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2014 „„ Timeline 4 ƒƒ Significant Events

„„ Feature 6 ƒƒ Black History Month

„„ Profiles 10

ƒƒ Artists ƒƒ Athletes ƒƒ Influencers

„„ Historical Profiles 36 ƒƒ ƒƒ ƒƒ ƒƒ ƒƒ ƒƒ ƒƒ

Artists Athletes Activists Entertainers Musicians Pioneers War Heroes


1920, The decade of the 1920s

1901, On October


witnesses the Harlem Renaissance, a remarkable period of creativity for black writers, poets, and artists, including among others Claude McKay, Jean Toomer, Langston Hughes, and Zora Neale Hurston.

11, when Bert Williams and George Walker record their music for the Victor Talking Machine Company, they become the first African American recording artists.

1917, Nearly 10,000 African

Americans and their supporters march down Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue on July 28 as part of a silent parade, an NAACP-organized protest against lynchings, race riots, and the denial of rights. This is the first major civil rights demonstration in the 20th Century.


On February 1, 1865, Abraham Lincoln signs the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution outlawing slavery throughout the United States.

1862, On September 22, President

Abraham Lincoln issues the Emancipation Proclamation and announces that it will go into effect on July 1, 1863 if the states then in rebellion have not by that point returned to the Union.

1909, The

National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) is formed on February 12 in New York City, partly in response to the Springfield Riot.

Der Zee begins his career by capturing images of Marcus Garvey and the UNIA.

1931, William Grant Stillbecomes the first

black symphony composer to have his music performed by a major symphony orchestra when the Rochester, New York, Philharmonic Orchestra presets “The Afro-American Symphony” in concert.


The Fifteenth Amendment to the Constitution is ratified on March 30.

1923, Photographer James Van

1943, The Detroit Race

1895, Booker T. Washington

delivers his famous Atlanta Compromise address on September 18 at the Atlanta Cotton States Exposition. He says the Negro problem would be solved by a policy of gradualism and accommodation.

Riot, June 20-21, claims 34 lives including 25 African Americans. Other riots occur in Harlem, Mobile, Alabama, and Beaumont, Texas.

1921, On May 31-June 1, at least 60 blacks 1896, In September

1866, On June 13,

George Washington Carver is appointed director of agricultural research at Tuskegee Institute. His work advances peanut, sweet potato, and soybean farming.

Congress approves the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution, guaranteeing due process and equal protection under the law to all citizens. The amendment also grants citizenship to African Americans.

1919, The

Associated Negro Press is established inChicagoby Claude A. Barnett on March 2.

1907, Madam C.J. Walker of Denver

develops and markets her hair straightening method and creates one of the most successful cosmetics firms in the nation.


1877, President

Rutherford B. Hayes appointsFrederick Douglassas the first black U.S. Marshal. His jurisdication is the District of Columbia.


In January the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (ASNLH) begins publishing the Journal of Negro History which becomes the first scholarly journal devoted to the study of African American history.

and 21 whites are killed in the Tulsa Race Riot in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The violence destroys a thriving African American neighborhood and business district called Deep Greenwood.

1926, Carter G. Woodson

establishes Negro History Week in February between the Abraham Lincoln and Frederick DouglassBirthdays.

1937, William H. Hastie, former

advisor to President Franklin Roosevelt, is confirmed on March 26 as the first black federal judge after his appointment by Roosevelt to the federal bench in the Virgin Islands.

1947, On April 10, Jackie Robinson of

the Brooklyn Dodgers becomes the first African American to play major league baseball in the 20th Century.

1965, On March 7, six hundred Alabama civil rights activists stage a Selma-to-Montgomery protest march to draw

attention to the continued denial of black voting rights in the state. The marchers are confronted by Alabama State Troopers whose attack on them at the Edmund Pettus Bridge is carried on national television. On March 21,Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.leads a five-day, 54-mile march retracing the route of the original activists. The 3,300 marchers at the beginning of the trek eventually grow to 25,000 when they reach the Alabama capitol on March 25. After the protest march, President Lyndon Johnson proposes theVoting Rights Actto guarantee black voting throughout the South.

1962, Ernie Davis, a

Berry and Denzel Washington win Oscars for best actress and best actor for their portrayals in Monster’s Ball and Training Day respectively.

1983, On August 30,Guion

running back at Syracuse University, becomes the first African American athlete to receive college football’s Heisman Trophy.

(Guy) S. Bluford, Jr., a crew member on theChallenger,becomes the first African American astronaut to make a space flight.

1947, John Hope

Franklin’s From Slavery to Freedom is published. The work will become the most popular textbook on African American history published in the 20th Century.

2002, In March, Halle

1988, In September, Temple University offers the first Ph.D. in African American Studies.

1967, Solicitor GeneralThurgood Marshalltakes his seat as the first African American Justice on the United States Supreme Court on July 13.

1997, On April 13, golfer 1964, The Civil Rights Act of 1964 is

Tiger Woods wins the Masters Tournament in Augusta, Georgia. At 21 he is the youngest golfer ever to win the title. He is also the first African American to hold the title.

1975, General Daniel

passed by Congress on July 2. The act bans discrimination in all public accommodations and by employers. It also establishes the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission (EEOC) to monitor compliance with the law.

Chappie James of the Air Force becomes the first African American four star general.

1968, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is

assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee on April 4. In the wake of the assassination 125 cities in 29 states experience uprisings. By April 11, 46 people are killed and 35,000 are injured in these confrontations.

1955, Rosa Parks

refuses to relinquish her bus seat to a white man on December 1, initiating the Montgomery Bus Boycott.

1986, On January

1974, On April 8, Henry

20, the first national Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday is celebrated.

(Hank) Aaron of the Atlanta Braves hits his 715th home run surpassingBabeRuthto become the all-time leader in home runs in major league baseball.

1959, Ella

Fitzgerald and William “Count” Basie become the first African American performers to win Grammy awards.

vow to block the schoolhouse door to prevent their enrollment on June 11, Vivian Malone and James Hood register for classes at the University of Alabama. They are the first African American students to attend the university.

and fourwhites leaveWashington, D.C., for the Deep South on the first Freedom Ride for the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE).

President-elect George W. Bush nominates Colin Powell to be Secretary of State. Condoleezza Rice is also appointed to the positon of National Security Advisor for the Bush Administration. This is the first time either post has been held by African Americans.

2008, On November 4, Barack

1963, Despite Governor George Wallace’s

1961, On May 4, seven blacks

2001, In January

1980, Robert L. Johnson begins operation of Black Entertainment Television (BET) out of Washington, D.C.

Obama of Illinois, the only sitting African American U.S. Senator, is elected President of the United States. Obama wins the election decisively and becomes the first African American elected to this office.

1993, Joycelyn M. Elders

becomes the first African American and the first woman to be named United States Surgeon General on September 7.



History of Black History Month

In the following article Daryl Michael Scott,

Carter G. Woodson believed that publishing scientific

Professor of History at Howard University and Vice

history would transform race relations by dispelling the

President of Program for the Association for the Study

wide-spread falsehoods about the achievements of Africans

of African American Life and History, describes the

and peoples of African descent. He hoped that others would

history of the Black History Month Celebration.

popularize the findings that he and other black intellectuals

The story of Black History Month begins in Chicago during the late summer of 1915. An alumnus of the University of Chicago with many friends in the city, Carter G. Woodson traveled from Washington, D.C. to participate in a national celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of emancipation sponsored by the state of Illinois. Thousands of African Americans traveled from across the country to see exhibits highlighting the progress their people had made since the destruction of slavery. Awarded a doctorate in Harvard three years earlier, Woodson joined the other exhibitors with a black history display. Despite being held at the Coliseum, the site of the 1912 Republican convention, an overflow crowd of six to twelve thousand waited outside for their turn to view the exhibits. Inspired by the three-week celebration, Woodson decided to form an organization to promote the scientific study of black life and history before

would publish inThe Journal of Negro History, which he established in 1916. As early as 1920, Woodson urged black civic organizations to promote the achievements that researchers were uncovering. A graduate member of Omega Psi Phi, he urged his fraternity brothers to take up the work. In 1924, they responded with the creation of Negro History and Literature Week, which they renamed Negro Achievement Week.Their outreach was significant, but Woodson desired greater impact. As he told an audience of Hampton Institute students, “We are going back to that beautiful history and it is going to inspire us to greater achievements.� In 1925, he decided that the Association had to shoulder the responsibility. Going forward it would both create and popularize knowledge about the black past. He sent out a press release announcing Negro History Week in February, 1926.

leaving town. On September 9th, Woodson met at the Wabash

Woodson chose February for reasons of tradition and reform.

YMCA with A. L. Jackson and three others and formed the

It is commonly said that Woodson selected February to

Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (ASNLH).

encompass the birthdays of two great Americans who played a prominent role in shaping black history, namely Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass, whose birthdays are the 12th


and the 14th, respectively. More importantly, he chose

people. Provisioned with a steady flow of knowledge, high

them for reasons of tradition. Since Lincoln’s assassination

schools in progressive communities formed Negro History

in 1865, the black community, along with other Republicans,

Clubs. To serve the desire of history buffs to participate in the

had been celebrating the fallen President’s birthday.

re-education of black folks and the nation, ASNLH formed

And since the late 1890s, black communities across the

branches that stretched from coast to coast. In 1937, at the

country had been celebrating Douglass’. Well aware of the

urging of Mary McLeod Bethune, Woodson established

pre-existing celebrations, Woodson built Negro History Week

theNegro History Bulletin, which focused on the annual theme.

around traditional days of commemorating the black past.

As black populations grew, mayors issued Negro History

He was asking the public to extend their study of black history,

Week proclamations, and in cities like Syracuse, New York,

not to create a new tradition. In doing so, he increased his

progressive whites joined Negro History Week with National

chances for success.

Brotherhood Week.

Yet Woodson was up to something more than building on

Like most ideas that resonate with the spirit of the times, Negro

tradition. Without saying so, he aimed to reform it from the

History Week proved to be more dynamic than Woodson or the

study of two great men to a broader examination of a great

Association could control. By the 1930s, Woodson complained

race. Though he admired both men, Woodson had never been

about the intellectual charlatans, black and white, popping up

fond of the celebrations held in their honor. He railed against

everywhere seeking to take advantage of the public interest in

the “ignorant spellbinders” who addressed large, convivial

black history. He warned teachers not to invite speakers who

gatherings and displayed their lack of knowledge about the

had less knowledge than the students themselves. Increasingly

men and their contributions to history. More importantly,

publishing houses that had previously ignored black topics and

Woodson believed that history was made bythe people, not

authors rushed to put books on the market and in the schools.

simply or primarily by great men. He envisioned the study and

Instant experts appeared everywhere, and non-scholarly

celebration of the Negro as a race, not simply as the producers

works appeared from “mushroom presses.” In America,

of a great man. And Lincoln, however great, had not freed the

nothing popular escapes either commercialization or eventual

slaves—the Union Army, including hundreds of thousands of

trivialization, and so Woodson, the constant reformer, had his

black soldiers and sailors, had done that. Rather than focusing

hands full in promoting celebrations worthy of the people who

on two men, the black community, he believed, should focus on

had made the history.

the countless black men and women who had contributed to the advance of human civilization.

Well before his death in 1950, Woodson believed that the weekly celebrations—not the study or celebration of black

From the beginning, Woodson was overwhelmed by the

history--would eventually come to an end. In fact, Woodson

response to his call. Negro History Week appeared across

never viewed black history as a one-week affair. He pressed

the country in schools and before the public. The 1920s

for schools to use Negro History Week to demonstrate what

was the decade of the New Negro, a name given to the

students learnedallyear. In the same vein, he established a

Post-War I generation because of its rising racial pride and

black studies extension program to reach adults throughout the

consciousness. Urbanization and industrialization had

year. It was in this sense that blacks would learn of their past

brought over a million African Americans from the rural

on a daily basis that he looked forward to the time when an

South into big cities of the nation. The expanding black middle

annual celebration would no longer be necessary. Generations

class became participants in and consumers of black literature

before Morgan Freeman and other advocates of all-year

and culture. Black history clubs sprang up, teachers demanded

commemorations, Woodson believed that black history was

materials to instruct their pupils, and progressive whites

too important to America and the world to be crammed into

stepped and endorsed the efforts.

a limited time frame. He spoke of a shift from Negro History

Woodson and the Association scrambled to meet the demand.

Week to Negro History Year.

They set a theme for the annual celebration, and provided

In the 1940s, efforts began slowly within the black community

study materials—pictures, lessons for teachers, plays for

to expand the study of black history in the schools and

historical performances, and posters of important dates and

black history celebrations before the public. In the South,



black teachers often taught Negro History as a supplement to

part of the awakening, prodded Woodson’s organization to

United States history. One early beneficiary of the movement

change with the times. They succeeded. In 1976, fifty years

reported that his teacher would hide Woodson’s textbook

after the first celebration, the Association used its influence

beneath his desk to avoid drawing the wrath of the principal.

to institutionalize the shifts from a week to a month and from

During the Civil Rights Movement in the South, the Freedom

Negro history to black history. Since the mid-1970s, every

Schools incorporated black history into the curriculum to

American president, Democrat and Republican, has issued

advance social change. The Negro History movement was an

proclamations endorsing the Association’s annual theme.

intellectual insurgency that was part of every larger effort to transform race relations.

What Carter G. Woodson would say about the continued celebrations is unknown, but he would smile on all honest

The 1960s had a dramatic effect on the study and celebration of

efforts to make black history a field of serious study and

black history. Before the decade was over, Negro History Week

provide the public with thoughtful celebrations.

would be well on its way to becoming Black History Month. The shift to a month-long celebration began even before Dr. Woodson death. As early as 1940s, blacks in West Virginia, a state where Woodson often spoke, began to celebrate February as Negro History Month. In Chicago, a now forgotten cultural activist, Fredrick H. Hammaurabi, started celebrating Negro History Month in the mid-1960s. Having taken an African name in the 1930s, Hammaurabi used his cultural center, the House of Knowledge, to fuse African consciousness with the study of the black past. By the late 1960s, as young blacks on college campuses became increasingly conscious of links with Africa, Black History Month replaced Negro History Week at a quickening pace. Within the Association, younger intellectuals,


Š 2009 ASALH This copy may be republished electronically with the following acknowledgement and link: By Daryl Michael Scott for ASALH at Sources: Pero Gaglo Dagbovie,The Early Black History Movement, Carter G. Woodson, and Lorenzo Johnston Greene (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2007); Jacqueline Goggin,Carter G. Woodson: A Life in Black History (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1993) Contributor(s): Scott, Daryl Michael Howard University For more information, visit:




Name: Baratunde Thurston

Occupation: Co-Founder & CEO of Cultivated Wit, Author and Comedian I run a company called Cultivated Wit that uses humor and technology to better communicate, tell stories, and shape technology products. We run comedicallyfocused digital marketing campaigns for causes and businesses. We make media. We build things including apps, that are fun. It’s all very inspiring and exciting.

