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Who Was George Washington Carver?

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About

George Carver was born in the year 1864 in Diamond, Missouri, US. He was an American agricultural scientist and inventor who promoted alternative crops to cotton and methods to prevent soil depletion. He is best known for being the most prominent black scientist of the early 20th century. Below is all you need to know about George Washington Carver Biography.

George Washington Carver

George Carver was a famous agricultural black scientist and inventor who helped develop many soybeans, sweet potatoes, and peanuts. He was born into slavery a year before it was outlawed, after which he left home at a young age to further his education and earn a master’s degree from Iowa State University. 

Goerge Washington Carver home
Photo by Matthew A. LynnMERA

Carver planned to teach and conduct research at Tuskegee University for years. Even though he spent years developing several products made from peanuts, none were commercially successful. He was also a leader in promoting environmentalism and received numerous awards for his work.

His Early Life

George Washington Carver was born into a life of slavery in Diamond, Newton County, Missouri, near Crystal Place, before abolishing slavery in Missouri, which occurred in January 1865, during the American Civil War. His date of birth was not known to him. 

Moses Carver, a German American immigrant and a farm owner bought George’s mother, Mary, from William P. McGinnis on October 9, 1855, when she was 13. George was a week old when he was kidnapped, along with his sister, by night raiders from Arkansas. 

Moses Carver hired someone to get them back, but they only succeeded in finding George, whom they bought by trading one of Moses’ finest horses. He was raised by Moses Carver and his wife Susan and taught how to read and write. He started going to the farm and was soon known as a plant doctor to several local farmers.

His Education

At age 11, George left the farm to attend an all-Black school in a nearby town in Neosho, where he was taken in by Andrew and Mariah Watkins, a childless African American couple. Two years later, he moved to Kansas, leaving his education in Neosho behind. 

Surviving from the domestic skills he learned while moving from one foster home to another, he put himself through school and later graduated from Minneapolis High School in Minneapolis. In 1894, Carver became the first African American to earn a Bachelor of Science degree.

Tuskegee Institute

Washington persuaded its trustees to establish an agriculture school, which Carver could only head if Tuskegee retained its all-Black faculty. Carver accepted the invitation and would spend his life at Tuskegee Institute.

Carver devised strategies to repair soils depleted by repeated cotton crops as a professor at Tuskegee Institute. He wanted poor farmers to cultivate alternative crops like peanuts and sweet potatoes to supplement their income and improve their quality of life.

George Washington Carver (front row, center) poses with fellow staff members at the Tuskegee Institute (now known as Tuskegee University) located in the U.S. state of Alabama. Photo credit: Wikepedia

His Relationship

George never got married. His courtship with Sarah L. Hunt, an elementary school teacher and the sister-in-law of Warren Logan, Treasurer of Tuskegee Institute, only lasted for three years. News had it that he was bisexual and constrained by mores of his historical period.

His Inventions and Fame

  • George Carver taught the farmers to enrich their croplands with swamp muck instead of fertilizers. His idea of crop rotation was of great value to several farmers.
  • His most significant success came from peanuts. He developed many industrial and commercial products from peanuts, including paper, cooking oils, punches, salad oil, soaps, cosmetics, wood stains, and massage oils that treated him with infantile paralysis.
  • A lot of facts and images were created from George Washington Carver for kids, which was a source of education for them.
  • In 1916, George was made a member of the Royal Society of Arts in England, one of the few Americans to receive this honor.
  • George discovered Permaculture used to generate carbon from the atmosphere, producing many crops. Premature is still used in President Biden’s reign.
  • He later established a legacy by creating a museum of his work and the George Washington Carver Foundation at Tuskegee in 1938 to continue research on Agriculture.
George Washington Carver at work in his laboratory

His Death

On January 5, 1943, George Carver died at the age of 79 from anemia resulting from a fall down a flight of stairs. He was 78 years old and was buried on the Tuskegee Institute grounds.

List of Products made from the Peanut
By Dr. George Washington Carver

The Oldest Black-Owned Business in the United States

The Oldest Black-Owned Business in the United States was founded in Columbus, Ohio. The Ward Transfer Line is the country’s oldest continuously operating African-American business. William S. Ward established the company in 1881 as a moving company, and it began with three employees and a single wagon to transport items.

