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

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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”

Honoring “La Majestad Negra”:  Sylvia del Villard, Afro-Puerto Rican Actress, Singer, Dancer,  Orator, And Activist

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Sylvia
Sylvia del Villard (1928-1990)

 

Sylvia Del Villard (1928 – 1990) was an Afro-Puerto Rican dancer, singer, choreographer, activist, and orator. She took great pride in her dark skin and Afro-Puerto Rican heritage. del Villard was hailed as a champion of Afro-Puerto Rican arts and culture.  Del Villard completed her elementary, junior high and high school education in Santurce, PR. Her mother Marcolina Guilbert, was Puerto Rican and her father, Agustin Villard was African. After completing high school, she received a scholarship from the Puerto Rican government to attend Fisk University in Tennessee, where she studied social work and anthropology.  After being subjected to racism and discrimination in the Southern U.S., she returned home and enrolled in the University of Puerto Rico and completed her studies there. Continue reading “Honoring “La Majestad Negra”:  Sylvia del Villard, Afro-Puerto Rican Actress, Singer, Dancer,  Orator, And Activist”

Dr. Willa B. Player: 1st Black Female College President Of A 4-Year Fully Accredited Liberal Arts College

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PlayerWilla
Dr. Willa B. Player (1917-2003)

Dr. Willa Beatrice Player (1917 – 2003) was an African American educator and civil rights, activist. She made history by becoming the first African American woman to lead a four year, fully accredited liberal arts college.  Player took the helm as president of Bennett College for Women from 1956-1966.

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Alexander Augusta:  1st Black Surgeon In The U.S. Army

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Alexander Augusta
Alexander Augusta (1825 – 1890)

Alexander Augusta (1825 – 1890) was born in Norfolk Virginia.  He began his medical studies under the supervision of private tutors.  He then applied for admission at the University of Pennsylvania but was denied.  Still, a Professor William Gibson, who was very impressed with Augusta began teaching him privately.  In 1847, Augusta married Native American woman, Mary O. Burgoin.  In 1856 he was admitted to the College Of The University of Toronto. He would eventually receive his Bachelors of Medicine degree from Trinity Medical College.

Augusta went on to establish a thriving private practice in Canada.  He was also hired as the head of Toronto City Hospital.  Just prior to the start of the Civil War,  he returned to the U.S. and enlisted in the U.S. Army.  He was the first of eight black officers to be commissioned during the Civil War and was the first black surgeon in the army.  He was commissioned as a major with the 7th U.S. Colored Troops. At that time, Augusta was the highest ranking black officer.  His high ranking angered some of the white medical personnel who reported to him.  Those individuals wrote President Lincoln and complained.  Lincoln then forced Augusta to take on a leadership role at Freedmen’s Hospital in Washington, D.C.  Augusta was the first African American to lead Freedman’s Hospital.   Continue reading “Alexander Augusta:  1st Black Surgeon In The U.S. Army”

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

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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”

Diane Nash – Unsung Hero Of The Civil Rights Movement

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diane-nash1

 

A native of Chicago, IL, Diane Nash (1938-) was one of the pioneering forces behind the Civil Rights movement. Nash and many other women  were champions of the movement.  She became active in the movement in 1959 as a new student at Fisk University in Nashville, TN.  While at Fisk she would encounter the harsh realities of segregation and prejudice that were previously unknown to her.  In 1959 she attended a workshop focused on non-violent protesting. She would quickly become a respected leader of Nashville’s “sit in” movement.  Her efforts were instrumental in organizing the first successful campaign to end segregation of lunch counters.  This effort engaged hundreds of black and white college students as volunteers.  She was also one of the founders of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC).  SNCC would play a major role in the civil rights movement by engaging young college students in civil rights activism.  These efforts were successful and in 1960, Nashville became first southern city to desegregate lunch counters.  Continue reading “Diane Nash – Unsung Hero Of The Civil Rights Movement”

Morehouse College: Celebrating 150th Anniversary

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morehouse-otm

Morehouse College is a private historically black college (HBCU) for men. Morehouse opened its doors in 1867 to educated black males who were formerly enslaved to become ministers and teachers. It opened approximately 2 years after the close of the Civil War. Its original name was Augustus Institute and it was located in Augustus Georgia. The Augustus Institute relocated to Atlanta in 1879 and became the Atlanta Baptist Seminary. Classes were first held in the basement of Friendship Baptist Church. The school moved to its current location in the 1880’s after John D. Rockefeller donated land to the college.

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Thomas Moorehead: The World’s 1st African American Rolls Royce Car Dealer

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Thomas Moorehead
Thomas Moorehead

 

Thomas Moorehead is the world’s first African-American Rolls Royce car dealer. Moorehead is 71 year old native of Monroe, Louisiana. Moorehead earned a bachelors degree in business administration from Grambling State University (an HBCU) in 1966. He earned a masters degree in social work from the University of Michigan.  Prior to his success as an auto dealer, Moorehead worked as an analyst for Mobile and Chrysler and also as a director of community services at the University of Michigan. With just a few credits, and his dissertation remaining to obtain his Ph.d, he decided to leave his doctoral program and pursue a career in the automobile industry. Morehead’s mentor and Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity brother, James Bradley (Bradley Automotive Group) encourage him to pursue the opportunity. He told Moorehead that he could become a millionaire within 5 years if he was willing to step out and take a chance. Continue reading “Thomas Moorehead: The World’s 1st African American Rolls Royce Car Dealer”

Background of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU)

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Cheyney University
1905 Physics Class at Cheyney Unversity (Founded as Institute For Colored Youth, Cheyney was the first institution of higher learning for blacks in the U.S.)

 

 Before the U.S. Civil War, there was no higher education system established for African American students. In fact, many states had laws in place which prohibited the education of blacks. The first school to provide higher education for African American students was the Institute For Colored Youth founded in 1837 which would later become Cheney University. Lincoln University located in Pennsylvania (1854) and Wilberforce University located in Ohio (1856) soon open their doors as well.

These new schools were often called, “colleges”, “universities”, or “institutes”. However, their major focus in their early years was to provide elementary and high school level education for students of various ages that had not had any formal education. With the Emancipation Proclamation, and subsequent freedom of slaves; many African Americans could now pursue educational opportunities that they had been denied while enslaved. It would not be until the early 1900’s that HBCU’s would offer college level courses. Continue reading “Background of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU)”

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