Welcome back to Black History Fun Fact Friday. Today, we learn about Lucy Craft Laney.
Lucy Craft Laney was a famous educator in the late 1800s and early 1900s. She opened her own school in 1883, which became known as Haines Normal and Industrial Institute in Augusta, Georgia where she served as teacher and principle for 50 years.
Laney was born on April 13, 1854, one of ten children, to Louisa and David Laney. Laney was not enslaved as David Laney purchased his freedom twenty years before Laney’s birth and then purchased his wife’s freedom sometime after their marriage. Laney was taught to read by her mother at the early age of four. By 12 Laney could translate passages in Latin. She attended Lewis (later Ballard) High School in Macon, GA which was sponsored by the American Missionary Association.
Laney prepared to be a teacher at Atlanta University in 1889 (later Clark Atlanta University), graduating from the Normal Department (teacher’s training) in 1873.
Laney’s school started out small with just a handful of students. She began her school in 1883 in Augusta. Her school was chartered by the state three years later and named the Haines Normal and Industrial Institute. Originally, Laney intended to admit only girls, but several boys appeared and she could not turn them away. By the end of the second year, there were more than 200 Black students enrolled in Laney’s school.
Over the years, Laney made many improvements and additions to the school. In the 1890s, the school was one of the first to offer kindergarten classes for African-American children in the South. She also opened a training center so that black women could train as nurses. The school’s curriculum provided the students with traditional liberal arts courses as well as vocational programs, which was groundbreaking at the time, but that’s not all. Laney’s school also acted as a cultural center for the Black community, hosting lectures by nationally famous guests, and various social events.
James Shober was an African American doctor and the first Black doctor in North Carolina. James was born on August 23, 1853, in what is now Winston-Salem, North Carolina. James father Francis Edwin was a white businessman and politician who served in the North Carolina state legislature and the United States Congress. His mother was an 18-year-old enslaved woman named Betsy Ann.
Betsy was of mixed race who lived in Salem and passed away in 1859 when Shober was between six and seven-years-old. He was sent back to the Waugh Plantation near Waughtown, North Carolina, where his grandmother lived with other family relatives.
Educated at Lincoln University in Oxford, Pennsylvania, Shober then enrolled in the Howard University School of Medicine in Washington, D.C. where he was one of the forty-eight graduates in 1878.
After graduation, he began practicing medicine in his home in Wilmington, then the state’s largest city. Shober was the only Black doctor in a city of more than 10,000. There were only a handful of licensed black doctors across the United States following the Civil War. Shober now joined those ranks in 1878 and became the first professionally trained Black physician in North Carolina.
On June 28, 1881, James married Anna Maria Taylor, an educator who taught at the Peabody School in Wilmington, and they became the parents of two daughters, Mary Louise and Emily Lillian. His daughters both graduated from Fisk University and pursued a number of professions. James Shober died young, at just 36 years-old on January 1, 1889.
I don’t celebrate holidays (this includes Kwanzaa and Juneteenth. How can I celebrate the end of slavery when we are still in captivity? Maybe I’ll celebrate it next year, the marking of our 400 years in this land.) Nonetheless, it wouldn’t be right (in keeping with my Black History origin traditions on this blog) if we didn’t explore what this day is and what makes it so special for many Black Americans; many replacing their 4th of July celebrations with Juneteenth instead. It is still an important part of history to remember and I don’t believe we’ve ever covered it on this blog so here goes.
According to the Emancipation Proclamation issued by Abraham Lincoln January 1, 1863, the proclamation declared “that all persons held as slaves” within the rebellious states “are, and henceforward shall be free.” By rebellious states it was referring to those states that had seceded or withdrawn from the United States, leaving slavery untouched in the loyal border states. It also exempted parts of the Confederacy (the Southern secessionist states) that had already come under Northern control. The freedom it promised also depended upon United States military victory. In brief, Emancipation only applied to those slaves who lived near Union lines.
News of the supposed emancipation did not spread as quickly as the movies would have us to believe. Many slave-owners packed up their belongings and their slaves and moved to Texas in mass. “Since the capture of New Orleans in 1862, slave owners in Mississippi, Louisiana and other points east had been migrating to Texas to escape the Union Army’s reach.” (Henry Louis Gates Jr.) In a hurried re-enactment of the original Middle Passage, more than 150,000 slaves had made the trek west, according to historian Leon Litwack in his book Been in the Storm So Long: The Aftermath of Slavery. As one former slave he quotes recalled,”‘It looked like everybody in the world was going to Texas.’’ For the next two years, slave owners and the enslaved would live removed from the updates of the war and slavery would go on, business as usual.
