Richard Allen

Richard Allen founded the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church and the Free African Society. He was born a slave in Philadelphia and with his family was sold to Stockley Sturgis, the owner of a plantation near Dover, Delaware.

With the permission of his master, Allen joined the Methodist Society, learned to read and write and started to preach at Methodist meetings. After his conversion, Allen said that he worked harder to prove that religion did not make slave worse servants. At Allen’s request, a Methodist meeting was held in the Sturgis’ home.  Continue reading

Martha Euphemia Lofton Haynes

Martha Euphemia Lofton Haynes

In 1943, Euphemia Lofton Haynes earned her Ph.D. in Mathematics at The Catholic University in Washington, D.C., thus becoming the first African American Woman Ph. D. in Mathematics.

Born Martha Euphemia Lofton, Euphremia (she rarely used Martha) was a fourth generation Washingtonian, her father was Dr. William S. Lofton, a prominent Black D.C. dentist and financier of Black businesses in the area. Her mother, Lavinia Day Lofton, was active in the Catholic church as later was Euphemia. She graduated high school from Washington’s Miner Normal School in 1909. Four years later, she received a B.A. in Mathematics (minor in Psychology). In 1917, she married Harold Appo Haynes who later became a principal and deputy superintendent in charge of Washington’s “colored schools” (the schools for African Americans).  Continue reading

Sammie Davis Jr.

Sammie Davis Jr.

1925 to 1990. In the over hyped world of popular music music, there are legends, and then there are Legends with a capital L. There’s no doubting which category Sammy Davis Jr falls into. For a staggering 60 years, from his debut as a four year old child star in the late 1920’s to his untimely death in 1990 at the age of 64, he more than justified his title of ‘Mr Entertainment’ and when he wasn’t inspiring headlines on stage he was making news of it, as a founder member of the Rat Pack with fellow superstars Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin.

He owed his early start to his parents, vaudeville star Sammy Davis Sr and Puerto Rican ‘Baby Sanchez, who performed with the youngsters adopted uncle, Will Mastin, in his act ‘Holiday In Dixieland’. But Sammy Jr soon became the star of the show as the newly rechristened ‘Will Mastin’s Gang, Featuring Little Sammy’ acknowledged. When the authorities forbade him to appear, so legend has it his father shrugged his shoulders, gave his son a rubber cigar and billed him as a ‘dancing midget’.   Continue reading

Bernice Gaines Hughes

During World War II, Fort Des Moines served as a training center for the Women’s Army Corps.

One of the accomplished graduates of that training course was Bernice Gaines Hughes, the first black woman to become a Lieutenant Colonel in the U.S. Armed Forces.

Philadelphia’s Free Africa Society

Richard Allen and Absalom Jones formed the Free African Society in Philadelphia, a mutual aid society designed to provide socioeconomic guidance to newly freed people. Among its main objectives were teaching thrift and saving to build wealth in the community. These mutual aid societies and fraternities served as a model for banks later formed in the black community.

By the late 1700s there were nearly 2,000 free blacks in Philadelphia. The community had a strong need to establish financial institutions to support businesses and to provide a secure place for accumulating wealth. In 1778, Richard Allen and Absalom Jones, two ministers, founded the first quasi-financial organization in Philadelphia. These leaders understood the connection between saving and investing and economic growth and stability. Within 10 years, the society had a balance of 42.416 pounds on deposit at the Bank of North America. By 1838 the number of benevolent organizations grew to 100, with membership recorded as 7,448.

Similar organizations were established in Boston, New York, Baltimore, and other cities with large black populations. Although these organizations kept their money on deposit at many local banks, by the mid-19th century African Americans found it increasingly difficult to secure credit supporting commerce and industry. In the years leading up to the Civil War, there was extensive conversation about African Americans establishing their own bank.

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