GM – FBF – Today’s American Champion event is not talked about that much because not many records are kept about it but today we will gain some knowledge of this.For USS Constitution, which carried approximately 450 men, seven to 15 percent of the crew translates to approximately 32 to 68 black or multiracial sailors per cruise during the War of 1812. Unfortunately, discovering just who these men were is extremely difficult. The USS Constitution Museum has collected substantial demographic and biographical information for over 200 of the approximately 1,168 sailors assigned to Constitution during the War of 1812. Unfortunately, of those 200 or so sailors, only three are identifiable as black.June 16, 1812 – One is Jesse Williams, a native of Pennsylvania who joined USS Constitution as an ordinary seaman in Boston.65 Muster Roll(s), USS Constitution, T829, National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, D.C. Williams stood five feet, six inches tall and was stoutly built with a round face and black hair.6666 Dartmoor: Public Record Office, Adm 103/87-91, The National Archives, Kew, Richmond, Surrey, United Kingdom and General Entry Books of American Prisoners of War at Quebec, RG8, C series, 694A-B, Library and Archives Canada, Ottowa, Canada. During Constitution’s battle with HMS Guerriere, Williams served as the first sponger for the number three long gun on the gun deck. He also served aboard during the battle with HMS Java on December 29, 1812. Williams was transferred to the Great Lakes in April 1813, where he was wounded in battle and received a share of prize money.6767 Muster Roll(s), USS Constitution, T829. Later, while serving aboard USS Scorpion, Williams was captured by the British and sent to Dartmoor Prison in England.6868 Dartmoor: Public Record Office, Adm 103/87-91. After being released at the end of the war, Williams made the rank of able seaman in December 1814. He left the navy the following year.6969 Muster Roll(s), USS Constitution, T829. Six years later, in recognition of his service on the Lakes, the state of Pennsylvania awarded Williams, as well as other service members from the state, a silver medal.7070 “Correspondence Relating to Medallists, 1812-1814,” Pennsylvania Archives, Sixth Series IX (ca. 1734-1847): 248-304.Another man, James Bennett, had a similar story. Bennett was born free in Duck Creek Crossroads, Delaware in about 1782. In 1810, he, along with his sister, Mary Williams, traveled to Philadelphia to obtain a seaman’s protection certificate to serve as written proof of his American citizenship while at sea. The certificate, made out to Bennett from Philadelphia Alderman Alexander Tod, includes a detailed descrip18tion of the sailor. Alderman Tod wrote:“Negroe, born free — five feet 11 7/8 inches high, with his shoes, Black complexion, Black hair, 28 years of age, marked with scar over his right eye brow, mark of inoculation on his left arm, mark by a burn on his right elbow, mark on the palm of his left hand by being laid open, left knee crooked.”7171 Tyrone G. Martin, “Ship’s Company,” Captain’s Clerk, last modified September 30, 2019, http://captainsclerk.info/.Bennett enlisted in the U.S. Navy in April 1811 and joined Constitution’s crew as an ordinary seaman, promptly becoming a member of the carpenter’s crew.7272 Muster Roll(s), USS Constitution, T829. He sailed on a diplomatic voyage to France and Holland, and remained aboard for the first two cruises of the War of 1812. During the victorious battles over HMS Guerriere on August 19, 1812 and HMS Java on December 29, 1812, Bennett, with the rest of the carpenter’s crew, labored deep in the ship’s hold to plug holes made by enemy shot. For his effort he received a portion of the $100,000 in prize money awarded to the crew in addition to his monthly pay. When the ship returned to Boston, Bennett was drafted to the Great Lakes to serve under Master Commandant Oliver Hazard Perry at the Battle of Lake Erie. Unfortunately, Bennett suffered a mortal wound during battle and never made it home.7373 Ibid. In 1857, his wife, Sarah Bennett, appealed to Congress for his back pay and prize money, but her plea was rejected.7474 War of 1812 Pension and Bounty Land Warrant Application Files, ca. 1871-ca.1900, RG15, National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, D.C.The third black sailor identified from Constitution’s War of 1812 crew is David Debias. Debias was born in Boston on August 9, 1806. He lived with his parents on Belknap Street (now Joy Street) on the north slope of Beacon Hill.7575 Thomas Falconer, letter to Secretary of the Navy, March 16, 1838, M124, National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, D.C. On December 17, 1814, Debias’ father entered him on board Constitution.7676 Muster Roll(s), USS Constitution, T829.At eight years old, Debias was rated a boy — a rank designated for the least skilled, though not necessarily the youngest, sailors — and assigned as servant to Master’s Mate Nathaniel G. Leighton. He was aboard for the battle with HMS Cyane and HMS Levant on the night of February 20, 1815, and was subsequently placed on the captured Levant, along with Master’s Mate Leighton, as part of the prize crew. However, Levant was soon recaptured by a British squadron on its way back to the 19United States, and Debias was imprisoned in Barbados until May. Upon his release, he returned home and was reunited with his family. Debias was discharged and paid off in July 1815.77 In 1821, he joined the U.S. Navy again, sailing once more on Constitution to the Mediterranean Sea.78 He returned to the United States in 1824 and joined the merchant service.79In 1838, Debias left his ship in Mobile, Alabama, started walking north, and was picked up as a runaway slave in Winchester, Mississippi.80 His plight caught the attention of a local lawyer named Thomas Falconer, who was convinced that Debias was a free man. Falconer wrote to Secretary of the Navy Mahlon Dickerson seeking proof of Debais’ status. Falconer’s letter to Dickerson pleads Debias’ case, describing his service to his country and requesting Debias’ naval records.81 Dickerson complied with Falconer’s request and sent proof of Debias’ service, but no confirmed records of his fate have yet been found.82 Unfortunately, Debias’ story, much like the story of many black sailors from the War of 1812, is incomplete. 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GM –FBF – Today’s American Champion was an author, abolitionist, and minister. Born into slavery, in Port Tobacco, Charles County, Maryland, he escaped to Upper Canada (now Ontario) in 1830, and founded a settlement and laborer’s school for other fugitive slaves at Dawn, near Dresden, in Kent County, Upper Canada, of Ontario. Henson’s autobiography, The Life of Josiah Henson, Formerly a Slave, Now an Inhabitant of Canada, as Narrated by Himself (1849), is believed to have inspired the title character of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s 1852 novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1852). Following the success of Stowe’s novel, Henson issued an expanded version of his memoir in 1858, Truth Stranger Than Fiction.Father Henson’s Story of His Own Life (published Boston: John P. Jewett & Company, 1858). Interest in his life continued, and nearly two decades later, his life story was updated and published as Uncle Tom’s Story of His Life: An Autobiography of the Rev. Josiah Henson Today in our History – June 15 – Josiah Henson (June 15, 1789 – May 5, 1883) died.Josiah Henson was born on a farm near Port Tobacco, Charles County, Maryland on a plantation owned by Francis Newman where Henson experienced slave atrocities. Henson’s father was enslaved by Francis Newman whereas Josiah Henson, his mother and siblings were enslaved by Dr. Josiah McPherson.When he was a boy, his father was punished for standing up to a slave overseer, for which he received one hundred lashes. In addition, his right ear was nailed to the whipping post and then cut off. His father was sold away to Alabama. Josiah Henson experienced hardships and sufferings at the hads of his masters as well, including having his arms broken and an injury to his back.Following his family’s master’s death, young Josiah was separated from his mother, brothers, and sisters. At the slave auction, Henson’s siblings were sold first. His mother was bought by Issac Riley of Montgomery County and when she pleaded to her new owner to purchase Josiah Henson, Riley responded by hitting and kicking her. Josiah Henson was sold to Adam Robb of Rockville, Montgomery County. Adam Robb encountered Issac Riley and struck a deal which resulted in Henson being sold to Riley and was reunited with his mother. Josiah