Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Out of Touch with History Highlights

USA teens are out of touch with not just African American history, but with history and traditional culture in general.

Common Core, an advocacy group pushing for the teaching of more liberal arts in schools, released the shocking report today as reported in USA Today.

Out of 1,200 17 year-olds surveyed, only 43% knew that the Civil War was fought between 1850 - 1900.

30% did not know that President John F. Kennedy said, “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country."

It’s troubling that real history is taking a back seat to the more seedy elements of today’s popular culture.  Most teens and adults are experts in the gossipy news of today.

As Black History Month comes to a close, it’s time to renew our commitment to real knowledge that matters, across cultural and ethnic divides.

A trivia question as a final thought.  In 1976, U.S. representative Barbara Jordan became the first African American to give the keynote address to a national party convention.  Who gave the keynote address to the Democratic National Convention in 2004?

Leave your answer in a comment!

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Posted by Hugh Smith on 02/27 at 08:00 AM
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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Fannie Lou Hamer Lights Up Democracy

Fannie Lou Hamer, (1917-1977), was the founder and Vice Chairman of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party.

She led the black delegates from Mississippi to the 1964 Democratic National Convention in Atlantic City, New Jersey.

Hamer was a sharecropper with just an 8th grade education.  She was forced to leave the plantation in 1962 after unsuccessfully attempting to register to vote.

Fannie Lou then joined the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, (SNCC), and became a field Secretary.  Late in 1962 she was finally able to register to vote.

Her story is fascinating and inspirational.  Fannie Lou Hamer was an ordinary citizen who rose to take extraordinary action.

With the backdrop of this year’s 2008 USA presidential election, the complete Fannie Lou Hamer story is one you’ll enjoy experiencing in much more detail.

How did one woman, barred from registering to vote in 1962 America, help change the system of segregation in the South?

I highly recommend diving right into This Little Light of Mine: The Life of Fannie Lou Hamer (Civil Rights and the Struggle for Black Equality in the Twentieth Century), written by Kay Mills.

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Posted by Hugh Smith on 02/26 at 01:02 AM
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Monday, February 25, 2008

Black History's Forgotten Sportin' Life Players

Beyond Jackie Robinson, Tiger Woods, Wilma Rudolph, and other famous sports legends, black history honor rolls are filled with many other competitive athletes who made their mark.

Here are 5 sports originals who richly deserve a second look, although they may not be the best known.

  1. Alice Coachman - Represented the women’s track team at Tuskegee Institute.  Alice was the only woman on the 1948 U.S. Olympic team to win a gold medal in track and field (high jump).

  2. Dan Bankhead - The first African American pitcher in Major League Baseball (August 1947 for the Brooklyn Dodgers).

  3. Fritz Pollard - First black All-American (1916).  This football legend played for Brown University between 1915 - 1916.  He played in the first Rose Bowl game (January 1, 1916 - Brown vs. Washington State).

  4. Marshall W. “Major” Taylor - A cyclist who won the World Cycle Racing Championship in 1899.  Taylor won the U.S. trophy in 1900.  He was called the fastest bike rider in the world.

  5. Pele’ - Born Edson Arantes De Nascimento in Tres Coracoes, Brazil, “The Black Pearl” became the most famous soccer player in the world.  At 17, he led the Brazilian team to their first World Cup in Sweden (1958).

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Posted by Hugh Smith on 02/25 at 01:02 AM
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Wednesday, February 20, 2008

25 Innovative & Original Black History Champions

From the digital pages of Empower Encyclopedia(c) 1998 - 2008, here are 25 innovative and original black history champions from A - M.

There are many more of course, but this time, we shine the beacon on these 25:

  1. Dr. Sadie Tanner Alexander - The first Black woman Ph.D. in the United States (Doctorate in economics from the University of Pennsylvania, 1921).

  2. Guion Stewart Bluford Jr.- First African American astronaut (in space) aboard the space shuttle Challenger on August 30, 1983.

  3. Justice Jane M. Bolin - America’s first African American woman judge, appointed to the Court of Domestic Relations in New York City by Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia on July 22, 1939.