John T. Ward and Catherine Moss Ward

The Oldest Black-Owned Business in the United States
John T.Ward. Photo Credit: Columbus Public Library Archives
The Oldest Black-Owned Business in the United States
Catherine Moss Ward was the wife of John T. Ward

John T. Ward was the father of William S. Ward.  He was born in Richmond, Virginia, on March 19, 1820. Ward emigrated from Virginia to Columbus in 1836, and later met Catherine Moss, an Underground Railroad operator in Central Ohio.  The couple met while growing up on a farm near the National Pike (now known as Main Street). They married in 1838 and had 12 kids.

Ward was a free man who purchased his own farmland and worked as the janitor at the old City Hall. His farm was in what is now known as Whitehall. Once an underground railroad station, that house still exists today but is no longer in the Ward family’s possession.  He eventually settled in the Reynoldsburg area.

The Business 

Ward Transfer Line was founded in 1881 by John T. Ward and his son, William in Columbus, Ohio.

In 1859, the Wards started working on

The Oldest Black-Owned Business in the United States
Photo Credit: Columbus Public LIbrary Archives

his “business plan” for a moving company.  He hauled goods and merchandise from warehouses and storage yards to commercial sites and markets under contract for wholesales.

Ward’s son, William, worked in the moving business after the war and later left to work for the Union Transfer and Storage Company.  He navigated the tanks and rose through the ranks to become a teamster, work supervisor, foreman, and rate clerk.

In 1899, they add “storage” and changed the name to E.E. Ward Transfer and Storage Company, after Edgar Earl Ward, John T. Ward’s grandson who was running the business at the time.

The company began using motor vehicles in the early 1900s, eventually phased out their last horse-powered moving team in 1921. By 1925, it had grown to include more commercial clients, such as the Steinway Piano Company, for whom it transported nearly 900,000 pianos.

The Underground Railroad

Ward became involved in the Underground Railroad as a young man in the 1840s, hiding fugitive slaves on his farm outside Columbus in Whitehall.

John T. Ward and his family assisted slaves fleeing to Canada through the Second Baptist Church in Columbus. He used his horses and wagon to assist slaves in escaping to freedom by establishing a network of hiding places and safe houses.

The Second Baptist congregation was afraid of losing their jobs if they became involved, so Ward and James Preston Poindexter left and founded the Slavery Resistant Church to assist runaways. They all returned to Second Baptist after the Civil War, where Poindexter served as pastor for forty years.

Maintaining the Legacy

The Oldest Black-Owned Business in the United States was run by Edgar Earl, who was born in 1881. Edgar Earl Ward, the youngest, took over the business in 1899 when he was 18 years old. There were a lot of changes under Edgar Ward’s leadership.

The Oldest Black-Owned Business in the United States
Edgar Earl Ward Photo credit: Columbus Public Library Archives

In the early 1950’s Eldon Ward, the great-grandson of John T. and Catherine Ward took over as manager. However, there was no succession plan when Eldon Ward decided to retire in 1996.  He moved to Phoenix, and he had no children of his own.

The current owner, Brain Brooks’ father, was the attorney for E.E. Ward for 20 years, and Eldon

 

 Ward was Brooks’ godfather. So, when it appeared that the business would be leaving the Ward family’s hands, Brooks’ mother begged her son to help keep the E.E. Ward legacy alive.

He was passionate about its long history and wanted to preserve it. In April 2001, he bought the company with a business partner, Otto Beatty, for an undisclosed sum.

E.E. Ward, now located at 2235 Southwest Blvd. in Grove City, has remained the oldest continuously operating black-owned business in the United States, according to the US Department of Commerce and mentioned in the 2003 Congressional Record.

The company has survived the Great Depression, two World Wars, the Great Recession, and the presidency of 25 different presidents. Today they are the Oldest Black-Owned Business in the United States.

Who are the Stolen Girls?

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Who are the Stolen Girls? Thousands of kids protested against segregation. Many were arrested and put in prison for days, weeks, and even months. This event aided with the Civil Rights Act of 1964. More than a dozen African-American children aged 12 to 15 were seized and held in a decaying stockade for two months without being charged in 1963. Who are the Stole Girls?

The Protest

In the summer of 1963, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) staged a protest march in Americus, Georgia, to protest segregation in collaboration with the NAACP. Then, in late July 1963, Black youngsters began to demonstrate regularly at the Martin Theater and the Trailways bus terminal against segregation. As white oppressors of the movement met the youthful activists with taunting and violence, the peaceful demonstrations became boisterous. The march began at Friendship Baptist Church and concluded at a segregated cinema. When they arrived at the movie theatre, a group of preteen and young African-American teenage girls known as the “Stolen Girls” attempted to purchase tickets and were arrested for doing so. Fifteen young girls aged 12 to 15 were imprisoned for defying segregation restrictions. By the Martin Theater and the Trailways bus terminal, the girls staged a protest. Instead of entering the back alley, the marchers attempted to purchase tickets at the movie theatre’s front entrance. Police arrived quickly, assaulted the girls, and arrested them without charging them.

