Saturday, February 14, 2009

Friday, February 13, 2009

Figures in Black History #10

Everyone has their favorite thing.
Whether it be food or music;
clothing or shoes.
We have those favorites too.
But as writers and readers
and lovers of literature
and words (spoken and written)
we have favorite poems and poets,
books and authors,
orators and storytellers.
This is one.
Ego Tripping
(there may be a reason why)
by Nikki Giovanni

I was born in the Congo
I walked to the Fertile Crescent and built
the sphinx
I designed a pyramid so tough that a star
that only glows every one hundred years falls
into the center giving divine perfect light
I am bad
I sat on the throne

drinking nectar with Allah
I got hot and sent an ice age to Europe
to cool my thirst
My oldest daughter is Nefertiti
the tears from my birth pains
created the Nile
I am a beautiful woman
I gazed on the forest and burned

out the Sahara desert
with a packet of goat's meat
and a change of clothes
I crossed it in two hours
I am a gazelle so swift
so swift you can't catch me
For a birthday present when he was three

I gave my son Hannibal an elephant
He gave me Rome for mother's day
My strength flows ever on
My son Noah built new/ark and

I stood proudly at the helm
as we sailed on a soft summer day
I turned myself into myself and was
men intone my loving name
All praises All praises
I am the one who would save
I sowed diamonds in my back yard

My bowels deliver uranium
the filings from my fingernails are
semi-precious jewels
On a trip north
I caught a cold and blew
My nose giving oil to the Arab world
I am so hip even my errors are correct
I sailed west to reach east and had to round off
the earth as I went
The hair from my head thinned and gold was laid
across three continents
I am so perfect so divine so ethereal so surreal

I cannot be comprehended except by my permission
I mean...I...can fly
like a bird in the sky...
To learn more (read her bio, book titles, poem titles, etc.)
click the link below

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Figures in Black History #9

Allen Allensworth (1842-1914) was the highest ranking African American commissioned officer in the U.S. Military at the time of his retirement in 1906.
Allensworth was born in slavery in Kentucky, teaching himself to read and write, when he escaped to join the army, he taught the illiterate soldiers and other escapees to read. He became the army’s first black chaplain, obtained his teaching certificate and was stationed in San Francisco.

Upon leaving the military he moved his family to Los Angeles. While in Los Angeles Allensworth envisioned a self-sustaining all black town where those like him could live free of discrimination and be a self- governing community. In 1908, the colony of Allensworth was established, in Tulare County. The towns people began building houses, schools, laying out streets and other public buildings. Allensworth soon became a town which consisted of 900 acres. The town flourished and became known as the “Tuskegee of the West”. All of the streets in Allensworth were named for notable African American abolitionists, poets and authors.

Unfortunately, two things happened to aid in the demise of this town. First, Allensworth while on his way south to publicize the town was struck and killed by a motorcycle. The second being that the land developers that sold the land promised a good supply of water to the town but as white’s moved into the area, the company’s people began siphoning the good water to them, causing the deterioration of the town as blacks moved away.

The town has since been restored and is now a State Historic Park, thanks to Cornelius Ed Pope, a black man, that worked for the state department of parks and recreation and remembered living in Allensworth as a child.
Allensworth today is still a town pushing on and upward.
There were others, some not so lucky as to have the town sustain into present day. But at a time after Reconstruction many blacks attempted to etch out a place all their own. Blackdom was yet another. Blackdom like Allensworth had the same concept, made plans and and began, unfortunately this town and it's people were not allowed to live and prosper. To watch a video that tells about Blackdom and its founder Frank Boyer click here.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Figures in Black History #8

Dr. Ernest E Just was born on August 14, 1883 in South Carolina. His paternal grandfather was a prominent member of Charleston’s free black community before the Civil War.
Just received his teaching degree from South Carolina College at the age of 16 and went on to Kimball Academy in New Hampshire and then to Dartmouth University. He graduated magna cum laude, won every prize there was in sociology, history, botany and zoology and was the only black man in his graduating class of 287, in 1907. After graduating Dartmouth he was offered a teaching job as an English professor at Howard University and appointed instructor of biology before establishing and becoming the head of Howard’s Zoology Department, where he taught for 34 years. He obtained is PhD in 1916 from the University of Chicago.
Dr. Just specialized in marine biology and was the first person awarded the highest honor, the Spingarn Medal, by the NAACP.
Dr. Just died of pancreatic cancer in October of 1941, at the age of 53.
In 1996, 55 years after his death, he was also honored with a U.S. Black Heritage Stamp (shown above).

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Figures in Black History #7

William Alexander Leidesdorff, born in the Virgin Islands, the son of a sugar planter and a native woman of negro blood.
Engaging in the maritime trade and sailing from New Orleans to New York, the excitement and possibilities of the west soon lured him to California around 1841.
This 1841 voyage into San Francisco Bay alone would make him famous, although it would be the one of many claiming attention.
Leidesdorff established himself in a voluminous home on the corner of California and Montgomery Streets near the present-day Russ Building as well as owning a vast amount of land where the city of Folsom sits today.
Leidesdorff died of brain fever in 1848 at the age of thirty-eight. Flags hung at half-mast, vessels remained in the port and Minute guns were fired as the funeral procession made its way through the winding streets of San Francisco.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Figures in Black History #6

Ellen (and William) Craft, the daughter of a black slave and white slave-owner escaped slavery from Macon, GA to Pennsylvania. By dressing as a white male slave-owner she, accompanied by her husband who was believed to be her servant traveled by train and steamship undetected, arriving in Pennsylvania on Christmas Day 1848.

