• February 1, 1810 Charles Lenox Redmond, orator, abolitionist, and military organizer, was born in Salem, Massachusetts. Redmond began his activism against slavery as an orator while in his twenties. In 1838, the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society chose him as one of its agents and in 1840 he went to the World’s Anti-Slavery Convention in London, England. Redmond had a reputation as an eloquent lecturer and is report to have been the first black public speaker on abolition. During the Civil War, Redmond recruited black soldiers in Massachusetts for the Union Army. After the war, he worked in the Boston Customs House and as a street lamp inspector. Redmond died December 22, 1873.
• January 31, 1904 Henry Johnson, Medal of Honor recipient, died. Johnson was born June 11, 1850 in Boydton, Virginia. On October 5, 1879, Johnson was serving as a sergeant in Company D of the 9th Cavalry Regiment at Milk River, Colorado during the Indian Wars when his actions earned him the medal. His citation reads, “Voluntarily left fortified shelter and under heavy fire at close range made the rounds of pits to instruct the guards, and fought his way to the creek and back to bring water to the wounded.” In recognition of his heroic actions, on September 22, 1890 Johnson was awarded the Medal of Honor, America’s highest military decoration. Not much is known of Johnson’s later life except that he was buried at Arlington National Cemetery.
• January 30, 1844 Richard Theodore Greener, the first African American to graduate from Harvard College, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. After three years at Oberlin College, Greener transferred to Harvard and earned his Bachelor of Arts degree with honors in 1870. After teaching for two years at the Institute for Colored Youth and serving as principal of the Preparatory School for Colored Children, he accepted a professorship at the University of South Carolina. From 1878 to 1880, Greener served as dean of the Howard University School of Law. From 1885 to 1892, he served as secretary of the Grant Monument Association and from 1885 to 1890 as a civil service examiner in New York City. In 1898, Greener was appointed the United States Commercial Agent in Russia, a position he held until 1905. Greener died May 2, 1922.
• January 29, 1936 James Lee Jamerson, bass player and member of Motown’s Funk Brothers, was born in Edisto Island, South Carolina. Jamerson moved to Detroit, Michigan in 1954. He learned to play the bass at Northwestern High School and soon began playing in blues and jazz clubs. In 1959, he joined Motown Records and he is reported to have played on 95% of Motown recordings between 1962 and 1968. Jamerson’s relationship with Motown ended in 1973 and he went on to perform on such hits as the Hues Corporation’s “Rock the Boat” (1974), The Sylvers’ “Boogie Fever” (1975), and Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis’ “You Don’t Have To Be A Star (To Be In My Show)” (1976). Jamerson died August 2, 1983 and was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2000 and the Fender Hall of Fame in 2009.
• January 28, 1896 Malvin Gray Johnson, painter, was born in Greensboro, North Carolina. Johnson started painting as a child and won top awards in local fairs and exhibitions as a teenager. He moved to New York City where he studied at the National Academy of Design. Johnson was one of the most versatile artists of his time and one of the first African American artists to paint in the cubist style. In 1928, he won first prize at a Harmon Foundation exhibition and in 1929 he won the Otto H. Kahn prize for painting. Johnson died in October, 1934. In 2002, the North Carolina Central University Art Museum hosted the first retrospective exhibition devoted to his work. In 2010, Swann Galleries auctioned his work “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” (1928) for $228,000. His works “The Brothers” (1934) and “Self-Portrait” (1934) are in the collection of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.
• January 27, 1869 Will Marion Cook, violinist and composer, was born in Washington, D.C. Cook’s musical talents were apparent at an early age and at 15 he was sent to the Oberlin Conservatory to study violin. From 1887 to 1889, Cook studied at the Berlin Hochschule für Musik and made his professional debut in 1889. In 1890, he became director of a chamber orchestra and composed “Scenes from the Opera of Uncle Tom’s Cabin.” In 1898, he composed “Clorindy: or, The Origin of the Cakewalk,” the first all-Black show to play in a prestigious Broadway house. Cook produced many successful musicals, including “Uncle Eph’s Christmas” (1901), “The Southerners” (1904), and “Swing Along” (1929). Cook died July 19, 1944. The Will Marion Cook House in New York City was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1976. Cook’s biography, “Swing Along: The Musical Life of Will Marion Cook,” was published in 2008.
• January 26, 1892 Elizabeth “Bessie” Coleman, civil aviator, was born in Atlanta, Texas. In her early 20’s, Coleman became interested in flying, but could not gain admittance to American flight schools because she was black and a woman. Therefore, she traveled to Paris, France where she learned to fly and on June 15, 1921 became the first African American woman to earn an international aviation license. After completing an advanced training course, Coleman became a barnstorming stunt flier known as Queen Bess. On April 30, 1926, while flying to an airshow, her plane crashed and she died instantly. In 1990, a road at O’Hara Airport was renamed Bessie Coleman Drive. In 1995, the United States Postal Service issued a commemorative postage stamp in her honor and she was posthumously inducted into the Women in Aviation Hall of Fame. Biographies of Coleman include “Bessie Coleman: The Brownskin Lady Bird” (1994) and “She Dared to Fly: Bessie Coleman” (1997). Coleman’s name is enshrined in the Ring of Genealogy at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit, Michigan.
