African American History

is American History

Thoughts & Updates

African American History is American History – Thoughts & Updates,  will feature monthly historical articles on African American historical figures, life, and culture. Also, from time to time I will talk about aspects of the writing we are receiving or discuss other related matters.

Updates are the weekly reports to sponsors on the progress of the book they are supporting. Reports will be posted sometime during the weekend, so please check each Monday for the weekly update. If there is nothing to report, I’ll report that.






Premieres Saturday, February 13, 2021 – 7 PM,
Streaming ends, Monday, February 15 @ midnight

Free admission, donations welcome.


When the Chickens Came Home to Roost – Laurence Holder



From Frank Rich’s NYT July 15, 1981 Review:


The play is set in [Elijah] Muhammad’s office,

the headquarters of the Black Muslim movement,

in the early 1960’s. Mr. Holder wishes to limn the disintegration of

one of the most important relationships in American history.

(Denzel Washington played Malcolm X in this original production.)

Featuring Allie Woods & Lawrence Winslow

Premieres Saturday, February 13, 2021 – 7 PM,
Streaming ends, Monday, February 15 @ midnight

Free admission, donations welcome.


From Project1619

Members of Project 1619 such as Calvin Pearson, Founder, and Dr. Bill Wiggins have been teaching and educating people about the true history of Virginia’s first Africans since as early as 1973. There is an ongoing discussion in Virginia as to whether the first Africans who were brought here in 1619 were slaves or indentured.

In the early 1600’s, English Settlers arrived in Virginia as indentured servants. They typically had contracts that required them to work for seven years before gaining their freedom.

In 1619, the first Africans who were captured from Angola were taken to Point Comfort, today’s Fort Monroe in Hampton, Virginia. They were sold for food. Slavery was not legal in the colony when they arrived and would not become legal until 1661. So how were the first 20 and Odd Africans treated?

They were treated as indentured servants, but without a written contract. Because they did not have a contract, they were at the mercy of their plantation owners. Most of the first Africans had to work 15-20 years before their freedom was granted.

Once their freedom was granted, they were able to start their own homesteads, marry white and Native Americans, purchase the freedom of their family relatives, own land, and enjoy the fruits of freedom.

The first 40 years in Virginia was not typical of the next 200 years when slavery became legal. Slavery is a stain on America’s soul, but let’s not denigrate the legacy of Africans in America by calling them all slaves. Today the descendants of those first Africans are proud of their heritage.

Let’s promote 400 years of achievement. We built this country.








Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey left Baltimore Md. on September 3, 1838, by train disguised as a sailor with a friend’s sailor’s protection pass to prove to the conductor he was a free man. Because the conductor did not look closely at the physical description on the pass, Frederick was safe. As he traveled by ferry and train he narrowly missed being recognized several times.


Once he made it to New York, abolitionists hid him from slave catchers until his spouse-to-be, Anna Murray, a free woman, could join him. After their marriage, they left for New Bedford, Massachusetts where they settled. It was here that Frederick Douglass named himself and started his abolitionist newspaper, The North Star. The newspaper’s motto summed up his philosophy: “Right is of no Sex – Truth is of no Color – God is the Father of us all, and we are all brethren.”


Throughout his life, Frederick Douglass was an orator and statesman who traveled the country giving speeches. Even on the last day of his life he was leaving his house in Washington D. C. to give a speech when he collapsed. Recorder of Deeds, Ambassador to Haiti, and advisor to presidents he was a public figure. Douglass was the most photographed person of the 19th century. He did not pose for the camera more than 160 times out of vanity, but to show the world the innate dignity of African Americans. His insightful analysis of America’s racial and political quagmire in his editorials and speeches prove his relevance not only to the 19th century, but to the 21st century as well.



James Earl Jones dramatizes an excerpt from “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?”

Delivered on July 5, 1852, to the Rochester Ladies’ Anti-Slavery Association.   (4 min. 48 sec.)


“Teaching American History” Entire Text of “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?” (Reading time: Approx: 52 min.)





