Archives for : BLACK HISTORY

Bessie Smith: Black Bottom Beauty




Born on April 15, 1894 in Chattanooga, TN to Laura and William Smith, both of Bessie’s parents died while she was young and her older sister became responsible for raising Bessie and her other siblings.

Bessie and her brother Andrew became street performers in order to help bring money into the household. She sang and danced while he played the guitar.

In 1912, she was hired on as a dancer for the Stokes traveling troupe, where she met her future mentor, singer Ma Rainey. Smith eventually moved on to performing in various chorus lines, making the “81” Theater in Atlanta her home base. There were times when she worked in shows on the black-owned T.O.B.A (Theater Owners Booking Association) circuit.

She began perfecting her act in 1913 but did not secure a record deal until 1923 (with Columbia Records). She was living in Philadelphia at the time.

Bessie met and fell in love with Jack Gee, a security guard whom she married on June 7, 1923, just as her first record was released. During the marriage—a stormy one, with infidelity on both sides (including Bessie’s relationships with women)—Smith became the highest paid black entertainer of the day, heading her own shows, which sometimes featured as many as 40 troupers, and touring in her own railroad car. The couple eventually went their separate ways but did not obtain a divorce.

She made 160 recordings for Columbia, often accompanied by the finest musicians of the day, most notably Louis Armstrong, Coleman Hawkins, Fletcher Henderson, James P. Johnson, Joe Smith, and Charlie Green.

When the days of vaudeville shows were over in the late 1920s, Smith continued touring and occasionally singing in clubs. In 1929, she appeared in a Broadway flop called “Pansy,” a musical in which top critics said she was the only asset.

In 1929, Smith made her only film appearance, starring in a two-reeler titled “St. Louis Blues,” based on W. C. Handy’s song of the same name.

In 1933, John Hammond, who also mentored Billie Holiday, asked Smith to record four sides for Okeh (which had been acquired by Columbia Records in 1925). Made on November 24, 1933, they serve as a hint of the transformation she made in her performances as she shifted her blues artistry into something that fit the “swing era.”

On September 26, 1937, Smith was critically injured in a car accident while traveling along U.S. Route 61 between Memphis, Tennessee, and Clarksdale, Mississippi. Her lover, Richard Morgan, was driving and, probably mesmerized by the long stretch of straight road, misjudged the speed of a slow-moving truck ahead of him. Tire marks at the scene suggested that Morgan tried to avoid the truck by driving around its left side, but he hit the rear of the truck side-on at high speed. The tailgate of the truck sheared off the wooden roof of Smith’s old Packard. Smith, who was in the passenger seat, probably with her right arm or elbow out the window, took the full brunt of the impact. Morgan escaped without injuries.

Bessie Smith was taken to Clarksdale’s G. T. Thomas Afro-American Hospital, where her right arm was amputated. She died that morning without regaining consciousness. After Smith’s death, an often repeated but now discredited story emerged about the circumstances; namely, that she had died as a result of having been refused admission to a “whites only” hospital in Clarksdale. Jazz writer/producer John Hammond gave this account in an article in the November 1937 issue of Down Beat magazine. (“The Bessie Smith ambulance would not have gone to a white hospital, you can forget that,” said Dr. Hugh Smith, who was the first to arrive at the accident scene. “Down in the Deep South cotton country, no ambulance driver, or white driver, would even have thought of putting a colored person off in a hospital for white folks.”)

Smith’s funeral was held in Philadelphia a little over a week later on October 4, 1937. Newspapers reported that her funeral was attended by about seven thousand people. The grave remained unmarked until August 7, 1970 when a tombstone—paid for by singer Janis Joplin and Juanita Green, who as a child had done housework for Smith—was erected.

In 1980, Bessie was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame and was included in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1989. She also received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1989.

In 1994, Bessie was honored with a U.S. postage stamp.

Three of Bessie’s recordings have been inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame: “Downhearted Blues” (1923), “St. Louis Blues” (1925), and “Empty Bed Blues” (1928).

“Downhearted Blues” was included in the list of Songs of the Century by the Recording Industry of America and the National Endowment for the Arts, in 2001. It is in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as one of the 500 songs that shaped rock ‘n’ roll. The song was also included by the National Recording Preservation Board in the Library of Congress National Recording Registry, in 2002.

Among numerous stories written about her life, she was included in Angela Davis’ book, “Blues Legacies and Black Feminism: Gertrude ‘Ma’ Rainey, Bessie Smith, and Billie Holiday,” published in 1998.

