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WHO IS J.A ROGERS

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J.A. Rogers

by John Henrik Clarke

Joel Augustus Rogers researched, wrote, and published more than ten volumes on the Black man in world history at his own expense because he could not find a reputable publishing house willing to print his material. Twenty-two of the years Rogers spent traveling as a leading Black newspaper correspondent from 1917-1966 were also devoted to researching Black history in six languages and sixty countries.[1]

J.A. Rogers and his work is practically unknown on the island of Jamaica, the land of his birth. Like so many other competent Caribbean intellects whose career flowered in the United States, he is considered to be part of the radical Black intelligentsia that began to emerge early in the 20th century and whose work and activity brought into being the period referred to as the Harlem Renaissance, 1920-1930. This was a period of proclaiming “Black is Beautiful” more than a generation before the emergence of the Civil Rights Movement. It was also a period of African consciousness and a Pan-African effort to show that Africans living in various parts of the world shared the same common historical origins and the same problems with oppressors.

Joel Augustus Rogers researched, wrote, and published more than ten volumes on the Black man in world history at his own expense because he could not find a reputable publishing house willing to proint his material. Twenty-two of the years Rogers spent traveling as a leading Back newspaper correspondent form 1917-1966 were also devoted to researching Black history in six languages and in sixty countries.

Most of the total life of J.A. Rogers was spent in extensive research in order to show that the African personality not only made history but to some extent determined the direction of history. In many ways, J.A. Rogers called to our attention the neglected fact that for most of the years African people have been on this earth, they have been free of foreign rule and foreign domination. This was his mission. It is also the essence of the legacy that he left for African people everywhere.

J.A. Rogers devoted at least 50 years of his life to research about great African personalities and the role that they have played in the development of nations, civilizations and cultures. His two-volume work, World’s Great Men of Color, is singularly his greatest achievement. In his lifetime his books did not reach a large popular reading audience. All of them were privately printed and circulated mainly in the Black communities. He died, unfortunately, on the eve of the “Black Studies Revolution.” Mr. Rogers had already delivered what some of the radical Black students were demanding. He had looked at the history of people of African origin, and he had shown how their history relates to the history of mankind.

A number of books have validated the early claims of J.A. Rogers, who started his research at a time when a large number of African people had some doubts about their contribution to human history. In books like Blacks in Antiquity by Frank M. Snowden, Jr. (1970), The African Genius, by Basil Davidson, The Pre-history of Africa, by J. Desmond Clark (1970), Topics in West African History, by A. Adu Boahen (1967), Introduction To African Civilizations, by John G. Jackson (1970), and Great Civilizations of Ancient Africa, by Lester Brooks (1971), these doubts are put to rest.
In a recent paper by Professor Keith E. Baird, attention is called to how and why Africa was lost from the respectful commentary of history:

Until quite recently it was rather generally assumed, even among well-educated persons in the West, that the continent of Africa was a great expanse of land, mostly jungle, inhabited by savages and fierce beasts. It was unthought of that great civilizations could have been born on this continent where monarchs ruled with might and wisdom over vast empires. It is true that there were some notions current about the cultural achievements of Egypt, but Egypt was conceived of as a European land rather than a country of Africa. Even if a look at an atlas or globe showed Egypt to be in Africa, then popular thought immediately saw in the Sahara desert a formidable barrier and a convenient division of Africa into two parts: one, north of the Sahara, was inhabited by a European-like people of high culture and noble history; the other, south of the Sahara was inhabited by a dark-skinned people who had no culture, and were incapable of having done anything in their dark and distant past that could be dignified by the designation of “history.” Such ideas, of course, are far from the truth, as we shall see. But it is not difficult to understand why they persisted, and, unfortunately, still persist in one form or another in the popular mind.

The critics of Africa forget that men of science today are, with few exceptions, satisfied that Africa was the birthplace of man himself, and that for many hundreds of centuries thereafter, Africa was in the forefront of all world progress.