Personal Significance of Black History Month: It’s like Kwanzaa but longer.

Favorite African-American Icon and Why: El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz. First, every name this brother had was amazing from Malcolm Little to Detroit Red to Malcolm X to his final name. Second, his life (as so beautifully captured by Manning Marable) represents evolution, transformation, and reinvention. These are all themes essential to the survival and thriving not just of the black community but all communities.

Follow @baratunde

Favorite moment in Black History: Today!

Name: Sanya Richards Ross

Occupation: 4 time Olympic Gold Medalist, Entrepreneur, Reality Show Star

Personal Significance of Black History Month: Black History Month is by far my favorite month, not only because I’m born in February, but just because it really gives us an opportunity to reflect on where we’ve come from and it highlights so many of the heroes in the African American Community. It also gives us a chance to see where we are and where we are going and how much more we have to accomplish. For me, Black History Month has always been very special.

What was the most poignant moment in Black History month to you? I think of Brown vs the Board of Education when schools were no longer segregated. And for me that always sticks out, because my coach, Coach Clyde Hart, he was actually a part of the first school in Arkansas that became integrated and he always talked about that. Sometimes, I can’t wrap my mind around that moment because we’re so used to being integrated.

Favorite African-American Icon and Why: My very first role model was Merlene Ottey. She was a Jamaican celebrity sensation, one of the best 100 meter runners in history. I remember thinking as a young kid, I wanted to be just like her. Not only because of her strength and power on the track but she was always so poised, so relatable and did so much in the community in Jamaica. Similarly, my American role model is Jackie Joyner-Kersee. I loved her grit, her determination, and also all of the stuff she has done for St Louis, which is her hometown. To know her personally is a great thrill.

Follow @SanyaRichiRoss Watch Sanya Richards-Ross’ Interview at


Profiles Name: Hank Willis Thomas

Occupation: Artist at large, Photo conceptual artist, Contemporary visionary

What is the significance of Black History Month? I think it’s ever changing, isn’t it? That’s the beauty of it. One of the things we’re becoming more and more aware of is that African-American history is just American history. There was a time in which African-American accomplishments and contributions to American history and culture were kind of undervalued and ignored and now it’s become part of the everyday experience of American culture in history. And Black history month is becoming a greater celebration of contributions of AA in a much broader sense.

What was the poignant moment in Black history? I think every day. I think we sometimes forget that history is being made every day by people who aren’t famous. We’re all constantly making history. I think it’s important to not just highlight the “heroes” but to also recognize the people that are doing the work with their heads down. There are moments that are happening that aren’t celebrated that are just as important. I think it’s important to know that the time is always now.

Who were the African-American icons you looked up to and why? It sounds cliché, but I would say my grandmother. She was a pretty pious and modest person. But she also had strength and courage and her capacity to love. Having grown up in the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, I learned about African American icons through osmosis. It was always “there”, and my father was a Black panther. I also think about photographers like James Van Der Zee, and Gordon Parks would be important. Also of importance would be contemporary peers of my mother like James Baldwin.

Where do you see the direction of black history? Living in this moment, having a multi-ethnic president of African descent, and recognizing that things that we thought were impossible years ago are a reality today. I would hope that African Americans stop seeing themselves as limited to things that the group is supposed to be good at or care about. Having come back from South Africa and Kenya, recognizing the symbiosis and condensation that has been going on at an international level with African-Americans across the Atlantic, I would like us to think about things on a global scale. I think there is a greater connectivity with the history of progress with human evolution that I think African American history often overlooks. We tend to think a little bit about Mendela and apartheid but we really don’t pay much attention to African independence and African movements and progress made in the Caribbean and even Europe. I would hope that in the future we stop being so America-centric and see ourselves more as global citizens and realizing that just as Martin Luther King Jr and his peers had gained a lot of their knowledge through global perspectives, looking at Ghandi for example, that we start to think about ourselves in a global context.

Follow @hankwthomas



Hank Willis Thomas, Conceptual Artist Hank Willis Thomas, a prominent photo

Hank’s works revolve around racial

One of his more recent collaborative

conceptual artist, grew up surrounded

and cultural identity, history, and

works, Question Bridge: Black Males,

by art and culture. His father, also

pop culture.

is an innovative video installation

Hank Thomas, dabbled in many career fields and his, mother, Deborah Willis, is an renowned art photographer and University Professor and Chair of the Department of Photography & Imaging |at the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University . Hank was consistently around culture and

“There isn’t really a formal process for me because a lot of the work comes out of research, and experimentation, and really involves me coming upon other materials and just pondering them for an extended period of time and formulating this interesting interaction,” Hank said.

photographs but it was never his

His single and collaborative pieces have

intent to pursue an art career.

exhibited in galleries and museums

Hank’s interest in art intensified around high school. He joined the museum studies program which led him to study and receive his BFA from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts and his MFA in photography, along with an MA in visual criticism, from California College of the Arts (CCA) in San Francisco.

throughout the United States and internationally. Hank’s works have been showcased in numerous public

that initiates a dialogue with over 150 Black men from different cities across the nation. The installation invites visitors into a space where they view an intimate exchange between the subjects of the project. Question Bridge constructs a platform for contributors to represent and redefine black male identity in the U.S. “If you look at projects like Question Bridge: Black Males, it’s really trying to show that there is as much diversity in

“I’ve never really expected to be interested in art,” said Hank. “I actually, in a sense, fell into it.”

- Hank Willis Thomas

“[These experiences] gave me a great foundation in critical thinking

collections including the Whitney

and thinking about how images can

Museum of American Art, the Brooklyn

tell stories,” said Hank. “All of these

Museum, the Guggenheim Museum,

different experiences combined to

and the Museum of Modern Art.

give me a foundation to a career

He collects his inspiration from many

where I almost kind of followed in

different resources.

my mother’s footsteps.”

I get inspiration from pop culture,

His work has been featured in several

I get inspiration from historical archives,

publications including 25 under 25:

I get inspired by everyday people,” Hank

Up-and-Coming American

said. “Anyone who is open or vulnerable

Photographers (CDS, 2003) and 30

or exposes themselves to new ideas or

Americans (RFC, 2008), as well as

exposes their ideas to the rest of the

his monograph Pitch Blackness

world is an inspiration for me.”

any demographic as much as there is out of it. It’s really trying to encourage us to listen to, and to applaud the people that go against traditional measurements of success and to recognize that we all have something to contribute,” said Hank. By JD Collins

(Aperture, 2008). Running themes in



Name: Shawne Merriman

Occupation: Noted NFL Veteran, 3x Pro Bowl Selection and 3x All-Pro Selection

What is the significance of Black History Month? Black History Month allows those that have been a positive influence on the world – those that I looked up to growing up because they were doing something big – to take a month and acknowledge the special things they’ve accomplished.

What was the poignant moment in Black history? If you’re talking about sports, then it would be Doug Williams, a quarterback in the NFL who broke barriers. In business, it would be Michael Jordan, as the owner of a NBA team and an all-around business mogul who transcended being just an athlete. Magic Johnson would also be in that conversation, overcoming his personal challenges and going on to becoming an owner of a baseball team.

Who were the African-American icons you looked up to and why? It was the athletes I just mentioned. I think every athlete always models their dream to other athletes growing up. It wasn’t until I was old enough to be in the position they’re in now to realize you can be more than just a player. You have the ability to be an owner. That, to me, means more than any dunk or Super Bowl. They’re owners of something now. They worked to stake their place in this world.

Where do you see the direction of black history? It’s going to keep opening up doors. Obama’s election gave people hope to enter many different areas that blacks weren’t allowed to be in previously. It’s incredible what impact the hope alone has done for people nowadays.

Follow @shawnemerriman



Shawne Merriman, Former NFL Pro Bowler

From the gridiron to the boardroom,

such as rebuilding home for wildfire

“Keep looking at the light at the end of

Shawne Merriman proves that there is

relief in San Diego. As for life after the

the tunnel, keep looking at people who

life after playing professional football.

NFL, Merriman says his goal is to “Keep

are breaking down the barriers and

Growing up in a rough and tumble

grinding and building my own personal

doing stuff that 60, 70 years ago that

neighborhood in Maryland, Shawne

empire and myself.”

couldn’t have been done,” said Shawne.

avoided the negativity and managed to channel his energy into something positive. He knew that there was more out there for him. “We struggled financially and I definitely had a rough upbringing but it molded me into the person I am today,” said Shawne. Shawne’s outstanding talent in

“You’re going to have obstacles, you’re going to have adversities, but at the end of the day, don’t stop, just never stop.”

- Shawne Merriman

football emerged quickly. He earned the nickname “Lights Out” in high school

He is working on completing his

knocking out four guys in one football

MBA, doing commentary work on

game as a high school sophomore. After

NFL Network, and having roles in

which the name stuck with him through

TV and movies. Shawne is also

college and when he was a first round

working on a lifestyle line aptly

draft pick. Merriman then played in the

named “Lights Out” which features

NFL for teams such as the San Diego

“athletic but still fashionable” apparel

Chargers and the Buffalo Bills. “I was blessed to even be there on this grand stage, and it was something I dreamed about as a kid,” Shawne said when reflecting on his career in the NFL.

His recommendation for those that want to be the next Shawne Merriman… “Be better than Shawne Merriman, keep going, there are no ceilings.” By JD Collins

for men and women. “The quote of the company is ‘push the limit’, it’s about doing everything to the fullest and giving 110%, and accepting nothing less”, said Shawne. “Right now, I’m working, having fun and doing what I love to do”.

He also dedicates his

After overcoming many adversities,

time to the “Lights On

the future is bright for Shawne. With

Foundation” which

multiple projects in the queue, along

hold annual coat drives

with a budding television career, he gives

as well as specially

his advice to those who endure some

community projects

hardships as he did.



Name: Cheryl Contee

Occupation: Co-founder of Jack and Jill Politics, CEO at Fission Strategy and Co-Founder of 2010 Most Influential Women in Tech

Personal Significance of Black History Month: My father was an historian at Howard University and his love of history showed me that there are many sides and stories. Black History Month is an opportunity to explore this history we all share as Americans from a different angle and that is valuable. It enriches our collective knowledge.

Favorite African-American Icon and Why: Harriet Tubman - she was a Renaissance woman who loved as hard as she fought. She served not only as the Moses who freed many slaves including most of her family but she was brilliant and served as a Union spy during the Civil War to aid in vital intelligence gathering.

Favorite moment in Black History: Follow @ch3ryl

Barack Obama becoming president in 2008. No matter what feelings we may experience concerning his administration’s triumphs and tribulations, there’s no question that specific moment will always be special to all Americans - the election of the first black president.

Name: Allen West

Occupation: Former Congressman, retired Army Lieutenant Colonel, Author

What is the significance of Black History Month? The significance of Black History month is immeasurable. When I look at who I am, it is all about black history. When I first put on my army uniform, I go back and remember the 54th Massachusetts Regiment because those were the first black soldiers that was able to wear the uniform of the United States of America. I think of all of the black soldiers, sailors, airmen marines that went on and enabled me to be able to put on that uniform.

What was the poignant moment in Black history? When I think about the most poignant moment in black history, it’s very simple. My elementary school was right across the street from Ebenezer Baptist Church. Every single day, I walked by Ebenezer Baptist Church. Every single day, I got to see the resting place of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. His impeccable words that he would hope for a country where young men and women would not be judged by the color of their skin, but the content of their character; that’s the most poignant moment, the most poignant memory that I have when talking about black history month. I was walking, each and every day, looking at black history when I walked past Ebenezer, when I walked down Auburn Ave, I saw black history. So that’s why we have to have this month. That’s why we need to have this reflection.



Who werethe African-American icons you looked up to and why? I think about Henry O. Flipper, the first black graduate of West Point. I think about Dorie Miller at Pearl Harbor. I think about the 361st Infantry Regiment during World War I. I think about the Tuskegee Airmen. I think about my own dad serving in World War II or my brother serving in Vietnam. I think about the Montford Point Marines.

Name: Tony Dungy

Occupation: Football Analyst, NBC’s Football Night in America Tony Dungy is the No.1 New York Times bestselling author of Quiet Strength, Uncommon, The Mentor Leader, and The One Year Uncommon Life Daily Challenge. He led the Indianapolis Colts to Super Bowl victory on February 4, 2007, the first such win for an African American head coach. Dungy established another NFL first by becoming the first head coach to lead his teams to the playoffs for ten consecutive years. He retired from coaching in 2009 and now serves as a studio analyst for NBC’s Football Night in America. He is dedicated to mentoring others, especially young people, and encouraging them to live uncommon lives.

Personal Significance of Black History Month: Growing up in the 1960s and seeing our country grow from the days where segregation was the norm to where we are now, Black History Month is very significant to me. My dad’s first teaching job was in a segregated high school in Virginia. I remember vividly as a young boy watching television and seeing the struggles of African American students who were trying to attend all white schools in the South. I can still hear my dad’s voice telling me about Joe Louis winning the Heavyweight Championship and Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier in major league baseball. It’s much different in America today but Black History Month is a time for me to personally reflect on the men and women who paved the way for my generation

Favorite African-American Icon and Why: It has to be Dr. King. I was 8 years old when he gave the “I Have A Dream” speech and that galvanized my thinking. My mom and dad were always encouraging us to dream and think about our futures, but that was the first time I ever saw a black man on a national platform saying that. I was in junior high school when he was killed and, again, it impacted me that someone was willing to die for their convictions. In fact, Dr. King said he didn’t fear death and he knew he had helped our country, and African Americans in particular, in the fight for equality.

