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Black History: Special Delivery!!

The Life and Legacy of Thurgood Marshall:  First African American U.S. Supreme Court Justice

Black History: Special Delivery!!

Thurgood Marshall
Thurgood Marshall (1908-1993)

Many are aware that Thurgood Marshall (1908 – 1993) made history when he was appointed as the first African American justice on the U.S. Supreme Court. Marshall was an accomplished litigator and civil rights trailblazer even before his appointment to the Supreme Court. Out of 32 cases litigated before the Supreme Court, he won 29! His wins include several landmark decisions including, Brown v. Board of Education which resulted in the desegregation of public schools and Smith vs. Allwright which won a key victory in eliminating voting rights discrimination for African-Americans. Marshall was also a vocal advocate against police brutality and women’s rights. He was also against the death penalty.

Marshall was named “Thoroughgood” at birth. He shortened his name to “Thurgood” in the second grade to make it easier for himself to write out. Marshall graduated as one of the top 3 students in his class at Frederick Douglass High School in Maryland. He wanted to attend the University of Maryland but did not apply knowing he would be refused admission due to his race. He then enrolled in Lincoln University, a historically black college (HBCU) and graduated in 1930. While at Lincoln, he was suspended for hazing and pranking students. His initial plan was to pursue a degree in dentistry. Marshall married, Vivien Burey while at Lincoln. He would go on to graduate from Lincoln with honors, earning a degree in literature and philosophy. He then attended Howard University’s law school and graduated in 1933 as the class valedictorian.

Marshall developed his interest in law practice because his father would take him to observe court proceedings. They would then engage in a detailed discussion regarding the cases. His father would relentlessly challenge Marshall on his views on cases. Marshall credits his father with his eventual pursuit of law as a profession. Marshall’s mother initially did not want him to go into law as a career. She feared that as a black attorney he would not be able to make a living which is why she encouraged him to go into dentistry instead. She later came around and pawned her wedding and engagement rings to pay his law school entrance fees.

Continue reading “The Life and Legacy of Thurgood Marshall:  First African American U.S. Supreme Court Justice”

Harry S. McAlpin:  First African-American Journalist To Receive White House Press Credentials

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Henry S McAlpin
Harry S. McAlpin (1906 – 1985)

African-American journalist, Harry S. McAlpin (1906-1985) became the first African American journalist to receive White House press credentials.  In 1944, he attended his first White House press conference with President Franklin Roosevelt. McAlpin was formerly a war correspondent and news reporter for the National Negro Press Association and the Atlanta Daily World.   An Airforce veteran, McAlpin was also a war correspondent during World War I.   Continue reading “Harry S. McAlpin:  First African-American Journalist To Receive White House Press Credentials”

Dunbar Hospital:  Detroit’s First Hospital for African-Americans

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Dunbar Hospital Staff – 1922

Dunbar Hospital in Detroit, MI, was founded in 1918. Healthcare for Detroit’s African Americans was severely inferior to care available for white patients. At this time more than 30,000 African-Americans lived in Detroit. The city was very segregated. Black physicians could not join the staff of Detroit’s White hospitals and patients were denied care at the city’s White hospitals. Thus, 30 Black doctors, members of the Allied Medical Society (now the Detroit Medical Society), incorporated Dunbar Hospital, the city’s first nonprofit community hospital for the African-American population.

Continue reading “Dunbar Hospital:  Detroit’s First Hospital for African-Americans”

Amazing Grace:  The History Behind The Hymn 

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“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

 

Octavia Butler Quote

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Octavia Butler (1947-2006)

Drowning people sometimes die fighting their rescuers.
-Octavia Butler

The Deleted Passage Of The Declaration of Independence That Denounced Slavery

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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”

John Baxter Taylor:  1st African American To Win An Olympic Gold Medal

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john baxter taylor
John Baxter Taylor (1882-1908)

 John Baxter Taylor (1882 – 1908) was the first African American to win an Olympic Gold Medal.   Taylor was born in Washington, DC. During his childhood, the family relocated to Philadelphia where he attended Central High School and joined the track team there. He was the team’s only African American member.  After graduating from high school in 1902, Taylor enrolled in Brown Preparatory School where he became the star runner on the track team. One year later, he enrolled in Wharton School of Finance at the University of Pennsylvania.  Continue reading “John Baxter Taylor:  1st African American To Win An Olympic Gold Medal”

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Cesar Chavez:  Champions For Justice

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cesar chavez

1966 Telegram from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr to Cesar Chavez

Both Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Cesar Chavez became nationally recognized during the 1950s.  King gained acclaim through his involvement with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) and the support of the Montgomery Bus Boycott.  Chavez gained notoriety for his involvement with organized labor.  He moved up within the Community Service Organization (CSO) and eventually became its national director.  The fight to win union rights for Mexican American farmworkers won the attention and admiration of King.  Chavez later left the organization when he saw the group did not have the resources and resolve to aid in organizing farmworkers in 1958. Continue reading “Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Cesar Chavez:  Champions For Justice”

Harriet Tubman’s Letter of Endorsement From Frederick Douglass

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fredrick-douglas-harriet-tubman
Harriet Tubman & Frederick Douglass

Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass are perhaps two of the most well-known African Americas of the Civil War time period.  The two shared mutual respect and admiration for one another.  Tubman and Douglass were both born enslaved.  Both lived on Maryland’s Eastern Shore and escaped slavery as young adults; Douglass in 1838 and Tubman in 1849.  After escaping enslavement both sat about, in their own way, to liberate other enslaved peoples. Continue reading “Harriet Tubman’s Letter of Endorsement From Frederick Douglass”

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