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U.S. Navy opened to Black Women

Navy Department Press Release, October 19, 1944:

Waves congratulate each other after being commissioned as the first African-American “WAVES” officers, Dec. 1944.

Negro Women to be Accepted in Women’s Reserve, U.S. Naval Reserve. The President today approved a plan submitted by the Navy Department providing for the acceptance of Negro women in the Women’s Reserve of the Navy.

The plan calls for the immediate commissioning of a limited number of especially qualified Negro women to serve as administrative officers. They will assist in the subsequent planning and supervision of the program for Negro women which will be administered as an integral part of the Women’s Reserve.

Enlistment of Negro women will be undertaken as soon as these plans have been completed and it is presently indicated that the first Negro recruits will enter training shortly after January 1. Officer candidates and enlisted women will be trained at existing schools for the training of WAVES. The number to be enlisted will be determined by the needs of the service.

Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity

Alpha Phi Alpha is the first Black, Inter-Collegiate Greek-Lettered fraternity. It was founded on December 4, 1906 at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. Its founders are known as the “Seven Jewels”. Alpha Phi Alpha developed a model that was used by the many Black Greek Letter Organizations (BGLOs) that soon followed in its footsteps. It employs an icon from Ancient Egypt, the Great Sphinx of Giza as its symbol, and its aims are “manly deeds, scholarship, and love for all mankind,” and its motto is First of All, Servants of All, We Shall Transcend All. Its archives are preserved at the Moorland-Spingarn Research Center.

Chapters were chartered at Howard University and Virginia Union University in 1907. The fraternity has over 185,000 members and has been open to men of all races since 1940. Currently, there are more than 730 active chapters in the Americas, Africa, Europe, the Caribbean, and Asia. Continue reading

Matthew Alexander Henson

1866-1955
Matthew Alexander Henson accompanied Admiral Robert Peary to the North Pole in 1909, and according to Peary’s son Kali, Peary “could not have reached the Pole without Matthew Henson.” Henson’s most valu-
able contribution to the expedition was his befriending of the Eskimo people, who respected him and taught him their language, customs, and survival skills. Henson in turn taught Peary to hunt for food, build a sledge, and drive a dogsled.

Folk history has it that Henson was the first to reach the North Pole, but the discovery was attributed entirely to Peary: Congress gave his account the official stamp of legitimacy, and Peary received numerous awards and honors. Although Peary did not share his honor with Henson, he did proclaim that “Henson is [an example] of the fact that race or color or upbringing or environment count nothing against a determined heart if it is backed and aided by intelligence.”

The Harlem Renaissance

The Harlem Renaissance was an intellectual, social, and artistic explosion centered in Harlem, Manhattan, New York City, spanning the 1920s. At the time, it was known as the “New Negro Movement”, named after The New Negro, a 1925 anthology edited by Alain Locke. The movement also included the new African-American cultural expressions across the urban areas in the Northeast and Midwest United States affected by the Great Migration, of which Harlem was the largest.

Though it was centered in the Harlem neighborhood, many francophone black writers from African and Caribbean colonies who lived in Paris were also influenced by the movement,which spanned from about 1918 until the mid-1930s. Many of its ideas lived on much longer. The zenith of this “flowering of Negro literature”, as James Weldon Johnson preferred to call the Harlem Renaissance, took place between 1924—when Opportunity: A Journal of Negro Life hosted a party for black writers where many white publishers were in attendance—and 1929, the year of the stock-market crash and the beginning of the Great Depression. The Harlem Renaissance is considered to have been a rebirth of the African-American arts.

Prince Hall – The First Black Masonic Lodge

The First black Masonic Lodge

The First black Masonic Lodge

The First black Masonic Lodge was founded at Prince Hall, Boston, in 1787.  It was named after Prince Hall, who is recognized as the Father of Black Masonry in the United States. He made it possible for African Americans to also be recognized and enjoy all privileges of Free and Accepted Masonry.

Many rumors of the birth of Prince Hall have arisen. Few records and papers have been found of him either in Barbados where it was rumored that he was born, but no record of birth, by church or state, has been found there, and none in Boston. All 11 countries of the day were searched and churches with baptismal records were examined without a find of the name of Prince Hall.  Continue reading

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Upcoming Black History Posts
  • Martin R. Delany
  • Dr. Percy Lavon Julian
  • Segregation in buses and terminals banned
  • Bethune-Cookman University
  • National Council of Negro women
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