Favorite moment in Black History: There were a lot of significant moments but I’d have to say for me it was in 1966 Texas Western University, playing seven black players beat the University of Kentucky for the NCAA basketball championship. I was only 10 years old and didn’t understand the social significance until much later. Those seven African Americans were taking on the establishment and the tradition of Kentucky basketball, and as I look back that game changed a lot of things for college athletics and sports as a whole in our country. It also showed me that years later I could use the athletic field to make social and spiritual points.

Follow @TonyDungy



Name: Grand Master Flash

Occupation: Noted NFL Veteran, 3x Pro Bowl Selection and 3x All-Pro Selection

What is the significance of Black History Month? Black History Month allows those that have been a positive influence on the world – those that I looked up to growing up because they were doing something big – to take a month and acknowledge the special things they’ve accomplished.

What was the poignant moment in Black history? If you’re talking about sports, then it would be Doug Williams, a quarterback in the NFL who broke barriers. In business, it would be Michael Jordan, as the owner of a NBA team and an all-around business mogul who transcended being just an athlete. Magic Johnson would also be in that conversation, overcoming his personal challenges and going on to becoming an owner of a baseball team.

Who were the African-American icons you looked up to and why? It was the athletes I just mentioned. I think every athlete always models their dream to other athletes growing up. It wasn’t until I was old enough to be in the position they’re in now to realize you can be more than just a player. You have the ability to be an owner. That, to me, means more than any dunk or Super Bowl. They’re owners of something now. They worked to stake their place in this world.

Where do you see the direction of black history? It’s going to keep opening up doors. Obama’s election gave people hope to enter many different areas that blacks weren’t allowed to be in previously. It’s incredible what impact the hope alone has done for people nowadays.

Follow @DJFlash4eva Watch DJ Grandmaster Flash’s Interview at



Grandmaster Flash, Hip-Hop Legend

There are lots of stories about the birth

body of the vinyl with crayon,

unrivaled skills as a DJ and his acrobatic

of jazz and the beginning of rock n’ roll,

fluorescent pen, and grease pencil—

performances—spinning and cutting

but hip-hop has founding fathers: one of

and those markings became his compass.

vinyl with his fingers, toes, elbows, and

them is DJ Grandmaster Flash. In the early 70’s Joseph Saddler was living in

He invented the Quick Mix Theory,

any object at hand.

which included techniques such as

Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five

the double-back, back-door, back-spin,

went Platinum with their single,

and phasing. This allowed a DJ to

“The Message.” Meanwhile, the single

make music by touching the record

“The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash

and gauging its revolutions to make

on the Wheels of Steel” introduced DJing

his own beat and his own music.

to a larger listening audience than it

Flash’s template grew to include cuttin’,

had ever known before; it became the

which, in turn, spawned scratching,

first DJ composition to be recorded by

transforming, the Clock Theory and

a DJ. The group’s fame continued to

the like. He laid the groundwork for

grow with “Superappin,” “Freedom,”

everything a DJ can do with a record

“Larry’s Dance Theme,” and “You Know

The career of DJ Grandmaster

today, other than just letting it play.

What Time It Is.” Punk and new wave

Flash began in the Bronx with

What we call a DJ today is a role that

fans were introduced to Flash through

neighborhood block parties

Flash invented.

Blondie, who immortalized him in her

the South Bronx and studying electrical engineering. However, Saddler, a native of the Bronx, had a much deeper passion for music; he had been experimenting with his father’s vinyl since he was an toddler. His knowledge of audio equipment led him to an idea that would revolutionize the way he played music: the turntable would become his instrument.

that essentially were the start of what would become a global phenomenon — the dawn of a musical genre. He was the first DJ to physically lay his hands on the vinyl and manipulate it in a backward, forward or counterclockwise motion, when most DJs simply handled the record by the edges, put down the tone arm, and let it play. Those DJs let the tone arm guide their music, but Flash marked up the

By the end of the 70s, Flash had

hit, “Rapture.”

started another trend that became

The rock n’ roll hall of fame also

a hallmark around the world:

recognized Flash with an honor no

emcees followed flash to the various

one else in hip hop has received:

parts and parties to rap/emcee over

Grandmaster Flash and the Furious

his beats. Before long, he started his own

Five became the first hip hop group ever

group, Grandmaster Flash and

inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of

the Furious Five. Their reputation grew

Fame in 2007. Flash is the first DJ to

up around the way the group traded off

ever receive that honor.

and blended their lyrics with Flash’s



Name: Toni Carey and Ashley Hicks

Occupation: Co-Founder of Black Girls RUN

Personal Significance of Black History Month: Black History Month is an opportunity to honor and pay homage to AfricanAmericans who have made a significant impact on our history and in our communities.

Personal Significance of Black History Month: Definitely the Civil Rights Movement. It is a great example of the resilience of our community. It’s really been the only time in history that we’ve come together for the greater good of our people.

Favorite African-American Icon and Why: W.E.B Dubois and Malcolm X. Both were considered radicals of their time and offered a different way of thinking when it came to the plight of African-Americans.

Favorite moment in Black History: Unfortunately, I don’t believe enough emphasis is put on black history. We now look to reality stars as role models instead of the people who truly make a difference in our community.

Follow @blackgirlsrun



Black Girls Run

Black Girls RUN! was created in 2009 by Toni Carey and Ashley

Fortune 500 Company located in Parsippany, N.J.,

Hicks in an effort to tackle the growing obesity epidemic in

as a corporate communications and industry relations

the African-American community and provide encouragement

specialist, as well as CRT/tanka a public relations and

and resources to both new and veteran runners. What started

marketing agency in Norfolk, Va. She currently works for

off as an online blog has grown to be a nationwide movement

Black Girls RUN! full-time, lives in Atlanta, Ga. with her

to include an annual national race and conference, fitness

husband and two dogs, Legend and Cali.

clinic tours, national race partnerships, Walk Before You RUN! training, and more.

Ashley Hicks: Native of Evans, Ga., Ashley attended and played soccer at Middle Tennessee State University

According to the Centers for Disease Control, 51.6

in Murfreesboro, Tenn. She graduated in 2005 with

percent of black women ages 20-74 are considered obese.

a Bachelor of Science degree in Mass Communications.

The mission of Black Girls RUN! is to encourage African-

She also received a Master of Science in Communication

American women to make fitness and healthy living a priority

from Columbia University in New York. She has worked

and create a movement to lower the obesity rate among

with WRDW-TV as a television director, the South Carolina

women and subsequently, lower the number of women with

Educational Television as a producer – director and as

chronic diseases associated with an unhealthy diet and

a social media, communications manager for a non-profit

sedentary lifestyle.

headquartered in New York. She currently works for Black Girls

To date, Black Girls RUN! has more than 60 running

RUN! full-time and lives in Atlanta, Ga. with her fiancé.

groups across the nation with more than 62,000 members.

Toni Carey and Ashley Hicks have been recognized locally

The groups include beginner and experienced runners

and nationally for their work to combat obesity in the

and provide a support system to help members reach their

African-American community. They were recently awarded

fitness goals.

the Young Professionals Dream Catchers award from the

Toni Carey: Native of Lebanon, Tennessee. Carey graduated from Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro, Tenn., with a Bachelor of Science degree in Mass Communications with concentrations in Public Relations and Advertising and minors in marketing and Spanish. She also received a Master of Arts and Science degree from Seton Hall University in South Orange, N.J. She has worked with Dye, VanMol & Lawrence Public Relations in Nashville,

Urban League of Greater Atlanta Young Professional. Also, they were recently profiled by Runner’s World magazine, espnW, The Tennessean and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and appeared on The Michael Baisden Show. They were also named to Ebony Magazine’s Power 100 list, The Grio’s Class of 2012 list, nominated as “Best Blogger” by Shape Magazine and named as one of the “30 Black Bloggers You Should Know”, by

Tenn., as an account executive and Avis Budget Group, Inc., a




Marcus Stroud

Occupation: Noted NFL Veteran, 3x Pro Bowl Selection, 3x All-Pro Selection

Personal Significance of Black History Month: It’s the celebration of everyone who paved the way for me to be able to do the things I’m doing today. To me, every day we move forward is a celebration of the things African Americans have done to make progress. This is just the month where we officially take time to celebrate all of the great achievements.

What was the most poignant moment in black history for you? That’s really hard to answer since there are so many moments. I think I would be doing in an injustice if I were to label just one. There are too many pivotal moments to be able to pick just one.

Favorite African-American Icon and Why: The most obvious ones that I looked up to were Martin Luther King Jr and Malcolm X, for their leadership and for being able to unite people and get them focused. Even though both had different ideas fundamentally, they were able to get people to come together for the greater good.

Favorite moment in Black History: I still think we have a lot of history to be made. Our story is never done. There’s always somebody that will make a difference every day.




Marcus Stroud, Former NFL Pro Bowler

A self-proclaimed “country boy” from South Georgia, NFL

“It was a no-brainer. [Jacksonville] is where I played most of my

veteran and philanthropist Marcus Stroud remains humble and

career and it was where I had most of my success,” said Marcus.

grateful for his experiences during and after the NFL. Marcus

”Even though I embraced other teams like the Buffalo Bills, I’ll

was the 13th overall pick in the 2001 draft and played for 10

always be a Jaguar for life.”

years in the NFL for teams such as the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Buffalo Bills. “I started playing football my junior year of high school,” said Marcus. “My goal was to go to college and obtain a degree first, and if I was fortunate enough to make the NFL, it was a bonus.” His talents and leadership were quickly recognized. As a high school senior, Marcus was selected to grace the cover of Sports Illustrated in 1996, when he committed to play college ball at the University of Georgia, UGA. Marcus graduated with his bachelor’s degree and remains a proud member of Phi Beta Sigma, a predominantly AfricanAmerican Fraternity.

Marcus has not only accomplished great success on the football field, but he also has a passion for entrepreneurial endeavors off the field. “I just obtained my graduate degree, and now I’m studying to get my insurance license,” Marcus said. “I’m still trying to keep my options open, perhaps get into broadcasting one day.” Given his successful career, Marcus also realizes the importance of giving back to the community. He has contributed countless hours to charity and in 2007, he established the Marcus Stroud Charitable Foundation to assist under-privileged youth in low-income single parent homes. The mission of the foundation is to raise support by

After being drafted by the Jacksonville Jaguars, Marcus

improving and enriching the lives of under-privileged children

made a name for himself as a rising Defensive all-star.

by offering various academic and athletic programs otherwise

He successfully earned a trip to the NFL Pro Bowl for

unavailable to them.

three consecutive seasons.

“A lot of people helped along my journey, and I wanted to pay

When asked the most important lesson he learned during

it forward and give back,” Marcus said. ‘it’s evolved so much,

his tenure in the NFL, Marcus responded “Never take anything

it’s now at the point where [the foundation] is about bringing

for granted. You always think you can bounce back from an

awareness to the childhood obesity problem,” said Marcus.

injury or something like that and sometimes that’s not the

“It’s one of my focus and goals right now.”

case,” said Marcus. “So don’t take anything for granted, that’s my number one lesson.” In 2008, Marcus was traded to the Buffalo Bills and became one of the team’s integral defensive talents. He worked hard to become the starting Defensive Tackle where he became one

An elite yet humble athlete, business-savvy yet philanthropic entrepreneur, Marcus continues to make impacts on and off the field. By JD Collins

of the most dominant and versatile players until 2011 when he signed with the New England Patriots. In June 2012, Marcus signed a 1-day contract with the Jacksonville Jaguars to retire as a Jaguar.


Profiles Name: Stefanie Brown James


CEO and Founder of Vestige Strategies, Founder of Brown Girls Lead, In charge of the African-American vote for President Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign.

Personal Significance of Black History Month:

It’s important to say that black history is American history and it’s global history. I was just in Morocco a few weeks ago and to see the influence of American culture which really is intertwined and often times shaped by black culture was amazing. From music, to dress, to slang to a lot of different elements, and so much of that has been influenced by those who helped to shape the culture and made sure that black people had a voice and were able to be unique in how we are. I’m particularly tied to the more social justice activists of the past. I think one of our proudest moments as it relates to activism was the young people during the civil rights movement that sacrificed a lot and they were only kids and I think it’s really important that we continue to let our children know about black history, where we come from, and continue to try to shape history even now.

What was the most poignant moment in black history for you?

The founding of the NAACP in 1909, and it was a multicultural group of people who were committed to seeing the advancement of black people in this country. At that time, the biggest things they worked on was anti-lynching laws. Just the bravery that it took for these men and women across the country to form this organization and form chapters across the country was significant. These [people] were in the face of real danger and a lot of people lost their lives, many who we would never know their names or their sacrifices. That bravery element just speaks so much. Almost anything we go through nowadays is nothing compared to what they went through. If they could do, we could do it too. That’s always something very empowering for me to remember as I try to do the work that I do.

Favorite African-American Icon and Why:

Not a shock that many of them are women. Juanita Jackson Mitchell was the founder of the youth and college division of NAACP and she was also instrumental in cases like the Scottsboro Boys case and was just a real pioneer as it relates to a woman who was involved in civil rights. Women like Ella Baker who helped to find the student non-violent coordinating committee who also was a field director for NAACP. She really helped to mold generations after her to be involved in civil right. Present-day, I continue to be enamored with Oprah. My husband’s probably so tired of me talking about Oprah. I love Oprah. I’m hoping to meet her one day. I like her business-savvy and now as an entrepreneur, she is a person who I look up to for being able to really do things her way.

Favorite moment in Black History:

I think one thing that’s great with the space that I’m involved in now is to literally see my peers who are shaping black history every day. It’s very exciting for many unsung heroes who are working very diligently to continue to work towards the advancement of the black community and to work for fairness and justice. I think that there is so many more young people who want to be leaders and they want to make history, American history, world history and our job is to really give back to them. 1) to make sure they know their history and 2) to help them see how they can play a role in shaping what the country is, what we do, and how we’re viewed in the world.




Stefanie Brown James, CEO

Growing up in the suburbs of Cleveland, Ohio, Stefanie Brown

“We worked hard, a lot of effort went into this campaign,” she

James knew that a career in government affairs and civil

said. “It wasn’t a fluke that African-American voters turned out

rights was the path for her. She started to get involved in civil

in the highest rates ever.”

rights when she joined the Cleveland Youth Council of National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). She then moved on to a prestigious education at Howard University which led to a job opportunity at the NCAAP. “I’ve always been a real history buff,” she said. “To know where we come from, and all the people who sacrificed to make it possible for us to experience the freedom that we have today, I wanted to be part of that legacy.” As part of the field staff at NAACP, Stefanie became akin to working long hours and after seeing the dedication of everyday people, she knew that it was truly an honor to be part of the NAACP legacy.

