The diverse history of Historically Black Colleges and Universities.
While Jewish and African American communities have a tumultuous shared history when it comes to the pursuit of civil rights, there is a chapter that is often overlooked. In the 1930s when Jewish academics from Germany and Austria were dismissed from their teaching positions, many came to the United States looking for jobs. Due to the Depression, xenophobia and rising anti-Semitism, many found it difficult to find work, but more than 50 found positions at HBCUs in the segregated South.
Originally established to educate freed slaves to read and write, the first of the Historically Black Colleges and Universities was Cheyney University in Pennsylvania, established in 1837. By the time Jewish professors arrived, the number of HBCUs had grown to 78. At a time when both Jews and African Americans were persecuted, Jewish professors in the Black colleges found the environment comfortable and accepting, often creating special programs to provide opportunities to engage Blacks and whites in meaningful conversation, often for the first time.
In the years that followed, the interests of Jewish and African American communities increasingly diverged, but this once-shared experience of discrimination and interracial cooperation remains a key part of the Civil Rights Movement.
Image: Melrose Cottage, built in 1805, Cheyney University of Pennsylvania.
Toni Morrison (born Chloe Ardelia Wofford; February 18, 1931) is an American novelist, essayist, editor, teacher, and professor emeritus at Princeton University.
Morrison won the Pulitzer Prize and the American Book Award in 1988 for Beloved. The novel was adapted into a film of the same name (starring Oprah Winfrey and Danny Glover) in 1998. Morrison was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1993. In 1996, the National Endowment for the Humanities selected her for the Jefferson Lecture, the U.S. federal government’s highest honor for achievement in the humanities. She was honored with the 1996 National Book Foundation’s Medal of Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. Morrison wrote the libretto for a new opera, Margaret Garner, first performed in 2005. On May 29, 2012, President Barack Obama presented Morrison with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. In 2016, she received the PEN/Saul Bellow Award for Achievement in American Fiction.
“If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.”
“You wanna fly, you got to give up the shit that weighs you down.”
From Google and Wikipedia
The first licensed African American Female pilot was named Bessie Coleman.
Born in Atlanta, Texas in 1892, Bessie Coleman grew up in a world of harsh poverty, discrimination and segregation. She moved to Chicago at 23 to seek her fortune, but found little opportunity there as well. Wild tales of flying exploits from returning WWI soldiers first inspired her to explore aviation, but she faced a double stigma in that dream being both African American and a woman.
She set her sights on France in order to reach her dreams and began studying French. In 1920, Coleman crossed the ocean with all of her savings and the financial support of Robert Abbott, one of the first African American millionaires. Over the next seven months, she learned to fly and in June of 1921, the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale awarded her an international pilot’s license. Wildly celebrated upon her return to the United States, reporters turned out in droves to greet her.
Coleman performed at numerous airshows over the next five years, performing heart thrilling stunts, encouraging other African Americans to pursue flying, and refusing to perform where Blacks were not admitted. When she tragically died in a plane accident in 1926, famous writer and equal rights advocate Ida B. Wells presided over her funeral. An editorial in the “Dallas Express” stated, “There is reason to believe that the general public did not completely sense the size of her contribution to the achievements of the race as such.”
Image: Bessie Coleman and her plane in 1922, Monash University
Of the 12.5 million Africans shipped to the New World during the Transatlantic Slave Trade, fewer than 388,000 arrived in the United States.
In the late 15th century, the advancement of seafaring technologies created a new Atlantic that would change the world forever. As ships began connecting West Africa with Europe and the Americas, new fortunes were sought and native populations were decimated. With the native labor force dwindling and demand for plantation and mining labor growing, the transatlantic slave trade began.
The Transatlantic Slave Trade was underway from 1500-1866, shipping more than 12 million African slaves across the world. Of those slaves, only 10.7 million survived the dreaded Middle Passage. Over 400 years, the majority of slaves (4.9 million) found their way to Brazil where they suffered incredibly high mortality rates due to terrible working conditions. Brazil was also the last country to ban slavery in 1888.
By the time the United States became involved in the slave trade, it had been underway for two hundred years. The majority of its 388,000 slaves arrived between 1700 and 1866, representing a much smaller percentage than most Americans realize.
Image: African Renaissance Monument, Senegal
The earliest recorded protest against slavery was by the Quakers in 1688.
Quakers, also known as “The Society of Friends,” have a long history of abolition. But it was four Pennsylvania Friends from Germantown who wrote the initial protest in the 17th century. They saw the slave trade as a grave injustice against their fellow man and used the Golden Rule to argue against such inhumane treatment; regardless of skin color, “we should do unto others as we would have done onto ourselves.” In their protest they stated, “Pray, what thing in the world can be done worse towards us, then if men should robb or steal us away, & sell us for slaves to strange Countries, separating husbands from their wife and children….”