Jack Holley: Slocum Massacre of 1910






Jack Holley, born a slave, owned a store and land in Slocum before the 1910 massacre. His great-great-granddaughter, Constance Hollie-Jawaid, is seeking a state historical marker for the massacre, in what she hopes will be a step toward recovering the family land.

Slocum is an East Texas crossroads in Anderson County about a dozen miles southeast of Palestine. It is home to a couple of hundred people, about what it’s always been. According to the Handbook of Texas, published by the Texas State Historical Association, Slocum’s defining struggle to get its own post office back in the 19th century was a “slow come,” and it’s now long gone. In 1929, Slocum was flattened by a tornado that killed eight people, injured as many as 150 others and left a mule stuck high in a tree.

There is no mention anywhere in the handbook of the 1910 Slocum Massacre, in which a marauding mob of local whites went on a rampage, killing Blacks pell-mell, and sending much of the local African-American population fleeing for their lives, abandoning homes and property, never to return.

“Men were going about killing Negroes as fast as they could find them. And, so far as I was able to ascertain, without any real cause. There was just a hot-headed gang hunting them down and killing them,” Anderson County Sheriff William H. Black told The New York Times the day after the July slaughter. “I don’t know how many there were in the mob, but I think there must have been 200 or 300. Some of them cut the telephone wires. They hunted the Negroes down like sheep.”

Even in an era when raw racial violence was common, what came to be called the Slocum Massacre was noteworthy, both for its scope and for the aggressive if ultimately futile efforts by white officials to bring the perpetrators to justice. But it quickly slipped from national headlines and, in the century that followed, largely disappeared from historical memory.

That could change come January when the Texas Historical Commission will decide whether to approve an application for a historical marker in Slocum submitted by Constance Hollie-Jawaid, a Dallas educator and descendant of the most prominent black family victimized in 1910, and E.R. Bills, a freelance writer from Aledo and the author of a recent book, “The 1910 Slocum Massacre: An Act of Genocide in East Texas.”

The application has its detractors, notably the Anderson County Historical Commission, which judged it overwrought and underproven, and worried that it would forever brand little Slocum for the long-ago sins of some of its forefathers.

In their dueling pleadings to the state, the applicants seeking the marker and their critics provide a compelling case study of just how fraught and personal memorializing terrible episodes from America’s racist past can be, even more than a century after the fact.

“This gets at the heart of what’s going on in America and particularly in the South in coming to terms with the history of racial violence and trauma,” said Derek Alderman, a cultural and historical geographer at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, who writes about the public commemoration of America’s racial past. “How do you recognize that publicly in a way that’s fair to the victims and fair to the community?”

“I do feel like (Hollie-Jawaid) had great intentions of having this recognized as to what happened, but you can’t take all these newspaper accounts and give an accurate description of what happened,” said Jimmy Odom, who chairs the county Historical Commission.

Despite his misgivings, Odom passed the application on to Bob Brinkman, director of the Historical Markers Program for the state Historical Commission in Austin, who, with his staff of one, must review and make a recommendation on this and 173 other marker applications, submitted by the Nov. 15 deadline, to the 12-member state Historical Commission meeting at the end of January in Austin.

Odom didn’t check the box indicating approval by the local historical commission, and he included with the submission his commission’s critical commentary: “The Massacre of 1910 was an atrocity committed by a group of ignorant white men. Those men should have paid for their crimes. This event should never be forgotten in the history of Anderson County. However, it is the general view of the Historical Commission that historical markers should represent people, places and events that had a positive influence on our community. This event absolutely did not have a positive influence on anyone and it is a scar to the community of Slocum.”

History is history,” said Hollie-Jawaid. “It’s the lens that you look at it that determines whether it is positive or negative.”

Her application concludes: “Descendants of the perpetrators of the massacre may not want to remember the crime, but the descendants of the victims can’t forget and shouldn’t be encouraged to forget. A local, commemorative historical marker acknowledges the truth of the matter for all time. The lack thereof encourages a lie (of omission) and a long-running regimen of selective amnesia that persist to the present day.”

That premise, wrote Odom, is “offensive to the citizens of Anderson County” and “almost like blackmail by shame.”

“The citizens of Slocum had absolutely nothing to do with what happened over a hundred years ago. This is a nice quiet community with a wonderful school system. It would be a shame to mark them as a racist community from now until the end of time,” Odom wrote. “Slocum has not buried their head in the sand and forgotten — they have moved forward and progressed.”