Europeans have long been in contact with Africa, that is, North Africa. The names of Aesop and Memnon of Terance and Cleopatra are the names of Africans who have figured in the legend and literature, the arts and history of Greece and Rome. Indeed, the land of Africa was a land of wonders for the ancient Greeks and Romans, and this to such an extent that among them it was a proverb that out of Africa there is always something new. The concept of “darkest Africa” refers to the comparative ignorance of Europeans regarding that continent and its peoples over the last four centuries. An English writer, Jonathan Swift, made a sharp but witty comment on his fellow Europeans’ lack of knowledge of Africa when he wrote:

Geographers in Africa maps
With savage pictures fill their gaps
And o’er uninhabitable downs
Paint elephants instead of towns.

There is another reason why the people of Africa, with the notable exclusion of Egypt, were depicted as uncivilized and lacking in cultural attainments. A number of pious people in Europe would have been struck with horror if they knew of the cruel and bloody acts of their countrymen in the course of the inhuman slave trade. Ruthless European adventurers promoted the hunting down of men, women and children like beasts, and the destruction of complete villages in order to capture the inhabitants and sell them like cattle. Therefore, slave-traders would invent fantastic tales of savagery about the Africans so that their capture and their transportation to labor on the plantations of the Americans would appear to be acts of Christian concern and high minded enlightenment.

In the books of J.A. Rogers an attempt has been made to locate Africa’s proper place on the maps of human geography. That is what his life and research was about.

The distinguished African-American poet, Countee Cullen, began his poem “Heritage” with the question “What is Africa To Me?” Rogers’ book extends the question by asking “What is Africa to the Africans?” and “What is Africa to the World?” His books also answer those questions.

In the monograph on “The Significance of African History” the Caribbean-American writer, Richard B. Moore, observed:

“The significance of African history is shown, though not overtly, in the very effort to deny anything worthy of the name of history to Africa and the African peoples. This widespread, and well-nigh successful endeavor, maintained through some five centuries, to erase African history from the general record, is a fact which of itself should be quite conclusive to thinking and open minds. For it is logical and apparent that no such undertaking would ever have been carried on, and at such length, in order to obscure and to bury what is actually of little or no significance.

The prime significance of African history becomes still more manifest when it is realized that this deliberate denial of African history arose out of the European expansion and invasion of Africa which began in the middle of the 15th century. The compulsion was thereby felt to attempt to justify such colonialist conquest, domination, enslavement, and plunder. Hence, this brash denial of history and culture to Africa, and indeed, even of human qualities and capacity for ‘civilization’ to the indigenous people of Africa.”

According to all of the evidence we now have, we now know that mankind started in Africa. In his study, The Progress and Evolution of Man in Africa, Dr. L.S.B. Leakey states that: “In every country that one visits and where one is drawn into a conversation about Africa, the question is regularly asked, by people who should know better: ‘But what has Africa contributed to world progress?’ The critics of Africa forget that men of science today are, with few exceptions, satisfied that Africa was the birthplace of man himself, and that for many hundreds of centuries thereafter, Africa was in the forefront of all world progress.”

The southern origins in North African civilizations have been established; here, I am only alluding to some of the proof. In his book, Egypt, Sir E.A. Wallis Budge says: “The prehistoric native of Egypt, both in the old and in the new Stone Ages, was an African, and there is every reason for saying that the earliest settlers came from the South.”

There are many things in the manners and customs and religions of the historic Egyptians that suggest that the original home of their prehistoric ancestors was in a country in the neighborhood of Uganda and Punt. (The biblical land of Punt was in the area now known as Somalia.) The civilization of Egypt lasted longer than any other civilization known to man-about 10,000 years. This civilization reached its height and was in decline before Europe was born.

