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Today in Black History, 1/1/2014

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• January 1, 1804 The former colony of Saint Domingue declared its independence and renamed itself Haiti, making it the first independent nation in Latin America and the first post-colonial independent Black led nation in the world. This was the result of a revolution against colonization and slavery that began August 22, 1791. One of the most successful leaders of the revolution was Toussaint L’Ouverture. The leader at the time of independence was Jean-Jacques Dessalines.

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Today In Black History, 12/31/2013

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• December 31, 1864 Joachim Pease received the Congressional Medal of Honor, the United States military’s highest decoration, for his conduct during the Civil War battle between the USS Kearsarge and the Confederate CSS Alabama. His citation reads, “Served as seaman on board the USS Kearsarge when she destroyed the Alabama off Cherbourg, France, 19 June 1864. Acting as loader on the No. 2 gun during this bitter engagement, Pease exhibited marked coolness and good conduct and was highly recommended by the divisional officer for gallantry under fire.” Other than the fact that he was born in 1842, not much else is known of Pease’s life before or after the war.

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Today in Black History, 12/30/2013

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• December 30, 1842 Josiah Thomas Walls, the first African American congressman from Florida, was born enslaved in Winchester, Virginia. During the Civil War, Walls was forced to join the Confederate Army and was captured by the Union Army in 1862. He then joined the United States Colored Troops in 1863 and rose to the rank of 1st sergeant and artillery instructor. Walls was discharged in 1865 and by 1868 had saved enough money to buy a 60 acre farm outside of Gainesville, Florida. That same year, he was a representative to the Florida Constitutional Convention and was elected a state assemblyman. He was elected to the United States House of Representatives from Florida in 1871 but was denied his seat. In 1873, he was elected again and served his term. While in office, Walls introduced bills to establish a national education fund and to provide aid to Seminole War veterans. He was then elected for a third term but again denied his seat. After that, he returned to Florida where he farmed until 1896 when he became farm director for Florida A&M University. Walls died May 15, 1905. His biography, “Josiah Walls: Florida’s Black Congressman of Reconstruction,” was published in 1976.

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Today in Black History, 12/29/2013

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• December 29, 1853 Inman Edward Page, educator, was born enslaved in Warrenton, Virginia. During the Civil War, his family escaped slavery to Washington, D. C. Page attended Howard University for two years and then enrolled at Brown University. In 1877, he was one of the first two Black students to graduate from the university and was valedictorian of his class. In 1888, Page became president of Lincoln Institute and in 1898 was selected the first president of the Colored Agricultural and Normal University (now Langston University). In his 17 year tenure at the institution, Page increased enrollment from 40 to well over 600 and the faculty from 4 to 35. Page resigned in 1915 and later became president of Western College and Industrial Institute and Roger Williams University. He returned to Oklahoma City in 1920 and later became supervising principal of the city’s segregated Black school system. Page was awarded an honorary master’s degree by Brown in 1918 and an honorary Doctor of Laws degree by Wilberforce University. Page died December 21, 1935. The main library at Lincoln University and the Inman Page Black Alumni Association at Brown are named in his honor.

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Today in Black History, 12/28/2013

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• December 28, 1829 Bill Richmond, hall of fame boxer, died. Richmond was born enslaved August 5, 1763 in Staten Island, New York. He was taken to England to apprentice as a cabinet maker but took up boxing. Known as “The Black Terror,” he was one of the most accomplished and respected fighters of the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Richmond retired from boxing in 1818 at the age of 55 and established a boxing academy. He was posthumously inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2005.