The Arrest

Three young women, the youngest was ten years old, and the oldest of whom was sixteen, were captured and taken to the “Leesburg Stockade,” a dismal, dank Civil War-era prison about twenty miles west of Americus in rural Leesburg. In jail for the first few days, they didn’t receive any food. They survived on rations of overcooked hamburgers and egg sandwiches for the next few days. The girls also slept on filthy beds without access to a bathroom, sharing space with mosquitoes, gnats, and, at one point, a snake brought into the room by guards. After weeks of searching throughout the region, a photographer Danny Lyon located the girls’ and alerted community members. Police released the girls days after Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream speech” in Washington D.C.After they were released, many of the girl’s parents received a bill with a charge of two dollars for every day of their child’s imprisonment.

Conclusion

Days after Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech in Washington, D.C.; police freed the girls. Danny Lyon, a photographer, discovered the girls’ bodies after weeks of scouring throughout the region and alerted the community. Many of the girls’ parents got a bill of two dollars for each day their kid was imprisoned after they were freed. The Leesburg Stockade Girls “stolen girls” are an example of teenage freedom fighters who are brave.

Work Cited

Leesburg Stockade: In 1963, Thirty Black Preteen Girls …. https://www.watchtheyard.com/history/leesburg-stockade-1963/ ‘Stolen Girls’ in Leesburg Stockade – The Black Detour. https://theblackdetour.com/stolen-girls-in-leesburg-stockade/ Black Girlhood in 20th-Century America | Oxford Research …. https://oxfordre.com/americanhistory/view/10.1093/acrefore/9780199329175.001.0001/acrefore-9780199329175-e-852

Grind City Kicks: An act of Service that should Inspire Entrepreneurs

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About Grind City Kicks 

Grind City Kicks (GCK) was founded in Memphis, Tennessee. GCK uses sneakers to collaborate with other organizations and businesses to impact the community, highlight youth, and raise awareness about social issues. The company began with a passion for shoes and philanthropy in the community. They use ideas and suggestions from the community to create unique designs for GCK clothing and plan impactful events. The organization also spends money on programs, facilities, and support systems that benefit many. GCK has formed numerous partnerships with sports organizations and schools to create affordable sports apparel and accessories for their players. 

The Founder

After his partner lost interest and rebranded, Chima Onwuka is now the sole owner and CEO of Grind City Kicks. It was founded just months before the pandemic shut down in March 2020 when Onwuka anticipated that many families would be in need.      He saved the brand by buying out his business partner. Onwuka claims that GCK is yet another platform that allows him to use his God-given talent to influence and motivate others in the community. With the help of sponsorships and generosity from other organizations, GCK can aid a cause and support many families. Below are some of the few benefits of Grind City Kicks to the community.

To Support a Good Cause

GCK has produced its first pair of shoes to raise awareness for Black Lives Matter. The shoes serve as a conblack lives matterstant reminder of those who have died tragically, such as George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmuad Arbery. However, they are best known for their collaboration with breast Cancer Awareness, the American Cancer Society, Real Men Wear Pink, Championship Wrestling, and CW30.

To Pay Tribute to Loved Ones

Businesses like Grind City Kicks are out there to give a helping hand. They use shoes to pay tributes to loved ones that have passed away from tragedies.  GCK provided shoes to the families of Taylon Vail and Kam Johnson. Taylon Vail was only sixteen when he was killed in a shooting at his grandparent’s house while playing video games. Kam Johnson was the only person (child) who died in a bus horrific bus accident coming back from Dallas.

To Give Back

GCK has a line of sneakers and shirts that give back to support COVID-19 relief efforts in the community. They designed a Covid-19 awareness shirt that helps individuals and families affected by the coronavirus. GCK collaborated with, Grind City Cares, which impacts people and creates awareness for social issues. Together, these organizations raised funds for the Neighborhood Christian Center to continue working with families in need of resources during the pandemic. Grind City Kicks have assisted local organizations such as Memphis Athletic Ministries in providing basketball shorts for their players. They organized a Back to School Day concert with local artists and donated supplies to high schools in Memphis. Raleigh Egypt high school in Memphis received uniforms from GCK. Red Hook and Memphis Sports Master collaborated to make this possible. In 2021, they partnered with local organizations in the community to create the first alternative basketball program for alternative schools. GCK now works with sports, including soccer, basketball, rugby, and cycling, allowing teams to use their platform to give back to the community. This year they created its first partnership with a college basketball team.