In Section One of his book, World’s Great Men of Color, Mr. Rogers calls attention to the great personalities in Africa, before the birth of Christ, who influenced early Europe and all the known world of their day. In Section Two he writes about a little-known aspect of history, that has only recently come under investigation by a few scholars, that is, the impact of the African personality on Asia. In Section Three the biographies range from the emperors of Ethiopia’s last Golden Age to leaders of the resistance movements against the Europeans in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

Until near the end of the 19th century the African freedom struggle was a military struggle. This aspect of African history has been shamefully neglected. I do not believe the neglect is an accident. Africa’s oppressors and Western historians are not ready to concede the fact that Africa has a fighting heritage. The Africans did fight back and they fought exceptional well. This fight extended throughout the whole of the 19th century. This fight was led, in most cases, by African kings. The Europeans referred to them as chiefs in order to avoid equating them with European kings. They were kings in the truest sense of the word. Most of them could trace their lineage back for more than a thousand years. These revolutionary nationalist African kings are mostly unknown because the white interpreters of Africa still want the world to think that the African waited in darkness for other people to bring the light.

The land of Africa was a land of wonders for the ancient Greeks and Romans…it was a proverb that “out of Africa there is always something new.”

In Volume 11 of his main work, World’s Great Men of Color, J.A. Rogers’ life-long research into the role that personalities of African descent have played in the development of world history. In this field of biographical research he journeyed further and accomplished more than any other writer before his time. He was particularly astute in looking at the neglected aspect of history. In this volume his main areas of concentration are Europe, South and Central America, the West Indies and the United States. Except for Europe, the personalities whose lives are revealed in this book had an impact on the geographical area that is referred to as the “New World.”

In Part One, which deals with the great Black personalities who influenced Europe, Mr. Rogers calls attention to the fact that Europe did not emerge in the years before and after the establishment of Christianity independent of itself. A large number of personalities whose ethnic origin was outside of Europe made contributions to European history and culture. Some of the most illustrious of these personalities were Black or people of mixed African and European ancestry. The continuity of this influence is shown in Part Two that deals with “South and Central America.”

In the short years since the death of J.A. Rogers in 1966, there has been a revolution in new research and scholarship relating to these still developing areas of this hemisphere. Some of the old research, long ignored, has been reconsidered. New scholars, Black and White, have emerged with a broader view of the interplay of people and cultures in the making of the so-called “New World” before and after the appearance of the Europeans. There is in this new scholarship a reoccurring fact that western academicians have been ignoring, or denying for years. This fact relates to the evidence of the pre-Columbian presence of African people in South and Central America, and in the United States.

In Parts Three and Four of his book, Mr. Rogers shows that Africans were far from being passive about their plight in the West Indies and in the colonies that became the United States. The slave systems and the attitude to support them was slow in getting under way. In the meantime, the Africans were a part of other developments. Nearly all of the personalities in this book were involved in a struggle against several of the many forms of racism. There is no way to completely understand the impact of the African personality on the Western world without understanding this fact. There is also a need to understand racism itself as an evolving issue in Western social thought.

There is now an international struggle on the part of people of African descent against racism and for a more honest look at their history. On university campuses and in international conferences, they are demanding that their history be looked at from a Black perspective or from an African-centric point of view. This has taken the struggle against racism to the world’s campuses, where the theoretical basis of racism started. This has helped to create new battle lines and a lot of fear and frustration on the part of White scholars who still do not recognize that removing the racism that they created is the healthiest thing that present-day Black scholarship can contribute to the world; that in the cry for Black History, Black people are saying a very powerful, complex, yet simple thing: “I am a man.” The struggle against racism all along has been a struggle to regain the essential manhood lost after European expansion into the broader world and their attempt to justify the slave trade. This struggle has brought us to where we are now. From our present position Black people will go onto another stage, much higher and more meaningful for mankind. By reclaiming their own humanity, I think they will make a contribution toward the reclamation of the humanity of all mankind.

In many ways this is what his book is all about, and this is what the life and research of J.A. Rogers was about. In more than forty-five years of travel and research, which spanned two generations, he, more than any other writer of his time, attempted to affirm the humanity of the African personality, and to reveal the role that African people have played in the development of human history. This was singularly the major mission of his life; it was also the legacy that he left to his people and to the world.

1Abstract, THESIS, “Joel Augustus Rogers: Popularizer of Black History,” by Lawrence Watson, 1978, Cornell University, (in pursuit of a Masters Degree in African and African-American Studies) c. January, 1978. 