 PAULI MURRAY (1910-1985)








Did you know that Pauli Murray, lawyer, writer, and first African American female Episcopal priest, born in Baltimore, Maryland,

was one of the 28 founders in 1966, along with Betty Friedan, of the National Organization for Women (NOW)?

On October 13, 1965, the New York Times reported her speech to the National Council of Women calling both for a march on Washington to defeat “Jane Crow” and for the creation of a NAACP for women. This speech was one of the sparks that lit the flame for the creation of NOW.

Pauli Murray contributed foundational legal research both for women’s rights and civil rights legislation. The importance of her feminist research is highlighted in Ruth Bader Ginsburg: A Life by Jane Sherron De Hart. Thurgood Marshall credits her meticulous factfinding for the successful litigation of Brown v. Board of Education, which resulted in the law calling for the desegregation of public schools in 1954.

In 2016, Yale University–Murray earned a doctorate in jurisprudence from the Yale Law School–named a residential college after Pauli Murray. She was the first woman and person of color to be so honored.

Finally, on the personal side, Murray considered herself a man trapped in a woman’s body. She changed her name from Pauline to Pauli to reflect this belief.

For an overview of her  accomplishment-filled life, please read this New Yorker article:

https://www.newyorker .com/magazine/2017/04/17/the-many-lives-of-pauli-murray



Mary Beatrice Davidson Kenner (1912- 2006)



Mary Beatrice Davidson Kenner, born in Monroe, North Carolina, filed five patents for her inventions, more than any other African American woman in history. Kenner’s sister, father, and grandfather were also inventors.

 Kenner had a practical bent: solve everyday problems for everyday people. Her first invention in 1957 was the disposable sanitary napkin.


It’s hard to believe, but at this late date, women were still dealing with their menstrual periods by folding towels and clean rags into pads to protect their clothing.


A company interested in making and promoting her version, which included an adjustable belt and a napkin to absorb moisture, sent a representative to discuss a business partnership. When the man saw a black woman standing in front of him, the deal was off. It was several years before a disposable sanitary napkin was put on the market.


Despite this setback, Kenner continued inventing while working full time as a florist. Her inventions include: a walker for people with mobility issues that included a tray and a pocket for carrying items, a shower attachment that made it possible to easily wash one’s back, and a toilet holder that made the end of the roll accessible.



 Forgotten Women: The Scientists by Zing Tsjeng

This book is one in a series that discusses forgotten women in a range of fields. The book includes 48 women.

I could not find a public domain picture, but click on the link below to see Kenner’s picture on Wikipedia.







”In every crisis there is a message. Crises are nature’s way of forcing change — breaking down old structures,

shaking loose negative habits so that something new and better can take their place.”

Susan L. Taylor (1946)

Editor, writer, journalist, public speaker, and Editor-in-Chief of Essence 1981-2000.



“Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.”

James Baldwin (1924-1987)

Writer, activist, educator, and philosopher.



It’s good to remember that in crises, natural crises, human beings forget for awhile their ignorances,

their biases, their prejudices. For a little while, neighbors help neighbors and strangers help strangers.

Maya Angelou (1928-2014)

Writer, activist, educator, actress, singer, dancer, and director.



“Whatever may be the tensions and the stresses of a particular day,

there is always lurking close at hand the trailing beauty of forgotten joy or unremembered peace.”

Howard Thurman (1899-1981)   Meditations of the Heart

 In 1944 co-founded first US interracial, interfaith church, San Francisco’s Fellowship Church. Baptist preacher, theologian, and philosopher,





HOWARD THURMAN (1899? 1900? – 1981)

 Couldn’t get the picture to copy here

 but here’s a link:



Sources: Online Encyclopedia Britannica Article

Written By Matt Stefon, Fellowship Church website

The View from this Seat – Leroy Seat.


HOWARD THURMAN (1899? 1900? – 1981)


Howard Thurman, grandson of enslaved people, was born in 1899 or 1900 in Daytona Beach, Florida. Although little known outside of theological circles, this Baptist preacher and theological scholar, who was the first African American chapel dean at Boston University, broke completely new ground in America’s spiritual life. In 1944, along with Dr. Alfred Fisk, he co-founded the first multiracial, interfaith, now also intergender, church in the United States.


