A civil rights leader who urged African Americans to work within the system, Whitney Moore Young, as executive director of the National Urban League from 1961 to 1971, played a leading role in persuading America’s corporate elite to provide better opportunities for African Americans.
Young worked with President Lyndon Johnson on civil rights and anti-poverty programs during the 1960s, while calling for a “domestic Marshall Plan” (similar to U.S. aid to revive Europe after World War II).
He was one of the leaders of the 1963 March on Washington and in 1964 he organized the Community Action Assembly to fight poverty in African-American communities. He was awarded the Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, in 1969.
Two years later at the age of 49, Young drowned in Lagos, Nigeria while participating in an annual African-American dialogue on relations between the two continents.
Founder of theÂ African Episcopal ChurchÂ of St. Thomas,Â Absalom Jones was born into slavery in Sussex County, Delaware, on November 6, 1746. He taught himself to read and knew the New Testament thoroughly at an early age. When he was 16, Absalom’s owner took him to Philadelphia, Pa., where he served as a clerk and handyman in a retail store.
He was allowed to work for himself in the evenings and keep his earning. He was married in 1770. By the time Jones was 38 years old, he had purchased his wife’s freedom, and his own, and had bought a house. Later he built two more houses and used them for rental income.Â Continue reading →
Norbert Rillieux was born on March 17, 1806 in New Orleans, Louisiana. Norbert was born a free man, although his mother was a slave. His father was a wealthy White engineer involved in the cotton industry. As a child Norbert was educated in the Catholic school system in New Orleans but was sent to Paris, France for advanced schooling.
He studied at the L’Ecole Centrale, the top engineering school in the country and at age 24 became an instructor of applied mechanics at the school, the youngest person to achieve this position. He published a series of papers related to “the Functions and Economic Implications of the Steam Engine.” Eventually, in 1834, Rillieux returned home to his father’s plantation which was now also being used to process and refine sugar.
On March 20, 1944, at the Charleston shipyard in Boston, MA, the USS Mason was commissioned, or placed into active service, by the Governor of the state, the city’s mayor, and the ship’s new captain, William M. Blackford. The ship sailed for Belfast, Ireland, its first port of call, to join the British and American “Battle of the Atlantic.”
During W.W.II only one American Navy warship carried an African American crew into combat, The U.S.S. Mason.Â It was the job of smaller, easier to handle destroyer escort ships, like the USS Mason, to guard and protect the larger merchant vessels which carried badly needed supplies between the US and Europe. The mission of D. E?s was to stop German submarines, or Â U-boats, from sinking the larger ships with their deadly torpedoes. Although segregated on this one navel fighting ship, the men of the USS Mason were well-trained and bravely accepted and carried out the job they were given.Â Continue reading →
(b. February 23, 1868, Great Barrington, Mass.; d. August 27, 1963, Accra, Ghana), writer, social scientist, critic, and public intellectual; cofounder of the Niagara Movement, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), and the Pan-African Congress; editor of the NAACP magazine, The Crisis.
Along with Frederick Douglass and Booker T. Washington, historians consider W. E. B. Du Bois one of the most influential African Americans before the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. Born only six years after emanicipation, Du Bois was active well into his nineties, dying in 1963, on the eve of the March on Washington.Â Continue reading →