Category: 2000 & Later

January 9 2014-Leroy Jones

GM – FBF – We should understand the impact that Malcolm had on the whole of American society.

Remember – “A man is either free or he is not. There cannot be any apprenticeship for freedom.” – Amiri Baraka

Today in our History – Amiri Baraka, also called Imamu Amiri Baraka, original name Everett Leroy Jones, called Leroy Jones, Leroy later changed to LeRoi, (born October 7, 1934, Newark, New Jersey, U.S.—died January 9, 2014, Newark), American poet and playwright who published provocative works that assiduously presented the experiences and suppressed anger of black Americans in a white-dominated society.

After graduating from Howard University (B.A., 1953), Jones served in the U.S. Air Force but was dishonourably discharged after three years because he was suspected (wrongly at that time) of having communist affiliations. He attended graduate school at Columbia University, New York City, and founded (1958) the poetry magazine Yugen, which published the work of Beat writers such as Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac; he edited the publication with his wife, Hettie Cohen. He began writing under the name LeRoi Jones in the late 1950s and produced his first major collection of poetry, Preface to a Twenty Volume Suicide Note, in 1961. His first significant play, Dutchman (1964; film 1967), which recounted an explosive confrontation on a train between a black intellectual and a white woman who murders him, won the 1964 Obie Award for best Off-Broadway American play.

Following the assassination of Malcolm X in 1965, Jones became increasingly focused on black nationalism, That year he left his white Jewish wife and moved to Harlem. There he founded the Black Arts Repertory Theatre, which staged many of his works prior to its closure in the late 1960s. In 1968 he adopted the name Amiri Baraka, and his writings became more divisive, prompting some to applaud his courage and others to deplore sentiments that could foster hate. In the mid-1970s he became a Marxist, though his goals remained similar. “I [still] see art as a weapon and a weapon of revolution,” he said. “It’s just now that I define revolution in Marxist terms.” His work from this period was seen by some as becoming increasingly homophobic and anti-Semitic. His position as poet laureate of New Jersey was abolished after he published the searing 2001 poem Somebody Blew Up America, which suggested that Israel had prior knowledge of the September 11 attacks in the United States.

Among Baraka’s other works are Blues People: Negro Music in White America (1963), Black Magic: Collected Poetry 1961–1967 (1969), The Autobiography of LeRoi Jones/Amiri Baraka (1984), and the piercing Tales of the Out & Gone (2006), a fictional social commentary. Baraka taught at Columbia, Yale University, and, from 1979, at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, where at the time of his death he was emeritus professor of Africana studies. S O S: Poems 1961–2013 (2015) was a posthumous collection containing a wide selection from his oeuvre, including some previously unpublished verse. Research more about this great American and share with your babies. Make it a champion day!

January 28 2013- The movie “The Butler” Eugene Allen

GM – FBF – To see and hear what your nation is thinking and doing as it happens, now that is a fly on the wall.

Remember – “Over time they would ask me my opinion about our people and what should be done” – Eugene Allen

Today in our History – January 28, 2013 – The movie “The Butler” is finished and ready for market. Eugene Allen was a distinguished butler for the White House who served under eight presidents, including Harry S. Truman, John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan.

Born on July 14, 1919, in Scottsville, Virginia, Eugene Allen was an African-American butler who served under eight U.S. presidents, including Harry S. Truman, John F. Kennedy and Jimmy Carter. He witnessed firsthand some of history’s major events, as well as the changing perspectives on race in political arenas. Known as having been a modest man, Allen is the subject of the 2013 film The Butler. He died in 2010 in Washington, D.C.

Eugene Allen was born on July 14, 1919, in the town of Scottsville, Virginia. Growing up during the time of horrific Southern segregation and Jim Crow laws, Allen made his way to adulthood and found work as a waiter, first at a Virginia resort and then at a Washington, D.C., country club. By the early 1950s, Allen had landed a job at the White House as a pantry worker and was eventually promoted to the position of butler.

Allen met his future wife, Helene, at a 1942 D.C. birthday party; she tracked down the shy bachelor’s number and gave him a call. They wed the next year and would go on to have a son, Charles.

Allen served under eight U.S. presidents, beginning with Harry S. Truman. As a result, Allen had intimate knowledge of the inner goings-on of the White House. He heard both enlightened and offensive presidential remarks concerning race, and observed a gradually growing African-American presence among executive staff.

Allen, who went by the nickname Gene, was held in the highest regard by many and was noted to have an unassuming, humble spirit, bestowing his colleagues with excellent service and becoming quietly entwined in history’s notable moments. He was invited to President John F. Kennedy’s funeral after his assassination, but even while deeply mourning chose instead to remain at the White House to serve attendees as they came in from the services.

