Millie (left) and Christine (right) McKoy

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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.

 

 

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Ida Keeling, 101 years old…

Track and Field: 122nd Penn Relays
Keeling ran her first race at 67, in an attempt to lift a depression brought on by the drug-related deaths of her two sons. « People flew past me, but after it was over, I felt relieved, like I ran out my sadness, » says Keeling, who broke the U.S. sprinting record for her age group in 2012, finishing the 100-meter dash in just under 52 seconds. « Exercise is very uplifting. »On April 30, 2016, Ida became the first woman in history to complete a 100-meter run at the age of 100. Her time of 1:17.33 was witnessed by a crowd of 44,469 at the 2016 Penn Relays.

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.

 

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Mary Jane Holmes Shipley Drake (1841–1925)

Mary Jane Holmes Shipley Drake (1841–1925)
Mary Jane Holmes Shipley Drake, born in Missouri in 1841, was one of six children of Robin and Polly Holmes. From 1852 to 1853 Mary Jane was the subject of a fifteen-month legal battle known as Holmes v. Ford to obtain her freedom. That battle also helped determine the status of slavery in Oregon Territory.

The Holmes family was owned by Missouri farmer Nathaniel Ford. In 1844 Ford brought the family west on the Oregon Trail, promising Robin and Polly their freedom if they would help him establish a farm in the Oregon Territory. Ford refused to honor his promise for five years after their arrival, finally relenting in 1849. He freed the parents and their newborn son but refused to release nine-year-old Mary Jane and her other siblings including two who had been born in Oregon Territory. Ford intended to sell each of the four children when they reached adulthood. Ford’s refusal to release Mary Jane Holmes and her siblings prompted Robin and Polly Holmes to file suit to regain custody over their children. The case worked its way through lower courts and finally reached the bench of Chief Justice George A. Williams of the Oregon Territory Supreme Court. Chief Justice Williams ruled that slavery could not exist in the territory without specific legislation to protect. He then declared the Holmes children free. The Holmes case was the last attempt to establish slavery in Oregon through the judicial process. Mary Jane Holmes voluntarily remained with the Fords as a servant for another four years to provide income for her impoverished parents. In 1857, however, when she was sixteen and wanted to marry, Ford demanded that the prospective groom, Ruben Shipley, pay him $750 to marry Mary Jane even though she had been liberated by the Territorial Supreme Court four years earlier. Fearing a protracted legal battle with Ford, Shipley agreed to pay the $750.
Ruben and Mary Jane married and later bought an eighty-acre farm near Corvallis, Oregon. They had six children and became well-respected members of their community. After Ruben’s death, Mary Jane married R.G. Drake in 1875. Mary Jane Holmes Shipley Drake outlived her second husband and all but one of her children. She died in 1925.

 

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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.

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February 4, 1794 : Abolition of slavery of France

223 years ago on this date in 1794 France abolished slavery. As a nation they had a lukewarm commitment to abolition. Under Napoleon Bonaparte they reestablished slavery in 1802 along with the reinstitution of the « Code noir ».These orders carried out by General Antoine Richepance brutally reinstituted slavery in the French Antilles in 1802. France finally ended slavery in 1848.

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Rosa Parks

On this date february 4, 1913 Rosa Parks was born in Alabama. By refusing to give up her seat to a white man on a Montgomery, Alabama, city bus in 1955, she helped initiate the civil rights movement in the United States. Over the next half-century, Parks became a nationally recognized symbol of dignity and strength in the struggle to end entrenched racial segregation. We must not forget all the « UNSUNG » Rosa Parks who refuse to give her their seat to a white man before december 1955 like Elizabeth Jenning Graham Ida B. Wells, Irene Morgan Kirlady, Jo Ann Gibson Robinson Sara Keys, Claudette Colvin, Aurelia Browder, Marie Louise Smith, Jeannette Reese, Susie McDonald….

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