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Today in Black History, 7/10/2013

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• July 10, 1875 Mary Jane McLeod Bethune, hall of fame educator and civil rights leader, was born in Mayesville, South Carolina. Bethune attended Scotia Seminary (now Barber-Scotia College) from 1888 to 1894 and then Dwight Moody’s Institute for Home and Foreign Missions (now Moody Bible Institute). In 1904, she rented a small house in Daytona Beach, Florida and started the Literary and Industrial Training School for Negro Girls with 5 students. By 1910, enrollment rose to 102 and in 1923 the school merged with the Cookman Institute for Men, became co-educational and eventually became Bethune-Cookman University. Bethune served as president of the college from 1923 to 1942 and 1946 to 1947. From 1917 to 1925, Bethune served as the Florida chapter president of the National Association of Colored Women and in 1924 served as national president. She also served as president of the Southeastern Federation of Colored Women’s Clubs from 1920 to 1925. In 1935, Bethune founded the National Council of Negro Women to bring together 28 different organizations to facilitate improvements in the quality of life for women and their communities. In 1938, the NCNW hosted the White House Conference on Negro Women and Children. Also that year, Bethune was appointed director of the Division of Negro Affairs in the National Youth Administration, making her the first African American female federal agency head. Bethune dedicated her life to the education of black and white children and in 1939 stated “not only the Negro child, but children of all races should read and know of the achievements, accomplishments and deeds of the Negro. World peace and brotherhood are based on a common understanding of the contributions and cultures of all races and creeds.” Bethune was awarded the NAACP Spingarn Medal in 1935 and in 1949 became the first woman to receive the Medal of Honor and Merit, the highest award given by the Haitian government. Bethune died May 18, 1955. In 1973, she was posthumously inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame. On July 10, 1974, a sculpture in her honor was unveiled in Washington, D.C. and in 1985 the United States Postal Service issued a commemorative postage stamp in her honor. The Mary McLeod Bethune Council House in Washington, D.C. was designated a National Historic Site October 15, 1982. There are a number of schools across the nation named in her honor. Bethune’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, 7/9/2013

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• July 9, 1793 The Act Against Slavery was passed by Upper Canada, that part of Canada that would eventually become Ontario, to prohibit the continuation of slavery. It was the first attempt to abolish slavery in the British Empire. The Act did not immediately abolish slavery, but ensured the eventual elimination. The Act stated that all enslaved people in the province would remain enslaved until death, that no new enslaved people could be brought into Upper Canada, and that children born to enslaved females would be freed at age 25. It further stated that any children born to this second generation while they were still enslaved would be free from birth. The Act remained in force until 1833 when the British Slavery Abolition Act abolished slavery in most parts of the British Empire.

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Today in Black History, 7/8/2013

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• July 8, 1777 The Commonwealth of Vermont abolished slavery in their constitution. The constitution declared that all men are born equally free and independent and that no male over the age of 21 or female over the age of 18 may serve another in the role of servant, slave, or apprentice. When Vermont was admitted to the union in 1791, it carried over that constitution and thus became the first U.S. state to have abolished slavery.

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Today in Black History, 7/7/2013

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• July 7, 1851 Charles Albert Tindley, hall of fame gospel music composer, was born in Berlin, Maryland. At birth, Tindley’s father was enslaved, but his mother was free, therefore Tindley was considered free. Tindley was primarily self-educated, but did attend night courses and took correspondence courses at the Boston University School of Theology, eventually earning a doctorate while working as a janitor at Calvery Methodist Episcopal Church. Tindley became the pastor of that church which under his leadership grew from 130 to a multiracial congregation of 12,500. After serving the congregation for over 30 years, the church was renamed Tindley Temple United Methodist Church in 1924. Tindley was also a noted songwriter and composer of gospel hymns and his composition “I’ll Overcome Someday” (1901) is considered by many to be the basis for the Civil Rights anthem “We Shall Overcome.” Tindley composed more than 60 other hymns, including “Stand by Me” (1905), “Nothing Between” (1905), “Some Day” (1906), and “Leave It There” (1916). Tindley was the first hymn writer to have a hymn copyrighted and in 1916 published a collection of hymns titled “New Songs of Paradise.” Tindley died July 26, 1933. He was posthumously inducted into the Gospel Music Association Hall of Fame in 1993.

