Black History Fun Fact Friday – A Brief History of Race Riots in America

New Orleans Riot, 1886 – On July 30, 1886, white men attacked blacks parading outside the Mechanics Institute in New Orleans, where a reconvened Louisiana Constitutional Convention was being held. Republicans in Louisiana had called for the convention as they were angered by the legislature’s enactment of the Black Codes.

Wilmington North Carolina, 1898 – The most popular accusation in history was that Black men raped white women. So much so that most of the lynchings that took place was because of it. And when D.W. Griffith’s 1915 film “Birth of a Nation”, portrayed black men as savages seeking to rape white women contrasted against the positive portrayal of the Klan, it produced a second wave of the organization that began in Atlanta, Georgia, and quickly spread to a peak membership of millions by the 1920s. So, when a prominent black newspaper editor named Alex Manly wrote an editorial suggesting that relations between White women and Black men were consensual, 500 white men burned Manly’s office and fourteen African Americans were killed in the riot.

East St. Louis, 1917 – On July 1, 1917, a Black man was rumored to have killed a white man. A riot thus followed with whites shooting, beating and lynching African Americans. The violence continued for a week and the deaths range from 40 – 200. As a result, some 6,000 Blacks fled St. Louis.

Red Summer, 1919 – As you can ascertain, this year was referred to as Red Summer because of the mass blood spill of race riots this year. Twenty-six cities experienced riots including, but not limited to: Longview TX, Washington, DC, Knoxville, TN, Omaha NE, and Chicago. As I speak of often, the racial tension did not just occur in the South and in 1919 particularly, racial tensions were especially high in the North. Chicago experienced the most violence when on July 27, 1919, seventeen-year-old Eugene Williams was swimming with his friends in Lake Michigan and entered a “Whites Only” area. White men threw rocks at Williams and hitting him in the head, he drowned. After police refused to arrest the murderer, fights between White and Black gangs became the spark that started a race riot that lasted through August 3rd. It escalated so that the state militia had to be called in.

Tulsa, Oklahoma, 1921 – Of course, the renowned Tulsa Race Riot. A young white woman accused Dick Rowland of grabbing her arm in an elevator. After arresting Rowland, accounts of the assault were exaggerated and a mob gathered outside the courthouse. A mob of Black men went to the courthouse, armed, to protect Rowland and after gunfire exchanged, as they say, it “all hell broke loose.” The Greenwood neighborhood of North Tulsa, the wealthiest Black community in the country, was systematically burned to the ground. Thousands of homes were destroyed, bombs fell from the sky, and The Oklahoma National Guard was called in. Lost forever was over 600 successful businesses.

Rosewood, 1923 – A neighborhood of predominantly Black entrepreneurs, trouble started in Rosewood when a white woman from a nearby town called Sumner said (once again) that she had been raped and also beaten by a Black man. White men from several nearby towns lynched a random black man in Rosewood in response, causing an outcry among blacks who rallied together. A full on riot was the end result with mobs of whites hunting for black people, lynching them and burning Rosewood homes and structures.

The incident was the subject of the 1997 film, “Rosewood”, directed by John Singleton staring Ving Rhames and in 2004, the state designated the site of Rosewood as a Florida Heritage Landmark.

Harlem Race Riot, 1943 – On August 1st and 2nd, a race riot broke out in Harlem, New York when officer James Collins, shot and wounded Robert Bandy, a Black soldier. It was one of six riots that year related to black and white tensions during World War II.

Detroit, 1943 – Considered one of the worst race riots of the WWII era, The Detroit Riot of 1943 started with a fist fight. (Racial tensions were already high due to confrontations between white and blacks when the Sojourner Truth Housing Projects opened (1942) in a white neighborhood and whites tried to stop blacks from moving in.) A White man and a Black man got into a fight at the Belle Isle Amusement Park in the Detroit River. This turned into a fight between a group of whites and blacks and spilled over into the streets. The violence ended when 6,000 federal troops were ordered in the city. Twenty-Five Blacks and nine whites are reported killed with seventeen Blacks killed by the police.

By now I hope that you are starting to see a trend. A race riot ensues and following is usually some kind of military intervention. (…pay attention.)