‘I feel like we’re all past it’

Theories abound about what triggered the massacre — a dispute over a debt, advances by a black man toward a white woman, a white man’s indignation about being called to work on a road crew by a black man, white fears of an impending black uprising after a nearby lynching, whites coveting black-owned land.

Odom sent the application and supporting documents to Greg Chapin, the county commissioner whose precinct includes Slocum.

“I had stacks and stacks of newspapers. I read article after article after article. There was nothing consistent to it. I don’t know if there was two stories alike,” said Chapin, who runs a deer processing operation in nearby Elkhart.

“I don’t deny any justice to anyone,” Chapin said. “If they can get it and find it and prove it, that’s great.”

But, he added, “If I say, ‘OK, we’re going to recognize that this did happen, somebody of interest is going to take it further, and they are going to say, ‘The county even recognized it, and we want our land back.’ ”

“It’s a sad situation, but I feel like we’re all past it and other ones carry the burden on their shoulders,” Chapin said. “Their ancestors dealt with it years and years ago, but some of them don’t let it go.”

On Chapin’s recommendation, the Anderson County Commissioners Court, three whites and one black, unanimously agreed that “without further evidence … Anderson County cannot support the marker.”

Odom also included with the application a statement of opposition from David Franklin, a Dallas police officer and pastor at Elkhart Congregational Methodist Church, whose family has been in Slocum since the 1830s.

A history buff, Franklin stumbled upon newspaper accounts of the massacre more than two decades ago. He was intrigued.

“It was national news. In 1910 it was front page news in New York and Chicago,” Franklin said. But by the time he was born in 1957, “the story is lost, and that’s amazing. You knew something happened, but you just didn’t know what.”

Even after years of research and interviewing locals, Franklin said, what exactly happened is still too much of a muddle to make for a fair and factually coherent marker in Slocum.

“We can’t be completely objective about it because it’s our past. It’s not a pleasant thing that happened; you don’t like it; you wish it didn’t happen; you don’t want to ignore it,” Franklin said. “I wouldn’t be opposed to a marker on the courthouse square. But what would be on there?”

Joe Feagin, a sociologist of race at Texas A&M University, said the Southern landscape is scarred with suppressed and forgotten stories.

“There were hundreds of these massacres that were covered up and ignored, even by historians,” over and above what he estimates were about 6,000 lynchings, mostly in Southern and border states, since the Civil War. “Whites are not prepared to face our history of slavery and Jim Crow.”

‘This is just the beginning’

The Tulsa Race Riot of 1921, in which perhaps the most prosperous black business district in the nation was burned to the ground, destroying 40 city blocks and leaving as many as 300 people dead and more than 8,000 people homeless, disappeared from public memory for generations.

The same decades of obscurity shrouded the fate of Rosewood, Fla., razed in 1923 by whites from a neighboring community. The state of Florida ultimately compensated some survivors, the site was designated a state landmark, and Rosewood became the subject of a feature film.

In both Tulsa and Rosewood, the precipitating factor was a dubious claim of a black man attacking a white woman.

In his book, Bills calculates that, based on the black oral history, hundreds of African-Americans were killed in Slocum.

“The truth is,” he writes, “a harrowing number of African-Americans were slaughtered in the counties of Anderson and Houston in the mid-summer of 1910, easily eclipsing the body count of the Rosewood Massacre in Florida and surely surpassing that of the Tulsa Riots in Oklahoma, probably establishing the Slocum Massacre as the single largest pogrom of blacks in modern American history.”

“I’m skeptical that hundreds of people even lived in that part of the county,” Franklin said.

“They say there was this big, huge prominent black community that was squashed by all this. There is no evidence of any of that,” said Franklin’s wife, Sheri, who also hails from a longtime Slocum family.

“Bills is doing like some picture people do – make it look good,” Odom said.

In 2011, after the Fort Worth Star-Telegram’s Tim Madigan wrote about the Slocum Massacre, the Texas House unanimously approved a resolution for the first time formally acknowledging the event — “the murder of eight people was confirmed, and reports indicate that many more may have died in what became known as the Slocum Massacre.”

When Madigan asked Hollie-Jawaid’s then 96-year-old grandfather about the lingering pain, Myrt Hollie replied, “It’s gone now. With this exercise, other people know about it. I can throw it away.”

