Thursday, April 27, 2006

Marian Wright Edelman - Children's Champion

Here’s a quick review of an important woman who has dedicated her life to the cause of helping others...

Social activist and Children’s Defense Fund founder Marian Wright Edelman hails from Bennettsville, South Carolina.

Despite the racial segregation and poverty of 1939 when she was born, her parents encouraged her as a young girl to overcome these odds.

Marian attended Spelman College, the first college for black women in the USA. In the next phase of her life, she proudly served in the Atlanta, Georgia office of the NAACP, an assignment that inspired her to become an attorney.

Edelman graduated from Yale Law School in 1963, and in 1965, she became the first African American woman to pass the bar in Mississippi.

Marian also distinguished herself by serving as the Director of the Center for Law and Education at Harvard University.

She began the non-profit Children’s Defense Fund (CDF) in 1973. CDF is a strong contemporary national voice for children.

The Children’s Defense Fund secured the 1990 Act for Better Child Care, dedicating over $3 billion in funds for improving day-care facilities and other programs to help poor children.

Marian Wright Edelman’s awards include:

  • The Albert Schweitzer Humanitarian Prize
  • The Heinz Award
  • The Ella J. Baker Prize
  • The Presidential Medal of Freedom.

She was also a MacArthur Foundation Prize Fellow, and has served on the Board of Trustees of Spelman College.

Marian has written many articles and books, including “The Measure of Our Success: A Letter to My Children and Yours” (A number 1 New York Times best-seller).

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Posted by Hugh Smith on 04/27 at 08:48 PM
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Friday, April 21, 2006

Jerome Ringo - Earth Day Environmental Leader

Saturday, April 22, is Earth Day.  When the first Earth Day was celebrated in 1970, protection of the environment was not an activity automatically associated with people of color in general, and African Americans in particular.

Thirty-six years later, black history people are making contributions in all sectors of society, including the environmental movement.

In 2005, Jerome Ringo was elected Chairman of the Board of the National Wildlife Federation, the largest conservation environmental organization, with over 4 million members.

Ringo is the first African American elected Chairman of the Board of the NWF.  The National Wildlife Federation has been dedicated to protecting America’s wildlife since 1936.

An Earth Day salute to Jerome Ringo.

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Posted by Hugh Smith on 04/21 at 03:31 PM
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Wednesday, April 19, 2006

African American Aviators: Coleman, Brown, Bluford and Young

Recently, Yvonne from St. Petersburg, Florida was curious about the first black woman commercial airline pilot.

According to Empower Encyclopedia:

  • Bessie Coleman, (1892-1926), is given credit as the first black woman in the United States to receive a pilot’s license.

  • Willa Brown started flying in 1934.  She was born in Kentucky, went to school in Indiana, became a teacher in Gary, and learned to fly in Chicago.  Willa Brown obtained her commercial pilot’s license in 1937.

  • Pan American World Airways First Officer and pilot Otis B. Young, of Washington D.C., was the first African American to fly a 747 jumbo jet.  In 1970, the former Air Force aviator flew the first 747 non-stop flight between London and Los Angeles.

  • Jill Brown was accepted by the Navy in 1974 as the first black woman for pilot training.  In 1978, Jill Brown became the first African American woman pilot/First Officer with a major carrier: Texas International Airlines.

In the space age, Guion Stewart Bluford Jr. became the first black American astronaut in space aboard the space shuttle Challenger on August 30, 1983.

Posted by Hugh Smith on 04/19 at 08:49 PM
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Friday, April 14, 2006

Do you know your Black History as well as Joe?

Cedar City, Utah’s Joe Baker teases your head with this tough brain buster black history quiz he’s prepared...


1. Which political party was founded in 1854 for the purpose of ending slavery?

2. Who said “The Republican Party would have the American flag and swastika flying side by side?"

3. Which political party used the 1868 campaign slogan “This is a white man’s country: let white men rule?"

4. Who appointed former Ku Klux Klansman Hugo Black to the Supreme Court?

5. Which party did the “Great Emancipator” Abraham Lincoln belong to?

6. Who is the only current member of congress who was once a “Grand Kleagle” in the Ku Klux Klan?

7. In a 2001 interview who said “There are white n--s. I have seen a lot of white n--s in my time?"

8. What percent of Democrats voted for the Thirteenth Amendment that made slavery unconstitutional?

9. Who deployed the 82nd Airborne to desegregate Little Rock Schools over the resistance of democratic Gov. Orval Faubas?

10. Who first used the “Willie Horton” issue against Michael Dukakis?

11. Which senator led a 14-hour filibuster to delay the 1964 Civil Rights Act?

12. Who ended this filibuster allowing passage of the CRA?

13. Which party cast the highest percentage of votes for the 1964 CRA?

14. What percent of Democrats voted for the Fourteenth Amendment guaranteeing equal protection?

15. Which president said “it is all so terribly true” after a private screening of D.W. Griffith’s racist film, “Birth of a Nation?"

