Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Soul Train Video Classics are back after 40 Years

August 2010 Highlight: Soul Train Video Classics are back on Track.

Posted by Hugh Smith on 08/11 at 07:30 PM
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Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Archaeologists dig into African American history in New Jersey

July 2010 Highlight: Archaeologists dig into African American history in New Jersey.

Posted by Hugh Smith on 07/14 at 08:15 PM
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Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Legacy Museum marks 10 years preserving region's black history

June 2010 Highlight: Legacy Museum marks 10 years preserving region’s black history.

Posted by Hugh Smith on 06/29 at 07:30 PM
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Tuesday, May 04, 2010

African American Military History Museum Celebrates First Anniversary

May 2010 highlight: African American Military History Museum Celebrates First Anniversary.

Posted by Hugh Smith on 05/04 at 09:00 PM
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Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Dr. Dorothy Height Human Rights Champion

Dr. Dorothy Height (1912 - 2010) dedicated her life to public service, women’s rights, civil rights, and human rights.

The YMCA was the beneficiary of her talent as an Executive Director and national board member between 1944 - 1957.

She became the President of the National Council of Negro Women in 1958.  Height was named “Woman of the Year” by the Ladies Home Journal in 1974.

In 2004 Dr. Height was presented with the Congressional Gold Medal at a ceremony in the Rotunda of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C.

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Posted by Hugh Smith on 04/20 at 08:00 AM
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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Benjamin Hooks and the NAACP

Benjamin L. Hooks, (1925 - 2010), became the first black criminal court judge in Tennessee in 1965.  He was the first African American member of the Federal Communications Commission in 1972.

In 1977, Hooks succeeded Roy Wilkins to become Executive Director of the nation’s top civil rights organization, the NAACP.  Rev. Hooks earned his law degree from De Paul University in 1949.

Early in his career he was a public defender, a politician, a Baptist minister, and a vice president of a saving and loan association.

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Posted by Hugh Smith on 03/31 at 09:00 PM
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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Let Freedom Sing: Songs from the Movement

If you missed the live 2010 White House Celebration of Music from the Civil Rights Movement, here’s the next best thing.

In January, 2009, Time Life released Let Freedom Sing: The Music of the Civil Rights Movement.

The outstanding 3 CD box set includes 2 pages of provocative liner notes written by Public Enemy front man Chuck D.

His comments are part of a large, colorful, 40 page booklet that includes lots of facts about all the songs.

Chuck says “there’s a reason why listening to the past 100 years of black music can bring a sense of voice, sound, meaning, joy, and well as a historical timeline."

He adds “way before an iPod, these songs rang in my head as they navigated me through my near half a century of life."

What’s great about this collection is the representation of each of the post 1930 - 20th century decades.

Historical facts acknowledging key years pertaining to the civil rights movement are also included in their own highlighted paragraphs weaved between the elaborate music notes.

The Southern Sons kick things off on disc one with “Go Down Moses,” recorded in 1941.

Six of the tracks are from the 1930’s and 1940’s.  Four are from the 1950’s, including Nat King Cole’s stirring 1956 classic “We Are Americans Too."

As you’ll see from the track list below, no decade is left out. The best songs from the civil rights movement are included.

There are some excellent alternative versions rather than hits you might expect.

Otis Redding, not Sam Cooke sings “A Change is Gonna Come.” Bob & Marcia, not Nina Simone sings “Young, Gifted, and Black."

The liner notes have all the back-stories about why these versions were selected.

Watch our 90 second video to hear clips of 3 of the songs.

Let Freedom Sing: The Music of the Civil Rights Movement:

    Disc One
  1. “Go Down Moses” - The Southern Sons, 1941
  2. “Strange Fruit” - Billie Holiday, 1939
  3. “Uncle Sam Says” - Josh White, 1941
  4. “ No Restricted Signs” - The Golden Gate Quartet, 1947
  5. “Black, Brown, and White” - Brownie McGhee, 1947
  6. “The Hammer Song (If I Had a Hammer)” - The Weavers, 1949
  7. “The Death of Emmett Till” parts 1 & 2 - The Ramparts, 1955,
  8. “When Do I Get To Be Called A Man” - Big Bill Broonzy, 1955
  9. “The Alabama Bus” - Brother Will Hairston, 1956
  10. “We Are Americans Too” - Nat King Cole, 1956
  11. “Why Am I Treated So Bad” - The Staple Singers, 1966
  12. “I Shall Not Be Moved” - The Harmonizing Four, 1959
  13. “Oh Freedom” - Harry Belafonte, 1959
  14. “Ride On, Red, Ride On” - Louisiana Red, 1962
  15. “Mississippi Goddam” - Nina Simone, 1964
  16. “ Blowin’ In The Wind” - Bob Dylan, 1962
  17. “We Shall Overcome” - Mahalia Jackson, 1963
  18. “Too Many Martyrs” - Phil Ochs, 1964
  19. “Alabama Blues” - J. B. Lenoir, 1965
  20. “Our Freedom Song” - The Jubilee Hummingbirds, 1965
  21. “A Change Is Gonna Come” - Otis Redding, 1965

