Sojourner Truth (1797-1883)

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Sojourner Truth (1797-1883) was born a slave and was named Isabella Baumfree. New York, the state where she lives outlawed slavery in 1827 but Soujourner’s master didn’t care. He would not free her, so she ran away. When she was 46 years old, she decided to start her own campaign against slavery. She could not stand to see her people suffer any longer so she changed her name to Soujourner Truth. She chose that name because she planned to travel from place to place to tell the truth about slavery. Sojourner carried her anti-slavery message throughout th North, she spoke to anyone who would listen and to those who wouldn’t. Soujourner was often beaten for speaking out against slavery but this brave woman could not be stopped. She had a mission. In 1863, Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation that outlawed slavery, but the southern states did not recognize the law until they were defeated. After the civil war, Sojourner fought for black equality and women’s rights and she dedicated her life to opening the doors of freedom for all people.

 

Audley « Queen Mother » Moore (1898-1996)

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Audley « Queen Mother » Moore (1898-1996)
Audley Moore became an ancestor on May 2 at the age of 98 in 1996. She was given the honorary title of `Queen Mother’ by an Ashanti tribe in Ghana. Mother Moore lived a long and active life, dedicated to public service and improvement of the lives of African-Americans. Born on July 28, 1898 in New Iberia, LA, to second generation freed blacks, she became a revered public figure in Harlem, best known as an advocate for Africa and African-Americans. Moore’s ideas and teachings of Pan-African Nationalism was influenced by great political personalities such as W.E.B. DuBois and Marcus Garvey. As a civil rights activist, Mother Moore worked on the defense of the Scottsboro boys. Internationally, she spoke on her disapproval of the Italo-Ethiopian war. « I am not a part-time struggler,’ she once said. `I’m in the movement for the liberation of African people full-time, 7 days a week, 24 hours per day, for life. »
Her career was influenced by the violence and hatred she endured as a young child and young woman. While in the fourth grade, Moore’s parents died and thus ended her formal education. During World War I while in Alabama, Moore was a volunteer nurse who involved herself in the first of her movements for the equality of blacks by organizing support services for black soldiers that were denied by the Red Cross. Mother Moore was drawn to the idea of black nationalism and economic independence by the oratory of Marcus Garvey, founder of the Harlem-based Universal Negro Improvement Association. She became an active member of the organization, and founded the Harriet Tubman Association to better the conditions of black women. Through this organization, Moore advocated issues such as higher wages, better education, and the lowering of food prices to help improve the conditions of the poor. Following her brief membership in the Communist party–at the time, the only organization that accepted her radical ideas–she focused her attention on seeking economic reparations for descendants of the victims of slavery, cultural identity, and education. She launched a national campaign in support of economic reparations. Moore believed that economic reparations were the first constructive step in black nationalists ideology. As an orator, her rhetoric on this issue was powerful: « Ever since 1950, I’ve been on the trail fighting for reparations. They owe us more than they could ever pay. They stole our language; they stole us from our mothers and fathers and took our names from us. They worked us free of charge 18 hours a day, 7 days a week, under the lash for centuries. We lost over 100 million lives in the traffic of slavery. »
In 1962, Mother Moore met with President John F. Kennedy, the United Nations, and the Congressional Black Caucus about the issue of economic reparations. She later organized and directed the Reparations Committee of Descendants of United States Slaves. One of her last public appearances was at the Million Man March in Washington, DC. Although weak, her poignant speech was delivered by an associate. Queen Mother Moore died in a Brooklyn nursing home from natural causes at age 98.

Medgar Evers (1925-1963)

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54 years ago, on June 12, 1963, Medgar Evers was was shot to death by white supremacist Byron De La Beckwith outside of his home in Jackson, Mississippi. In 1952, Evers joined the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). As a field worker for the NAACP, Evers traveled through his home state encouraging poor African Americans to register to vote and recruiting them into the civil rights movement.Due to his high-profile position with the NAACP, Evers became a target for those who opposed racial equality and desegregation. He and his family were subjected to numerous threats and violent actions over the years, including a firebombing of their house in May 1963. After a funeral in Jackson, he was buried with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia. In 1964, the first trial of chief suspect Byron De La Beckwith ended with a deadlock by an all-white jury, sparking numerous protests. When a second all-white jury also failed to reach a decision, De La Beckwith was set free. Three decades later, the state of Mississippi reopened the case under pressure from civil rights leaders and Evers’ family. In February 1994, a racially mixed jury in Jackson found Beckwith guilty of murder. The unrepentant white supremacist, aged 73, was sentenced to life imprisonment. Beckwith died in 2001.