In the course of his work, Allen met famous people like civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and composer Duke Ellington, flew to Europe with President Richard Nixon and traveled with President Jimmy Carter to Camp David. He and President Gerald Ford shared the same birthday, and Allen was celebrated at the official festivities as well.

Allen was promoted to maître d’ during the Reagan Administration, and one year first lady Nancy Reagan invited him to attend as a guest a state dinner for West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl. Allen retired in 1986.

Helene died in the fall of 2008, she and Eugene having been married for 65 years. She passed right before Barack Obama was elected president. Allen received a VIP invitation to Obama’s inauguration with a Marine guard escort. He cried as he beheld the ceremony, thinking back on the harsh days of segregation. “You wouldn’t even dream that you could dream of a moment like this,” he told the Washington Post.

Though he received many requests to become a public figure via speaking engagements or book deals, Allen declined and remained private. He died at the age of 90 on March 31, 2010, from renal failure. He was survived by his son, Charles Allen, and several grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Eugene Allen’s life is the focus of the 2013 film The Butler, directed by Lee Daniels, and starring Forest Whitaker as the title character and Oprah Winfrey as his wife. The film’s large supporting cast includes Mariah Carey, Jane Fonda, Cuba Gooding Jr., Lenny Kravitz, Vanessa Redgrave, Alan Rickman and Robin Williams, among others. Research more about this great American and tell your babies. Make it a champion day!

December 17 2014- George Stinney Jr

GM – FBF – Today’s story takes me back to my U.S. History class during my Undergraduate work at College. The story was a research project and I had spoken to some family members who had moved to Wisconsin at the time in 1972. I never forgot the case and while I was teaching at Ewing High School, (Mercer County, NJ – outside of Trenton) I shared this case with my students in 1991 and the Administration and School Board were mad at me for starting trouble by having children go home and ask questions to their parents/guardians that would divide the racially mixed student body. This was one of the reasons why they wanted me out I was at the end of the school year.

I went to Red Bank Regional High School the next year and still presented to the students in my classes while there. A friend of mine Steven Dunlap asked me about it a month ago and I told him that my posts go by month and day of an historical event and when it comes up I will surly tell the story. Learn and enjoy!

Remember – “There wasn’t any reason to convict this child. There was no evidence to present to the jury. There was no transcript. This case needs to be re-opened. This is an injustice that needs to be righted.” – Attorney Ray Chandler representing Stinney’s family

Today in our History – December 17, 2014 – George Junius Stinney Jr., circuit court Judge Carmen Mullen vacated Stinney’s conviction.

George Junius Stinney Jr. (October 21, 1929 – June 16, 1944), was an African-American teenager wrongfully convicted at age 14 of the murder of two white girls in 1944 in his hometown of Alcolu, South Carolina. He was executed in June of that year, still only 14. His appeal to the governor for clemency was denied. He was one of the youngest Americans to be sentenced to death and executed.

A re-examination of the Stinney case began in 2004, and several individuals and Northeastern University School of Law organized to seek a judicial review. His conviction was vacated in 2014 when a court ruled that he had not received a fair trial.

Police arrested 14-year-old George Stinney, a local African-American, as a suspect. They said that he confessed to the crime to them. There was no written record of his confession apart from notes provided by an investigating deputy.

No transcript was recorded of the brief trial. Stinney was convicted of first-degree murder of the two girls in less than 10 minutes by an all-white jury, during a one-day trial. The court refused to hear his appeal. He was executed that year, still age 14, by electric chair.

In the decades since Stinney’s conviction and execution, the question of his guilt, the validity of his reported confession, and the judicial process leading to his execution have been extensively criticized.

A group of lawyers and activists investigated the Stinney case on behalf of his family. In 2013 the family petitioned for a new trial. On December 17, 2014, his conviction was posthumously vacated 70 years after his execution, because the circuit court judge ruled that he had not been given a fair trial; he had no effective defense representation and his Sixth Amendment rights had been violated. The judgment noted that while Stinney may have committed the crime, the prosecution and trial were fundamentally flawed. Judge Mullen ruled that his confession was likely coerced and thus inadmissible. She also found that the execution of a 14-year-old constituted “cruel and unusual punishment.”

George Stinney Jr, of African descent, was the youngest person to be executed in the 20th century in the United States. This young black was only 14 years old at the time of his execution by electric chair. 70 years later, his innocence has just been officially recognized by a judge in South Carolina.
From his trial to the execution room, the boy always had his Bible in his hands while claiming his innocence. George was unfairly accused of murdering two White girls (Betty 11 and Mary 7), whose bodies had been found not far from the house where the boy and his parents lived. At that time, all the members of the jury were white. The trial lasted 2H30, and the jury made the decision of his sentence after 10 minutes.