BENJAMIN BANNEKER’S LETTER

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BENJAMIN BANNEKER

Letter Referred to in the Foregoing Memoir.
Maryland Baltimore County, Near Ellicotts’ Lower Mills, August 19th, 1791

Thomas Jefferson, Secretary of State.

Sir: I am fully sensible of the greatness of that freedom, which I take with you on the present occasion, a liberty which seemed to me scarcely allowable, when I reflected on that distinguished and dignified station in which you stand, and the almost general prejudice and prepossession which is so prevalent in the world against those of my complexion.

I suppose it is a truth too well attested to you, to need a proof here, that we are a race of beings who have long laboured under the abuse and censure of the world, that we have long been considered rather as brutish than human, and scarcely capable of mental endowments.

Sir, I hope I may safely admit, in consequence of that report which hath reached me, that you are a man far less inflexible in sentiments of this nature than many others, that you are measureably friendly and well disposed towards us, and that you are ready and willing to lend your aid and assistance to our relief, from those many distressed and numerous calamities, to which we are reduced.

Now, sir, if this is founded in truth, I apprehend you will readily embrace every opportunity to eradicate that train of absurd and false ideas and opinions, which so generally prevails with respect to us, and that your sentiments are concurrent with mine, which are that one universal father hath given being to us all, and that he hath not only made us all of one flesh, but that he hath also without partiality afforded us all the same sensations, and endued us all with the same faculties, and that however variable we may be in society or religion, however diversified in situation or colour, we are all of the same family, and stand in the same relation to him.

Sir, if these are sentiments of which you are fully persuaded, I hope you cannot but acknowledge, that it is the indispensable duty of those who maintain for themselves the rights of human nature, and who progress the obligations of christianity, to extend their power and influence to the relief of every part of the human race, from whatever burthen or oppression they may unjustly labour under, and thus apprehend a full conviction of the truth and obligation of these principles should lead all to.

Sir, I have long been convinced, that if your love for yourselves and for those inestimable laws, which preserve to you the rights of human nature was founded on sincerity, you could not but be solicitous that every individual of whatever rank or distinction, might with you equally enjoy the blessings thereof, neither could you rest satisfied, short of the most active diffusion of your exertions, in order, to their promotion from any state of degradation, to which the unjustifiable cruelty and barbarism of men may have reduced them.

Sir, I freely and cheerfully acknowledge that I am of the African race and in that colour which is natural to them of the deepest dye, and it is under a sense of the most profound gratitude to the supreme ruler of the Universe, that I now confess to you, that I am not under that state of tyrannical thraldom, and inhuman captivity, to which too many of my brethren are doomed, but that I have abundantly tasted of the fruition of those blessings, which proceed from that free and unequalled liberty, with which you are favored, and which, I hope you will willingly allow, you have received from the immediate hand of that being, from whom proceedeth every good and perfect gift.

Sir, suffer me to recall to your mind that time in which the arms and tyranny of the British crown were exerted with every powerful effort in order to reduce you to a state of servitude; look back, I entreat you, on the variety of dangers to which you were exposed; reflect on that time in which every human aid appeared unavailable, and in which even hope and fortitude wore the aspect of inability to the conflict, and you cannot but be led to a serious and grateful sense of your miraculous and providential preservation, you cannot but acknowledge, that the present freedom and tranquility which you enjoy, you have mercifully received, and that it is the peculiar blessing of heaven.

This, sir, was a time in which you clearly saw into the injustice of a state of slavery, and in which you had just apprehension of the horrors of its condition, it was now, sir, that your abhorrence thereof was so excited, that you publicly held forth this true and invaluable doctrine, which is worthy to be recorded and remembered in all succeeding ages. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, and that they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

Here, sir, was a time in which your tender feelings for yourselves had engaged you thus to declare, you were then impressed with proper ideas of the great valuation of liberty, and the free possession of those blessings to which you were entitled by nature; but, sir, how pitiable is it to reflect that although you were so fully convinced of the benevolence of the Father of

mankind, and of his equal and impartial distribution of those rights and privileges which he had conferred upon them, that you should at the same time counteract his mercies, in detaining by fraud and violence so numerous a part of my brethren, under groaning captivity and cruel oppression, that you should at the same time be found guilty of that most criminal act, which you professedly detested in others with respect to yourselves.