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Today in Black History, 7/6/2013

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• July 6, 1931 Della Reese, singer, actress, and minister, was born Delloreese Patricia Early in Detroit, Michigan. At the age of six, Reese began singing in church and at 13 was hired to sing with Mahalia Jackson’s gospel group. After graduating from high school, Reese formed her own gospel group called the Meditation Singers. In 1957, Reese released “And That Reminds Me” which became a Top Twenty Pop hit and sold over a million copies. That same year, she was voted by Billboard The Most Promising Singer. In 1959, she released “Don’t You Know” which reached number two on the Pop charts and number one on the R&B charts. Reese recorded regularly during the 1960s, releasing albums such as “The Classic Della” (1962), “Della Reese Live” (1966), and “On Strings of Blue” (1967). In 1970, Reese became the first black woman to guest host “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson.” In 1989, Reese starred in the film “Harlem Nights.” In 1994, Reese received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. From 1994 to 2002, she starred in the television series “Touched by an Angel” which ran for nine seasons and 297 episodes. For her performance on that show, Reese was nominated for Emmy Awards for Outstanding Actress in a Drama Series in 1997 and 1998. Reese has also been nominated for four Grammy Awards. In 2010, she was ordained a minister in the Understanding Principles for Better Living Church. Reese appeared in the film “Expecting Mercy” in 2012.

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Today in Black History, 7/5/2013

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• July 5, 1879 Joshua Bowen Smith, caterer and abolitionist, died. Smith was born November 7, 1813 in Coatesville, Pennsylvania. In 1836, he moved to Boston, Massachusetts to work as a headwaiter. Several years later, Smith started his own catering business and over the next 25 years accumulated considerable wealth catering for black abolitionist organizations and Union soldiers during the Civil War. Throughout his life, Smith worked for the abolitionist cause. He also provided jobs for black people that had escaped enslavement. Smith was the first African American member of the Saint Andrew’s Lodge of Freemasons of Massachusetts. He also represented Cambridge, Massachusetts in the state legislature from 1873 to 1874.

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Today in Black History, 7/4/2013

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• July 4, 1819 George Latimer, escapee from enslavement, was born enslaved in Norfolk, Virginia. In his early years, Latimer was a domestic servant and after the age of 16 his labor was hired out. On two separate occasions he spent time in prison as a result of his master’s debt. On October 4, 1842, Latimer and his wife ran away. They hid beneath the deck of a northbound ship that took them to Baltimore, Maryland and eventually made their way to Boston, Massachusetts. Soon after their arrival in Boston, Latimer was recognized as an escapee and was arrested with the intent to return him to his owner. His arrest caused an uproar in Boston and a Latimer Committee was formed. The committee created the Great Massachusetts Petition and collected more than 64,000 signatures for delivery to the State Assembly. The petition significantly contributed to the passage of 1843 Personal Liberty Act, also known as the Latimer Law, which prevented Massachusetts officials from assisting in the detention of suspected fugitive slaves and banned the use of state facilities to detain such suspects. The committee also raised money and eventually purchased Latimer’s freedom for $400. After gaining his freedom, Latimer worked as a paperhanger in Lynn, Massachusetts. Latimer died around 1896. One of his sons was the inventor Lewis Howard Latimer.

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Today in Black History, 7/3/2013

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• July 3, 1844 Macon Bolling Allen became the first African American licensed to practice law in the United States after passing the State of Maine bar exam and earning his recommendation. Allen was born Allen Macon Bolling August 4, 1816 in Indiana. He grew up a free man and learned to read and write on his own. In the early 1840s, he moved to Portland, Maine where he earned his license to practice law. However, because white people were unwilling to have a black man represent them in court, in 1845 Allen moved to Boston, Massachusetts. Allen passed the Massachusetts bar exam that same year and he and Robert Morris, Jr. opened the first black law office in the U.S. In 1848, Allen passed another exam to become Justice of the Peace for Middlesex County. After the Civil War, Allen moved to Charleston, South Carolina and in 1873 was appointed Judge in the Inferior Court of Charleston. The next year, he was elected Judge Probate for Charleston County. Later, Allen moved to Washington, D.C. where he worked as an attorney for the Land and Improvement Association. Allen practiced law right up until his death June 11, 1894. The New York Bar Association and a civil rights clinic in Boston are named in his honor.

