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Carter Godwin Woodson (1875-1950)

144 years ago, Carter Godwin Woodon (1875-1950) was born on this date in Virginia.
Known as the “Father of Black History,” he holds an outstanding position in early 20th century American history. Woodson authored numerous scholarly books on the positive contributions of Blacks to the development of America. His message was that Blacks should be proud of their heritage and that other Americans should also understand it

Anténor Firmin (1850-1911)

Anténor Firmin (1850-1911) was born in Haïti. In 1885, he published a book on « the equality of human races, positive anthropology » where he tackled the pseudo-scientific theorists of racism. A true precursor, unparalleled genius, enlightened thinker, champion of the defense of Black people, Anténor Firmin has greatly contributed to the birth of awakenings of conscience. In advance of his time, he knew how to refute western racism through scientific and rigorous argumentation. He also highlighted the essential role of African cultures in the history of civilization, from the Egyptians to the first Black Republic of Haiti.

The last survivor of the Rosewood massacre


The last survivor of the Rosewood massacre (The result of rape accusations made by a white woman against a black man, which led to violent riots and the murder of several innocent African-Americans in January of 1923.)

She was the last person alive with a living memory of Rosewood the north Florida black town that was consumed in racial rage this week more than eight decades ago. She was eight when it happened and her memory was as clear as a bell. Robie Mortin and I were friends. I met her well into her nineties living in an assisted living complex in West Palm Beach where what was left of her family settled after the event.
“I was in third grade,” she once told me. “I could read and write. I remember everything;” like playing in her aunt Sarah Carrier’s yard every Sunday after church, like the plum trees that grew in her yard, like getting apples at Christmas and dancing and playing games on Emancipation Day; and the night the mob burned the town down. Mortin had never gone back except for a short visit when the governor and state officials dedicated a historic marker on Highway 24, but that was not to touch the ground, to smell the woods or to go to the old graveyard where her mother is buried. But in 2008 she allowed me to take her back twice and she showed me everything. We walked the railroad bed where the rails had been moved many years ago but the raised rail bed still runs true through the woods like a green tunnel; to the place where the Masonic lodge stood which was the building in which she attended school; and to that graveyard that not only holds her mother’s bones but those of many Rosewood pioneers and victims. Her aunt Sarah who was killed during those terrible days is there. So is her uncle, Sam Carter who was the first person to be killed in the massacre. She lived in his house. She recalled the cold night the mobs came. The moon was full and bright; so bright you could see shadows at mid-night. “My daddy told us to get up and put on all of our heavy clothes. He said the people were shooting and they had to get out of Rosewood.”
A lot of people had to get out of Rosewood that night. Mortin and her aunt Polly, Sam Carter’s mother, were fortunate. They made it to the train depot from which they escaped to Chiefland about twenty miles away. Many others spent several freezing nights hiding in the dank woods trying to avoid the mobs. Rosewood had been the perfect storm for racial violence. All of the usual suspects applied, an alleged sexual attack by a black man on a white woman, a black man with an attitude and lots of friends who had guns, economic jealousy because many blacks in Rosewood were doing better than the back woods whites who lived around them and the killing by blacks of a white law enforcement officer. It had all been a lie. Mortin had heard the stories over the years. The white woman, Fannie Taylor was having an affair and almost got caught when her lover beat her one morning while her husband was at work. Fannie said a black man did it and that was all it took. Over the following week hundreds of white men descended upon Rosewood vengeance in mind and torches in hand. Sylvester Carrier would emerge as the hero of the moment. He gathered up his family and hunkered down in his mother’s large two-story home. He was a Mason.
“Almost all of the men out there were Masons”, Mortin recalled. The night the mob came to the Carrier House an unknown number of heavily armed black men were waiting. Some were hidden in the woods. It was a gathering of Masons. When it was all over eight people were dead including Sylvester and his mother Sarah, Robie’s aunt. She and Sam Carter’s mother moved to Riviera Beach which had become home to many Rosewood survivors.
“The old black cemetery in Riviera Beach is filled with Rosewood folks,” she once told me. In June of 2010 she joined them. On my way to Rosewood I had seen her the day before she died in a hospice facility in West Palm Beach. No one else was left who could remember what happened that desperately cold night in 1923. What she left behind was a loving family and a many grateful friends, including me.

Interview by the historian Dr Marvin Dunn


Millie (left) and Christine (right) McKoy


Millie (left) and Christine (right) McKoy were born into slavery in Columbus County, North Carolina, in 1851. These conjoined twin sisters were sometimes called Millie-Christine McKoy. Each sister had two arms and two legs, but they were connected at the lower spine and shared one pelvis. Jabez McKay owned Millie and Christine, but the twins later adopted the last name, “McKoy.” McKay, who was concerned whether the twin sisters would be productive and frustrated when visitors flooded his farm to view their unusual anatomy, eventually sold Millie and Christine for $1,000 to a showman interested in exhibiting them. Millie and Christine ended up in the possession of Joseph Pearson Smith, who hired them out to various road shows. At this time Millie and Christine also appeared in P.T. Barnum’s famed American Museum in New York City. The twins were kidnapped and taken to England by one of the men responsible for exhibiting them, but Smith eventually found the girls and, with their mother, sued to regain custody. He won this suit, and the twins returned to North Carolina. Smith’s wife taught Millie and Christine how to read, write, sing, dance, and play the piano; she also taught them to deliver recitations in German and French. The sisters used these skills when they were exhibited. After the Civil War, the twins decided to remain with the Smiths. They continued to appear widely for nearly thirty years, even returning to England in 1871, where they performed for Queen Victoria. In the 1880s, the sisters joined Barnum’s traveling circus, but they retired to Columbus County at the end of the decade. Throughout their career and retirement, Millie and Christine gave financial support to black schools and churches. When Millie died of tuberculosis in October 1912, doctors gave Christine morphine to help end her life quickly and painlessly.



