When the Suffrage Movement Sold Out to White Supremacy

African-American women were written out of the history of the woman suffrage movement. As the centennial of the 19th Amendment approaches, it’s time for a new look at the past.

Brent Staples

By Brent Staples

Americans are being forced to choose between a cherished lie and a disconcerting truth as they prepare to celebrate the centennial of the 19th Amendment in 2020. While middle-class white women celebrated with ticker tape parades, black women in the former Confederacy were being defrauded by voting registrars or were driven away from registration offices under threat of violence. Read the article here.

Gladys West

When You Are Lost, Thank Gladys West for Your GPS

In a Jan. 19, 2018 photo, Gladys West and her husband Ira West stand in their home in King George, Va. West was part of the team that developed the Global Positioning System in the 1950s and 1960s. (Mike Morones/The Free Lance-Star via AP)

byCathy Dyson, The (Fredericksburg, Va.) Free Lance-Star /AP via militarytimes.com

Gladys West was putting together a short bio about herself for a sorority function that recognized senior members of the group.  She noted her 42-year career at the Navy base at Dahlgren and devoted one short-and-sweet line to the fact she was part of the team that developed the Global Positioning System in the 1950s and 1960s. Read more HERE.

Mabel Grammer, Whose Brown Baby Plan Found Homes for Hundreds

By Alexis Clark

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They were called “brown babies,” or “mischlingskinder,” a derogatory German term for mixed-race children. And sometimes they were just referred to as mutts.  Born during the occupation years in Germany after World War II, the offspring of German women and African-American soldiers, their fathers were usually transferred elsewhere and their mothers risked social repercussions by keeping them, so the babies were placed in orphanages. But when Mabel Grammer, an African-American journalist, became aware of the orphaned children, she stepped in.  Read more about this extraordinary woman HERE and HERE.  The documentary, Brown Babies: The Mischlingskinder Story is available for use to libraries, schools and museums. For more information about the film, visit http://brownbabiesfilm.com/.

Black Migrations

Slaves
courtesy of: http://www.cambridgeblog.org/2016/02/black-history-month-slavery-and-forced-migration-in-the-deep-south/

The theme for Black History Month in 2019 is “Black Migrations” tracking the continuous movement of blacks from the American South to the industrialized North and beyond.

Beginning in the early 20th century, a growing number of black industrial leaders and black entrepreneurs emerged as families relocated from farms to cities, and from the South to the more industrialized Northeast and Midwest.

Read more here

Blackface Redux

The narrative that we are encouraged to believe, or at least accept, about white people’s youthful flirtations with racism is: that was then, this is now, and I am not that person – if I ever was.   At the beginning of February, we saw a photo from the 1984 medical school yearbook page of Virginia governor Ralph Northam with a man wearing blackface standing next to a man in Ku Klux Klan robes. 

Shortly after that revelation,  Mark R. Herring, Virginia’s attorney general, admitted attending a college party in blackface some 40 years earlier.  These are not news, just individual revelations within the ongoing conversation about blackface in American society.  Comments have flowed across social media as well as print, television and talk radio. Nothing beats the visuals though.

Old yearbooks? Here are two NEW photos posted TODAY. Grace Coddington, current @Vogue contributor, who was creative director for years. She has a lucrative collaboration with @LouisVuitton and @IMG. On her kitchen shelf she has a collection of racist Mammy figurines.   

Fashion, too, has had its moments recently with blackface. 

Read more HERE and opinion pieces HERE and HERE.

Black Firsts 2018!

Image result for stacey abrams

African Americans in Medicine

Dr. Patrice Harris becomes the first black woman President-Elect of the country’s largest physician organization, the American Medical Association (AMA). 

Beverly Murphy, a Distinguished Member of the Academy of Health Information Professionals and a Medical Library Association (MLA) Fellow, begins her term as the first African-American President of the Medical Library Association, established in 1898 as a global, nonprofit educational organization in the health information field.

Hartford Black History

Citizens of Color, 1863-1890:
Black society after the Civil War

In the nineteenth century, there were five Black churches. That number was probably due more to the variety of beliefs than a reflection of the number of Black neighborhoods in Hartford.

According to the Hartford Black History Project, “Although the Front Street Black Neighborhood was not the oldest, its Talcott Street Congregational Church (the “African Church”) built in 1823 is the first Black Church in the city. The Black population in Hartford until then relied on the white churches if they went to church at all. One suspects that the Talcott Street Church probably arose as a result of the formation of a sense of Black community in Hartford, for it was not only associated with the riot of 1835, but later with the abolitionist movement in the Black community. So, while the Park River Black Neighborhood was probably older, it was perhaps socially less viable than the Front Street Black Neighborhood that arose near all the shipping activity along the Connecticut River.”

A.M.E. Zion Church

The other primary “African” church in Hartford was the American Methodist Episcopal Zion Church (African), which was established in 1836 at 269 Pearl Street to serve the needs of the nearby Park River Black Neighborhood. In 1857 the church was rebuilt at 91 Pearl Street. The building shown in this lithograph from Geer’s Hartford Directory (Connecticut Historical Society Library) is identified as the new church, but on architectural grounds it seems more likely to be the original building of 1836. It was built for $6000 and could seat 445 people. Although it might seem modest today, it was at the time among the City’s major constructions.