But Hollie-Jawaid told Madigan, “This isn’t the end; this is just the beginning.”

On a recent Saturday, Hollie-Jawaid and her daughter, Imani Nia Ramirez, and Bills drove along the quiet state highway in Slocum where they would like the marker to go. She recalled her father bringing her there when she was 9 years old and recounting the family history.

“I remember having the windows down, and he had a blue Pontiac, and just looking — it’s beautiful — and then wondering what it had to be like, running and fleeing for your life,” she said.

“I, more than anything, want the land back, to come back to what was home,” Hollie-Jawaid said. She said the family patriarch, her great-great-grandfather Jack Holley (after the massacre, the family changed the spelling of its name to avoid reprisals), born a slave, had a dairy, a granary, a store frequented by both blacks and whites, and more than 700 acres of prime land. “We had our legacy stolen from us.”

“There’s innocent people who probably brought the land; they don’t deserve to lose it; they didn’t know it was somebody else’s land,” Bills said. “It’s changed hands too many times. There’s no way you’ll get the land back.”

Perhaps there could be some other form of reparations, Bills said, like a scholarship fund for descendants.

‘White people have gone crazy’

Amid the mayhem in 1910, the militia and Texas Rangers were dispatched to Slocum. Sheriff Black made plain that his sympathies were with the victims, and Palestine Judge Benjamin Howard Gardner immediately oversaw a grand jury that indicted seven white men. That the defendants should gain a change of venue and never come to trial was less surprising than that they were indicted in the first place.

“That’s different; that’s very unusual,” Feagin said.

No whites were ever prosecuted after Rosewood; in Tulsa, a grand jury laid blame for the riot on the black community.

One of the most vivid accounts of the massacre comes from the memoir of Jerry Sadler, a brawling East Texas politician who served as both railroad and land commissioner. Sadler opens the book with his very first memory, when he was not quite 3, of terrified black people seeking refuge in July 1910, “a date that is still known among the black population of Anderson County as ‘Bad Saturday.’ ”

“The image that stands out most clearly in my mind is of bare black feet scratched and cut, below trousers and skirts that were torn and soiled from their 14-mile flight across fields and through woods to seek papa’s help,” he wrote.

“There are all kinds of stories of why and how the trouble started,” Sadler wrote. “The truth is simply that the whites wanted the land that the blacks owned, and they had decided finally that there was only one way to get it. The blacks had some of the most desirable farmland in the county, and for that my great-grandpa W.T. Sadler can be blamed. When the Civil War freed his slaves, he gave them some of the best land he owned, and he did everything he could to help the other freed slaves of the area to obtain good land.”

Perhaps to cover their tracks, Sadler wrote that three years later, in 1913, “the Anderson County courthouse was burned by an arsonist, and the records were destroyed.”

Maxine Session, who lost ancestors in the massacre, publishes the Cherokee County Informer, which in 1996 ran a story that revived local interest in what had been a forbidden topic. She said that when she was 9 her father, who was an infant in 1910, told the story of that July day as it had been passed on to him: “People had come in from the fields and were resting in the noon hour, and somebody came through and said, ‘You’ve got to get out of here; white people have gone crazy; they’re killing everybody black that they can see, so you’ve got to go.’ So, he said, the adults grabbed what they could and got in wagons; some of them got in barrels down the Ioni Creek there; some ended up here in Cherokee County, some in Palestine, some in Hemphill; they just went where they could get away from Slocum.”

‘We just want our history’

On a recent Sunday, Franklin and his wife, Sheri, and their family were having lunch at Little Mexico, a popular Palestine restaurant, after church. Sunday school had focused on the verse from the Gospel of John in which Jesus said, “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Sheri sang a sweet rendition of “Amazing Grace.”

Franklin said his great-grandfather turned away the vigilantes when they came to the farm to enlist his oldest boys, just as Chapin, without local roots, said his wife’s grandparents hid a black family to keep them safe.

“The whites that were indicted, I don’t recognize any of those names,” Franklin said.

Asked about the mass graves in which the massacre’s victims were reportedly buried, Franklin said, with a nod to Sheri, “I heard stories of that. Your daddy told me that. He said he could tell me where they were. I never asked him to.”

Hollie-Jawaid wants the graves pinpointed and the bodies exhumed and given a proper burial. Bills wants a comprehensive state investigation to unearth the truth.

