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Gordon Parks: A Legend who Helped Paved the Way for Black Artists

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Gordon Roger Alexander Buchanan Parks on November 30, 1912, in Fort Scott, Kansas, U.S. He was an American photographer, film director, musician, and writer.

Who Was Gordon Parks?

Gordon Parks was the first African American to ever produce films and direct motion pictures capturing the struggles of black American slaves.

He is popularly known for the major photos he took of poor Americans in the past. Other times Parks also was a great poet, author, and composer.

His Early Life

Parks was born on November 30, 1912, in Fort Scott, Kansas. He is the youngest of fifteen children for Andrew Jackson Parks and Sarah Ross.

His father was a farmer who grew potatoes, turnips, corn, tomatoes, greens, and beets. They also reared a few chickens, hogs, and ducks.

He attended a segregated elementary school for both white and black people, but the black students were not given the freedom to participate in social activities. Instead, they were always discouraged from developing aspirations for higher education.

At the age of eleven years old, he was thrown into a Marmaton River by white boys who believed he couldn’t swim. When he turned fourteen, his mother died and he spent the night sleeping beside his mother’s coffin.

He was later sent to St. Paul, Minnesota, to live with his sister and her husband, where he managed to get a job at 15.

His Photography Life

American Gothic, Washington, D.C. – a well-known photograph by Parks

At the age of 25, Parks was amazed by photographs of migrant workers in a magazine and devised to buy his first camera. He bought a Voigtländer Brilliant at a pawn shop in Washington and taught himself how to take photos.

The photographs were so amazing that they caught the attention of Marva Louis, wife of Joe Louis, a heavyweight boxing champion. In 1950, she encouraged Parks and his wife, Sally Alvis, to migrate to Chicago. There, he began a portrait business and specialized in taking photographs of society women.

In 1941, an exhibition of his photographs won Parks a photography fellowship with the Farm Security Administration (FSA). A few years later, he created one of the most popular photographs, American Gothic, Washington, D.C.

Parks later moved to Harlem and became a major fashion photographer for Vogue under the supervision of Alexander Liberman for the next few years. He later returned to his hometown, Fort Scott, Kansas, where he documented the various segregation conditions and the lives of his mates from their segregated high school.

Poster from the film Shaft. Directed By Gordon Parks.
Gordon Parks, director of Shaft

His Filming Life

Gordon Parks worked as a consultant on several Hollywood productions. Below are his film works.

  • Parks directed a lot of documentaries on black ghetto life
  • In 1971, he directed the film, Shaft, starring Richard Roundtree as John Shaft
  • He also directed the sequel, Shaft’s Big Score, in 1972
  • Parks later had a cameo appearance in the Shaft sequel that starred Samuel L. Jackson.

His Personal Life

Parks was married and divorced three times. 

  • In 1933, he married Sally Alvis in Minneapolis and they divorced in 1961.
  • In 1962, he married Elizabeth Campbell, daughter of cartoonist E. Simms Campbell, and they divorced in 1973.
  • In 1973, he got married to Chinese-American editor Genevieve Young, and they divorced in 1979.

Parks had four children namely, Gordon, Jr., David, Leslie, and Toni Parks. His oldest son Gordon Parks, Jr, was killed in a plane crash in 1979 in Kenya. Parks has five grandchildren: Alain, Gordon III, Sarah, Campbell, and Satchel. 

Other Achievements

Gordon Parks

In 1969, Parks became the first African American to write. The Learning Tree was based on his bestselling semi-autobiographical novel. He published many books, including poetry, novels, memoirs, and volumes on the photographic method. 

In 1989 he composed, directed, and produced the music, Martin, which was dedicated to the late civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. Parks spent his last years changing his style, and he continued like that until his death on March 7, 2006. He died at age 93.

Amanda Gorman made History as the Youngest Known Inaugural Poet

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Words matter and are oftentimes used to communicate the sentiment of the masses who for all intents and purposes have been silenced by various institutions. At just 23 years old, literary poet and activist Amanda Gorman has accomplished things that many work their entire lifetime to achieve. From the Inauguration to the Super Bowl, Gorman has published books and been invited to speak all over the country.

Amanda Gorman at I021 inaguration
Amanda Gorman recites her inaugural poem, “The Hill We Climb,” during the 59th Presidential Inauguration ceremony in Washington, Jan. 20, 2021. President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris took the oath of office on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol. (DOD Photo by Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Carlos M. Vazquez II)

Early Life

Born to a single mother, Joan Wicks in Los Angeles, Gorman, a twin, is one of three siblings who grew up catholic and a member of St. Brigid Catholic Church in her hometown of Los Angeles. She excelled at reading and writing due to having an auditory processing disorder that results in the inability of the brain to process sounds. Gorman also had a speech impediment in which she went to speech therapy during her childhood. In middle school, Gorman discovered the literary works of black authors and poets in which she says she realized people who looked like her could tell stories.

