavery.
PAGE, INMAN EDWARD (1853-1935)
The first president of the Colored Agricultural and Normal University (CANU), later Langston University, and an influential Oklahoma educator, Inman Page was born into slavery on December 29, 1853, in Warrenton, Virginia. During the Civil War his family fled Virginia and later moved to Washington, D.C. Page attended Howard University for two years and then enrolled at Brown University. He was among the first African Americans to be admitted to the prestigious Providence, Rhode Island, college. In 1877 Page and George Washington Milford became the first blacks to graduate from Brown, with Page selected as class orator for the commencement. He took a teaching position at Natchez Seminary in Mississippi. In 1878 he married Zelia R. Ball, and the couple had two children, Zelia N. and Mary. After one year he left Natchez for Lincoln Institute in Jefferson City, Missouri, where he became president in 1888.
In 1898 the Colored Agricultural and Normal University at the All-Black town of Langston chose Page to be its first president. In his seventeen-year tenure at CANU he increased the school’s enrollment from an initial forty to well over six hundred, and its faculty from four to thirty-five. He traveled the state recruiting students, expanded the agricultural and industrial courses, established the college department, and supervised the construction of numerous university buildings. Within a few years partisan politics emerged. By 1915 controversy swirled around the direction of the college’s mission from industrial and agricultural education to liberal arts. After scandalous allegations were reported in the Oklahoma Tribune, an Oklahoma City African American newspaper, Page resigned his position and sued. A Logan County jury found the Tribune editor, Melvin Chisum, guilty of libel and one of his employees guilty of extortion against Page. Although the educator was vindicated, the change in administration sent the university into chaos. Enrollment dropped from 639 to 184 for the summer semester and to 322 in the regular term.
Page left the state for a time. He moved back to Missouri as the president of Western College and Industrial Institute at Macon and by 1918 was president of Roger Williams University in Nashville, Tennessee. In 1920 he returned to Oklahoma due to ill health. When recuperated, in 1922 he accepted a position as principal at Oklahoma City’s Douglass High School. He soon became the supervising principal of the city’s separate school system. Inman Page died on December 21, 1935, at the home of his daughter, Zelia Breaux, in Oklahoma City.
Sadie Tanner Mossell Alexander, who accomplished many “firsts” during her lifetime, was born on January 2, 1898 in Philadelphia. Alexander was born in the house of her distinguished uncle, Henry Osawa Tanner, award-winning painter of religious subjects. She was the granddaughter of Benjamin Tucker Tanner, bishop in the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) church, editor of the Christian Recorder from 1868 to1884 and founding editor of the African Methodist Episcopal Church Review, from 1884 to 1888.
Alexander attended high school at the M Street High School (later Dunbar High School) in Washington, D.C., where she was encouraged to continue her education by the historian, Carter G. Woodson. After high school, Alexander was persuaded by her mother to attend the University of Pennsylvania, where he family had strong ties. Her father, Aaron Albert Mossell, was a graduate of Lincoln University and the first African American to graduate from the University of Pennsylvania Law School in 1888. Her uncle was Louis Baxter Moore, the first African American to receive a Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania.
In 1918, Alexander received a B. S. in Education with senior honors, and in 1919, a M.A. in Economics, both from the University of Pennsylvania. In 1921, she received a Ph.D. in economics from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, becoming one of the first black women to receive a doctorate and the first African American to receive a Ph.D. in economics. The title of her dissertation was, “The Standard of Living among One Hundred Negro Migrant Families in Philadelphia.” Alexander was proud of her graduation, “I can well remember marching down Broad Street from Mercantile Hall to the Academy of Music where there were photographers from all over the world taking my picture.” While at the University of Pennsylvania, Alexander was active in the Gamma Chapter of the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, which was the first African-American sorority at the University. In 1921, she became the first president of the Grand Chapter, the national organization of Delta Sigma Theta, serving for five years.
