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Amazing Grace:  The History Behind The Hymn 

Black History:  Special Delivery!!

 

“Amazing Grace” is one of the most well known and beloved hymns of all time.  The song has appeared on over 11,000 albums. It has been recorded by many different music artists including Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles, Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, and Elvis.  The hymn is loved by the black church as well.  The hymn was penned by former slave trader, John Newton (1725-1807).  Newton was born in London. His mother died just before his 7th birthday.  His father was a sea captain. At the age of 11, he joined his father at sea.  As he got older, Newton began drinking al leading a reckless lifestyle. He was later forced to join the British Navy.  While serving, he tried to desert and he received 96 lashes and was demoted.  Newton would go on to work as a crew member and captain on ships that transported enslaved Africans from Africa to the Americas.

While working on the slave ship, “Pegasus” he did not get along with the crew. As a result they left him in African with a slave trader, Amos Crowe. Clowe enslaved Newton and gave him to his African wife, Princess Peye.  She treated him very cruelly just as she did her other slaves. Newton’s father hired a sea captain to rescue him and bring him back to London. He returned home on the ship, “Greyhound” During the voyage home, the ship encountered a terrible storm. The ship began to fill with water near the hull and nearly sank. Newton began to pray and cargo on the ship miraculously shifted and covered the whole, stopping the water from filling the ship.  The Greyhound was then able to make it safely to shore. Newton believed that God had protected him and converted to Christianity. His new-found conversion did not immediately result in a complete change in his lifestyle. He continued his work in the slave trade, making three more voyages to bring enslaved Africans to England.  

In 1750 Newton married Mary Catlett. The couple did not have children but did adopt Newton’s two nieces.  In 1754, he retired from life at sea after suffering a stroke. However, he still continued to invest money into the slave trade.  Newton was ordained as a minister in the Anglican Church in 1764. During this time he wrote ovver 200 hymns which he used during his weekly sermons.  He penned the words for Amazing Grace in 1772. Not until 1835 would William Walker set the hymn to music in the tune that is currently used today.  

It would be 34 years from the time he left the slave trade until he actually renounced slavery through a pamphlet he published, “Thoughts Upon The Slave Trade”  The pamphlet shared the inhumane conditions and treatment that the enslaved faced.  In the document, Newton also apologized for waiting so long to denounce slavery. Of his actions, he reflected: “It will always be a subject of humiliating reflection to me, that I was once an active instrument in a business at which my heart now shudders.”  His publication was widely read and had to be reprinted several times due to demand.  At the time, Newton was also friends with English abolitionist William Wilberforce. In 1807, the Slave Trade Act was passed ending slavery in England.  

He died on December 21, 1807 

In 1982, Newton was inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame.

Sources:  

https://www.biography.com/news/amazing-grace-story-john-newton

https://www.sunsigns.org/famousbirthdays/d/profile/john-newton/

http://www.reformedreader.org/rbb/newton/amazingrace.htm

 

The Deleted Passage Of The Declaration of Independence That Denounced Slavery

Black History:  Special Delivery!!

 

declaration of independence

In drafting the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson challenged the inhumanity of slavery.  However, Jefferson enslaved over 600 people throughout his lifetime.  Out of the 600 people he enslaved, he only freed seven.  Jefferson believed that the enslaved were incapable of caring for themselves and therefore should not be freed. He felt that freeing the enslaved would be harmful to them. Continue reading “The Deleted Passage Of The Declaration of Independence That Denounced Slavery”

Before Telephones, Text Messaging Or Instant Messaging, There Was The Talking Drum

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Talking Drum

Before there were telephones, Morse Code, emails, text messaging, or even instant messaging there was the “Talking Drum”. The talking drum is an instrument that mimics the rhythm and tone of human speech. Dating back to between the 7th and 13th centuries, it is believed that the talking drum may have originated from three possible sources: Ghana Empire, the Hausa people, and/or the Yoruba people. Talking drums have many different names depending on their origin including, Dondo, Tamanin, Lunna and Dundon; to name a few. Each African tribe had its own rhythmic patterns and sounds when playing the instrument; creating their own musical “dialect”. The talking drum was used as a form of communication; being that it was often faster and easier to communicate with other groups via drumming rather than delivering in-person messages. The talking drum was often played during ceremonies and as a form of entertainment. It should be noted that talking drums are not limited to African and have also been found in Asia as well.

Continue reading “Before Telephones, Text Messaging Or Instant Messaging, There Was The Talking Drum”

Harriet Tubman’s 1854 Christmas Eve Rescue

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Christmas Eve 1854 – Harriet Tubman returned to her Maryland home to free her brothers Ben and Henry. Her coded message: “Tell my brothers to be always watching unto prayer and when the good old ship of Zion comes along, to be ready to step on board.” This was the second time that she attempted to help them escape. The first time was 1849 when she escaped. Ben and Henry became scared and turned back.

