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We close out Black History Month with a quote from the Father of Black History Month, Dr. Carter G. Woodson.
“We have a wonderful history behind us…and it is going to inspire us to greater achievements.”
-Dr. Carter G. Woodson
Dr. Woodson is so right! Our history is rich and wonderful, and it will propel present and future generations to higher heights and greater achievements. Thank you for rocking with Black Mail for another month of Black History….Special Delivery!
But, y’all know one month can’t hold our history! We’ll be back!
Where we bring you Black History, Special Delivery.
Willie “Mae” Mallory (1927 – 2007) was the founder of and spokesperson for the Harlem Nine. The group of nine Black mothers sued the New York City Board of Education for the poor conditions of Black schools. Mallory took action after her children, Patricia and Keefer, Jr., informed her of the deplorable conditions in their segregated school, P.S. 10, in Harlem. She joined the Parent’s Committee For Better Education, becoming a dedicated and vocal advocate for Black children to have safe environments and high-quality education.
Founded in 1956, the Harlem Nine demanded improved conditions and school integration. The group encountered many obstacles in bringing the lawsuit. Several unsuccessful attempts were made to jail the mothers during the case. The Harlem Nine received support in their efforts from the local NAACP and civil rights activist Ella Baker, and political activist and clergyman Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. Remember that the 1954 Brown vs. Board of Education Supreme Court decision which called for school desegregation, had been passed three years before this case. During this time, a group of high school students known as the “Little Rock Nine” attempted to integrate Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas as well. Both of these desegregation efforts took place in the south. The Harlem Nine case took place in the north, thus highlighting that school segregation was still occurring even in the supposedly more liberal north.
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In 1803 one of the largest mass suicides of enslaved persons occurred on St. Simons Island in Glynn County, Georgia. Hailing from what is now Nigeria, enslaved Igbo captives were transported to the Georgia coast on the “Wanderer” slave ship. The average cost paid for each of the enslaved by slave merchants, John Couper and Thomas Spalding was approximately $100. The enslaved were to be resold to plantations on St. Simons Island.
During their transport to St. Simons Island, approximately 75 of the enslaved Igbo, launched a rebellion and took control of the ship that was transporting them. They drowned their captors which resulted in the grounding of the ship in Dunbar Creek. The order of events that took place following the ship running aground is uncertain. What is known, is that the enslaved Igbo, came ashore, singing, led by their high chief. At the chief’s command, the group of Igbo, walked into Dunbar Creek, committing mass suicide. A written account of the mass suicide was documented by Roswell King, a white overseer from the Pierce Butler Plantation. King, along with another man, recovered a large number of the drowned bodies. It appears that only a portion of the Igbo actually drowned. In total, only 13 bodies were recovered from Dunbar Creek; while others remained missing. It is believed that some may have actually survived; making the total number of deaths unclear.
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Our topic today is the 1962 Second Emancipation Proclamation.
In 1962 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and other civil rights leaders urged President Kennedy to issue a Second Emancipation Proclamation Order. The first Emancipation Proclamation was issued on January 1, 1863, to free the enslaved. This second proclamation was being prompted as a call to action for ending racial segregation.
King announced the idea in a New York City press conference in 1961. At the press conference, King reminded the crowd of President Lincoln’s statement that the United States could not exist being “half-slave and half-free.” Bringing the issue forward to the present-day, King asserted that the Kennedy administration should recognize that the nation cannot continue being half segregated. and half segregation free.
Inequities and disparities are toxins planted with intention and inattention into the souls, soil, and systems within our communities. Our ‘strategies of choice’ in addressing inequities and disparities too often prioritize the comfort of the oppressor over and above the liberation of the oppressed.