Members at 1921 Delta Sigma Theta’s national Convention, hosted by Gamma Chapter at the University of Pennsylvania. Shown left to right: front, Virginia Margaret Alexander, Julia Mae Polk, Sadie Tanner Mossell; row 2, Anna R. Johnson, Nellie Rathbone Bright, Pauline Alice Young.
Lola Falana (born Loletha Elaine Falana on September 11, 1942 in Camden, New Jersey) is an American dancer and actress of Cuban and African American descent. Falana’s father left Cuba to become a welder in the United States, where he met his wife. Falana spent most of her childhood in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Senator from Mississippi; first African American senator
Born: September 27, 1827
Birthplace: Fayetteville, N.C.
Born a free black, Revels worked as a barber and as a minister in the African Methodist Episcopal Church. During the Civil War he helped recruit two regiments of African American troops in Maryland and served as the chaplain of a black regiment. After the war he moved to Natchez, Miss., where he was elected an alderman (1868) and a state senator (1870). In 1870 Revels was elected as the first African American member of the United States Senate. A few senators objected, arguing that Revels had not been a U.S. citizen for the nine years, a requirement for serving in the Senate–African Americans had only technically become citizens four years earlier, after the passage of the 1866 Civil Rights Act. But this ploy to keep him out of the Senate failed–the Senate voted 48 to 8 in favor of Revels. Revels served as senator from Feb. 25, 1870, to March 4, 1871. (His term was an abbreviated one because he was elected to complete the term vacated ten years earlier by Jefferson Davis, who left the Senate to become the president of the Confederacy.) After the Senate, Revels served as the president of a black college and returned to the ministry.
Died: Jan. 16, 1901
[Bob Cole] detail from “Pliney come out in the moonlight” (New York : J.H. Remick and Co., c1910. ). African-American Sheet Music, 1850-1920, American Memory, Library of Congress.
Robert Allen Cole was born on July 1, 1868, in Athens, Georgia, the son of former slaves. Like Will Marion Cook and James Reese Europe, he became one of the most important composers of his generation, creating a model for other African-American musicians and composers. By 1891 Cole was a member of Jack’s Creoles, a black minstrel company based in Chicago. Within two or three years, however, Cole began to hammer out his own vision of black theater.
After publishing his first songs in 1893, Cole formed his own company of performers, The All-Star Stock Company, in 1894. This company included luminaries such as the Farrell Brothers, Billy Johnson, Stella Wiley (by then Cole’s wife), Will Marion Cook, and Gussie Davis. In 1896 Cole joined forces with the Black Patti Troubadours. He and Billy Johnson left the Troubadours, however, and formed a new company which produced the landmark musical, A Trip to Coontown (1898)–the first New York musical written, produced, and performed by black entertainers. This show’s run was successful; it also toured off and on until 1901.
After the initial production of Trip, Cole broke with Billy Johnson. He soon began a partnership with J. Rosamond Johnson, and occasionally with Johnson’s brother, James Weldon Johnson–a collaboration that lasted until Cole’s death. In 1900 J. Rosamond Johnson and Cole formed a vaudeville act which was noted for its elegance and broad range of material, including many songs that they had written.
Cole and J. Rosamond Johnson continued their musical collaboration. They joined the Klaw and Erlanger production staff and began writing songs for white shows. In 1901 their success was rewarded with an exclusive contract with Jos. W. Stern and Sons for the publication of their music. The song “Under the Bamboo Tree,” from the musical Sally in our Alley (1904), was one of their biggest hits in both black and white musical circles. Some people claim that around 1905 Cole and Johnson were the most popular songwriting team in America.
How much difference can one person make? Dr. Milton Douglas Quigless defied the odds and the conventions of his time to make medical care available to African Americans in Edgecombe County.In 1936, just out of medical school, he arrived in the small town of Tarboro with $7 in his pocket and a desire to care for people. The need was certainly there. Tarboro’s only hospital was restricted to whites. Local white doctors did not usually treat African Americans, and the town’s only black physician had died years earlier.