Traveling more than 100 miles, they arrived at William Still’s Anti-Slavery office in Philadelphia on Dec. 29, 1854.

Sources:

http://www.harriet-tubman.org/escape/

http://www.harriettubmanbiography.com/harriet-tubman-s-flight-to-freedom.html

Racist History Of The National Anthem

Black History: Special Delivery!!

Time to educate ourselves on the racist history of the national anthem. The Star Spangled Banner was written by Francis Scott Key. He wrote the song shortly after being in a battle with the British Colonial Marines. The Colonial Marines were a group of enslaved black soldiers who were promised their freedom in exchange for being in the British Army. Key was apparently a little salty about the encounter even though his troops won. Key was pro slavery and thus, probably was none to happy about engaging in combat with blacks whom he thought were inferior.

Sources:

https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.nbcnews.com/news/nbcblk/amp/oped-colin-kaepernick-racist-history-our-national-anthem-n642636

http://www.theroot.com/star-spangled-bigotry-the-hidden-racist-history-of-the-1790855893

Oh No He Didn’t: Ben Carson Calls Enslaved Africans “Immigrants”

Black History:  Special Delivery!!

 

Dr. Ben Carson, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) under the Trump Administration described enslaved Africans who came to the U.S. in slave ships as “immigrants” who had a dream….. He made these comments during a speech to HUD employees.  No disrespect to those  who willingly came here as immigrants, but enslaved Africans came here in chains and were forced to work for free.  There is no logical way that Dr. Carson could or should refer to them as “immigrants”.  Check out the video clip and see it for yourself!.  Video clip is from USA Today.

 

Sources:

http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/onpolitics/2017/03/06/ben-carson-calls-slaves-immigrants/98816752/

http://thehill.com/homenews/322545-carson-refers-to-slaves-as-immigrants-in-talk-to-hud-employees

Cookman Institute: Pioneering Institution That Proceeded Historically Black Colleges & Universities

Black History:  Special Delivery!!

cookman-institute
Cookman Institute – Founded in 1872

Launched on February 26, 1872, Cookman Institute was an early forerunner of the historically black colleges and universities. Rev. S.B. Darnell founded Cookman Institute in Jacksonville, FL. It was named after Rev. Alfred Cookman who was a Methodist Minister.  Rev. Cookman donated funds toward construction of the new building.  Cookman Institute was closely affiliated with Clark University.  It was the first the educational institution for African Americans in Florida and remained so for quite some time.  In operation for close to 50 years, Cookman Institute touched the lives of thousands of students.  Many of Cookman’s first students were ex-slaves. Continue reading “Cookman Institute: Pioneering Institution That Proceeded Historically Black Colleges & Universities”

David Walker: Abolitionist And Pioneer of Black Nationalism & Black Power

Black History:  Special Delivery!!

 

david-walker-2
David Walker

 

David Walker (1785-1830), was the son of an enslaved father and a free black mother. Because his mother was free, Walker was also considered a free citizen. His freedom, however, did not shield him from witnessing firsthand the injustices of slavery. On one occasion, Walker witnessed an enslaved boy who was forced to whip his mother until she died. This experience and others throughout his life rallied him to become an activist and an abolitionist. As an adult, Walker settled in Boston, MA. Though Boston was a free city in the North, discrimination was still very prevalent there. Walker opened a clothing store in Boston in the 1820’s. He also began to associate with other black activists and abolitionists and became a writer for the first African American Newspaper in the U.S. “Freedom’s Journal”. Walker was also involved with the Underground Railroad providing clothing to those trying to escape slavery.

His pamphlet, “Appeal to the Colored Citizens of the World” was published in 1829. His target audience were those enslaved in the south. Continue reading “David Walker: Abolitionist And Pioneer of Black Nationalism & Black Power”

An Untold Story: Slavery In Canada

Black History: Special Delivery!!

 canada

We are often told about the history of slavery in the United States. However, Canada also participated in the slave trade.  In comparison to the U.S., the number of people estimated to be enslaved in Canada was much lower.  Still those enslaved in Canada experienced the same mistreatment and abuse.  We often hear narratives of enslaved people escaping to freedom in Canada.  However there were also groups of slaves in Canada who escaped to freedom in the United States by crossing the border into to Detroit, MI.  The stories of those enslaved in Canada has often gone untold or been ignored.  Slavery was legal in Canada for 200 years.  Continue reading “An Untold Story: Slavery In Canada”

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