The Groveland Four, 1949 – On July 16, 1949, a white couple was traveling and their car stopped on a rural road in Groveland, Florida. The next day, 17-year-old Norma Padgett accused four Black men of raping her. Sheriffs arrested Charles Greenlee, Sam Shepherd, and Walter Irvin. The fourth man, Ernest Thomas, fled the county and was hunted down and killed by a mob of over 1,000 armed Sheriffs. When word spread about the arrest of “The Groveland Four”, an angry crowd of white Klansmen surrounded the jail and the men were hidden and transported to Raiford State Prison. The mob was not pleased. They went on to attack the black section of Groveland, a small town in South Lake County where two of the accused men’s families lived. Black residents were urged to leave town and The National Guard was called in. Meanwhile, the accused men were severely beaten, two sentenced to death (Shepherd, Irvin) and one (Greenlee) to life in prison because of his age.

Watts, 1965 – August has had its share of historical events for sure. From Emmet Till (8/28/55) to the Watts Riots. The Watts Riots began August 11th through August 17th after a white patrolman arrested 21-year-old Marquette Frye, a black motorist. A fight broke out involving Frye, his brother, mother, and the police. Both his mother and brother were arrested and the number of people gathered increased. Almost 4,000 National Guardsmen were deployed, in addition to about 1,600 police officers. Martial law was declared and a curfew implemented. More than 30,000 people participated in the riots, fighting with police, looting white-owned homes and businesses, and attacking white residents. The riots left 34 dead, more than 1,000 injured, and about 4,000 arrested.

Newark, 1967 – On July 12th, a Black cab driver, John Smith, was arrested for illegally passing a police car. He was taken to a police station that happened to also be across the street from the projects. These residents reported that the police beat this man and dragged him from the cab into the station. Word got to Civil Rights Leaders who organized a protest but the protest turned violent. Rioting followed for the next several nights, and the National Guard was deployed. Still, even with the Nations Guard present, the rioting continued.

MLK Riots, 1968 – For those of you under thirty, you may not fully understand the extent to the outcry in the Black community over the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. It was huge. Riots broke out in 125 cities following the April 4, 1968, assassination. The worst riots occurred in Baltimore, Washington D.C. and Chicago. I remember my Aunt telling us stories about it. I am originally from Chicago and my Aunt (born and raised in Chicago as well) was saying that they had to wear paper bags over their heads going home from school the day the world found out King was dead. Black people were beyond outraged. It was simply dangerous to be on the street. On April 5, looting, arson, and attacks on police increased, and as many as 20,000 people participated in the riots. The National Guard and Marines were dispatched. The riots reached within two blocks of the White House. Twelve people were killed, and more than 1,200 buildings were destroyed.

Crown Heights Race Riots, 1991 – August, this month makes history again. On Aug. 21, 1991, in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn New York, a car driven by Yosef Lifsh hit another car and then crashed into two black children, both age 7. Residents of Crown Heights gathered and began attacking Lifsh and other Hasidic Jews. A city ambulance crew and the Hasidic-run Hatzolah ambulance service arrived on the scene. The Hatzolah service brought injured Jews to the hospital, and the black children were transported by the city crew. Gavin Cato, one of the black children, died. Black residents felt the Jews were given preferential medical treatment and began throwing rocks and bottles at police and at the homes and businesses of Hasidic Jews. The riots raged for three days. More than 150 officers about 40 civilians were injured in the rioting.

Rodney King Riots, 1992 – On March 3, 1991, Rodney King was pulled over for driving recklessly and someone videotaped the encounter with the police from his apartment balcony. The video shows the officers severely beating Rodney King. On April 29, 1992, a jury acquitted three of the officers and predominantly Black areas of Los Angeles erupted in violence, and six days of riots led to 50 deaths, thousands of arrests and an estimated one billion dollars in property damage.

Ferguson, Missouri, 2014 – On Aug. 9th, officer Darren Wilson shot and killed Michael Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old teenager in Ferguson, Mo. Details of the shooting have been under dispute since the incident. Police said that Brown was shot during an altercation with Wilson. However, a friend who was with Brown at the time said that Wilson shot Brown when he refused to move from the middle of the street and that Brown’s hands were over his head at the moment of the shooting. The following night, protesters filled the streets near the shooting. Police officers arrived on the scene with riot gear, including rifles and shields. The protest turned violent and images from cell phones went viral on social media, including several accounts of looting.