Denied privileges at the hospital, Dr. Quigless set up an office in an abandoned fish market. He struggled to provide adequate care and perform surgery, not only in his meager office but also in patients’ homes. Many were tenant farmers with no electricity and poor sanitary conditions that bred typhoid, dysentery and tuberculosis. To give the best care possible, Quigless consulted with specialists around the state. And, as most country doctors did in the days before penicillin, he improvised and occasionally used folk medical treatments he’d learned.But local prejudices and segregation laws continued to frustrate Quigless.
In 1947, with his life savings and a $37,000 loan, he purchased and converted his office building into a 25-bed clinic. “All the patients I’d been seeing out in the country, a lot of them died, you know, before I built the place here,” he recalled. “From the day I started, it was filled up.”The Quigless Hospital developed an excellent reputation. During the 1950s, white patients began to come for treatment, too. Breaking tradition with most Southern hospitals of that time, Quigless provided one door and one waiting room for all patients, white and black.
In 1974, the hospital closed when Dr. Quigless joined the staff of the new Edgecombe County General Hospital and moved his patients there. But he maintained an office in the old hospital until shortly before his death in 1997. Today his son, Dr. Milton Quigless, Jr., is a well-known surgeon in Raleigh, keeping the Quigless name very much a part of North Carolina health care.
Joel Augustus Rogers
Although Joel Augustus Rogers was largely self-trained, some of the most distinguished scholars of the twentieth century have acknowledged our debt to him. Dr. William E. B. DuBois (1868-1963), perhaps the greatest scholar in American history, wrote that, “No man living has revealed so many important facts about the Negro race as has Rogers.” The eminent anthropologist and sociologistJ.G. St. Clair Drake wrote that:
“No discussion of comparative race relations would be complete without consideration of the work of the highly motivated, self-trained historian Joel A. Rogers. Endowed with unusual talent, Rogers rose to become one of the best-informed individuals in the world on Black history, writing and publishing his own books without any kind of organizational or foundation support.”
In April 1987, in a personal interview with me, Professor John G. Jackson (1907-1993) said that:
“Rogers came from Jamaica in the West Indies. He settled in Chicago. He eventually took a job as a Pullman porter so he could visit different cities and libraries and do research. I got an interesting story about that. The story was that in a lot of large cities a lot of libraries were for whites only. Black people weren’t permitted to go into them. So Rogers had to pay the Pullman conductor to go to the libraries and take out books from them. The conductor said, “Rogers, I believe you’re a damn fool. But if you want to throw away your money that way, I’m willing to cooperate.”
Rogers was a field anthropologist. He traveled to sixty different nations and did a lot of research and observing. He had been told when he was a child in Sunday School that God had cursed the Black man and made him inferior. Rogers wanted to prove that the Black man was not inferior.”
After a short illness, Joel Augustus Rogers died in New York City in March 1966 at the beginning of the Black Studies movement. His widow, Helga M. Rogers, reported that “he suffered a stroke while visiting friends and continuing to do research in Washington.” His labors, however, were not in vain. He impact was enormous, his legacy colossal, his place in history secure. Joel Augustus Rogers was a man without peer in gathering up and binding the missing pages of African history. Indeed, Rogers, in the words of Dr. John Henrik Clarke, “looked at the history of people of African origin, and showed how their history is an inseparable part of the history of mankind.”
Abbott, Cleveland Leigh (1892–1955)
Cleveland Leigh Abbott was born December 9, 1892 in Yankton, South Dakota. He is most remembered for his coaching career at Tuskegee Institute (now University) in Alabama.
Abbott was the son of Elbert and Mollie Brown Abbott who moved to South Dakota from Alabama in 1890. He graduated from Watertown High School, Watertown, South Dakota, in 1912 and then fromthe South Dakota State University at Brookings in 1916. Abbott earned 14 varsity athletic awards during his collegiate career.
Abbott served as a First Lieutenant in the 366th Infantry, 92nd Division in World War I. He saw action at the Meuse-Argonne Offensive in 1918. Abbott was later a commissioned officer in the Army Reserve. (The US Army Reserve Center at Tuskegee is now named the Cleveland Leigh Abbott Center.)
