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Today in Black History, 8/20/2013

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• August 20, 1619 The first 20 Africans were brought to what would become Jamestown, Virginia aboard a Dutch ship. The Africans were traded for food and supplies as temporary indentured servants in the same way that English White people were owned as laborers in the New World. Their labor arrangement was for a specified period of time after which they were free to live their lives, just as the English laborers were. The permanent enslavement of Africans in America was implemented later.

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Today in Black History, 8/19/2013

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• August 19, 1791 Benjamin Banneker, a free African American astronomer, surveyor and almanac author, wrote a letter to United States Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson pointing out the hypocrisy of slavery. In the letter he stated, “I apprehend you will embrace every opportunity, to eradicate that train of absurd and false ideas and opinions, which so generally prevails with respect to us; and that your sentiments are concurrent with mine, which are, that one universal Father hath given being to us all; and that he hath not only made us all of one flesh, but that he has also, without partiality, afforded us all the same sensations and endowed us all with the same faculties; and that however variable we may be in society or religion, however diversified in situation or color; we are all of the same family, and stand in the same relation to him.” Jefferson responded to Banneker on August 30 stating, “No body wishes more than I do, to see such proofs as you exhibit, that nature has given to our black brethren talents equal to those of the other colors of men.” The complete correspondence between the two can be found by doing a search on “Benjamin Banneker letter to Thomas Jefferson.”

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Today in Black History, 8/18/2013

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• August 18, 1906 Clinton Greaves, Congressional Medal of Honor recipient, died. Greaves was born August 12, 1855 in Madison County, Virginia. He joined the United States Army and by January 24, 1877 was serving as a corporal in Company C of the 9th Cavalry Regiment during the Indian Wars. On that day, his actions earned him the medal, America’s highest military decoration. 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 received the medal June 26, 1879. Greaves rose to the rank of sergeant before leaving the army after 20 years of service. 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, 8/17/2013

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• August 17, 1849 Archibald Henry Grimke, lawyer, journalist, diplomat and community leader, was born enslaved in Charleston, South Carolina. Grimke and his family were freed by their owner at his death. Grimke went on to earn his Bachelor of Arts degree, with honors, and his Master of Arts degree from Lincoln University in 1870 and 1872, respectively. He earned his Bachelor of Laws degree from Harvard University in 1874 and did graduate work at Princeton Theological Seminary before becoming an ordained Presbyterian minister. Grimke served as the American Consul to the Dominican Republic from 1894 to 1898. He served as president of the American Negro Academy from 1903 to 1916 and was a co-founder of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in 1909. Throughout this period, Grimke published articles and pamphlets concerning Black life and history. In 1916, he testified against segregation before the House Committee on Reform in the Civil Service. In 1919, Grimke was awarded the NAACP Spingarn Medal. Grimke died February 25, 1930. His biography, “Archibald Grimke: portrait of a black independent”, was published in 1993.

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Today in Black History, 8/16/2013

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• August 16, 1893 Charles Lewis Reason, mathematician, educator and civil rights activist, died. Reason was born July 21, 1818 in New York City. A mathematics child prodigy, Reason began teaching the subject at fourteen at the African Free School. He later studied at McGrawville College. In 1847, Reason co-founded the Society for the Promotion of Education among Colored Children, an organization authorized by the state legislature to oversee Black schools in New York City. In 1849, he was appointed professor of fine writing, Greek, Latin, and French and adjunct professor of mathematics at New York Central College, the first African American professor at a predominantly White college. Reason left that position in 1852 to become principal of the Quaker Institute for Colored Youth (later Cheney University), a post he held until 1855. That year, he returned to New York City where he served as a teacher and administrator in the public school system until his retirement in 1892. Reason was committed to the antislavery cause and worked for improvements in Black civil rights. He founded the New York Political Improvement Association which won the right for a jury trial for previously enslaved fugitives in the state. He also headed the successful 1873 effort to outlaw segregation in New York schools.