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Today in Black History, 12/27/2013

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• December 27, 1931 Ruth Carol Taylor, nurse, journalist and the first African American airline stewardess in the United States, was born in Boston, Massachusetts. Taylor graduated from the Bellevue School of Nursing as a registered nurse in 1955. After working as a nurse for several years, she decided to break the color barrier that existed for airline stewardess. Taylor applied to Trans World Airlines but was rejected. She then was hired by Mohawk Airlines in December, 1957 and on February 11, 1958 became the first African American airline stewardess on a flight. Six months later, Taylor married and was forced to resign because of the requirement that stewardess be single. Taylor moved to Barbados and founded the country’s first professional nursing journal. She returned to New York in 1977 and resumed her nursing career. She also co-founded the Institute for Interracial Harmony which developed a test to measure racist attitudes. In 1985, Taylor published “The Little Black Book: Black Male Survival in America,” a guide to help young Black men succeed in a racist society.

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Today in Black History, 12/26/2013

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• December 26, 1884 Felix Adolphe Eboue, French colonial administrator, was born in Cayenne, Guyana. Eboue was a brilliant scholar and won a scholarship to study in Bordeaux, France. After graduating in law from the Ecole Colonial in Paris, from 1909 to 1931 he served in Oubangui-Chari (now the Central African Republic). In 1932, he was appointed secretary general of Martinique where he served until 1934 when he was transferred to the same position in French Sudan. In 1938, Eboue was transferred to Chad where he served until 1940 when he was appointed General Governor of all of French Equatorial Africa, a position he held until his death March 17, 1944. During his tenure as general governor, Eboue worked to improve the status of Africans. He placed some Gabonese civil servants into positions of authority and advocated the preservation of traditional African institutions. After his death, the French colonies in Africa brought out a joint stamp issue in his memory. Eboue’s ashes are in The Pantheon of Paris, the first Black man to be so honored. Eboue’s biography, “Eboue,” was published in 1972.

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Today in Black History, 12/25/2013

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• December 25, 1745 Joseph Bologne the Chevalier de Saint-Georges, musician, swordsman and equestrian, was born in Guadeloupe but raised in France. While still a young man, he acquired reputations as the best swordsman in France, as a violin virtuoso, and as a classical composer. In 1771, he was appointed maestro of the Concert des Amateurs and later director of the Concert de la Loge Olympique, the biggest orchestra of his time. He was eventually selected for appointment as director of the Royal Opera of Louis XVI but was prevented from taking the position because three Parisian divas felt that “it would be injurious to their professional reputations for them to sing on stage under the direction of a mulatto.” Saint-Georges also served in the French army and was appointed the first Black colonel and commanded a regiment of a thousand free colored volunteers. Despite his successes, Saint-Georges died destitute June 10, 1799. Biographies of Saint-Georges include “Joseph Boulogne called Chevalier de Saint-Georges” (1996) and “Joseph de Saint-Georges, le Chevalier Noir (The Black Chevalier)” (2006).

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Today in Black History, 12/24/2013

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• December 24, 1866 William Henry Barnes, Congressional Medal of Honor recipient, died. Barnes was born in 1840 or 1845 in Saint Mary’s County, Maryland. He worked as a farmer before enlisting in the Union Army as a private in Company C of the 38th United States Colored Infantry Regiment in 1864. On September 29 of that year at the Battle of Chaffin’s Farm, his regiment was among a division of Black troops that attacked the center of the Confederate defenses at New Market Heights. The attack was met with intense Confederate fire and over 50 percent of the Black troops were killed, wounded, or captured. On April 6, 1865, Barnes was awarded the medal, America’s highest military decoration, for being “among the first to enter the enemy’s works; although wounded.” Barnes was promoted to sergeant in July, 1865 and remained in the army until his death.

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Today in Black History, 12/23/2013