Conclusion

GCK plays a role in providing critical services and raising a voice for people in need. They introduce stability and strengthen the community to see the greater good for the future. Partners like Grind city Cares create an excellent platform for a healthy community.  Grind City Kicks is an act of service that should inspire other Entrepreneurs. For more information, go to www.grindcitykicks.com

June is Black Music Month

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Black music and culture have helped shape an entire century of American history. Starting with the negro spirituals born out of the excessive hardships of slavery, the creation of gospel, the evolution of blues, jazz, and R&B, not to mention the influence of black artists within rock and roll, rap, and hip-hop music.

President Jimmy Carter 

President Jimmy Carter
President Jimmy Carter

On June 7, 1979, President Jimmy Carter announced June as “National Black Music Month,” This comes over 100 years after the Emancipation Proclamation theoretically ended the institution of slavery in the country and only 15 years after the Civil Rights Act of 1964. June has been the month designated as the time to honor it formally. This month celebrates the Black musical influences that comprise an essential part of our nation’s treasured cultural heritage. During June and beyond, we should appreciate the contributions of African-American musicians, composers, singers, and songwriters in American culture. 

President Carter wanted to focus on the impact Black music has had in the world. However, National Black Music Month wasn’t official because he had not signed a special presidential proclamation.

The Beginning

Dyana Williams

It became official, in 1998 during President Bill Clinton’s term, a renowned journalist, community activist, and artist manager, Dyana Williams, submitted a petition to hold an event at the White House celebrating Black Music Month. Unfortunately, her plea was rejected due to the absence of a presidential proclamation. Determined, Williams lobbied for legislation with Congressman Chaka Fattah and GRAMMY® Award winner Kenny Gamble to draft up House Resolution 509, which is better known as The African-American Music Bill. In 2000, the bill was signed by former president Bill Clinton.

President Carter held the first Black Music Month event at the White House on June 7, 1979.

President Obama’s contribution 

President Barack Obama renamed Black Music Month to “African-American Music Appreciation Month” in 2009 but preserved its goal.

“As a long piece of American culture, music offers a vibrant soundtrack to the story of our people and our Union. When words alone could not bring us together, we have found in melodies and choruses the universal truths of our shared humanity. African-American musicians have left an indelible mark on this tradition, and during African-American Music Appreciation Month, we can pay special tribute to their extra-ordinary contributions”. – President Barack Obama

President Trump 

On May 29, 2020, President Trump officially proclaimed June 2020 “African-American Music Appreciation Month.” (I thought President Obama already did this!). 

Spirituals 

The Spirituals’ included plantation songs and work songs that evolved into the blues and gospel songs in church that we know of today. These songs were originally an oral tradition and imparted Christian values while also defining the hardships of slavery. 

Blues, Ragtime, and Jazz

The blues can be traced back to the slave trade era from 1619-1809. During the era, history has documented that slave ship captains would encourage slaves to sing and dance hoping it would keep them alive until they arrived to be sold.

In the 1890’s “Ragtime” was born in the Black communities of St. Louis. This style takes traditional march form, similar to the music of John Philip Sousa, and adds the syncopated, or “ragged,” rhythms of African music.

Jazz was often improvisational and was developed by Black people and influenced by both Europeans harmonic structure and African rhythmic intricacy. 

R&B, Rock & Roll, and Soul

In the 1940s, the term “rhythm and blues” (R&B) was coined as a phrase for secular music made by Black Americans. What would soon come from R&B and country music was rock & roll.

Hip Hop

Hiphop originated in the predominantly Black and Latino section of New York City, the South Bronx section in the late 1970s. Hip-hop emerged as a reaction to the socio-economic conditions in Black and Brown neighbourhoods.

How to Celebrate 

  1.  Listen to different genres of music.  
  2. Go to a concert.  
  3. Ask a senior citizen who their favorite black artist was growing up. 
  4. Watch a documentary about black music or about a black artist you have never heard of.
  5. Read books on black musicians. 

Sarah Rector: The “Richest Colored Girl in the World.”

Sarah Rector was born on March 3, 1902, in Indian Territory now Taft, Oklahoma, U.S. She was an African American member of the Muscogee Nation, best known for being the ‘Richest Colored Girl in the world’.

Who Was Sarah Rector?

Rector became the wealthiest black girl in the nation at the age of 11. This gave her international attention, especially when The Kansas City Star publicized it in 1913. Since then, her life has been filled with a lot of public speculation and financial maneuvering.