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Today in Black History, 8/15/2013

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• August 15, 1817 George Washington, a leading African American pioneer of the Pacific Northwest and the founder of the town of Centralia, Washington, was born in Frederick County, Virginia. The son of a formerly enslaved man and a woman of English descent, he was raised by a White couple. That couple and Washington moved to the northwest to claim land. Washington could not buy land because he was Black, therefore the couple bought the land and Washington later repaid them for the land. Washington built a home and filed a plat for the town of Centerville (now Centralia), offering lots for $10 each. By the time of Washington’s death August 26, 1905, Centralia had grown to a large and prosperous town. Today the city has a population of over 16,000 with 90% of them White and less than 1% African American. A mural depicting Washington is located in historic downtown Centralia.

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Today in Black History, 8/14/2013

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• August 14, 1876 Prairie View A&M University, the second oldest state sponsored institution of higher learning in Texas, was founded. The Texas legislature authorized an “Agricultural and Mechanical College for the Benefit of Colored Youth” in 1876. Today, Prairie View has an enrollment of more than 8,000 students with more than 400 faculty members and offers baccalaureate degrees in 50 academic majors, 37 master’s degrees, and 4 doctorial degree programs. Some notable alumni include Rev. Emanuel Cleaver II, United States House of Representatives, Frederick D. Patterson, founder of the United Negro College Fund, and Otis Taylor, Hall of Fame professional football player.

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Today in Black History, 8/13/2013

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• August 13, 1893 Eva Beatrice Dykes, the first Black female to fulfill the requirements for a doctorial degree, was born in Washington, D. C. Dykes earned her Bachelor of Arts degree, summa cum laude, from Howard University in 1914. She then attended Radcliffe College where she earned her second Bachelor of Arts degree, magna cum laude, in 1917 and her Master of Arts degree in 1918. She also was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. In 1921, Dykes completed the requirements for her doctorial degree but because Radcliff held its graduation later than some other universities, she was the third Black female to actually receive her Ph. D. From 1929 to 1944, Dykes taught English at Howard University and from 1944 to her retirement in 1975 was chair of the English department at Oakwood College. Dykes co-authored “Readings from Negro Authors for Schools and Colleges” in 1931 and authored “The Negro in English Romantic Thought: Or a Study in Sympathy for the Oppressed” in 1942. In 1973, the Oakwood College library was named in her honor. Dykes died October 29, 1986.

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Today in Black History, 8/12/2013

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• August 12, 1825 Orindatus Simon Bolvar Wall, the first Black man commissioned as captain in the United States Army, was born enslaved in Richmond County, North Carolina. Wall was freed in 1837 when his father sent him to the Harveyburg Black School in what is now Ohio. He attended Oberlin College before establishing a successful boot and shoemaking business. At the start of the Civil War, he raised recruits for the 104th Colored Infantry Volunteers and in March, 1865 was commissioned as captain in the army. In 1867, Wall moved to Washington, D. C. where he graduated from the Howard University Law School. He established a law practice and served as a police magistrate and justice of the peace. For many newly freed African Americans in the district, he was the law. Wall was also elected to two terms in the district legislature, representing a majority White district. Wall died April 26, 1891. He was buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

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Today in Black History, 8/11/2013

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• August 11, 1777 Free Frank McWorter, the first African American to incorporate a municipality in the United States, was born enslaved in South Carolina. In 1795, McWorter’s owner moved to Kentucky and took him along to build and manage his holdings and to lease him out to work for others. McWorter used his earnings to create a successful saltpeter production operation. By 1817, he had earned enough to buy the freedom of his wife and two years later his own. In 1830, McWorter and his family moved to Pike County, Illinois and in 1836 he founded the town of New Philadelphia, Illinois. By the time of his death September 7, 1854, McWorter had bought the freedom of 16 members of his family. McWorter’s gravesite was listed on the National Registry of Historical Places April 19, 1988 and a portion of I-72 in Pike County is designated the Frank McWorter Memorial Highway. The New Philadelphia town site was listed on the National Registry of Historical Places in 2005 and designated a National Historic Landmark January 16, 2009. McWorter’s biography, “Free Frank: A Black Pioneer on the Antebellum Frontier”, was published in 1983.

