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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.

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 given the freedom to participate in social activities. Instead, they were always discouraged from developing aspirations for higher education.

At the age of eleven years old, he was thrown into a 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

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

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

The photographs were so amazing 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 the Farm Security Administration (FSA). A few years later, he created one of the most popular photographs, American Gothic, Washington, D.C.

Parks later moved to Harlem and became a major fashion photographer for Vogue under the supervision of Alexander Liberman for the next few years. He later returned to his hometown, Fort Scott, Kansas, where he documented the various segregation conditions and the lives of his mates from their segregated high school.

Poster from the film Shaft. Directed By Gordon Parks.
Gordon Parks, director of Shaft

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.

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, and they 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 was 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, which was 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.

Amanda Gorman made History as the Youngest Known Inaugural Poet

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Words matter and are oftentimes used to communicate the sentiment of the masses who for all intents and purposes have been silenced by various institutions. At just 23 years old, literary poet and activist Amanda Gorman has accomplished things that many work their entire lifetime to achieve. From the Inauguration to the Super Bowl, Gorman has published books and been invited to speak all over the country.

Amanda Gorman at I021 inaguration
Amanda Gorman recites her inaugural poem, “The Hill We Climb,” during the 59th Presidential Inauguration ceremony in Washington, Jan. 20, 2021. President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris took the oath of office on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol. (DOD Photo by Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Carlos M. Vazquez II)

Early Life

Born to a single mother, Joan Wicks in Los Angeles, Gorman, a twin, is one of three siblings who grew up catholic and a member of St. Brigid Catholic Church in her hometown of Los Angeles. She excelled at reading and writing due to having an auditory processing disorder that results in the inability of the brain to process sounds. Gorman also had a speech impediment in which she went to speech therapy during her childhood. In middle school, Gorman discovered the literary works of black authors and poets in which she says she realized people who looked like her could tell stories.

Amanda Gorman attended a private school in Santa Monica, CA where she continued to hone her literary skills and went on to receive the Milken Family Foundation scholarship for college. She attended the illustrious Harvard University where she graduated in 2020 with a B.A. in Sociology.

Career

Before her recent successes and accolades, Amanda Gorman was already making waves. In 2015, Gorman released her first book, a poetry book titled The One for Whom Food Is Not Enough. The following year, she founded the non-profit organization, One Pen One Page, a literary writing program for youth. By 2017, she made history by being named the first-ever National Youth Poet Laureate in the United States. Gorman continued to ascend by achieving many firsts by becoming the first young poet to open the literary season for the Library of Congress and won a $10,000 grant from the OZY media company.

Perhaps the most notable achievement to date has been the invitation to recite her poem, The Hill We Climb, at the 2021 presidential inauguration of Joe Biden. Breaking yet another first, Gorman is the youngest poet to read at a presidential inauguration. She is also working on two books, the poetry collection The Hill We Climb and a children’s book, Change Sings: A Children’s Anthem. Both are set to be released in September of this year. In March, a 32-page commemorative edition with a foreword by Oprah Winfrey was released.

Touting both beauty and brains, Amanda Gorman has an eye for fashion. With an affinity for bold colors and prints, she makes sure to pay special attention to her appearance and how she presents herself. After the inauguration, she secured a modeling contract with IMG Models after her memorable speech on Inauguration Day. She has graced the covers of Vogue Magazine, Time Magazine, and featured in Glamour Magazine.

Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden, Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith, and National Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman attend a reception prior to the opening reading of Smith’s 2017-2018 term, September 13, 2017. Photo by Shawn Miller.

Legacy

Having already achieved so much, Amanda Gorman has only begun to scratch the surface of what will certainly be an admirable career. She hopes to make a successful bid for president one day advising that she intends on running in 2036. And, while her legacy is literally in the making, she has plenty of good company to glean from those that came before her such as Toni Morrison, Maya Angelou, Audre Lorde, and Phillis Wheatley. Gorman is poised to leave an indelible mark on history as both a literary and style icon as she continues to forge her own path by using the power of her pen.