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Today in Black History, 7/2/2013

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• July 2, 1822 Denmark Vesey was executed for planning what would have been one of the largest slave rebellions in the United States. It is thought that Vesey was born around 1767 on the island of St. Thomas. In 1781, he was purchased by Captain Joseph Vesey who eventually settled in Charleston, South Carolina. In 1799, Vesey won $1500 in a city lottery which he used to purchase his freedom and began working as a carpenter. In 1816, he co-founded a branch of the African Methodist Church. Inspired by the revolutionary spirit and actions of enslaved people during the 1791 Haitian Revolution, Vesey began to plan a slave rebellion. His insurrection, which was to take place on July 14, 1822, became known to thousands of blacks along the Carolina coast. Their plan was to sail to Haiti after the revolt. The plot was leaked and 67 men were convicted and 35 hanged, including Vesey. Many antislavery activists came to regard Vesey as a hero and during the Civil War Frederick Douglas used Vesey’s name as a battle cry to rally African American regiments. Vesey was the subject of a 1939 opera named after him and a 1980s made for television drama, “Denmark Vesey’s Revolt.” A biography, “He Shall Go Free: The Lives of Denmark Vesey,” was published in 2004.

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Today in Black History, 7/1/2013

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• July 1, 1868 Robert Allen Cole, composer, playwright and stage producer, was born in Athens, Georgia. As a child, Cole learned to play several instruments, including the banjo, piano, and cello. By 1891, he was a member of “The Creole Show,” eventually becoming a writer and stage manager for the show. After publishing his first songs in 1893, Cole established his own black production company and produced “A Trip to Coontown,” thought to be the first musical entirely created and owned by black showmen. That show premiered September 27, 1897 in South Amboy, New Jersey and toured off and on until 1901. In the early 1900s, Cole formed a partnership with J. Rosamond Johnson and James Weldon Johnson which resulted in over 200 songs. They also wrote and produced two musicals, “The Shoe-Fly Regiment” (1907) and “The Red Moon” (1909). Shortly after, Cole’s health began to deteriorate and he drowned August 2, 1911 in what many believe to have been a suicide. His biography, “Bob Cole: His Life and His Legacy to Black Musical Theater,” was published in 1985.

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President's Message, July 2013

Posted by Juanita Moore
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Juanita Moore, President & CEO of the Charles H. Wright Museum of African Americ
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Brazil... the name alone conjures images of the Amazon rain forest, Corcovado towering over Rio de Janeiro, and Carnival. But our preconceptions don't do justice to this immense country, which is the fifth largest in the world, both in terms of geographical area and by population.

Which brings us to our newest exhibition. Opening its U.S. tour on August 15, 2013, the evening before African World Festival, is Bandits & Heroes, Poets & Saints: Popular Art of the Northeast of Brazil. We at The Wright are thrilled to partner with Con/Vida – Popular Arts of the Americas, the organizer of this exhibit. Through nearly 200 works of art, visitors will learn about slavery in Brazil, the plantation economy, popular heroes and heroic acts of resistance in the face of adversity, and the raucous escapades of legendary outlaws and bandits of Brazil’s “Wild West” - a history that inspires us to think of parallels to our own in the United States.

As the singer, songwriter, and activist Caetano Veloso, a native of the northeastern Brazilian state of Bahia, wrote in his 2002 memoir, Tropical truth: a story of music and revolution in Brazil:

"The parallel with the United States is inevitable. If all the countries in the world today must measure themselves against 'America,' position themselves in relation to the American Empire, and if the other countries in America have to do so in an even more direct way - comparing their respective histories to that of their stronger and more fortunate brother - Brazil's case is even more acute, since the mirror image is more evident and the alienation more radical. Brazil is America's other giant, the other melting pot of races and cultures, the other promised land to European and Asian immigrants, the Other. The double, the shadow, the negative image of the great adventure of the New World. The sobriquet ‘sleeping giant,’ which was applied to the United States by Admiral Yamamoto, will be taken by any Brazilian as a reference to Brazil..."

The parallels don't end there. When one thinks of the enormous cultural and societal impact that 500,000 enslaved Africans have had on the evolution of the United States of America, just imagine an influx of 5,000,000 – the number of enslaved Africans brought to Brazil during the trans-Atlantic slave trade. A recent headline in the Guardian declared, "Brazil comes to terms with its slave trading past." It was the last country in the Western hemisphere to abolish slavery, on May 13, 1888. Brazil's last census, in 2011, showed that brancos (whites) accounted for less than half the population for the first time since the 19th century.

This “sleeping giant” is waking up; the Brazilian economy is the world's sixth largest, and one of its fastest growing major economies. The eyes of the world will be on Brazil as it hosts two of the most prestigious international athletic events - the World Cup in 2014, and the Summer Olympics in 2016.