Detroit, MI is known for being an important stop on the Underground Railroad. You may not know that people were also enslaved in Detroit and surrounding areas prior to Michigan obtaining statehood. Many roads, schools, and other institutions in the Detroit area are named after wealthy slave-owning families. If you live in or near Detroit, you will recognize these names, Macomb, Campau, Beaubien, McDougall, Brush, Cass, Hamtramck, Dequindre, Groesbeck Livernois, Rivard, and many others. From its founding in 1750, slavery existed during Detroit’s existence as a French, British, and then American settlement. The Burton Collection of the Detroit Public Library has an original ledger book of William Macomb. The ledger lists his property and includes over 20 enslaved individuals. The first mayor of Detroit, John R. Williams, who has two streets in Detroit that bear his name, also owned slaves along with priests of the Catholic Church in Detroit. The men who financed the Detroit Free Press were also former slave owners. The Free Press used its platform to support slavery prior to the Civil War.
People of African and Native/Indigenous descent were both enslaved in Detroit. Enslavement of native peoples occurred first. Slavery played an integral role in the relationship between European settlers and Native tribes. The Native system of enslavement involved taking captives to settle conflicts or build alliances. This would occur by women and children of rival factions being exchanged or given to confirm an alliance or settle a dispute. When the French arrived, they also adopted this practice to establish trade alliances with Native peoples as well. Native women were victims of labor trafficking and sexual violence. The enslaved were used as pawns to help bolster trading alliances between European settlers and Native tribes. Slavery continued to exist in the Northwest Territory (which included Michigan) even though it was abolished in 1787. Slave owners used loopholes or flat-out ignored the law to maintain their ownership of the enslaved.
Robert Robinson Taylor (1858 – 1942) is recognized as the first academically trained Black architect in the U.S. Taylor grew up in North Carolina, where he worked for his father (Henry Taylor) as a carpenter and foreman. Henry Taylor was a successful builder. Robert Taylor’s mother was Emilie Taylor. Both Henry Taylor and Emilie Taylor were reported to be of mixed race.
Robert Taylor graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). The final project he completed for his bachelor’s degree in Architecture was “Design for a Soldier’s Home.” The project examined suggested a design to provide housing for aging civil war veterans. He graduated from MIT in 1892 at the top of his class with a bachelor of science degree in architecture. Taylor was the first black person to graduate from MIT with an architectural degree.
Esteban Hotesse (1919 – 1946) is the only known Latinx member of the Tuskegee Airmen. The Tuskegee Airmen was a black military unit that saw combat during World War II. Hotesse was born in Moca, Dominican Republic and immigrated to the U.S. with his mother and younger sister in 1923. The family settled in Manhattan. Hotesse enlisted into the Army Air Corp in 1942. He was first assigned to the 619th Bombadier Squadron, which later merged with the 477th Bomdadier Group M in 1944. The 477th was one of the Tuskegee Airmen squadrons that remained stationed in the U.S. and did not see combat overseas. The 477th did, however have to combat racism and discrimination on U.S. soil. The 477th and 619th merged after the military leaders began receiving pressure to provide more opportunities for black soldiers to fill key positions in the air corp.
McKissack & McKissack is the oldest black-owned architecture, construction, and engineering company in the U.S. The company was started in 1905 by brothers Moses McKissack III (l879-1952) and Calvin Lunsford McKissack (1890-1968). Their knowledge of the construction trade was passed down from their father (Gabriel Moses II) and enslaved grandfather (Moses McKissack I). Calvin and Moses III were educated at Pulaski Colored High School and attended Fisk University, a historically black college. They started the company in Pulaski, TN, and then relocated the business to Nashville, TN.
State requirements for architects changed in 1922, requiring all architects to be licensed and registered. The McKissack brothers took correspondence courses and obtained architectural degrees to meet the licensing requirements. When the brothers passed the state licensing exam in 1922, they were some of the state’s first registered architects. Some of their most well known projects were several public schools in the 1930’s and the Tennessee State University Library in 1927. McKissack & McKissack architects was awarded its largest contract in 1942, a $5-$7 million contract with the U.S. government to design and build Tuskegee Army Airfield. The airfield was the training site for the Tuskegee Airmen. The firm attend greater notoriety as a result of this project and by 1945 were licensed to work in Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, Florida, and Mississippi.