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”→
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”→
Smith v. Allwright began in U.S. Federal court in 1940. The case was filed by Dr. Lonnie Smith (1901 – 1971) in Houston, Texas, an African American dentist and civil rights activist. Smith was also an officer in the Houston branch of the NAACP. The legal challenges centered around the practice of excluding blacks from voting in primary elections. At the time, the Democratic Party was the dominant political party in most Southern states. Many Southern white democrats favored segregation and other laws to subjugate black people and prevent them from voting. One such tool that they employed to prevent black people from voting was to declare the Democratic primary elections to be closed to blacks.
Anita Scott Coleman (1890-1960) was a significant contributor to the Harlem Renaissance. The Harlem Renaissance (1918-1937) represented a time of social, political and artistic innovation among African Americans. At the time, it was referred to as the “New Negro Experience”. Though many of the celebrated artists and artisans of the movement lived in the Harlem area; its impact was both national and international in scope and impact. Continue reading “Anita Scott Coleman: Harlem Renaissance Author & Poet”→
Founded in April 1960 the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) was organized by African American college students to give younger blacks a stronger voice in the civil rights movement. Activist Ella Baker, who was a director with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) was credited with organizing students to launch SNCC. Baker was concerned that SCLC, led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was not in sync with younger blacks who sought faster progress in the civil rights movement. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and others hoped that SNCC would serve as the youth arm of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). However, SNCC chose to remain independent of SCLC throughout its existence. Continue reading “2020 Marks 60th Anniversary Of Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC)”→
The African Insurance Company was launched in 1850, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Joseph Randolph served as its first president. The establishment of an insurance company by African Americans was a natural progression from mutual aid societies that had emerged just after the American Revolution. It was modeled after the Free African Society which was established in 1787. The African Insurance Company sought to address the needs of Philadelphia’s growing population of African American residents.
The company was in business for just three years, closing in 1813. It struggled in building its customer base. Despite its short existence, The African Insurance Company was seen as a role model for black insurance companies founded after the Civil War.
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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.