  4. Thomas Bradley (1917-1998) - First African American elected Mayor of Los Angeles in 1973.

  5. Ensign Jesse Brown - First black aviator in the U.S. Navy in 1948.

  6. Jill Brown - First black woman accepted for pilot training by the U.S. Navy in 1974. In 1978, she became the first African American female pilot/First Officer with a major carrier: Texas International Airlines.

  7. Dr. Ralph J. Bunche - First African American to win the Nobel Peace Prize (1950).

  8. Yvonne Brathwaite Burke - First woman elected chair of the Congressional Black Caucus (1976).

  9. Sergeant William H. Carney - First African American awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.

  10. Gwendolyn B. Cherry, (1924-1979) - First African American woman elected to the Florida Legislature (1970).

  11. Nathaniel Sweetwater Clifton - First African American to play in the National Basketball Association (1950 with the New York Knicks).

  12. Bessie Coleman, (1892-1926) - First black woman in the United States to receive a pilot’s license.

  13. Ernie Davis, (1940-1963) - First African American to win the Heisman Trophy (1961 as a football half-back with Syracuse University).

  14. Dr. Charles R. Drew, (1904-1950) - Founded the first blood bank (1940).

  15. Lelia Foley - First African American female mayor in America (Taft, Oklahoma, April 3, 1973).

  16. W. Wilson Goode - First African American elected Mayor of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (sworn in on January 2, 1984).

  17. Patricia R. Harris, (1924-1985) - First black woman to hold a top cabinet post (Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) under President Jimmy Carter in 1977).

  18. Judge William H. Hastie, (1904-1976) - First African American U.S. federal judge… and the youngest at age 32 (1936).

  19. Matthew A. Henson, (1866-1954) - First explorer to reach the North Pole on (April 6, 1909).

  20. General Daniel “Chappie” James Jr. - First African American (Air Force) to obtain the rank of full four-star General (1975).

  21. Hazel W. Johnson - First African American woman (Army) to obtain the rank of General (September, 1979).

  22. William H. Lewis - First African American to hold the position of Assistant U.S. Attorney General (1911 by President William H. Taft).

  23. Autherine Lucy - First African American student enrolled at the University of Alabama in 1956.

  24. Mary Elizabeth Mahoney, (1846-1926) - First African American to graduate with a diploma in nursing (1879).

  25. Thurgood Marshall, (1908-1993) - First African American appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court (by President Lyndon Johnson in 1967).

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Posted by Hugh Smith on 02/20 at 01:02 AM
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Monday, February 18, 2008

7 Masters of Medicine in Black History

1) Dr. Dorothy L. Brown, (1914 - 2004), distinguished herself as a surgeon and community leader.  She graduated with honors from Meharry Medical College, Nashville, Tennessee in 1948.

After interning in New York City, she returned to Tennessee to Meharry’s Hubbard Hospital.  Brown rose to become Clinical Professor of Surgery, and the first woman chief resident in general surgery at Meharry from 1957 - 1983.

Dr. Brown was the first single mother in Tennessee to adopt a child in the 1950s.  She adopted the newborn daughter of a patient.

In the 1960’s, Brown became the first African American woman elected to the Tennessee General Assembly.

2) Dr. Charles R. Drew, (1904-1950), founded the first blood bank (1940) and invented the blood plasma bag.

He received his M.D. and Master of Surgery degrees from McGill University, Montreal.  Dr. Drew did the bulk of his blood plasma research at Columbia University in New York City.

Charles Drew is one of the featured black history people in the Empower Encyclopedia Salute to Black History DVD.

3) Dr. Robert L. Kimbrough received his DDS, (Doctor of Dental Science), from the Illinois College of Dentistry in 1951.

He entered the Army Dental Corps. in the early 1950’s.  After service, he went into private practice in Chicago.

In 1984, Dr. Kimbrough became President of the Chicago Dental Society.

4) Mary Elizabeth Mahoney, (1846-1926), is credited with being the first African American to graduate with a diploma in nursing.

In 1879, she received her degree from the New England Hospital in Boston.

5) Dr. Daniel H. Williams, (1856-1931), founded the first medical training school for African American nurses.

He is credited with performing the world’s first heart operation on an injured man who was stabbed in the chest (1893).

6) Dr. Jane Cooke Wright is well known in the medical profession for her work in cancer chemotherapy.

She was Director of Cancer Research and Associate Professor of Research Surgery At New York University Medical Center.