President Obama’s re-election campaign did not come without difficulties. Many members of the African-American community were perhaps skeptical or felt let down by what they thought the President should have accomplished during the first term. It was Stephanie’s job to change that mindset. “At the end of the day, you have a choice… black people were energized because they knew how important voting was to their lives and that it made a difference,” she said. Building upon her career Stefanie is now the CEO and founding partner of Vestige Strategies that specializes in grassroots community engagement, public affairs and government relations as well as being the Founder of Brown Girls Lead,

“If you can work at NAACP, you can work anywhere,”

leadership development organization focused on building a

she said. “The people I met along the way and who

strong pipeline of collegiate, black women leaders.

assisted me, the passion, the dedication, and what they taught me is probably my biggest takeaway from my experience at the association.” In 2013, after a long hiring process, Stefanie was then hired to work for the most powerful man in the world, President Barack Obama as the National African American Vote Director for the 2012 Obama for America Campaign. “To work for the 1st black president, it was an amazing godgiven opportunity,” she said. “My experience in working for the NAACP prepared me for the position.” Her duty was to organize the African Americans for Obama program and also manage the national strategy to engage African American leaders and voters to register and re-elect

Stefanie founded the program after a speaking engagement at her alma mater. The female attendees informed her that a career in government was not ideal because it wasn’t “attractive to men”. “I was just blown away, this was not our legacy as black women at Howard,” she said. “After talking with my husband, we were able to form Brown Girls Lead to help collegiate women in their personal, professional, and public lives.” As Stefanie’s endeavors continue to grow, she certainly recognizes the impact and importance of Black History Month to future generations. By JD Collins

President Barack Obama.



Name: Beverly Johnson

Occupation: Super Model, Hair Guru, Businesswoman

What is the significance of Black History Month? Black History Month is our History and if we don’t tell it, no one will remember.

Favorite African-American Icons and Why? I had the opportunity to meet these amazing individuals, President Obama before he was the president, Congressmen John Lewis, Coretta Scott King and Ruby Bridges. All these amazing people have actually molded the world that we live in today.

Follow@BeverlyJohnson1 Watch Beverly Johnson’s Interview at



Beverley Johnson, Super Model

The first African American supermodel on the cover of

She is the face and name of The Beverly Johnson Wig and

American Vogue was Ms. Beverly Johnson. Beverly was

Hair Extension Collection with Amekor Industries. During this

attending college Northeastern University in Boston, MA when

period, her line of wigs, extensions and other hair products was

she tried her hand at modeling. She quickly landed modeling

the top selling brand in the country.

gigs and began working steadily. Johnson would go on to appear on magazine covers and fashion runways, including her groundbreaking Vogue cover in August 1974. Johnson’s appearance on the cover changed the beauty ideal in fashion, and by 1975, every major American fashion designer began using African American models. Now Beverly is a considered a pioneer, entrepreneur, and role model for women everywhere.

This is a true testament to Beverly Johnson’s “name recognition” and brand awareness from Multicultural clients with a deep respect for top quality hair products. Many national publications have dubbed her the “Hair Guru.” As her hair product line continues to flourish, Beverly will always be known as THE Super Model that paved the way for those that followed her.



Name: Name: Louis Gossett Jr.

Occupation: Academy Award Winning Actor, Activist, Author

What is the significance of Black History Month?

Black History Month is our History and if we don’t tell it, no one will remember.

Favorite African-American Icons and Why? Black History Month has been very valuable to me in the past and will be valuable to me this February 7th. I’ll be getting a Lifetime Achievement Award from the City of Los Angeles.

Follow @LouisGossettJr Watch Louis Gossett Jr.’s Interview at



Lou Gossett, Academy Award Winning Actor

Born May 27, 1936 in Brooklyn, NY, Lou has a flair for

Egyptian president Anwar Sadat in “Sadat”(1983), the sci-fi

projecting quiet authority and has scored well personally in

adventure “Enemy Mine” (1985) where his lizard-like makeup

a string of diverse and occasionally challenging roles.

won kudos, and in the action adventure series “Iron Eagle”

The aspiring actor caught a break at his first Broadway audition for “Take A Giant Step” (1953), where, beating out 400 other candidates, the then 16-year-old landed the lead. His acting career soon flourished and his work in the stage and film versions of the groundbreaking drama about African-American family life in Lorraine Hansberry’s

(1985,1986,1992,1995) which introduced him to a whole new generation of moviegoers. Still going strong, Lou’s trendsetting bald head and imposing six-foot-four physique served him well in “Diggstown” (1991) where he played a down-and-out boxer, a heroic headmaster in “Toy Soldiers” (1991).

“A Raisin in the Sun” (1961) proved a watershed. This led

Lou’s well thought out and nuanced performances also

to numerous appearances on network series in the 1960s

managed to give credibility to socially themed projects such

and 70s culminating in 1977, when he picked up an Emmy

as “To Dance with Olivia” (1997), and the critically acclaimed

for his eloquent portrayal of Fiddler in the landmark ABC

“Jasper, Texas” (2003)

miniseries “Roots”.

The recipient of every known acting accolade, including

Meanwhile, his big screen reputation grew with critically

multiple Golden Globes, Emmys, and People’s Choice Awards,

acclaimed work in such comedies as “The Landlord”

Lou’s performance has connected him with his fans on a

(1970) ”The Skin Game”(1971) with James Garner, “Travels

global scale. Organizations such as the NAACP, CARE, and

with My Aunt” (1972) and the film adaptation of the Tony

the United States Armed Forces have used his likeness to add

Award-winning drama “The River Niger” (1975). A riveting

validity and integrity to their causes.

performance as a drug-dealing cutthroat stalking Nick Nolte and Jacqueline Bisset in “The Deep” (1977) catapulted him to wider popularity, but the tough by-the-book drill sergeant in “An Officer and a Gentleman” (1982) won him a Best Supporting Oscar that consolidated his place in the Hollywood hierarchy.

Recently, Lou was the new lead on the popular science fiction series “Stargate SG-1” introducing him to a new generation of fans worldwide. Lou has also developed the Eracism Foundation, a nonprofit organization aimed at creating entertainment that helps bring awareness and education to issues such as racism, ignorance, and societal apathy.

Following his Oscar, he made numerous big screen and television appearances ,being singled out for his work as





Barack Obama, 44th President of the United States

Barack H. Obama is the 44th President of the United States. His story is the American story — values from the heartland, a middle-class upbringing in a strong family, hard work and education as the means of getting ahead, and the conviction that a life so blessed should be lived in service to others.

President Obama’s years of public service are based around his unwavering belief in the ability to unite people around a politics of purpose. In the Illinois State Senate, he passed the first major ethics reform in 25 years, cut taxes for working families, and expanded health care for children and their parents. As a United States Senator, he reached across the

With a father from Kenya and a mother from Kansas,

aisle to pass groundbreaking lobbying reform, lock up the

President Obama was born in Hawaii on August 4, 1961.

world’s most dangerous weapons, and bring transparency to

He was raised with help from his grandfather, who served

government by putting federal spending online.

in Patton’s army, and his grandmother, who worked her way up from the secretarial pool to middle management at a bank. After working his way through college with the help of

He was elected the 44th President of the United States on November 4, 2008, and sworn in on January 20, 2009. He and his wife, Michelle, are the proud parents of two daughters, Malia, 14, and Sasha, 11.

scholarships and student loans, President Obama moved to Chicago, where he worked with a group of churches to help rebuild communities devastated by the closure of local steel plants. He went on to attend law school, where he became the first African-American president of theHarvard Law Review. Upon graduation, he returned to Chicago to help lead a voter registration drive, teach constitutional law at the University of Chicago, and remain active in his community.



President-Elect Barack Obama’s Election Night Victory Speech, Nov. 4th, 2008

On November 4, 2008, Illinois Senator Barack Obama defeated

in their lives, because they believed that this time must be

Arizona Senator John McCain in the 2008 presidential

different, that their voices could be that difference.

election. On the night of his historic victory, Senator Obama addressed an audience of 250,000 at Grant Park in Chicago. The text of his speech appears below.

It’s the answer spoken by young and old, rich and poor, Democrat and Republican, black, white, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, gay, straight, disabled and not disabled.

Hello Chicago.

Americans who sent a message to the world that we have never

If there is anyone out there who still doubts that

been just a collection of individuals or a collection of red states

America is a place where all things are possible, who still

and blue states.

wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time,

We are, and always will be, the United States of America.

who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer. It’s the answer told by lines that stretched around schools and churches in numbers this nation has never seen, by people who waited three hours and four hours, many for the first time


It’s the answer that led those who’ve been told for so long by so many to be cynical and fearful and doubtful about what we can achieve to put their hands on the arc of history and bend it once more toward the hope of a better day.

It’s been a long time coming, but tonight, because of what we

We didn’t start with much money or many endorsements. Our

did on this date in this election at this defining moment change

campaign was not hatched in the halls of Washington.

has come to America.

It began in the backyards of Des Moines and the living rooms

A little bit earlier this evening, I received an extraordinarily gracious call from Senator McCain. Senator McCain fought long and hard in this campaign. And he’s fought even longer

of Concord and the front porches of Charleston. It was built by working men and women who dug into what little savings they had to give $5 and $10 and $20 to the cause.

and harder for the country that he loves. He has endured

It grew strength from the young people who rejected the myth

sacrifices for America that most of us cannot begin to imagine.

of their generation’s apathy ... who left their homes and their

We are better off for the service rendered by this brave and

families for jobs that offered little pay and less sleep.

selfless leader. I congratulate him; I congratulate Governor Palin for all that they’ve achieved. And I look forward to working with them to renew this nation’s promise in the months ahead. I want to thank my partner in this journey, a man who campaigned from his heart, and spoke for the men and women he grew up with on the streets of Scranton ... and rode with on the train home to Delaware, the vice presidentelect of the United States, Joe Biden. And I would not be standing here tonight without the unyielding support of my best friend for the last 16 years... the rock of our family, the love of my life, the nation’s next first lady... Michelle Obama.

It drew strength from the not-so-young people who braved the bitter cold and scorching heat to knock on doors of perfect strangers, and from the millions of Americans who volunteered and organized and proved that more than two centuries later a government of the people, by the people, and for the people has not perished from the Earth. This is your victory. And I know you didn’t do this just to win an election. And I know you didn’t do it for me.

Sasha and Malia... I love you both more than you can imagine.

You did it because you understand the enormity of the task

And you have earned the new puppy that’s coming with us... to

that lies ahead. For even as we celebrate tonight, we know the

the new White House.

challenges that tomorrow will bring are the greatest of our

And while she’s no longer with us, I know my grandmother’s watching, along with the family that made me who I am.

lifetime -- two wars, a planet in peril, the worst financial crisis in a century.

I miss them tonight. I know that my debt to them is

Even as we stand here tonight, we know there are brave

beyond measure.

Americans waking up in the deserts of Iraq and the mountains

To my sister Maya, my sister Alma, all my other brothers and

of Afghanistan to risk their lives for us.

sisters, thank you so much for all the support that you’ve given

There are mothers and fathers who will lie awake after the

me. I am grateful to them.

children fall asleep and wonder how they’ll make the mortgage

And to my campaign manager, David Plouffe... the unsung hero of this campaign, who built the best --

or pay their doctors’ bills or save enough for their child’s college education.

the best political campaign, I think, in the history of the

There’s new energy to harness, new jobs to be created,

United States of America.

new schools to build, and threats to meet, alliances to repair.

To my chief strategist David Axelrod... who’s been a partner

The road ahead will be long. Our climb will be steep.

with me every step of the way.

We may not get there in one year or even in one term.

To the best campaign team ever assembled in the history of politics... you made this happen, and I am forever grateful for

But, America, I have never been more hopeful than I am tonight that we will get there.

what you’ve sacrificed to get it done.

I promise you, we as a people will get there.

But above all, I will never forget who this victory truly belongs

AUDIENCE: Yes we can! Yes we can! Yes we can!

to. It belongs to you. It belongs to you. I was never the likeliest candidate for this office.

OBAMA: There will be setbacks and false starts. There are many who won’t agree with every decision or policy



I make as president. And we know the government can’t

Let’s remember that it was a man from this state who first

solve every problem.

carried the banner of the Republican Party to the White House,

But I will always be honest with you about the challenges we face. I will listen to you, especially when we disagree.

a party founded on the values of self-reliance and individual liberty and national unity.

And, above all, I will ask you to join in the work of remaking

Those are values that we all share. And while the Democratic

this nation, the only way it’s been done in America for 221

Party has won a great victory tonight, we do so with a measure

years -- block by block, brick by brick, calloused hand by

of humility and determination to heal the divides that have

calloused hand.

held back our progress.

What began 21 months ago in the depths of winter cannot end

As Lincoln said to a nation far more divided than ours, we are

on this autumn night.

not enemies but friends. Though passion may have strained,

This victory alone is not the change we seek. It is only the

it must not break our bonds of affection.

chance for us to make that change. And that cannot happen if

And to those Americans whose support I have yet to earn,

we go back to the way things were.

I may not have won your vote tonight, but I hear your voices.

It can’t happen without you, without a new spirit of service, a new spirit of sacrifice. So let us summon a new spirit of patriotism, of responsibility, where each of us resolves to pitch in and work harder and look after not only ourselves but each other. Let us remember that, if this financial crisis taught us anything, it’s that we cannot have a thriving Wall Street while Main Street suffers.

I need your help. And I will be your president, too. And to all those watching tonight from beyond our shores, from parliaments and palaces, to those who are huddled around radios in the forgotten corners of the world, our stories are singular, but our destiny is shared, and a new dawn of American leadership is at hand. To those -- to those who would tear the world down: We will defeat you. To those who seek peace and security: We support you. And to all those who have wondered if America’s beacon

In this country, we rise or fall as one nation, as one people.

still burns as bright: Tonight we proved once more that the

Let’s resist the temptation to fall back on the same partisanship

true strength of our nation comes not from the might of

and pettiness and immaturity that has poisoned our politics

our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring

for so long.

power of our ideals: democracy, liberty, opportunity and unyielding hope.