Her Early Life

Sarah Rector was born on March 3, 1902, to Joseph and Rose Rector in a two-room cabin near Twine, located on a Muscogee Creek Indian portion of land in Oklahoma. She had five siblings and they all went to school in Taft, an all-black town closer than Twine. 

Her parents were both descendants of African people enslaved and owned by the Muscogee Creek Nation Creek Indians before the Civil War. They were therefore listed as freedmen on the Dawes Rolls, which later gave them an entitlement to portions of land signed under the Treaty of 1866. 

The portion of lands granted to former slaves was usually made of rocks with poor agricultural quality. Sarah’s allotment became a burden and her father met the Muskogee County Court for a formal request to sell the land. His request was denied due to some restrictions on the land, so he continued paying the taxes.

Her Oil Deals and Wealth

Rector was only 13 years of age and could not legally manage her estate. She was given a guardian, a white man named T.J. who was appointed by a probate judge.

He managed all of Sarah’s financial matters. In fact, his guardianship towards her worked quite well to her advantage. Rector’s property was operated by a wealthy oilman, B.B. Jones.

Sun-News reported that the 1915 production was at approximately 160,000 barrels of crude oil per month. Her share was worth 20,000 barrels a month, where a barrel cost 90 cents. 

This amounted to a sum of  $18,000 per month, or a daily income that equals around $600. At that time, this amount of money was seen to be unbelievably huge. A lot of Americans could receive that amount as their salary, per year.

The news of Rector’s wealth spread like a wildfire across the world. She even began to receive loan petitions, money gifts, and even marriage proposals at a very young age.

On hearing about her wealth, the Oklahoma Legislature made a tireless effort to declare her white. This allowed Rector to reap the benefits of her increased social grounds, which includes riding in an exotic first-class car around the city.

In 1914, The Chicago Defender, an African American newspaper, published an article that claimed Rector’s estate was being mismanaged by her family.

They also stated that she was uneducated with a poor quality of life. On reading and hearing this news, National African American leaders Booker T. Washington and W. E. B. DuBois became concerned about her wellbeing.

Washington also came in to assist the Rector family. In October of that same year, she was enrolled in the Children’s School, a boarding school at the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama. This school was headed by Washington and upon her graduation, she attended the Institute.

Her Personal Life

In 1922, she married Kenneth Campbell, who was the second African American to own an auto dealership. The couple gave birth to three sons, Kenneth, Jr., Leonard, and Clarence.

They were known as royalty in their city, always driving expensive cars and entertaining celebrities like Duke Ellington and Count Basie at their home. Rector and her husband divorced in 1930 and she remarried William Crawford ​in 1934.

Her Later Life

Sarah Rector lived a very comfortable and wealthy life. She was exposed to beautiful things that include lavishing cars and clothing.

On July 22, 1967, at the age of 65, Rector died. Soon after, her wealth gradually disappeared, but she still had a few real estate holdings and active oil wells. Her remains were buried in Blackjack Cemetery in Taft, Oklahoma.

The Emancipation Proclamation

The Emancipation Proclamation was issued by US President Abraham Lincoln on the 1st of January, 1863. This was when the nation was close to its third year of a bloody civil war.

The proclamation declared “that everyone held as a slave in and around the 10 rebellious states are to be henceforth set free.” Despite this declaration, the Emancipation Proclamation was not implemented in so many ways.

It only applied to states that had separated from the United States, leaving the loyal border states still in the hands of slavery. Parts of the Southern secessionist states under the Northern hold were also left out of this act of freedom.

The promised freedom depended upon Union (United States) military victory. The Proclamation made emancipation a goal of the Civil War. During the war, it weakened the efforts of England and France to officially honor the Confederacy.

As Union troops came closer to the Rebel region and territory, they released thousands of people from slavery, each day. A lot of these slaves could not wait, as they escaped from their owners to gain their freedom.

The Proclamation

The Proclamation was issued and partitioned in two. On September 22, 1862, Lincoln declared towards the next 100 days that he would free all slaves in other locations that were not under Union control.

On January 1, 1863, he made a list of the ten different states in which the proclamation would then apply. These states include North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Texas, Arkansas, Alabama, Virginia, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Kentucky. 

The five border states where slavery was still legal were not included, so they were not named. They had also remained committed to the Union and were not in rebellion.

Tennessee was also not named and this was because the Union forces had already gotten control of that area. Several counties of Virginia that were in the process of separating from that state to form the new state of West Virginia were specifically named as exemptions, as were several parishes around New Orleans in Louisiana.