Dr. Wright was the first African American woman to become an associate dean at a major medical college: The New York Medical College (1967).

7) Dr. Louis T. Wright, (1891-1952), excelled in the field of medicine and brain trauma.

He graduated from Clark University in Atlanta in 1911.  Wright is famous for inventing a brace for patients with neck injuries.

His expertise included treating patients with skull fractures.

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Posted by Hugh Smith on 02/18 at 01:02 AM
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Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Black History People Video Quiz

Can you name all 5 black history people featured in our video quiz?

The quiz is 30 seconds long.  Good Luck!  Enter your answer in a comment.

For more Black History Month quizzes, visit

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Posted by Hugh Smith on 02/13 at 08:00 PM
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Monday, February 11, 2008

Bookdiva D’s Black History Month Review

For the latest news and reviews about the interesting world of writers, check out Bookdiva D’s 2008 Black History Month Review.

She reminds us all about the deep literary tradition shared by celebrated authors among black history people who are novelists, playwrights, and poets.

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Posted by Hugh Smith on 02/11 at 01:02 AM
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Wednesday, February 06, 2008

10 Top Technologies Created by Ingenious Black Inventors

Here are 10 top technologies created by important black inventors.  We salute them all during black history month.

1) Fire extinguisher (aero-foam) - Dr. Percy L. Jullian

Dr. Percy L. Julian, (1899-1975), elevated the quality of American life with many discoveries through his research in chemistry.

Dr. Julian earned his Masters Degree at Harvard in 1923, and his Ph.D. at the University of Vienna in 1931.

During World War II, from a soybean protein, he developed a life saving, fire-fighting foam used by the U.S. Army and Navy.

His resulting fire extinguisher was used to put out gas and oil fires.

Dr. Julian also developed low cost cortisone to treat arthritis.  He developed drugs to treat rheumatic fever, and glaucoma.

2) Electric lampbulb - Lewis Latimer

New York City native Lewis H. Latimer, (1848-1928), invented and patented the first electric light bulb with a carbon filament (March 21, 1882).

He joined the Thomas A. Edison Company in 1886.  Edison later developed the carbon filament into the modern light bulb.

Latimer is credited with publishing the first electric lighting system textbook.

3) Lantern - Michael C. Harney

Michael C. Harney made significant improvements to wicks, and was granted a patent for a lantern/lamp on August 19, 1884.

The St. Louis, Missouri resident created a wick raising device to improve the efficiency of the lantern.

4) traffic light - Garrett Morgan

Garrett Morgan lived in Cleveland, Ohio when he was granted U.S. patent # 1,475,024 on November 20, 1923 for the three-way traffic signal.

He patented a three-armed signal mounted on a T-shaped pole that indicated “stop” and “go” for traffic in two directions.

Morgan also had another signal for stopping traffic in all directions before the stop and go signals changed.  This is similar to today’s yellow light.

General Electric bought Morgan’s patent for $40,000, and his traffic management device was used throughout North America until it was replaced by the red, yellow and green-light traffic signals currently used around the world.

5) Gas mask - Garrett Morgan

Garrett Morgan also invented the gas mask a decade earlier in 1912, (U.S. patent 1,113,675 issued in 1914).

His mask was used during World War I to protect soldiers from chlorine gas fumes.

6) Automatic gear shift - Richard Bowie Spikes

On December 6, 1932, Richard Bowie Spikes received patent # 1,889,814 for an automatic gear shift which improved transmission design in cars.

7) Gamma-electric cell - Henry T. Sampson

Henry T. Sampson, of El Segundo, California, along with Dr. George H. Miley received United States Patent # 3,591,860 on July 6, 1971, for using a gamma-electric cell for producing a high-output voltage from a source of radiation.

8) Air conditioning unit - Frederick McKinley Jones

Frederick McKinley Jones of Minneapolis, Minnesota received several U.S. patents for air conditioning technology.

This particular patent, # 2,336,735, granted December 14, 1943, was given for a compact and removable portable cooling unit that could easily be placed at the top of compartments on trucks and in railroad cars.

9) Thermostat control - Frederick McKinley Jones

Jones won another patent on February 23, 1960, for a thermostat that could regulate refrigeration.

10) Paints, stains, and cosmetic creams - George Washington Carver

George Washington Carver (1864-1943) was born in Missouri in the closing days of the Civil War.  He rose from slavery to become the first nationally known African American scientist.