The boy’s parents, threatened, were barred from taking part in the trial after being ordered to leave the city. Prior to his trial, George spent 81 days in detention without the possibility of seeing his parents for the last time. He was imprisoned alone in his cell, 80 kilometers from his hometown. His hearing of the facts was done alone, without the presence of his parents or a lawyer.

George’s electrocution charge was 5,380 volts on his head. We let you imagine what such an electric shock can have on a young child’s head. We will never forgive and will never FORGET!

Rather than approving a new trial, on December 17, 2014, circuit court Judge Carmen Mullen vacated Stinney’s conviction. She ruled that he had not received a fair trial, as he was not effectively defended and his Sixth Amendment right had been violated. The ruling was a rare use of the legal remedy of coram nobis. Judge Mullen ruled that his confession was likely coerced and thus inadmissible. She also found that the execution of a 14-year-old constituted “cruel and unusual punishment”, and that his attorney “failed to call exculpating witnesses or to preserve his right of appeal.”

Mullen confined her judgment to the process of the prosecution, noting that Stinney “may well have committed this crime.” With reference to the legal process, Mullen wrote, “No one can justify a 14-year-old child charged, tried, convicted and executed in some 80 days,” concluding that “In essence, not much was done for this child when his life lay in the balance.”

Family members of both Betty Binnicker and Mary Thames expressed disappointment at the court’s ruling. They said that, although they acknowledge Stinney’s execution at the age of 14 is controversial, they never doubted the boy’s guilt. The niece of Betty Binnicker claimed she and her family have extensively researched the case, and argues that “people who [just] read these articles in the newspaper don’t know the truth.” Binnicker’s niece alleges that, in the early 1990s, a police officer who had arrested Stinney had contacted her and said: “Don’t you ever believe that boy didn’t kill your aunt.”

These family members said that the claims of a deathbed confession from an individual confessing to the girls’ murders have never been substantiated. Research more about this great American tragedy by reading David Stout based his first novel Carolina Skeletons (1988) on this case. He was awarded the 1989 Edgar Award for Best First Novel (Edgar Allan Poe Award). Stout suggests in the novel that Stinney, whom he renames Linus Bragg, was innocent.

The plot revolves around a fictitious nephew of Stinney/Bragg, who unravels the truth about the case decades later. The novel was adapted as a 1991 television movie of the same name directed by John Erman, featuring Kenny Blank as Stinney/Bragg. Lou Gossett Jr. played Stinney’s/Bragg’s younger brother James. As of February 2014, another movie about the Stinney case, 83 Days, was planned by Pleroma Studios, written and produced by Ray Brown with Charles Burnett as director.

December 8 2006- Cynthia Ann Mckinney

GM – FBF – Today’s story centers around a black woman who did her best to tell her story in the U.S. Congress, every day I ride pass by a stretch of highway in her honor. Enjoy!

Remember – Ever since I came to Congress in 1992, there are those who have been trying to silence my voice. I’ve been told to ‘sit down and shut up’ over and over again. Well, I won’t sit down and I won’t shut up until the full and unvarnished truth is placed before the American people. Cynthia McKinney

Today in our History – On December 8, 2006, in her last major act as a member of Congress, Cynthia McKinney introduced legislation to Impeach President George Bush because of his conduct of the Iraq War.

Cynthia Ann McKinney was born on March 17, 1955 in Atlanta, Georgia to parents Billy McKinney, who was a police officer and to a mother, Leola Christion McKinney, who was a nurse. Her father was a political activist who challenged his employer, the Atlanta Police Department, for its practice of racial discrimination. This desire to use activism in the cause of racial justice was inherited by Cynthia McKinney who initiated her first petition against racism while still in school. In 1971 she challenged a teacher at the Catholic institution for using racist language. Meanwhile, her father, Billy McKinney was elected to the Georgia State Legislature in 1973 as a Democrat.

After completing St. Joseph’s High School in Atlanta in 1973, McKinney in 1978 received a degree in international relations from the University of Southern California. This degree would serve her well in the future as became increasingly concerned about the role and impact of U.S. foreign around the world. McKinney then entered the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts. There she met and Jamaican politician Coy Grandison and returned to Jamaica with him.

McKinney’s political career began in 1986 when her father, Billy McKinney persuaded his 31-year-old daughter become a write-in campaign for another legislative seat. Without any campaigning because she lived in Jamaica at the time, and little help from other Democrats, Cynthia McKinney still managed to get 20% of the total vote. Two years later she decided to mount an all-out campaign for the seat. Elected in 1988 at the age of 33, McKinney was one of the youngest members of the state legislature. She and her father became the first father-daughter pair in the Georgia legislature.