16. Which party did the first black U.S. House member and first black U.S. Senator belong to?

17. Who appointed the first black 4-star Air Force and Army generals?

18. Who appointed the first black National Security Advisor?

19. Who appointed the first and second black Secretaries of State?

20. Who said that it gave him “psychological gratification” to spit into the soups and salads of white customers while he worked as a waiter?

21. A 2005 blog contained a racist parody of a black U.S. Senate candidate in minstrel makeup and exaggerated lips with the caption: “I’s Simple Sambo and I’s running for the Big House.” An official party Web site linked to this blog. Name the candidate and Web site.


1. Republican

2. NAACP Chairman Julian Bond

3. Democratic

4. Democratic president FDR

5. Republican

6. Democratic WV senator Robert Byrd

7. Robert Byrd again

8. Democrats: House 22 percent; Senate 37 percent; Republicans 100 percent

9. Republican President Eisenhower

10. Al Gore Jr., 1988 Democratic primaries

11. Democrat Al Gore, Sr.

12. Republican Sen. Everett

13. Republicans 80 percent, Democrats 64 percent

14. Not one congressional Democrat voted for it vs. 94 percent of Republicans

15. Democratic President Woodrow Wilson

16. Republican

17. Republican President Reagan

18. Republican President George H.W. Bush

19. Republican President George W. Bush

20. Jesse Jackson

21. Maryland U.S. Sen. candidate Republican Michael Steele; the link was on the official Web site of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

In addition, a DSCC staffer recently pleaded guilty to fraudulently obtaining Steele’s credit history. DSCC Chairman Sen. Charles Schumer refuses to apologize for the link or stolen credit history.


Ok, Joe has put together a whale of a quiz.  It’s the real deal. He’s done his homework.

You say you’re ready for more!...then check out some more questions.  You can choose from a variety of different genres, and rate the questions, in our own online collection of black history quizzes we’ve created.

Posted by Hugh Smith on 04/14 at 12:11 AM
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Monday, April 10, 2006

19th Century Wonder Woman in the Patent House

When it comes to roll call time for inventors, guys generally get all the credit.

Creativity has no gender boundary, so here’s a quick salute to the first African American woman to receive a U.S. patent, way back in 1885.

On July 14, 1885, a Chicago furniture storeowner received patent number 322,177 for a clever convertible bed design.  Her cabinet bed was literally a bed in a box.

The intricate mechanical folding enclosure looked more like an antique desk in disguise.

Popping open the top of the cabinet revealed a two-winged apparatus below, identical halves of the bed, made to balance on the cabinet’s sturdy center of gravity providing a restful platform for sleep.

Sarah Goode had the intuition, the wisdom, and the smarts to dream up this masterpiece.

Posted by Hugh Smith on 04/10 at 10:35 PM
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Tuesday, April 04, 2006

The Ruby Bridges Story

The William Frantz Public School in New Orleans may not have any significance to you, but for Ruby Bridges, her elementary school is an important part of Louisiana and U.S. history.

We received a question from Victoria Hart asking about the fascinating story of Ruby Bridges.  Ruby was thrust into the spotlight as a six year old attending kindergarten on November 14, 1960, just months after a federal court ordered New Orleans public schools to desegregate.

Read Ruby’s reflections about how a brave six year old girl got some life lessons in school she’ll never forget.  It’s the real Ruby Bridges story, from the lips of one of only four black students who would integrate the New Orleans public school system in the Fall of 1960.

Posted by Hugh Smith on 04/04 at 10:13 PM
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Saturday, April 01, 2006

April Remembers Marvin Gaye

His spirit lives on inside of marvelously magic melodies, flirtatious songs of fantasy, and devilishly seductive R&B from the golden era of classic soul.

Marvin Gaye was born on April 2, 1939, and died on April 1, 1984.  Years from now, when the Motown pioneers are closely studied, Marvin Gaye will rise to the top as an important entertainer, who, despite his immense talent, was not without his faults.

The Motown Alumni Association, Los Angeles Chapter, started a world wide campaign a couple of years ago lobbying the U.S. Postal Service for a commemorative stamp for Marvin.

The committee in charge of issuing commemorative stamps for the U.S. Postal Service has turned down the “Marvin stamp” several times.

We don’t have a Marvin Gaye stamp yet, but plenty has been written about the enigma of Marvin Gaye.

According to Dorothy Ferebee in her review of Michael Eric Dyson’s “Mercy, Mercy, Me: The Art Loves and Demons of Marvin Gaye,” Dr. Dyson examines the effect of Marvin Gaye’s music on the socio-political climate of the sixties, seventies and eighties.

Ferebee adds that Dyson attempts to unravel the mysteries of Gaye’s loves and passions for Anna Gordy and Janice Hunter, his two wives, and his reputed romantic relationship with Tammi Terrell.

Marvin’s album, “What’s Goin’ On,” remains one of the most influential thematic collection of songs ever recorded.

A technical note...the cover of the original vinyl album titles the work as “What’s Going On.” That title is also printed on the lp, while the spine of the album cover says: “What’s Goin’ On."

Marvin was way ahead of his time, and departed way to early.

Posted by Hugh Smith on 04/01 at 03:30 PM
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