“I think what’s most irritating about seeing all of this in the public eye is because if you’re in Slocum, there’s no issue here and there never has been any racial animosity,” said Sheri Franklin. Not in her lifetime.

“There’s things we’ve all done we’re not proud of. I think this would qualify as something that happened in Slocum that I’m certainly not proud of, but that doesn’t make me or my family bad people, and we still live here,” said Sheri Franklin. “I don’t deny the fact that it happened. I don’t know the situation, but yeah, if it were my family and the roles were reversed, I would be upset too. But just bringing it all back up again is not going to change anything.”

Maxine Session thinks it would.

“It’s part of history, and maybe that’s why they hid it so well and African-Americans were really afraid to talk about it. They knew what happened, but they were afraid to talk about it,” Session said. “I don’t think we get to the point where any reparations of any kind would be forthcoming. I don’t know who would pay and why.”

“Nobody is angry about anything,” Session said. “We just want our history. This is confirming that this took place. That’s what a marker would do. It would be here when we’re all gone.”

By Jonathan Tilove – American-Statesman Staff


Capital Savings Bank: This Day In Black History




On this day in 1888, Capital Savings Bank, the first bank organized and operated by African-Americans, was founded in Washington, D.C. Capital Savings helped stimulate Black entrepreneurship by offering loans to Black-owned businesses and land owners when white-owned banks did not.

Lucy Ann Stanton: Ladies First!

Lucy Ann Stanton (Day Sessions) became the first black American woman to complete a four-year college course when, in 1850, she graduated with a Literary Degree from the Ladies’ Literary Course of Oberlin College.

Born free in Cleveland to Samuel and Margaret Stanton on October 16, 1831, Lucy attended her stepfather John Brown’s school and entered Oberlin in the mid-1840s. She became president of the Oberlin Ladies Literary Society and delivered the graduation address entitled “A Plea For The Oppressed”, an antislavery speech published in the “Oberlin Evangelist”.

After graduation Stanton taught in a black school in Columbus. She married WILLIAM HOWARD DAY† on 25 Nov. 1852 (divorced 1872) and returned to Cleveland. In 1854 Stanton wrote a short story on slavery for her husband’s newspaper, the ALIENED AMERICAN; the first time a black woman had published a fictional story.

In 1856 the Days moved to Buxton, Canada. In 1858 Stanton had a daughter, Florence. In 1859 William Day left for England, abandoning his family. Stanton returned to Cleveland and worked as a seamstress. Committed to aiding freedmen Stanton was sent by the Cleveland Freedmen’s Association in 1866 to teach in Georgia. During the 1870s she taught in Mississippi where she met and, in 1878, married Levi Sessions.

Stanton moved to Tennessee and, in the 1880s and 1890s, was an officer in the Women’s Relief Corps, a grand matron of the Order of Eastern Star, and president of a local chapter of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union. Stanton belonged to the African Methodist Episcopal Church and died in Los Angeles, CA. ”



William C. Nell:This Day In Black History





October 1, 1851, Black and white abolitionists smashed into a courtroom in Syracuse, N.Y., and rescued a fugitive slave. Abolitionist William C. Nell published Services of Colored Americans in the Wars of 1776 and 1812, the first extended work on the history of American Blacks. Revised edition of the book was published in 1855 with new title, The Colored Patriots of the American Revolution.

The Black Panther Party: Anniversary




The Black Panther Party was founded in Oakland, CA. by Huey Newton and Bobby Seale, on October 1, 1966. The original six members of the Black Panther Party were Elbert “Big Man” Howard, Huey P. Newton (Defense Minister), Sherwin Forte, Bobby Seale (Chairman), (Front Row)
Reggie Forte, and Little Bobby Hutton(Treasurer).

James Meredith: Anniversary





October 1, 1962, James Meredith was the 1st black student to register at University of Mississippi.

Sir William Arthur Lewis: Nobel Prize Winner




On September 29, 1979, Sir William Arthur Lewis, became the first Black to receive the in Economics. This award represents the highest level of accomplishment for an economist. He was a Professor of Economics at Princeton University.

Ellen & Wiliam Craft:







Ellen Craft (1826 –1891) and William Craft (September 25, 1824 – January 29, 1900) were slaves from Macon, Georgia who escaped to the North in 1848. Ellen, the light-skinned daughter of a mulatto slave and her white master, disguised herself as a white male planter. Her husband William Craft accompanied her, posing as her personal servant. They traveled openly by train and steamboat, arriving in Philadelphia on Christmas Day 1848. Their daring escape was widely publicized, becoming two of the most famous fugitive slaves.