That’s the true genius of America: that America can change.

through the best of times and the darkest of hours, she knows

Our union can be perfected. What we’ve already achieved gives

how America can change. Yes we can.

us hope for what we can and must achieve tomorrow. This election had many firsts and many stories that will be told for generations. But one that’s on my mind tonight’s about a woman who cast her ballot in Atlanta. She’s a lot like the millions of others who stood in line to make their voice heard in this election except for one thing: Ann Nixon Cooper is 106 years old. She was born just a generation past slavery; a time when there were no cars on the road or planes in the sky; when

AUDIENCE: Yes we can. OBAMA: America, we have come so far. We have seen so much. But there is so much more to do. So tonight, let us ask ourselves -- if our children should live to see the next century; if my daughters should be so lucky to live as long as Ann Nixon Cooper, what change will they see? What progress will we have made? This is our chance to answer that call. This is our moment.

someone like her couldn’t vote for two reasons -- because

This is our time, to put our people back to work and open doors

she was a woman and because of the color of her skin.

of opportunity for our kids; to restore prosperity and promote

And tonight, I think about all that she’s seen throughout her century in America -- the heartache and the hope; the struggle and the progress; the times we were told that we can’t, and the people who pressed on with that American creed: Yes we can. At a time when women’s voices were silenced and their hopes dismissed, she lived to see them stand up and speak out and reach for the ballot. Yes we can.

the cause of peace; to reclaim the American dream and reaffirm that fundamental truth, that, out of many, we are one; that while we breathe, we hope. And where we are met with cynicism and doubts and those who tell us that we can’t, we will respond with that timeless creed that sums up the spirit of a people: Yes, we can. Thank you. God bless you. And may God bless the United States of America.

When there was despair in the dust bowl and depression across the land, she saw a nation conquer fear itself with a New Deal, new jobs, a new sense of common purpose. Yes we can. AUDIENCE: Yes we can. OBAMA: When the bombs fell on our harbor and tyranny threatened the world, she was there to witness a generation rise to greatness and a democracy was saved. Yes we can. AUDIENCE: Yes we can. OBAMA: She was there for the buses in Montgomery, the hoses in Birmingham, a bridge in Selma, and a preacher from Atlanta who told a people that We Shall Overcome. Yes we can. AUDIENCE: Yes we can. OBAMA: A man touched down on the moon, a wall came down in Berlin, a world was connected by our own science and imagination. And this year, in this election, she touched her finger to a screen, and cast her vote, because after 106 years in America,

Sources:, http://edition.cnn. com/2008/Politics/11/04/obama.transcript/


Historical Profiles



Rosa Parks, Civil Rights Advocate

Revered as one of the most influential people of the twentieth century by Time Magazine, Rosa Parks is best known for her role in the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1956. Born on February 4, 1913 in Tuskegee, Alabama, Parks moved with an aunt to Montgomery and attended the Montgomery Industrial School for girls. Parks worked as a janitor each evening to support her private school education. Though she began Alabama State Teacher’s College High School, she dropped out to care for ill family members. After marrying barber and local political activist Raymond Parks, Rosa joined

and created carpools, marking the

several books about her story, in 2002,

Montgomery’s NAACP. An enthusiastic

beginning of the 381 day Montgomery

Parks teamed up with CBS to produce

Parks served as youth director and

Bus Boycott. After a long protest, the

a biographical film entitled “The Rosa

later as the secretary. In addition, she

U.S. Supreme Court declared bus

Parks Story.”

became an advocate of desegregation

segregation unconstitutional in 1957.

and took pride in being a member of the organization that helped develop the

Following the boycott, Parks moved to

Brown v. Board of Education case.

Detroit, Michigan, where she worked

On October 5, 2005 Rosa Parks passed away in Detroit.

as an assistant to Detroit Congressman Inspired by African Americans

John Conyers. In 1987, she founded

who tested the effectiveness of the

the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute

Brown decision, Parks on December

for Self-Development, which teaches

1, 1955, refused to offer her seat on

students about the black struggle for

a Montgomery city bus to a white

civil rights and encourages students to

passenger after the “white only” section

strive for success.

had filled. After being arrested and receiving a fourteen dollar fine, Parks

Parks received numerous honors,

called local NAACP president, E.D.

including over forty honorary degrees,

Nixon, and informed him of her arrest.

the Medal of Freedom, the Congressional

Within hours, the Women’s Political

Gold Medal of Honor, and two NAACP

Council (WPC) printed flyers and

image awards. The State of Michigan

brochures, phoned potential supporters

honors Parks each February 4 on Rosa

Sources: Edna Chappell McKenzie, “Rosa Parks.” InBlack Women in America: Social Activism, edited by Darlene Clark Hine (New York: Facts on File, Inc., 1997); Lisa Hill, “Rosa Parks.” InAfrican American Women: a Biographical Dictionary, edited by Dorothy C. Salem. (New York: Garland Publishing, 1993); Rosa and Raymond Parks Institution for Self Development. November 11, 2007). Contributor: Nichols, Casey University of Washington For more information, visit:

Parks Day. In addition to authoring


Historical Profiles OUR ACTIVISTS

Martin Luther King Jr., Civil Rights Advocate

One of the most visible advocates of nonviolence and direct

On December 5, 1955, after civil rights activist Rosa Parks

action as methods of social change, Martin Luther King, Jr.

refused to comply with Montgomery’s segregation policy on

was born in Atlanta on January 15, 1929. As the grandson of

buses, black residents launched a bus boycott and elected

the Rev. A.D. Williams, pastor of Ebenezer Baptist church and

King president of the newly-formed Montgomery Improvement

a founder of Atlanta’sNAACPchapter, and the son of Martin

Association. The boycott continued throughout 1956 and King

Luther King, Sr., who succeeded Williams as Ebenezer’s pastor,

gained national prominence for his role in the campaign.

King’s roots were in the African American Baptist church.

In December 1956 the United States Supreme Court declared

After attendingMorehouse Collegein Atlanta, King went on

Alabama’s segregation laws unconstitutional and Montgomery

to study at Crozer Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania and

buses were desegregated.

Boston University, where he deepened his understanding of theological scholarship and explored Mahatma Gandhi’s nonviolent strategy for social change.

Seeking to build upon the success in Montgomery, King and other southern black ministers founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC)in 1957. In 1959,

King married Coretta Scottin 1953, and the following year

King toured India and further developed his understanding of

he accepted the pastorate atDexter Avenue Baptist Church in

Gandhian nonviolent strategies. Later that year, King resigned

Montgomery, Alabama. King received his Ph.D. in systematic

from Dexter and returned to Atlanta to become co-pastor of

theology in 1955.

Ebenezer Baptist Church with his father.


In 1960, black college students initiated a wave of sit-in

resonated with northern, urban blacks more effectively than

protests that led to the formation of theStudent Nonviolent

King’s call for nonviolence; King also faced public criticism

Coordinating Committee (SNCC). King supported the student

from “Black Power” proponent, Stokely Carmichael.

movement and expressed an interest in creating a youth arm of the SCLC. Student activists admired King, but they were critical of his top-down leadership style and were determined to maintain their autonomy. As an advisor to SNCC, Ella Baker, who had previously served as associate director of SCLC, made clear to representatives from other civil rights organizations that SNCC was to remain a student-led organization. The 1961 “Freedom Rides” heightened tensions between King and younger activists, as he faced criticism for

King’s efficacy was not only hindered by divisions among black leadership, but also by the increasing resistance he encountered from national political leaders. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) director J. Edgar Hoover’s extensive efforts to undermine King’s leadership were intensified during 1967 as urban racial violence escalated, and King’s public criticism of U.S. intervention in the Vietnam War led to strained relations with Lyndon Johnson’s administration.

his decision not to participate in the rides. Conflicts between

In late 1967, King initiated a Poor People’s Campaign designed

SCLC and SNCC continued during the Albany Movement of

to confront economic problems that had not been addressed

1961 and 1962.

by earlier civil rights reforms. The following year, while

In the spring of 1963, King and SCLC lead mass demonstrations in Birmingham, Alabama, where local white police officials were known for their violent

supporting striking sanitation workers in Memphis, he delivered his final address“I’ve Been to the Mountaintop.” The next day, April 4, 1968, King was assassinated.

opposition to integration. Clashes between unarmed

To this day, Dr. Martin Luther King remains a controversial

black demonstrators and police armed with dogs and

symbol of the African American civil rights struggle, revered

fire hoses generated newspaper headlines throughout the

by many for his martyrdom on behalf of nonviolence and

world. President Kennedy responded to the Birmingham

condemned by others for his militancy and insurgent views.

protests by submitting broad civil rights legislation to Congress, which led to the passage of theCivil Rights Act of 1964. Subsequent mass demonstrations culminated in the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom on August 28, 1963, in which more than 250,000 protesters gathered in Washington, D.C. It was on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial that King delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech. King’s renown continued to grow as he became Time magazine’s Man of the Year in 1963 and the recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964. However, along with the fame and accolades came conflict within the movement’s leadership. Malcolm X’s message of self-defense and black nationalism

Sources: Martin Luther King,The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr., Clayborne Carson, ed. (New York: Intellectual Properties Management in association with Warner Books, 1998); Lerone Bennett,What Manner of Man: A Biography of Martin Luther King, Jr.(Chicago: Johnson Publishing Company, 1989); Taylor Branch,Parting the Waters: America in the King Years(New York: Touchstone, 1989); Christine King Farris,My Brother Martin: A Sister Remembers Growing Up with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.(New York: Simon & Schuster, 2003). For additional information on Dr. Martin Luther King please seeThe Martin Luther King Research and Education Institute. Contributor: Carson, Clayborne Stanford University For more information, visit:


Historical Profiles OUR MUSICIANS

Louis Armstrong, Entertainer

Louis Armstrong is perhaps the most important and influential

the cornet. He immediately began playing in various jazz bands

person in the history of jazz music, swing music, and jazz vocal

in and around New Orleans. From 1922 to 1924 Armstrong was

styling. His virtuosic ability with the trumpet, his distinctive

a member of King Oliver’s band in Chicago, Illinois which was

gravelly low vocal style, his bright personality, and his band

the most popular jazz band of the time. By 1924 as his playing

leadership abilities helped to build jazz into a popular musical

abilities surpassed Oliver’s, Armstrong’s wife Lillian persuaded

genre and influenced nearly every jazz musician after him.

him to join Fletcher Henderson’s band in New York to move

Louis Armstrong was born August 4, 1901 in New Orleans, Louisiana into an impoverished family. In 1912 he fired a pistol in the air during a New Year’s celebration, was arrested, and sent to a waif’s home. It was here that he learned how to play


beyond Oliver’s shadow.

Armstrong brought to New York City a new, flowing,

Although jazz styles changed into the 1940s, Armstrong stuck

improvisational style of jazz that spread rapidly and

with what he knew best, singing in his low, warm, gravelly

influenced countless jazz musicians who were enthralled by it.

voice, superior trumpet playing, and an endearing ability to

Soon he began recording backup for blues artists like Bessie

appeal to diverse audiences with his personality and smile.

Smith and Ma Rainey. In 1925 he began his highly successful

Armstrong even reached #1 on the pop charts in 1964 with the

“Hot 5” albums. These albums introduced New Orleans jazz

hit “Hello Dolly!” Louis Armstrong continued to perform until

to a national audience, highlighted Armstrong’s virtuoso

his death in 1971.

trumpet playing (he switched from cornet in 1927) and featured his “scat” singing style. Among his many hits were “Heebie Jeebies,” “Potato Head Blues,” “West End Blues,” and “Weather Bird.” By the early 1930s Armstrong had developed his talents as a showman as well, leading several big bands on a national stage, enjoying commercial success, and becoming a household name. He played several small parts in movies and took two trips to Europe, earning the nickname “America’s goodwill ambassador” for his warm caring demeanor and big heart. In 1947 he returned to his small band roots and formed the All-Stars sextet, embarking on a constant touring schedule of swing standards and Dixieland.

Sources: Michael Erlewin,All Music Guide to Jazz(San Francisco: Backbeat Books, 1998); Sam Tanenhaus,Louis Armstrong(Danbury, Connecticut: Chelsea House Publishers, 1989); Thomas Brothers,Louis Armstrong In His Own Words(New York: Oxford University Press, 1999);; Contributor: Butler, Gerry University of Washington For more information, visit:


Historical Profiles OUR ATHLETES

Jackie Robinson, Baseball Player

When Jackie Robinson took the field on April 15, 1947 wearing

Junior College, where he graduated in 1939, and then at the

a Brooklyn Dodgers uniform, he became the first African

University of Southern California, Los Angeles (UCLA).

American in over fifty years to play on a major league baseball team. In the process, he broke through baseball’s color line that had relegated African American players to the segregated Negro Leagues.

While at UCLA, Robinson became the first athlete to earn varsity letters in four sports. Despite his athletic accomplishments, Robinson believed that his chances of playing on any major league sports team

Jack Roosevelt Robinson, the youngest of five children, was

after graduation were slim, given the racism of the era,

born in Cairo,Georgiaon January 31, 1919 to sharecroppers

and in 1941 he left college just shy of graduation to take

Jerry and Mallie Robinson. When Jack was a year old his father

a job as an assistant athletic director with the National

deserted the family, and Mallie Robinson relocated her family

Youth Administration in Atascadero, California. The position,

to Pasadena,Californiawhere Jack grew up. Robinson’s athletic

however, was short-lived as government funding for the job

ability was apparent from an early age. In high school he

ended the following year.

participated in five sports: basketball, football, baseball, tennis and track. He continued to play multiple sports at Pasadena


In 1942, Robinson was drafted into a segregated Army

of Colored People (NAACP). He also wrote for The New York

unit where he served two years. He was admitted into

Post and The Amsterdam News.

Officer Candidate School and became a second lieutenant in 1943, although his service was marred when he was court-martialed for refusing a civilian bus driver’s order to move to the “back of the bus” during a trip back to the base. After a brief trial, he received an honorable discharge in 1944. The incident was played out in a 1990 movie, The Court-Martial of Jackie Robinson.