"From the depths of the dark solar heart of the southern hemisphere," we can learn much about this parallel society, with its rich amalgamation of humanity, a cultural stew that has created its own sophisticated artistic traditions, rhythms and history. How will you explore Brazil? We hope you'll join us to find out, because it will be a fascinating journey. Um beijo!

Q3 Member Newsletter 2013-cover-small

Click here to download our July 2013 Member Newsletter

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Today in Black History, 6/30/2013

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• June 30, 1853 Pierre Toussaint, hairdresser and philanthropist, died. Toussaint was born enslaved June 27, 1766 in Haiti. In 1787, his owners brought him to New York City where Toussaint became an apprentice to one of the city’s leading hairdressers. In 1807, he was freed from enslavement when his owner died and he went on to become quite wealthy as a hairdresser. As a result, Toussaint was able to purchase the freedom of the woman that would become his wife. They opened their home as a shelter for orphans, a credit bureau, an employment agency, and refuge for priests and poverty stricken travelers. They also funded the construction of a new Roman Catholic church. In 1990, the Archbishop of New York had Toussaint’s body exhumed and reinterred in the crypt below the altar at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, the first layman to be buried in the crypt. In 1996, Toussaint was declared Venerable by Pope John Paul II, the second step toward sainthood. Pierre Toussaint Academy in Detroit, Michigan and the Pierre Toussaint Family Health Care Center in Brooklyn, New York are named in his honor.

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Today in Black History, 6/29/2013

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• June 29, 1867 Emma Azalia Smith Hackley, singer, educator, and political activist, was born in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, but raised in Detroit, Michigan. Hackley learned to play the piano at the age of three and later took private voice, violin, and French lessons. In 1900, she earned her Bachelor of Music degree from Denver University. Hackley was active in Denver’s civic and social life. She founded the Colored Women’s League and served as executive director of the local branch. She also founded the Imperial Order of Libyans which fought racial discrimination and encouraged patriotism amongst African Americans. In 1905, Hackley moved to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania where she became the director of music at the Episcopal Church of the Crucifixion. She also helped organize the People’s Chorus which later became the Hackley Choral Society. Hackley spent much of her life training other singers, including Marian Anderson, Roland Hayes, and R. Nathanial Dett. In 1916, she published her own collection of music, “Colored Girl Beautiful.” Hackley died December 13, 1922. Twenty years later, the National Association of Negro Musicians established the E. Azalia Hackley Memorial Collection of Negro Music, Drama and Dance at the Detroit Public Library. Her biography, “Azalia: The Life of Madame E. Azalia Hackley,” was published in 1947. Hackley’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, 6/28/2013

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• June 28, 1830 David Walker, abolitionist and author of “David Walker’s Appeal,” was found dead on the doorsteps of his home. Walker was born September 28, 1785 in Wilmington, North Carolina. Walker moved to Boston, Massachusetts during the 1820s where he served as the local distributor of “Freedom’s Journal,” a weekly abolitionist newspaper, and began to speak and write about slavery and racism. In 1828, he joined the Massachusetts General Colored Association which was committed to promoting the interests and rights of African Americans. In 1829, Walker published a 76 page pamphlet entitled “Walker’s Appeal, in Four Articles; Together with a Preamble, to the Coloured Citizens of the World, but in Particular, and Very Expressly, to Those of the United States of America.” In the appeal, Walker argued that African Americans suffered more than any other people of the history of the world and called for immediate, universal, and unconditional emancipation. He also openly praised enslaved people who used violence in self-defense against their masters and overseers and suggested that enslaved people kill their masters in order to gain freedom. Many historians believe that this was the first written assault on slavery and racism to come from a Black man in the United States. Southern slave owners labeled the pamphlet seditious and placed a price on Walker’s head.

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Today in Black History, 6/27/2013

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• June 27, 1766 Pierre Toussaint, hairdresser and philanthropist, was born enslaved in Haiti. In 1787, his owners brought him to New York City where Toussaint became an apprentice to one of the city’s leading hairdressers. In 1807, he was freed from enslavement when his owner died and he went on to become quite wealthy as a hairdresser. As a result, Toussaint was able to purchase the freedom of the woman that would become his wife. They opened their home as a shelter for orphans, a credit bureau, an employment agency, and refuge for priests and poverty stricken travelers. They also funded the construction of a new Roman Catholic church. Toussaint died June 30, 1853. In 1990, the Archbishop of New York had Toussaint’s body exhumed and reinterred in the crypt below the altar at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City, the first layman to be buried in the crypt. In 1996, Toussaint was declared Venerable by Pope John Paul II, the second step toward sainthood. Pierre Toussaint Academy in Detroit, Michigan and the Pierre Toussaint Family Health Care Center in Brooklyn, New York are named in his honor.