Recognition and Honors

The Brown Skin Pioneer who Founded the Windy City, Jean Baptiste DuSable

Jean Baptiste DuSable, also known as Jean Baptiste Point DuSable (Point de SablePoint au SablePoint SablePointe DuSable) was a black pioneer trader and founder of the settlement that later became the city of Chicago. 

About DuSable

His french father moved to Haiti, where he met and married DuSable’s mother, a slave of African descent. DuSable was later born in Santa Domingo, Haiti, in 1745. According to legend, Jean Baptiste’s mother was killed during a Spanish raid, and the young DuSable swam out to his father’s ship to take refuge.

Around the 1770s, he went to the Great Lakes area of North America and settled by the Chicago River, developing a trading post around 1779 with his wife. The frontier settlement was known as “shikaakwa,”. The name came from the Algonquin language: meaning “striped skunk” or “onion.” According to early explorers, the lakes and streams around the area were full of wild onions, leeks, and ramps. Now known as Chicago.  

In the mid-18th century, the Native American Potawatomi tribe and previously the Miami, Sauk, and Fox peoples inhabited the Lake Michigan area. Jean Baptiste DuSable built the first house/trade-in post and created the foundation of what we know as CHICAGO! 

Six Interesting facts about the founder of Chicago

1. The British arrested him

Lt. Thomas Bennett arrested DuSable at Michigan City, Indiana, on suspicion that he was a spy. He worked for the British lieutenant governor of Michilimackinac on an estate near Detroit called St. Clair. They released him after reviewing his credentials because they were so impressive. 

2. DuSable spoke several languages.

Jean Baptiste DuSable traveled to France, where he worked on his father’s ships. In France, he learned to access some education and understand several languages. He spoke Spanish, French, English, and several Native American dialects. At his trading post, DuSable served Native Americans, British, and French explorers and was an entrepreneur and mediator. 

3. His contributions went largely unnoticed.

He built a cabin near Lake Michigan, north of the Chicago River. Du Sable sold his property to Jean Baptiste DuSable La Lime, a trader from Quebec. The reason for DuSable’s departure is unknown. However, La Lime sold the property to William Burnett, John Kinzie’s business partner. Kinzie when buys the house in 1804 from Burnett until 1828.  Kinzie was recognized and referred to as “Chicago’s first citizen.” In 1912, the city’s first recognition DuSable when a plaque was placed on a building near his cabin site.

4. He was wealthy

The house built by John Baptiste DuSable close to the mouth of the Chicago River as it appeared when owned by the Kinzie family in the early 1800s
The house built by John Baptiste Point du Sable close to the mouth of the Chicago River as it appeared when owned by the Kinzie family in the early 1800s

According to original manuscripts regarding the sale of DuSable’s property, his cabin was spacious, with a roomy salon with five rooms. His home featured five rooms, including:

  • A large fireplace and a store
  • four glass doors
  • couch
  • four tables
  • a bureau,
  • seven chairs
  • a pair of candlesticks
  • an iron coffee mill
  • a pair of scales
  • weights
  • a giant feather bed
  • 23 European paintings

In addition, he owned smoke and bakehouses, huts and stables for employees and an orchard, and a fenced garden. Inside his home included paintings, mirrors, and walnut furniture.

5. He gave his property to a neighbor

There is no documentation that says he had any living relatives. Many believe he outlived them all. However, a document posted in the DuSable Museum in Chicago writes that when he became seriously ill in 1813, he gave his property to a neighbor, Eulalie Barada. Also, he asked her to promise to take care of him, and feed his hogs and chickens, as well as repair his house, and bury him in the parish cemetery. 

6. He became increasingly involved in the affairs of the Potawatomi tribe.

 On October 27, 1788, Jean Baptiste Point DuSable married a Potawatomi Indian named Kittihawa ((Christianized to Catherine). They had a Catholic ceremony in Cahokia, a longtime French Illinois Country (a village in St. Charles, IL). The couple may have been already married in the Native American tradition. DuSable and his wife later had a son named Jean, and a daughter that was named Suzanne in memory of Jean-Baptiste’s mother. His Potawatomi Indian wife helped translate for him and gave him access to a vast network for trading. The Potawatomi thought of DuSable as a brother, leader, and counselor. 