Ellen Smith was born in 1826 in Clinton, Georgia, to a biracial slave woman and her white master, Colonel James Smith. Ellen was so light-skinned that she was often mistaken for a member of her father’s family. This infuriated Mrs. Smith so much that she gave Ellen, then 11 years old, to her daughter, the wife of Dr. Robert Collins of Macon, Georgia. In Macon, Ellen met William Craft, a slave whose family had been sold to pay off his master’s gambling debts. At that time William belonged to a banker who apprenticed him out as a carpenter to a white cabinetmaker, an occupation that provided William with a trade few slaves were fortunate to obtain. Slaves who learned a trade had some autonomy, and many were allowed to keep part of their earnings.

Ellen and William were allowed to marry in 1846, but were not permitted to live together since they belonged to two different owners. They endured this separation for a while but soon began to plan their escape from bondage. Ellen cut her hair and bought appropriate clothes, traveling in jacket and trousers. She wore her right arm in a sling to hide the fact that she did not know how to write. They traveled to nearby Macon for a train to Savannah. Although the Crafts had several close calls along the way and neither could read nor write, they were successful in evading detection.

On December 21, 1848, the Crafts arrived in Philadelphia on Christmas Day, without being discovered. After spending three weeks with a Quaker family, the Crafts moved on to Boston, the center of the abolitionist movement. William found a job as a cabinetmaker, and Ellen worked as a seamstress. They lived at the home of Lewis Hayden, who was an ex-slave and an abolitionist. His boarding house often served as a station on the Underground Railroad.

During the following years, the Crafts became active in the abolitionist movement and gained fame on the lecture circuit, where they quickly won the hearts of audiences with the romantic tale of their escape. Stories about them were published in The New York Herald, The Boston Globe and The Macon Telegraph. In September 1850, Congress passed the Fugitive Slave Law, which made it a crime for residents of free states to harbor or aid fugitives like the Crafts and mandated the assistance of federal marshals and private citizens in the fugitives’ capture. The act rewarded officers of the law for assisting slave owners by apprehending their runaways and sending them back into slavery.

The abolitionists in Boston responded by organizing a group they called the League of Freedom to protect fugitive slaves. This group elected Lewis Hayden president and William Craft vice-president. Ten days later, the League of Freedom was absorbed into the Boston Vigilance Committee, designed “to secure the colored residence of Boston from any invasion of their rights.”

Ellen’s former owner, Dr. Robert Collins sent two bounty hunters to Boston to return her to slavery. The Vigilance Committee transported Ellen to a safe place. William remained in the Hayden home, which Hayden turned into a veritable fortress, vowing to blow up his entire residence rather than surrender a single fugitive within his care. Members of the Vigilance Committee harassed the bounty hunters. They approached them at their hotel and told them that they would not be safe if they remained in Boston any longer. The slave catchers immediately left the city, but the warrant for the Crafts’ arrest was still in the hands of the Federal Marshal. They no longer felt safe, not even in the North.

With the assurance that they would be provided for in Liverpool, the Crafts sailed for England in November 1850. Working with antislavery organizations there, William and Ellen continued to contribute to the cause of emancipation. They remained public figures by lecturing in England and Scotland.

Running a Thousand Miles for Freedom, William Craft’s autobiography, was published in London in 1860. In his narrative, he stated: “It is true, our condition as slaves was not by any means the worst; but the thought that we could not call the bones and sinews that God gave us our own haunted us for years.”

In June 1851, the Crafts staged a demonstration against American slavery at the London Great Exhibition. They strolled through the American section with white abolitionist friends to demonstrate the irony of encountering more racial tolerance in England – a country that had banned slavery from its colonies by 1838 – than in the ‘democratic’ United States.

When visitors from the America spread rumors of Ellen’s desire to return to the security of her former home in Georgia, she responded: “I had much rather starve in England, a free woman, than to be a slave for the best man who ever breathed upon the American continent.” The Crafts lived in England for seventeen years. They attended an agricultural school in Surrey for three years, eventually teaching. They were offered the positions of superintendent and matron of the school, but they chose to settle in West London to raise their five children.