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Today in Black History, 6/26/2013

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• June 26, 1879 Clinton Greaves received the Congressional Medal of Honor, America’s highest military decoration, for his actions during the Indian Wars. Greaves was born enslaved August 12, 1855 in Madison County, Virginia. He joined the United States Army in 1872 and by January 24, 1877 was serving as a corporal in Company C of the 9th Cavalry Regiment. On that day, his actions earned him the medal. His citation reads, “While part of a small detachment to persuade a band of renegade Apache Indians to surrender, his group was surrounded. Cpl. Greaves in the center of the savage hand-to-hand fighting, managed to shoot and bash a gap through the swarming Apaches, permitting his companions to break free.” Greaves rose to the rank of sergeant before leaving the army after 20 years of service. Greaves died August 18, 1906. Camp Greaves, a U.S. Army installation in the Republic of South Korea which was closed in 2004, was named in his honor.

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Today in Black History, 6/25/2013

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• June 25, 1792 Thomas Peters, a “Founding Father” of Sierra Leone, died. Peters was born in 1738 in Nigeria. At the age of 22, Peters was captured by slave traders and after being sold several times ended up in Wilmington, North Carolina. In 1776, at the start of the American Revolution, he escaped and joined the Black Pioneers, a black unit made up of formerly enslaved African Americans fighting for the British. The British had promised freedom in exchange for fighting for them. Peters rose to the rank of sergeant and was wounded in battle twice. After the war, Peters and the other loyalists were taken by the British to Nova Scotia, Canada where they stayed from 1783 to 1791. In 1791, Peters traveled to London, England to protest the broken promises of land by the British government. While there, he convinced the government to allow them to settle a new colony in Sierra Leone that was to become Freetown. In 1792, Peters and about 1,100 other black people arrived at St. George Bay Harbor in Sierra Leone. Peters died that same year and is considered by some to be the “George Washington of Freetown.” In 2007, street in Freetown was named in his honor and in 2011 a statue of him was unveiled. “From Slavery to Freetown: Black Loyalists after the American Revolutionary” was published in 2006.

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Today in Black History, 6/24/2013

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• June 24, 1933 Samuel Jones, hall of fame basketball player, was born in Wilmington, North Carolina. Jones graduated from North Carolina Central University where he was a three-time All-Conference selection. He was selected by the Boston Celtics in the 1957 NBA Draft and spent his entire 12 season professional career with the team. Over his career, Jones was a five-time NBA All-Star and ten-time NBA champion, second only to Bill Russell in NBA history. His peers called him “Mr. Clutch.” After retiring in 1969, Jones coached at Federal City College, North Carolina Central University, and served as an assistant for the NBA New Orleans Jazz. In 1984, he was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame and in 1996 was named one of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History. Jones was inducted into the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame in 2006.

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Today in Black History, 6/23/2013

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• June 23, 1895 Thomas Shaw, Congressional Medal of Honor recipient, died. Shaw was born in 1846 in Covington, Kentucky and served in the United States Army as a Buffalo Soldier during the Indian Wars. By August 12, 1881, he was serving as a sergeant in Company K of the 9th Cavalry Regiment. On that day, he participated in an engagement at Carrizo Canyon in New Mexico. His citation reads, “Forced the enemy back after stubbornly holding his ground in an extremely exposed position and prevented the enemy’s superior numbers from surrounding his command.” For his actions, Shaw received the medal, America’s highest military decoration, December 7, 1890. Shaw was buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

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Today in Black History, 6/22/2013

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• June 22, 1865 Aaron Anderson was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor, America’s highest military decoration. While serving as a landsman on board the U.S.S. Wyandank on a mission to attack Confederate forces in Mattox Creek in Virginia, his actions earned him the medal. His citation partially reads, “carried out his duties courageously in the face of devastating fire which cut away half the oars, pierced the launch in many places and cut the barrel off a musket being fired at the enemy.” Anderson was born in 1811 in Plymouth, North Carolina and enlisted in the Union Navy at the age of 52. He left the navy after his term of service expired and little is known of his post-war life except that he died January 9, 1886.

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