Amanda Gorman attended a private school in Santa Monica, CA where she continued to hone her literary skills and went on to receive the Milken Family Foundation scholarship for college. She attended the illustrious Harvard University where she graduated in 2020 with a B.A. in Sociology.

Career

Before her recent successes and accolades, Amanda Gorman was already making waves. In 2015, Gorman released her first book, a poetry book titled The One for Whom Food Is Not Enough. The following year, she founded the non-profit organization, One Pen One Page, a literary writing program for youth. By 2017, she made history by being named the first-ever National Youth Poet Laureate in the United States. Gorman continued to ascend by achieving many firsts by becoming the first young poet to open the literary season for the Library of Congress and won a $10,000 grant from the OZY media company.

Perhaps the most notable achievement to date has been the invitation to recite her poem, The Hill We Climb, at the 2021 presidential inauguration of Joe Biden. Breaking yet another first, Gorman is the youngest poet to read at a presidential inauguration. She is also working on two books, the poetry collection The Hill We Climb and a children’s book, Change Sings: A Children’s Anthem. Both are set to be released in September of this year. In March, a 32-page commemorative edition with a foreword by Oprah Winfrey was released.

Touting both beauty and brains, Amanda Gorman has an eye for fashion. With an affinity for bold colors and prints, she makes sure to pay special attention to her appearance and how she presents herself. After the inauguration, she secured a modeling contract with IMG Models after her memorable speech on Inauguration Day. She has graced the covers of Vogue Magazine, Time Magazine, and featured in Glamour Magazine.

Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden, Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith, and National Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman attend a reception prior to the opening reading of Smith’s 2017-2018 term, September 13, 2017. Photo by Shawn Miller.

Legacy

Having already achieved so much, Amanda Gorman has only begun to scratch the surface of what will certainly be an admirable career. She hopes to make a successful bid for president one day advising that she intends on running in 2036. And, while her legacy is literally in the making, she has plenty of good company to glean from those that came before her such as Toni Morrison, Maya Angelou, Audre Lorde, and Phillis Wheatley. Gorman is poised to leave an indelible mark on history as both a literary and style icon as she continues to forge her own path by using the power of her pen.

Recognition and Honors

The Brown Skin Pioneer who Founded the Windy City, Jean Baptiste DuSable

Jean Baptiste DuSable, also known as Jean Baptiste Point DuSable (Point de SablePoint au SablePoint SablePointe DuSable) was a black pioneer trader and founder of the settlement that later became the city of Chicago. 

About DuSable

His french father moved to Haiti, where he met and married DuSable’s mother, a slave of African descent. DuSable was later born in Santa Domingo, Haiti, in 1745. According to legend, Jean Baptiste’s mother was killed during a Spanish raid, and the young DuSable swam out to his father’s ship to take refuge.

Around the 1770s, he went to the Great Lakes area of North America and settled by the Chicago River, developing a trading post around 1779 with his wife. The frontier settlement was known as “shikaakwa,”. The name came from the Algonquin language: meaning “striped skunk” or “onion.” According to early explorers, the lakes and streams around the area were full of wild onions, leeks, and ramps. Now known as Chicago.  

In the mid-18th century, the Native American Potawatomi tribe and previously the Miami, Sauk, and Fox peoples inhabited the Lake Michigan area. Jean Baptiste DuSable built the first house/trade-in post and created the foundation of what we know as CHICAGO! 

Six Interesting facts about the founder of Chicago

1. The British arrested him

Lt. Thomas Bennett arrested DuSable at Michigan City, Indiana, on suspicion that he was a spy. He worked for the British lieutenant governor of Michilimackinac on an estate near Detroit called St. Clair. They released him after reviewing his credentials because they were so impressive. 

2. DuSable spoke several languages.

Jean Baptiste DuSable traveled to France, where he worked on his father’s ships. In France, he learned to access some education and understand several languages. He spoke Spanish, French, English, and several Native American dialects. At his trading post, DuSable served Native Americans, British, and French explorers and was an entrepreneur and mediator. 

3. His contributions went largely unnoticed.

He built a cabin near Lake Michigan, north of the Chicago River. Du Sable sold his property to Jean Baptiste DuSable La Lime, a trader from Quebec. The reason for DuSable’s departure is unknown. However, La Lime sold the property to William Burnett, John Kinzie’s business partner. Kinzie when buys the house in 1804 from Burnett until 1828.  Kinzie was recognized and referred to as “Chicago’s first citizen.” In 1912, the city’s first recognition DuSable when a plaque was placed on a building near his cabin site.