 

Akasease Kofi Boakye Yiadom, current age 106, Ghana

Akasease Kofi Boakye Yiadom, current age 106, Ghana
The World War II veteran graduated in 2009 from university, where he had enrolled three years aged 96. A former teacher, Boakye Yiadom in an interview on graduation said education had no end, “as far as your brain can work alright, you eyes can see alright, and your ears can hear alright…”
He is widely read and quoted in several books and studies, with most of his written and cited work focusing on his experiences as a teacher, both in colonial and independent Ghana.

 

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Biddy Mason (1818-1891)

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Bridget “Biddy” Mason, born a slave in Mississippi in 1818, achieved financial success that enabled her to support her extended family for generations despite the fact that she was illiterate. In a landmark case she sued her master for their freedom, saved her earnings, invested in real estate, and became a well-known philanthropist in Los Angeles, California. Although born in Mississippi, Mason was owned by slaveholders in Georgia and South Carolina before she was returned to Mississippi. Her last owner, Robert Marion Smith, a Mississippi Mormon convert, followed the call of church leaders to settle in the West. Mason and her children joined other slaves on Smith’s religious pilgrimage to establish a new Mormon community in Utah. In 1848 30-year-old Mason walked 1,700 miles behind a 300-wagon caravan that eventually arrived in the Holladay-Cottonwood area of the Salt Lake Valley. Along the route west Mason’s responsibilities included setting up and breaking camp, cooking the meals, herding the cattle, and serving as a midwife as well as taking care of her three young daughters aged ten, four, and an infant. In 1851 Smith and his family and slaves set out in a 150-wagon caravan for San Bernardino, California to establish yet another Mormon community. Ignoring Brigham Young’s warning that slavery was illegal in California, Smith brought Mason and other enslaved people to the new community. Along the trek Mason met Charles H. and Elizabeth Flake Rowan, free blacks, who urged her to legally contest her slave status once she reached California, a free state. Mason received additional encouragement by free black friends whom she met in California, Robert and Minnie Owens. In December 1855 Robert Smith, fearing losing his slaves, decided to move with them to Texas, a slave state. The Owens family had a vested interest in the Mason family as one of their sons was romantically involved with Mason’s 17-year-old daughter. When Robert Owens told the Los Angeles County Sheriff that slaves were being illegally held, he gathered a posse which including Owens and his sons, other cowboys and vaqueros from the Owens ranch. The posse apprehended Smith’s wagon train in Cajon Pass, California en route to Texas and prevented him from leaving the state. After spending five years enslaved in a “free” state Bridget Mason challenged Robert Smith for her freedom. On January 19, 1856 she petitioned the court for freedom for herself and her extended family of 13 women and children. Los Angeles District Judge Benjamin Hayes took three days before handing down his ruling in favor Mason and her extended family, citing California’s 1850 constitution which prohibited slavery.Mason and her family moved to Los Angeles where her daughter married the son of Robert and Minnie Owens. Mason worked as midwife and nurse, saved her money and purchased land in the heart of what is now downtown Los Angeles. Mason also organized First A.M.E. Church, the oldest African American church in the city. She educated her children and with her wealth became a philanthropist to the entire Los Angeles community. Bridget “Biddy” Mason died in Los Angeles in 1891.

Sylvester Magee (May 29, 1841 – Oct. 17, 1971)

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Sylvester Magee (May 29, 1841 – Oct. 17, 1971) was 130 years when he died. He was considered to be the last person to survive American slavery and the last living Civil War veteran. For more than 40 years Magee didn’t have a head stone until Feb. 2014, when several people unveiled one in his honor in the small grave yard of Pleasant Valley Methodist Church located in Foxworth, Mississippi.