Sir, I suppose that your knowledge of the situation of my brethren, is too extensive to need a recital here; neither shall I presume to prescribe methods by which they may be relieved, otherwise than by recommending to you and all others, to wean yourselves from those narrow prejudices which you have imbibed with respect to them, and as Job proposed to his friends,”put your souls in their souls stead,” thus shall your hearts be enlarged with kindness and benevolence towards them, and thus shall you need neither the direction of myself nor others, in what manner to proceed herein.

And now, sir, although my sympathy and affection for my brethren hath caused my enlargement thus far, I ardently hope that your candour and generosity, will plead with you in my behalf, when I make known to you, that it was not originally my design; but that having taken up my pen, in order to direct to you as a present, a copy of an almanac, which I have calculated for the succeeding year, I was unexpectedly and unavoidably led thereto.

This calculation, sir, is the production of my arduous study in this my advanced state of life; for having long had unbounded desires to become acquainted with the secrets of nature, I have had to gratify my curiosity herein through my own assiduous application to astronomical study, in which I need not to recount to you the many difficulties and disadvantages which I have had to encounter.

And although I had almost declined to make my calculation for the ensuing year, in consequence of that time whlch I had allotted therefor, being taken up at the Federal Territory, by the request of Mr. Andrew Ellicott, yet finding myself under several engagements to printers of this State, to whom I had communicated my design, on my return to my place of residence, I industriously applied myself thereto, which I hope I have accomplished with correctness and accuracy, a copy of which I have taken the liberty to direct to you, and which I humbly request you will favorably receive and although you may have the opportunity of perusing it after Its publication, yet I chose to send it to you in manuscript previous thereto, that thereby you might not only have an earlier inspection, but that you might also view it in my own hand-writing.

And now, sir, I shall conclude and subscribe myself, with the most profound respect, your most obedient humble servant,

B. Banneker.

N. B. Any communication to me, may be had by a direction to Mr. Elias Ellicott, merchant, in Baltimore Town.  

JEFFERSON’S RESPONSE

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thomas jefferson

Jefferson’s Response

TO BENJAMIN BANNEKER. I J. mss.

PHILDELPHIA Aug. 30. I79I.

SIR,-I thank you sincerely for your letter of the 19th instant and for the AImanac it contained. No body wishes more than I do to see such proofs as you exhibit, that nature has given to our black brethren, talents equal to those of the other colors of men, and that the appearance of a want of them is owing merely to the degraded condition of their existence, both in Africa & America. I can add with truth, that no body wishes more ardently to see a good system commenced for raising the condition both of their body & mind to what it ought to be, as fast as the imbecility of their present existence, and other circumstances which cannot be neglected, will admit. I have taken the liberty of sending your Almanac to Monsieur de Condorcet, Secretary of the Academy of Sciences at Paris, and member of the Philanthropic Society, because I considered it as a document to which your whole colour had a right for their justification against the doubts which have been entertained of them. I am with great esteem, Sir Your most obedient humble serv’.

FORTY ACRES AND A MYTH

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1histcivilwarsoldierThe True Story

by Ricardo Guthrie

Few slogans have had greater significance or affected African Americans more deeply than the call for “forty acres and a mule.” In 1991, the average Black man or woman is only vaguely familiar with the historical reference–and if filmmaker Spike Lee had not named his production company “40 Acres & A Mule,” thousands of Blacks could not begin to answer the trivia question: “how did the slogan arise, and exactly what is its meaning?”

To answer this question, we must examine the status of indentured African Americans–Black slaves–during the Civil War, which was America’s “Second Revolutionary War” in many respects. Although President Abraham Lincoln and congress steadfastly denied that slavery and the status of African Americans was the cause of the Civil War, it is clear that the destruction of the “peculiar institution”led the way to a Union victory and the ultimate reunification of the country.