[AME Zion Church (1857)

Here in fact is the new A.M.E. Zion church, but in the Italianate style one might expect for 1857. It stood at the southwest corner of Pearl and South Ann Street, right at the northern edge of the old Park River Black Community. At the left of the photo we look south down Ann Street, which ended a block away at the Park River. So we would be looking right into Hartford’s oldest Black community, except that by the time this picture was taken in June 1898, the entire neighborhood had been displaced and the church was being relocated to North Main Street. The building seen to the right of the church was the fire department which now occupies the land on which stood the church.

We associate the Baptist religion with the wave of southern migration, and indeed, Shiloh Baptist (not at its present location) was established in 1889. Thanks to the first wave of migration, it became the largest Black Church in Harford and prospered around the time of World War I. The Union Baptist Church, was built on Mather Street a little earlier in 1871. Further investigation might show that while the target of the first wave of southern migration was the Windsor Street Neighborhood, it grew to include the early settlement near Mather Street and what had been called “Nigger Lane.” There was also built on Mather Street St. Monica’s Episcopal Church in 1912. The absence of an earlier church in the area might be because folk went to the Talcott Street Church, which was closer.

Holdridge Primus The Primus family can be traced back to a Black freeman, simply named Primus, who was servant and apprentice of a Dr. Wolcott in the mid-18th century East Windsor area. He went on to become a doctor himself. One of his immediate descendents was the sailor, Ham Primus, whose service was so outstanding he gained a status rare for Blacks: American citizenship. He married Temperance Asher, and their children were an important part of Hartford’s early Black community. Holdridge Primus was one of their children. This is a photo of him from the article, “The Colored People Who Live in Hartford,” in the Hartford Courant of 24 October 1915.
Holdridge was employed as a clerk at Humphrey and Syms, which sold sugar, coffee and tea, during much of his life and eventually became a silent partner. Here he can be seen standing in the light snow in about 1860 in front of the store (Connecticut Historican Society Museum). He married Mehitable Jacobs, a dressmaker and a founder of the Talcott Street Congregational Church. By 1850 the couple had acquired a home at 20 Wadsworth Street, and were considered wealthy for a Black family.   Among their four children was Rebecca, who was a Maryland schoolteacher with the Freedman’s Bureau, where she sought to advance the condition of Black people. When she returned to Hartford she married a Charles Thomas and fell into obscurity, but continued to teach at the Talcott Street Church school.

Read more history of Hartford’s African American community and Faith Church HERE.

Alexa Canady

Image result for alexa canadyAlexa Canady   Surgeon, Educator   (1950–) 

In 1981, Alexa Canady became the first female African-American neurosurgeon in the United States. Dr. Alexa Canady was born on November 7, 1950, in Lansing, Michigan. While she was in college, a summer program inspired her to pursue a medical career. In 1981, she became the first female African-American neurosurgeon in the United States. Canady specialized as a pediatric neurosurgeon and served as chief of neurosurgery at the Children’s Hospital in Michigan from 1987 to 2001.

 

African Americans in Times of War

Image result for tuskegee airmen   Black History Month 2018  honors
“African Americans in Times of War” like the
legendary Tuskegee Airmen, who were highly
decorated for their service in World War II.

The theme for Black History Month in 2018 was “African Americans in Times of War” honoring those brave men and women who served their countries in the armed forces, especially those who made the ultimate sacrifice while defending the American ideals of freedom and democracy.

During World War II, for example, more than 2.5 million black men registered for the draft and one million served as draftees or volunteers in every branch of the armed forces.

A decade before the first glimmers of the Amercan civil rights movement, most black men were assigned to segregated combat groups.

Even so, more than 12,000 black men who served in the segregated 92nd Division received citations or were decorated for “extraordinary heroism” on the battlefield. Perhaps more famously, the Tuskegee Airmen also became legendary for their heroic feats, and in total received a Distinguished Unit Citation, several silver stars, 150 distinguished flying crosses, fourteen bronze stars, and 744 air medals.

At war’s end, recognition of the African-American contribution to the war effort would eventually lay the groundwork for the civil rights protests of the 1950s and 1960s. Read more here.

History – Bessie Blount Griffin

Meet Bessie Blount Griffin, a physical therapist, inventor, and forensic scientist who invented an electronic feeding device in 1951 to help amputees feed themselves. She also invented the cardboard disposable emesis basis.

A physical therapist working with wounded soldiers during World War II, Griffin realized that soldiers struggled with feeding themselves. She programmed a tube to deliver one bite of a meal at a time to a disabled patient. Whenever he or she was prepared for the next bite, the patient would bite down on the tube. She later simplified her invention so that it could be fit in a brace around a person’s neck, and accomplish the same function.  Skeptical, the American Veterans Administration did not accept Griffin’s invention. She sold the patent and rights to the French government, who supported the large-scale production of her invention so that it could reach those in need. Read the entire article here.