4. He was wealthy

The house built by John Baptiste DuSable close to the mouth of the Chicago River as it appeared when owned by the Kinzie family in the early 1800s
The house built by John Baptiste Point du Sable close to the mouth of the Chicago River as it appeared when owned by the Kinzie family in the early 1800s

According to original manuscripts regarding the sale of DuSable’s property, his cabin was spacious, with a roomy salon with five rooms. His home featured five rooms, including:

  • A large fireplace and a store
  • four glass doors
  • couch
  • four tables
  • a bureau,
  • seven chairs
  • a pair of candlesticks
  • an iron coffee mill
  • a pair of scales
  • weights
  • a giant feather bed
  • 23 European paintings

In addition, he owned smoke and bakehouses, huts and stables for employees and an orchard, and a fenced garden. Inside his home included paintings, mirrors, and walnut furniture.

5. He gave his property to a neighbor

There is no documentation that says he had any living relatives. Many believe he outlived them all. However, a document posted in the DuSable Museum in Chicago writes that when he became seriously ill in 1813, he gave his property to a neighbor, Eulalie Barada. Also, he asked her to promise to take care of him, and feed his hogs and chickens, as well as repair his house, and bury him in the parish cemetery. 

6. He became increasingly involved in the affairs of the Potawatomi tribe.

 On October 27, 1788, Jean Baptiste Point DuSable married a Potawatomi Indian named Kittihawa ((Christianized to Catherine). They had a Catholic ceremony in Cahokia, a longtime French Illinois Country (a village in St. Charles, IL). The couple may have been already married in the Native American tradition. DuSable and his wife later had a son named Jean, and a daughter that was named Suzanne in memory of Jean-Baptiste’s mother. His Potawatomi Indian wife helped translate for him and gave him access to a vast network for trading. The Potawatomi thought of DuSable as a brother, leader, and counselor. 

 Jean Baptiste DuSable grave at Saint Charles Borromeo Cemetery in Saint Charles, St. Charles County, Missouri.
Saint Charles Borromeo Cemetery in Saint Charles, St. Charles County, Missouri.

After Jean Baptiste DuSable sold his estate on May 7, 1800, he returned to Peoria, Illinois. Soon after, he later moved to St. Charles, Missouri, where he died at the age of 72 or 73 on August 28, 1818.

Buried at Saint Charles Borromeo Cemetery in Saint Charles, St. Charles County, Missouri. 

Honors 

  • Several institutions, parks, and museums have been named in honor of Point DuSable
  • DuSable High School in Bronzeville, Chicago
  • DuSable Museum of African American History
  • DuSable Harbor in downtown Chicago ( Randolph Street)
  • DuSable Park is an urban park in Chicago. 
  • A park is named after du Sable in St Charles
  • The US Postal Service has also honored Point du Sable with the issue of a Black Heritage Series 22-cent postage stamp on February 20, 1987.
  • The Jean Baptiste Point Du Sable Homesite located at what is now 401 N. Michigan Avenue.
  •  The Michigan Avenue Bridge renamed DuSable Bridge in honor of Point du Sable in 2010

Work Cited

The Evolved Man of the Week: Jean Baptiste Point Du Sable …. https://lornettvestal.com/2020/02/11/the-evolved-man-of-the-week-jean-baptiste-point-du-sable/

Jean Du Sable, Explorer who founded Chicago – African …. https://aaregistry.org/story/jean-du-sable-explorer-who-founded-chicago/

What Does “Chicago” Mean? | Origin of the Word “Chicago …. https://theskydeck.com/things-to-do-in-chicago/what-does-chicago-mean/

The Story Of Nat Love: Born A Slave; Died A Legend!

Talent paves its way no matter what. Nat Love was born amidst the shadows of slavery but lived as the king of cowboys. The stories of his adventures are still alive and are told not only in the West but the whole of the US.

Nat Love earned his fame when he won the title of “Deadwood Dick.” And his adventures took him to the Old West, where he fought Native Americans, took bullets, and much more as a black cowboy.

So, let’s take a dip in the adventurous life of the legend!

His Early Days!

His early days were dark. He was born as an African-American slave in the plantations of Davidson County, Tennessee, around 1854. And as was the norm, he was not allowed to learn to read or write. But still, his persistence made his father Sampson teach him reading and writing.

But as we know, slavery ended soon. The end of the Civil War also brought an end to slavery, and Love’s father started working as a sharecropper on the same plantation growing Corn and Tobacco. Although the future seemed better now, God had other plans.