Baltimore, MD, 2015 – After the funeral of Freddie Gray, the 25-year-old African American who died of a severe spinal cord injury suffered while in police custody, angry residents took to the streets of northwest Baltimore to protest another death of a black man at the hands of police. Gov. Larry Hogan declared a state of emergency, called in the National Guard, and set a curfew as rocks were thrown, cinder blocks and buildings and cars set on fire.

***

I’ll stop here as there is no time for the countless historical accounts of race wars and riots in this (U.S.) country. What is happening is very much American and there is nothing new about it. In fact, it has been going on nearly 400 years. What is happening is what has been happening for a long time and the fact that people are outraged is just proof that we have not been paying attention, and have thus bought into the hype that “those days” were over. (There’s been Lynchings as late as 2010, such as 26 year old Frederick Jermaine Carter, a Black man found hanging in a Mississippi tree in a white suburb on Friday, December 3, 2010.) What has been done, is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun. Don’t marvel, just pay attention.

Black History Fun Fact Friday – Historic Rivals: W.E.B. Dubois vs. Booker T. Washington

Today, I thought I’ll do something fun. I would like to do a few of these so let’s call this part one. Let’s see who was at war and why. Of course, we have to start with the famous rivalry of all time:

W.E.B. Dubois vs. Booker T. Washington

Yecheilyah sits in a chair with papers as W.E.B. Dubois and Booker T. Washington step into the ring. Dubois adjusts his tie, shaking hands with members of the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People….am I the only one who finds it odd this organization still refers to us as Colored people?? Deuteronomy 28:37…anyway, as usual, I digress lol).

Washington sits in a chair. Surrounded by students, he crosses his legs and flips through a book.

“Ya know,” Washington looks up, “I’ve read The Souls of Black Folk. I must say I am not very impressed.”

Dubois brushes lint from his jacket, “I didn’t think you would be.”

EC: *Clears throat*. Alright gentlemen. We’re about to start.

NAACP members and students step down from the ring and sits in the audience with those reading this blog.

Washington puts his book to the side. “Noted”, he said staring at Dubois. “Besides, I must say Yecheilyah, I love what you’re doing with your work. It is my belief that we should be accountable for ourselves in every way.

EC: “Than…”

“Booker, your proposal”, interrupted Dubois, “that we should take accountability for ourselves is not only unfounded but also paradoxical. It would be difficult for Negros to gain any real power, for instance, if they are denied the right to vote.”

Washington put up a hand, “IF, Negros had real power, it would be in education in the crafts, industrial and farming skills and ownership of their own businesses.”

“And how, Mr. Washington, do you suppose Negros could operate these businesses sufficiently without an education?”

Washington sighs, “I do not care to venture here an opinion about the nature of knowledge. It is clear to anyone who reflects on the matter that the only kind of knowledge that has any sort of value for a race is knowledge that has some definite relation to the daily lives of the men and women who are seeking it.”

Dubois throws his hands into the air, “You’re promoting submissiveness by asking the Negro to relinquish fundamental privileges. First, you ask him to relinquish his political rights and then his civil rights. This only speeds up the process to which Negros have regressed.”

Washington stands, pointing his finger at Dubois “You’re taking my words out of context. I am simply stating that it is my aim to teach students to live a life and make a living by which after they graduate they can return to their homes and find profit and satisfaction in building up the communities from which they’ve come.”

EC: Gentlemen, please. We don’t have time for this. I respectfully ask for you to both be silent so that we can give the people a little bit of a background on you. Is that alright?

NAACP member runs up to ring, hands Dubois a drink of water as he loosens his collar and takes a drink. Member returns to his seat among the bloggers, “I concur. Let’s move on”, said Dubois.

Washington returns to his seat, crosses his legs, “Indeed.”

As you can see, these two were not besties. Tensions always existed among Black intellectuals and Blacks who were more grassroots and this separation exists today. W.E.B. Dubois and Booker T. Washington are great examples of this.