Henson became very ill. His mother pleaded with her owner, Isaac Riley, and Riley greed to buy back Henson so she could at least have her youngest child with her, on the condition that he would work in the fields.Riley would not regret his decision, for Henson rose in his owners’ esteem, and was eventually entrusted as the supervisor of his master’s farm, located in Montgomery County, Maryland (in what is now North Bethesda). In 1825, Mr. Riley fell onto economic hardship and was sued by a brother-in-law. Desperate, he begged Henson, with tears in his eyes, to promise to help him. Duty bound, Henson agreed. Mr. Riley then told him that he needed to take his eighteen slaves to his brother in Kentucky by foot. They arrived in Daviess County, Kentucky, in the middle of April 1825 at the plantation of Mr. Amos Riley. In September 1828, Henson returned to Maryland in an attempt to buy his freedom from Issac Riley. He tried to buy his freedom by giving his master $350, which he had saved up, and a note premising a further $100. Originally, Henson only needed to pay the extra $100 by note. Mr. Riley, however, added an extra zero to the paper and changed the fee to $1000. Cheated of his money, Henson returned to Kentucky and then escaped to Kent County, Upper Canada in 1830, after learning that he might be sold again. In the last of these attempts to attain freedom, Amos Riley, agreed to give Josiah his freedom in exchange for $300. Josiah raised the money only to find that his master had raised the fee. Soon after, Henson learned that Riley planned to sell him in New Orleans, Louisiana, separating him from his wife and four children. When he found this out, Henson became determined to escape to Canada and freedom. He took his family with him, including his wife and their children to start the new life northward. After convincing his wife to escape with him, Henson’s wife created a knapsack large enough to carry both of their smallest children and the eldest two would accompany his wife. The Henson family left Kentucky traveling through the night and sleeping in the woods throughout the day. They crossed into Indiana then into Cincinnati where they were safely welcomed in a home for a few days. As the Henson family was crossing Hull’s Road in Ohio, Josiah’s wife fainted out of exhaustion. As they continued on, they encountered Indians and were reinvigorated with food and rest. After crossing a lake in Ohio, Josiah encountered Captain Burnham, a ship captain, who agreed to transport the Henson family to Buffalo, New York and there they would cross the river into Canada.Upon stepping foot into Canada, Josiah Henson described the ecstatic feelings of liberation by throwing himself onto the ground and rejoicing with his family. On October 28, 1830, Josiah Henson became a liberated man. Upper Canada had become a refuge for slaves who had escaped from the United States after 1793, when Lieutenant-Governor John Graves Simcoe passed “An Act to prevent the further introduction of Slaves, and limit the Term of Contracts for Servitude within this Province”. The legislation did not immediately end slavery in the colony, but it did prevent the importation of slaves. As a result, any U.S. slave who set foot in what would eventually become Ontario was free. By the time Henson arrived, others had already made Upper Canada their home, including Black Loyalists from the American Revolution and refugees from the War of 1812. In 1833, slavery was outlawed in the British Empire. At this time, Canadians were still a part of colonial British Canada.Josiah Henson first worked on farms near Fort Erie, then Waterloo, moving with friends to Colchester in 1834 to set up a Black settlement on rented land. After earning enough, Henson was able to send his eldest son Tom to school who then taught Josiah how to read. Henson became literate and was able to lead the growing community of fugitive slaves in Canada.Through contacts and financial assistance there, he was able to purchase 200 acres (0.81 km2) in Dawn Township, in neighbouring Kent County, to realize his vision of a self-sufficient community. The Dawn Settlement eventually reached a population of 500 at its height, exporting black walnut lumber to the United States and Britain. Henson purchased an additional 200 acres (0.81 km2) next to the Settlement, where his family lived. Henson also became an active Methodist preacher and spoke as an abolitionist on routes between Tennessee and Ontario. He also served in the Canadian Army as a military officer, having led a Black militia unit in the Canadian Rebellion of 1837. In 1838, Henson and the militia successfully captured the rebel ship Anne, cutting off their supply lines to southwestern Upper Canada. Though many residents of the Dawn Settlement returned to the United States after slavery was abolished there, Henson and his wife continued to live in Dawn for the rest of their lives.Henson became the spiritual leader within the community and embarked on several trips to the United States and Great Britain where he met with Queen Victoria. While in Britain, Josiah publicly spoke to audiences and raised funds for the community back in Canada. Henson conducted several trips back to Kentucky to guide other slaves to freedom.· The Life of Josiah Henson, Formerly a Slave, Now an Inhabitant of Canada, as Narrated by Himself. 1849· Truth Stranger Than Fiction. Father Henson’s Story of His Own Life. 1858· Uncle Tom’s Story of His Life: An Autobiography of the Rev. Josiah Henson. 1878.Josiah Henson is the first black man to be featured on a Canadian stamp. He was also recognized by the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada in 1999 as a National Historic Person. A federal plaque to him is located in the Henson family cemetery, next to Uncle Tom’s Cabin Historic Site.A 2018 documentary titled Redeeming Uncle Tom: The Josiah Henson Story covers his life.The actual cabin in which Josiah Henson and other slaves were housed no longer exists. The Riley family house, however, remains and is currently in a residential development in Rockville, Montgomery County, Maryland. After having remained in the hands of private owners for nearly two centuries, on January 6, 2006, the Montgomery Planning Board agreed to purchase the property and the acre of land on which it stands for $1,000,000.The house was opened to the public for one weekend in 2006. As of March 2009, the site has received an additional $50,000 from the Maryland state Board of Public Works for the planning and design phase of a multiyear restoration project. An additional $100,000 may come from the Federal government that would go towards restoration and planning. The site was planned to be opened permanently to the public in 2012, until then there were guided tours four times a year.In 2018, Josiah Henson Park, in North Bethesda, Maryland, contains the Riley/Bolton house, where Henson’s owner lived. The Montgomery County park site (construction/restoration) is not yet completed. As of 2018, it is open for group tours and on “special occasions”. “Ongoing archaeological excavations seek to find where Josiah Henson may have lived on the site.”Located near Dresden, Ontario, in Canada, Uncle Tom’s Cabin Historic Site includes the cabin that was home to Josiah Henson during much of his time in the area, from 1841 until his death in 1883. The five-acre complex includes Henson’s cabin, an interpretive centre about Henson and the Dawn settlement, an exhibit gallery about the Underground Railroad, outbuildings, a 19th-century historic house, a cemetery and a gift shop.Harriet Beecher Stowe published the anti-slavery novel, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, in 1852. During the first year of being published, over one million copies were sold in Great Britain and the United States, which led it to become the best selling novel of the 19th-century. Stowe had the intentions of this novel being published when she wrote it; she had taken out a copyright for Uncle Tom’s Cabin before it appeared in The National Era.Stowe knew in order for her novel to play a pivotal role in the development of American cultur; focusing on racism, slavery, and gender, she had to make a larger impact than the abolitionists of the press. Established by a Russian journalist, Stowe used “defamiliarization” to create new perspectives when it came to the issues she focused on, by presenting them in unfamiliar ways so people can see it in a different way. This helped support her endorsing domestic family values of all races, and presented the prejudicial assumption options about cultural differences in the 19th-century. Research more about this great American Champion and share it with your babies, Make it a champion day!