Sadly Love’s father died after planting the second crop. So, Nat had to take a second job as well to take care of the house.

Though the situation was gloomy, tables were going to turn soon.

Nat had a gift with horses. He was known for breaking horses.

So, while he was doing some odd jobs, one day, luck gave him a second chance, and guess what, he took it. He won a horse in a raffle, and that too twice. He sold the horse back to the owner at $50 each time.

Luck on his side and a wild heart beating inside, he escaped to Dodge City, Kansas, to work as a cowboy. But before that, he gave half of his earnings to his mother.

He was 16 at this time, and the journey of a legend had just started.

The Adventures Of Nat Love

After his escape, he worked for a few years in Kansas and then for a few more in Arizona. He became an expert marksman and cowboy over these years and earned himself his first moniker, the “Red River Dick.”

Nat Love, Deadwood newspaper article
Edward L. Wheeler. Deadwood Dick, the Prince of the Road; or, The Black Rider of the Black Hills. 1877.

The tale of becoming the Deadwood Dick:

Once while driving cattle, he reached Deadwood of Dakota Territory. Here he heard the news that a Rodeo with prize money of $200 was being held. Enticed by the high prize money, he entered the Rodeo and won not one or two but six contests. He champed rope, tie, throw, saddle, bridle, and bronco riding competitions and earned his second moniker, the Deadwood Dick!

The tale of fighting with the native Americans:

While in Arizona, Love was attacked by Pima Indians. A fight took place, and Love got several bullets and finally got captured. But seeing the courage of Nat Love, the tribe was impressed and let him live amongst themselves. They even nursed him back to health. Once in good health, the chief offered him to marry his daughter and promised to give him 100 ponies.

But Nat being the wild heart he was, refused and instead escaped on their best pony.

The Later Life

As he grew older, Love decided to leave his cowboy life and settle down. In 1889, he married Alice, took up a job as a Pullman porter, and spent the rest of his days as a family man. He also served as a courier and guard for a Los Angeles company later.

Nat Love lived life with a verve and died a happy man in 1921 at 67.

Claudette Colvin Refused to Give Up Her Seat on the Bus before Rosa Parks

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Claudette Colvin was born on September 5, 1939 (age 81), in Montgomery, Alabama, U.S. She is an activist who was a pioneer in the civil rights movement in Alabama during the 1950s. 

Who is Claudette Colvin?

Claudette Colvin is a civil rights activist who, before Rosa Parks, refused to give up her bus seat to a white passenger. She was arrested and became one of five plaintiffs in the first federal court case. 

The case was filed by civil rights attorney Fred Gray on February 1, 1956, as Browder Gayle ruled that the city’s segregated bus system was not in the constitution. 

A month later, the Supreme Court accepted the order for Montgomery and the state of Alabama to close bus segregation. The Montgomery bus boycott was then called off.

Later on, Colvin moved to New York City where she worked as a nurse’s aide. She retired in 2004.

Her Early Life

Colvin, born on September 5, 1939, in Montgomery, Alabama, grew up in one of the poorest neighborhoods in Montgomery and studied hard in school as she aspired to become President.

Her mother, Mary Jane Gadson, was unable to support her children financially, especially after their father, C.P.Austin, abandoned them. So, Colvin and her younger sister, Delphine, were taken in by their great aunt and uncle, Mary Anne and Q.P. Colvin.

The Colvins lived in Pine Level, a small country town in Montgomery County, where Rosa Parks grew up.

On Colvin’s 13th birthday, her sister died of polio. After which Colvin started attending Booker T. Washington High School. Due to the grief, she had difficulty connecting with her peers in school. But as a member of the NAACP Youth Council, she formed a close relationship with her mentor, Rosa Parks.

The Bus Incident

On March 2, 1955, she was returning home from school and sat in the colored section, two seats away from an emergency exit, in a Capitol Heights bus. 

The bus driver, Robert W. Cleere commanded Colvin and three other black women in her row to move to the back, creating space for a white woman to sit in their row. Others obeyed, but she refused to move. According to her, ‘It was her constitutional right’.

The Arrest 

Colvin was removed from the bus with force and arrested by two policemen, Thomas J. Ward and Paul Headley. This event took place nine months before the NAACP secretary, Rosa Parks, was arrested for the same offense.

Claudette Colvin fingerprints
This is the fingerprint card from her arrest. Records of District Courts of the United States

The police officers who took her to the station made sexual comments about her body and took turns making jokes about her bra size throughout the journey. Price testified for Colvin, who was tried in juvenile court. 

Colvin was initially charged with:

  • Disturbing the peace
  • Violating the segregation laws  
  • Battering and assaulting a police officer.

