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Nation of Islam

The Nation of Islam was founded in Detroit, Michigan in July, 1930 by Wallace Fard Muhammad, also known as W. D. Fard Muhammad (1877–1934). The N.O.I. teaches that W. Fard Muhammad is both the “Messiah” of Judaism and the Mahdi of Islam. Within one year, he had approximately 25,000 followers who knew him as Prophet W.D. Fard, at Mosque of Islam #1.

Fard’s assistant minister Elijah Muhammad succeeded him as head of the movement in 1934. Because of dissension within the Detroit temple, he moved to Chicago where he established Mosque No. 2. During World War II, he advised followers to avoid the draft, as he said the US did nothing for blacks. He was charged and convicted of violating the Selective Service Act and was jailed (1942–46). Continue reading

Vinnette Carroll

Vinnette Carroll

Vinnette Carroll

Vinnette Carroll was the first African-American woman to direct a production on Broadway. Vinnette Carroll was born on March 11, 1922 in New York City to Florence and Edgar Carroll. When Vinnette was three the family moved to Jamaica; subsequently, she spent much of her childhood in the West Indies. She received a BA from Long Island University in 1944; and an MA from New York University in 1946; followed by doctoral work in psychology at Columbia University. Carroll’s father encouraged his daughters to become physicians, and as a compromise, Vinnette chose psychology. Carroll worked as a clinical psychologist with the NYC Bureau of Child Guidance before beginning to study acting.

In 1948 she accepted a scholarship to attend the Erwin Piscator’s Dramatic Workshop at the New School for Social Research and studied with Lee Strasberg, Stella Adler, Margaret Barker, and Susan Steele. She made her professional stage debut at the Falmouth Playhouse acting in Shaw’s Androcles and the Lion.  Continue reading

Lewis Temple

Lewis Temple

Lewis Temple was the inventor of a whaling harpoon, known as “Temple’s Toggle” and “Temple’s Iron” that became the standard harpoon of the whaling industry in the middle of the 19th century. Lewis Temple was a skilled blacksmith, not a whaler. He had never even been to sea. Temple was born a slave in Richmond, Virginia, in 1800, and arrived in New Bedford, Massachusetts in 1829.

By 1836, Temple was one of the 315,000 free black people in the United States and a successful businessman who operated a whale craft shop on the New Bedford waterfront. Temple, a well-known citizen of New Bedford, was working as a blacksmith to support his wife, Mary Clark, whom he married in 1829, and their three children. In 1845, Temple was able to open a larger store. Continue reading

Theodore S. Wright

Theodore S. Wright

Theodore S. Wright

Theodore S. Wright (1797-1847) was an African-American abolitionist and minister who was active in New York City, where he led the First Colored Presbyterian Church as its second pastor. He was the first African American to attend Princeton Theological Seminary (and any United States theological seminary), from which he graduated in 1829. In 1833 he was a founding member of the American Anti-Slavery Society, and served on its executive committee until 1840.

Theodore Sedgwick Wright was born about 1797 to free parents. He is believed to have moved into New York City with his family, where he attended the African Free School.[1] With the aid of Governor DeWitt Clinton and Arthur Tappan of the New York Manumission Society, and men from Princeton Theological Seminary, Wright was aided in his studies at the graduate seminary. In 1829 he was the first African American to graduate from there, and the first to complete theological studies at a seminary in the United States.

Before 1833, Wright was called as the second minister of New York’s First Colored Presbyterian Church and served there the rest of his life. (It was later known as Shiloh Presbyterian Church and is now St. James Presbyterian Church in Harlem.) He followed the founder, Samuel Cornish.  Continue reading

Oscar J Dunn

Oscar James Dunn, Lieutenant Governor of Louisiana 1868-1871

Oscar James Dunn, Lieutenant Governor of Louisiana 1868-1871

Oscar James Dunn (1826 – November 22, 1871) was one of three African Americans who served as a Republican Lieutenant Governor of Louisiana during the era of Reconstruction. In 1868, Dunn became the first elected black lieutenant governor of a U.S. state. He ran on the ticket headed by Henry Clay Warmoth, formerly of Illinois. After Dunn died in office, then-state Senator P. B. S. Pinchback, another black Republican, became lieutenant governor and thereafter governor for a 34-day interim period.

On December 22, 1866, Dunn testified before a select committee appointed to investigate the New Orleans Riot of July 30, 1866. He told the committee that he was “born in New Orleans in 1826 and was about forty-one years old”. His parents were James and Maria Dunn. His father, James Dunn of Petersburg, Virginia, had been emancipated in 1819 by James H. Caldwell in New Orleans. James Dunn became a free man of color and later emancipated his wife, Maria, and their two children, Oscar and Jane, in 1832. James Dunn worked as a carpenter for James H. Caldwell (founder of the St. Charles Theatre and New Orleans Gas Light Company); Maria Dunn ran a boarding house for actors and actresses that came to perform at the Caldwell theatres.  Continue reading

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