We’ve all heard Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s famous 1963 quote:”…At 11:00 on Sunday morning when we stand and sing ‘in Christ there is no east or west,’ we stand at the most segregated hour in this nation. This is tragic.


Although this is largely still true today, none of this would have been true at Fellowship Church in San Francisco in 1944.


Thurman’s spiritual grounding included meeting with Gandhi in India in 1934. He was also influenced by Rufus M. Jones, a Quaker theologian. This heady brew of spiritual insights combined with his Baptist roots to give him a unique spiritual view among his fellow Baptists.


When Dr. Alfred G. Fisk, a philosophy professor and Presbyterian clergyman at an interracial interfaith meeting of people concerned about the animosity among people of different races, ethnicities, and faiths asked Thurman to recommend someone to co-minister a new kind of church, Thurman decided he was that ‘someone.’  


Thurman took what was initially a temporary leave from his duties at Howard University as Dean of Chapel. Thus Thurman became the first co-minister, along with Fisk, of the Church for the Fellowship of All Peoples, Fellowship Church for short.


Thurman left the church in 1953 to become Dean of Marsh Chapel at Boston University when Dr. King attended. He became King’s mentor and spiritual advisor. Before King

was thrust into leadership in Montgomery, Alabama, many in the black theological world looked to Thurman to lead a modern civil rights movement. But Thurman protested that he was more comfortable meditating than strategizing.


As described on its website, please find the Fellowship Church’s mission below:

Our worship service is so designed to address itself to the deepest need and aspirations of the human spirit. In doing so, it does not seek to undermine whatever may be the religious context which gives meaning and richness to your particular life, but rather to deepen the authentic lines along which your quest for spiritual reality has led you.

Sunday gathering can be expressed in four major movements, which come together to create one seamless tapestry of worship.

The four movements are:

  1. Ingathering of Community
  2. Practicing the Presence
  3. Resting in the Presence
  4. Sending Forth


The church recently celebrated its Jubilee Anniversary with its mission still vibrant.


For more information about Thurman:


PBS Feb. 2019 Documentary “Backs to the Wall: The Howard Thurman Story.”


Thurman’s book about the church:


Footprints of a Dream: The Story of The Church for the Fellowship of All Peoples (reissued 2009)



Link to Fellowship Church website:






Elizabeth Jennings Graham (1826? 1827? – 1901)

         This picture would not copy here either.

Here is the link:




Lewis, D. (2013, November 04) Elizabeth Jennings Graham (?-1905). Retrieved from



Elizabeth Jennings Graham was born free in 1826 or 1827 in New York City to a middle class black family. Her father, Thomas Jennings, was a co-founder of New York Abyssinian Baptist Church, the first African American in the United States to hold a patent, and active in other social organizations which helped lift African Americans out of poverty. (Thomas Jennings will be profiled next month.) Graham graduated with a teaching degree in 1854 which enabled her to teach at the African Free School founded by Alexander Hamilton and John Jay. 


Later that same year, rushing with her friend to Abyssinian Baptist Church on July 16 (Ida B. Wells would be born on this date in 1862) to take up her post as church organist, she boarded the “white” trolley car, which was privately owned. With permission of the white passengers, blacks in New York City could ride on the “white” trolley car, but without it, they would have to wait for the dilapidated “black” trolley cars.


Since the white passengers refused permission, Graham and her friend were ordered off the bus. Graham’s friend disembarked, but Graham refused. When the conductor could not remove her himself, he enlisted the assistance of a white police officer. Thrown off the trolley car, Graham suffered minor bruises.


Graham wrote a letter of protest that was published in the New York Tribune. The New York black community rallied around her. She even received support from San Francisco. Jennings, Graham’s father, took the case to court. The court ruled against the Third Avenue Railway Company and Graham was awarded $225. Despite the successful ruling, New York City trolleys were not completely desegregated for another 20 years. But the precedent had been set for other cases and Graham had taken a stand, or rather a seat, for equal transportation rights. Rosa Parks would have to continue the battle 101 years later.  