And so, when General Gordon Granger entered Galveston, Texas, on June 19th to lead the Union occupation force, he had to deal with ongoing slavery in defiance of the Emancipation Proclamation. To fix this, he issued the following order:
“The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property, between former masters and slaves and the connection heretofore existing between them, becomes that between employer and hired labor. The Freedmen are advised to remain at their present homes and work for wages. They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts; and they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere.”
This second proclamation, specifying that all slaves were free, is the foundation to the celebration of Juneteenth, a combining of June and the nineteenth when the order was issued. However, it is also important to know that just like the first proclamation, this order did not exactly free the slaves.
“There is much evidence to suggest that southern whites—especially Confederate parolees—perpetrated more acts of violence against newly freed bondspeople in Texas than in other states,” writes historian Elizabeth Hayes Turner in an essay titled “Juneteenth: Emancipation and Memory.” “Between the Neches and Sabine rivers and north to Henderson,” she continues, “reports showed that blacks continued in a form of slavery, intimidated by former Confederate soldiers still in uniform and bearing arms.” Murder, lynching, and harassment were common. “You could see lots of Negroes hanging from trees in Sabine bottom right after freedom,” reported one freed slave, “They would catch them swimming across Sabine River and shoot them.”
Still, Blacks celebrated their freedom with the first official Juneteenth event taking place in 1866 where they read the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863 and praised Abraham Lincoln as the great liberator. (I find this odd). The celebrations continued until coming to a halt with the institution of Jim Crow, laws that essentially put Blacks back into a form of slavery where we were fully disenfranchised and outside of the law. Convict Leasing is a great example of this. After the Civil War and the end of slavery, Southern states, who had amassed great wealth from slavery, found their economy in shambles.
They had to figure out how to keep a slave-like system going and like sharecropping, convict leasing was another answer. Black Codes and Pig Laws, unfairly penalized poor African Americans for crimes such as stealing a pig. It was also a crime to be unemployed. These laws could be imposed on Black men easily, sending them to jail and thus former slave owners turned “entrepreneurs” could lease them to various companies that would work them to death and treat them like they were slaves. This made the states tons of money. In 1883, about 10 percent of Alabama’s total revenue was derived from convict leasing. In 1898, nearly 73 percent of total revenue came from this same source. Death rates among leased convicts were approximately 10 times higher than the death rates of prisoners in non-lease states. In 1873, for example, 25 percent of all black leased convicts died.
Juneteenth didn’t make a full resurgence until The Civil Rights Movement when Blacks began to celebrate it in full again. And while many Blacks have celebrated it for centuries, it still did not become an official Holiday until it was made a Texas state holiday in 1980, and it wasn’t until 1997 that Congress recognized June 19th as “Juneteenth Independence Day,” after pressure from a collection of groups like the National Association of Juneteenth Lineage and National Juneteenth Celebration Foundation.
For more Black History Fun Facts, be sure to visit the BHFFF Page HERE.
This has brought back thoughts of The Atlanta Child Murders. I thought I’d recap what this was for those of us who may not have known.
What became known as “The Atlanta Child Murders” happened in Atlanta between 1979 and 1981, when about 29 Black children, teens, and young adults were kidnapped and murdered. A majority of the killings shared common details. In 1979, for instance, Edward Hope Smith, also known as “Teddy”, and Alfred Evans, also known as “Q”, both aged 14 and from the same apartments, disappeared four days apart. Their bodies were both found on July 28 in a wooded area, Edward with a .22 caliber gunshot wound in his upper back. They were believed to be the first victims of the “Atlanta Child Killer”.
On September 4, the next victim, 14-year-old Milton Harvey, disappeared while on an errand to a bank for his mother. He was riding a yellow bike, which was found a week later in a remote area of Atlanta. His body was not recovered until November of 1979.
On October 21, 9-year-old Yusuf Bell went to the store. A witness said she saw Yusuf getting into a blue car before he disappeared. His body was found on November 8 in the abandoned E. P. Johnson elementary school by a school janitor who was looking for a place to use the bathroom. Bell’s body was found clothed in the brown cut-off shorts he was last seen wearing, with a piece of masking tape stuck to them. He had been hit over the head twice and the cause of death was strangulation. Police did not immediately link his disappearance to the previous killings.
