Thoughts & Updates
In Thoughts, I will, from time to time, talk about aspects of the writing we are receiving or discuss other related matters. In addition, this page will also feature monthly historical articles on African American historical figures, life, and culture.
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.
AFRICANS LANDING | AUGUST 1619 – AUGUST 2019 | 400 YEARS IN NORTH AMERICA
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 DOUGLASS (1817-1895)
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 feminst 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:
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.