1914 – 1994. The oldest heavyweight (37) to ever win the championship; lost four championship bouts before knocking out Ezzard Charles in the seventh round in 1951; lost the title the following year, losing to Rocky Marciano; won 50 bouts, 30 by knockout, lost 17 and fought one draw as a professional; later became sheriff of Camden County, NJ.
Jersey Joe Walcott was the picture of perseverance. He won the heavyweight title in his fifth try, accomplishing the feat at the age of 37. He held the record for oldest heavyweight champion until 45-year-old George Foreman won the crown in 1994.
Born Arnold Cream in Merchantville, New Jersey, Walcott took the name of his boxing idol, Joe Walcott, the welterweight champion from Barbados. He turned pro in 1930 at the age of 16 and embarked on a slow, but steady, rise to the top. Continue reading
Described as a “genuine African,” Peter Williams and his parents were enslaved Africans. Williams’ enslaver, Mr. Aymar, was a tobacconist. He was also a Loyalist who left the country during the Revolutionary War. Having developed a skill, Williams went into business for himself as a tobacconist. He would eventually own a house, store, and other property–including himself. In 1783, Williams became the “property of the John Street Methodist church who bought him for forty (40) pounds.” From June 10, 1783, through October 20, 1796, Peter Williams worked off the debt and “refunded every pound the trustees had paid his master, and thus purchased himself.”
When Peter Williams led the African American members of the congregation from the church, he was leaving a church that compelled its African American members to wait to be served communion until all of the white members had been served. The realization that the church was not serving the needs of the African and African American community, and that African Americans could not be ordained as minister, were part of what motivated Williams to secede. Williams was the father of Peter Williams, Jr. (1780-1840), the first African American ordained minister in the Protestant Episcopal church. Peter Williams, Jr., became the first leader of St. Phillips African Church in 1819.
Marian Anderson (February 27, 1897 – April 8, 1993) was an African-American contralto and one of the most celebrated singers of the twentieth century. Music critic Alan Blyth said “Her voice was a rich, vibrant contralto of intrinsic beauty.” Most of her singing career was spent performing in concert and recital in major music venues and with famous orchestras throughout the United States and Europe between 1925 and 1965.
Although offered roles with many important European opera companies, Anderson declined, as she had no training in acting. She preferred to perform in concert and recital only. She did, however, perform opera arias within her concerts and recitals. She made many recordings that reflected her broad performance repertoire of everything from concert literature to lieder to opera to traditional American songs and spirituals. Continue reading
Alexander Lucius Twilight is the first African American to graduate from a U.S. college, receiving his bachelor’s degree from Middlebury College in 1823. Also a pioneer in Vermont politics, Twilight became the first African American to win election to public office in 1836, joining his home-state legislature. He died in Brownington, Vermont, on June 19, 1857.
Born on September 23, 1795 (though sources vary on the month and day of his birth, with some saying September 26 and others noting July 15), in Corinth, Vermont, where he also grew up, Alexander Lucius Twilight was one of six children born to Ichabod and Mary Twilight. The Twilights were one of the few African-American families living in the area at the time. According to the Old Stone House Museum’s website, Ichabod Twilight served in the American Revolutionary War. Continue reading
Maria W. Stewart (Maria Miller) (1803 – February 6, 1880) was an African-American journalist, lecturer, abolitionist, and women’s rights activist. Although her career was brief it was very striking. Maria W. Stewart started off her career as a domestic servant. She later became an activist.
She was the first American woman to speak to a mixed audience of men and women, whites and black. She was also the first African- American woman to lecture about women’s rights, make a public anti-slavery speech and the first African-American woman to make public lectures. Stewart has had two pamphlets published in the Liberator, including “Religion and Pure Principles of Morality, the Sure Foundation on Which We Must Build”. In this pamphlet she advocated abolition and black autonomy. Her second pamphlet was more religious-based. Continue reading
Eubie Blake was one of the most important figures in early-20th-century African-American music, and one whose longevity made him a storehouse of the history of ragtime and early jazz music and culture. Born in Baltimore in 1883, Blake began playing piano professionally when he was 16; he wrote his first composition, “Sounds of Africa,” (later retitled “Charleston Rag”) around the same time. His career did not really take off until he met Noble Sissle in 1915. Together, Blake and Sissle wrote many hits. Blake also collaborated with Andy Razaf (on “Memories of You”), Henry Creamer, and other writers, composing more than 350 songs.
Blake, Sissle, and Europe began collaborating on the musical Shuffle Along in 1916, but were interrupted by World War I and Sissle and Europe’s military service overseas. Europe and Sissle returned to the United States in 1919. Europe died shortly after returning from Europe; Blake and Sissle continued working on the musical until its premiere in 1921. Continue reading
Dr. Thomas C. Cannon Jr. lead a group of engineers that developed the Tactical Optical Fiber Connector (TOFC). The TOFC was designed to terminate optical fiber cables used in military combat. Optical fiber cables are preferable to conventional copper cables because they are immune to electrical interference, lightweight, have a high signal carrying capacity, and do not radiate any electromagnetic energy which might be detected by the enemy.
TOFC was the first fiber optic connector actually deployed under battlefied conditions, and saw action in the Gulf War where it was used to transmit firing signals to the Patriot missile.
French colonish Elias Neau opened a school for enslaved African Americans in New York City. It was a catechizing school. As early as 1703 he called athe attention of the Society to the great number, of slaves in New York ” who were without God in the world, and of whose souls there was no manner of care taken” and proposed the appointement of acatechist to undertake their instruction. Neau’s task was not an easy one. At first he went from house to house, but afterwards arranged for some of the slaves to attend him.
In that colony, the instruction of the Negro and Indian slaves to prepare them for conversion, baptism, and communion was a primary charge oft repeated to every missionary and schoolmaster of the Society. In addition to the general efforts put forth in the colonies, there was in New York a special provision for the employment of sixteen clergymen and thirteen lay teachers mainly for the evangelization of the slaves and the free Indians. For the Negro slaves a catechizing school was opened in New York City in 1704 under the charge of Elias Neau. Continue reading