About the Internet Archive


The Internet Archive, a 501(c) (3) non-profit, is building a digital library of Internet sites and other cultural artifacts in digital form. Like a paper library, we provide free access to researchers, historians, scholars, the print disabled, and the general public. Our mission is to provide Universal Access to All Knowledge.

We began in 1996 by archiving the Internet itself, a medium that was just beginning to grow in use. Like newspapers, the content published on the web was ephemeral – but unlike newspapers, no one was saving it. Today we have 20+ years of web history accessible through the Wayback Machine and we work with 625+ library and other partners through our Archive-It program to identify important web pages.

As our web archive grew, so did our commitment to providing digital versions of other published works. Today our archive contains:


 The African American Literary Book Club

 Discover the joys of the 21st Century’s version of the 18th Century salon:

 AALBC is the oldest, largest, and most popular online bookstore dedicated to African American literature and Black Literature from around the world. We celebrate Black culture, through books, for ALL readers to enjoy. AALBC is: Books, Authors, Reviews, Events, Resources, Discussions, a Blog, Book Club, Articles, and Much More




The Culinary Art Portfolio of Josephine E. Jones

 The Culinary Art Portfolio of Josephine E. Jones, which I am working on now, will be published in April 2021. The superb photographs are by the late John Turner. If you have An Extraordinary Life: Josephine E. Jones, you have seen all the

pictures with the exception of one.


The book is neither a cookbook nor a how-to book. It’s a large format (12” x 9”) portfolio of my mother’s culinary art which includes ready-to-frame printsthe photographs are perforated for easy removal–a discussion of the ingredients used, the processes used, and anecdotes that relate to each print.


I am helium-balloon-on-the-ceiling euphoric.


Once again I have excellent people working with me: illustrator Natalie Marino, negative scanner Denise DeVone, developmental editor Denise Lewis Patrick, copy editor Frank Steele, and printer Nextwave Web. If there is anything wrong with the book, it’s all on me. 


I am about to do what I think is the last revision–draft 16–before sending it to the developmental editor. The cover is superb. You’ll have to take my word, because it has to stay under wraps until publication, kind of like a surprise party. But I am sure some of you have questions about the book itself.


Why are you doing another book featuring your mother?


Two years ago I started doing black history programs at libraries. The first year I did a straight reading from the book with a Q & A period.


The second year, I wanted to do something different, so I started showing the slides of some of the culinary art. People were amazed. It was not evident from the reading that there were pictures in the book. Also, there was no way to describe what my mother did with food.


From the beginning, people who did know about the pictures have asked for a large format cookbook or a how to book featuring the culinary art. I agonized over this. But these weren’t recipe dishes, so it couldn’t be a cookbook. I knew what my mother did, but I did not know how she did it, so it couldn’t be a how to book. However, I knew that some people would be inspired to create their own culinary art by reading about the processes she used and would be uplifted by her philosophy of life.


You don’t have to have read the first book to enjoy the second book. I also wanted to increase the audience for the first book; I still have copies from the second printing. At the end, along with her portrait a  highlights page gives a summary of her life.


And on the business side, three years after publication, I am finally meeting people I don’t know who know about the book from my brief  “appearances” on the Brian Lehrer Show or my interview with David Rothenberg on WBAI.


It is so hard to get anyone’s attention with all the streaming services, social media, you tube videos, etc. unless you have a great deal of money and are willing to play the game the way it is structured now.


Many reviewers would not review the book because they couldn’t find it on “A” (I won’t waste my time typing their name– they sell everything and have bought everything, you know who I mean).


“A” decided on March 16 that books are not essential, so they will not sell any books on their site right now. Toilet paper and household items are more important. But my books are still for sale on this website. By the way, 50% of books are sold on “A.”




Here is the actual “A” email:


Hello from Amazon,


We are closely monitoring the developments of COVID-19 and its impact on our customers, selling partners, and employees.


We are seeing increased online shopping, and as a result products such as household staples and medical supplies are out of stock. With this in mind, we are temporarily prioritizing household staples, medical supplies, and other high demand products coming into our fulfillment centers so that we can more quickly receive, restock and deliver these products to customers.