GM – FBF – Today’s American Champion was an American abolitionist and author. She came from the Beecher family, a famous religious family, and is best known for her novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1852), which depicts the harsh conditions for enslaved African Americans. The book reached millions as a novel and play, and became influential in the United States and Great Britain, energizing anti-slavery forces in the American North, while provoking widespread anger in the South. She wrote 30 books, including novels, three travel memoirs, and collections of articles and letters. She was influential for both her writings and her public stances and debates on social issues of the day.Today in our History – June 14, 1811 – Harriet Elisabeth Beecher Stowe ( June 14, 1811 – July 1, 1896) was born.Harriet Elisabeth Beecher was born in Litchfield, Connecticut, on June 14, 1811. She was the sixth of 11 children born to outspoken Calvinist preacher Lyman Beecher. Her mother was his first wife, Roxana (Foote), a deeply religious woman who died when Stowe was only five years old. Roxana’s maternal grandfather was General Andrew Ward of the Revolutionary War. Her siblings included a sister, Catharine Beecher, who became an educator and author, as well as brothers who became ministers: including Henry Ward Beecher, who became a famous preacher and abolitionist, Charles Beecher, and Edward Beecher.Harriet enrolled in the Hartford Female Seminary run by her older sister Catharine.There she received something girls seldom got, a traditional academic education, with a focus in the Classics, languages, and mathematics. Among her classmates was Sarah P. Willis, who later wrote under the pseudonym Fanny Fern.In 1832, at the age of 21, Harriet Beecher moved to Cincinnati, Ohio, to join her father, who had become the president of Lane Theological Seminary. There, she also joined the Semi-Colon Club, a literary salon and social club whose members included the Beecher sisters, Caroline Lee Hentz, Salmon P. Chase (future governor of Ohio and Secretary of the Treasury under President Lincoln), Emily Blackwell and others.Cincinnati’s trade and shipping business on the Ohio River was booming, drawing numerous migrants from different parts of the country, including many escaped slaves, bounty hunters seeking them, and Irish immigrants who worked on the state’s canals and railroads.In 1829 the ethnic Irish attacked blacks, wrecking areas of the city, trying to push out these competitors for jobs. Beecher met a number of African Americans who had suffered in those attacks, and their experience contributed to her later writing about slavery. Riots took place again in 1836 and 1841, driven also by native-born anti-abolitionists.Harriet was also influenced by the Lane Debates on Slavery. The biggest event ever to take place at Lane, it was the series of debates held on 18 days in February 1834, between colonization and abolition defenders, decisively won by Theodore Weld and other abolitionists. Elisabeth attended most of the debates.:171 Her father and the trustees, afraid of more violence from anti-abolitionist whites, prohibited any further discussions of the topic.The result was a mass exodus of the Lane students, together with a supportive trustee and a professor, who moved as a group to the new Oberlin Collegiate Institute after its trustees agreed, by a close and acrimonious vote, to accept students regardless of “race”, and to allow discussions of any topic.It was in the literary club at Lane that she met Rev. Calvin Ellis Stowe, a widower who was a professor of Biblical Literature at the seminary. The two married at the Seminary on January 6, 1836. The Stowes had seven children together, including twin daughters.In 1850, Congress passed the Fugitive Slave Law, prohibiting assistance to fugitives and strengthening sanctions even in free states. At the time, Stowe had moved with her family to Brunswick, Maine, where her husband was now teaching at Bowdoin College. Their home near the campus is protected as a National Historic Landmark.The Stowes were ardent critics of slavery and supported the Underground Railroad, temporarily housing several fugitive slaves in their home. One fugitive from slavery, John Andrew Jackson, wrote of hiding with Stowe in her house in Brunswick, Maine, as he fled to Canada in his narrative titled “The Experience of a Slave in South Carolina” (London: Passmore & Albaster, 1862).Stowe claimed to have a vision of a dying slave during a communion service at Brunswick’s First Parish Church, which inspired her to write his story. However, what more likely allowed her to empathize with slaves was the loss of her eighteen-month-old son, Samuel Charles Stowe. She even stated the following, “Having experienced losing someone so close to me, I can sympathize with all the poor, powerless slaves at the unjust auctions.You will always be in my heart Samuel Charles Stowe.” On March 9, 1850, Stowe wrote to Gamaliel Bailey, editor of the weekly anti-slavery journal The National Era, that she planned to write a story about the problem of slavery: “I feel now that the time is come when even a woman or a child who can speak a word for freedom and humanity is bound to speak… I hope every woman who can write will not be silent.”Shortly after in June 1851, when she was 40, the first installment of Uncle Tom’s Cabin was published in serial form in the newspaper The National Era. She originally used the subtitle “The Man That Was A Thing”, but it was soon changed to “Life Among the Lowly”. Installments were published weekly from June 5, 1851, to April 1, 1852. For the newspaper serialization of her novel, Stowe was paid $400. Uncle Tom’s Cabin was published in book form on March 20, 1852, by John P. Jewett with an initial print run of 5,000 copies.Each of its two volumes included three illustrations and a title-page designed by Hammatt Billings. In less than a year, the book sold an unprecedented 300,000 copies. By December, as sales began to wane, Jewett issued an inexpensive edition at 37½ cents each to stimulate sales. Sales abroad, as in Britain where the book was a great success, earned Stowe nothing as there was no international copyright agreement in place during that era.In late 1853 Stowe undertook a lecture tour of Britain and, to make up the royalties that she could not receive there, the Glasgow New Association for the Abolition of Slavery set up Uncle Tom’s Offering.According to Daniel R. Lincoln, the goal of the book was to educate Northerners on the realistic horrors of the things that were happening in the South. The other purpose was to try to make people in the South feel more empathetic towards the people they were forcing into slavery.The book’s emotional portrayal of the effects of slavery on individuals captured the nation’s attention. Stowe showed that slavery touched all of society, beyond the people directly involved as masters, traders and slaves. Her novel added to the debate about abolition and slavery, and aroused opposition in the South. In the South, Stowe was depicted as out of touch, arrogant, and guilty of slander.Within a year, 300 babies in Boston alone were named Eva (one of the book’s characters), and a play based on the book opened in New York in November. Southerners quickly responded with numerous works of what are now called anti-Tom novels, seeking to portray Southern society and slavery in more positive terms. Many of these were bestsellers, although none matched the popularity of Stowe’s work, which set publishing records.After the start of the Civil War, Stowe traveled to the capital, Washington, D.C., where she met President Abraham Lincoln on November 25, 1862. Stowe’s daughter, Hattie, reported, “It was a very droll time that we had at the White house I assure you… I will only say now that it was all very funny—and we were ready to explode with laughter all the while.”What Lincoln said is a minor mystery. Her son later reported that Lincoln greeted her by saying, “so you are the little woman who wrote the book that started this great war.” Her own accounts are vague, including the letter reporting the meeting to her husband: “I had a real funny interview with the President.”A year after the Civil War, Stowe purchased property near Jacksonville, Florida. In response to a newspaper article in 1873, she wrote, “I came to Florida the year after the war and held property in Duval County ever since. In all this time I have not received even an incivility from any native Floridian.”Stowe is controversial for her support of Elizabeth Campbell, Duchess of Argyll, whose father-in-law decades before was a leader in the Highland Clearances, the transformation of the remote Highlands of Scotland from a militia-based society to an agricultural one that supported far fewer people. The newly homeless moved to Canada, where very bitter accounts appeared.It was Stowe’s assignment to refute them using evidence the Duchess provided, in Letter XVII Volume 1 of her travel memoir Sunny Memories of Foreign Lands. Stowe was vulnerable when she seemed to defend the cruelties in Scotland as eagerly as she attacked the cruelties in the American South.In 1868, Stowe became one of the first editors of Hearth and Home magazine, one of several new publications appealing to women; she departed after a year. Stowe campaigned for the expansion of married women’s rights, arguing in 1869 that:[T]he position of a married woman … is, in many respects, precisely similar to that of the negro slave. She can make no contract and hold no property; whatever she inherits or earns becomes at that moment the property of her husband…. Though he acquired a fortune through her, or though she earned a fortune through her talents, he is the sole master of it, and she cannot draw a penny….[I]n the English common law a married woman is nothing at all. She passes out of legal existence.In the 1870s, Stowe’s brother Henry Ward Beecher was accused of adultery, and became the subject of a national scandal. Unable to bear the public attacks on her brother, Stowe again fled to Florida but asked family members to send her newspaper reports. Through the affair, she remained loyal to her brother and believed he was innocent.After her return to Connecticut, Mrs. Stowe was among the founders of the Hartford Art School, which later became part of the University of Hartford.The Uncle Tom’s Cabin Historic Site is part of the restored Dawn Settlement at Dresden, Ontario, which is 20 miles east of Algonac, Michigan. The community for freed slaves founded by the Rev. Josiah Henson and other abolitionists in the 1830s has been restored. There’s also a museum. Henson and the Dawn Settlement provided Stowe with the inspiration for Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Research more about this great American Champion and share it with your babies. Make it a champion day!