    Disc Two
  1. “Forty Acres and A Mule” - Oscar Brown Jr., 1965
  2. “People Get Ready” - The Impressions, 1965
  3. “Nobody Can Turn Me Around” - The Mighty Clouds of Joy, 1966
  4. “I Wish I Knew (How It Would Feel To Be Free)” - Solomon Burke, 1968
  5. “Respect” - Aretha Franklin, 1967
  6. “The Motor City is Burning” - John Lee Hooker, 1967
  7. “Cryin In The Streets” part 1 - George Perkins & The Silver Stars, 1968
  8. “Abraham, Martin, and John” - Smokey Robinson & The Miracles, 1969
  9. “The Prayer” Ray Scott, 1970
  10. “Say It Loud - I’m Black and I’m Proud” part 1 - James Brown, 1968
  11. “And Black is Beautiful” - Nickie Lee, 1968
  12. “Sock It To ‘Em Soul Brother” - Bill Moss, 1969
  13. “Why I Sing The Blues” part 1 - B.B. King, 1969
  14. “I Don’t Want Nobody To Give Me Nothin (Open Up The Door, I’ll Get It Myself)” part 1 - James Brown, 1969
  15. “Stand!” - Sly & The Family Stone, 1969
  16. “Message From A Black Man” - The Temptations, 1969
  17. “Is It Because I’m Black” - Sly Johnson, 1969
  18. “I Was Born Blue” - Swamp Dogg, 1970
  19. “Yes, We Can” part 1 - Lee Dorsey, 1970
  20. “We the People Who Are Darker Than Blue” - Curtis Mayfield, 1970
  21. “Young, Gifted, and Black” - Bob & Marcia, 1970

    Disc Three
  1. “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” - Gil Scott-Heron, 1971
  2. “(For God’s Sake) Give More Power To The People” - The Chi-Lites, 1971
  3. “Smiling Faces Sometimes” - Undisputed Truth, 1971
  4. “Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler)” - Marvin Gaye, 1971
  5. “Hercules” - Aaron Neville, 1973
  6. “Get Up, Stand Up” - Bob Marley and The Wailers, 1973
  7. “Fight The Power” part 1 - Isley Brothers, 1975
  8. “Give The People What They Want” - O’Jays, 1975
  9. “Black Is Black” - Jungle Brothers, 1988
  10. “Sister Rosa” - The Neville Brothers, 1989
  11. “The Pride” - Chuck D., 1996
  12. “Unity” - Sounds of Blackness, 2005
  13. “None of Us Are Free” - Solomon Burke, 2002
  14. “Eyes On The Prize” - The Sojourners, 2007
  15. “Down In Mississippi” - Mavis Staples, 2007
  16. “Free At Last” - The Blind Boys of Alabama, 2008

As you can see, this 3-disc box set is excellent.  Don’t know some of the artists?  Discover the songs by checking out Let Freedom Sing: The Music of the Civil Rights Movement.

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Posted by Hugh Smith on 02/24 at 08:00 PM
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Wednesday, February 17, 2010

USA Black History from Africans, Europeans, and Asians

"58% of the African American community has at least 12.5 percent European ancestry which is the equivalent of one great grand parent."

This revelation comes from Henry Louis Gates Jr., Executive Director and host of the PBS series, Faces of America.

Gates is also Director of the W.E.B. DuBois Institute for African and African American Research at Harvard University.

“Skip" Gates has used genealogy and genetics to trace families histories.

The opening statistic I used to magnify universal black history implies that the focus for better understanding must be global, rather than just USA based (for Americans).

Dr. Gates is set to expand his future footprint as he’ll be bringing us The Black Americas, a four hour TV series examining black culture in the Caribbean and Latin America.

Gates notes that “Brazil is the 2nd largest black nation in the world after Nigeria."