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Today in Black History, 8/10/2013

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• August 10, 1858 Anna Julia Haywood Cooper, author, educator and scholar, was born in Raleigh, North Carolina. At the age of nine, Cooper received a scholarship to attend Saint Augustine’s Normal School and Collegiate Institute, a school for training teachers to educate formerly enslaved Black people. Cooper earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in 1884 and her Master of Arts degree in mathematics in 1887 from Oberlin College. In 1892, Cooper published her first book, “A Voice from the South: By A Woman from the South”, which is widely considered the first articulation of Black feminism. Its central thesis was that the educational, moral, and spiritual progress of Black women would improve the general standing of the entire African American community and that it was the duty of educated and successful Black women to support their underprivileged peers in achieving their goals. In 1914, Cooper began courses for her doctorial degree at Columbia University but due to family obligations was forced to stop. In 1924, at the age of 65, she earned her Ph. D. in history from the University of Paris-Sorbonne, the fourth Black woman to earn a Doctorate of Philosophy degree. Cooper died February 27, 1964. On pages 26 and 27 of every new United States passport there is the following quote from Cooper, “The cause of freedom is not the cause of a race or a sect, a party or a class – it is the cause of humankind, the very birthright of humanity”. In 2009, the United States Postal Service issued a commemorative postage stamp in her honor.

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Bandits & Heroes, Poets & Saints Opens National Tour at The Wright Museum with Free Public Reception

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The first major U.S. traveling exhibition of popular art from the Northeast of Brazil will open its U.S. tour at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, located at 315 East Warren Avenue in Detroit, with a free public reception on August 15, 2013, from 6 pm – 9 pm. 

Bandits & Heroes, Poets & Saints – Popular Art of the Northeast of Brazil presents popular art (the art of ordinary people) from Brazil’s northeast to tell the story of how African, European, and indigenous cultural traditions have interacted over a period of more than 500 years to form this distinctive regional culture in Brazil. Beginning with a Portuguese colonial settlement in the early-1500s, nearly a century before the first permanent British settlement at Jamestown, the exhibition brings to life the people, the captivating history, and the culture of the largest country in South America. 

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. Visitors will also encounter the widely practiced spiritual traditions that give meaning and cohesiveness to people’s lives in Brazil’s Northeast. Woodblock prints and carved wood figures of Catholic saints and forged iron symbols of African deities – called orixás – introduce popular Catholicism and the ecstatic African-Brazilian religion called Candomblé. In the exhibition, life-size mannequins of the orixás wearing the colorful ceremonial vestments of Candomblé seem to dance in front of video footage of a Candomblé ceremony actually filmed in Bahia. 

Bandits & Heroes, Poets & Saints has been organized by Con/Vida – Popular Arts of the Americas, in partnership with The Wright Museum.  Exhibition curators Marion (Mame) Jackson, Distinguished Professor Emerita of Art History, Wayne State University; and Barbara Cervenka, O.P., Professor Emerita of Art, Siena Heights University, have traveled extensively in Brazil’s Northeast during the past 20 years. They have worked directly with popular artists and scholars in this poorest region of Brazil to organize this exhibition. 

“While the Northeast is materially poor compared to Rio and São Paulo and the cities of the South of Brazil,” observes Cervenka, “the culture is vibrant and rich and filled with good humor. The Northeast is considered the historic and cultural ‘heart’ of Brazil.”

The strong African presence in the Northeast of Brazil can be felt throughout the exhibit, especially in the percussive rhythms of its music. “Sound tracks and amazing video clips accompany the art and will linger in the minds and imaginations of visitors long after they leave” says Jackson. “All cities have their rhythms - but not all cities have such dramatic and percussive rhythms as Salvador and Detroit.”

Bandits & Heroes includes nearly 200 works of art by more than 50 artists who draw inspiration from their local culture and make a living through their art. In addition, two eminent Brazilian photographers – Adenor Gondim and Antônio Neto – have collaborated on this exhibition, providing unusual photos and video footage showing the lively festivals, ceremonies, and pilgrimages that shape life in the Northeast.

“That’s my cousin… that’s my aunt,” exclaimed Juanita Moore, President & CEO of The Wright Museum, upon viewing one of the exhibition’s videos celebrating the diversity of Brazil’s Northeast in the faces of its people. “This is a very important exhibition,” said Moore. “We are proud to collaborate with Con/Vida and inaugurate its national tour at The Wright Museum.”