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• December 23, 1815 Henry Highland Garnet, orator, educator and abolitionist, was born enslaved near New Market, Maryland. In 1824, Garnet’s family escaped to freedom in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. They subsequently moved to New York City where from 1826 to 1833 Garnet attended the African Free School and the Phoenix High School for Colored Youth. Garnet went on to graduate, with honors, in 1839 from the Oneida Theological Institute of Whitesboro. He later joined the American Anti-Slavery Society and frequently spoke at abolitionist conferences. He delivered one of his most famous speeches, “Call to Rebellion,” to the National Negro Convention August 21, 1843. In that speech, he called for the enslaved to act for themselves to achieve total emancipation. By 1849, Garnet began to support emigration of Black people to Mexico, Liberia, or the West Indies and he founded the African Civilization Society. On February 12, 1865, he became the first Black minister to preach to the United States House of Representatives when he spoke about the end of slavery. Garnet was appointed president of Avery College in 1868 and in 1881 was appointed U. S. Minister to Liberia. Garnet died February 13, 1882. The Henry Highland Garnet School for Success in Harlem, New York and the HHG Elementary School in Chestertown, Maryland are named in his honor. His biographies include “Henry Highland Garnet: A Voice of Black Radicalism in the Nineteenth Century” (1977) and “Rise Now and Fly to Arms: The Life of Henry Highland Garnet” (1995).

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Today in Black History, 12/22/2013

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• December 22, 1870 Jefferson Franklin Long, the first African American from Georgia to be elected to the United States House of Representatives, was seated. Long was born enslaved March 3, 1836 near Knoxville, Georgia and was self-educated. By 1867, he was a prominent member of the Republican Party, traveling throughout the South urging formerly enslaved men to register to vote. Partially as a result of his efforts, 37 African Americans were elected to the Georgia Constitutional Convention of 1867 and 32 to the state legislature. Long advocated for public education, higher wages, and better terms for sharecroppers. He also helped organize the Union Brotherhood Lodge, a Black mutual aid society in Macon, Georgia. Long was elected to fill a vacancy and served in Congress until March 3, 1871. On February 1, 1871, Long became the first African American to speak on the floor of the United States House of Representatives. Long did not seek re-election but did serve as a delegate to the Republican National Convention in 1880. After serving in Congress, Long resumed business as a merchant tailor in Macon and died there February 4, 1901.

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Today in Black History, 12/21/2013

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• December 21, 1872 Robert Scott Duncanson, landscape painter, died. Duncanson was born in 1821 in Seneca County, New York and went to live with his father in Canada as a young boy. He returned to the United States in 1841 with a desire to be an artist and taught himself by painting portraits and copying prints. Duncanson traveled the world in pursuit of his art and in 1845 moved to Detroit, Michigan. In 1846, the Detroit Daily Advertiser praised Duncanson for his skill and color usage, adding “Mr. Duncanson deserves, and we trust will receive the patronage of all lovers of the fine arts.” With the onset of the Civil War, Duncanson exiled himself to Canada and the United Kingdom where his work was well received and the London Art Journal declared him a master of landscape painting. His paintings “Drunkard’s Plight” (1845), “At the Foot of the Cross” (1846), and “Uncle Tom and Little Eva” (1853) are in the collection of the Detroit Institute of Arts.

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Today in Black History, 12/20/2013

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• December 20, 1942 Robert Lee “Bullet Bob” Hayes, hall of fame track and field athlete and football player, was born in Jacksonville, Florida. While a student at Florida A&M University, Hayes was the Amateur Athletic Union 100 yard dash champion from 1962 to 1964 and in 1964 was the National Collegiate Athletic Association champion in the 200 meter race. At the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games, he won Gold medals and set world records in the 100 meter race and the 4 by 100 meter relay. At that time, he was considered the world’s fastest man. Hayes was selected by the Dallas Cowboys in the 1964 NFL Draft. Over his 11 season football career, he was a three-time Pro Bowl selection and was instrumental in the Cowboys’ 1972 Super Bowl victory. Hayes is the only man to win an Olympic Gold medal and a Super Bowl ring. In 1972, he was inducted into the USA Track & Field Hall of Fame. Hayes died September 18, 2002. He was posthumously inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2009.

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Voices of the Civil War Episode 23 "Robert Smalls"

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DECEMBER 2013: The Voices of the Civil War is a five-year film series dedicated to celebrating and commemorating the Civil War over the course of the sesquicentennial. Each month, new episodes cover pertinent topics that follow the monthly events and issues as they unfolded for African Americans during the Civil War. Within these episodes there are various primary sources – letters and diaries, newspaper reports, and more - to recount various experiences of blacks during this period. We encourage your feedback and commentary through our Voices of the Civil War web blog.