She was later bailed out by her minister, who told her that she had brought the revolution to Montgomery.

Her Life After Activism

In March 1956, Colvin gave birth to a son, Raymond. She left Montgomery for New York City in 1958, because it became difficult for her to keep up with school and work there. This was due to her participation in the court case that overturned bus segregation. 

Claudette finally got a job in 1969 as a nurse’s aide in a nursing home in Manhattan, where she worked for 35 years, retiring in 2004. 

She had a second son who became an accountant in Atlanta, but Raymond Colvin died of a heart attack in 1993.

Her Legacy

  • She became a predecessor to the Montgomery bus boycott movement of 1955.
  • On May 20, 2018, she was honored for her lifetime commitment to public service with a Congressional Certificate and an American flag.
  • In 2017, the Council passed a resolution for a proclamation honoring Colvin. March 2 was named Claudette Colvin Day in Montgomery.

Recommended Readings

How the Vegan TikTok star, Tabitha Brown became “America’s Mom

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Tabitha Bonita Brown was born on February 4, 1979, in Eden, North Carolina, U.S. She is an American social media personality and actress.

Who Is Tabitha Brown?

Tabitha Brown is an American actress and social media influencer. In 2020, she became very well known on the internet for her online video content. It displayed vegans’ lifestyle, and she incorporates humor and motivational speaking that has lifted many people.

HuffPost has specially described Brown as “America’s Mom”. Her content has been complimented and deemed by critics as “comforting and calming”.

Her Early Life 

Born in Eden, North Carolina, but raised in Stoneville. America’s Mom moved back to Eden for school. She majored in fashion design at Miami International University of Art & Design but dropped out at age 19.

She struggled a lot financially and moved back to North Carolina, in Greensboro, where she lived for five years. There, she married Chance Brown and gave birth to her first child and daughter, Choyce. Then in 2012, they had a son, Queston.

In 2002, Brown got a job as the co-host of a local late-night show. There she got to interview a lot of celebrities who performed at Greensboro Coliseum Complex. She relocated with her husband to Los Angeles, where she tried out as a stand-up comedian.

Unfortunately, she was unsuccessful in booking acting jobs. After six months, she moved between North Carolina and Los Angeles to take care of her mother, who had developed Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).

Her Career 

After spending three years running around for medical treatments, her mother died in 2017. Brown began her career by acting in minor roles in different Indie films and direct-to-video films.

At some point, she developing chronic pain and fatigue and could not get back to work for a year. Her daughter suggested that she adopted veganism to help her gain recovery, and she did.

On June 11, 2016, Brown was the first speaker for the graduation exercises at John M. Morehead High School.

Tabitha Brown Instagram

Social Media Breakthrough 

iamtabithabrown

In October 2017, Tabitha Brown became an Uber driver to make ends meet as a part-time actress. She made a video in December 2017 of a Whole Foods Market vegan BLT sandwich. It went viral and got her hired by a company as a brand ambassador to travel the country.

In early March 2020, she created a TikTok account where she started sharing vegan recipes, family moments, cooking tips, and encouraging words that got her 2 million followers within five weeks.

Brown has been broadcasting live cooking shows and product reviews on Facebook live since early 2018.

In April 2020, Brown signed with Creative Artists Agency and given her own show, All Love, on Ellen Digital Network. This network operated under the Ellen Digital Ventures, a collaborative venture between Ellen DeGeneres and Warner Bros’ Digital Networks.

Tabitha Brown Awards and Nominations 

  • Veggie Awards in 2020, for Favorite Vegan Social Media Personality.
  • Streamy Awards in 2020, for the Food category.
  • NAACP Image Awards in 2021 for Outstanding Social Media Personality.
@iamtabithabrown

Hello there family🥰 Who listened to my @calm story last night? Did you rest well? I sure hope so❤️ Love you! ##tabithabrown

♬ original sound – Tabitha Brown

Filmography

  • In 2005: Bad Reputation
  • In 2008: Outrighteous
  • In 2009: Thug Love
  • In 2010: Helpless
  • In 2012: Laughing to the Bank
  • In 2017: I Am Still Here
  • In 2018: All Between Us
  • In 2019: Princess of the Row

Alvin Ailey used the power of dance to empower black people.

Alvin Ailey was born on January 5, 1931, in Rogers, Texas City. He founded the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in New York in 1958 and best known for popularizing modern dance. He used the power of dance to express and empower black people.

Who Was Alvin Ailey?

Alvin Ailey was an American activist who won fame as a dancer and choreographer. He was known for introducing a popular and multi-racial dance that spread wide across the world.

One of his most famous choreography is The Revelations that gave a detailed study on the religious spirit. In 1988, Ailey received the Kennedy Center Honors and a year later, on December 1, he died of Aids. 