• January 25, 1890 The National Afro-American League was formed by Timothy Thomas Fortune. The organization was dedicated to racial solidarity and self-help. It became defunct in 1893 due to lack of support and funding. In 1898, it was reformed as the National Afro-American Council and existed until 1908. Many of the supporters of the league and council later became supporters of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
• January 24, 1874 Arturo Alfonso Schomburg, historian, writer, and activist, was born in Santurce, Puerto Rico. While he was in grade school, one of his teachers claimed that blacks had no history, heroes, or accomplishments. This inspired Schomburg to prove him wrong. Schomburg was educated at St. Thomas College in the Virgin Islands where he studied Negro literature. He immigrated to New York City in 1891 and in 1896 began teaching Spanish. In 1911, Schomburg co-founded the Negro Society for Historical Research and he later became president of the American Negro Academy. In 1925, Schomburg published his widely read and influential essay “The Negro Digs Up His Past.” In 1928, the New York Public Library system purchased his collection of literature, art, and other materials and appointed him curator of the Schomburg Collection of Negro Literature and Art (later renamed the Arthur Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture). Schomburg died June 8, 1938 and his name is enshrined in the Ring of Genealogy at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit, Michigan. Schomburg’s biography, “Arthur Alfonse Schomburg: Black Bibliophile & Collector,” was published in 1989.
• January 23, 1837 Amanda Berry Smith, evangelist, was born enslaved in Long Green, Maryland. As a child, Smith’s father worked for years to save enough money to buy his family’s freedom and when she was 13 she moved to Pennsylvania to work. Smith became well known for her beautiful voice and evangelized throughout the South and West. In 1876, she was invited to speak and sing in England and ended up staying for a year and a half conducting religious services. After her return to the United States, she founded the Amanda Smith Orphans’ Home for African American children in a suburb of Chicago, Illinois. She continued to evangelize and became known as “God’s image carved in ebony.” In 1893, her autobiography, “The Story of the Lord’s Dealings with Mrs. Amanda Smith, the Colored Evangelist,” was published. Smith retired to Florida in 1912 where she lived until her death on February 24, 1915.
• January 22, 1822 Barney Launcelot Ford, businessman and civic leader, was born enslaved in Virginia. In 1840, Ford escaped slavery via the Underground Railroad and went to Chicago, Illinois. In 1848, while sailing to California, he landed in Nicaragua where he saw many business opportunities. In 1851, he opened the United States Hotel and Restaurant which became very successful and provided him $5,000 in savings. Ford returned to Denver, Colorado where he eventually owned two hotels, a restaurant, and a barbershop and by the 1870s he was worth over $250,000. With his wealth, Ford gave money, food, and jobs to newly freed blacks and opened a school for blacks. In 1882, he and his wife were the first African Americans to be invited to a Colorado Association of Pioneers dinner. Ford died December 22, 1902 and his portrait in the form of a stained glass window is in the rotunda of the Colorado State Capitol Building. The Barney Ford House Museum is located in Breckenridge, Colorado and the Barney L. Ford Building is in Denver. In 1973, a new Denver elementary school was named in his honor. Biographies of Ford include “Adventures of Barney Ford, a Runaway Slave” (1969) and “Barney Ford: Black Baron” (1973).
• January 21, 1913 Fannie Jackson Coppin, educator and journalist, died. Coppin was born enslaved on October 15, 1837 in Washington, D.C. She gained her freedom at the age of 12 when her aunt, who worked for $6 per month and saved $125, was able to purchase her freedom. In 1860, she enrolled at Oberlin College and was the first African American student to be appointed in the college’s preparatory department. While attending Oberlin, Coppin established an evening school for previously enslaved blacks. Coppin earned her bachelor’s degree in 1865. She began to teach at the Institute for Colored Youth in Philadelphia. In 1869, Coppin became principal of the institute, making her the first African American woman to receive that title. She served in that position until 1906. In addition to teaching, Coppin founded homes for working and poor women and wrote an influential column in the local newspapers that defended the rights of women and blacks. In 1902, Coppin and her husband went to South Africa and founded the Bethel Institute, a missionary school that emphasized self-help programs. Her book “Reminiscences of School Life, and Hints on Teaching” was published shortly after her death. In 1926, a teacher training school was named the Fannie Jackson Coppin Normal School in her honor. That school is now Coppin State University. Coppin’s name is enshrined in the Ring of Genealogy at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit, Michigan.
·January 20, 1888 Huddie William Leadbetter (Leadbelly), folk musician, was born in Mooringsport, Louisina. From 1915 to 1934, Leadbelly spent considerable time in prisons where hundreds of his songs, including “Midnight Special” and “Goodnight Irene,” were recorded for the Library of Congress. By 1935, Leadbelly had gained fame and Life Magazine ran a three page article in the April 19, 1937 issue title “Lead Belly - Bad Nigger Makes Good Minstrel.” Leadbelly performed on radio shows and toured around the world until his death on December 6, 1949. Despite this, he died penniless. His vast songbook has provided material for numerous folk, country, pop, and rock acts. A film, “Leadbelly,” loosely based on his life was released in 1976 and in 1999 the book, “The Life and Legend of Leadbelly,” was published.