McKinney soon became controversial in the Georgia legislature for opposing the Gulf War and for challenging the chamber’s dress code by wearing slacks instead of dresses. She also joined Georgia civil rights leaders in a lawsuit to increase the number of black judges appointed in the state.

In 1992, McKinney ran for Georgia’s Fourth Congressional District seat. She won and remained in the U.S. House of Representatives for a decade. While in Congress McKinney was appointed to the Armed Services Committee and the International Relations Committee where she served as Ranking Member on its International Operations and Human Rights Subcommittee. A member of the Congressional Black Caucus, she also led the Women’s Caucus Task Force on Children, Youth and Families.
While agreeing with most of the Clinton administrations policies, she challenged the Administration on the North American Free Trade Agreement. She also called for the end of U.S. arms sales to nations with a history of human rights violations. She also continued to be a strong voice for racial justice issues. She opposed welfare reform in 1996 because she felt it would intensify the conditions facing impoverished black women and children. She called for election reform after the 2000 presidential election partly because of what she termed the disfranchisement of many Florida African American voters.

In 2002, McKinney was defeated in the Democratic Primary race by DeKalb County Judge Denise Majette. An estimated 40,000 Republicans voted in the Democratic Primary to defeat McKinney, angry over a controversial interview she had given earlier that year at a Berkeley, California radio station where she alleged that the Bush Administration had prior knowledge about the 9-11 attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Center.

In 2004, McKinney returned to Congress where she became most noted for her criticism of the Bush Administration for its lack of support for Hurricane Katrina victims. In 2006 McKinney lost in the Democratic Primary to DeKalb County attorney Hank Johnson. On December 8, 2006, in her last major act as a member of Congress, McKinney introduced legislation to Impeach President George Bush because of his conduct of the Iraq War. Research more about this great American and share with your babies. Make it a champion day!

December 2 2008- Odetta Holmes

GM – FBF – Today’s Story is about a Folk singer whose music has been called the “soundtrack of the Civil Rights Movement.” Her work inspired musicians from Bob Dylan to Joan Baez.

An elementary teacher noticed her singing voice and encouraged her mother to get her formal training. In 1956 released her first solo album, in 1999, President Bill Clinton awarded her the National Medal of Arts.

Remember – “If your neighbor looks at you like they don’t enjoy the key you’re singing in, look right back, bless them, and keep on singing.” – Odetta Holmes

Today in our History – December 2, 2008 – Odetta Holmes died.

Odetta Holmes, later known simply as Odetta, was born on December 31, 1930, in Birmingham, Alabama. Before she even learned how to play an instrument, Odetta banged on the family piano in hopes of making music—until her family members got headaches and told her to stop. Growing up in the Deep South during the Great Depression, Odetta fell in love with the work songs she heard people singing to ease the pain of the times. “They were liberation songs,” she later recalled. “You’re walking down life’s road, society’s foot is on your throat, every which way you turn you can’t get from under that foot. And you reach a fork in the road and you can either lie down and die or insist upon your life … those people who made up the songs were the ones who insisted upon life.”

Odetta’s father, Reuben Holmes, died when Odetta was a child. In 1937 she and her mother, Flora Sanders, moved across the country to Los Angeles. It was on the train to California that Odetta had her first significant experience with racism. “We were on the train when, at one point, a conductor came back and said that all the colored people had to move out of this car and into another one,” she remembered. “That was my first big wound.”

Although Odetta loved singing, she never considered whether she had any particular vocal talent until one of her grammar school teachers heard her voice. The teacher insisted to Odetta’s mother that she sign her up for classical training. In junior high, after several years of voice coaching, she landed a spot in a prestigious signing group called the Madrigal Singers. When Odetta graduated from Belmont High School in Los Angeles, she continued on to Los Angeles City College to study music. She later insisted, however, that her real education came from outside the classroom.

“School taught me how to count and taught me how to put a sentence together,” she acknowledged. “But as far as the human spirit goes, I learned through folk music.” And as far as her musical development went, Odetta said her formal training was “a nice exercise, but it had nothing to do with my life.
“Soundtrack of the Civil Rights Movement’

In 1950, after graduating from college with a degree in music, Odetta landed a role in the chorus of a traveling production of Finian’s Rainbow. She fell in love with folk music when, after a show in San Francisco, she went to a Bohemian coffee shop and experienced a late-night folk music session. “That night I heard hours and hours of songs that really touched where I live,” she said. “I borrowed a guitar and learned three chords, and started to sing at parties.” Later that year, she left the theater company and took a job singing at a San Francisco folk club.