Jackie Robinson died of a heart attack on October 24, 1972 at his home in Stamford, Connecticut. He was 53. On March 26, 1984, Robinson was posthumously awarded the nation’s highest civilian honor, the Medal of Freedom, by President Ronald Reagan. In 1996 the U.S. Congress and President Clinton authorized a coin to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of Robinson’s 1947 entry into major league

Robinson then joined theKansas City Monarchs, a Negro

baseball. In 1997 the U.S. Post Office issued a stamp in his

League team. In August of 1944 Robinson was still with the

honor, and on the 50th anniversary of the date that Robinson

Monarchs when Branch Rickey approached him about playing

broke major league baseball’s color barrier, Major League

for the Dodger’s organization. Robinson spent the 1946 season

Baseball retired Robinson’s number 42.

with the Dodger’s farm team, the Montreal Royals. Also that year he married his college sweetheart, Rachel Isum. The couple had three children, Jackie Jr. (1946), Sharon (1950), and David (1952). In 1947 Robinson took the field for the Brooklyn Dodgers becoming the first African American in the 20th century to play for a major league baseball team. At the end of his first season with the Dodgers, Robinson was named National League Rookie of the year. He had 12 home runs, a league-leading 29 steals, and a .297 batting average. In 1949 Robinson was selected as the National League’s Most Valuable Player (MVP). He also won the batting title with a .342 average. In ten seasons with the Dodgers, Robinson played in six World Series games including the Dodgers’ 1955 World Championship. He played in six consecutive All-Star Games, from 1949 to 1954, and retired at the end of the 1956 season. In 1962, his first year of eligibility, Robinson was inducted in the National Baseball Hall of Fame. In retirement, Robinson was an active participant in the struggle forcivil rights, working withDr. Martin Luther King Jr. and with theNational Association for the Advancement

Sources: Jackie Robinson and Alfred Duckett,I Never Had It Made: An Autobiography of Jackie Robinson(New York: Harper, 2003); Arnold Rampersand,Jackie Robinson: A Biography(New York: Knopf, 1997); Jackie Robinson: Baseball’s Barrier Breaker,; John Vernon, “Jim Crow, Meet Lieutenant Robinson: A 1944 Court-Martial,”Prologue Magazine, Vol. 40, No. 1 (Spring 2008); prologue/2008/spring/robinson.html. Contributor: McNally, Deborah University of Washington, Seattle For more information, visit:


Historical Profiles OUR ATHLETES

Jack Johnson, Boxer

Jack Johnson, the first African American and first Texan to

Nevertheless, Johnson’s reputation as a skilled ring tactician

win the heavyweightboxingchampionship of the world, was

continued to grow as he defeated both black and white boxers.

born the second of six children to Henry and Tiny Johnson in

Finally, in 1908, Johnson fought a white champion Tommy

Galveston on March 31, 1878. His parents were formerslaves.

Burns in Australia for $30,000, then the highest purse in

To help support his family, Jack Johnson left school in the fifth

boxing history. Johnson knocked out Burns in the 14th round

grade to work on the dock in his port city hometown. In the

to become the first African American heavyweight champion

1890s Johnson began boxing as a teenager in “battles royal”

of the world.

matches where white spectators watched black men fight and

Johnson’s capture of the title initiated a search among white

at the end of the contest tossed money at the winner. Johnson turned professional in 1897 but four years later he was arrested and jailed because boxing was at that time a criminal sport inTexas. After his release from jail he left Texas to pursue the title of “Negro” heavyweight boxing champion. Although he made a good living as a boxer, Johnson for six years sought a title fight with the white heavyweight champion, James J. Jeffries. Jeffries denied Johnson and other African American boxers a shot at his title and he retired undefeated in 1904.


promoters for a “great white hope” to defeat the black champion and reclaim the title for white America. They eventually lured Jim Jeffries out of retirement to face Johnson. On July 4, 1910, in what would be billed as the “Battle of the Century,” Johnson finally fought and beat Jeffries in Reno,Nevadato retain his title. Newspapers warned Johnson and his supporters against gloating over the victory. Nonetheless, scores of African Americans and some whites died as a result of the race rioting that broke out in cities across the nation in response to Johnson’s victory. In fear of more race riots, the Texas

legislature banned all films showing the black fighter’s wins

Upon his release from prison in 1921, he returned to the ring,

over any of his white opponents.

participating only in exhibition fights. Promoters never again

Johnson also attracted considerable condemnation because

gave Johnson another title shot.

of his unabashed sexual relationships with numerous white

Jack Johnson married three white women in succession,

women. In 1913, Johnson fled the United States because federal

Etta Duryea, Lucille Cameron, and Irene Pineau, but those

officials charged him with violating the Mann Act, which

unions failed to produce children. On October 6, 1946, after

prohibited the transportation of women across state lines for

aNorth Carolinadiner denied him service, he stormed out

prostitution, debauchery, or immoral acts.

of the business and soon afterwards crashed his car.

While in exile in Cuba, Johnson lost his title in 1914 to little known white boxer Jess Willard. Failing to get other matches abroad, Johnson returned to the U.S. in 1920 to surrender to Federal authorities. He was tried and convicted for violation of

Johnson died from the impact. He was 68. The Boxing Hall of Fame posthumously inducted Johnson in 1954 and he received the same honor from the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1990.

the Mann Act and sentenced to a year and a day in the Federal penitentiary at Leavenworth,Kansas. Ironically, Johnson was appointed athletic director of the prison while still an inmate.

Sources:Jack Johnson,Jack Johnson is a Dandy(New York: Chelsea House, 1969); Al-Tony Gilmore, “Bad Nigger!”The National Impact of Jack Johnson(Port Washington: Kennikat Press, 1975); Thomas R. Hietala,The Fight of the Century: Jack Johnson, Joe Louis and the Struggle for Racial Equality(Armonk, N.Y.: M.E. Sharpe, 2002); Contributor: Mack, Dwayne Berea College For more information, visit:


Historical Profiles OUR ATHLETES

Arthur Ashe, Tennis Player

Arthur Robert Ashe Jr., legendary tennis player, human rights

boys 12 years and under. Determined to play in the

activist, and educator, was born on July 10, 1943, in Richmond,

all-white Junior United States Tennis Association (USTA),

Virginia, to Arthur Sr. and Mattie Cunningham Ashe. At the

Ashe broke its racial barrier in 1957 when he competed

age of four, he began playing tennis at Brook Field, a black-only

in Maryland boys’ championships. This led to his regular

park where his father worked as caretaker.

inclusion in local summer UTSA tournaments from

Before she died in 1950, Ashe’s mother taught him the

1957 to 1960.

importance of education. His father, now a single parent,

In 1960, 17-year-old Ashe first gained national recognition as a

sponsored his early development in tennis. Ashe developed

high school student-athlete in Sports Illustrated. The following

into a prodigy in the early 1950s under his lifelong coach

year he entered the University of California at Los Angeles

Dr. Walter Johnson, who also trained professional tennis player

(UCLA) on a full scholarship. In Ashe’s sophomore year he

and golfer Althea Gibson. In 1953, at the age of 10, Ashe won

made the 1963 US Davis Cup team, a feat he repeated from

the American Tennis Association’s National Championship for

1964 to 1970 and again in 1975, 1976 and 1978. In 1965 Ashe


was named the top-ranked amateur player in men’s tennis and,

such as education, tennis, and African American achievement.

as team captain, guided the UCLA tennis team to the NCAA

He continued his fight against apartheid and in 1983 became

team championship, winning the individual and doubles titles.

the co-founder of Artists and Athletes Against Apartheid.

From 1966 to 1968, Ashe attended the US Military Academy at

In the early 1990s, Ashe became an ambassador for

West Point, New York and graduated with the rank of second lieutenant. In 1969 he first spoke out against South African apartheid which he saw as an extension of his fight against Jim Crow in the United States. From that date he became one of the most outspoken opponents of apartheid, constantly using his own success to challenge South Africa. In 1973 he forced concessions which led to his inclusion in the 1973 South African Open. Ashe became a professional tennis player in 1969. In that year he became the first African American to be ranked number

AIDS awareness. His concern about AIDS began with his HIV infection from a tainted blood transfusion during 1983 bypass surgery. By 1988 the infection had progressed from HIV into full-blown AIDS. The family publically disclosed his condition on April 8, 1992 at a press conference. Nearly a year later on February 6, 1993, Arthur Robert Ashe Jr. died in New York City. He was buried in the Governor’s Mansion in his native Richmond, an unprecedented honor for an African American, and the first person to lie in state at the mansion since Confederate general

one, a feat repeated in 1975 after he won Wimbledon. Ashe

Stonewall Jackson in 1863.

emerged as a leader among professional tennis players, co-

Posthumously, Ashe has been commemorated with many

founding the USTA National Junior Tennis League, which exposed inner-city youth to tennis, and the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP). Ashe served as its president in 1974 following a 78-person boycott of Wimbledon. In 1977 Ashe married photographer Jeanne Moutoussamy.

awards. Most notable are the Presidential Medal of Freedom (1993), a statute on Richmond’s Monument Avenue (1996), and, beginning in 1997, the US Open has been played in Arthur Ashe Stadium in Flushing Meadows Park, New York. Ashe was also honored with a US postage stamp in 2005.

Nine years later they had their only child, a daughter named Camera. Heart complications stemming from a 1979 heart attack forced Ashe to retire from professional tennis in 1980, with a career record of 818 wins, 260 losses, and 51 titles. In 1985 he was unanimously elected into the International Tennis Hall of Fame. After his tennis career ended, Ashe became a noted journalist, humanitarian, and activist. In 1981 he became the first African American to be named national chairman of the American Heart Association. As a journalist he wrote for Tennis Magazine, Time Magazine and The Washington Post. Ashe was also a tennis commentator for ABC Sports and HBO Sports. He wrote eight books between 1967 and 1995 covering topics

Sources:,; Arthur Ashe and Arnold Rampersand, Days of Grace: A Memoir (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1993); Herbert G. Ruffin, “Arthur Ashe” in Matthew Whitaker, Icons of Black America (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2011); Richard Steins, Arthur Ashe: A Biography (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2005). Contributor: Ruffin II, Herbert G. Claremont Graduate University For more information, visit:


Historical Profiles OUR MUSICIANS

Cold Crush Brothers, Hip-Hop Group

The Cold Crush Brothers, pioneering hip-hop performers,

routines which featured melody and harmony, features that

formed as a group in the Bronx, New York City, New York in

were unique for hip-hop groups at the time.

1978. Along with founder DJ Tony Tone, the group originally consisted of Easy A.D., DJ Charlie Chase, Mister Tee, Whipper Whip, and Dot-A-Rock. As hip-hop stood poised to break out of New York, The Cold Crush Brothers were considered one of the top crews in the city. Then two of the group’s original members, Whipper Whip and Dot-A-Rock, left to join the Fantastic Five, who would come to be considered to be The Cold Crush Brothers’ top rival. After these defections, Grandmaster Caz (a.k.a. DJ Casanova Fly) was added to the group. With multiple MCs, the Cold Crush Brothers became known for their elaborate vocal


As hip-hop made the transition from underground movement to global cultural force in late 1979 with the release of the song “Rapper’s Delight” by the Sugar Hill Gang, one of The Cold Crush Brothers unwittingly aided this landmark single. Big Bank Hank, a member of the Sugar Hill Gang, asked Grandmaster Caz to use some of his rhymes in their next song. Caz agreed with the understanding that he would be compensated later if the song made any money. Hank opened “Rapper’s Delight,” which charted internationally and sold millions of copies, with rhymes Caz wrote but for

which he received no credit or compensation. Despite this

added members Almighty Kay Gee and JDL Ray Money

episode, Cold Crush remained one of the premier groups in

and released an album, Troopers (1988, B-Boy Records).

early hip-hop, developing their following by performing in

In 2002, group member JDL Ray Money passed away.

all five New York City boroughs as well as other cities like Boston, Massachusetts before ever releasing a commercial record of their own. Their popularity also spread because bootlegged cassette tape recordings of these live performances boosted the group’s reputation by word of mouth. Over time a rivalry developed between The Cold Crush Brothers and The Fantastic Five, the other major rap group in New York

Cold Crush was among the first acts to export hip-hop culture to the rest of the world with tours of Europe and Asia in the early 1980s. The group is still active and performs live shows. The Cold Crush Brothers’ early contributions to what would become the global popularity of rap distinguish them as being the true pioneers of hip-hop.

City. This competition would eventually lead to a famous $1,000 winner-take-all lyrical battle between the groups on July 3, 1981, which was won by The Fantastic Five. This rivalry was also featured in the seminal 1982 hip-hop movie WildStyle. While Cold Crush made an impact on the film with footage of one of their powerful live performances, their most memorable scene was probably a rap/basketball face off staged on a playground against their old rivals, The Fantastic Five. The Cold Crush Brothers’ first commercial single “Weekend” was released in 1982, five years after they came together as a rap group. This hit was followed by “Punk Rock Rap” (1983), one the first songs to fuse rap and rock music. Cold Crush’s most successful song was “Fresh, Wild, Fly & Bold” (1984), but initially promising sales were disrupted by a dispute between their record label, Tuff City Records and the distributor, Profile Records. In the late 1980s the group

Sources:; index.html Contributor: Abe, Daudi Seattle Central Community College For more information, visit:


Historical Profiles OUR PIONEERS

Eliza Ann Grier, Doctor

Eliza Ann Grier was born a slave, but became emancipated

By 1899, however, Grier moved her practice to Greenville,

and eventually earned her M.D., becoming in 1898 the first

South Carolina where she specialized in obstetrics and

African American woman to practice medicine in Georgia.

gynecology. In 1901 she contracted influenza and could not

Little is known of Grier’s early life beyond her growing up in

see patients for six weeks. Facing the loss of her practice, Dr.

Atlanta. In 1883, nearly 20 years after her emancipation,

Grier wrote a plea for financial assistance to Susan B. Anthony.

Grier entered Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee with the

The famous suffragist could not help her but sympathetically

goal of becoming a teacher. She earned a degree in education

forwarded her request to the Woman’s Medical College. It is not

from Fisk eight years later in 1891 because she took every other

known if the College provided help. Tragically, after struggling

year off to pick cotton and perform other work to earn her

for eight years to become a physician, Dr. Eliza Ann Grier died

tuition to continue her studies.

in 1902 after only five years of medical practice.