Beginning today you will see:

  • Reduced Purchase Orders: We have temporarily paused ordering for products that are not household staples, medical supplies, or other high demand products.
  • Extended delivery windows for existing purchase orders: We have extended the shipment/delivery windows for some existing purchase orders to give you more time to fulfill the order. Please ship your products toward the end of the extended window.

This will be in effect today through April 5, 2020, and we will let you know once we resume regular operations.

We understand this is a change to your business, and we did not take this decision lightly. We are working around the clock to increase capacity, and on March 16 announced that we are opening 100,000 new full- and part-time positions in our fulfillment centers across the US.


We appreciate your understanding as we prioritize the above products for our customers.


Thank you for your patience,



Can’t you write about anything else?


          After this book, I will be publishing a children’s book in partnership with my wonderful illustrator, Natalie Marino. The book is already written; the text just needs one more revision (famous last words).  The illustrations need to be completed, along with the cover and the interior design. I received an idea for the cover from the universe a few days ago. It’s early yet, but I sketched it out and put it in the book’s file. The title may change, so I won’t discuss that yet.


Also, as I may have told you before, I spent two years in Columbia University’s MFA Writing Program on the fiction side creating short stories, an unproduced play, and a novel for graduation. Since then, I have revised what I wrote while there and have continued writing. I have a short story in rough form right now. So I have a backlog of work.


         In addition, if others will work with me—I don’t agree with some of the publishing advice given today—such as the necessity to be on “A”–I will be publishing other writers as a hybrid independent publisher. That’s a publisher who shares some of the production costs with the writer, but gives the writer more of the profits than with a traditional publisher. I won’t do this until I do all the research to be sure I know what I’m doing.


          Stay Well.




If you are homeschooling, biographies are an enjoyable way to get 3rd to 8th graders interested in African American History, Literature, Art, Music, Film, and Science. Sources are always included.  What follows is a brief biography for your budding inventor.



Thomas Jennings (1791-1856)


Thomas Jennings, a free African American born in New York in 1791, became the first black person to receive a patent on March 3, 1821 (U.S. 3306x), for the process of “dry scouring,” now known as dry cleaning. In 2015, Jennings was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame for inventing dry cleaning.


Jennings, a tailor who owned one of the most well known clothing shops in New York at the time, wanted to help his customers who had stains on their clothing that could not be removed with the methods then available. Experimenting with different chemicals on the fabrics used for attire, he eventually discovered a way to safely remove stains. Dry cleaning was his solution to the problem. He was thirty when he received his patent in 1821. 


What did Jennings do with his royalties?


He bought his family out of enslavement. Jennings had three children with his spouse, Elizabeth, one son and two daughters. One of his daughters was Elizabeth Jennings Graham, the Rosa Parks of 1855, who was profiled here last month.


In addition to being an inventor, Jennings was deeply involved in abolitionist activities and the civic life of African Americans.

He was assistant secretary for the First Annual Convention of the People of Color in Philadelphia, co-founder of the Abyssinian Baptist Church, and organizer of the Legal Rights Association. The Legal Rights Association, established the year before Jennings died, fought cases of racial discrimination in court, the organization sounds like a precursor to the Legal Division of the NAACP.

Thomas Jennings had a fruitful life; he was a businessman, an inventor, and an activist.


Sources:  By Mary Bellis




 Langston Hughes

   Well, son, I’ll tell you:
Life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.
It’s had tacks in it,
And splinters,
And boards torn up,
And places with no carpet on the floor—
But all the time
I’se been a-climbin’ on,
And reachin’ landin’s,
And turnin’ corners,
And sometimes goin’ in the dark
Where there ain’t been no light.
So boy, don’t you turn back.
Don’t you set down on the steps
’Cause you finds it’s kinder hard.
Don’t you fall now—
For I’se still goin’, honey,
I’se still climbin’,
And life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.

Homeschooling? Help your 3rd grade to 8th grade student follow her passion for science or medicine. Read about a woman whose aunt was her career role model. 