Although they were in free territory they were far from free and had to move around to elude detection on several occasions when slave catchers sought them out to transport them back into slavery in Georgia. They never felt safe in the Northern "Free" States and in 1850, just two years after fleeing slavery, sailed to England.

They became involved in anti-slavery causes and lectured before publishing their narratives, Running a Thousand Miles for Freedom in 1860.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Figures in Black History #5

Paul Cuffe was born free in 1759 in Massachusetts. His father Kofi (Cuffe), from the Ashanti tribe in Africa was stolen and brought to America as a slave during his early childhood.
Kofi earned his freedom by his skillfulness as a carpenter and educated himself as well.
Paul learned maritime navigation after his fathers death and at the beginning of the American Revolution, he and his brother built a boat and began a trading business. This business grew to a fleet of ships and a ship yard, making Paul Cuffe one of the wealthiest men in America. He died September 17, 1817.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Figures in Black History #4

Zora Neale Hurston & J. California Cooper

These two women are amazing storytellers.
The first, I believe, wrote about herself
in most if not all of her books;
the latter, writes about others.

I came across Mrs. Cooper in a book store in San Antonio, Texas back in the summer of ’92 after devouring every book written by Zora Neale Hurston they had in the store. “If you like Zora, I think you’ll like this author” the sales lady said as she handed me my first book by J. California Cooper, A Piece of Mine. I flipped through the pages and decided to give her a try. It was a book of short stories, so full of life, anyone’s life, that before the mall closed the next evening I was back to purchase my next books, The Matter is Life and Family (a novel). To make a long story not too long, I have not only purchased and read all of her books but I have read most –if not all- of her books several times. She is an absolutely wonderful author and person, I should know, as I had the pleasure of not only meeting her but sitting with her for a while, once. Let me share the story…picture this… I am at the 2005 Book Club Conference in Atlanta, Georgia, I'm sitting a crowded conference room, everyone is waiting on the guest speaker, J. California Cooper to arrive. I get a little antsy and decide to excuse myself and step out onto the courtyard of the hotel for a breath of fresh air. As I'm sitting there, I notice a mature woman step out, cigarette in hand and ask if the seat next to me was taken, I said no and she sits down. As we begin talking about the conference and what a wonderful idea it was, I look deeper into her face. At the moment that I realize who she was (her book photos are of a much younger woman)I try not to hyperventilate, try not to stutter (I never had before), I ask in the mousiest voice, “are you J California Cooper?” (as I write this I think back and it is hard to contain my excitement, even today) “Yes dear, it is me” she replied and from then on, I floated, as if on a cloud. I had never been one with such luck, but on that day…I was the luckiest person alive. I soon received a call on my cell phone from my mom informing me that breakfast and the conference was about to begin, I explained that I was outside talking with J. California Cooper and would be in shortly. When she was ready to go in...
we walked in together.
Okay, so I went off track just a bit. But, what can I say?
Me meeting her could very easily be compared
to a 16 year old girl in the '80's meeting Michael Jackson!
I love J. California Cooper! her books and you will too!

If you'd like to listen to an interview click the link below
NPR Interview

Friday, February 6, 2009

Figures in Black History #3

A "Black" Man, John Hanson was the First President of the United States! 1781-1782 A.D.??? George Washington was really the 8th President of the United States! George Washington was not the first President of the United States. In fact, the first President of the United States was one John Hanson. Don't go checking the encyclopedia for this guy's name - he is one of those great men that are lost to history. If you're extremely lucky, you may actually find a brief mention of his name. The new country was actually formed on March 1, 1781 with the adoption of The Articles of Confederation. This document was actually proposed on June 11, 1776, but not agreed upon by Congress until November 15, 1777. Maryland refused to sign this document until Virginia and New York ceded their western lands (Maryland was afraid that these states would gain too much power in the new government from such large amounts of land). Once the signing took place in 1781, a President was needed to run the country. John Hanson was chosen unanimously by Congress (which included George Washington). In fact, all the other potential candidates refused to run against him, as he was a major player in the revolution and an extremely influential member of Congress. As the first President, Hanson had quite the shoes to fill. To read the entire article click here
It sounds good right? Although Mr. Hanson may not have been the first President of the United States, he was a person of interest and someone we should all do a little more research on.
Well says this is not true. To get the Snopes story click here

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Figures in Black History #2

Mary Fields, A 6 foot tall, stout, gun-carrying, cigar smoking, liquor drinking, quick tempered woman was born in slavery and became known as Stagecoach Mary when she began delivering mail by stagecoach never missing a day until she was almost 80 years old. Loved or feared by all that knew her, she was safe at whatever field of work she chose.

Travleing from Tennessee to Montana to help a nun she'd known, she found a home in Montana where she died in 1914.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Figures in Black History #1

Lucy Terry Prince:
(b: circa 1730-d: 1821) is the author of the oldest known work of literature by an African American. Her poem titled Bars Fight is her only work that has survived.

Samuel Allen like a hero fout
And though he was so brave and bold
His face no more shall we behold.
Eleazer Hawks was killed outright
before he had time to fight
before he did the Indians see
was shot and killed immediately.
Oliver Amsden he was slain
which caused his friends much grief and pain.
Samuel Amsden they found dead
not many rods off from his head.
Adonijah Gillet we do hear
did lose his life which was so dear.
John Saddler fled across the water
and so escaped the dreadful slaughter.
Eunice Allen see the Indians comeing
and hoped to save herself by running
And had not her petticoats stopt her
the awful creatures had not cotched her
And tommyhawked her on the head
And left her on the ground for dead.
Young Samuel Allen, Oh! lack a-day
Was taken and carried to Canada.