Ek’abo Ebi! (Welcome Family!)
Dudu Itan Osù, Black History Month. Would you believe I was two days into February before I thought of the importance of this month? It’s really easy to do that when you are caught up in life’s daily routines. But it made me wonder, if I forgot, did others do so as well? Have we in some way become more lax, less appreciative of what this month represents. Have we failed to remember all those who fought winning and losing battles to get us here?
Besides Dr. King, Nelson Mandela, Rosa Parks, and Malcolm X, there are so many others that have caused change. The ones who made the biggest difference in even the smallest ways? The ones who opened the door for others, allowing them to become a part of history? The ones who sacrificed much for the greater good? The ones who moved forward regardless of the adversity?
Here are a few examples:
During the 1930s, painter Charles Alston founded the 306 group, which convened in his studio space and provided support and apprenticeship for African-American artists, including Langston Hughes; sculptor Augusta Savage; and mixed-media visionary Romare Bearden.
In 1938, first lady Eleanor Roosevelt challenged the segregation rules at the Southern Conference on Human Welfare in Birmingham, Alabama, so she could sit next to African-American educator and activist Mary McLeod Bethune. Roosevelt would come to refer to Bethune as “her closest friend in her age group.”
Female science fiction author Octavia Butler was dyslexic. Despite her disorder, she went on to win Hugo and Nebula awards for her writing, as well as becoming the first science-fiction writer to receive the MacArthur Foundation “genius” grant in 1995.
“I wanted to write a novel that would make others feel the history: the pain and fear that black people have had to live through in order to endure.”
– Octavia E. Butler
Paul Cuffee, a philanthropist, ship captain and devout Quaker who supported a return to Africa for black citizens, transported 38 free African Americans to Sierra Leone in 1815. He also founded one of the first American integrated schools in 1797.
African-American Matthew Henson accompanied Robert Edwin Peary on the first successful U.S. expedition to the North Pole, reaching their destination on April 6, 1909. In 2000, Henson was posthumously awarded the National Geographic Society’s Hubbard Medal.
Buffalo Soldiers— a name given by Native-American plainsmen—were the all-black regiments created in the U.S. Army beginning in 1866. These soldiers received second-class treatment and were often given the worst military assignments, but had a lowest desertion rate than their white counterparts. More than 20 Buffalo Soldiers received the Medal of Honor for their service. The oldest living Buffalo Soldier, Sergeant Mark Matthews, died at the age of 111 in 2005, and was buried at Arlington National Cemetery.
Cathay Williams was the first and only known female Buffalo Soldier. Williams was born into slavery and worked for the Union army during the Civil War. She posed as a man and enlisted as William Cathay in the 38th infantry in 1866, and was given a medical discharge in 1868.
In 1881, Sophia B. Packard and Harriet E. Giles founded what would become the first college for black women in the United States. The school was named Spelman College after Laura Spelman Rockefeller and her parents, who were abolitionists. Laura was also the wife of John D. Rockefeller, who made a significant donation to the school.
Phillis Wheatley became the first published African-American poet in 1774 with her collection Poems on Various Subjects, a work of distinction that looked to many literary classical traditions.
“Twas mercy brought me from my Pagan land,
Taught my benighted soul to understand,
That there’s a God, that there’s a Saviour too:
Once I redemption neither sought nor knew.
Some view our sable race with scornful eye,
“Their color is a diabolic die.”
Remember, Christians, Negroes,
black as Cain, May be refin’d,
and join th’ angelic train.”
– Phillis Wheatley
Renowned African-American architect Paul R. Williams mastered the art of rendering drawings upside-down so that his clients would see the drawings right side up. Williams’s style became associated with California glamour, beauty and naturalism, and he joined the American Institute of Architects in 1923. Because he worked during the height of segregation, most of the homes designed by African-American architect Paul R. Williams had deeds that barred blacks from buying them.
In 1926, Carter Godwin Woodson established Negro History Week, which later became Black History Month. The month of February was chosen in honor of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln, who were both born in that month.
Well, I hope my trip through history has in some way, enlightened you, educated you and/or reminded us all of what was done in the past and what we are capable of doing in the future. No excuses fam!
Mari e laipe!
See you soon!
See you soon!
Thanks for visiting ‘Amachi is Hope.’ If you were inspired or felt a connection with today’s blog (or any of my previous entries) please leave a comment. J