In 1953, she moved to New York City and soon became a fixture at Manhattan’s famed Blue Angel nightclub. “As I did those songs, I could work on my hate and fury without being antisocial,” she said. “Through those songs, I learned things about the history of black people in this country that the historians in school had not been willing to tell us about or had lied about.”

She recorded her first solo album, Odetta Sings Ballads and Blues, in 1956, and it became an instant classic in American folk music. Bob Dylan later cited that album as the record that first turned him on to folk music, and Time magazine raved about “the meticulous care with which she tried to recreate the feeling of her folk songs.” Odetta quickly followed with two more highly acclaimed folk albums: At the Gate of Horn (1957) and My Eyes Have Seen(1959). In 1960, Odetta delivered a famed concert at Carnegie Hall and released a live recording of the performance.

The 1960s, however, were Odetta’s most prolific years. During that decade, she lent her powerful voice to the cause of black equality—so often so that her music has frequently been called the “soundtrack of the Civil Rights Movement.” She performed at political rallies, demonstrations and benefits. In 1963, during the March on Washington, Odetta gave the most iconic performance of her life: Singing from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial after an introduction by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Odetta also recorded more than a dozen albums during the 1960s, most notably Odetta and the Blues, One Grain of Sand, It’s a Mighty Worldand Odetta Sings Dylan.

Odetta’s popularity waned after the 1960s, and she recorded only several more albums over the remaining four decades of her life. Her most prominent later works include Movin’ It On(1987), Blues Everywhere I Go (1999) and Looking for a Home (2001). One of the greatest American folk singers of all time, Odetta has been cited as a prominent influence by such legendary musicians as Bob Dylan, Joan Baez and Janis Joplin. President Bill Clinton presented her with a National Medal of Arts in 1999.

In 2004, she was made a Kennedy Center honoree and in 2005, the Library of Congress awarded her its Living Legend Award. Her highly acclaimed final album, a live recording performed when she was 74 years old, was entitled Gonna Let It Shine (2005). Her music inspired a generation of civil rights activists who helped tear down the legacy of slavery and Jim Crow to build a more equal and just United States of America.

In her later years, after the popularity of folk music had declined, Odetta made it her mission to share its potency with a new generation of youth. “The folk repertoire is our inheritance. Don’t have to like it, but we need to hear it,” she said. “I love getting to schools and telling kids there’s something else out there. It’s from their forebears, and it’s an alternative to what they hear on the radio. As long as I am performing, I will be pointing out that heritage that is ours.”

Odetta continued performing right up until almost the day of her death on December 2, 2008, at the age of 77. She had dreamed of performing at the inauguration of President Barack Obama, but tragically passed away just weeks before he took office. Research more about this great American Treasure and share with your babies. Make it a champion day!

November 29 2000- Marvel Cooke

GM – FBF – Today’s story is close to my heart because journalism is what I studied in school. The Black woman that we honor today was one of the best. Enjoy!

Remember – “ People of color need all of the things and opportunity that the white culture enjoys.” – Marvel Cooke

Today in our History – November 29, 2000: Marvel Cooke passed away, aged 97. She was a pioneering American journalist, writer, and civil rights activist. She was the first African-American woman to work at a mainstream white-owned newspaper.

*On this date in 1903, Marvel Cooke was born. She was an African American journalist, writer, and civil rights activist.
From Mankato, Minnesota, Marvel Jackson Cooke was the daughter of Amy Wood Jackson and Madison Jackson. Her family moved to Minneapolis, Minnesota in 1907 and in 1925, Jackson graduated from the University of Minnesota at the age of 22. When she got out of college, she moved to Harlem in New York City and was hired as editorial assistant at the Crisis, the NAACP publication. Jackson then went to the Amsterdam News where she was secretary to the women’s editor and a general assignment reporter.

While at the Amsterdam News, Jackson helped organize the first Newspaper Guild unit at a Black-owned newspaper while being the first woman reporter in the Amsterdam News’ 40-year history. She broke her engagement to Roy Wilkins and soon Married Cecil Cooke, internationally famous athlete. The Cookes moved to Greensboro, North Carolina where Marvel taught history, English and Latin in the high school department of North Carolina Agricultural and Technical College. Moving back to New York City she returned to the Amsterdam News.

In 1935, she was part of the successful eleven-week Guild strike against the newspaper. She then became assistant managing editor at the People’s Voice, a Harlem-based weekly owned by Adam Clayton Powell.