On March 4, 1980, the first female victim, 12-year-old Angel Lenair, disappeared. She left her house around 4 pm, wearing a denim outfit, and was last seen at a friend’s house watching Sanford and Son. Lenair’s body was found six days later, in a wooded vacant lot along Campbellton Road, wearing the same clothes she had left home. A pair of white panties that did not belong to Lenair was stuffed in her mouth, and her hands were bound with an electrical cord. The cause of death was strangulation.
I won’t go on as the accounts get more and more disturbing. The FBI joined the multi-agency investigation in 1980. The investigation was closed following the conviction of Wayne Bertram Williams for two of the murders in 1982. After the trial, law enforcement linked Williams to 20 more of the 29 murders. Not all of the missing children have been found and not all the murders were attributed to Williams. Some believe he was falsely accused. Those days, it was hard to know what to believe. Tensions were high and rising with each body found. Hundreds of residents volunteered for a community watch program at schools, playgrounds, and shopping centers. Others took up baseball bats and patrolled the streets.
Children teased each other about getting caught by “The Snatcher” as the assumption was that it was just one killer but officials at the various local, state and federal agencies working the cases couldn’t agree.
In the wake of missing children and young people again, this time in Chicago, it’s imperative that we all be careful. These are dangerous times and it really doesn’t matter where you live. Be careful out there people and keep an attentive eye on your children.
Today, we are taking a look at a woman whose husband we know well. Frederick Douglass is well-known but his first wife is not. For the sake of time, I am combining sources from various articles since I have not had the chance to put something together for you this week. Enjoy.
Frederick and Anna met in 1838, when he still went by the surname Bailey and she by Murray. The daughter of enslaved parents in rural Maryland around 1813, Anna was the first of her siblings to be born free after her parents were manumitted (set free). She lived with her parents until the age of 17, at which point she headed for Baltimore and found work as a domestic helper. Over the years she managed to earn and save money; the vibrant community of more than 17,000 free blacks in the Maryland city organized black churches and schools despite repressive laws restricting their freedoms. When she met Frederick—historians disagree on the when and where their acquaintance occurred, but it may have been in attending the same church—she was financially prepared to start a life with him. But first, he needed freedom.
By borrowing a freedman’s protection certificate from a friend and wearing the disguise of a sailor sewn by Anna, Frederick made his way to New York City by train (possibly spending Anna’s money to buy the ticket, says historian Leigh Fought). Once there, he sent for Anna and they were married in the home of abolitionist David Ruggles. According to Rosetta, Anna brought nearly everything the couple needed to begin their life together: a feather bed with pillows and linens; dishes with cutlery; and a full trunk of clothing for herself.
In 1837, Frederick met a free Black woman, Anna Murray, who was born in 1813. Her parents had been freed before she was born, and Anna worked as a laundress and a housekeeper. Anna used her savings and sold a bed to pay for train tickets for Frederick, which he used to escape to freedom. She also sewed a sailor outfit for him, which he wore as a disguise. Fredrick had tried to escape before, but it was not until Anna helped him that he escaped successfully.
Once Frederick got to New York, Anna joined him and they married and moved to New Bedford, Massachusetts. They had five children together. When they moved to Rochester, New York, she turned their home into an Underground Railroad stop, providing shelter for runaway slaves en route to Canada.
As Frederick became more involved in activism, their relationship became more strained. Anna could barely read and write, and felt out of place among Frederick’s friends. His friends, most of whom were highly educated and intellectual, openly looked down on Anna (to his credit, he vigorously defended her against any who suggested she was not a worthy wife). Anna enjoyed being part of the Black community in New Bedford, but in 1847 Frederick moved the family, and as his circle of friends widened, hers diminished. Anna was also tormented by rumors that Frederick had affairs during his many travels. On two occasions, Frederick had women he was rumored to be sleeping with move into Anna’s house, causing controversy between the couple and within Frederick’s political community.
