Paul Robeson

Paul Robeson

Paul Robeson was one of the most gifted men in the history of the world. He was an athlete, actor, author, attorney, a scholar and concert singer. Born in Princeton, New Jersey on April 9, 1898, Paul Robeson showed that he was a man of many talents. He gave 296 performances as Othello on Broadway.

He was subsequently recognized as an internationally famous singer and performed on concert stages throughout the world. Robeson spoke and performed in over twenty languages and dialects, and became a spokesman throughout the world against exploitation, injustice, and racism. His attacks on injustice and racism in the United States became a severe international embarrassment to the United States government.  Continue reading

Lucy Terry

Lucy Terry

Married name LUCY PRINCE, also called BIJAH’S (ABIJAH’S) LUCE, or LUCE (LUCY) ABIJAH (b. 1730, West Africa–d. 1821, Vermont, U.S.), American poet, storyteller, and activist of the colonial and postcolonial period. Her only surviving work, the poem “Bars Fight” (1746), is the earliest existing poem by an African-American; it was transmitted orally for more than 100 years, first appearing in print in 1855. Consisting of 28 lines in irregular iambic tetrameter, the poem commemorates white settlers who were killed in an encounter with Indians in 1746.

Born in Africa, Terry was taken by slave traders to Rhode Island at a very young age. She was baptized a Christian at age five, with the approval of her owner, Ebenezer Wells of Deerfield, Mass.; she became a full church member in 1744.  Continue reading

Charlie Parker

Charlie ‘Bird’ Parker

Charlie Parker was one of the most influential improvising soloists in jazz, and a central figure in the development of bop in the 1940s. A legendary figure in his own lifetime, he was idolized by those who worked with him, and he inspired a generation of jazz performers and composers.

Parker was the only child of Charles and Addle Parker. In 1927, the family moved to Kansas City, Missouri, an important center of African-American music in the 1920s and 1930s. Parker had his first music lessons in the local public schools; he began playing alto saxophone in 1933 and worked occasionally in semi-professional groups before leaving school in 1935 to become a full-time musician.  Continue reading

Amiri Baraka

Amiri Baraka
(formerly LeRoi Jones)

Amiri Baraka, born in 1934, in Newark, New Jersey, USA, is the author of over 40 books of essays, poems, drama, and music history and criticism, a poet icon and revolutionary political activist who has recited poetry and lectured on cultural and political issues extensively in the USA, the Caribbean, Africa, and Europe.

With influences on his work ranging from musical orishas such as Ornette Coleman, John Coltrane, Thelonius Monk, and Sun Ra to the Cuban Revolution, Malcolm X and world revolutionary movements, Baraka is renowned as the founder of the Black Arts Movement in Harlem in the 1960s that became, though short-lived, the virtual blueprint for a new American theater aesthetics.  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.”

Upcoming Black History Posts

  • Paul Lawrence Dunbar
  • Bayard Rustin
  • Crispus Attucks
  • Big Joe Turner
  • The Vanport Flood & Racial Change in Portland
  • Florence ‘Flo Jo’ Joyner-Kersey
  • Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity
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