GM – FBF – Today’s American Champion was one of three African Americans who served as a Republican Lieutenant Governor of Louisiana during the era of Reconstruction.In 1868, he 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 he 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.Today in our History – June 13, 1868 – Oscar James Dunn (1826 – November 22, 1871) is elected Lieutenant Governor of Louisiana.He was born into slavery in 1826 in New Orleans. As his mother, Maria Dunn, was enslaved, he took her status under the law of the time. His father, James Dunn, had been freed in 1819 by his master. James was born into slavery in Petersburg, Virginia and had been transported to the Deep South in the forced migration of more than one million African Americans from the Upper South.He was bought by James H. Caldwell of New Orleans, who founded the St. Charles Theatre and New Orleans Gas Light Company. Dunn worked for Caldwell as a skilled carpenter for decades, including after his emancipation by Caldwell in 1819.After being emancipated, Dunn married Maria, then enslaved, and they had two children, Oscar and Jane. (Slave marriages were not recognized under the law.) By 1832, Dunn had earned enough money as a carpenter to purchase the freedom of his wife and both children.They gained the status of free Blacks decades before the American Civil War. As English speakers, they were not, however, part of the culture of free people of color, who were primarily of French descent, Catholic religion and culture.James Dunn continued to work as a carpenter for his former master Caldwell. His wife, Maria Dunn, ran a boarding house for actors and actresses who were in the city to perform at the Caldwell theatres. Together, they were able to pay for education for their children. Having studied music, Dunn became both an accomplished musician and an instructor of the violin.Oscar Dunn was apprenticed as a young man to a plastering and painting contractor, A. G. Wilson. (He had verified Dunn’s free status in the Mayor’s Register of Free People of Color 1840–1864.) On November 23, 1841, the contractor reported Dunn as a runaway in a newspaper ad in the New Orleans Times-Picayune. Dunn must have gone back to work because he progressed in the world.Dunn was an English-speaking free black in a city in which the racial caste system was the underpinning of daily life. Ethnic French, including many free people of color, believed their culture was more subtle and flexible than that brought by the English-speaking residents, who came to the city in the early-to-mid-19th century after the Louisiana Purchase and began to dominate it in number. Free people of color had been established as a separate class of merchants, artisans, and property owners, many of whom had educations. However, American migrants from the South dismissed their special status, classifying society in binary terms, as black or white, despite a long history of interracial relations in their own history.Dunn joined Prince Hall Richmond Lodge #4, one of a number of fraternal organizations that expanded to New Orleans, out of the Prince Hall Ohio Lodge during the 19th century. In the latter 1850s, he rose to Master and Grand Master of the Eureka Grand Lodge which became the Louisiana Grand Lodge [Prince Hall/York Rite]. Author and historian, Joseph A. Walkes, Jr., a Prince Hall Freemason, credits Dunn with outstanding conduct of Masonic affairs in Louisiana. As a Freemason, Dunn developed his leadership skills, and established a wide network and power base in the Black community that was essential for his later political career.In December 1866, Dunn married the widow Ellen Boyd Marchand, born free in Ohio, as the daughter of Henry Boyd and his wife of Ohio. He adopted her three children, Fannie (9), Charles (7) and Emma (5). The couple had no children together. In 1870, the Dunn family residence was located on Canal Street, one block west of South Claiborne Avenue and within walking distance of Straight University and the St. James A.M.E. Church complex, where they were members.Dunn began to work to achieve equality for the millions of blacks freed by passage of the Thirteenth Amendment, ratified after the American Civil War. He actively promoted and supported the Universal Suffrage Movement, advocated land ownership for all blacks, taxpayer-funded education of all black children, and equal protection of the laws under the Fourteenth Amendment. He joined the Republican Party, many of whose members supported suffrage for blacks.Dunn opened an employment agency that assisted in finding jobs for the freedmen. He was appointed as Secretary of the Advisory Committee of the Freedmen’s Savings and Trust Company of New Orleans, established by the Freedmen’s Bureau. As the city and region struggled to convert to a free labor system, Dunn worked to ensure that recently freed slaves were treated fairly by former planters, who insisted on hiring by year-long contracts. In 1866, he organized the People’s Bakery, an enterprise owned and operated by the Louisiana Association of Workingmen.Elected to the New Orleans city council in 1867, Dunn was named chairman of a committee to review Article 5 of the City Charter. He proposed that “all children between the ages of 6–18 be eligible to attend public schools and that the Board of Aldermen shall provide for the education of all children … without distinction to color.”In the state Constitutional Convention of 1867–1868, the resolution was enacted into Louisiana law and laid the foundation for the public education system, established for the first time in the state by the biracial legislature.Dunn was very active in local, state and federal politics, with connections to U.S. President Ulysses S. Grant and U.S. Senator Charles Sumner of Massachusetts. Long before President Theodore Roosevelt invited Booker T. Washington, President Ulysses S. Grant met him at the White House on April 2, 1869.Running for lieutenant governor, he beat a white candidate for the nomination, W. Jasper Blackburn, the former mayor of Minden in Webster Parish, by a vote of fifty-four to twenty-seven. The Warmoth-Dunn Republican ticket was elected, 64,941 to 38,046.That was considered the rise of the Radical Republican influence in state politics. Dunn was inaugurated lieutenant governor on June 13, 1868. He was also the President pro tempore of the Louisiana State Senate. He was a member of the Printing Committee of the legislature, which controlled a million-dollar budget. He also served as President of the Metropolitan Police with an annual budget of nearly one million dollars. It struggled to maintain peace in a volatile political atmosphere, especially after the New Orleans Riot of 1866. In 1870, Dunn served on the Board of Trustees and Examining Committee for Straight University, a historically black college founded in the city.The Republicans developed severe internal conflicts. Although elected with Warmoth, as the governor worked toward Fusionist goals, Dunn became allied with the Custom House faction, which was led by Stephen B. Packard and tied in with federal patronage jobs. They had differences with the Warmoth-Pinchback faction, and challenged it for leadership of the party. Warmoth had been criticized for appointing white Democrats to state positions, encouraging alliances with Democrats, and his failure to advance civil rights for blacks. William Pitt Kellogg, whom Warmoth had helped gain election as US Senator in 1868, also allied with Packard and was later elected as governor of the state.Because of Dunn’s wide connections and influence in the city, his defection to the Custom House faction meant that he would take many Republican ward clubs with him in switching allegiance, especially those made up of African Americans rather than Afro-Creoles (the mixed race elite that had been established as free before the war). For the Radical Republicans, the city was always more important to their political power than were the rural parishes.Dunn made numerous political enemies during this period. According to The New York Times, Dunn “had difficulties with Harry Lott”, a Rapides Parish member of the Louisiana House of Representatives (1868–1870, 1870–1872). He also had differences with his eventual successor as lieutenant governor, State Senator P.B.S. Pinchback over policy, leadership, and direction.On November 22, 1871, Dunn died at 45 at home after a brief and sudden illness. He had been campaigning for the upcoming state and presidential elections. There was speculation that he was poisoned by political enemies, but no evidence was found. According to Nick Weldon at the Historic New Orleans Collection, Dunn’s symptoms were consistent with arsenic poisoning—vomiting, shivering. Four out of seven doctors who examined Dunn refused to sign off on the official cause of death, suspecting murder. No confirmation was made because Dunn’s family had refused an autopsy.The Dunn funeral was reported as one of the largest in New Orleans. As many as 50,000 people lined Canal Street for the procession, and newspapers across the nation reported the event. State officials, Masonic lodges, and civic and social organizations participated in the procession from the St. James A.M.E. church to his grave site. He was interred in the Cassanave family mausoleum at St. Louis Cemetery No. 2. Research more about this great American Champion and share it with your babies. Make it a champion day!