 Jean Baptiste DuSable grave at Saint Charles Borromeo Cemetery in Saint Charles, St. Charles County, Missouri.
Saint Charles Borromeo Cemetery in Saint Charles, St. Charles County, Missouri.

After Jean Baptiste DuSable sold his estate on May 7, 1800, he returned to Peoria, Illinois. Soon after, he later moved to St. Charles, Missouri, where he died at the age of 72 or 73 on August 28, 1818.

Buried at Saint Charles Borromeo Cemetery in Saint Charles, St. Charles County, Missouri. 

Honors 

  • Several institutions, parks, and museums have been named in honor of Point DuSable
  • DuSable High School in Bronzeville, Chicago
  • DuSable Museum of African American History
  • DuSable Harbor in downtown Chicago ( Randolph Street)
  • DuSable Park is an urban park in Chicago. 
  • A park is named after du Sable in St Charles
  • The US Postal Service has also honored Point du Sable with the issue of a Black Heritage Series 22-cent postage stamp on February 20, 1987.
  • The Jean Baptiste Point Du Sable Homesite located at what is now 401 N. Michigan Avenue.
  •  The Michigan Avenue Bridge renamed DuSable Bridge in honor of Point du Sable in 2010

Work Cited

The Evolved Man of the Week: Jean Baptiste Point Du Sable …. https://lornettvestal.com/2020/02/11/the-evolved-man-of-the-week-jean-baptiste-point-du-sable/

Jean Du Sable, Explorer who founded Chicago – African …. https://aaregistry.org/story/jean-du-sable-explorer-who-founded-chicago/

What Does “Chicago” Mean? | Origin of the Word “Chicago …. https://theskydeck.com/things-to-do-in-chicago/what-does-chicago-mean/

The Story Of Nat Love: Born A Slave; Died A Legend!

Talent paves its way no matter what. Nat Love was born amidst the shadows of slavery but lived as the king of cowboys. The stories of his adventures are still alive and are told not only in the West but the whole of the US.

Nat Love earned his fame when he won the title of “Deadwood Dick.” And his adventures took him to the Old West, where he fought Native Americans, took bullets, and much more as a black cowboy.

So, let’s take a dip in the adventurous life of the legend!

His Early Days!

His early days were dark. He was born as an African-American slave in the plantations of Davidson County, Tennessee, around 1854. And as was the norm, he was not allowed to learn to read or write. But still, his persistence made his father Sampson teach him reading and writing.

But as we know, slavery ended soon. The end of the Civil War also brought an end to slavery, and Love’s father started working as a sharecropper on the same plantation growing Corn and Tobacco. Although the future seemed better now, God had other plans.

Sadly Love’s father died after planting the second crop. So, Nat had to take a second job as well to take care of the house.

Though the situation was gloomy, tables were going to turn soon.

Nat had a gift with horses. He was known for breaking horses.

So, while he was doing some odd jobs, one day, luck gave him a second chance, and guess what, he took it. He won a horse in a raffle, and that too twice. He sold the horse back to the owner at $50 each time.

Luck on his side and a wild heart beating inside, he escaped to Dodge City, Kansas, to work as a cowboy. But before that, he gave half of his earnings to his mother.

He was 16 at this time, and the journey of a legend had just started.

The Adventures Of Nat Love

After his escape, he worked for a few years in Kansas and then for a few more in Arizona. He became an expert marksman and cowboy over these years and earned himself his first moniker, the “Red River Dick.”

Nat Love, Deadwood newspaper article
Edward L. Wheeler. Deadwood Dick, the Prince of the Road; or, The Black Rider of the Black Hills. 1877.

The tale of becoming the Deadwood Dick:

Once while driving cattle, he reached Deadwood of Dakota Territory. Here he heard the news that a Rodeo with prize money of $200 was being held. Enticed by the high prize money, he entered the Rodeo and won not one or two but six contests. He champed rope, tie, throw, saddle, bridle, and bronco riding competitions and earned his second moniker, the Deadwood Dick!

