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Henry Lewis:  The First African American Conductor Of A Major Symphony Orchestra

Black History:  Special Delivery!!

henry lewis
Henry Lewis (1932 – 1996)

Henry Lewis (1932 – 1963) was born in Los Angeles, California.  His father worked as a car dealer and his mother was a nurse.  He began taking piano lessons at age 5.  Lewis would also learn to play a number of stringed instruments including the clarinet.  His talent in playing the double base earned him a scholarship to UCLA.  When he was 16 years old, he joined the Los Angeles Philharmonic.  This made Lewis the first black instrumentalist in a major symphony orchestra.  He later joined the military.  During his military service, he conducted the Seventh Army Symphony based in Germany from 1955 – 1956.

In 1961 he accepted the role of assistant conductor for the Los Angeles Philharmonic under the leadership of Zubin Mehta.  He served in this role until 1965.  Lewis then relocated to New Jersey in 1968 and became music director and conductor of the New Jersey Symphony. He was the first African American conduct to hold these roles for a major symphony orchestra.    At the time he took over it was small,  community ensemble.  Under his leadership, the group gained national renown as an orchestra, had a schedule of 100+ concerts per year with a budget exceeding $1 million dollars annually.  In 1972 he was also the first African American to conduct the Metropolitan Opera.  Lewis was married to famous white opera singer Marilyn Horne from 1960-1979.  The couple had one daughter, Angela in 1965.  They divorced in 1974.

Lewis retired from the New Jersey Symphony in 1976 but continued to tour extensively as a guest conductor for almost 20 years until his death.  He was a widely acclaimed musician and conductor; a true trailblazer.  At age 63, he died of a heart attack in 1996.

Sources:

https://aaregistry.org/story/henry-lewis-first-black-conductor-of-a-major-symphony-orchestra/

https://blackthen.com/henry-lewis-conductor-broke-racial-barriers-u-s-orchestras/

https://www.blackpast.org/african-american-history/lewis-henry-jay-1932-1996/

Just What The Doctor Ordered:  Black Men In White Coats

Black History:  Special Delivery!!

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Dr. Dale Okorodudu is committed to connecting with black male youth and encouraging them to consider careers in the medical field.  Currently, only Black Men In White Coats was established in 2013 by Okorodudu after he learned the number of black men entering the medical field was decreasing.  In 2011 there were even less black males entering the medical field than in 1978. His mission for the organization “is to inspire the next generation of physician leaders and to diversify the field of medicine with a special emphasis on Black males.”.  The event is open to all genders.  Currently, on 6% of physicians in the U.S. are black.  The 2019 event was held at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center.  Several other medical schools from around the country also participated including, University of North Carolina, Duke University, University of Colorado and UCLA.

Students, parents, teachers, medical professionals, and community leaders participated in the event.  The event welcomes students who are in the 3rd – 12th grades. Students are able to connect with mentors and other supports that can aid them in pursuing education and career options in the medical field; while parents are also given resources and guidance to understand how to support their child in pursuing a career in the medical field.  For more info on the organization, visit their website: http://www.blackmeninwhitecoats.org/

Check out the video from the 2019 event:  https://youtu.be/JsRlwGS2GqM

Sources:

https://www.becauseofthemwecan.com/blogs/culture/black-men-in-white-coats-is-on-a-mission-to-show-black-boys-that-they-can-be-doctors-too?fbclid=IwAR0i7sJlx7QewrQqCuWP1zy9lr5FAjRWLEhspjZ0FhfysCiZ8h3v9Ab7aCA

http://www.blackmeninwhitecoats.org/summit/

The National Ex-Slave Mutual Relief, Bounty, and Pension Association Of The United States

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Following the end of slavery in the U.S., many formerly enslaved people felt betrayed by the government because they received no financial or material assistance as they exited slavery.  The National Ex-Slave Mutual Relief, Bounty, and Pension of the United States was chartered in 1898 to advocate for the payment of pensions to the formerly enslaved.  The pensions were to serve as reparations for the economic robbery of slavery and, would also help with burial costs.  Formerly enslaved woman, Callie House became a nationally recognized leader of the organization.  The group claimed to have a membership in the hundreds of thousands who made financial donations to fund the organization. It unsuccessfully sued the government for access to money gained through a tax on cotton confiscated during the civil war. Continue reading “The National Ex-Slave Mutual Relief, Bounty, and Pension Association Of The United States”

Trachette Jackson:  Black Mathematician Making An Impact In Cancer Research

Black History:  Special Delivery!!