In 1923 Cleveland Abbott was hired as an agricultural chemist and athletic director at Tuskegee Institute, a job that had been personally offered to him by Booker T. Washington in 1913 on the condition that he successfully earn his B.A. degree. As athletic director Abbott was expected to coach the Institute’s football team. During Abbott’s 32-year career, the Tuskegee team had a 202–95–27 record including six undefeated seasons.
Abbott also started the women’s track and field program at Tuskegee in 1937. The team was undefeated from 1937 to 1942. Six of his athletes competed on U.S. Olympic track teams, including gold medalists Alice Coachman and Mildred McDaniel. He also coached tennis stars Margaret “Pete” Peters and Roumania “Repeat” Peters during their college years at Tuskegee.
Frantz Fanon (1925-1961) is a leading thinker of postcolonialism. Malcolm X, Che Guevara and Steve Biko read him. Fanon is best known for two of his books, “Black Skin, White Masks” (1952), about internalized racism, and “The Wretched of the Earth” (1961), about casting off colonialism.
Fanon, like Che Guevara and Malcolm X, was born in the 1920s and died young in the 1960s. And like them he fought and wrote against white power, which has ruled much of the world, at first directly through colonial empires in the 1800s and early 1900s, and then through its control of world banking, trade, television, education and so on.
For Fanon, gaining physical independence – kicking the white rulers out of your country – was only the first step. Because whites did more than simply rule – they also spread their language and thought and way of life. So even if you kick the white man out of your country, he is still in your head telling you that you are not as good as he is, that you are not whole, that there is something wrong with you, that you must become more like him. The colonized mind.
Fanon was born on the Caribbean island of Martinique, then a colony of the French empire. He grew up in a well-to-do family and received a French education. At 17, during the middle of the Second World War, he ran away from home and sailed across the sea to fight against Hitler with the French Resistance.
Story Behind the Photo:
On the morning of October 16, 1968, U.S. athlete Tommie Smith won the 200 meter race in a then-world-record time of 19.83 seconds, with Australia’s Peter Norman second with a time of 20.07 seconds, and the U.S.’s John Carlos in third place with a time of 20.10 seconds. After the race was completed, the three went to collect their medals at the podium. The two U.S athletes received their medals shoeless, but wearing black socks, to represent black poverty. Smith wore a black scarf around his neck to represent black pride, Carlos had his tracksuit top unzipped to show solidarity with all blue collar workers in the U.S. and wore a necklace of beads which he described “were for those individuals that were lynched, or killed and that no-one said a prayer for, that were hung and tarred. It was for those thrown off the side of the boats in the middle passage.” All three athletes wore Olympic Project for Human Rights (OPHR) badges, after Norman expressed sympathy with their ideals. Sociologist Harry Edwards, the founder of the OPHR, had urged black athletes to boycott the games; reportedly, the actions of Smith and Carlos on October 16, 1968 were inspired by Edwards’ arguments.
Both U.S. athletes intended on bringing black gloves to the event, but Carlos forgot his, leaving them in the Olympic Village. It was the Australian, Peter Norman, who suggested Carlos wear Smith’s left-handed glove, this being the reason behind him raising his left hand, as opposed to his right, differing from the traditional Black Power salute. When “The Star-Spangled Banner” played, Smith and Carlos delivered the salute with heads bowed, a gesture which became front page news around the world. As they left the podium they were booed by the crowd. Smith later said “If I win, I am American, not a black American. But if I did something bad, then they would say I am a Negro. We are black and we are proud of being black. Black America will understand what we did tonight.”
Bert Williams, 1874-1922
Egbert Austin Williams, 1874-1922 by Samuel Lumiere (between 1921 and 1922). Egbert “Bert” Austin Williams was one of the greatest entertainers in America’s history. Born in the Bahamas on November 12, 1874, he came to the United States permanently in 1885.
