“Lift Every Voice and Sing” — sometimes referred to as “The Negro National Hymn” or ” The Black National Anthem”— is a song written as a poem by James Weldon Johnson (1871–1938) in 1899 and set to music by his brother John Rosamond Johnson (1873–1954) in 1900.
“Lift Every Voice and Sing” was publicly performed first as a poem as part of a celebration of Lincoln’s Birthday on February 12, 1900, by 500 school children at the segregated Stanton School. Its principal, James Weldon Johnson, wrote the words to introduce its honored guest Booker T. Washington. The poem was later set to music by Johnson’s brother John in 1905.
In 1939, Augusta Savage received a commission from the World’s Fair and created a 16-foot plaster sculpture called Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing which was destroyed by bulldozers at the close of the fair. Continue reading
Doris Miller, known as “Dorie” to shipmates and friends, was born in Waco, Texas, on 12 October 1919, to Henrietta and Conery Miller. He had three brothers, one of which served in the Army during World War II. While attending Moore High School in Waco, he was a fullback on the football team.
He worked on his father’s farm before enlisting in the U.S Navy as Mess Attendant, Third Class, at Dallas, Texas, on 16 September 1939, to travel, and earn money for his family. He later was commended by the Secretary of the Navy, was advanced to Mess Attendant, Second Class and First Class, and subsequently was promoted to Ship’s Cook, Third Class.
Following training at the Naval Training Station, Norfolk, Virginia, Miller was assigned to the ammunition ship USS Pyro (AE-1) where he served as a Mess Attendant, and on 2 January 1940 was transferred to USS West Virginia (BB-48), where he became the ship’s heavyweight boxing champion. In July of that year he had temporary duty aboard USS Nevada (BB-36) at Secondary Battery Gunnery School. Continue reading
1818-1891 – Born into slavery, Biddy Mason traveled from Mississippi to southern California with plantation owners Robert and Rebecca Smith and their family and slaves. But before the Smiths could whisk the group away to the slave state of Utah to retain ownership of their slaves, Mason enlisted the aid of two black Los Angeles businessmen and gained freedom for herself and her family.
Finally able to choose her own path in life, Mason earned a good income as a nurse-midwife for both newly arrived immigrants and wealthy clients and subsequently gained respect in the community. Through donations, she supported charities that helped the needy of Los Angeles and that helped build the first African Methodist Episcopal church in California. In 1989 a memorial depicting Mason’s achievements was erected in Los Angeles.
1727 – 1771. Ashby was the son of a black man and Mary Ashby, a white woman who was an indentured servant. He was born free because in Colonial times a child inherited his or her mother’s social status. But under Virginia law, he was also indentured until age 31 and was prohibited from meeting with slaves. Ashby worked as a messenger for Virginia governor Norborne Berkeley and as a carpenter. He acquired material goods, such as a silver watch, books, and candle-making equipment, that seemed out of reach of most black colonists.
He married Ann Ashby, a slave of a bricklayer, and purchased her and their two enslaved children, John and Mary, in 1769 for 150 pounds. Although he owned them, Ashby had to petition the government to win their freedom. John and Mary attended Williamsburg’s Bray School.
Rebecca Lee Crumpler challenged the prejudice that prevented African Americans from pursuing careers in medicine to became the first African American woman in the United States to earn an M.D. degree, a distinction formerly credited to Rebecca Cole. Although little has survived to tell the story of Crumpler’s life, she has secured her place in the historical record with her book of medical advice for women and children, published in 1883.
Crumpler was born in 1831 in Delaware, to Absolum Davis and Matilda Webber. An aunt in Pennsylvania, who spent much of her time caring for sick neighbors and may have influenced her career choice, raised her. By 1852 she had moved to Charlestown, Massachusetts, where she worked as a nurse for the next eight years (because the first formal school for nursing only opened in 1873, she was able to perform such work without any formal training).
In 1860, she was admitted to the New England Female Medical College. When she graduated in 1864, Crumpler was the first African American woman in the United States to earn an M.D. degree, and the only African American woman to graduate from the New England Female Medical College, which closed in 1873. Continue reading