GM – FBF – Today’s American Champion organization was organized by the British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society, largely on the initiative of the English Quaker Joseph Sturge. The exclusion of women from the convention gave a great impetus to the women’s suffrage movement in the United States.Today in our History – The World Anti-Slavery Convention met for the first time at Exeter Hall in London, on 12–23 June 1840.The Society for the Abolition of the Slave Trade (officially Society for Effecting the Abolition of the Slave Trade) was principally a Quaker society founded in 1787 by 12 men, nine of whom were Quakers and three Anglicans, one of whom was Thomas Clarkson.Thanks to their efforts, the international slave trade was abolished throughout the British Empire with the passing of the Slave Trade Act 1807. The Society for the Mitigation and Gradual Abolition of Slavery Throughout the British Dominions, in existence from 1823 to 1838, helped to bring about the Slavery Abolition Act 1833, advocated by William Wilberforce, which abolished slavery in the British Empire from August 1834, when some 800,000 people in the British empire became free.Similarly, in the 1830s many women and men in America acted on their religious convictions and moral outrage to become a part of the abolitionist movement. Many women in particular responded to William Lloyd Garrison’s invitation to become involved in the American Anti-Slavery Society. They were heavily involved, attending meetings and writing petitions. Arthur Tappan and other conservative members of the society objected to women engaging in politics publicly.Given the perceived need for a society to campaign for anti-slavery worldwide, the British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society (BFASS) was accordingly founded in 1839. One of its first significant deeds was to organise the World Anti-Slavery Convention in 1840: “Our expectations, we confess, were high, and the reality did not disappoint them.” The preparations for this event had begun in 1839, when the Society circulated an advertisement inviting delegates to participate in the convention. Over 200 of the official delegates were British. The next largest group was the Americans, with around 50 delegates. Only small numbers of delegates from other nations attended.Benjamin Robert Haydon painted The Anti-Slavery Society Convention, 1840, a year after the event that today is in the National Portrait Gallery. This very large and detailed work shows Alexander as Treasurer of the new Society. The painting portrays the 1840 meeting and was completed the next year. The new society’s mission was “The universal extinction of slavery and the slave trade and the protection of the rights and interests of the enfranchised population in the British possessions and of all persons captured as slaves.” The circular message, distributed in 1839, provoked a controversial response from some American opponents of slavery. The Garrisonian faction supported the participation of women in the anti-slavery movement. They were opposed by the supporters of Arthur and Lewis Tappan. When the latter group sent a message to the BFASS opposing the inclusion of women, a second circular was issued in February 1840 which explicitly stated that the meeting was limited to “gentlemen”.Despite the statement that women would not be admitted, many American and British female abolitionists, including Lucretia Mott, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Lady Byron, appeared at the World Anti-Slavery Convention in London. The American Anti-Slavery Society, the Garrisonian faction, made a point to include a woman, Lucretia Mott, and an African American, Charles Lenox Remond, in their delegation. Both the Massachusetts and Pennsylvania Anti-Slavery Societies sent women members as their delegates. Cady Stanton was not herself a delegate; she was in England on her honeymoon, accompanying her husband Henry Stanton, who was a delegate. (Notably, he was aligned with the American faction that opposed women’s equality.) Wendell Phillips proposed that female delegates should be admitted, and much of the first day of the convention was devoted to discussing whether they should be allowed to participate. Published reports from the convention noted “The upper end and one side of the room were appropriated to ladies, of whom a considerable number were present, including several female abolitionists from the United States.” The women were allowed to watch and listen from the spectators’ gallery but could not take part.In sympathy with the excluded women, the Americans William Garrison, Charles Lenox Remond, Nathaniel P. Rogers, and William Adams refused to take their seat as delegates as well, and joined the women in the spectator’s gallery.Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, who eight years later organized the Seneca Falls Convention, met at this convention.The convention’s organising committee had asked the Reverend Benjamin Godwin to prepare a paper on the ethics of slavery. The convention unanimously accepted his paper, which condemned not just slavery but also the world’s religious leaders and every community who had failed to condemn the practise. The convention resolved to write to every religious leader to share this view. The convention called on every religious communities to eject any supporters of slavery from their midst.George William Alexander reported on his visits in 1839, with James Whitehorn, to Sweden and the Netherlands to discuss the conditions of slaves in the Dutch colonies and in Suriname. In Suriname, he reported, there were over 100,000 slaves with an annual attrition rate of twenty per cent. The convention prepared open letters of protest to the respective sovereigns.Joseph Pease spoke and accused the British government of being complicit in the continuing existence of slavery in India.After leaving the convention on the first day, being denied full access to the proceedings, Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton “walked home arm in arm, commenting on the incidents of the day, [and] we resolved to hold a convention as soon as we returned home, and form a society to advocate the rights of women.” Eight years later they hosted the Seneca Falls Convention in Seneca Falls, New York.One hundred years later, the Women’s Centennial Congress was held in America to celebrate the progress that women had made since they were prevented from speaking at this conference. Research more about this great American Champion event and share it with your babies. Make it a champion day!
GM – FBF – Today’s American Champion was a Bi-racial socialite in Georgia who became known as one of the wealthiest African American women of the 19th century after inheriting a large estate from her white planter father.Born into slavery, she was the child of David Dickson, a white planter, and Julia Frances Lewis Dickson, one of his slaves, who was thirteen when her daughter was born. She was raised by Elizabeth Sholars Dickson, her white grandmother and mistress. She was educated and schooled in the social skills of her father’s class, and he helped her to enjoy a life of privilege away from the harsh realities of slavery before emancipation following the Civil War. In her late 20s, she also attended the normal school of Atlanta University, from 1876 to 1878. After her father’s death in 1885 and a successful ruling in a challenge to his will by his white relatives, she inherited his estate, which included 17,000 acres of land in Hancock and Washington counties in Georgia. She married twice: her first husband was white and their sons were mixed-race. Their wealth enabled them to marry well.Today in our History – June 11, 1893 – Amanda America Dickson (November 20, 1849 – June 11, 1893) died.Amanda America Dickson was born into slavery in Hancock County, Georgia. Her enslaved mother, Julia Frances Lewis Dickson, was just 13 when she was born. Her father, David Dickson, was a white planter who owned her mother; he was one of the eight wealthiest planters in the county. When he was 40 years old, David Dickson had raped 12-year-old Julia Dickson, and she became pregnant. After Amanda was weaned, she was taken from her enslaved mother and maternal grandmother, Rose Dickson, to be raised in the household of her white grandmother and owner, Elizabeth Sholars Dickson. As Amanda grew, her grandmother used her as a domestic servant.Throughout Amanda’s childhood, her father became wealthier and more famous, renowned for his innovative and successful farming techniques. David Dickson showed that farmers could profit from slave labor without having to resort to violence to keep them in submission. By 1861, he was known as the “Prince of Georgia Farmers,” having contributed perhaps more than any other farmer in Georgia at that time to the prosperity of the region.Amanda’s father showered her with love and affection. Her mother was a household slave, assigned as David’s housekeeper, and she was forced also to provide him with sex. Amanda benefited greatly from her father’s social status, enabling her to live a life of relative privilege as a slave child.Evidence suggests that David Dickson took charge of Amanda’s education. In her white grandmother’s household, she learned to read, write, and play the piano, unlike what was permitted for her enslaved relatives. Amanda also learned rules of social etiquette appropriate for the social standing of her father’s side of the family. She learned to dress in a modest, elegant fashion and how to present herself as a “lady”. Amanda also learned from her father how to conduct business transactions responsibly and how to maintain and protect her finances after marriage.In 1864, Amanda’s grandmother Elizabeth Sholars Dickson died. Amanda and her grandmother Elizabeth had shared a particularly close