Firsts

Edith Sampson

Edith Sampson

Edith Sampson

On October 13, 1898, Edith Sampson was born in Pittsburgh, the first black woman elected judge to a municipal court. She was born Edith Spurlock, one of seven children.

Her father, Louis Spurlock, earned $75 per month as a shipping clerk in a cleaning, pressing, and dyeing business. Her mother, Elizabeth Spurlock, worked at home making buckram hat frames and twisting switches of false hair.

Edith graduated from Peabody High School, and three years later married Rufus Sampson, a field agent for the Tuskegee Institute. She also attended the New York School of Social Work. There, one of her instructors was George W. Kirchwey, also a professor at Columbia University Law School. After distinguishing herself in his criminology class, he told her she had the talent to be a lawyer.  Continue reading

Madame C.J. Walker

Madame C.J. Walker

Born Sarah Breedlove on December 23, 1867 on a Delta, Louisiana plantation, this daughter of former slaves transformed herself from an uneducated farm laborer and laundress into one of the twentieth century’s most successful, self-made women entrepreneurs.

Orphaned at age seven, she often said, “I got my start by giving myself a start.” She and her older sister, Louvenia, survived by working in the cotton fields of Delta and nearby Vicksburg, Mississippi. At 14, she married Moses McWilliams to escape abuse from her cruel brother-in-law, Jesse Powell.

Her only daughter, Lelia (later known as A’Lelia Walker) was born on June 6, 1885. When her husband died two years later, she moved to St. Louis to join her four brothers who had established themselves as barbers. Continue reading

Convention of the Colored National labor Union

National Colored Convention in 1869v

The Colored National Labor Union arrived shortly after the development of the National Labor Union, which happened to be the first major organization founded by Andrew Cameron in 1866. The National Labor Union was dedicated with helping unions such as construction and other skilled groups and even sometimes towards farmers.

At this point in time African Americans were struggling to be noticed and taken seriously in the work field and in society they felt that if they started their own national union it would help their position in society because they were not given any help from the National Labor Union. The only thing that the National Union offered to African Americans was to encourage them to organize and separate that could be affiliated with the National Labor Union, but this plan was clearly not designed to help with racial unity because it left black workers only fighting for an entry into the union.

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Rebecca Lee Crumpler

Rebecca Lee Crumpler

Rebecca Lee Crumpler

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

Sheriff Lucius D. Amerson

Sheriff Lucius D. Amerson

Sheriff Lucius Amerson’s fat Colt revolver is scarred and corroded from that night four decades ago when his patrol car crashed and burned while he chased a stolen vehicle down a winding road in rural Alabama.

His size 16 1/2 shirts, on which he would pin his badge, name plate and “sheriff” in gold letters, are creased and yellowed.

And the 1960s newspaper clippings from across the country noting Amerson’s election as the first black sheriff in the South since Reconstruction are crumbling.

But as these items sit on a table in a museum storage facility in Suitland, they conjure memories of a forgotten figure from the civil rights era, a former Army drill sergeant who strode onto the stage in the segregated South determined to show that a black lawman could provide equal justice for all.

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Upcoming Black History Posts
  • Major Robert H. Lawrence, Jr.
  • Reuben V. Anderson
  • Montgomery Bus Boycott
  • March On Washingtion – 1963
  • L Douglas Wilder
  • James H. Meredith
  • Andrew J Beard
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