William Edward Burghardt DuBois was born free in 1868 in Great Barrington, Massachusetts in an integrated community. He attended local schools and excelled in his studies. When Dubois finally encountered racism, the experience changed him and he decided to further his education with a focus on equal rights for Black Americans. Dubois was the first Black man to earn his Ph.D. from Harvard in 1895.

Cheers erupt from members of the NAACP. Dubois takes a bow.

Booker T. Washington was born into slavery in 1856 in Virginia. After the Civil War, he worked in a salt mine and as a domestic for a white family and eventually attended Hampton Institute, one of the first all-black schools in America. After completing his education, Washington began teaching and in 1881 was selected to head The Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute in Alabama. The school’s purpose was to give African Americans practical, hands-on skills and would later be known as Tuskegee University.

Whistles come from Washington’s students. He waves.

Dubois wanted to focus on creating an educated black intellectual class he called The Talented Tenth, in which ten percent of the intelligent of the race would lead and guide the direction of the other ninety percent.

Dubois: That is right. Political power and sovereignty should remain important.

*Washington rolls eyes*

Washington on the other hand, born into slavery, thought former slaves and their descendants should be financially independent and that black communities could prosper only by way of owning their own businesses.

Washington: Indeed. Blacks should elevate themselves through hard work and material prosperity.

*Dubois coughs*

Both sought to advance the plight of African Americans and by the early 20th century both Washington and Dubois were two of the most influential Black men in the country. However, their ideologies were very different. Dubois was more focused on education and civil rights as the only way to achieve equality. Washington was more grassroots and focused on fundraising for the Institute and teaching young people how to work with their hands, farm, and entrepreneurship. Dubois and Washington’s differences came to a head in 1903…

Washington: How do you young people say it now? ‘Bring that up.’

Dubois: Let’s hear the entirety of the matter first.

EC: Umm. If I can just finish this real quick. I’m almost done.

Washington: May I ask a question?

EC: Sure, of course.

Washington: What is a Bestie?

EC: Its just short for like Best Friends.

Washington: I see. And I assume one would have to be friends first before they are best friends. Am I correct in this assumption?

Dubois: You are taking up all the time.

EC: We do need to move on but I’d love to explain it to you later.

Washington: I would like that.

*Dubois shakes his head*

The men go silent. Smiles and waves at readers.

Dubois and Washington’s differences came to a head in 1903 when Dubois published The Souls of Black Folk where he directly criticized Washington and his approach.

EC: That’s a little below the belt, don’t you think?

Dubois: Well, Negros should stand up against Washington’s contentions.

EC: Dang.

Washington: I am not going to justify that with a response.

Dubois: Then don’t respond.

Washington: Do not tempt me, Mr. Dubois.

EC: Well, that’s our time. Gentlemen, thank you, both for taking the time out of your super busy schedules to have this discussion. I know you have lives to save. Literally. I do hope you can find some common ground.

Washington: I doubt it.


In the end, Dubois and Washington did agree on something. Though they had two different ways of going about it, they each thought education was important to advancing ones life.

Stay tuned for our next rivals!

Black History Fun Fact Friday – Nora Holt

Did you know there was a woman writer during the Harlem Renaissance named Nora? Yup.

Nora Ad 2

One of the things I wanted to do with The Nora White Story project is to make everything make as much sense as possible. I know how important it is that everything fits the era to include names. Thus, I used names that were familiar with the time. Some of the names, like Nora, jumped out at me from the start. However, some of them were not so easy. To make sure everyone’s name (even minor characters) fit the time, I Googled the census data for popular names of the 1920s and scrolled through male and female names. So, who was Nora Holt?

b309ac2287f956bb144110c56b09e144
Nora Holt

Nora was a singer, composer and music critic. Born Lena Douglas in Kansas City, Kansas; Nora graduated from Western University of Quindaro, Kansas and later earned a Bachelor’s degree in music in 1917. In 1918, she earned her Master’s Degree in music at Chicago Musical College, becoming one of the first African-American women to complete a Master’s program in the United States. Her thesis composition was an orchestral work called Rhapsody on Negro Themes.

Nora was married quite a few times. On the fourth time, she changed her name from Lena to Nora when she married George Holt in 1916.

