Benjamin Banneker

Benjamin Banneker

Benjamin Banneker

Born on November 9, 1731 near Elliott City, Maryland, Benjamin Banneker was one of America’s greatest intellectuals and scientists. Benjamin Banneker was an essayist, inventor, mathematician, and astronomer.

Because of his dark skin and great intellect he was called the “sable genius.” Benjamin Banneker was a self-taught mathematician and astronomer. While still a youth he made a wooden clock which kept accurate time past the date that Banneker died.

This clock is believed to be the first clock wholly made in America. In 1791, he served on a project to make a survey for the District of Columbia, helping to design the layout for our Nation’s capital. Continue reading

Miles Davis

Miles Davis

Miles Davis

What is cool? At its very essence, cool is all about what’s happening next. In popular culture, what’s happening next is a kaleidoscope encompassing past, present and future: that which is about to happen may be cool, and that which happened in the distant past may also be cool. This timeless quality, when it applies to music, allows minimalist debate – with few exceptions, that which has been cool will always be cool.

For nearly six decades, Miles Davis has embodied all that is cool – in his music (and most especially jazz), in his art, fashion, romance, and in his international, if not intergalactic, presence that looms strong as ever today. Continue reading

Benjamin S. Carson, Sr.

Benjamin S. Carson, Sr.

Benjamin S. Carson, Sr.

Dr. Benjamin S. Carson, Sr. is a pioneer in brain surgical techniques; however, he is best known for leading the first surgical team that successfully separated a pair of Siamese twins joined at the head. Despite struggling with school as a child, he won a scholarship to Yale and received a bachelor’s degree.

He became the first black person accepted into the residency program at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore and after spending a year in Australia, Carson was promoted to Director of Pediatric Neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins in 1984. At 31, he was the youngest doctor to hold such a position.

Carson has been the recipient of numerous awards for his pioneering role and development of brain surgery techniques.

Mary Eliza Mahoney

Mary Eliza Mahoney

Mary Eliza Mahoney

Mary Eliza Mahoney was the first African American nurse to study and work professionally in the United States. She was also a co-founder of the National Association of Colored Graduate Nurses (NACGN) with Adah B. Thoms.

Mahoney was born in Dorchester, Massachusetts in 1845 (her exact birthday is unknown), to Charles and Mary Jane Sterwart Mahoney. She grew up with her parents, a sister and one brother in Boston, Massachusetts where her interest in nursing began as a teenager. Continue reading

W.C. Handy

W.C. Handy

W.C. Handy

1873-1958 b. Florence, Ala. William Christopher Handy was largely self-taught, Handy began his career as a cornet player in a minstrel show in 1896, and later organized various small bands.

He was among the first to set down the blues, and with his Memphis Blues (1912), originally entitled Mr. Crump (1909), he rose to prominence. His songs, such as St. Louis Blues (1914) and Beale Street Blues (1917), are the classic examples of their type.

In 1918 he moved from Memphis to New York City and remained active as a writer and publisher of music, in spite of growing blindness, until shortly before his death. Continue reading

Redd Foxx

Redd Foxx

Redd Foxx

1922-1991. Born John Elroy Sanford in St. Louis, Missouri, Foxx made his mark in the TV smash Sanford and Son (1972?77) after many years of odd jobs and short stretches on the night club circuit, including a kitchen job with Malcolm Little who would later be known as Malcolm X.

Foxx hit it big in Las Vegas in 1968, but didn’t make the celluloid jump until the 1970 film Cotton Comes to Harlem. The role brought him to the attention of producers Bud Yorkin and Norman Lear who decided to cast Foxx in Sanford and Son, his first major success. The show was followed by others, including The Redd Foxx Comedy Hour (1977-78) and the Redd Foxx Show (1986).

He later co-edited The Redd Foxx Encyclopedia of Black Humor (1977).

Jean-Michel Basquiat

Jean-Michel Basquiat

Jean-Michel Basquiat

b. Brooklyn, N.Y. Born into a middle-class Haitian and Puerto Rican family, he was a 1980s art star whose rise and fall were rapid and dramatic. A rebel, high school dropout, and part of the downtown New York scene, he was influenced by the violence of street life and by the life and work of Andy Warhol, who became his mentor.

Basquiat started as a graffiti artist, making images and writing slogans on the walls of buildings, and also produced painted T-shirts, found-object assemblages, and paintings.

In the early 1980s he was ‘discovered’ by the art establishment, and his works in paint and crayon on unprimed canvas, featuring crude, angry, and rawly powerful figures and graffiti-like written messages, were much sought after by collectors.

Basquiat’s art focused on “suggestive dichotomies,” such as wealth versus poverty, integration versus segregation, and inner versus outer experience. Basquiat appropriated poetry, drawing and painting, and married text and image, abstraction and figuration, and historical information mixed with contemporary critique.  Continue reading

Cheyney University of Pennsylvania

Cheyney University of Pennsylvania

Cheyney University of Pennsylvania

Founded in 1837 as the Institute for Colored Youth, Cheyney University of Pennsylvania is known as the first institution for higher learning for African Americans.   The founding of Cheyney University was made possible by Richard Humphreys, a Quaker philanthropist who bequeathed $10,000, one tenth of his estate, to design and establish a school to educate the descendents of the African race.

Born on a plantation in the West Indies, Richard Humphreys came to Philadelphia in 1764. Having witnessed the struggles of African Americans competing unsuccessfully for jobs due to the influx of immigrants, he became interested in their plight. In 1829, race riots heightened and it was that year Richard Humphreys wrote his will and charged thirteen fellow Quakers to design an institution: “…to instruct the descendents of the African Race in school learning, in the various branches of the mechanic Arts, trades and Agriculture, in order to prepare and fit and qualify them to act as teachers….”  Continue reading

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