Shortly before graduating from Fisk, Grier decided she wanted to become a medical doctor. She wrote to the Dean of the Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania requesting information about tuition and the possibility of pursuing advanced medical education. Grier indicated that she wished to become a medical doctor because she could benefit her race more as a physician than as a teacher. She hoped for both admission and financial assistance. The College admitted her but did not provide any help, prompting her to revert to the strategy she employed at Fisk, alternately working and studying for eight years until she completed her medical degree. In 1897 after graduating from the Women’s Medical College of Pennsylvania, Dr. Eliza Grier returned to Atlanta, Georgia. In 1898 she wrote “some of the best white doctors in the city have welcomed me and say that they will give me an even chance in the profession. That is all I ask.”

Sources: Dorothy Sterling, We Are Your Sisters: Black Women in the Nineteenth Century (New York: W.W. Norton, 1984), physicians/biography_132.html Contributor: Díaz, Sara University of Washington For more information, visit:



Ella Baker, Civil Rights Advocate

Through her decades of work with theNational Association

she organized In Friendship, a group that raised money for

for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP)and later

theMontgomery Bus Boycott.

with theStudent Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), Ella Baker emerged as one of the most important women in the civil rights movement. Baker was born on December 13, 1903 in Norfolk,Virginia. After grammar school, her mother enrolled her in Shaw University in Raleigh, North Carolina. She graduated as the valedictorian of both her high school and college graduating classes. The college valedictorian honor was all the more remarkable because she worked her way through school as a waitress and chemistry lab assistant. Baker graduated from Shaw University with a B.A. in June 1927.

Years of work among young people both inside and outside the NAACP led to her assignment in the spring of 1960 to coordinate a conference to provide direction to the spontaneous, rapidly emerging sit-in movement that began on February 1 in Greensboro, North Carolina. In April of 1960 Baker organized a conference at her alma mater, Shaw University, which led to the establishment of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). Although she never joined SNCC, Baker arranged and coordinated sit-ins for the new civil rights organization. Baker continued to organize students involved in political activism through the

After graduation Baker moved to New York City, where she

1970s. In recognition of her work she was awarded a doctorate

became a waitress, and community organizer involved in

of letters in May 1985 from the City College of New York.

radical politics. Later that year (1927) she became a journalist

Ella Baker died on her birthday, December 13, 1986 at the

for theAmerican West Indian News. By 1930 she was named

age of 83.

office manager of theNegro National News. In 1930 Ella Baker andGeorge Schuylercofounded the Young Negroes Cooperative League (YNCL). She was the organization’s first secretary-treasurer, and chairman of theNew YorkCouncil. In 1931, Baker became the YNCL’s national director. Schuyler, the organization’s President, then recommended her to the NAACP. In 1941, Ella Baker became an assistant field secretary of the NAACP. She also took the post of Advisor for the New York Youth Council of the NAACP. By the late 1940s Baker, now a Field Secretary, was the NAACP’s most effective organizer as she traveled the South chartering new branches. In 1956

Sources: Joanne Grant,Ella Baker Freedom Bound(New York, New York: John Wiley & Sons Inc., 1998); Rosetta E Ross,Witnessing and Testifying: Black Women, Religion, and Civil Rights(Minneapolis, Minnesota: Fortress Press, 2003). Contributor: Kealoha, Samantha Nicholas University of Washington For more information, visit:


Historical Profiles OUR PIONEERS

Gwendolyn Elizabeth Brooks, Author/Poet

Gwendolyn Elizabeth Brooks, born June 7, 1917 in Topeka,

Individual poems published in the Chicago Defender during

Kansas, moved to Chicago, Illinois where she was reared and

her high school years preceded Brooks’s first collection of

launched her literary career. Marrying Henry Blakely in 1939,

poetry, A Street in Bronzeville (1945). This book focused

the couple had two children.

on “community consciousness.” Brooks’s Annie Allen was

Brooks’s formal education consists of an associate degree in literature and arts from Wilson Junior College but she has also received over seventy honorary degrees from several leading universities. In her early years, Brooks served as the director

published in 1949 with a focus on “self-realization” and “artistic sensibility” of a young black woman. That volume made her the first African American to be awarded the Pulitzer Prize in poetry. The Bean Eater, her third book, was released in 1960.

of publicity for the National Association for the Advancement

Brooks published Selected Poems in 1963, In the Mecca (1968),

of Colored People (NAACP) in Chicago.

Riot (1969), Family Pictures (1970), and Beckoning (1975). During this period, she began to publish her work through small black-run presses such as Broadside in Chicago. In the


Mecca, one of her most important works

During her lifetime, Brooks received numerous honors and

of that period, describes a rather exquisite apartment building

served in several prestigious capacities including appointment

built in 1891 but leveled in 1952 after it had become

as poet laureate of Illinois (1968), poetry consultant for the

a run-down tenement building. This collection, like others

Library of Congress (1985), honorary fellow of the Modern

in the late 1960s and early 1970s, reflected the rising call

Language Association (1987), two-time winner of the

for a literature for black people that spoke out against

Guggenheim Fellowship, member of the American Academy

white oppression.

of Arts and Letters, Jefferson Lecturer for Distinguished

Brooks continued to write poetry into the 1980s. Her Primer for Blacks (1980), To Disembark (1981), Black Love (1982),

Intellectual Achievement in the Humanities (1994), and recipient of the National Medal of Art (1995).

The Near-Johannesburg Boy (1986), Blacks (1987), Gottschalk

Gwendolyn Brooks died in Chicago at the age of 83 on

and the Grand Tarantelle (1988), Winnie (1988), and Children

December 3, 2000.

Coming Home (1991), all emerged during this period. Brooks also wrote one work of long fiction, Maud Martha (1953). Her nonfiction works included The World of Gwendolyn Brooks (1971), Report from Part One (1972), Young Poet’s Primer (1980), Report from Part Two (1996). Brooks’s children’s books included three publications: Bronzeville Boys and Girl (1956), The Tiger Who Wore White Gloves (1974), and Very Young Poets (1983).

Sources: Carol F. Bender andAnnie Allen,Masterplots 4th ed. Literary Reference Center(Pasadena: Salem Press, 2010); Charles M. Isreal and William T. Lawlor,Cyclopedia of World Authors 4th ed. Literary Reference Center(Pasadena: Salem Press, 2004); Henry Taylor and Harold Bloom, “Gwendolyn Brooks: An Essential Sanity,”Bloom’s Modern Critical Views: Gwendolyn Brooks(New York: InfoBase Publishing, 2000): 161-179. Contributor: Johnson, Doris Richardson Jefferson State Community College, Alabama For more information, visit:


Historical Profiles OUR ENTERTAINERS

Hattie McDaniel, Actress

Hattie McDaniel is best known as the first black Oscar

Hattie McDaniel interspersed her travels with the Morrison

winner. She won the award on February 29, 1940, for Best

orchestra with venues elsewhere, since star billing eluded the

Supporting Actress for her role as “Mammy” in Gone With

majority of African American performers and everyone took

the Wind. McDaniel’s career began three decades earlier.

work wherever they could find it. Her biggest break came when

She gave her first public performances as a grade school

she began performing at Milwaukee, Wisconsin’s Club Madrid.

student in Denver, Colorado. Her father, Henry McDaniel,

Though originally hired as the ladies room attendant, she

traveled through Colorado with his own minstrel show, but

ultimately found her way onto the club’s stage and became a

would not allow his daughter to accompany him and her

featured nightly act. Convinced that her talent could take her

brothers Otis and Sam. McDaniel was allowed to perform

further, McDaniel moved to Hollywood to join a brother and

locally with the traveling minstrel shows staged atEast Turner

two sisters in 1931.

Hall in Denver. In 1910, when she won the Women’s Christian Temperance Union’s recitation contest with her rendition of “Convict Joe.” The audience gave her both a standing ovation and the Gold Medal. Although only a sophomore, McDanielinsisted that she wanted to perform and convinced her parents that she should quit school to join her father’s show. She developed a talent for writing songs and dancing. She also had an excellent singing voice. After Henry McDaniel retired, Hattie McDaniel looked for other venues and in the early 1920s began to sing with Denver’s well-known Professor George Morrison, a classically-trained violinist whose color prevented him from joining a symphony orchestra. Instead, he developed an orchestra that played “jazz” songs and traveled the Pantages Circuit through the western states. McDaniel’s performing abilities soon had her billed as the “female Bert Williams.” (Williams was an acclaimed black performer of Williams and Walker, an internationally known vaudeville team.) Carleton Jackson, Hattie: The Life of Hattie McDaniel (Lanham, New York: Madison Books, 1990); Thomas L. Riis, Just Before Jazz: Black Musical Theater in New York, 1890 to 1915 (Washington, D.C.: The Smithsonian Institution, 1989). Contributor: Hansen, Moya Colorado Historical Society For more information, visit:


Despite the fact that Hattie McDaniel, born in 1895, did not live in Denver until she was six and left the city to travel while still a teen, Denverites have always claimed her as their own. She died on October 2, 1952, and was the first African American buried in Los Angeles, California’s Rosedale Cemetery.


Dorothy Dandridge, Actress

Dorothy Dandridge was the first African American female to be

Academy Award in the Best Actress category, and Best Actress

nominated for an Academy Award in the Best Actress category,

by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association. While she did not

and Best Actress by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association,

win, she was signed to a three-year contract with Twentieth-

for her role in the film Carmen Jones (1957).

Century Fox. Unfortunately, they found few roles for her.

Dandridge was the second child of Cyril and Ruby Dandridge.

In 1957, she was cast in Island in the Sun (1957), her first

She was born in Cleveland, Ohio on November 9, 1922. At a

interracial film relationship. Her few remaining roles included

young age, Ruby began taking her two daughters on the road to

interracial love themes, but each time the directors succumbed

perform in church revivals and other venues all over the south.

to the pressures of the producers and studios and refrained

Known as the “Wonder Children,” Vivian and Dorothy sang,

from displaying a kiss or any intimacy between Dandridge

danced, recited poetry and did acrobatics. They eventually

and her costars. These films included Tamango (1957) and

moved to Los Angeles, California, where Dorothy and her

The Decks Ran Red (1957). Dandridge died in 1965 from an

sister, Vivian, and a third girl Etta Jones, formed the singing

apparent drug overdose.

trio, the Dandridge Sisters. They performed with Jimmie Lunceford’s Orchestra and Cab Calloway at the Cotton Club. After a short-lived marriage to Harold Nicholas, Dorothy returned to work singing in nightclubs and finding small parts in films like Tarzan’s Peril (1951) and the Harlem Globetrotters (1951). After appearing in the all-black film, Bright Road, Dorothy got an audition with Otto Preminger. Preminger was to direct Carmen Jones, a film based on the famous Bizet opera, Carmen. Carmen Jones rocketed Dorothy Dandridge to fame. Receiving rave reviews, she was nominated for an

Charlene Regester, African American Actresses: The Struggle for Visibility, 19001960 (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2010); Lorraine LoBianco, “Starring Dorothy Dandridge” Starring-Dorothy-Dandridge.html 12/10/2013; Federal Bureau of Investigation, “Freedom of Information and Privacy Acts: Subject: Dorothy Dandridge. Contributor: White, Claytee D. University of Nevada, Las Vegas For more information, visit:


Historical Profiles OUR ACTIVISTS

Malcolm X, Minister

Malcolm X, one of the most influential African American

Malcolm was arrested for burglary in Boston in 1946 and

leaders of the 20th Century, was born Malcolm Little in

received a ten year prison sentence. There he joined the Nation

Omaha, Nebraska on May 19, 1925 to Earl Little, a Georgia

of Islam (NOI). Upon his parole in 1952, Malcolm was called to

native and itinerant Baptist preacher, and Louise Norton

Chicago by NOI leader, theHonorable Elijah Muhammad. Like

Little who was born in the West Indian island of Grenada.

other converts, he changed his surname to “X,” symbolizing,

Shortly after Malcolm was born the family moved to Lansing,

he said, the rejection of “slave names” and his inability to claim

Michigan. Earl Little joined Marcus Garvey’sUniversal Negro

his ancestral African name.

Improvement Association (UNIA) where he publicly advocated black nationalist beliefs, prompting the local white supremacist Black Legion to set fire to their home. Little was killed by a streetcar in 1931. Authorities ruled it a suicide but the family believed he was killed by white supremacists.

Recognizing his promise as a speaker and organizer for the Nation of Islam, Muhammad sent Malcolm to Boston to become the Minister of Temple Number Eleven. His proselytizing success earned a reassignment in 1954 to Temple Number Seven in Harlem. Although New York’s

Although an academically gifted student, Malcolm dropped

one million blacks comprised the largest African American

out of high school after a teacher ridiculed his aspirations

urban population in the United States, Malcolm noted that

to become a lawyer. He then moved to Boston’s Roxbury

“there weren’t enough Muslims to fill a city bus.” “Fishing”

district to live with an older half-sister, Ella Little Collins.

in Christian storefront churches and at competing black

Malcolm worked odd jobs in Boston and then moved to Harlem

nationalist meetings, Malcolm built up the membership of

in 1943 where he drifted into a life of drug dealing, pimping,

Temple Seven. He also met his future wife, Sister Betty X,

gambling and other forms of “hustling.” He avoided the draft in

a nursing student who joined the temple in 1956. They married

World War II by declaring his intent to organize black soldiers

and eventually had six daughters.

to attack whites which led to his classification as “mentally disqualified for military service.”