Williams met George Walker in San Francisco in 1893 and the two formed what became the most successful comedy team of their time. After appearing on Broadway in Victor Herbert’s The Gold Bug (1896), Williams and Walker created pioneering vaudeville shows and full musical theater productions, including Senegambian Carnival (1897), The Policy Players (1899), The Sons of Ham (1900), their biggest hit, In Dahomey (1902)–which also played in London the following year, Abyssinia (1906), and Bandana Land (1907).
Williams was also one of the most prolific black performers on recordings, making around 80 recordings from 1901-22. Indeed, his first recording sessions with George Walker for the Victor Company in 1901 are considered the first recordings by black performers for a major recording company. Williams signed with Columbia in 1906 and the majority of his recordings were with that company, including what became his signature number, “Nobody,” with words written by Alex Rogers.
John Mercer Langston
John Mercer Langston (1829–1897) was Virginia’s first African American congressman, serving one term from 1879 to 1881. Born a free man in Louisa County, Langston received an education at Oberlin College in Ohio before he became president of Virginia Normal and Collegiate Institute (1885), which is today known as Virginia State University.
The youngest of seventeen children in a family of sharecroppers. He first worked at the racetrack shining shoes and made his way to stable hand, then exercise rider, and finally jockey. At the age of sixteen he was riding in races.
Nicknamed “Wink,” he secured a place in racing history by age twenty-two for winning the Kentucky Derby back-to-back: in 1901 on His Eminence and in 1902 on Alan-A-Dale. During his career he won an amazing twenty-six hundred races.
Maggie Lena Walker
Maggie Lena Walker, the first woman in the United States to become a president of a local bank, was born July 15, 1867 in Richmond, Virginia, U.S.A. She was a daughter of former slaves, Elizabeth Draper Mitchell and William Mitchell, who worked in the mansion of the abolitionist Elizabeth Van Lew.
After a few years of living at the mansion, her father got a job as the head waiter at the Saint Charles Hotel and the family moved to a small house in town. Her father was murdered, presumably a victim of robbery and her mother supported herself and her two children with her laundry business while Maggie helped with the chores. In addition, Maggie attended the Lancaster School and then the Armstrong Normal School. After graduation in 1883, she taught at the Lancaster School until her marriage to Armstead Walker, Jr., a building contractor, in September 1886. They subsequently had three sons, though one died in infancy.
In 1902, she started publishing a newsletter, the St. Luke Herald to increase awareness of the activities of the organization and to help in the educational work of the order. The following year, she opened the St. Luke Penny Savings Bank and became its president. The bank’s goal was to facilitate loans to the community. By 1920, the bank helped purchase about 600 homes. By 1924, the Independent Order of St. Luke had 50,000 members, 1500 local chapters, a staff of 50 working in its Richmond headquarters and assets of almost $400,000. The Penny Savings Bank absorbed all other black-owned banks in Richmond in 1929 and became the Consolidated Bank and Trust Companany with Walker as its chairman of the board.
Steve Biko was one of South Africa’s most significant political activists and a leading founder of South Africa’s Black Consciousness Movement. His death in police detention in 1977 led to his being hailed as a martyr of the anti-Apartheid struggle.
Date of birth: 18 December 1946, King William’s Town, Eastern Cape, South Africa
Date of death: 12 September 1977, Pretoria prison cell, South Africa
Hallie Q. Brown (c. 1845-1949) made the most of her roughly one hundred years on earth, lifting as she climbed. This dynamo was born, along with her five siblings, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to former slaves Frances Jane Scroggins and Thomas Brown. Hallie’s father was reportedly the first black express agent in the nation and had been a worker on the Underground Railroad.
In 1864, the Brown family moved to Chatham, in Ontario, Canada. A few years later, they returned to the United States, settling in Wilberforce, Ohio, where Hallie enrolled in Wilberforce University, which was then under the leadership of a Brown family friend: renowned A.M.E. bishop Daniel Alexander Payne who was to become one of Hallie’s major mentors.
After graduating from Wilberforce in 1873, Hallie Quinn Brown embarked on what was to be an illustrious career in education. For about a dozen years, she taught at several schools in the South. From 1885 to 1887 she served as dean of Allen University in Columbia, South Carolina. From 1887 to 1892 she taught in the public schools of Dayton, Ohio, where she opened a night school for migrants from the South. During her days in Dayton, Brown assiduously studied oratory, and launched into another career: public speaking.