His Early Life

Alvin Ailey and Carmen de Lavallade
Alvin Ailey and Carmen de Lavallade in 1954.

Ailey, born on January 5, 1931, became a major leading figure and icon in the modern dance of the 20th-century.

Ailey’s mother was a young teenager when she gave birth to him and his father left the family soon after. He grew up in a poor home in Navasota, Texas.

He started getting a lot of inspiration from the native black church he worshipped at. As he grew up listening to the music sung at the local dance hall, it gave him a basic understanding of sound and motion. 

In 1942, Ailey left Texas with his mother for Los Angeles, California. There, his mother began work in an aircraft factory. He became interested in athletics and languages, later joined the football team where he excelled.

Later, he attended the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo performance where he was inspired to go into dancing. In 1949, he began to study the area of modern dance with Lester Horton and soon joined his dance company.

His Career 

For a while, Ailey danced in a nightclub in San Francisco, before he returned to the Horton school to complete his dance training. After Horton died, Ailey used his style to choreograph two pieces presented at the Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival in Becket, Massachusetts. 

Due to bad reviews, the group broke up. Still, he stayed on track. He was later invited to dance in House of Flowers, a musical based on the book, Truman Capote.

Ailey had his first major piece, Blues Suite, which was inspired by blues music. He received a lot of praise for it. This led him to schedule a second concert for his works. The third concert featured his famous piece, The Revelations.

The Alvin American Dance Theater

In 1959, Ailey established the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, which included a group of eight black dancers. This was dedicated to enrich the American modern dance heritage and preserve the specialty of the African-American cultural experience. 

Members of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre rehearse a scene in a dance called Revelations. Public Domain

Mr. Alvin was awarded several honors, including the Kennedy Center Honor in 1988. This was in recognition of his beautiful contribution to American culture.

In 2014, he received an award for the Presidential Medal of Freedom, which is the highest civilian honor of the country. All was in recognition of his efforts and commitment to civil rights and dance in America.

His Death

In 1980, Ailey Alvin suffered an illness that put him in the hospital for several weeks. He also lost a dear friend and experienced a lot of financial issues. Yet, his reputation as a founding father of modern dance grew more.

On the 1st of December, 1989, Mr. Alvin died of a blood disorder. A lot of people gathered for his memorial service at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine.

Till today, Ailey remains an important figure in the arts through organizations and ballets he created. 

Key facts

  • Ailey got his start with one of the first interracial companies, Lester Horton Dance Theater.
  • In 1958, Alvin Ailey trained under dance greats such as Katherine Dunham and Lester Horton.
  • Alvin Ailey choreographed his signature solo, Cry, as a birthday present for his dignified mother.
  • Ailey’s Revelations was inspired by his experience growing up in the South and focus on his black cultural identity.
  • In 1972, Alvin Ailey received an honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts degree from Princeton University.
  • Ailey choreographed around 80 ballets.
  • Alvin Ailey Dance Theater has performed for more than 20 million people around the world.
  • The Alvin Ailey Dance Theater performed at the White House in 1968 for President Johnson.
  • He preferred to be known as a choreographer, but some called him the “black choreographer” which he didn’t like.
  • Ailey suffered from bipolar disorder.
  • Ailey formed a nightclub act called “Al and Rita” with Maya Angelou while living in San Francisco.

Key Facts about Civil Rights Activist and Leader, Ella Baker

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Ella Baker was known for her work as a civil rights activist and leader. She worked alongside many important leaders of the Civil Rights movement. Ms. Baker was influential in organizations such as the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and the NAACP.

Key Facts & Information

Early Life

1.      Baker was born on December 13, 1903, in Norfolk, Virginia but was raised in North Carolina.

2.       She showed interest in social justice at an early age due to stories of her grandmother’s life as a slave.

3.       She attended Shaw University in Raleigh, North Carolina, and challenged many unfair policies at the school. Then graduated in 1927 as the class valedictorian.

library of Congress

4.       After leaving Shaw University, she moved to New York City and joined several social activist organizations.

5.       She worked as an editorial assistant for a newspaper, Negro National News.

6.       Baker also worked for the Works Progress Administration and became heavily interested in the culture of the Harlem Renaissance.

7.       Ms. Baker married her college sweetheart while in New York, but rarely discussed her private life. They divorced in 1958 after 21 years.