Once the Civil War was over and all slaves were emancipated, the Crafts returned to the United States. After reunions in Boston, they settled in Ways Station, Georgia, near Savannah, in 1870. There they raised money from northern publishers and anti-slavery friends to purchase 1800 acres of land.On that property, they established the Woodville Cooperative Farm School in 1873, for the education and employment of former slaves, rescuing them from the contract labor system. They also opened a school for their children. The Ku Klux Klan burned down their first building.

Scandal erupted in 1876, when some of William’s investors accused him of using funds intended for charitable purposes for his own gain. He sued for libel to clear his name in Boston’s courts, but in 1878 lost the case along with many longtime allies. The Woodville school, where Ellen was teaching 75 children free of charge, was forced to close due to lack of funding. William struggled to maintain the farm in spite of mounting debts, sinking cotton prices and increasing anti-black violence, but it soon failed.

In 1890, the Crafts moved to Charleston and lived with their daughter’s family. Ellen died in 1891, and at her request, was buried under her favorite tree on their land. In 1900, the farm they had established was auctioned off to pay William’s debts. He died one month later.

– Hendrix Moses for Black History Mini Docs






Written by one of The Queens of the struggle.

**September 24, 1957, the day President Dwight Eisenhower ordered the 101st Airborne Division of the United States Army to escort nine brave, bold & unafraid BLACK STUDENTS to the ALL WHITE Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas. They became known as the “LITTLE ROCK NINE!”**

Ernest Green, Elizabeth Eckford, Jefferson Thomas (RWG), Terrence Roberts, Carlotta Walls LaNier, Minnijean Brown, Gloria Ray Karlmark, Thelma Mothershed, and Melba Pattillo Beals were subjected to a year of physical and verbal abuse (being spat on and called names) by many of the white students. Melba Pattillo had acid thrown into her eyes] and also recalled in her book, Warriors Don’t Cry, an incident in which a group of white girls trapped her in a stall in the girls’ washroom and attempted to burn her alive by dropping pieces of flaming paper on her from above.

Ernest Green was the first African-American to graduate from Central High School; Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. attended his graduation!
In 1996, seven of the Little Rock Nine appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show. They came face to face with a few of the white students who had tormented them as well as one student who had befriended them.

President Bill Clinton honored the Little Rock Nine in November 1999 when he presented them each with a Congressional Gold Medal. The medal is the highest civilian award bestowed by Congress.It is given to those who have provided outstanding service to the country.

On December 9, 2008, the Little Rock Nine were invited to attend the inauguration of President-elect Barack Obama, the first African-American to be elected President of the United States!

George Washington Murray:“A Black Congressman in the Age of Jim Crow






September 22, 1853 George Washington Murray, former Congressman and inventor, was born enslaved in Sumter County, South Carolina. After being freed, Murray attended the University of South Carolina for two years and taught school for 15 years. He served as chairman of the Sumter County Republican Party and was known as the “Republican Black Eagle.” From 1890 to 1892, Murray served as inspector of customs at the Port of Charleston. In 1893, he was elected to the United States House of Representatives where he served from 1893 to 1895 and 1896 to 1897.

During his time in Congress, Murray fought for Black rights, spoke in favor of retaining Reconstruction Period laws, and highlighted African-American achievement by reading into the congressional record a list of 92 patents granted to African-Americans. Murray was the last Black Republican to serve in Congress from South Carolina until 2010. Murray also received a number of patents, including patent numbers 520,889 for a fertilizer distributer, 520,890 for a planter, and 520,892 for a reaper June 5, 1894.

He also received patent numbers 644,032 for a grain drill February 20, 1900 and 887,495 for a portable hoisting device May 12, 1908. In 1905, he moved to Chicago, Illinois where he sold life insurance and real estate until his death April 21, 1926. His biography, “A Black Congressman in the Age of Jim Crow: South Carolina’s George Washington Murray,” was published in 2006.

James Wormley Jones:Federal Bureau of Investigation




September 22, 1884 James Wormley Jones, the first African-American special agent for the , was born in Fort Monroe, Virginia but raised in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Jones earned his bachelor’s degree from Virginia Union University.

He began work with the Washington Metropolitan Police Department in 1905 and was eventually promoted to detective. In 1917, he was commissioned a captain in the United States Army and served in France during World War I. On November 19, 1919, Jones was appointed the first African-American special agent in the Bureau of Investigation (now FBI).

He was assigned to track the activities of groups perceived as subversive. Jones resigned from the bureau in 1923. Not much is known of Jones’ later life except that he died December 11, 1958.