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Dr. Trachette Jackson

Dr. Trachette Jackson (1972 – ) is a professor and mathematician.  Jackson has focused her mathematical research in the area of cancer oncology.  She and her research team,  are exploring how mathematical modeling can be used to gain a broader understanding of cancerous tumor growth and how it is initiated.  Her research has gained international attention. Jackson received her bachelor’s degree in mathematics in 1994 from Arizona State University and earned her masters and Ph.D. from the University of Washington in 1996 and 1998.  Her Ph.D. thesis focused on mathematical models and their connection to chemotherapy treatment for cancer patients. Continue reading “Trachette Jackson:  Black Mathematician Making An Impact In Cancer Research”

Dr. Alfreda Johnson Webb: First African American Woman in the U.S. To Receive A Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine

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Dr. Alfreda Johnson-Webb (1923 – 1992)

Alfreda Johnson Webb (1923-1992) was born in Mobile, Alabama.  She earned a bachelors of science degree from Tuskegee Institute (now University).  Webb also obtained a masters degree in anatomy from Michigan State University.  She then attended Tuskegee’s Institute’s College of Veterinary Medicine in 1949.  Webb was the first African American woman to graduate from a school of veterinary medicine.  She was also the first African American woman licensed to practice veterinary medicine in the U.S. Continue reading “Dr. Alfreda Johnson Webb: First African American Woman in the U.S. To Receive A Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine”

The Cuban Giants:  First African American Professional Baseball Club In The U.S.

Black History:  Special Delivery!!

Cuban Giants
Cuban Giants – The First African American Baseball Club In The U.S

 

Formed in 1885, the Cuban Giants were the first African American professional baseball club in the United States.  The team was formed at the Argyle Hotel in Babylon, New York by Frank P. Thompson, a waiter at the hotel.   It was comprised of African American players.  Sources differ on whether hotel staff comprised the team or whether it was a mix of players from the hotel and other cities.    The team was initially assembled to provide entertainment to hotel guests.  The Cuban Giants were highly successful defeating most of its opponents including white teams. Continue reading “The Cuban Giants:  First African American Professional Baseball Club In The U.S.”

Arnold Donald:  Making Waves As CEO Of Carnival Cruise Lines

Black History: Special Delivery!!

Arnold Donald
Arnold Donald (1954 – )

Arnold Donald (1954 – ) has served as the CEO of Carnival Cruise Lines since 2013. Three times per day, his high school would play a message: “Gentlemen prepare yourselves. You’re going to run the world”. Clearly, Donald is doing just that as he leads the largest leisure cruise line in the world. Born in New Orleans, Louisiana, his mother was a homemaker and his father was a carpenter. His mother and father greatly valued education made sure that Donald and his siblings excelled at academic achievement. In addition to Donald and his 4 siblings, his parents were also foster parents, taking in more than 25 foster children.

Continue reading “Arnold Donald:  Making Waves As CEO Of Carnival Cruise Lines”

Kenyan Engineer Roy Allela Creates Gloves That Translate Sign Language To Audible Speech

Black History:  Special Delivery!!

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Roy Allela

Kenyan inventor and engineer Roy Allela is developing technology that allows sign language to be translated into audible speech.  Inspired to explore ways to improve communication with a niece who is deaf motivated Allela to explore how technology might be able to bridge the gap.  Neither Allela or other family members know sign language.   The “Sign-IO” gloves use Bluetooth technology to translate signals from sensors on the glove when a person is making sign language gestures.  Continue reading “Kenyan Engineer Roy Allela Creates Gloves That Translate Sign Language To Audible Speech”

The Black Mozart:  Joseph Bologne, Recognized As One Of The First Classical Composers of African Descent.     

Black History:  Special Delivery!!

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Joseph Bologne (1745 – 1799) 

Joseph Bologne (1745 – 1799) was known as “The Black Mozart”.  A violinist and classical music composer,  Bologne is recognized as one of the first classical composers of African descent.  He also played the harpsichord. Bologne was the son of a wealthy French planter and an enslaved African woman on a Caribbean plantation in Guadelupe.  He was sent to Paris as a teen to be educated and graduated from Académie royale polytechnique des armes et de ‘l’équitation (fencing and horsemanship).  He later became an officer in the king’s bodyguard where he was given the title “Chevalier de Saint-Georges”.  Continue reading “The Black Mozart:  Joseph Bologne, Recognized As One Of The First Classical Composers of African Descent.     “

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