At first, only a few slaves under the Union lines were immediately freed, but as Union forces advanced, about a million slaves were effectively freed. Out of the former slaves, a few joined the Union army.

The Original Copy

The original copy of the Emancipation Proclamation issued on January 1, 1863, is currently in the National Archives in Washington, DC. The text covers five different pages in the document that were originally tied with narrow red and blue ribbons.

The Emancipation Proclamation
The Emancipation Proclamtion

They were each attached to the page that carries the signature and the impression of the seal of the United States. Today, the ribbons and parts of the seal remain and are still very much decipherable. The rest of the parts are completely worn off.

The original document was bound with other proclamations in a large volume that has been kept for a long time in the State Department. During the period of preparation for binding, the document was strengthened with strips along the center folds before it was attached on a larger sheet of heavy paper. 

On the upper right-hand corner of this sheet, a number of the proclamation, 95, which was given by the State Department, was written and signed in red ink. Along with other records, the volume containing the Emancipation Proclamation was moved from the Department of State to the National Archives of the United States in 1936.

The Amendment

Exactly two months before the war ended in February, 865, some of the left-out border states ended slavery within their borders. Lincoln told the portrait painter, Francis B. Carpenter, that the Emancipation Proclamation was the major act of his administration, and probably the greatest mark made in the nineteenth century.

He later sponsored a constitutional amendment to ban slavery as it became an illegal practice all over the United States. This was officially sealed by the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment in December 1865. A few months later, Lincoln was killed.

Gwendolyn Brooks: Interesting Facts about this Poet

Gwendolyn Brooks was an American poet, writer, and teacher. Brooks was the first African American to receive a Pulitzer Prize for her poetry for her book Annie Allen. She was the first Black woman to be a poetry consultant to the Library of Congress and best known for her poetic descriptions of celebrations and struggles of Black city life.  

Early Life

  1. Gwendolyn Elizabeth Brooks was born in Topeka, Kansas, on June 7, 1917. She moved to Chicago with her parents, Keziah and David, when she was five weeks old during the Great Migration.  
  2. Her father, David, was a janitor who had hoped to become a doctor; her mother, Keziah, a teacher, and classically trained pianist. In an interview in 1994, she labeled herself as an “organic Chicagoan.”
  3. Brooks was the oldest of two children and had a younger brother named Raymond Melvin.
  4. Brooks’ father was initially studying medicine at the “Frisk University.” He dropped out of school after his father died. After moving to Chicago, he worked as a janitor once they moved to Chicago, first at the “McKinley Music Publishing Company” and later, at Targ and Dinner.
  5. She started her formal education at a Chicago southside school, Forestville Elementary, where she faced social rejection.
  6. At the age of 11, Brooks wrote one poem every day, making a series of poetry books. She wrote about the world around her, mother nature, and religion.
  7. Her first poem was published in the American Childhood Magazine when she was only 13 years old.  
  8. Gwendolyn Brooks had a Sweet Sixteen Party, but none of her classmates showed up.
  9. Her mother encouraged her and helped Gwen send her poems to magazines and the Chicago Defender.  By the age of seventeen, she had published several poems in Chicago Defender.

Career

  1. According to George Kent, she was “spurned by members of her race because she lacked social or athletic abilities, a light skin, and good grade hair.” Brooks felt rejected and spent most of her childhood writing.
  2. Her first poetry book was “A Street in Bronzeville” of 1945. 
  3. “Maud Martha” was her first novel which had 34 sketches.
  4. In poetry, her Pulitzer award, entitled Annie Allen, chronicled an ordinary black girl growing up in the Bronzeville neighborhood on Chicago’sChicago’s famous South Side. It tells the story of a black woman’s passage from childhood to adulthood against poverty and discrimination.
  5. Her collection of poems called “Bronzeville Boys and Girls” was published in 1956. 
  6.  Brooks became active in the “Youth Council of National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. She became the publicity director of the Chicago chapter in 1937. 
  7. She taught creative writing to Chicago gang members from the Chicago’sChicago’s Blackstone Rangers.
  8. Brooks taught creative writing at the University of Chicago, Columbia College Chicago, Chicago State University, Northeastern Illinois University, Elmhurst College, Columbia University, and the University of Wisconsin.
  9. Gwendolyn Brooks was sixty-eight when she became the first black woman to be a poetry consultant to the Library of Congress. 
  10.  President John F. Kennedy invited Brooks to read at a Library of Congress poetry festival in 1962.
  11. Broadside Press published her book ‘Riot’ in 1969.