Bandits & Heroes, Poets & Saints – Popular Art of the Northeast of Brazil opens at The Wright Museum with a free public reception on August 15, 2013 from 6 pm – 9 pm, which will also feature demonstrations of the folkloric Brazilian art of Capoeira Angola of Bahia by TABCAT Detroit. This event is free and open to the public.

The Wright Museum, located at 315 East Warren Avenue in Midtown Detroit’s Cultural Center, is open Tuesday through Saturday from 9 am until 5 pm, and on Sundays from 1 until 5 pm. Bandits & Heroes, Poets & Saints will be on display through January 5, 2014, and during normal museum hours is free with museum admission, which is $8 for adults (ages 13-61), and $5 for seniors (62+) and youth (3-12). Admission is free for museum members and children under 3. After January 5, 2014, the exhibit is scheduled to travel to the DuSable Museum, Chicago, Illinois; the Robert W. Woodruff Library at the Atlanta University Center, Atlanta, Georgia; and the International Civil Rights Center and Museum, Greensboro, North Carolina.

Funding for Bandits & Heroes, Poets & Saints has been provided by the U.S. National Endowment for the Humanities and the Michigan Humanities Council, with additional support from Wayne State University, TechTown, and the Adrian Dominican sisters.

Con/Vida – Popular Arts of the Americas
Established in 2000 by university professors Marion (Mame) Jackson, Wayne State University, and Barbara Cervenka, Siena Heights University, Con/Vida is a non-profit organization located in Detroit’s TechTown and is dedicated to fostering understanding for the diverse cultures of the Americas through exhibitions and programs featuring the arts of ordinary people, showcasing particularly the cultures of Brazil and Peru.  Cervenka and Jackson have circulated traveling exhibitions to more than 50 museums and cultural centers in the U.S. and Canada in the last 20 years; these exhibitions have been viewed by approximately 500,000 people. For more information visit www.convida.org

Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History
Founded in 1965 and located in the heart of Midtown Detroit’s Cultural Center, the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History is the world's largest institution dedicated to the African American experience. The Wright Museum provides learning opportunities, exhibitions, programs and events based on collections and research that explore the diverse history and culture of African Americans and their African origins.
For more information visit: www.TheWright.org

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Today in Black History, 8/9/2013

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• August 9, 1869 Annie Minerva Turnbo Malone, inventor, businesswoman and philanthropist, was born in Metropolis, Illinois but raised in Peoria, Illinois. Based on her interest in chemistry and hair care, Malone developed a chemical to straighten hair without causing damage to the hair or scalp which she named Wonderful Hair Grower. In 1902, Malone moved to St. Louis, Missouri where in 1904 she opened her first shop. She also launched an advertising campaign in the Black press, toured the South, and recruited women to sell her products. One of the selling agents she trained was Sarah Breedlove better known as Madam C. J. Walker. By 1914, Malone was worth more than a million dollars and built a five-story multipurpose facility named Poro College. Poro College employed more than 200 people. Malone donated thousands of dollars to the local Black YMCA, Howard University College of Medicine, and the St. Louis Colored Orphans Home where she served as president from 1919 to 1943. The home, which continues to operate, was later renamed the Annie Malone Children and Family Service Center. In 1927, she moved her business to Chicago, Illinois where she bought a an entire city block. Malone died May 10, 1957.

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Today in Black History, 8/8/2013

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• August 8, 1796 The African Society was formed in Boston, Massachusetts with 44 African American members. There purpose was to provide a form of health insurance and funeral benefits, as well as spiritual brotherhood, to the members. They created a pamphlet titled “Laws of the African Society” that specified requirements for membership, dues and procedures for paying benefits to the families of sick or deceased members. That pamphlet is on display at the Massachusetts Historical Society.

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Today in Black History, 8/7/2013

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• August 7, 1866 Elisabeth “Lisette” Denison Forth, landowner and philanthropist, died. Forth was born enslaved in 1786 near Detroit, Michigan. Around 1807, she moved to Canada to establish residency and gain her freedom. Forth returned to Detroit around 1815 and worked as a domestic servant. In 1825, she invested the pay she had received in four lots in Pontiac, Michigan, becoming the first Black property owner in the city. Over the years, Forth bought stock in a steamboat and bank and in 1837 bought a lot in Detroit. In her will, Forth left $3,000 for the construction of a church. This provided the majority of the money for the construction of St. James Episcopal Church in Grosse Ile, Michigan which was completed in 1868. The churches doors are dedicated to the memory and benevolence of Forth. State of Michigan historical markers are located at the location of the four lots Forth purchased in Pontiac, the house she owned in Detroit, and at the church. Her biography, “Looking for Lisette: in quest of an American Original”, was published in 2001.