There was no provision for a mule, and the land was leased not given away free of charge…

The states could never have united so long as slavery existed and the status of African Americans–North and South–remained unresolved. The Civil War was ostensibly a clash between two competing economic and political systems; its resolution, however, was achieved on the backs of Blacks. Though Black citizenship was granted, the economic and political status of African Americans was given short shrift. As a result, Blacks to this day suffer second class status.

Southerners fought bitterly to maintain their way of life, and dominating Blacks was a key ingredient in their quest to maintain the status quo while conceding defeat to the Union army. Long before the final battle of the war was fought, however, the issue of African American economic and political status was forced by the masses of Blacks who bolted from the plantations, or who were seized as contraband of war by Union generals. In November 1861, for example, under the direction of the Treasury Department, freed Blacks in the Sea Islands were allowed to work abandoned lands and were actually paid wages. General William Tecumseh Sherman, after his sweep through the South, declared that

The islands from Charleston south, the abandoned rice-fields
along the rivers for thirty miles back from the sea, and the
country bordering the St. John’s River, Florida, are reserved
and set apart for the settlement of Negroes now made free
by act of war.

Although his “Field-order No. 15” of 1865 was overturned by President Lincoln, it undoubtedly influenced the thinking of congressmen and others who struggled to develop a uniform policy for handling newly-freed men and women.

It was recommended that a “Bureau of Emancipation” be established to settle the affairs of African Americans, and after a number of failed compromises, the “Act to Establish a Bureau for the Relief of Freedmen and Refugees” was passed by Congress in March, 1865. 

The Freedmen’s Bureau ratified the idea, previously raised under the exigencies of war and among abolitionists, that the “tillers of the soil” should be given land and a fresh start as new citizens of the country.

Under the auspices of the War Department, General Oliver Otis Howard, a 35-year-old soldier from Maine who had fought at Gettysburg and marched with Sherman “to the sea,” was appointed commissioner on May 12, 1865; the Freedmen’s Bureau’s constitution was issued on May 19.
The Freedmen’s Bureau–virtually a mini-government, according to DuBois–ratified the idea, previously raised under the exigencies of war and among abolitionists, that the “tillers of the soil” should be given land and a fresh start as new citizens of the country. The Act of 1865 specifically stated:

….tracts of land within the insurrectionary states as shall
have been abandoned, or to which the United States shall
have acquired title by confiscation or sale, or otherwise,
and to every male citizen whether refugee or freedmen,
as aforesaid, there shall be assigned not more than forty
acres of such land….

There was no provision for a mule, and the land was leased, not given away free of charge, to freedmen for a term of three years (most freedmen having been unable to purchase the land outright). What happened next was most cruel. The Freedmen’s Bureau, which never rested on firm political ground, and lacking strong support from President Andrew Johnson (who vetoed extensions of the Bureau twice and granted pardons to confederate plantation owners when Congress overrode his vetoes), was ineffective and essentially unable to protect the rights of freedmen land tenants. When President Johnson insisted on pardoning confederate planters, most of the land formerly rented to ex-slaves was returned to white Southern planters. In addition, many Blacks who bought land directly from the government lost their deeds as well.

The Freedmen’s Bureau, with 900 officials working throughout the South, was responsible for appropriating some $15 million, overseeing the distribution of 800,000 acres of “abandoned land,” and handling the affairs of some 4 million “freedmen.” By 1874, less than 350,000 acres, according to DuBois, remained in control of Black hands. The vast majority of African Americans were forced to accept the terms of the sharecropping system (farming the land of former slavemasters in exchange for a portion of the crop) and became virtual slaves as a result of the repressive “Black Codes” adopted by Southern states to terrorize Blacks and destroy burgeoning Black economic and political development.

In sum, Blacks only got a written promise of 40 acres, and they never got the mule. They received food, clothing relief, citizenship, the Bill of Rights, and some “4,000 day, night and industrial schools”–including the Black Colleges, which were established by the Freedmen’s Bureau and various missionary and freedmen aid societies. How different would things be if African Americans had received their 40 acres and a mule? It is still a question worth asking, and a venture worth pursuing. “Free the Land” was a cry of Black nationalists during the 1960s, and the precedent for receiving reparations has already been made. Perhaps we’ll get our 40 acres yet–never mind the mule!