The tale of fighting with the native Americans:

While in Arizona, Love was attacked by Pima Indians. A fight took place, and Love got several bullets and finally got captured. But seeing the courage of Nat Love, the tribe was impressed and let him live amongst themselves. They even nursed him back to health. Once in good health, the chief offered him to marry his daughter and promised to give him 100 ponies.

But Nat being the wild heart he was, refused and instead escaped on their best pony.

The Later Life

As he grew older, Love decided to leave his cowboy life and settle down. In 1889, he married Alice, took up a job as a Pullman porter, and spent the rest of his days as a family man. He also served as a courier and guard for a Los Angeles company later.

Nat Love lived life with a verve and died a happy man in 1921 at 67.

Claudette Colvin Refused to Give Up Her Seat on the Bus before Rosa Parks

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Claudette Colvin was born on September 5, 1939 (age 81), in Montgomery, Alabama, U.S. She is an activist who was a pioneer in the civil rights movement in Alabama during the 1950s. 

Who is Claudette Colvin?

Claudette Colvin is a civil rights activist who, before Rosa Parks, refused to give up her bus seat to a white passenger. She was arrested and became one of five plaintiffs in the first federal court case. 

The case was filed by civil rights attorney Fred Gray on February 1, 1956, as Browder Gayle ruled that the city’s segregated bus system was not in the constitution. 

A month later, the Supreme Court accepted the order for Montgomery and the state of Alabama to close bus segregation. The Montgomery bus boycott was then called off.

Later on, Colvin moved to New York City where she worked as a nurse’s aide. She retired in 2004.

Her Early Life

Colvin, born on September 5, 1939, in Montgomery, Alabama, grew up in one of the poorest neighborhoods in Montgomery and studied hard in school as she aspired to become President.

Her mother, Mary Jane Gadson, was unable to support her children financially, especially after their father, C.P.Austin, abandoned them. So, Colvin and her younger sister, Delphine, were taken in by their great aunt and uncle, Mary Anne and Q.P. Colvin.

The Colvins lived in Pine Level, a small country town in Montgomery County, where Rosa Parks grew up.

On Colvin’s 13th birthday, her sister died of polio. After which Colvin started attending Booker T. Washington High School. Due to the grief, she had difficulty connecting with her peers in school. But as a member of the NAACP Youth Council, she formed a close relationship with her mentor, Rosa Parks.

The Bus Incident

On March 2, 1955, she was returning home from school and sat in the colored section, two seats away from an emergency exit, in a Capitol Heights bus. 

The bus driver, Robert W. Cleere commanded Colvin and three other black women in her row to move to the back, creating space for a white woman to sit in their row. Others obeyed, but she refused to move. According to her, ‘It was her constitutional right’.

The Arrest 

Colvin was removed from the bus with force and arrested by two policemen, Thomas J. Ward and Paul Headley. This event took place nine months before the NAACP secretary, Rosa Parks, was arrested for the same offense.

Claudette Colvin fingerprints
This is the fingerprint card from her arrest. Records of District Courts of the United States

The police officers who took her to the station made sexual comments about her body and took turns making jokes about her bra size throughout the journey. Price testified for Colvin, who was tried in juvenile court. 

Colvin was initially charged with:

  • Disturbing the peace
  • Violating the segregation laws  
  • Battering and assaulting a police officer.

She was later bailed out by her minister, who told her that she had brought the revolution to Montgomery.

Her Life After Activism

In March 1956, Colvin gave birth to a son, Raymond. She left Montgomery for New York City in 1958, because it became difficult for her to keep up with school and work there. This was due to her participation in the court case that overturned bus segregation. 

Claudette finally got a job in 1969 as a nurse’s aide in a nursing home in Manhattan, where she worked for 35 years, retiring in 2004. 

She had a second son who became an accountant in Atlanta, but Raymond Colvin died of a heart attack in 1993.

Her Legacy

  • She became a predecessor to the Montgomery bus boycott movement of 1955.
  • On May 20, 2018, she was honored for her lifetime commitment to public service with a Congressional Certificate and an American flag.
  • In 2017, the Council passed a resolution for a proclamation honoring Colvin. March 2 was named Claudette Colvin Day in Montgomery.

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