From 1917-1921 Nora contributed music criticism pieces to the Chicago Defender, a black daily newspaper. In 1919, she co-founded the National Association of Negro Musicians and then spent 12 years abroad in Europe and Asia singing at night clubs and private parties. Although composing over 200 works of orchestral music, one of the reasons Nora Holt is not well known is because her work was stolen. Upon leaving for Europe in 1926, she placed her manuscripts in storage when she returned they were gone. Only one piece survived because it was published prior to the theft and is called Negro Dance, (ragtime-based piano piece).

1005795l
Nora

Holt moved to Harlem in the early 1920s, where she became an important part of the Harlem Renaissance. She became good friends with novelist and critic Carl Van Vechten.

(You can meet some of these historical figures when they make special guest appearances in my new novel, Renaissance: The Nora White Story which releases tomorrow. Today (7/14) is the last day to get it at the reduced price of $1.99)

Nora was also a teacher. She studied music at the University of Southern California in the 1930s and went on to teach music in Los Angeles for several years. Nora was well rounded. Not only was she a writer and musician but she also ran a beauty shop. Apparently Nora knew how important it was to stay fly :-).

In 1943, Holt took a position as an editor and music critic with a black-oriented publication Amsterdam News and went on to live a full life. During the early 1950s and early 1960s, she hosted a radio concert series called “Nora Holt’s Concert Showcase”. It ran to 1964 and in 1966, she was a member of the First World Festival of Negro Arts in Dakar, Senegal.

holt_nora_douglas
Photo of Nora Holt, taken by Carl Van Vechten, 1955

Nora Holt died January 25, 1974, in Los Angeles.


 

Black History Fun Fact Friday – Capturing the Good in Harlem

 

Yes indeed, twins make history again. Meet Marvin and Morgan Smith, painters who focused on capturing the positive side of Harlem during the decline of the Harlem Renaissance and the birth of The Great Depression.

“During the 1930s, ’40s, and ’50s, Harlem spread itself before the cameras of Morgan and Marvin Smith like a great tablecloth, and eagerly they went about devouring what it had to offer.”

– Gordon Parks Sr.

We often discuss the writers of the movement and the musicians while the artists are often left out. Names like Kwame Brathwaite, Aaron Douglass, Lois Jones, and Morgan and Marvin Smith, are not as well known.

Morgan (right) and Marvin (left) Smith were born on February 16, 1910 in Nicholasville, Kentucky. The boys found a talent for art but wouldn’t pursue it much until the sharecropping family moved to Lexington in the late 1920s. Here Morgan and Marvin attended Dunbar High School, the only Black High School in Lexington at the time, and developed further their artistic abilities. They worked with oil paintings and sculptors until eventually, cameras.

In 1933, Morgan and Marvin graduated High School and pursued their art full time. However, Kentucky at the time provided little to no support for the young men and as I imagine, they could not grow in the way that they wished. They moved to Cincinnati with hope of a better future but not finding opportunities there, decided to move on to New York.

Marvin and Morgan

When they arrived to Harlem the twins did manual labor for the WPA or Works Progress Administration and took art lessons from Augusta Savage (another sculptor of the Harlem Renaissance) at her studio. Through Savage the twins became connected with the 306 Group, a collective of African American artists who worked and socialized together in Harlem, New York in the 1930s. The name of the group came from the address of a studio space, 306 W. 141st Street, used by two of the artists, Charles Alston and Henry Bannarn.

Marvin and Morgan became acquainted with prominent figures through Savage but it wasn’t until 1937 when the twins really came into the public’s eye when Morgan won an award for his photo of a boy playing.

Awwue!

After 1937, the twins decided to focus their attention on the  community of Harlem overall. Their interest was in capturing the good instead of the bad. With the stock market crash of 1929 and The Great Depression smacked down in the middle, there was plenty to complain about, I am sure, and much of the glitter and glam of the Harlem Renaissance had begun to fade. People weren’t as interested in Black culture and art during these tough times which brings Marvin and Morgan into focus.

They look more alike as old men than they did when they were younger…or is it just me??