While Frederick began his climb as an abolitionist orator, Anna cared for their children, born between 1839 and 1849: Rosetta, Lewis, Frederick, Charles, and Annie. In 1847, they moved to Rochester, New York, where Frederick began publishing his newspaper, the North Star. The gulf between Anna and Frederick widened over the years; she could barely read and write and was rarely a part of his activist life and growing circle of prominent white and black abolitionist colleagues. After the death of their youngest child, Annie, in 1860, Anna’s health steadily deteriorated. She died on August 4, 1882 at their home, Cedar Hill, across from Washington, D.C. She was carried back to Rochester, New York, where she was buried in Mount Hope Cemetery.
One year after Anna’s death, Frederick remarried. His second wife was Helen Pitts. She was born in 1838. Her parents were abolitionists, and she was an ardent abolitionist and suffragette. In 1880, her family moved next door to the Douglass family, and Helen assisted Frederick with his work. She also worked as a clerk and co-edited a women’s rights magazine.
Their marriage was quite a scandal. Helen was white and twenty years younger than Frederick. His children felt the marriage disrespected their mother. Frederick and Helen’s friends were shocked because they felt the marriage was too sudden and because they were worried about the race and age differences. Helen’s family cut off contact with her altogether, and their local society was appalled that a black man and white woman were married at all.
Helen Pitts’ response: “Love came to me, and I was not afraid to marry the man I loved because of his color.”
Frederick’s response: “This proves I am impartial. My first wife was the color of my mother and the second, the color of my father.”
EC thoughts: I feel kind of sad for Anna and I can’t help but to wonder why Frederick, intelligent as he was, did not teach her to read and write. Did she not want to learn? Or did he not want to teach her? We can only speculate.
First, I want to say that Birth of a Movement is a good documentary on Netflix and is the inspiration behind this post.
We are familiar with the name W.E.B. Dubois but I do not hear much concerning William Monroe Trotter and that’s a shame. While I do not agree with his dissension with Booker T. Washington (I admire Washington, obviously), I do admire Monroe’s drive to stop a movement that ultimately led to a resurgence and second wave of one of the most terrorist groups in America, The Klu, Klux, Klan.
William Monroe Trotter was an African American newspaper editor and real estate businessman in Boston, Massachusetts born on April 7, 1872, in Chillicothe, Ohio. Raised in Hyde Park, Boston, his father, James, was a writer and former civil rights lieutenant who worked in real estate. Trotter excelled in academics growing up, becoming his predominantly-white high school’s class president and attending Harvard University in the early 1890s. He was a friend of W.E.B. Dubois who also attended Harvard alongside him. The friends graduated in 1895, the same year that Booker T. Washington delivers the famous 1895 Atlanta Compromise Speech.
Trotter was an early activist for Black Civil rights and produced similar Civil Rights results in 1915 as that of the 1960s marches. He was an early opponent of Booker T. Washington (sigh… I just think Booker had a point but whatever), and in 1901 founded the Boston Guardian, an independent African-American newspaper, as a vehicle to express that opposition.
In 1905, Trotter joins W.E.B. DuBois in founding the Niagara Movement, the precursor to the NAACP. However, Trotter did not agree entirely with the organization. The NAACP’s top officers were white men and it only made sense to Trotter that the National Association for the Advancement of “Colored” People is run and operated by “Colored” people. It was not. The NAACP was founded by Jews and ran by the same. For this, Trotter decided to part with the organization. Instead, he founded his own organization called The National Equal Rights League. He also co-founded the Boston Literary and Historical Association (the oldest nationwide human rights organization founded in Syracuse, New York in 1864 dedicated to the liberation of black people in the United States) with colleague George Forbes and established The Guardian newspaper. The publication pushed for Black equality.
Trotters most famous acts of Civil Rights is his stand against David Wark Griffith’s, landmark film, The Birth of a Nation, a racists play turned movie by author Thomas Dixon. Originally called The Clansmen, the book turned play became a massive bestseller. It also had the endorsement of The White House as it was screened at the house and praised as “History as Lightening” (Wilson).
Trotter began a campaign against Dixon’s play turned film when it opened in Boston in 1910, which portrayed the Ku Klux Klan as heroes. While his protests succeeded in closing the production, The Clansmen changed its name to The Birth of a Nation and in April 1915 was scheduled to open in Boston. Trotter rushed back to lead protests against the film. In April, the Tremont Theatre was denying African American’s admission, to include Trotter. When blacks refused to leave the lobby, plainclothes police moved in, sparking a fight. Trotter and ten others were arrested; other protests took place both inside and outside the theater. It resulted in a mini-riot. Trotter, united with other African-American community members, could not get the film banned in Boston. Interestingly enough, Booker T. Washington dies later this year, November of 1915 in Tuskegee Alabama.