  Dr. Rebecca Lee Crumpler (1831-1895)

Dr. Rebecca Lee Crumpler was the first African American woman to receive a medical degree in 1864. Despite racial discrimination and gender bias, she had a successful career in medicine. In addition, in 1883, she also wrote one of the first medical books by an African American, Book of Medical Discourses in Two Parts.

 Born Rebecca Davis in Delaware on February 8, 1831, the daughter of Absolum Davis and Matilda Webber, she was raised by an aunt in Pennsylvania. Research has not revealed what happened to her parents.


 In order to nurture Rebecca’s obvious intelligence, her aunt sent her, on scholarship, to a private school, the West-Newton English and Classical School in Massachusetts.

 Sometime in 1852 she married Wyatt Lee. Rebecca’s aunt tended to the sick in her community. Growing up with this role model, her niece decided she wanted to be of service to African Americans in the same way.

 The first step in Rebecca’s medical career was becoming a nurse in Charleston, Massachusetts, the same year she married. Since no nursing schools were established until 1873, she learned her nursing skills by working with various doctors, similar to an apprenticeship.

How was she able to go on to medical school in 1860?

 She answers this question in the introduction to her medical book, Book of Medical Discourses in Two Parts:

 “From these doctors, [the doctors she had worked with as a nurse] I received letters commending me to the faculty of the New England Female Medical College, whence, four years afterward, I received the degree of doctress of medicine.

 The prejudice against black doctors and female doctors of all races, made Dr. Lee’s achievement in becoming the first black female doctor especially laudable. When she entered the medical college in 1860 there were 54,543 doctors in the United States, only 300 of them were women. None of them were African American. Even well into the twentieth century—1920–there were only 65 African American female doctors. 


 She was widowed the year before her graduation when her spouse, Wyatt Lee, died. In 1864, she graduated from the New England Female Medical College with a specialty in the care of women and children.

 In the tradition of many both before and since, Dr. Lee’s graduation was followed shortly after by a wedding. She married her second spouse, Arthur Crumpler. Born in South Hampton County, Virginia, in 1834 or 1835, Arthur, a skilled blacksmith, had escaped enslavement in 1861. Dr. Lee was now Dr. Crumpler.

Dr. Crumpler spent only a short time in Boston before moving to Richmond, Virginia, in 1865 after the Civil War ended. She joined the Freedmen’s Bureau, missionaries, community groups, and other black physicians in caring for the medical needs of the over four million newly freed African Americans.

 Although she had to endure the hostility, rudeness, and racism of her fellow doctors and others, Dr. Crumpler was still able to treat many in the population of over 30,000 freedmen and women needing care.

 In 1869 Dr. Crumpler returned to Boston to set up a private practice in her home on Joy street in Beacon Hill, which was a mostly black neighborhood,  to give medical care to children as she says:…regardless, in a measure, of remuneration.  In other words, she treated those who needed medical care whether they could pay or not. Arthur found work as a porter for several stores in Boston. 

 By 1880, Dr. Crumpler was no longer practicing medicine and had moved to Hyde Park, Massachusetts. It was here that she wrote Book of Medical Discourses in Two Parts, which was published in 1883. Dr. Rebecca Lee Crumpler died on March 9, 1895. Three years after Dr. Crumpler’s death, Arthur went to night school in his 60’s to learn how to read, write, and do calculations. His one-room apartment overflowed with books and a Bible which held the place of honor. Arthur died in 1910. Dr. Crumpler and her spouse are buried in unmarked graves in Hyde Park in Boston.

According to the February 20, 2020, edition of  MedPageToday, two nonprofits, the Friends of Hyde Park Library and the Hyde Park Historical Society, are raising funds to erect gravestones for both Dr. Crumpler and Arthur Crumpler.  Donations can be made via PayPal through the Friends of Hyde Park Library website.


Dr. Crumpler overcame racism and sexism to emulate her aunt by realizing her childhood dream of helping “to mitigate the afflictions of the human race.”






 One of our sponsors sent us this wonderful news about Ida B. Wells.


 Here is the link to the Equal Justice Initiative:
























































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