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Today in Black History, 8/6/2013

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• August 6, 1848 Susan Baker King Taylor, educator and humanitarian, was born enslaved in Liberty County, Georgia. As a young girl, Taylor was secretly taught to read and write by Black women. In 1862, during the Civil War, Taylor’s family moved to Union controlled St. Simons Island where at the age of 14 she organized a school for the children on the island. This made her the first Black teacher to openly instruct African American children in Georgia. In 1866, her family returned to Savannah, Georgia where she established a school for freed Black children. In the early 1870s, Taylor moved to Boston, Massachusetts where she joined and became president of the Women’s Relief Corps which gave assistance to soldiers and hospitals. In 1902, Taylor published her memoirs, “Reminiscences of My Life in Camp: An African American Woman’s Civil War Memoir”. Taylor died October 6, 1912.

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Today in Black History, 8/5/2013

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• August 5, 1763 Bill Richmond, hall of fame boxer, was born enslaved in Staten Island, New York. In 1777, Richmond was taken to England to apprentice as a cabinet maker but he 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. Richmond died December 28, 1829. He was posthumously inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2005.

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Today in Black History, 8/4/2013

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• August 4, 1810 Robert Purvis, abolitionist, was born in Charleston, South Carolina. Although Purvis and his brothers were three-quarters European by ancestry and inherited considerable wealth from their native English father, they chose to identify with the black community and use their education and wealth to support the abolition of slavery and educational projects for the advancement of African Americans. In 1833, Purvis helped abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison establish the American Anti-Slavery Society and from 1845 to 1850 served as president of the Pennsylvania Anti-Slavery Society. By his account, Purvis estimated that from 1831 to 1861 he helped one enslaved person per day escape to the North. In 1883, Purvis co-edited “The History of the Underground Railroad in Chester and Neighboring Counties of Pennsylvania. Purvis died April 15, 1898. His biography, “But One Race: The Life of Robert Purvis,” was published in 2007.

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Today in Black History, 8/3/2013

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• August 3, 1921 Matthew James Perry, Jr., the first African American from the Deep South appointed to the federal judiciary, was born in Columbia, South Carolina. After serving in the United States Army from 1943 to 1946, Perry earned his Bachelor of Science degree in 1948 and his Bachelor of Laws degree in 1951 from South Carolina State College. He served as chief counsel of the NAACP’s South Carolina Conference of Branches and in that capacity argued hundreds of cases that helped desegregate schools, hospitals, restaurants, and other public places, including the integration of Clemson University in 1963. He also served for 16 years on the NAACP national board. In 1976, Perry was appointed to the United States Military Court of Appeals, the second African American to serve on that court. In 1979, he was appointed to the United States District Court for the District of South Carolina, becoming South Carolina’s first African American federal judge. He assumed senior status in 1995. Perry died July 29, 2011. The courthouse in Columbia is named in his honor.

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Today in Black History, 8/2/2013

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• August 2, 1891 George Washington Williams, Civil War veteran, minister, and historian, died. Williams was born October 16, 1849 in Bedford Springs, Pennsylvania. He enlisted in the Union Army at 14 and fought during the final battles of the Civil War. After returning to civilian life, he enrolled at the Newton Theological Institute and earned his Doctor of Divinity degree in 1874, the first African American to graduate from the institution. After graduating, Williams held several pastorates, including the historic Twelfth Baptist Church of Boston, Massachusetts. Later, Williams moved to Cincinnati, Ohio and became the first African American elected to the Ohio State Legislature, serving one term from 1880 to 1881. In 1885, President Chester Arthur appointed Williams Minister Resident and Consul General to Haiti. In addition to his religious and political achievements, Williams also authored “The History of the Negro Race in America 1619 to 1880” (1883) and “A History of Negro Troops in the War of Rebellion” (1887). Williams’ biography, “George Washington Williams,” was published in 1985.

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