The KKK had a revival for a decade after 1915, especially in industrial cities and the Midwest. In 1919, Trotter appeared at the Paris Peace Conference in an unsuccessful effort to have the organization outlaw racial discrimination. But, in 1921, Trotter was successful in shutting down new screenings of The Birth of a Nation in Boston. He also led demonstrations against events, plays, and films that glorified The Ku Klux Klan. William Monroe Trotter died on April 7, 1934, in Boston.
Far as finances is concerned, it’s still unknown exactly how much The Birth of a Nation grossed, but it did very well in sales. D.W. Griffith is still recognized as the man who pioneered modern cinematic techniques with his use of advanced camera and narrative techniques. Griffith is also one of the founders of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and popularized the use of the close-up shot and his skill is still taught in film school. Meanwhile, in the 1920s, his film The Birth of a Nation continued to spark a resurgence of the Klu Klux Klan, which produced a second wave in Atlanta, Georgia, inspired by the film. This terrorist organization would go on to terrorize millions of blacks over the years.
Its late but Friday is not over people! Well, not for some of us anyway so we’re going to squeeze this article on in.
Today, we have a special fun fact for you. My maiden name is Hereford and I have a mother, brother, and sisters who still carry this last name. In fact, I’ve met very few people with this name I was not related to. Unlike Johnson, Brown or Jackson (no shade to those with these last names), Hereford is not as common. So when I came across this man online, I was noticeably interested. My mother says that my grandfather, her father, is from Alabama and that Sonnie looks like her dad. This has prompted me to do more research on the man and to plan a visit to Alabama to discover more. It’s possible we had a Civil Rights Activist in the family and didn’t know it. In 1961, Hereford was one of the plaintiffs suing the Huntsville school system to end segregation, and in 1963, his son, Sonnie Hereford IV, was one of the first four black children to enroll in a previously all-white public school in Alabama. But, let’s start from the beginning.
Dr. Sonnie Wellington Hereford III was born on January 7, 1931, in Huntsville, Alabama. The family had no running water or electricity and Sonnie had to walk seven miles to school. The school, next to a garbage dump, didn’t have a library or cafeteria, much like most black schools at the time. Hereford was a farmer but developed a love for education. Even though his school had no library, the teachers were invested in him as they were in all their students. Though lacking in resources, black schooling at the time was exceptional, involving a strong community spirit and discipline. Teachers took on more than just a role as a teacher but they were also mothers, fathers, and mentors. For this, Sonnie received a good education and decided he wanted to become a doctor.
Sonnie graduated first in his class and applied to the University of Alabama for their pre-med program. However, Sonnie’s application was denied because of his color so he enrolled at Alabama A&M University instead. Hereford graduated from A&M in 2 years and went on to receive his medical degree from Meharry Medical College. He began his career at Huntsville Hospital in Huntsville Alabama and went on to play important roles in the struggle for Civil Rights. Not only was he a doctor but he also helped to aid men and women attacked during the Selma to Montgomery march, welcomed Martin Luther King Jr., to the city in 1962 and helped to integrate the city at various establishments. In fact, school desegregation is what Sonnie became most known for.
Sonnie IV was among four children chosen to desegregate schooling in Alabama and on September 3, 1963, Hereford took his six-year-old son to school but they could not get in. Instead, a mob waited for them and none of the other children were admitted to the other schools either. Sonnie didn’t give up, he returned but the school was locked down and guarded every day with armed troops. Eventually, Hereford contacted the federal judge and over time an order was issued to desegregate the schools in Huntsville. On Monday, September 9, 1963, Hereford successfully enrolled his son at Fifth Avenue School making Sonnie Hereford IV the first African-American student admitted to a previously all-white public school in Alabama. That following week, Sunday, September 15, the church bombing occurred in Birmingham killing four little girls at the 16th Street Baptist Church.
Sonnie died at 85 years old, two weeks before the ribbon cutting ceremony at the Sonnie Hereford Elementary School in Huntsville Alabama, named for him by the Huntsville board of education. The school ranges from Pre-K to sixth grade.
Learn more about Sonnie at the informative video below!