Charlotte Ray

Charlotte Ray

Charlotte Ray was the first African American female lawyer in the United States

Born on January 13, 1850, in New York City. In 1872, Charlotte E. Ray became the first female African-American lawyer in the United States. She grew up in a large family as one of seven children. Her father, Charles, was a minister and an activist in the abolitionist movement.Ray attended the Institution for the Education of Colored Youth in Washington, D.C., during the early 1860s. The institution was one of only a handful of places that offered a quality education to young, African-American women. By the end of the 1860s, she had become a teacher at the preparatory school associated with Howard University. Ray then applied to the university’s law degree program using only her initials, C. E., to disguise her gender. The trick worked, and Ray gained admittance to the program. She excelled at her studies at the university, especially in corporate law.  Continue reading

Lift Every Voice and Sing

lift“Lift Every Voice and Sing” — sometimes referred to as “The Negro National Hymn” or ” The Black National Anthem”— is a song written as a poem by James Weldon Johnson (1871 – 1938) in 1899 and set to music by his brother John Rosamond Johnson (1873 – 1954) in 1900.

“Lift Every Voice and Sing” was publicly performed first as a poem as part of a celebration of Lincoln’s Birthday on February 12, 1900, by 500 school children at the segregated Stanton School. Its principal, James Weldon Johnson, wrote the words to introduce its honored guest Booker T. Washington. The poem was later set to music by Johnson’s brother John in 1905.

In 1939, Augusta Savage received a commission from the World’s Fair and created a 16-foot plaster sculpture called Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing which was destroyed by bulldozers at the close of the fair.  Continue reading

Doris ‘Dorie’ Miller

Dorie Miller

Dorie Miller

Doris Miller, known as “Dorie” to shipmates and friends, was born in Waco, Texas, on 12 October 1919, to Henrietta and Conery Miller. He had three brothers, one of which served in the Army during World War II. While attending Moore High School in Waco, he was a fullback on the football team.

He worked on his father’s farm before enlisting in the U.S Navy as Mess Attendant, Third Class, at Dallas, Texas, on 16 September 1939, to travel, and earn money for his family. He later was commended by the Secretary of the Navy, was advanced to Mess Attendant, Second Class and First Class, and subsequently was promoted to Ship’s Cook, Third Class.

Following training at the Naval Training Station, Norfolk, Virginia, Miller was assigned to the ammunition ship USS Pyro (AE-1) where he served as a Mess Attendant, and on 2 January 1940 was transferred to USS West Virginia (BB-48), where he became the ship’s heavyweight boxing champion. In July of that year he had temporary duty aboard USS Nevada (BB-36) at Secondary Battery Gunnery School.  Continue reading

Geraldine McCullough

Geraldine McCullough

Geraldine McCullough

Renowned sculptor and painter Geraldine McCollough was born Geraldine Hamilton on December 1, 1917 in Kingston, Arkansas, and raised in Chicago from the time she was three years old. McCullough attended the Art Institute of Chicago for undergraduate and graduate studies, receiving her B.A. degree in 1948 and her M.A. degree in art education in 1955. As a student, she earned a John D. Standecker Scholarship, a Memorial Scholarship and a Figure Painting Citation.

After completing her graduate studies, McCullough taught art at Wendell Phillips High School in Chicago. She also began exhibiting her paintings at various national galleries, receiving first prize in 1961 at the Art Exhibit of Atlanta University. Continue reading

Maya Angelou

Marguerite Johnson

Maya Angelou a.k.a. Marguerite Johnson

Original name MARGUERITE JOHNSON (b. April 4, 1928, St. Louis, Mo., U.S. – d. May 28, 2014, Winston-Salem N.N.).

Maya Angelou was a black American poet whose several volumes of autobiography explore the themes of economic, racial, and sexual oppression.

Although born in St. Louis, Angelou spent much of her childhood in the care of her maternal grandmother in rural Stamps, Ark. Raped at the age of eight by her mother’s boyfriend, she went through an extended period of muteness. This early life is the focus of Angelou’s first autobiographical work, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1970). Subsequent volumes of autobiography include Gather Together in My Name (1974), Singin’ and Swingin’ and Gettin’ Merry Like Christmas (1976), The Heart of a Woman (1981), and All God’s Children Need Traveling Shoes (1986).  Continue reading

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