(References: The Souls of Black Folk, W.E.B. DuBois;
From Slavery to Freedom, John Hope Franklin;
From Plantation to Ghetto, August Meier and Elliott Rudwick;
Chronicles of Black Protest, Bradford Chambers, ed.;
The Negro People in American History, William Z. Foster;
The Black Almanac, 4th Edition.) 

MARY MCLEOD BETHUNE

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1histmethuneMrs. Mary McLeod Bethune was the first Black woman to head a federal agency, National Youth Administration. She was the founder of Bethune Cookman College and held many important government positions under Presidents Coolidge, Hoover, Roosevelt and Truman.

by Sharon W. Foxworth

Born shortly after the Emancipation Proclamation, Mary McLeod Bethune was the first of seventeen siblings born free. This first was only one of many that she would accomplish in her lifetime. Proclaimed by her mother and neighbors as different from birth, Mary was said to be born with her eyes open; she was known to see things before they happened. Her vision and singlemindeness in the pursuit of educational opportunities for Black youth is testament to her accomplishments. With five students and less than $2.00 Mary Mcleod Bethune started the Daytona Normal and Industrial School for Negro Girls in Daytona Beach, Florida in 1904. Today this institution educates several hundred Black students each year.

Young Mary’s education was rooted in a family tradition that demanded commitment to God and family. Her parents, Samuel and Patsy McLeod, were born as slaves on nearby plantations in Mayesville, South Carolina. Slaves were not usually permitted to choose their spouses. However, when Samuel McLeod sought permission from Patsy’s master to marry her he was granted permission with the stipulation that he first buy her. A slave himself, he spent every spare moment working to earn money to purchase Patsy’s freedom. Although most of their children were sold into slavery, Patsy and Samuel McLeod were able to keep track of them through a secret slave network that sent messages from plantation to plantation. Following the Civil War the entire family was reunited.

With 5 students and less than $2. Mary Mcleod Bethune started the Daytona Norman and Industrial School for Black Women in Daytona Beach Florida.

Mary worked side by side with her mother and father to farm their five acre tract of land. At the age of nine she could pick 250 pounds of cotton a day. Like her strength, her desire for learning was evident at a young age. In 1882 educational opportunities for Black children were scarce. In this post-reconstruction period, there were many who believed that Blacks could not learn and others who were against the education of Blacks, fearing that they would become discontent with subservient roles. 

It was on one of those days, while working alongside her family that Mary learned her formal education was about to begin. Emma Wilson, a Black educator and missionary was starting a school for young Black girls in the Trinity Presbyterian Church in Mayesville, South Carolina. Mary’s parents decided she would be the one child of theirs to go. Mary McLeod walked ten miles back and forth to school each day for six years.

 With a scholarship from a northern white benefactor up north, Mary entered Scotia Seminary for Negro Girls in 1887. Her dream was to be a missionary to Africa. One of her greatest disappointments was when her application was denied by the Presbyterian Board of Missions, which stated that there were no opportunities for Black missionaries in Africa. As fate would have it, her missionary training would fare her well. Rejected by the Presbyterian Board of Missions, Mary returned to Mayesville and taught in the school where her own formal education had begun. McLeod was offered an opportunity to teach in Augusta, Georgia under the direction of Lucy Croft Laney.  

Lucy Laney, a former slave, had graduated in the first class of Atlanta University in 1873. Atlanta University was one of only a dozen Black colleges in existence at the time. A renowned educator, Lucy Laney had founded the Haines Normal and Industrial Institute. McLeod was greatly influenced by Lucy Laney. It was during her stay in Augusta, that McLeod resolved that “Africans in America needed learning and Christ just as much as Negroes in Africa.” She married Albertus Bethune in 1898 and began a life-long struggle to insure access to equal education for Black children.

Bethune once dreamed that Booker T. Washington, founder of the Tuskegee Institute, gave her a diamond to help her found a school. With this inspiration, Bethune opened the doors of the Daytona Normal and Industrial School for Girls in October, 1904. There was much debate among Blacks at the time about the virtue of industrial education. Many believed that industrial education simply prepared Blacks to continue in menial jobs. 