“I was part of the Bronx Slave Market long enough to experience all the viciousness and indignity of a system which forces women to the streets in search of work,” she once said. Her five-part series for the Daily Compass on the abuse suffered by black domestic workers was a result of this research. Cooke also worked as a reporter and feature writer at the Compass, a short-lived white-owned New York City daily newspaper where she was the first black woman to work at a mainstream white-owned newspaper and the only Black and the only woman reporter. Cooke loved immersing herself in the arts. She read, listened to music, studied art, and went to plays. She felt that Black people in the arts contributed things that were lacking in the regular arts, because the stories and art and music of Black people reflected their life experience.

In the early fifties, Cooke devoted herself to political activism. In 1953, she was New York director of the Council of Arts, Sciences and Professions and appeared before a hearing instigated by Sen. Joseph McCarthy New York and Washington, D.C., defending un-American accusations.

Cooke was national legal defense secretary of the Angela Davis Defense Committee in the late sixties and early seventies. Her husband died in 1978. In her later years, she was national vice chairman of the American-Soviet Friendship Committee. Marvel Cooke died in December 2000 in Harlem, N.Y. Research more about black journalist and share with your babies. Make it a champion day!

November 23 2008- Pearl Gartrell

GM – FBF – Today’s story is of a black lady who outlived all but one of her children and was first married at 14 years old. She had seen the turn of 1900 and 2000 what a story she had to tell from all that she lived through. If you have an elder in your family or know a person that is 90 or more you need to be sitting down with them and hearing as much of their story that they remember for when they are gone that firsthand knowledge goes with them. Enjoy the story!

Remember – “Keep busy, work hard and don’t worry about how old you are.” – Pearl Gartrell

Today in our History – November 23, 2008 – Pearl Gartrell, dies at one time The world’s oldest person at 120 years old.
She Lived Alone as an Adult until she was 118, Passes at 120 Years of Age.

Pearl Gartrell was born in Tillsdale, Georgia on April 1, 1888 as one of the youngest of 15 children. She lived in Jacksonville, Florida for almost seventy years. She died on Sunday, November 23, 2008.

The Baptist lady gave birth to eight children and has outlived all but one of them. Yet, she refused to move to a facility for the elderly and until two years ago, proved that she did not need anyone to live with her. Actually, no one lived with her totally, but her relatives would alternate their time with her even though her great granddaughter, Doris King, spent much of her time with her trying to make sure things went as her great grandmother wanted them to go.

On Tuesday, November 11, Ms. Gartrell became ill and was taken to the hospital. She was placed in Hospice care on November 13 and died on November 23, 2008.

Ms. Gartrell did not have a copy of her birth certificate since she was not born in a hospital. Her birth was recorded in a family Bible. The Florida State ID card did not show the exact year of her birth because the computer would not activate the year, 1888. However, the Florida Department of Elder Affairs acknowledged that she was perhaps the oldest person living in?Florida until the time of her death.

Ms. Gartrell was very careful about her food and did not like to eat in restaurants because she could not be guaranteed that the workers washed their hands.

The lady did have one habit that she would not give up – her can of sweet snuff that she kept inside of her bottom lip. At 120 years of age, she still had most of her own teeth.

Ms. Gartrell was not a person with sickness but she did have some bouts of illness. In fact, the doctors thought she would surely die in 1991 when she contracted pneumonia at the age of 103 and refused to be hospitalized. She did not like to take medication so when such was prescribed, she would hide it under her mattress. Family members learned to watch her closely when medicine was prescribed for her, to make sure she followed orders.

Ms. Gartrell broke her hip and cracked her pelvis in 1998. Once her surgery was completed and the pin in her hip had been installed, she insisted upon going home, and she did. Within months, she was walking again.

Pearl Gartrell raised her great granddaughter, Lolitha Hill and some of the other relatives. When she talked about her younger days, she talked of her mother, who was a midwife, and worked for the town’s white doctor, of their deep-cooking fireplace and the time her mother covered the faces of all of the children with black soot and had them to hide in the back of the fireplace when the KKK came. She also told of the one-room school house that was attached to the Baptist church in Tignall, Georgia, near Athens, Georgia.

Pearl Gartrell married at the age of 14 but says she cannot remember her husband’s name. This memory loss may stem from the fact that her father, brother and husband were killed in her small Georgia town. What she also remembers of her younger days was when she was forced to be submissive and gave birth to two children by a white man in that town. But, she did not harbor hate, even though she was still very shy when it came to white people.

Ms. Gartrell was filled with wisdom and love. She kept strong belief in God and even though she had cataracts, she always wanted the paper, and always wanted The Florida Star, from its first days.

Pearl Gartrell not only raised her children, she helped with the others that came along and remained a God fearing woman. Of her eight children, one died at birth, three died of heart attacks, two had cancer, one son was murdered and found in the St. Johns River and Tom Gartrell still lives in Jacksonville in a nursing facility.