Click here to visit the Voices of the Civil War blog to see previous episodes.

In December 1863, a lifelong slave named Robert Smalls became the first black captain of a United States vessel. From that point onward, he would earn $150 per month, making him one of the war's highest paid black soldiers. But Smalls' most memorable accomplishment came a year earlier, in one of the most audacious acts of the Civil War.

Credits

1, 2, 4 Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History

3, 8, 10-14 Library of Congress

5, 9 U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph

http://www.history.navy.mil/photos/sh-civil/civsh-p/planter.htm

6 The Planter, Official Records of the Navies, Series 1, Vol. 12.

Courtesy of the Beaufort District Collection, Beaufort County Library

7 Hagley Museum and Library

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Today in Black History, 12/19/2013

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• December 19, 1864 William Cooper Nell became the first African American to work in the federal civil service when he became a postal clerk in Boston, Massachusetts. Nell was born December 16, 1816 in Boston. He studied law in the early 1830s but was never certified as a lawyer because he would not swear allegiance to the Constitution of the United States which he believed advocated the enslavement of African Americans in the South. Nell was influential in organizing the Freedom Association and the Committee of Vigilance which were all-Black organizations that helped previously enslaved Black people that had fled to the North. From 1848 to 1851, Nell worked with Frederick Douglass on the abolitionist publication The North Star and was instrumental in the 1855 decision to allow African American students in Massachusetts to study alongside their White classmates. Nell was a prolific author and wrote two exhaustive studies of African Americans in war, “Services of Colored Americans in the Wars of 1776 and 1812” (1851) and “Colored Patriots of the American Revolution” (1855). Nell died May 25, 1874. “William Cooper Nell: Abolitionist, Historian and Integrationist; Selected Writings, 1832-1874” was published in 2002.

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Today in Black History, 12/18/2013

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• December 18, 1852 George Henry White, the last African American Congressman of the Reconstruction era, was born in Rosindale, North Carolina. After graduating from Howard University in 1877, White studied law privately and was admitted to the North Carolina bar in 1879. He entered politics in 1880 when he was elected to the North Carolina House of Representatives. In 1884, he was elected to the North Carolina Senate and in 1886 was elected Solicitor and Prosecuting Attorney. In 1896, White was elected to the United States House of Representatives and re-elected in 1898. As a result of changes in the voting laws and the intimidation of Black voters, White did not run for a third term. In his farewell speech he said, “This is perhaps the Negroes’ temporary farewell to the American Congress but let me say, Phoenix-like he will rise up some day and come again.” His speech was referenced by President Barack Obama in his remarks at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s Annual Awards Dinner September 26, 2009. White was an officer in the National Afro-American Council, a nationwide civil rights organization created in 1898. In 1906, White moved to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania where he practiced law, operated a commercial savings bank, and founded the town of Whitesboro, New Jersey as a real estate development. White died December 28, 1918. His biography, “George Henry White: An Even Chance in the Race of Life,” was published in 2000.

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Today in Black History, 12/17/2013

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• December 17, 1663 Nzinga Mbande, queen of the Ndongo and Maamba Kingdoms in southwestern Africa, died. Nzinga was born in 1583 in what is now Angola in southwestern Africa. After the death of her brother, Nzinga assumed the title of Queen of Ndongo in 1623. From 1624 to 1657, she led her troops in battle against the Portuguese colonizers. After signing a peace treaty with Portugal, Nzinga devoted her efforts to resettling formerly enslaved Africans. After her death, the Portuguese accelerated their occupation of southwest Africa and significantly expanded the slave trade. A major street in Luanda, Angola is named in Nzinga’s honor and a statue of her sits on an impressive square. A biography, “Nzinga: Warrior Queen of Matamba, Angola, Africa, 1595,” was published in 2000 and a play, “Nzinga, the Warrior Queen,” was produced in 2006. Nzinga’s name is enshrined in the Ring of Genealogy at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit, Michigan.