Over the next 40 years with their paint brushes and cameras, the brothers would record what remained, refusing to document anything negative. What’s cute is that the brother’s married identical twin sisters on the same day and three years later both divorced on the same day. They would die exactly ten years apart, Morgan smith at 83 and Marvin at 93. I am happy to see that they both lived full lives.

The 306 Group

groupartists-large
The artists of the 306 W. 141st Street WPA Art Center. Back row, left to right: Add Bates; unidentified; James Yeargans; Vertis Hayes; Charles Alston; Sollace Glenn; unidentified; Elba Lightfoot; Selma Day; Ronald Joseph; Georgette Seabrooke; ——— Reid. Front row, left to right: Gwendolyn Knight; unidentified; Francisco Lord; unidentified; unidentified.
© Morgan and Marvin Smith. Reproduction from the Photographs and Prints Division, Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, The New York Public Library, Astor, Lenox, and Tilden Foundation, http://iraas.columbia.edu/wpa/introartists.html

Black History Fun Fact Friday –Black Inventors / Inventions

There’s a funny story behind this post. My stomach was growling and I thought “Hmmm, what if there was a device where you could hook up to your body parts and see what’s going on in there??” Like, say your stomach hurts or you’re hungry or your leg is in pain, you could hook up to some technology screen type deal and see what is causing those changes. OK, you may already know but I mean in a way where you could see it .(medical genuis smarty pants lol) You can go to the doctor and already know what needs to be done. Anywho, that’s when I thought it would be fun to look at some inventors / inventions that we may not have known about.

The Pencil Sharpener

 

lovesharpener
The Love Sharpener

Also, known as The Love Sharpener, The Pencil Sharpener was patented by a black man named John Lee Love. John did not invent the pencil sharpener* but what he did invent would carry on to the same pencil sharpeners we use today. A carpenter in Fall River, Massachusetts, John invented several devices and in 1897, he patented a portable pencil sharpener known as the “Love Sharpener.” (*The first ever pencil sharpener was patented in France by mathematician Bernard Lassimone in 1828. A decade later another Frenchman, Therry des Estwaux, designed  a conical-shaped device that, when a pencil was inserted and twisted, all sides of the pencil were whittled away at once and make the sharpening process much quicker.).

Heating Furnace — Ventilation System

Alice H. Parker, an African-American woman from Morristown, NJ developed, in 1919, an early concept of the modern home heating system. Her system gave birth to the thermostat and the forced air furnaces in most homes today, replacing what was then the most common method for heating – cutting and burning wood in fireplaces or stoves. Parker’s invention would be better known today as Central Heating.

The Mailbox

What would you know, a black man invented the mailbox. Known as The Street Letter box back then, Philip Downing designed a metal box with four legs which he patented on October 27, 1891. He called his device a street letter box and it is the predecessor of today’s mailbox. (A fellow blogger wrote a post about Downing awhile back. Check it out here!)

The Sanitary Belt, The Walker, The Toilet Tissue Holder

il_fullxfull.317594681
Sanitary Belts

Before pads and tampons menstrual huts were common where women would be separated from communities while on their cycle (known biblically as a time of uncleanliness). Later women began using cloth or rags which is where the term “she’s on the rag” came from. Common forms of protection rabbit skins, rags, menstrual aprons (aprons??) homemade knitted pads and eventually, the sanitary belt. I heard of the sanitary belt from my mom, otherwise I would not have a clue what this is. Mary Beatrice Davidson Kenner, a black woman, had some pretty cool inventions, the Sanitary Belt being one of them. She also invented the walker and toilet tissue holder. Pretty neat. (Ladies, you can learn more about the evolution of the pad HERE.)

Toilet

Thomas Elkins, a black man, invented a lot of things (to include an improved refrigerator). Known then as a Chamber Commode, the modern toilet was patented by Thomas Elkins on January 9, 1872. Elkins’ commode was a combination bureau, mirror, book-rack, washstand, table, easy chair, and chamber stool.  (The flush toilet goes back to the 1500s but the idea failed to catch on until later).