Malcolm X quickly became a national public figure in

Malcolm traveled to Africa and the Middle East in late Spring

July 1959 when CBS aired Mike Wallace’s expose on the NOI,

1964 and was received like a visiting head of state in many

“The Hate That Hate Produced.” This documentary revealed

countries. While there, Malcolm made his hajj to Mecca and

the views of the NOI, of which Malcolm was the principal

added El-Hajj to his official NOI name Malik El-Shabazz.

spokesperson and showed those views to be in sharp contrast

The tour forced Malcolm to realize that one’s political position

to those of most well-known African American leaders of the

as a revolutionary superseded “color.”

time. Soon, however, Malcolm was increasingly frustrated by the NOI’s bureaucratic structure and refusal to participate in the Civil Rights Movement. His November 1963 speech in Detroit, “Message to the Grass Roots,” a bold attack on racism and a call for black unity, foreshadowed the split with his spiritual mentor, Elijah Muhammad. However, Malcolm on December 1, in response to a reporter’s question about the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, used the phrase “chickens coming home to roost” which to Muslims meant that Allah was punishing white America for crimes against black people. Whatever the personal views of Muslims about Kennedy’s death, Elijah Muhammad had given strict orders to his ministers not to comment on the assassination. Malcolm defied the order and was suspended from the NOI

The transformed Malcolm reiterated these views when he addressed an OAAU rally in New York, declaring for a panAfrican struggle “by any means necessary.” Malcolm spent six months in Africa in 1964 in an unsuccessful attempt to get international support for a United Nations investigation of human rights violations of Afro Americans in the United States. In February 1965, Malcolm flew to Paris to continue his efforts but was denied entry amidst rumors that he was on a Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) hit list. Upon his return to New York, his home was firebombed. Events continued to spiral downward and on February 21, 1965, Malcolm X was assassinated at the Audubon Ballroom in the Washington Heights section of Manhattan.

for ninety days. Malcolm used the suspension to announce on March 8, 1964, his break with the NOI and his creation of the Muslim Mosque, Inc. Three months later he formed a strictly political group (an action expressly banned by the NOI), called the Organization of Afro American Unity (OAAU) which was roughly patterned after theOrganization of African Unity (OAU). His dramatic political transformation was revealed when he spoke to the Militant Labor Forum of the Socialist Worker’s Party. Malcolm placed the Black Revolution in the context of a worldwide anti-imperialist struggle taking place in Africa, Asia, and Latin America, noting that “when I say black, I mean non-white—black, brown, red or yellow.” By April 1964, while speaking at a CORE rally in Cleveland, Ohio, Malcolm gave his famous“The Ballot or the Bullet”speech in which he described black Americans as “victims of democracy.”

Sources: Robert L. Jenkins and Mafanya Donald Tryman,The Malcolm X Encyclopedia(Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 2002); Eugene V. Wolfenstein,The Victims of Democracy: Malcolm X and the Black Revolution(Berkeley: University of California Press, 1981); Karl Evanzz,The Judas Factor: The Plot to Kill Malcolm X(New York: Thunder’s Mouth Press, 1992); Malcolm X with Alex Haley,The Autobiography of Malcolm X(New York: Grove Press, 1965). Contributor: Simba, Malik California State University, Fresno For more information, visit:


Historical Profiles OUR MUSICIANS

Nat King Cole, Pianist/Singer

Jazz pianist and popular singer Nathaniel Adams Coles was

in his native state of Alabama that same year while performing

born into a musical family in Montgomery, Alabama in 1919.

on stage in Birmingham.

His mother was a choir director in his father’s Baptist church and his three brothers became professional musicians. Cole started playing the piano at age four and organized his first jazz group, The Musical Dukes, in his teens. Cole’s unique style of singing has aptly been described as velvet and silk. Cole applied it successfully to a variety of musical material and thus influenced other performers of the era. An arranger-musical director, he formed his instrumental group, The King Cole Trio, in 1939 in Los Angeles. They attracted wide attention in 1943 with their recording, “Straighten Up and Fly Right.” Cole began to concentrate more on singing backed by a larger orchestra, and in 1948-49, had his own radio show. By 1952, he was singing more than playing jazz, and recorded such favorites as “Stardust” and “Ain’t Misbehavin.” He also had hits with “When I Fall in Love,” “Where Can I Go,” “Love Letters,” and “Mona Lisa.” The most popular of Cole’s songs of the era was “Unforgettable.” In 1956 Nat King Cole became the first African American entertainer to have his own nationally syndicated television show. Ratings were poor and bigotry kept sponsors away. He was also a victim of a vicious racist attack by six white men


Cole appeared in popular films, among them China Gate and Cat Ballou. He received numerous awards and traveled internationally. Nat King Cole died in Santa Monica, California in 1965. His two daughters, Carole and Natalie, became professional singers. Eileen Southern,Biographical Dictionary of Afro American and African Musicians(Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1982) ; Nicolas Slonimsky,Bokers Biographical Dictionary of Musicians(London: Schirmer Books, 1984); Jim Irwin & Colin McLear,The Mojo Collection(NY: Cananongate, 2000). Contributor: Spigner, Clarence University of Washington For more information, visit:


William Harvey Carney, War Hero

William Harvey Carney was born a slave in Norfolk,

top of the parapet. Despite his wounds and the heavy gunfire

Virginia in 1840. His father William, Sr. had escaped slavery

around him, Carney was able to keep the flag aloft. Carney and

through theUnderground Railroadand eventually earned

the rest of the 54th Massachusetts remained pinned down.

enough money to buy the freedom of his wife and son.

Only after reinforcements arrived was the beleaguered and

After freeing his family, the reunited Carneys moved to

decimated unit able to withdraw. Struggling back to Union

New Bedford,Massachusetts. William Carney, Jr. had

lines while still carrying the colors, Carney collapsed saying:

intended to pursue ecclesiastical training with the intentions

“Boys, the old flag never touched the ground.�

of becoming a minister. Instead of following the call to preach he decided to enlist in theUnion Armyin 1863, following the Emancipation Proclamationwhich for the first time in the Civil Warofficially authorized the recruitment of black soldiers. Recruited out of New Bedford, Carney joined the soon to be famous all-black54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment commanded by 26 year-old Colonel Robert Gould Shaw, the son of a wealthy Bostonabolitionist. Carney soon rose to the rank of sergeant due to his education and strong potential

After the battle Carney was discharged from the infantry due to his wounds. For his act of heroism at Fort Wagner, Carney was awarded the highest military honor, the Congressional Medal of Honor. Carney was the first African American to receive this award. Upon his death in 1908, the flag at the Massachusetts state house was flown half mast in his remembrance, an honor usually given only to honor a deceased governor, senator, congressman or US President.

to lead others. During the summer of 1863 the 54th Massachusetts was sent to James Island,South Carolina, where the unit saw its first combat. After two days of sleep and food deprivation the 54th Regiment was ordered into battle. Shaw volunteered the 54th to lead the charge on the heavily garrisoned and fortified Fort Wagner. During the battle Shaw was pinned down beneath the parapet of the fort and was desperately trying to rally his men forward. As Shaw and the flag bearer were mortally wounded and began to fall, Carney seized the colors and prevented the flag from touching the ground. He struggled up the parapet and, though wounded in the legs, chest, and arm, planted the colors at the Sources: James Oliver Horton and Lois E. Horton.Slavery and the Making of America. (New York: Oxford University Press, Inc., 2005); Jessie Carney Smith, editor. Black Firsts: 2,000 Years of Extraordinary Achievement. (Detroit: Visible Ink Press, 1994); American National Biography, lib. Contributor: Helm, Matt University of Washington For more information, visit:


Historical Profiles OUR MUSICIANS

Ray Charles, Pianist/Singer

Ray Charles Robinson, a talented musician, singer and

Ray Charles, and forming his own trio. Before his 20th

composer, was one of the first African American artists to

birthday Robinson had become a local sensation in the bars

merge the blues with gospel to pave the way for rhythm and

and clubs along Seattle’s Jackson Street.

blues (R&B) music. Robinson was born September 23, 1930 in Albany, Georgia. At five he began to go blind and by the age of seven his sight was completely gone. In order to help teach him to be self-sufficient his mother sent Robinson to the St. Augustine School for the Deaf and Blind, a racially segregated school in Florida. There he learned to read music in Braille as well as to play both classical and jazz music on the piano.

In 1952 Ray Charles signed with Atlantic Records, one of the largest labels in the country. Although his initial style was influenced by then prominent artists such as Nat King Cole and Charles Brown, by 1955 Charles changed direction when he recorded the gospel-influenced “I Got a Woman,” which became his first hit. After adding a female backup group called the Raelettes to his lineup, Charles recorded “What’d

Robinson’s mother passed away when he was 15 years old.

I Say” in 1959 which made him one of the leading R&B artists

Now on his own, he decided to move to Seattle, Washington

in the nation.

where he continued his musical development. By 1948 he had become a professional musician, shortening his name to


In the decade of the 1960s Charles’s releases moved between

Ray Charles continued to write and perform well into the

pop, R&B and country and western music as he influenced

1990s. Over his long career his accolades included more than

artists and developed audiences in each genre. One of his

a dozen Grammies, induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of

compositions during this period, “Georgia on My Mind,”

Fame, and a bronze medallion from the French Republic in

was eventually adopted as the official song for the state of

recognition of his contribution to world music. Ray Charles

Georgia. In 1965 at the peak of his career, Charles took a year

died on June 10th, 2004.

long break to overcome a heroin addiction following his arrest on drug charges. Charles also supported the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s. He became a friend and financial backer of Dr. Martin Luther King and after 1963 refused to play before segregated audiences. Charles also composed protest songs such as “Danger Zone” and “You’re in for a Big Surprise.”

Sources: Eleanora E. Tate,Black Stars: African American Musicians(New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2000); “Ray Charles” American Masters. Contributor: Campbell, Brent University of Washington For more information, visit:


Historical Profiles OUR ACTIVISTS

Sojourner Truth, Abolitionist

Sojourner Truth, an abolitionist, women’s rights activist,

less than five years, many reform-minded influential people

emancipated slave and itinerant evangelist, became arguably

visited Northampton, including abolitionist leaders Frederick

the most well-known 19th Century African American woman.

Douglass and William Lloyd Garrison. Through these

Born around 1791, Isabella (her birth name) was the daughter

connections, she began to speak at public events on behalf of

of James and Betsey, slaves of Colonel Ardinburgh Hurley,

abolition and women’s rights. In 1851, she gave her famous

Ulster County, New York. From a young age, she was bought

“Ain’t I A Woman” speech at a Women’s Rights Convention.

and sold several times by slaveowners in New York. She married an enslaved man named Thomas, and together they had five children.

In 1857, Truth bought a house with the help of friends in Harmonia, a small Spiritualist community near Battle Creek, Michigan. She supported herself through speaking

On July 4, 1827, the New York State Legislature emancipated

engagements and selling photographs of herself as well as her

Isabella, yet her owners at the time, the Dumonts, would not

book, Narrative of Sojourner Truth, written by an amanuensis,

comply because they claimed she still owed them work.

since she was illiterate.

One morning before dawn, with a baby in her arms, she walked away from the Dumonts and took refuge with an abolitionist family who lived five miles away. During this time, she experienced a religious conversion and became active in the nearby Methodist church. Eventually, she moved with her son, Peter, to New York City, where she worked as a live-in domestic. She became involved in a religious cult known as the Kingdom, whose leader, Matthias, beat her and assigned her the heaviest workload.

When the Civil War began, Truth threw her energy into soliciting food and clothing for the volunteer regiments of black Union soldiers. Then the plight of freed slaves caught her attention, many of whom were living in refugee camps in the nation’s capital. She championed the idea of a colony for freed slaves in the American West where they would have a chance to become self-supporting and self-reliant. She garnered numerous signatures for her petition urging the federal government to provide land for this endeavor. Although she

The turning point in Isabella’s life came on June 1, 1843,

presented the petition to President Ulysses S. Grant, her dream

when at the age of 52 she adopted a new name, Sojourner

never materialized. Nevertheless, when a large migration of

Truth, and headed east for the purpose of “exhorting the

freed southern slaves made their way west in the fall of 1879,

people to embrace Jesus, and refrain from sin.” For several

despite her advanced age, Truth traveled to

years, she preached at camp meetings and lived in a utopian

Kansas to help them get settled. Sojourner

community, the Northampton Association for Education and

Truth died in Battle Creek, Michigan on

Industry, which devoted itself to transcending class, race,

November 26, 1883. She was 92.

and gender distinctions. Even though the community lasted Olive Gilbert and Frances Titus, Narrative of Sojourner Truth; A Bondswoman of Olden Time, Emancipated by the New York Legislature in the Early Part of the Present Century; with a History of her Labors and Correspondence Drawn from her “Book of Life” (1875); Carleton Mabee, Sojourner Truth: Slave, Prophet, Legend (1993); Nell Irvin Painter, Sojourner Truth: A Life, A Symbol (1996), Priscilla PopeLevison, Turn the Pulpit Loose: Two Centuries of American Women Evangelists (2004). Contributor: Pope-Levison, Priscilla Seattle Pacific University For more information, visit:


A Letter from the Editor: It’s about Reach. It’s about Impact. It’s about Community. This Black History Month program serves as tribute to the most inspirational and influential black leaders of the community, both past and present. As you read through the different elements, remember the people and events of the past that paved the way for today’s present and set the foundation for tomorrow’s future. Recognize them. Appreciate them.

Thank you to Quintard and his team at for providing the historical content. comprises primarily of volunteers who spent countless hours in research and we are incredibly thankful for their contribution. Without a past, we would not have a present. Speaking of present, our writers and bloggers represented the people’s voice in this program. They are the speakerphone of today’s African-American generation. •

Amber Williams

Briana McCarthy

Danielle Belton

Nikki Thompson

We, at EPMG and LionHeart Digital, are tremendously grateful

Sharelle D. Lowery

to those contemporary icons who volunteered their time and

Yesha Callahan

This program could not have been nearly as successful or impactful without the contribution and talents of our partners, publishers, and sponsors.

energy to participate. Their inspiring stories to black history gave this project relevant, personal, and motivating insight.

The dynamic and riveting video production could not have been made possible without David and his very talented team

Allen West

at Bravo Media Inc who went above and beyond to produce

Baratunde Thurston

videos with amazing creativity and best-in-class production

Beverly Johnson

quality. This comprehensive package was beautifully decorated

Black Girls Run- Toni and Ashley

and branded with design components from Savacool Secviar

Cheryl Contee

Brand Communications.

Grandmaster Flash

Hank Willis Thomas

Louis Gossett Jr

Marcus Stroud

Sanya Richards-Ross

Please join us as we recognize the triumphs of today’s most

Shawne Merriman

celebrated black icons and commemorate those that have

Stefanie Brown James

made a lasting contribution to Black History… or better yet,

Our goal was to showcase the influence and power of AfricanAmerican heritage and feature those who have made and still make a difference in the community.

American History. •

JD Collins, Editor-in-chief

Mabel Ng, Associate Editor



EPMG Black History Month 2014  
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