From 1892 to 1893, Brown served as Lady Principal at Tuskegee Institute in Tuskegee, Alabama.
(Left to right) Sophia B. Packard and Harriet E. Giles, schoolteachers and Baptist missionaries from New England, founded the Atlanta Baptist Female Seminary (later Spelman College) in the basement of Atlanta’s Friendship Baptist Church on April 11, 1881. Packard served as president from 1881 to 1891; Giles was Spelman’s second president from 1891 to 1909.
Alvin Ailey Biography
Dancer and choreographer. Born January 5, 1931 in Rogers, Texas. In 1943, Alvin Ailey and his mother moved to Los Angeles, where he nurtured his interest in dance. He became a member of Lester Horton’s company in 1950, and when his mentor died in 1953, Ailey was chosen to take over as director and choreographer.
After training in New York City with Martha Grahamand others, he founded the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in 1958, which was a hugely popular, multi-racial modern dance ensemble. The company popularized modern dance around the world thanks to tours sponsored by the U.S. State Department. His most famous dance, Revelations, is based on Ailey’s own experience of growing up African American in the rural South and is a celebratory study of religious spirit. He retired from the stage in 1965 to devote himself to the company.
Ailey received the Kennedy Center Honors in 1988 and died a year later of AIDS.
Alvin Ailey dancers
Alvin Ailey dancers
Alvin Ailey dancers
Margaret “Mag” Palm
A conductor on the Underground Railroad
Margaret Palm was a colorful character in Gettysburg’s African-American community during the mid-nineteenth century. Before the Civil War she served as a “conductor” along the local branch of the Underground Railroad, earning the nickname Maggie Bluecoat for the blue circa-1812 military uniform coat she wore while conducting fugitive slaves north from the area. Palm’s reputation almost cost her dearly. One evening, she was accosted by two strangers who bound her hands and tried to kidnap her into Maryland and slavery. Her screams attracted help and she escaped her assailants.
John Baxter Taylor (1882 – 1908), V.M.D. 1908
First African-American to Win an Olympic Gold Medal
John Baxter Taylor, Jr., was born November 3, 1882, in Washington, D.C., the son of Sarah Thomas and John Baxter Taylor. After his family moved to Philadelphia, Taylor attended Central High School, where he was captain of the track team. After high school, while at Brown Preparatory School, young Taylor was a member of a team celebrated for not losing a race and for capturing the one-mile intercollegiate relay championship of the Penn relay games.
Taylor’s association with Penn began when he entered the Wharton School in September 1903. He withdrew from Wharton at the end of his second year and shortly thereafter, in October 1905, enrolled in the School of Veterinary Medicine, graduating from this three-year program in 1908.
During his student years at Penn, Taylor contributed significantly to Penn’s athletic standing. As a member of Penn’s 1903, 1904, 1905, 1907 and 1908 track teams, Taylor (along with Nathaniel J. Cartmell and Guy Hastings) made Penn once again the champions on the track and field. Taylor’s stride measured 8 feet 6 inches, the longest of any runner yet known at that time. He was indisputedly the best quarter-miler in the college world, establishing the world’s interscholastic record of 49.1 seconds for 440 yards in 1903 and setting a new record of 48.6 seconds for this event four years later. In 1907 he was also the indoor champion for 600 yards.
Taylor was also gaining international fame–and Olympic gold. In the summer of 1904 he visited England and France, winning the majority of his races. When the Olympics were held in England in July1908, shortly after his graduation from Penn, Taylor had two chances for the gold. His first opportunity came when he participated in the 400 meter race, doing well even though he was ill at the time. Unfortunately, when the race was called because of a disputed foul, bitter controversy ensued between the Americans and British and the Americans boycotted the rerunning of this race. Despite this disappointment, Taylor did bring home the gold as a member of America’s 1600 meter (one mile) relay team; he and his teammates fellow Penn grad Nathaniel J. Cartmell, W’08, Philadelphian Melvin Sheppard and William F. Hamilton set a world record in this race.