In 1896, Booker T. Washington selected the then young graduate student Carver, (who at the time was the only black American with advanced training in scientific agriculture), to head the newly created agricultural department at Tuskegee Institute.

Dr. Carver remained at Tuskegee for nearly 50 years.  His research work with various fruits, vegetables, and legumes, most notably the peanut, commanded international attention.

On January 6, 1925, Dr. Carver was granted U.S. patent # 1,522,176 for a process that produces a cosmetic cream made from peanuts.

Carver describes his creation in the patent as a “vanishing cream of any desired or usual tint."

Two years later on June 14, 1927, Carver received U.S. patent # 1,632,365 for the process of producing paints and stains from clays.

His plan was to use clays of different colors found in different parts of the USA combined with his patented process “for treating wood or other materials."

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Posted by Hugh Smith on 02/06 at 01:02 AM
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Monday, February 04, 2008

5 African Americans who Changed the World

Here are 5 outstanding African Americans who made contributions during the 20th century to change our world.  These 5 black history people usually rise to the top in the spotlight during black history month.

1) Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Martin Luther King Jr. is the father of the modern civil rights movement.  He was born Michael Luther King, January 15, 1929, in Atlanta Georgia.

Dr. King earned his Ph.D. from Boston University in 1955 (a Doctorate in Theology).

He married Coretta Scott King in 1953.  The young 26 year-old Martin organized the Montgomery bus boycott with the Reverend Ralph David Abernathy and the NAACP in 1955 after Rosa Parks refused to surrender her bus seat to whites.

King became the first leader of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in 1957.  By 1961, he was supporting freedom rides to integrate Southern lunch counters and rest rooms.

His famous “I Have a Dream Speech” was delivered on the Washington D.C. mall in 1963.  King won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964.  He was assassinated in 1968 as he was preparing to lead a labor protest march on behalf of sanitation workers in Memphis, Tennessee.

2) Rosa Parks

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1956 that segregation on common carrier buses was illegal.  The decision was reached primarily because of the Montgomery bus boycott that lasted one year.

Rosa Parks, an African American seamstress, refused to surrender her seat to a white passenger (December 1, 1955).  Arrested for her act, Parks eventually found justice in the courts.

In 1999, President Bill Clinton presented her with the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest honor for a U.S. civilian.

3) Thurgood Marshall

Thurgood Marshall, (1908-1993), was born in Baltimore, Maryland.  “Mr. Civil Rights,” changed history in 1954 when he successfully argued Brown vs. the Board of Education before the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Brown case outlawed segregation in schools.

Marshall was educated at Lincoln University and Howard Law School.  He began practicing law in 1933, became assistant special counsel for the NAACP in 1936, then chief counsel in 1938.

He was the first director/chief counsel for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund (1940-1961).

In 1961, President John Kennedy appointed him Second Circuit United States Court of Appeals judge.  By 1965 he was appointed solicitor general in the Department of Justice.

Marshall was appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court by President Lyndon Johnson in 1967 becoming the first African American on the court.

Thurgood Marshall is considered the most prominent civil rights lawyer of the 20th Century.

4) Jackie Robinson

U.S. Army Lieutenant and former UCLA football great Jackie Robinson (1919-1972), entered major league baseball in 1945 by signing a contract with the Brooklyn Dodgers’ farm team, the Montreal Royals.

Robinson, the first ever black player at the start of the 1947 season, was one of three African Americans on the roster of a major league baseball franchise by the end of 1947 (joined by Larry Doby of the Cleveland Indians, and Henry Thompson of the St. Louis Browns).

5) Muhammad Ali

Muhammad Ali, born Cassius Clay on January 17, 1942, won an Olympic gold medal in Rome as a light heavy weight in 1960.

He defeated Sonny Liston in 1964 to win the heavy weight championship for the first time.  Ali won the crown again in 1974 by beating George Foreman.

"The Greatest” became the first in boxing history to win the heavy-weight title three times when he took out Leon Spinks in 1978.

Ali refused to be drafted into the U.S. Army (he was a conscientious objector on religious and moral grounds).  He was stripped of his first title in 1967.

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Posted by Hugh Smith on 02/04 at 01:02 AM
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