relationship, with Amanda spending much time in her grandmother’s room. Amanda was held as Elizabeth’s slave until her death. Beginning in 1801, Georgia had prohibited slaveholders from independently freeing their slaves. Therefore, Elizabeth and David Dickson had no means to manumit Amanda and keep her with them in Georgia until the Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which abolished slavery and involuntary servitude, was ratified on December 6, 1865. At the age of twenty-seven, Amanda chose to leave the security of her home at her father’s plantation in Hancock County, Georgia to attend the normal school of Atlanta University, where she studied teaching from 1876 to 1878.Amanda America Dickson spent the last eleven months of her life as the wife of Nathan Toomer, from Perry, Georgia whom she married on July 14, 1892. Her health was fragile throughout her second marriage, as she had several health problems which required the continual attention of her family physician, Thomas D. Coleman.By 1893, Amanda America’s health had greatly improved, but a disturbing family ordeal would be the catalyst for the further deterioration of her health and eventual death. Her younger son, twenty-three-year-old Charles Dickson, who was married to Kate Holsey, became infatuated with Mamie Toomer, one of his stepsisters who was only fourteen years old. On March 10, 1893, Nathan and Amanda brought Mamie to the St. Francis School and Convent in Baltimore, Maryland, an order of black nuns, in an attempt to protect her from Charles Dickson’s misguided affection. Charles Dickson conspired with his brother-in-law Dunbar Walton, his sister-in-law Carrie Walton Wilson, and a hired man, Louis E. Frank, to kidnap Mamie Toomer. Their plan was foiled, and ultimately, Dunbar Walton, Louis E. Frank, and their lawyer, E. J. Waring, were indicted by the grand jury of Baltimore, Maryland for conspiracy to kidnap Mamie Toomer. Charles Dickson escaped without any legal ramifications for his actions.In June 1893, with the kidnapping drama (involving Mamie Toomer, Charles Dickson, and Charles Dickson’s co-conspirators) behind them, Nathan and Amanda America purchased two first-class tickets from a sales representative of the Pullman Palace Car Company to transport them from Baltimore, Maryland back home to Augusta, Georgia. Because of racial discrimination, they were denied their first-class accommodations and direct, unimpeded travel to Augusta, Georgia. The delayed travel to Augusta and the conditions in the Pullman car, most notably the rising temperature, became intolerable for Amanda America. As a result, her health quickly deteriorated. Dr. F. D. Kendall, who examined her on the morning of June 9, 1893, noted that her heart and lungs appeared to be fine, but that she was obviously very nervous and anxious to return home. Dr. Kendall gave her anodyne, a pain-relieving medication.Nathan and a very ill Amanda America arrived back at their home in Augusta, Georgia between four and five in the afternoon on June 9, 1893. She was quickly tended to by Dr. Eugene Foster, in place of their family physician, Thomas D. Coleman, who was out of town. She was diagnosed with neurasthenia (general exhaustion of the nervous system) or Beard’s disease. Symptoms of neurasthenia, as described by nineteenth-century physicians, include “sick headache, noises in the ear, atonic voice, deficient mental control, bad dreams, insomnia, nervous dyspepsia (disturbed digestion), heaviness of the loin and limb, flushing and fidgetiness, palpitations, vague pains and flying neuralgia (pain along a nerve), spinal irritation, uterine irritability, impotence, hopelessness, claustrophobia, and dread of contamination.” Amanda America Dickson Toomer died on June 11, 1893, with “complications of diseases” being the cause of death listed on her death certificate.Amanda America Dickson Toomer’s funeral took place at the Trinity Colored Methodist Episcopal Church in Augusta, Georgia. Amanda America died without a will, which resulted in a legal battle after her death for control of her estate. Her mother, Julia Frances Lewis Dickson, and her second husband, Nathan Toomer, both petitioned in court to be designated the temporary administrator of her estate. Ultimately, Julia Dickson, Nathan Toomer, and Amanda America’s younger son, Charles Dickson, were able to settle the dispute over Amanda America’s estate amicably out of court.Nine months after her death, Nathan Toomer married Nina Pinchback, the daughter of P. B. S. Pinchback, the Reconstruction Era senator-elect from Louisiana. On December 26, 1894, they became parents to Jean Toomer, a Harlem Renaissance writer who wrote the novel Cane (1923). A House Divided (2000) is the television movie that depicts the life of Amanda America Dickson. It stars Jennifer Beals as Amanda America Dickson, Sam Waterston as David Dickson, LisaGay Hamilton as Julia Frances Lewis Dickson, and Shirley Douglas as Elizabeth Sholars Dickson. Research more about this great American Champion story and share it with your babies. Make it a champion day!
GM – FBF – Today’s American Champion was an American boxer who, at the height of the Jim Crow era, became the first African American world heavyweight boxing champion (1908–1915). Widely regarded as one of the most influential boxers of all time, one of the period’s most dominant champions, and as a boxing legend, his 1910 fight against James J. Jeffries was dubbed the “fight of the century”. According to filmmaker Ken Burns, “for more than thirteen years, he was the most famous and the most notorious African-American on Earth”. Transcending boxing, he became part of the culture and history of racism in the United States. In 1912, he opened a successful and luxurious “black and tan” (desegregated) restaurant and nightclub, which in part was run by his wife, a white woman. Major newspapers of the time soon claimed that he was attacked by the government only after he became famous as a black man married to a white woman, and was linked to other white women. He was arrested on charges of violating the Mann Act—forbidding one to transport a woman across state lines for “immoral purposes”—a racially motivated charge that embroiled him in controversy for his relationships, including marriages, with white women. Sentenced to a year in prison, he fled the country and fought boxing matches abroad for seven years until 1920 when he served his sentence at the federal penitentiary at Leavenworth.He continued taking paying fights for many years, and operated several other businesses, including lucrative endorsement deals. He died in a car crash on June 10, 1946, at the age of 68. He is buried at Graceland Cemetery in Chicago. On May 24, 2018, he was formally pardoned by U.S. President Donald Trump.Today in our History – June 10, 1946 – Jack Johnson dies.Johnson fought professionally from 1897 to 1928 and engaged in exhibition matches as late as 1945. He won the title by knocking out champion Tommy Burns in Sydney on December 26, 1908, and lost it on a knockout by Jess Willard in 26 rounds in Havana on April 5, 1915. Until his fight with Burns, racial discrimination had limited Johnson’s opportunities and purses. When he became champion, a hue and cry for a “Great White Hope” produced numerous opponents.At the height of his career, the outspoken Johnson was excoriated by the press for his flashy lifestyle and for having twice married white women. He further offended white supremacists in 1910 by knocking out former champion James J. Jeffries, who had been induced to come out of retirement as a “Great White Hope.” The Johnson-Jeffries bout, which was billed as the “Fight of the Century,” led to nationwide celebrations by African Americans that were occasionally met by violence from whites, resulting in more than 20 deaths across the country.In 1913 Johnson was convicted of violating the Mann Act by transporting a white woman—Lucille Cameron, his wife-to-be—across state lines for “immoral purposes.” He was sentenced to a year in prison and was released on bond, pending appeal. Disguised as a member of a black baseball team, he fled to Canada; he then made his way to Europe and was a fugitive for seven years.He defended the championship three times in Paris before agreeing to fight Willard in Cuba. Some observers thought that Johnson, mistakenly believing that the charge against him would be dropped if he yielded the championship to a white man, deliberately lost to Willard. From 1897 to 1928 Johnson had 114 bouts, winning 80, 45 by knockouts.In 1920 Johnson surrendered to U.S. marshals; he then served his sentence, fighting in several bouts within the federal prison at Leavenworth, Kansas. After his release he fought occasionally and performed in vaudeville and carnival acts, appearing finally with a trained flea act. He wrote two books of memoirs, Mes Combats (in French, 1914) and Jack Johnson in the Ring and Out (1927; reprinted 1975). He died in an automobile accident.In the years after Johnson’s death, his reputation was gradually rehabilitated. His criminal record came to be regarded as more a product of racially motivated acts than a reflection of actual wrongdoing, and members of the U.S. Congress—as well as others, notably actor Sylvester Stallone—attempted to secure for Johnson a posthumous presidential pardon, which is exceedingly rare. After hearing about Johnson from Stallone, Pres. Donald Trump officially pardoned the boxer in 2018.Johnson’s life story was lightly fictionalized in the hit play The Great White Hope (1967; filmed 1970), and he was the subject of Ken Burns’s documentary film Unforgivable Blackness (2004). Johnson was a member of the inaugural class of inductees into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1990. Research more about this great American Champion and share it with your babies. Make it a champion day!