Career

1.       In 1940 she began working with the NAACP as a field secretary and director of branches.

2.       She helped start the organization, In Friendship, to help civil rights organizations with financial hardships.

3.       She moved to Atlanta to work with Martin Luther King Jr. and helped organize the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. Ms. Baker also ran a successful voter registration campaign

4.       Ella Baker believed the younger generation was important to the Civil Rights movement. She organized a meeting at Shaw University to help students from North Carolina A&T University. The students had started the Greensboro sit-ins in protest of being denied service at lunch counters. From that meeting, the (SNCC) Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee was born.

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Legacy & Honors

1.       SNCC became one of the largest human rights organizations in the country.

2.       The Ella Baker Center for Human Rights was founded in 1996 by Van Jones and Diana Frappier.

3.       Ella Baker left a great example for grass-roots organizing and behind-the-scenes work of the civil rights movement.

4.       Ms. Baker went by the nickname “Fundi,” a Swahili word for which means a person who passes down their knowledge and skills to the next generation.

Ella Baker returned to New York where she continued working as an activist. She died at 83 years old and has since been recognized as the backbone of the Civil Rights Movement.

Recommended reading for Kids

Episode 54: The Black Woman who invented Rock n’ Roll Sister Rosetta Tharpe

Podcast

Podcast Notes

Sister Rosetta Tharpe is the topic of this podcast today.

Hey everybody, welcome to Tellers of the Untold I’m Vanessa, your host. And you know what we’re gonna do a little bit different. I’m thinking about a little bit of a different theme for these podcasts. And you know, this is March for women’s month and so of course, we’re gonna highlight black women, women of color. And what I’m doing is there’s a blog on my website for there are tons of blogs on my website. I will hope you guys check it out at tellers untold calm. But I’m gonna I kind of went through one of the blogs. So for those of you guys that you know, can’t get to the computer or can’t read, forgetting because of your site or anything like that, I’m going to kind of paraphrase and I kind of read a little bit of that blog to tell you about Sister Rosetta THARPE. Do you know do Do you know who she is? If you do Raise your hand. Now I can’t even see you. But Sister Rosetta is Rosetta Tharpe. She’s an interesting lady. Very interesting. Sister Rosetta Tharpe was the inventor of rock and roll. Did you know a black woman invented rock and roll a woman and she’s black. Not only move in and rock and roll, but she played a guitar. She played a guitar and was known for her brilliant style of guitar playing. And then she was so influential in the Gospel Music realm. So here’s a little bit on it a little bit, but here’s about 10 minutes on who Rosetta Thorpe is check out the website for more details to tellers on total calm. And I hope you guys enjoy it. Sister Rosetta Thorpe was the first to crossover successfully into mainstream popular music. She introduced the spiritual passion of gospel music into the secular world of rock and roll inspiring greats like Chuck Berry, Elvis Presley, Jerry Lewis, and even Little Richard. She was not only a songstress but an influential guitarist as well. credited with being the first to experiment with heavy distortions of the electric guitar. Her guitar playing techniques had a profound influence on the development of British blues such as Muddy Waters, Eric Clapton, and Keith Richards. She was born in a cotton plant in Arkansas in 1915. And at the age of six, her evangelical mother, Katie Bell took her to Chicago, where she joined the Church of God in Christ and the city Southside Rosetta later married a church of god preacher named Thomas Thorpe. So after a few years in Chicago, she left without her husband to New York City to pursue the music industry. So her connection to secular music in New York City she starts singing secular songs, her willingness to play, quote, God’s music and the Devil’s Den of nightclubs and music halls caused an uproar. Many but not everyone loved her sound, for up was loved by religious circles, who thought her music was the devil or evil and played the playing the guitar was a sin. But Tharpe pushed spiritual music into the mainstream and helped start the rise of the popular gospel known as pop gospel.

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She performed at venues such as the famous Cotton Club and the cafes society, where this is where the famous Duke Ellington recognized her. Thorpe was later asked to play on stage with Duke Ellington and Cab Calloway. And she toured across the country, but it was frowned upon for having white and black musicians to perform together. However, thorup did not let that stop her. So she performed with all white singing groups such as the jordanaires group. It was a 1938 that Sister Rosetta signed a record contract with Decca Records, and record the first gospel song in 1938. called Rock me. Her music became the first gospel music ever to top the billboard, quote, race charts, with later becoming known as r&b. She later sold talent and a 14 year old boy by the name of Little Richard Penniman, so she put him on stage and he decided that night to become a performer. She saw marine night perform at a Mahalia Jackson concert in New York City in 1946 thorup recognizing a new talent, and good night, so the therapist suggested they tore together. They did the gospel circuit for several years, and during which they record hits such as up around my head and precious memories. So Knight and thorup are so talented with their instrument playing skills, and they were only headliners. This tour was legendary, and because of it being unheard to have two women touring together alone with no men, it helped to boost her pioneer status, and she was doing what was unheard of, and looked down upon. But the tour was a huge success. So later, thorup returned to her gospel roots and performed in packed churches and theaters around the United States and in Europe. She became one of America’s most distinctive recording artists on radio and television during the 1940s, the 1940s 1950s and the 1960s 60s. Her contributions are a long list. Here are seven contributions that she’s made. Number one, Johnny Cash said during the 1992 Hall of Fame induction ceremony that she was his favorite singer growing up. Oh, Richie called her his greatest influence. And Chuck Berry said that his entire career was just quote, one long Rosetta throat impersonation, and then December 2017, thrupp, was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for her contributions. Number two, up was also known as the Forgotten mother because she wasn’t recognized for her contributions, maybe because she was black, or perhaps because of her bisexual ism. Number three, almost 15 years later, in July 15 1998, the United States Postal Service