Mrs. King and Mrs. Hill said their great grandmother was the foundation of their family, all the days of her life, and they are eternally grateful. She will truly be missed. Research more about people who live to be over 100 years old and share with your babies. Make it a champion day!

November 21 2007- Frances Louise Murphy

GM – FBF – Today’s Story is about a black female who was blessed to be around family that understood the Importance of the spoken word. Her mother was one of the founders of a sorority and a teacher. Her mother was a graduate of my famed University of Wisconsin, so naturally journalism and education were Important to her. She also was named one of the 100 Most Influential Black Americans by Ebony magazine. Enjoy!

Remember – “Education in any form will give strength to a person for life, if the knowledge is sound they will go far in life” – Frances Louise Murphy

Today in our History – November 21, 2007, Frances Louise Murphy, II, died.

Born on October 8, 1922, in Baltimore, Maryland, Frances Louise Murphy, II, grew up in a household that was focused on the newspaper the family published. Murphy’s grandfather, a former slave and Civil War veteran, founded the Afro-American in 1892; her father, Carl, was the editor and publisher of the paper and a professor of German at Howard University.

Murphy’s mother, Vashti, was one of the co-founders of the Delta Sigma Theta sorority and was trained as a teacher. Murphy taught until she married Carl Murphy; she then went on to earn her B.A. degree from the University of Wisconsin in 1944, where she majored in journalism. In 1958, Murphy earned her B.S. degree from Coppin College, and her M.Ed. degree from Johns Hopkins University in 1963.

During her summers, Murphy worked for the family paper. After graduating from the University of Wisconsin, Murphy went to work full-time for the Afro-American, and the paper expanded from a single edition to numerous local editions around the country. By 1956, Murphy was the city editor for the Baltimore edition of the paper. After earning her teaching degree from Coppin College, Murphy became an elementary school teacher; she went on to pursue her master’s degree in education. Frustrated with her school assignment, Murphy resigned and began teaching English and working as the director of the news bureau at Morgan State University.

Murphy stayed at Morgan State until 1971, when she was named chairman of the Afro-American. In 1975, Murphy left to become a professor of journalism at State University College in Buffalo, New York, and then on to Howard University in 1985. Murphy became publisher of the Washington Afro-American in 1987, and left Howard University in 1991; she served as editor of the editorial page and wrote the column, “If You Ask Me,” by Frankie Lou for several years.

Murphy was honored by numerous organizations for her achievements; she received the Women of Strength Award from the National Black Media Coalition in 1994 and 1995; the Woman of the 20th Century Award by the National Congress of Black Women; and was named one of the 100 Most Influential Black Americans by Ebony magazine. Murphy served on the boards of the Freedom Foundation, the University of the District of Columbia and the African American Civil War Memorial.

Murphy raised four children, and had seventeen grandchildren, and six great grandchildren.
Frances Louise Murphy, II, passed away on Wednesday, November 21, 2007, at the age of eighty-five. Research more about the great American and share with your babies. Make it a champion day!

November 15 2007- John Cross Junior

GM – FBF – Today’s Story is about John Cross Jr. who was the pastor at 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, AL. where I had the pleasure of speaking a few years back. The 
same church that was bombed in 1963, where the killing of four girls accrued. The event was a turning point in the Civil Rights Movement. Enjoy!

Remember – “Only a devil with no heart would do such an act and kill babies. – Rev. John Cross Jr

Today in Our History – November 15, 2007 John Cross Jr died.
Born in Haynes, Arkansas, on January 27, 1925, John Cross Jr. became a minister, educator and civil rights activist. In 1963, he was serving as pastor at the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, when a bomb killed four young girls at the church. The attack was a turning point in the Civil Rights Movement. At the age of 82, Cross died on November 15, 2007, in Lithonia, Georgia.

John Haywood Cross Jr. was born on January 27, 1925, in Haynes, Arkansas, where he was raised by parents John and Margie Ann. John Cross Jr. attended elementary school in his hometown, and later went to Lincoln High School in Forrest City, Arkansas.

Cross was a teenager when he gave his first sermon; his ordination took place at Springfield Missionary Baptist Church. In 1944, after completing high school, he served in the U.S. Army as an assistant chaplain. When his service ended, he taught in the Haynes public school system before enrolling at Virginia Union University in Richmond, Virginia. Cross graduated from college in 1950 with a degree in social science.

Cross next served as a minister at Oak Grove Baptist Church in Widewater, Virginia. Wanting to pursue his theological studies, he returned to Virginia Union University and enrolled in a master’s program at the institution’s divinity school. He received his master’s degree in 1959. Staying in Richmond, he then became a pastor at the Gravel Hill Baptist Church.