GM – FBF – Today’s American Champion was an American businessman, lawyer, politician, and civil rights leader from Nashville, Tennessee, who served as Register of the Treasury from 1911 to 1913.He is one of only five African Americans to have their signatures on American currency. He was one of four African-American politicians appointed to high position under President William Howard Taft, and they were known as his “Black Cabinet.” He was instrumental in founding civic institutions in Nashville to benefit the African-American business community and residents, including an emphasis on education.Today in our History – June 9, 1845 – James Carroll Napier (June 9, 1845 – April 21, 1940) was born.African American businessman and leader James C. Napier was born to free parents on June 9, 1845, in Nashville. His father, William Carroll, was a free hack driver and a sometime overseer. James attended the free blacks’ school on Line and High Street (now Sixth Avenue) with some sixty other black children until white vigilantes forced the school to close in 1856. He later attended school in Ohio after a December 1856 race riot ended black education in Nashville until the Union occupation in February 1862.Upon returning to the Union-held city of Nashville, Napier became involved in Republican Party politics. John Mercer Langston, an Ohio free black who became a powerful Republican politician and congressman, was a friend of Napier’s father. On December 30, 1864, Langston visited Nashville to speak to ten thousand black Union troops who had taken part in the recent and victorious battle of Nashville and to address the second Emancipation Day Celebration. He later invited Napier to attend the newly opened law school at Howard University in Washington, D.C., where he was a founding dean. After receiving his law degree in 1872, Napier returned to practice in Nashville. In 1873 he married Dean Langston’s youngest daughter, Nettie. This wedding was the biggest social event in nineteenth-century black Washington.Between 1872 and 1913 Napier became Nashville’s most powerful and influential African American citizen. Between 1878 and 1886 he served on the Nashville City Council and was the first black to preside over the council. He was instrumental in the hiring of black teachers for the “colored” public schools during the 1870s, the hiring of black “detectives,” and the organization of the black fire-engine company during the 1880s. His greatest political accomplishment was his service as President William H. Taft’s Register of the United States Treasury from 1911 to 1913.Napier also was a successful businessman and a personal friend of Booker T. Washington, whose wife Margaret was a personal friend of Nettie Langston Napier and often spent two or more weeks each summer at the Napier’s Nolensville Road summer home.Washington visited the city several times a year until his death in 1915. Napier was elected president of the National Negro Business League, which Washington had founded. The league held several of its annual meetings in Nashville, and Napier organized a local chapter of the league in 1905. He was a founder and cashier (manager) of the One Cent (now Citizens) Savings Bank organized in 1904, and he gave the new bank temporary quarters rent-free in his Napier Court office building at 411 North Cherry Street (now Fourth Avenue). He helped organize the 1905 Negro streetcar strike and the black Union Transportation Company’s streetcar lines. He presided over the powerful Nashville Negro Board of Trade and was on the boards of Fisk and Howard universities. Upon his death on April 21, 1940, Napier was interred in Greenwood Cemetery near members of his family and members of the Langston family. Research more about this great American Champion and share it with your babies. Make it a champion day!
GM – FBF – Today’s American Champion was an American professional baseball pitcher who played in Negro league baseball and Major League Baseball (MLB). His career spanned five decades and culminated with his induction into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.A right-handed pitcher, he first played for the semi-professional Mobile Tigers from 1924 to 1926. He began his professional baseball career in 1926 with the Chattanooga Black Lookouts of the Negro Southern League and became one of the most famous and successful players from the Negro leagues. On town tours across the United States, he would sometimes have his infielders sit down behind him and then routinely strike out the side.At age 42 in 1948, he made his major league debut for the Cleveland Indians. he was the first black pitcher to play in the American League and was the seventh black player to play in Major League Baseball. Also in 1948, he became the first player who had played in the Negro leagues to pitch in the World Series; the Indians won the Series that year. He played with the St. Louis Browns from 1951 to 1953, representing the team in the All-Star Game in 1952 and 1953. He played his last professional game on June 21, 1966, for the Peninsula Grays of the Carolina League. In 1971, he became the first electee of the Negro League Committee to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Today in our History – June 8, 1982 – Leroy Robert “Satchel” Paige (July 7, 1906 – June 8, 1982) dies.Leroy Robert Paige (better known as Satchel Paige) was an American baseball player who played for the Negro Leagues as well as MLB (Major League Baseball) teams. He was born on July 7, 1906 in Alabama, the 7th of 12 children in his family. His actual date of birth has been a point of contention but was officially determined from his birth certificate to be so. As a child, Paige used to work as a porter at the train station, earning a dime for carrying a bag. According to Paige, he used to tie a pole and rope around his shoulders to allow him to carry more luggage at once, due to which other kids would call him “satchel tree” thus earning him his nickname. According to another version of events, however, Paige got the nickname when he was caught trying to steal a bag.At the age of 13, Paige was caught trying to shoplift, which had been the third such incident to date. He was then sent to a state reform school, Industrial School for Negro Children in Mount Meigs, Alabama, where he stayed till the age of 18. During his 5 years there, his coach Edward Byrd taught him to pitch and polished his skills until he was released in December 1923. As African Americans were barred from the Major Leagues back then, Paige began his career with the Negro Southern League in 1926. He was drafted into the Chattanooga White Sox on a contract of $250 per month, where he had an impressive record. He was then traded to the Birmingham Black Barons of the major Negro National League (NNL). He played for several other leagues, both within the U.S. as well as in Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and Mexico.Satchel Paige also played a lot of exhibition matches and barnstorming tours for extra money, sometimes against stars from the major leagues such as Joe DiMaggio and Dizzy Dean, who commented on his exceptional capabilities as a pitcher. Unfortunately, however, there are very few official statistics about his career, especially because he switched teams frequently and travelled quite often. According to some of Paige’s own statistics, as well as those compiled by others, he has pitched in more than 2,500 games, won more than 2,000 and played for over 250 teams which vouch for his exceptional career.In 1948, Paige was inducted into Major League Baseball. Jackie Robinson had been drafted by the Minor Leagues earlier but this was still a huge accomplishment, as Paige was 42 years old at the time and the first black player in the Major Leagues. He joined the Cleveland Indians, and his first season, helped them to win the World Series. He stayed with the team for one more season before moving to the St. Louis Browns, with whom he spent three seasons. His MLB record is just as impressive as his Negro League record, and Paige continued to play well into his fifties, becoming the oldest player in Major League history.Satchel Paige was a true baseball legend and his life has been documented in his autobiographies. He died of a heart attack at the age of 75 on June 8, 1982. He is widely claimed to be one of the best pitchers in the history of the game by numerous sports writers, critics and fans alike and several books, movies and documentaries have been made about his life and accomplishments. Research more about this great American Champion and share it with your babies. Make it a champion day!