Charles Young was born March 12, 1864, in Mayslick, Kentucky, the son of former slaves. His father enlisted as a private in the Fifth Regiment of the Colored Artillery (Heavy) Volunteers. When Young’s parents moved across the river to Ripley, Ohio, he attended the white high school. He graduated at the age of 16 and was the first black to graduate with honors. Following graduation, he taught school in the black high school of Ripley.
While engaged in teaching, he had an opportunity to enter a competitive examination for appointment as a cadet at West Point. Young was successful, making the second highest score, and in 1883 reported to the military academy. Young graduated with his commission, the third black man to do so at that time. He was assigned to the Tenth and the Seventh Cavalry where he was promoted to first lieutenant. His subsequent service of 28 years was with black troops — the Twenty-fifth U.S. Infantry and the Ninth U.S. Cavalry.
In 1903 Young served as captain of a black company at the Presidio, San Francisco. He was appointed acting superintendent of Sequoia and General Grant national parks, thus becoming the first black superintendent of a national park.
Scott Joplin (between July 1867 and January 1868 – April 1, 1917) was an African American composer and pianist, born near Texarkana, Texas, into the first post-slavery generation. He achieved fame for his unique ragtime compositions, and was dubbed the “King of Ragtime.
During his brief career, Joplin wrote 44 original ragtime pieces, one ragtime ballet, and two operas. One of his first pieces, the Maple Leaf Rag, became ragtime’s first and most influential hit, and remained so for a century.
William Harvey Carney (March 28, 1842 – March 20, 1908) was an American Civil War hero.
Sgt. William H. Carney was the first African American to be awarded the Medal of Honor. Sgt. Carney served with the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry and took part in the July 18, 1863 assault on Fort Wagner in Charleston, South Carolina.
He received his medal for saving the American flag and planting it on the parapet and holding it while the troops charged. He was wounded four times, but returned the flag to the lines, saying, “Boys, the old flag never touched the ground!”
Harlem renaissance period
Howard University law school graduates, c. 1900.
Harriet Tubman is perhaps the most well-known of all the Underground Railroad’s “conductors.” During a ten-year span she made 19 trips into the South and escorted over 300 slaves to freedom. And, as she once proudly pointed out to Frederick Douglass, in all of her journeys she “never lost a single passenger.”
Tubman, Harriet: Tubman with escaped slaves
Thomas Jennings was the first African American to receive a patent, on March 3, 1821 (U.S. patent3306x). Thomas Jennings’ patent was for a dry-cleaning process called “dry scouring”.
The first money Thomas Jennings earned from his patent was spent on the legal fees (my polite way of saying enough money to purchase) necessary to liberate his family out of slavery and support the abolitionist cause.
Lewis Latimer was born in Chelsea, Massachusetts in 1848. He was the son of George and Rebecca Latimer, escaped slaves from Virginia.
When Lewis Latimer was a boy his father George was arrested and tried as a slave fugitive. The judge ordered his return to Virginia and slavery, but money was raised by the local community to pay for George Latimer’s freedom. George Latimer later went underground fearing his re-enslavement, a great hardship for the Lewis family.
Lewis Latimer enlisted in the Union Navy at the age of 15 by forging the age on his birth certificate. Upon the completion of his military service, Lewis Latimer returned to Boston, Massachusetts where he was employed by the patent solicitors Crosby & Gould.
While working in the office Lewis began the study of drafting and eventually became their head draftsmen. During his employment with Crosby & Gould, Latimer drafted the patent drawings for Alexander Graham Bell’s patent application for the telephone, spending long nights with the inventor. Bell rushed his patent application to the patent office mere hours ahead of the competition and won the patent rights to the telephone with the help of Latimer
“We have a wonderful history behind us….It reads like the history of a people in a heroic age …. We are going back to that beautiful history and it is going to inspire us to greater achievements.”
Carter G. Woodson, 1875-1950