The First “Perm”

A woman getting a permanent (perm)

Did you know that Perm is short for Permanent? The first concept of the perm was invented by a black woman named Marjorie Joyner. The granddaughter of slave owner and slave, Marjorie developed an invention called “The Permanent Waving Machine” which permed or straightened hair by wrapping it in rods. Later, a black man named Garret Morgan (inventor of the Traffic Signal and Gas Mask) invented our modern version of the perm by accident. In his tailor shop, Garrett was thinking of a solution he could use to polish the needles to a high gloss and stop them from scorching clothes. When Morgan doctored this liquid, he decided to test the effects of the liquid on dog’s hair and saw how the texture had smooth out. Later trying this on human hair, the relaxer was born. Delighted with his success, Morgan coined his hair division the G.A. Morgan Hair Refining Company. This Company was also responsible for the black hair oil dye and the curved tooth iron comb (to be used as a hot comb.)

Blood Bank

Charles R. Drew was an African-American surgeon who pioneered methods of storing blood plasma for transfusion and organized the first large-scale blood bank in the U.S. Ironically, he died due to an accident that blocked blood flow to his heart (there’s a myth that he died at an all-white hospital among whites who refused to operate on him but this story cannot be verified. According to my research, Drew was treated at Alamance General Hospital, a facilities-poor “White” hospital. The White doctors at Alamance began work immediately but Drew’s injuries were so severe and his loss of blood so great that he could not be saved. It is possible that due his prominence he was treated better than most blacks were during the time but further research / insight is needed.)

Feeding Tube

Bessie Blount was a physical therapist who served during WWII. She invented an electrically driven feeding tube device that enabled wounded soldiers to consume a mouthful of food when biting down on a tube. At the time, it was hard to get a patent and she donated this invention to France. In 1951, she received a patent for a modified version from the U.S. called the portable receptacle holder, smaller tube that could be worn around the neck. However, many of Blount’s inventions are not very well known since she signed over her inventions to France.

Black History Fun Fact Friday – Sundown Towns

“Is it true that ‘Anna’ stands for ‘Ain’t No Niggers Allowed’?” I asked at the convenience store in Anna, Illinois, where I had stopped to buy coffee. “Yes,” the clerk replied. “That’s sad, isn’t it,” she added, distancing herself from the policy. And she went on to assure me, “That all happened a long time ago.” “I understand [racial exclusion] is still going on?” I asked. “Yes,” she replied. “That’s sad.”—conversation with clerk, Anna, Illinois, October 2001. James W. Loewen, Sundown Towns: A Hidden Dimension of American Racism (Touchstone, 2006),3

Anna, Illinois was named after the daughter of the founder of the town, but got its more derogatory name after the 1909 lynching of a black man in Cairo IL and the mob of angry white citizens who drove out Anna’s 40 or so black families following the lynching. It is at this point that Anna, IL became a sundown town.

A sundown town is a town with an exclusive population of non-whites on purpose. They are towns with overwhelming populations of non-whites and are so deliberately.

Historically, the name Sundown-town comes from Blacks not being allowed in certain towns beyond sunset and the signs that some towns posted within their city limits warning Blacks not to let the sun go down on them in that town (see pics).

Side Note: I wonder if that’s where the parental command to be in the house when the street lights came on, comes from? I’d have to explore that one.

Although signs were posted, forced exclusion was also implemented:

“There were also race riots in which white mobs attacked black neighborhoods, burning, looting, and killing. Across America, at least 50 towns, and probably many more than that, drove out their African American populations violently. At least 16 did so in Illinois alone. In the West, another 50 or more towns drove out their Chinese American populations. Many other sundown towns and suburbs used violence to keep out blacks or, sometimes, other minorities.” – America’s Black Holocaust Museum, James W. Loewen, PhD; Fran Kaplan, EdD; and Robert Smith, PhD

The Beginning

Sundown towns began after Slavery and the Civil War when blacks left the plantations and poured into every city and corner of the country. This was followed by the system we know as Jim Crow, in which black codes and laws were made for the intention of keeping blacks as enslaved as possible despite their free status.

Of course, we are familiar by now with the eyes that had to be kept to the ground, the stepping to the side when whites walked by, the separate restrooms and water fountains, movie theaters and many others. But in addition to all this were sundown towns, all-white neighborhoods where blacks were not allowed to live. Many of these towns existed in the North as the Great Migration brought floods of blacks into Northern Cities.