Nancy Green: The Real Aunt Jemima




 Born into slavery in 1834, Nancy Green became the advertising world’s first living trademark as Aunt Jemima. While working as a domestic in Chicago, Green was contracted in 1893 at age 59 to portray a happy cook to promote a pancake recipe by Pearl Milling Co and Aunt Jemima was born. Green signed a lifetime contract that allowed her likeness to be used for packaging and billboards.

Green died in 1923, but her image as the pancake queen lives on today. Some view the icon as a painful reminder of slavery, and her character as the apron-clad cook with a bandanna tied on her head as a negative stereotype of black women.

Source: and

Vanessa Williams:56th Miss America




On this date in 1983, Vanessa Williams (New York) became the 56th Miss America, and the first African-American woman to be chosen. Another black woman, Suzette Charles of New Jersey, was first runner-up and ultimately Vanessa’s replacement when she was forced to end her reign early due to the unfortunate publication of nude photos. A true survivor, Vanessa has become of the world’s most successful former beauty queens through her work in music, movies, theatre and television.

16th Street Baptist Church bombing: Anniversary





We remember–Today marks the 51st anniversary of the  in 1963 that took the lives of Addie Mae Collins, Cynthia Wesley, Carole Robertson and Denise McNair.

“We have come over a way that with tears has been watered..” #NeverForget

Lieutenant Emily J.T. Perez(February 19, 1983- Septemeber 12, 2006)



In remembrance of Perez was born into a military family in Heidelberg, Germany, and moved to Fort Washington in 1998. A woman repeatedly described as focused, tenacious and passionate, she was an avid reader from a young age and eventually finished near the top of her class at Oxon Hill High School. From early on, she wanted to be a soldier, her friends recalled, and she became wing commander of Junior ROTC at Oxon Hill.

Emily J.T. Perez, a determined 23-year-old from Prince George’s County, rose to the top of her high school class and then became the first minority female command sergeant in the history of the U.S. Military Academy.

She was the 64th female member of the U.S. military to be killed in Iraq or Afghanistan and the 40th West Point graduate killed since Sept. 11, 2001. Another female West Point graduate, Laura M. Walker of the Class of 2003, was killed in Afghanistan.


Jackie Robinson:This Day In History




Jackie Robinson was named National League Rookie of the Year, September 12, 1947.

Dr. Mae Jemison: Anniversary!






Dr. Mae Jemison was the first African-American woman to travel in space when she went into orbit aboard the Space Shuttle Endeavour on September 12, 1992.



J. Marion Sims: Mahogony Torture





In the 19th century, the father of modern geneology, J. Marion Sims, conducted his research experiments on enslaved Black women. Sims performed the invasive and torturous procedures without anesthesia.

J. Marion Sims’ justification for choosing not to anesthetic his test subjects was that he did not believe Black women felt pain at all. In an 1857 lecture, he stated that it was “not painful enough to justify the trouble.”


The Stono Rebellion:275th Anniversary



On this date, September 9, 1739, the Stono Rebellion, the largest slave insurrection in British colonial America began. By the time the uprising was quelled 40 to 45 whites and 44 Africans would be killed.

On Sunday morning a group of roughly 20 slaves from the Congo-Angola region of Africa, rendezvoused at the Stono River in the colony of South Carolina, about 20 miles southwest of Charleston. First, they stopped at a firearms shop, killed the owner, and supplied themselves with guns and ammunition.

Then they marched south toward Spanish Florida, a well-known refuge for runaways. As the group marched south, they were joined by nearly 60 additional enslaved Africans. They burned seven plantations and killed 20–25 whites along the way.

The next day, a well-armed and mounted militia, numbering roughly 100 men, caught up with the Africans near the Edisto River. In the ensuing confrontation, 20 whites and 44 slaves were killed. The colonists decapitated the rebels and mounted their heads on stakes along major roadways to serve as warning for other slaves who might consider revolt.

In the aftermath of the rebellion, planters decided they had to develop a slave population that was native-born, believing they would be more content if they grew up enslaved.

Attributing the rebellion to the recently imported Africans, planters decided to cut off the supply. They enacted a 10-year moratorium on slave importation through Charleston. After they opened it up to international trade again, they did not import slaves from the Congo-Angolan region.

In addition, the South Carolina legislature passed the Negro Act of 1740. It required a ratio of one white to ten blacks on any plantation. It prohibited slaves from growing their own food, assembling in groups, earning money, or learning to read. The site where the rebellion began was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1974.

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