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Today in Black History, 12/16/2013

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• December 16, 1816 William Cooper Nell, abolitionist, author and civil servant, was born in Boston, Massachusetts. Nell studied law in the early 1830s but was never certified as a lawyer because he would not swear allegiance to the Constitution of the United States which he believed advocated the enslavement of African Americans in the South. Nell was influential in organizing the Freedom Association and the Committee of Vigilance which were all-Black organizations that helped previously enslaved Black people that had fled to the North. From 1848 to 1851, Nell worked with Frederick Douglass on the abolitionist publication The North Star and was instrumental in the 1855 decision to allow African American students In Massachusetts to study alongside their White classmates. Nell was a prolific author and wrote two exhaustive studies of African Americans in war, “Services of Colored Americans in the Wars of 1776 and 1812” (1851) and “Colored Patriots of the American Revolution” (1855). On December 19, 1864, Nell became a postal clerk in Boston, making him the first African American to work in the federal civil service. He died May 25, 1874. “William Cooper Nell: Abolitionist, Historian and Integrationist; Selected Writings, 1832-1874” was published in 2002.

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Today in Black History, 12/15/2013

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• December 15, 1883 William Augustus Hinton, bacteriologist, pathologist and educator, was born in Chicago, Illinois. Hinton earned his Bachelor of Science degree from Harvard University in 1905 and his Doctor of Medicine degree, with honors, from Harvard Medical School in 1912. Hinton returned to Harvard in 1918 as the first Black professor in the history of the university. In 1921, he began teaching bacteriology and immunology which he taught until his retirement in 1950. Hinton became internationally known as an expert in the diagnosis and treatment of syphilis and in 1936 published the first medical textbook by a Black American, “Syphilis and Its Treatment.” In recognition of his contributions as a serologist and public health bacteriologist, in 1948 Hinton was elected a life member of the American Social Science Association. Hinton died August 8, 1959. The William A. Hinton State Laboratory Institute in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts and the William Augustus Hinton Elementary School in Chicago, Illinois are named in his honor.

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Today in Black History, 12/14/2013

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• December 14, 1829 John Mercer Langston, attorney, abolitionist and educator, was born in Louisa County, Virginia. Langston earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in 1849 and Master of Arts degree in theology in 1852 from Oberlin College. Denied admission to law school because of his race, Langston studied under an established attorney and was admitted to the Ohio bar in 1854. Together with his brothers, Langston became active in the Abolitionist Movement and in 1858 became president of the Ohio Anti-Slavery Society. During the Civil War, Langston was appointed to recruit African Americans to fight for the Union Army and after the war was appointed Inspector General for the Freedmen’s Bureau, a federal organization that assisted formerly enslaved Black people. From 1864 to 1868, Langston served as president of the National Equal Rights League which called for the abolition of slavery, support of racial unity and self-help, and equality before the law. In 1868, Langston established and served as dean of Howard University Law School, the first Black law school in the country. President Ulysses S. Grant appointed Langston a member of the Board of Health of the District of Columbia. In 1877, President Rutherford B. Hayes appointed him United States Minister to Haiti and in 1884 he was appointed Charge d’affaires to the Dominican Republic. In 1885, Langston was named the first president of Virginia Normal and Collegiate Institute (now Virginia State University) and in 1888 became the first Black person elected to the U. S. Congress from Virginia. In 1894, Langston published his autobiography, “From the Virginia Plantation to the National Capitol: Or the First and Only Negro Representative in Congress From the Old Dominion.” Langston died November 15, 1897. There are a number of schools named in his honor, including Langston University in Oklahoma. The John Mercer Langston Bar Association in Columbus, Ohio is also named in his honor. His biography, “John Mercer Langston and the Fight for Black Freedom, 1829 – 65,” was published in 1989 and his house in Oberlin was designated a National Historic Landmark May 15, 1975.

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