Education

  1. She attended a predominantly white high school in Chicago, Hyde Park High School. Still, she transferred to an all-black school and an integrated school, Wendell Phillips High School, in the Chicago Broonzville neighborhood. Later finished school at Englewood High School.
  2. She graduated from a two-year program at Wilson Junior College in 1936, now known as Kennedy-King College. Brooks did not pursue a four-year college degree because she did feel it was necessary as a writer.
  3. In 1941,  Gwendolyn took part in poetry workshops, including a seminar organized by the influential Inez Cunningham Stark, a white woman with a solid literary background. Starks offered workshops to Black people, and it helped Brooks gained techniques from her predecessors. Even Langston Hughes passed by and heard Brooks read her poem “The Ballad of Pearl May Lee.” 

Gwendolyn Brooks personal life

  1. Among her close friends, she went by the nickname “Gwendie”.
  2. In 1939, Brooks married Henry Lowington Blakely, Jr. They had two children: Henry Lowington Blakely III and Nora Blakely.
  3. Brooks mentored her son’s fiancée, Kathleen Hardiman, in writing poetry.

Death

Gwendolyn Brooks died at 83 on December 3, 2000, at her home in Chicago, Illinois. She is buried at Lincoln Cemetery in Blue Island, Illinois.

Honors and Awards

  • The Guggenheim fellowship and Mademoiselle magazine named her one of its “Ten Women of the Year.”
  • In 1949, she published her second collection of poems. The book entitled “Annie Allen earned her many honors, including the “Pulitzer Prize.”
  • President John F. Kennedy invited Brooks to read at the “Library of Congress’ poetry festival.
  • Brooks became the first Black woman to be inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1976.
  • She received the highest honor granted by the state of Illinois in 1997, the ‘Order of Lincoln.’ 
  • Brooks took on the role of Poet Laureate of the United States. 
  • Awarded the National Medal of Arts.

Matthew Alexander Henson: One of the First to Reach the North Pole

Matthew Alexander Henson was born on August 8, 1866, in Charles County, Maryland, U.S. He was an African American explorer.

“My thoughts were on the going and getting forward, and on nothing else.”-Matthew Henson

Who Was Matthew Alexander Henson?

Matthew Henson was an African American explorer who escorted Robert E. Peary on his exploration to the Arctic for years. After which he went on an expedition that is said to have reached the geographic North Pole on April 6, 1909. He later died on March 9, 1955, in New York City, New York.

His Early Life

Matthew Alexander Henson was born on August 8, 1866, on his parents’ farm east of the Potomac River in Charles County, Maryland. Matthew’s parents were continuously attacked by the Ku Klux Klan and other white supremacist groups. 

These terrorists bullied the free people of color and southern freedmen after the Civil War. In a bid to escape the racial violence in the southern part of Maryland, in 1867, the Henson family sold their farm and moved to Georgetown, still close to the capital. 

Henson has three sisters, an older sister born in 1864, and two younger sisters. His mother died when he became seven and his father, Lemuel, remarried a woman named Caroline. He later had other children with his second wife, including a son and daughters.

His Education

Orphaned as a youth, Henson was sent to live with his uncle who resided in Washington, D.C. His uncle was responsible for his few years of education but soon died afterward. He attended a public school for blacks for six years and later took a summer job in a restaurant as a dishwasher.  

Mathew Henson

His early years had a series of memorable moments. As a 10-year-old, he attended a special event to honor the great Abraham Lincoln, the American president who worked so hard to keep the union safe during the Civil War. 

He had given the order to free slaves in the occupied Confederate states in 1863. There, Henson was immensely inspired by Frederick Douglass, who gave a speech to the public. The speech was based on calling upon blacks to pursue their education and fight racial prejudice.

Matthew Henson’s Explorations

As a worker in a clothing store in Washington D.C., Henson met Sir Robert E. Peary. Peary recruited him as an aide for his expedition to Nicaragua. This was after hearing of Henson’s sea experience. 

After supervising 45 engineers on the canal survey in Nicaragua, Peary was very much impressed with Henson’s seamanship on that voyage. This got him recruited as the ‘first man’ in Peary’s expeditions. For more than 20 years, their voyage was to the Arctic. 

Matthew Alexander Henson
Scanned by: Retouched by: DT-PKQC’d by: DT-MB

Henson and a team of six men were selected to be part of the last run to the Pole. After a lot of debate concerning the claims to have reached the geographic North pole, the House of Representatives credited Peary’s team for reaching the North Pole.