In 1962, Cross was designated as pastor of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama. The city was the site of conflict between supporters of segregation and civil rights activists. In a 1991 article, Cross described the heightened racial tensions that he experienced upon arriving in Birmingham. When he attempted to hail a taxicab, the white driver told him, “[I] don’t drive coloreds.” Cross responded, “I’ll tell you what, I’m coming here to pastor a church. Before I leave here, you’ll be hauling anybody who wants to be hauled.”

Encouraged by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Cross welcomed leaders of the Civil Rights Movement at his church. The house of worship was a nerve center for meetings and rallies, which resulted in Southern segregationists targeting the church. On September 15, 1963, a Sunday, a bomb was planted in the building. It went off before a youth service.

Cross was one of the people who dug through the rubble after the explosion, looking for survivors. He discovered the bodies of the four young girls who had been killed: Addie Mae Collins, Denise McNair, Carole Robertson and Cynthia Wesley. The attack also left more than 20 other worshippers injured. The atrocity became a turning point in the Civil Rights Movement, building support for the passage of the Civil Rights Act in 1964.

Cross helped lead his parishioners through the dark days following the tragedy. He also presided over the funeral service that was held for Collins, McNair and Wesley. Approximately 8,000 people came to the service.

In 1968, Cross left the 16th Street Baptist Church to teach history and sociology at Alabama State University. He also served as director of the university’s Baptist student center. In 1972, Cross became the associate pastor of the Oakhurst Baptist Church in Decatur, Georgia. A few years later, he started working as the black church relations director for the Atlanta Baptist Association. After retiring in 1989, Cross worked part-time as a minister and youth counselor.

Cross met Julia Ball at Virginia Union University. After marrying in 1949, the couple had four children: Michael, Alma, Lynn and Barbara. Cross enjoyed visiting his hometown, stating that his favorite vacation destination was Haynes, Arkansas. Having suffered a series of strokes in his later years, Cross passed away on November 15, 2007, at age 82, in Lithonia, Georgia. Research more about Black Reverends who fight/fought for civil rights and share with your babies. Make it a champion day!

November 12 2007- Aletra Hampton

GM – FBF – Today’s story is about a family and their singing prowess, the heart and soul of the group was the most business minded and let her other sister’s gain most of the fame. Indianapolis, Indiana is where they planted their roots but they were sellers in Cincinnati, Ohio, Carnegie Hall and The Apollo Theater. Enjoy!

Remember – “Dad was a self-taught musician as well as a self-taught artist”, recalled Aletra. He was responsible for the whole thing. He taught everybody;from the age of three, they all played instruments. “He was the leader of the band for a while, but Dad got tired” – Aletra Hampton

Today In Our History – November 12, 2007 – Aletra Hampton died.

Aletra Hampton (October 8, 1915 – November 12, 2007) was an American jazz pianist and singer, best known for her performances during the 1940s and 1950s as a member of the Hampton family band and the Hampton Sisters, a quartet she formed during World War II with her siblings, Carmalita, Virtue and Dawn. The Middletown, Ohio, native began performing at a young age and moved with her family to Indianapolis, Indiana, in 1938.

Hampton and her eight siblings performed in the 1940s and 1950s in Duke Hampton’s band, their oldest 
brother’s jazz orchestra. The group became well known as the house band at nightclubs in Indianapolis and Cincinnati, Ohio, and toured the United States playing at venues that included New York City’s Carnegie Hall and Harlem’s Apollo Theater and the Savoy Ballroom. The family’s band dissolved in the 1950s, but Hampton and two of her sisters, Virtue and Carmalita, continued to perform as the Hampton Sisters for several more years. The trio reunited in Indianapolis in 1981 after almost a twenty-year hiatus. Hampton and her sister, Virtue, continued to perform as a duo, mostly in Indianapolis, until 2006.

Hampton and her siblings received Indiana’s Governor Arts Award (1991) for their contributions to the state’s musical heritage. In addition, Hampton was inducted into the Indianapolis Jazz Foundation’s Hall of Fame (1999); received an honorary doctorate of music degree from the University of Indianapolis(2004); and was a recipient of NUVO newspaper’s Cultural Vision Lifetime Achievement Award (2006).

The Indiana Historical Society released The Hampton Sisters, A Jazz Tribute (2003), a compact disc featuring Aletra and Virtue Hampton. Close members of Hampton’s musical family include her brother, “Slide” Hampton, a National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master; her sister, Dawn (Died in 2016), a well-known New York City cabaret singer and swing dancer; and her nephew, Pharez Whitted, a jazz trumpeter. Research more about family entertainment groups and share with your babies. Make it a champion day!