African global migration out of the continent following the dawn of man has fostered complicated African - European and African - Asian ancestry.

Runoko Rashidi (pictured here), a historian, research specialist, writer, world traveler, and public lecturer focusing on the African foundations of world civilizations is an expert in this area.

He has made presentations at more than 125 colleges, universities, secondary schools, libraries, book stores, churches and community centers.

Traveling the international circuit Runoko has lectured in over 50 countries.

Some of Dr. Rashidi’s expertise:

  1. The African Presence in India - black presence in India in ancient and modern times
  2. The African presence in Southeast and East Asia - black presence in ancient Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand, Philippines, China and Japan
  3. The African presence in the Americas - African presence in the Americas from ancient to modern times
  4. The African presence in the Middle East - African presence in Southwest Asia from ancient to modern times
  5. The Black presence in South Asia - India, Pakistan, Bangladesh from ancient to modern times
  6. The African Presence in Europe - the African presence in early Europe
  7. High in the Andes - Runoko’s travels in Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia
  8. Return to the Nile Valley - a comprehensive look at the African presence in ancient Egypt and Nubia
  9. Runoko Rashidi Live in Egypt - Interviews in Egyptian museums and temples
  10. Who is the Original Man? - A look at Africa as the Mother Continent of humanity
  11. Asia and Blacks - A television interview featuring Runoko Rashidi on the African presence in ancient and modern Asia

These are some of his DVD titles that explore the global presence of black people.

Black history cross-cultural interconnections are fascinating.  Discover more by visiting Dr. Runuko Rashidi on the web.

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Posted by Hugh Smith on 02/17 at 07:30 PM
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Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Story of America's Black Patriots

In the 20th Century when the United States declared war against Germany, Dr. Louis T. Wright enlisted in the US Army.

In 1918, he was on the front lines in St. Die, France.

Dr. Wright, (1891-1952), excelled in the field of medicine and brain trauma.  He is the author of nearly 20 academic papers about brain surgery.

He graduated from Clark University in Atlanta in 1911.  Dr. Wright graduated from Harvard Medical School in 1915.

For Love of Liberty: The Story of America’s Black Patriots features an excellent profile of Dr. Wright, along with 28 other significant African Americans who served their country in the armed forces.

You’ll also find profiles about specific marine regiments, infantry divisions, airborne divisions, and calvary divisions.

The educators section of the For Love of Liberty website offers valuable pdf downloads for college and high school facilitators.

As the authors of this collection express, “The lessons that can be learned in For Love of Liberty: The Story of America’s Black Patriots aren’t found in textbooks,” and that’s a shame!

More black history military connections can be found at the website dedicated to late master diver Carl Brashear, whose life story was told in the popular 2002 movie Men of Honor.

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Posted by Hugh Smith on 02/10 at 09:00 AM
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Wednesday, February 03, 2010

African American Demographic Trends Exposed

How many African Americans live in the USA?  What percentage of African Americans older than 25 have at least a high school diploma?  How many black Americans voted for Barack Obama?

In 2007, was created by Akiim DeShay to present US Census Bureau compiled facts and figures about African American lifestyles in a format that would be easy to use and understand.

Throughout the year, and especially during Black History Month, is a great resource for statistics relevant to all of the following areas:

  • Population
  • Black cities and states
  • Employment
  • Middle Class
  • Housing
  • Education
  • Health
  • Crime
  • Geography
  • Politics
  • Religion

The site is well designed and simple to use.

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Posted by Hugh Smith on 02/03 at 08:30 PM
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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The White House to Host A Civil Rights Music Review

First Lady Michelle and President Barack Obama will host another “In Performance at the White House: A Celebration of Music from the Civil Rights Movement."

You’ll be able to see the show on TV across the USA.

WETA television Washington, DC is producing it for PBS.  It’s scheduled for broadcast on Thursday, February 11, 2010, at 8 pm Eastern.

NPR will also air a one hour concert special of the event (for radio) during February, Black History Month.

Here’s an early list of performers:

  • Natalie Cole
  • Bob Dylan
  • Jennifer Hudson
  • John Legend
  • John Mellencamp
  • Smokey Robinson
  • Seal
  • Blind Boys of Alabama
  • Howard University Choir

Morgan Freeman and Queen Latifah will be the happy couple hosting the show.

Since the theme of the event is music that inspired the Civil Rights Movement, you’ll hear plenty of songs of inspiration.

I especially like the collaboration with The Grammy Museum.