·January 19, 1887 Clementine Hunter, folk artist, was born at Hidden Hill Plantation in Natchitoches Parish, Louisiana. At the age of 15, Hunter moved to Melrose Plantation where she spent most of her life picking cotton and never learning to read or write. Hunter was a self-taught artist who produced between four and five thousand paintings in her lifetime. In the 1940s, she sold her paintings for as little as a quarter. By the 1970s, they were selling for hundreds of dollars and today they are sold for thousands of dollars. Hunter was the first African American artist to have a solo exhibition at the New Orleans Museum of Art and, although she became a respected artist and folk art legend, she spent most of her life in poverty. Hunter died January 1, 1988.
DETROIT, MI – January 18, 2012: For the third year in a row, the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History is calling for contestants for its 30 Days To Lose It! weight-loss challenge to be held during the month of March.
Starting today, the Museum is accepting 3 - 5 minute videos, via YouTube only, from candidates explaining why they should be selected as a weight-loss contestant. Entrants must be women in the metropolitan Detroit region who are at least 18 years old and 30 pounds overweight, and can provide medical clearance to participate in such a program. Only one submission per entrant will be accepted, and only one entrant will be considered per video submission. YouTube links should be sent to
. The deadline for submissions is Friday, February 17, at 5 pm. Up to ten contestants will be selected by a panel of experts from the WW Group, St. John Providence Health System and Henry Ford Health System. Entrants must attend 30 Days To Lose It! on Tuesday, March 6, when the contestants will be announced. Contestants will be required to participate in the following, specialized weekly regimen:
·January 18, 1856 Daniel Hale Williams, the first African American cardiologist in the United States, was born in Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania. Williams graduated from Chicago Medical College (now Northwestern University Medical School) in 1883. In 1891, he founded Provident Hospital, the first integrated hospital in the United States, and training school for nurses in Chicago, Illinois. In 1893, Williams performed an operation on a man that had been stabbed in the chest. The operation required that he open the man’s chest, and close the wound around the heart. This is often noted as the first successful surgery on the heart. In 1895, he co-founded the National Medical Association for black doctors. In 1913, he became a charter member, and the only black member, in the American College of Surgeons. Williams received honorary degrees from Howard and Wilberforce Universities. Williams died on August 4, 1931. Biographies of Williams include “Daniel Hale Williams: Negro Surgeon” (1968) and “Daniel Hale Williams: Open Heart Doctor” (1970). The Daniel Hale Williams Preparatory School of Medicine in Chicago is named in his honor.
From December 26 to December 29, 2011, the Charles H. Wright Museum of African-American History held nightly Kwanzaa Celebrations, each event punctuated by a variety of activities and attractions. On the final evening, a fashion show graced the stage, featuring a pair of Detroit designers. Museum intern Gregory Lucas-Myers takes inspiration from that show to highlight the holiday.
Born out of the Black Power movement, Kwanzaa was first officially celebrated in 1966. One year earlier, Dr. Charles Wright and others established the International Afro-American Museum. Now, 45 years later, I find myself watching from the sound booth as the world’s foremost institution on chronicling African-American history put on the last event of its annual Kwanzaa observance. Each of the four evenings of festivities corresponded to one of seven principles, ideas or values that serve as foundations for the betterment of African and African-American life and culture. For Thursday, December 29, the principle was Ujamaa, or co-operative economics, defined as “To build and maintain our own stores, shops, and other businesses, and to profit from them together.”
·January 17, 1759 Paul Cuffee, businessman and abolitionist, was born on Cuttyhunk Island, Massachusetts. At the age of 16, Cuffee signed on to a whaling ship and by the time he was 21 he owned a fleet of ships and a 116 acre farm. As Cuffee became more successful, he invested in more ships and made a sizable fortune. Cuffee believed that the emigration of blacks to colonies outside of the United States was a viable solution to the race problem in America and in 1811 launched his first expedition to Sierra Leone. While in Sierra Leone, he helped to establish the Friendly Society of Sierra Leone, a trading organization run by blacks. Cuffee died on September 9, 1817. Biographies of Cuffee include “Paul Cuffee: Black America and the African Return” published in 1972 and “Paul Cuffee: Black Entrepreneur and Pan-Africanist” published in 1988. He is honored with a feast day on the liturgical calendar of the Episcopal Church on March 4.
JANUARY 2012:TheVoices 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 will 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.
The American Civil War was one of the most destructive armed conflicts that the United States has ever fought.But, how did this nation, less than one hundred years old in 1865, arrive at the point of Civil War?
In episode 1, “The Original Sin,” we travel back to the signing of the Constitution on September 17, 1787.Here we see disunion already brewing over the issue of slavery.Delegates like James Madison, George Mason, and Benjamin Franklin pontificate on the effects of building a new nation on the backs of tyranny.