His Later Life

Henson got married to Eva Flint in 1891, but they divorced in 1897. He later married Lucy Ross in New York City in 1907 with no offspring. During the various expeditions to Greenland, Henson and Peary fathered children with Inuit women.  

A few years later, Henson died in the Bronx on March 9, 1955, at the age of 88. After his wife died in 1968, she was buried with him. Their bodies were moved for reinterment at Arlington National Cemetery in 1988.

Honors/ Legacy

  • Matthew Alexander Henson was invited as a guest of honor to a ceremony specially held by colored citizens in New York. (1909) 
  • A housing project for Phoenix African Americans was named after Matthew. (1940)
  • Henson was invited to the White House. (1954)
  • Before his death, Henson received honorary doctoral degrees from both Howard and Morgan State University. (1955)
  • The former Columbus GPS Block III satellite was renamed after the launch as ‘Matthew Henson’. (2020)

Gordon Parks: A Legend who Helped Paved the Way for Black Artists

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Gordon Roger Alexander Buchanan Parks on November 30, 1912, in Fort Scott, Kansas, U.S. He was an American photographer, film director, musician, and writer.

Who Was Gordon Parks?

Gordon Parks was the first African American to ever produce films and direct motion pictures capturing the struggles of black American slaves.

He is popularly known for the major photos he took of poor Americans in the past. Other times Parks also was a great poet, author, and composer.

Parks is one of the greatest photographers of the twentieth century. He was also a  humanitarian with a deep commitment to social justice.

His Early Life

Parks was born on November 30, 1912, in Fort Scott, Kansas. He is the youngest of fifteen children for Andrew Jackson Parks and Sarah Ross.
His father was a farmer who grew potatoes, turnips, corn, tomatoes, greens, and beets. They also reared a few chickens, hogs, and ducks.
He attended a segregated elementary school for both white and black people, but the black students were not allowed to participate in social activities. Instead, they were always discouraged from developing aspirations for higher education.

At eleven years old, he was thrown into the Marmaton River by white boys who believed he couldn’t swim. When he turned fourteen, his mother died, and he spent the night sleeping beside his mother’s coffin. He was later sent to St. Paul, Minnesota, to live with his sister and her husband, where he managed to get a job at 15.

His Photography Life

At the age of 25, Parks was amazed by photographs of migrant workers in a magazine and devised to buy his first camera. He purchased a Voigtländer Brilliant at a pawn shop in Washington and taught himself how to take photos.

The photographs were so unique that they caught the attention of Marva Louis, wife of Joe Louis, a heavyweight boxing champion. In 1950, she encouraged Parks and his wife, Sally Alvis, to migrate to Chicago. There, he began a portrait business and specialized in taking photographs of society women.

In 1941, an exhibition of his photographs won Parks a photography fellowship with Farm Security Administration (FSA). A few years later, he created one of the most famous photographs, American Gothic, Washington, D.C.

 

American Gothic, Washington, D.C. – a well-known photograph by Parks

His Filming Life

Gordon Parks worked as a consultant on several Hollywood productions. Below are his film works.

  • Parks directed a lot of documentaries on black ghetto life
  • In 1971, he directed the film, Shaft, starring Richard Roundtree as John Shaft
  • He also directed the sequel, Shaft’s Big Score, in 1972
  • Parks later had a cameo appearance in the Shaft sequel that starred Samuel L. Jackson.
Poster from the film Shaft. Directed By Gordon Parks.
Gordon Parks, director of Shaft
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His Personal Life

Parks was married and divorced three times. 

  • In 1933, he married Sally Alvis in Minneapolis, and they divorced in 1961.
  • In 1962, he married Elizabeth Campbell, daughter of cartoonist E. Simms Campbell, who divorced in 1973.
  • In 1973, he got married to Chinese-American editor Genevieve Young, and they divorced in 1979.
  • Parks had four children, namely Gordon, Jr., David, Leslie, and Toni Parks. 
  • His oldest son Gordon Parks, Jr., was killed in a plane crash in 1979 in Kenya. 
  • Parks has five grandchildren: Alain, Gordon III, Sarah, Campbell, and Satchel. 

Other Achievements

Gordon Parks

In 1969, Parks became the first African American to write The Learning Tree, based on his bestselling semi-autobiographical novel. He published many books, including poetry, novels, memoirs, and volumes on the photographic method. 

In 1989 he composed, directed, and produced the music, Martin, dedicated to the late civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. Parks spent his last years changing his style, and he continued like that until his death on March 7, 2006. He died at age 93.