They’ll be offering a downloadable “Music that Inspired the Movement” curriculum for middle and high school teachers, available at

"A Celebration of Music from the Civil Rights Movement” is the third “In Performance at the White House” program President Obama has offered.

Watch the slide show below featuring a few of the artists who will perform, and listen to 1 minute of a civil rights movement favorite, Bob Dylan’s “The Times They Are A Changing."

This version is performed by The Brothers and Sisters of Los Angeles.

The track is from the album, Dylan’s Gospel, courtesy of Powerhouse Radio. Visit Powerhouse Radio on Facebook.

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Posted by Hugh Smith on 01/27 at 08:00 AM
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Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Nelson Mandela Marks a Milestone

On February 11, 2010, it will be 20 years since Nelson Mandela was released from a South African prison.

A political prison for over 25 years, a social activist for a lifetime, Nelson Mandela represents the very concept of liberation over oppression.

He worked in the gold mines of Johannesburg, South Africa, before earning a law degree from the University of South Africa in 1942.

Nelson Mandela timeline:

  1. 1944 - Joined the African National Congress.
  2. 1944 - Becomes secretary and president of the Congress Youth League.
  3. 1951 - Youth League President.
  4. 1955 - Helps to draft the ANC Freedom Charter.
  5. 1961 - Becomes honorary secretary of the All African National Action Council.
  6. 1961 - Becomes the leader of Umkonto, ANC’s underground paramilitary faction.
  7. 1962 - Sentenced to 5 years in prison for leaving South Africa without travel documents (and inciting riots).
  8. 1964 - Sentenced to life in prison for sabotage and treason.
  9. 1990 - Released from prison, February 11.
  10. 1991 - Elected ANC president.
  11. 1994 - Elected President of South Africa, April 27.
  12. 1994 - Inaugurated as President, May 12.
  13. 1999 - Leaves office, June.

Invictus, the 2009 film starring Morgan Freeman as Nelson Mandela, dramatizes how the president used a 1995 Rugby match to unite South Africans.

Watch the promotional movie trailer for Invictus.

Look for more Mandela slices of life on the big screen.  Jennifer Hudson is scheduled to star as Winnie Mandela, his ex-wife in a forthcoming film.

Nelson Mandela’s life struggle has been to secure equal rights for black South Africans.  He’s been awarded numerous honors, including the Nobel Peace Prize (along with former South African President F.W. de Klerk) in 1993.

Check out Mandela’s autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom.

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Posted by Hugh Smith on 12/02 at 08:00 PM
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Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Ebony Magazine Pioneer John H. Johnson

John H. Johnson (1918 - 2005) is the founder of one of the most successful African American owned multi-million dollar publishing, cosmetics and insurance empires.

He founded the Negro Digest in November, 1942, by republishing black oriented news from the African American and general market press.

Johnson used a 20,000 name mailing list from his insurance company employer, (with permission), to pitch the Negro Digest to potential customers.

He received 3,000 replies from eager folks requesting his periodical at a cost of $2 per subscription.  The Negro Digest sold 50,000 copies per month within 8 months of the premier issue.

Ebony, a picture based magazine, followed on November 1, 1945.  By 1951, another magazine was launched, the pocket sized Jet.

Jet’s focus featured more weekly news in less time for the reader by keeping the articles short.

By 1958, Johnson Publishing began branching out into other fields.  The company created the Ebony Fashion Fair, the world’s largest traveling fashion show (September, 1958).

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Posted by Hugh Smith on 11/04 at 07:30 PM
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Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Langston Hughes Writes Weary Blues

Playwright, novelist, poet, and composer Langston Hughes, (1902-1967), hails from Joplin, Missouri.

Hughes’ eloquent prose is considered some of the very best work of any writer in the first half of the twentieth century.

He wrote his first poems in high school.  Hughes traveled extensively abroad before winning his first poetry contest in 1925.

"Weary Blues” was his first published poem in 1926.  His first novel was published in 1930, Not Without Laughter.

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Posted by Hugh Smith on 10/14 at 01:00 AM
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Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Cosby Show Anniversary - 25 Years Later

September 20, 2009, is the 25th anniversary the Cosby Show on television.

Bill Cosby was the first African American actor to receive an Emmy Award (1966) for his role in the television series I Spy.  The Philadelphia native has been extremely successful as a comedian, actor, writer, producer, and social activist.

Listen to 1 minute of Bill Cosby being very funny.  Enjoy the 4 vintage Cosby album covers in the video.

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Posted by Hugh Smith on 09/16 at 01:00 AM
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