Annie Minerva Turnbo Malone (1869-1957)


Annie Minerva Turnbo Malone (1869-1957)

Annie Malone was a pioneering African-American who was the first African-American millionaire in the United States (Madame C.J. Walker worked for and was trained by Malone prior to her entrepreneurial journey: Madame C.J. Walker had a mentor and teacher who remained obscure and lost in history for most of us ).

Annie Minerva Tumbo Malone was born in Metropolis, Illinois She was the tenth of 11 children of Robert Turnbo, a poor farmer, and Isabella Cook Turnbo. Her parents died when she was young. From her humble beginnings as an orphan raised by her sister, Annie Malone became one of America’s first self-made Millionaire. As a young girl, Malone enjoyed fashioning her own and her sisters’ hair. She became aware of differences in hair texture and sought a way to straighten hair. She began developing safer and more effective hair care methods and treatments for women of color in the 1890’s. By the turn of the century, she had developed a network of “Poro Agents” who went door-to-door marketing hair care and beauty supplies she had created. In 1917, Annie Malone founded the first Poro College in St. Louis, Missouri. By the 1920’s she had built a financial empire valued at over $15 million dollars. This included dozens of Poro Colleges where she empowered people with personal development and training in the business of black cosmetology, manufacturing, and public etiquette. At her zenith, she had established over 100 beauty salons & supply stores nationwide, built manufacturing and distribution centers, and employed more than 10,000 door-to-door agents world wide. Annie taught Madame C.J Walker and thousands more at Poro Colleges around the country. Madame C.J. Walker was one of those “Poro agents” who went on to build on Ms. Annie’s shoulders. A beauty industry pioneer, Annie Malone, the social activist and philanthropist, donated vast amounts of wealth to social and educational institutions. Among the most noted was her $25,000.00 donation to Howard University. At that time, it was the largest gift ever donated to a historically black institution. However, historians credit Malone with having developed her products and distribution system first. Walker sold her own “Wonderful Hair Straightener,”. As a result, Malone trademarked Poro, a new name for her product and merchandising systems in 1906. (Poro is a West African word for an organization dedicated to disciplining and enhancing the body spiritually and physically.) Never forgetting her past, in 1922 Annie Malone made her first $10,000.00 contribution to the St. Louis Colored Orphans’ Home, where she served as president from 1919 to 1943. In 1946, it was renamed the Annie Malone Children’s Home in honor of her. Annie Turnbo Malone died of a stroke on May 10, 1957, in Chicago, Illinois. She was 87. By the time of her death, Malone had lost her national visibility and most of her money. Having no children, her estate, valued at $100,000, was left to her nieces and nephews.



Joseph Cinque

Joseph Cinque’s arms and legs hurt so much he couldn’t move them. He and 52 other young Africans were chained together in the bottom of a ship. They had been kidnapped from their village in Sierra Leone and taken to Havana, Cuba. Now they were on a ship called the Amistad. They were being taken to Principe, Cuba, to work as slaves. Joseph was determined to be free. One night, he and the other Africans escaped from their chains. They went to the deck of the ship, seized weapons, and fought with the ship’s crew. All but two crew members were killed. “You must return us to our home in Africa,” Joseph told the two men. But the men still sailed to the United States. The ship was captured off the coast of Connecticut, and Joseph and the others were arrested. Some people in the United States believed that slavery was wrong. They felt that Joseph should be free. The Supreme Court agreed with them. In 1842, Joseph and the other brave Africans finally were able to return to Africa.


7 things that you may not know about Coretta Scott King (1927-2003)


1)Coretta Scott King was born on the 27th of April 1927 in Perry County, Alabama. Her parents, Obadiah and Bernice Scott, were farmers who owned land in the county since the American Civil War.

 2)At the age of 10, she had to drop out of school to help pick cotton just so her family would have enough money to put food on the table. Despite these challenges, she would still wind up graduating from Lincoln Normal School in 1945 and earn a scholarship to study music in Boston.

3)She participated in “freedom concerts,” which consisted of poetry recitation, singing, and lectures demonstrating the history of the civil rights movement. The proceeds from the concerts were donated to the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

4)On January 30th, 1956 the King family home was bombed when a brick was thrown onto the porch. Coretta and her daughter, Yolanda, were unharmed and when Coretta’s father insisted she leave Montgomery and go back to Atlanta. She refused.

5)When her husband was assassinated, Mrs. King was given thousands of letters and telegrams offering her sympathy and support. One message, however, held much more importance than any other for her. It came from the mother of Lee Harvey Oswald.

6) She kept her husband’s legacy alive through her own activism. After her husband’s death, King founded the artin Luther King Jr Center for nonviolent social change  in Atlanta, Georgia, and served as its president for more than a decade. Coretta worked for years to make her husband’s birthday, January 15th into a holiday. It wasn’t until 1986 that she succeeded in making Martin Luther King Jr. Day a federal holiday, though it always occurs on the 3rd Monday of January.

7)She was against apartheid. She was part of several protests against apartheid in South Africa, and lobbied for the release of Nelson Mandela. She traveled several times to the country to meet with anti-apartheid activists and to support black South Africans affected by state-sanctioned oppression.