White_only_-_Detroit_1943

These communities feared the blacks pouring into their neighborhoods and established Sundown towns by evicting black residents and not allowing them in.

poster_caa060f6d48c41ae8e6e574b5838f5ed_57654824_ver1.0_640_480

This statue of Orville Hubbard which sits outside of the City Hall in Dearborn Michigan, was the cause of much controversy when people started to learn more about his past.

Hubbard was the mayor of the then all-white suburban town outside of Detroit from 1942 to 1978 and in a 1969 speech acquired by the New York Times said that “If whites didn’t want to live with N–they sure didn’t have to.” He went on to say that this was a free country and that this was America.

“City police cars bore the slogan ‘Keep Dearborn Clean,’ which was a catch phrase meaning ‘Keep Dearborn White,’ ” according to David Good, a lifelong resident of the city who is the author of ‘‘Orvie: The Dictator of Dearborn,” a biography of Mayor Hubbard.

“Out here in Dearborn where some real Ku Klux Klans live. I know Dearborn, you know I’m from Detroit, used to live out there in Easten. And you had to go through Dearborn to get to Easten. Just like riding through Mississippi once you got to Dearborn.” -Malcolm X

Over time the name “Sundown-town” faded but Sundown Suburbs still exist. A sundown suburb is a discrete way in which Sundown-towns exist today. It is when large white populations migrate to the suburban part of the city with the express purpose of separating themselves from the minority population.

Black History Fun Fact Friday – Mary Seacole

Mary Seacole was born Mary Jane Grant in Kingston, Jamaica in 1805. A mixed raced woman, her mother was Jamaican and her father Scottish. In her autobiography Mary referred to herself as Creole. Legally, she was called a Mulatto, a term equivalent to Negro or Colored. In fact, Colored is a term that originally meant one of mixed race before being widely accepted as something to which to refer to all blacks. Although retaining its name in the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, in Britain it was the accepted term for black, Asian, or mixed-race people until the 1960s.

In any event, I find it interesting that blacks are the only people whose nationality changes in such a way. We have been and are called: Colored, Negro, Mulatto, Creole, Black, Afro-American, African American and of course the N word. Blacks from different eras literally have different classifications on their birth certificates.  These are not nationalities. These are bywords, proverbs, and mockeries.

Nevertheless, Mary was a nurse in the Crimean War and learned from her mother who was also a Nurse and worked in a boarding house nursing soldiers. Mary’s mother was also what was considered a traditional healer. Traditional healer usually refers to the use of natural herbs and earth grown roots that are used instead of modern medicine. It combines knowledge, skills, and practices based on beliefs, and experiences of different cultures.

In 1836, Mary married Edwin Seacole, a naval officer who sadly, died in 1844. I imagine this was hard on Mary since her mom died shortly before her husband.

Mary traveled a lot which I love considering I also love to travel. She visited other parts of the Caribbean, including Cuba, Haiti and the Bahamas, as well as Central America and Britain before her marriage. On these trips, she combined her knowledge of traditional medicine that she got from her mom with European medicine and after her husband’s death remained in Kingston where she spent time in Panama nursing during the start of the Cholera Epidemic.

Mary-Seacole-photo_1_1

In 1853, Mary applied for the Florence Nightingale’s Nursing Team at the start of the Crimean War but was refused. Instead of giving up, Mary went to the location anyway with her own money and came to assist in the healing of people at the military hospitals and distributed remedies for cholera and dysentery.

Mary also opened the British Hotel near Balaclava in 1855 which served also as an officer’s club and served food. Using the Hotel as a foundation, Mary loaded mules with food, wine and medicine and brought these to the battlefield to help the soldiers. She received special passes that allowed her to look after the wounded and the dying.

Mary Seacole
Awwue! She was beautiful!

One of the things I love about Mary’s story is that it does not end badly as many stories do. When she returned to London she was bankrupt because of the soldiers who ran up tabs at the hotel, but newspapers started a campaign to help raise money for Mary backed by money funded by the British Army. In 1857, her autobiography, Wonderful Adventures of Mrs. Seacole in Many Lands, became a Bestseller and the Seacole Fund helped her to live comfortably in Paddington, London, until her death in 1881. All the good Mary had done to others had been returned to her.