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issued a 32 cent stamp and her honor. Number four thorpes 1944 release down by the riverside was selected for the National Recording Registry of the US Library of Congress in 2004. Number five governor Edward G. Grendel was proclaimed January 11 2008 as Sister Rosetta Tharpe day in the state of Pennsylvania. Number six in 2011. BBC aired a one hour documentary, entitled Sister Rosetta zetta throb, the godmother of rock and roll Written and directed by a UK film writer number seven and last but not least, and 2013. The film was shown in the US as part of the PBS series American Masters. I hope you enjoyed learning about the inventor of rock and roll Sister Rosetta

Bass Reeves: Key Facts about the legendary lawmen of the Wild West

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Bass Reeves was the first Black Deputy U.S. Marshal west of the Mississippi River. Reeves was one of the greatest American frontier heroes and legendary lawmen of the Wild West.

“Maybe the law ain’t perfect, but it’s the only one we got, and without it we got nuthin”

— Bass Reeves

Key Facts & Information

Early Life

1.       Bass Reeves was born a slave in 1838 in Crawford County, Arkansas.

2.       He took the name of his owner, William Reeves, a farmer and politician.

3.       He worked as a water boy alongside his parents until he was old enough to work in the slave fields.

U.S. Marshal Bass Reeves 1907

4.       In 1846 William Reeves moved to Paris, Texas located in Grayson County.

5.       It is unclear, but he reportedly served under George Reeves, William Reeve’s son, in the Confederate Army.

6.        Bass Reeves’s family claimed that Bass and George got into a fight over a card game and Bass Reeves escaped to Indian Territory.

7.       He was freed by the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 and left Indian Territory and bought land near Van Buren, Arkansas. He became a successful farmer and Rancher.

8.       In 1864 he married Nellie Jennie and they had 10 children, five girls, and five boys.

9.       After the Civil War, he also served as a guide to U.S. government officials who wanted to travel through the Indian Territory

Career

1.       In 1875 he was commissioned to be a deputy U.S. marshal by a judge from the Western District of Arkansas. He was responsible for catching criminals within the Oklahoma region.

2.       Reeves was known for his courage and captured more than 3,000 criminals. One of the criminals was his own son whom he captured for shooting and killing his own wife.

3.       Reeves was said to always give criminals a chance to turn themselves in before using his firearm.

4.       He caught several major criminals such as the infamous horse thief, Jim Webb, from a quarter-mile away after being on the run for two years.

5.       He also tracked down and captured the notorious Bob Dozier was a very skillful and successful criminal. According to Reeves’s daughter, Alice Reeves Spahn, capturing Bob Dozier was the highlight of his career.

6.       Due to Jim Crow, in 1907 after Oklahoma became a state, he joined the Muskogee Police Department.

7. Reeves was arrested and charged with murdering a posse cook in 1887. Judge Isaac Parker, the same judge in which many outlaws tried his case. Reeve’s friend and colleague, United States Attorney W.H.H. Clayton, represented him; in the end, Reeves was acquitted.

8. In 1890, Reeves arrested a notorious Seminole outlaw named Greenleaf. He had been on the run for 19 years and was accused of murdering seven people. The same year, Reeves went after the famous Cherokee outlaw Ned Christie. Reeves and his posse burned Christie’s cabin, but he escaped.

Legacy & Honors

Oath of Deputy Marshal for Bass Reeves.


1.       In 2012, a large monument was dedicated in his honor at Ross Pendergraft Park in Fort Smith.

2.       He is respected as one of the most accomplished lawmen of his time.

3.       Bass Reeves died in 1910 of kidney disease.

4.       Paul Brady, Bass Reeves nephew, became the first Black appointed federal administrative law judge

5.       It is believed that the famous TV show, The Lone Ranger, was inspired and based on the stories of Reeves’s life as a lawman.

Read More About Bass Reeves