GM – FBF- Today’s American Champion was an American poet, author, and teacher. Her work often dealt with the personal celebrations and struggles of ordinary people in her community. She won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry on May 1, 1950, for Annie Allen, making her the first African American to receive a Pulitzer Prize.Throughout her prolific writing career, she received many more honors. A lifelong resident of Chicago, she was appointed Poet Laureate of Illinois in 1968, a position she held until her death 32 years later. She was also named the Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress for the 1985–86 term. In 1976, she became the first African-American woman inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters.Today in our History – June 7, 1917 – Gwendolyn Brooks is born.Although she was born on 7 June 1917 in Topeka, Kansas–the first child of David and Keziah Brooks–Gwendolyn Brooks is “a Chicagoan.” The family moved to Chicago shortly after her birth, and despite her extensive travels and periods in some of the major universities of the country, she has remained associated with the city’s South Side.What her strong family unit lacked in material wealth was made bearable by the wealth of human capital that resulted from warm interpersonal relationships. When she writes about families that–despite their daily adversities–are not dysfunctional, Gwendolyn Brooks writes from an intimate knowledge reinforced by her own life.Brooks attended Hyde Park High School, the leading white high school in the city, but transferred to the all-black Wendell Phillips, then to the integrated Englewood High School. In 1936 she graduated from Wilson Junior College. These four schools gave her a perspective on racial dynamics in the city that continues to influence her work.Her profound interest in poetry informed much of her early life. “Eventide,” her first poem, was published in American Childhood Magazine in 1930. A few years later she met James Weldon Johnson and Langston Hughes, who urged her to read modern poetry–especially the work of Ezra Pound, T. S. Eliot, and e. c. cummings–and who emphasized the need to write as much and as frequently as she possibly could. By 1934 Brooks had become an adjunct member of the staff of the Chicago Defender and had published almost one hundred of her poems in a weekly poetry column.In 1938 she married Henry Blakely and moved to a kitchenette apartment on Chicago’s South Side. Between the birth of her first child, Henry, Jr., in 1940 and the birth of Nora in 1951, she became associated with the group of writers involved in Harriet Monroe’s still-extant Poetry: A Magazine of Verse. From this group she received further encouragement, and by 1943 she had won the Midwestern Writers Conference Poetry Award.In 1945 her first book of poetry, A Street in Bronzeville (published by Harper and Row), brought her instant critical acclaim. She was selected one of Mademoiselle magazine’s “Ten Young Women of the Year,” she won her first Guggenheim Fellowship, and she became a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Her second book of poems, Annie Allen (1949), won Poetry magazine’s Eunice Tietjens Prize. In 1950 Gwendolyn Brooks became the first African American to win a Pulitzer Prize. From that time to the present, she has seen the recipient of a number of awards, fellowships, and honorary degrees usually designated as Doctor of Humane Letters.President John Kennedy invited her to read at a Library of Congress poetry festival in 1962. In 1985 she was appointed poetry consultant to the Library of Congress. Just as receiving a Pulitzer Prize for poetry marked a milestone in her career, so also did her selection by the National Endowment for the Humanities as the 1994 Jefferson Lecturer, the highest award in the humanities given by the federal government.Her first teaching job was a poetry workshop at Columbia College (Chicago) in 1963. She went on to teach creative writing at a number of institutions including Northeastern Illinois University, Elmhurst College, Columbia University, Clay College of New York, and the University of Wisconsin.A turning point in her career came in 1967 when she attended the Fisk University Second Black Writers’ Conference and decided to become more involved in the Black Arts movement. She became one of the most visible articulators of “the black aesthetic.” Her “awakening” led to a shift away from a major publishing house to smaller black ones. While some critics found an angrier tone in her work, elements of protest had always been present in her writing and her awareness of social issues did not result in diatribes at the expense of her clear commitment to aesthetic principles. Consequently, becoming the leader of one phase of the Black Arts movement in Chicago did not drastically alter her poetry, but there were some subtle changes that become more noticeable when one examines her total canon to date.The ambiguity of her role as a black poet can be illustrated by her participation in two events in Chicago. In 1967 Brooks, who wrote the commemorative ode for the “Chicago Picasso,” attended the unveiling ceremony along with social and business dignitaries. The poem was well received even though such lines as “Art hurts. Art urges voyages . . .” made some uncomfortable. Less than two weeks later there was the dedication of the mural known as “The Wall of Respect” at 43rd and Langley streets, in the heart of the black neighborhood. The social and business elites of Chicago were not present, but for this event Gwendolyn Brooks wrote “The Wall.” In a measure these two poems illustrate the dichotomy of a divided city, but they also exemplify Brooks’s ability both to bridge those divisions and to utilize nonstrident protest.Gwendolyn Brooks has been a prolific writer. In addition to individual poems, essays, and reviews that have appeared in numerous publications, she has issued a number of books in rapid succession, including Maud Martha (1953), Bronzeville Boys and Girls (1956), and In the Mecca (1968). Her poetry moves from traditional forms including ballads, sonnets, variations of the Chaucerian and Spenserian stanzas as well as the rhythm of the blues to the most unrestricted free verse. In short, the popular forms of English poetry appear in her work; yet there is a strong sense of experimentation as she juxtaposes lyric, narrative, and dramatic poetic forms. In her lyrics there is an affirmation of life that rises above the stench of urban kitchenette buildings. In her narrative poetry the stories are simple but usually transcend the restrictions of place; in her dramatic poetry, the characters are often memorable not because of any heroism on their part but merely because they are trying to survive from day to day.Brooks’s poetry is marked by some unforgettable characters who are drawn from the underclass of the nation’s black neighborhoods. Like many urban writers, Brooks has recorded the impact of city life. But unlike the most committed naturalists, she does not hold the city completely responsible for what happens to people. The city is simply an existing force with which people must cope.While they are generally insignificant in the great urban universe, her characters gain importance–at least to themselves–in their tiny worlds, whether it be Annie Allen trying on a hat in a milliner’s shop or DeWitt Williams “on his way to Lincoln Cemetery” or Satin-Legs Smith trying to decide what outlandish outfit to wear on Sundays. Just as there is not a strong naturalistic sense of victimization, neither are there great plans for an unpromised future nor is there some great divine spirit that will rescue them. Brooks is content to describe a moment in the lives of very ordinary people whose only goal is to exist from day to day and perhaps have a nice funeral when they die. Sometimes these ordinary people seem to have a control that is out of keeping with their own insignificance.Although her poetic voice is objective, there is a strong sense that she–as an observer–is never far from her action. On one level, of course, Brooks is a protest poet; yet her protest evolves through suggestion rather than through a bludgeon. She sets forth the facts without embellishment or interpretation, but the simplicity of the facts makes it impossible for readers to come away unconvinced–despite whatever discomfort they may feel–whether she is writing about suburban ladies who go into the ghetto to give occasional aid or a black mother who has had an abortion.Trying to determine clear lines of influence from the work of earlier writers to later ones is always a risky business; however, knowing some identifiable poetic traditions can aid in understanding the work of Gwendolyn Brooks. On one level there is the English metaphysical tradition perhaps best exemplified by John Donne. From nineteenth-century American poetry one can detect elements of Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, and Paul Laurence Dunbar. From twentieth-century American poetry there are many strains, most notably the compact style of T S. Eliot, the frequent use of the lower-case for titles in the manner of e. e. cummings, and the racial consciousness of the Harlem Renaissance, especially as found in the work of Countee Cullen and Langston Hughes; but, of perhaps greater importance, she seems to be a direct descendant of the urban commitment and attitude of the “Chicago School’ of writing. For Brooks, setting goes beyond the Midwest with a focus on Chicago and concentrates on a small neglected comer of the city. Consequently, in the final analysis, she is not a carbon copy of any of the Chicago writers.She was appointed poet laureate of Illinois in 1968 and has been perhaps more active than many laureates. She has done much to bring poetry to the people through accessibility and public readings. In fact, she is one of our most visible American poets. Not only is she extremely active in the poetry workshop movement, but her classes and contests for young people are attempts to help inner-city children see “the poetry” in their lives. She has taught audiences that poetry is not some formal activity closed to all but the most perceptive.Rather, it is an art form within the reach and understanding of everybody–including the lowliest among us. Research more about this great American champion and share it with your babies. Make it a champion day!