Their protest against slavery and human trafficking was presented at a “Monthly Meeting at Dublin” in Philadelphia. The Dublin Monthly Meeting reviewed the protest but sent it to the Quarterly Meeting, feeling it to be too serious an issue for their own meeting to decide. The four Friends continued their efforts and presented at the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting, but it wasn’t until 88 years later that the Society of Friends officially denounced slavery.
Over the centuries, this rare document has been considered lost twice. Most recently it was rediscovered in 2005 and is now at Haverford College Special Collections.
Photo: 1688 Germantown Quaker Petition Against Slavery
One in four cowboys was Black, despite the stories told in popular books and movies.
In fact, it’s believed that the real “Lone Ranger” was inspired by an African-American man named Bass Reeves. Reeves had been born a slave but escaped West during the Civil War where he lived in what was then known as Indian Territory. He eventually became a Deputy U.S. Marshal, was a master of disguise, an expert marksman, had a Native-American companion, and rode a silver horse. His story was not unique however.
In the 19th century, the Wild West drew enslaved Blacks with the hope of freedom and wages. When the Civil War ended, freedmen came West with the hope of a better life where the demand for skilled labor was high. These African-Americans made up at least a quarter of the legendary cowboys who lived dangerous lives facing weather, rattlesnakes, and outlaws while they slept under the stars driving cattle herds to market.
While there was little formal segregation in frontier towns and a great deal of personal freedom, Black cowboys were often expected to do more of the work and the roughest jobs compared to their white counterparts. Loyalty did develop between the cowboys on a drive, but the Black cowboys were typically responsible for breaking the horses and being the first ones to cross flooded streams during cattle drives. In fact, it is believed that the term “cowboy” originated as a derogatory term used to describe Black “cowhands.”
Image: Bass Reeves, The first African-American US Deputy Marshal
The iconic cartoon character Betty Boop was inspired by a Black jazz singer in Harlem. Introduced by cartoonist Max Fleischer in 1930, the caricature of the jazz age flapper was the first and most famous sex symbol in animation. Betty Boop is best known for her revealing dress, curvaceous figure, and signature vocals “Boop Oop A Doop!” While there has been controversy over the years, the inspiration has been traced back to Esther Jones who was known as “Baby Esther” and performed regularly in the Cotton Club during the 1920s.
Baby Esther’s trademark vocal style of using “boops” and other childlike scat sounds attracted the attention of actress Helen Kane during a performance in the late 1920s. After seeing Baby Esther, Helen Kane adopted her style and began using “boops” in her songs as well. Finding fame early on, Helen Kane often included this “baby style” into her music. When Betty Boop was introduced, Kane promptly sued Fleischer and Paramount Publix Corporation stating they were using her image and style. However, video evidence came to light of Baby Esther performing in a nightclub and the courts ruled against Helen Kane stating she did not have exclusive rights to the “booping” style or image, and that the style, in fact, pre-dated her.
Baby Esther’s “baby style” did little to bring her mainstream fame and she died in relative obscurity but a piece of her lives on in the iconic character Betty Boop.
Image: Esther Jones (“Baby Esther”), late 1920s by James VanDerZee
George Coleman Poage (November 6, 1880–April 11, 1962) was the first African-American athlete to win a medal in the Olympic Games, winning two bronze medals at the 1904 games in St. Louis.
The Milwaukee Athletic Club sponsored Poage to compete in the 1904 Summer Olympics in St. Louis, Missouri. Many prominent African-American leaders had called for a boycott of the games to protest racial segregation of the events in St. Louis. An integrated audience was not allowed at either the Olympics or the World’s Fair as the organizers had built segregated facilities for the spectators. Poage chose to compete in four events and became the first African-American to medal in the Games by winning the bronze in both the 200-yard and 400-yard hurdles.
Sculptor Elmer Petersen created this statue of George Poage for the city of La Crosse.
From Wikipedia and Google
Ann Cole Lowe (1898 – February 25, 1981) was an American fashion designer and the first African American to become a noted fashion designer. Lowe’s one-of-a-kind designs were a favorite among high society matrons from the 1920s to the 1960s. In 1953, she designed the ivory silk taffeta wedding dress worn by Jacqueline Bouvier when she married Senator John F. Kennedy.
Image from Pinterest
Oscar Devereaux Micheaux January 2, 1884 – March 25, 1951) was an African American author, film director and independent producer of more than 44 films. Although the short-lived Lincoln Motion Picture Company was the first movie company owned and controlled by black filmmakers, Micheaux is regarded as the first major African-American feature filmmaker, a prominent producer of race film, and has been described as “the most successful African-American filmmaker of the first half of the 20th century”. He produced both silent films and sound films when the industry changed to incorporate speaking actors.
From Wikipedia and Google