Mary McLeod Bethune argued that even the most menial of jobs could be confronted with dignity. Like Washington, Bethune believed that her people needed a basic education and skills for survival. She also believed that industrial education was the key to economic freedom and self sufficiency for black people. But her vision for Black children did not end with industrial education. She also shared the opinion of W.E.B. DuBois that there should be no limit on the educational and social attainment of Black Americans. After graduating her first class Bethune went on to establish a high school for young Black girls.

She fought constantly to keep the doors of her school open. Her greatest problem was a lack of money. She had opened the school with contributions from the community and with money raised from selling pies and ice cream. But Bethune knew that to sustain the school and to expand she would need large contributions and the support of foundations. To this end, she proved to be an astute businesswoman and superior fundraiser. She formed a choir with her students and gave performances to raise money. Bethune also solicited the wealthy vacationers in Daytona’s resorts and hotels. 

When one of Bethune’s students became violently ill, she took her to the nearest hospital. She convinced the staff of Dr. C.C. Bahannin’s hospital to admit the child in spite of their policy to admit Whites only. Having been denied permission to visit her student, Bethune managed to gain entrance to the hospital only to discover that her student had been left on the hospital porch unattended. Her anger compelled her to act. In 1911, she opened the first Black hospital in Daytona Beach on the grounds of her school.

On one occasion she presented a performance to a rather small audience and expected to receive very little. At the end of the session a gentleman approached her and gave her a $20 bill. This same gentleman appeared on the campus the next day and requested a tour. When he saw what Bethune had created with materials from the city dump bare determination, he was impressed with her resourcefulness and tenacity. The next day he returned with a new sewing machine for her class and clothing for the students. The gentleman was Thomas White of White Sewing Machine, a major competitor at the time of the Singer Sewing Machine Company. He later returned with carpenters and plasterers who finished Faith Hall, the first building on the campus of the Daytona Normal and Industrial School. When Bethune attempted to thank him, he admonished her and said “I have never invested a dollar that has brought greater returns than the dollars I’ve given you.” Thomas White became a major benefactor of the school. It was he who worked with entrepreneur James Gamble to buy The Retreat, a small building behind Faith Hall which became Bethune’s permanent residence.

In response to a growing number of male students, the Daytona Normal and Industrial School changed to Daytona Institute. The school continued to grow and was soon accredited as a full liberal arts college by the state of Florida in 1923. The school merged with Cookman Institute, a school for boys that had been started under the auspices of the Freedmans Bureau. The Freedmans Bureau was instituted by the federal government to aid former slaves after the Civil War. Mary Mecleod Bethume served as president of what is now called Bethume-Cookman college until 1943.

While she is heralded for her achievements in education, Mary McLeod Bethune’s vision for Black America reached into many segments of society. When one of Bethune’s students became violently ill, she took her to the nearest hospital. She convinced the staff of Dr. C.C. Bahannin’s hospital to admit the child in spite of their policy to admit Whites only. After being denied permission to visit her student, Bethune managed to gain entrance to the hospital only to discover that her student had been left on the hospital porch unattended. Bethune’s anger propelled her to action. In 1911, she opened the first Black hospital in Daytona Beach on the grounds of her school. Deeply committed to the cause of Black women, Bethune founded the National Council on Black Women in 1935. Bethune believed that the Black women were pivotal to the improvement of the Black race. It was her belief that while advances made among women at that time had prepared them to play a critical role, Black women also lacked organization. The National Council on Negro women sought to oversee all of the Black women’s clubs and organizations.

Bethune worked in the American relief organization, and fought the Red Cross’ policy of segregation. Shortly after the start of World War I, she was invited to Washington, D.C. by Vice President Thomas Marshall to discuss the issue of segregation. Bethune’s arguments for integrated forces in the Red Cross were so impressive that he sent her across the country to speak about the need for Blacks to serve in the Red Cross. Presidents Coolidge and Hoover called upon her to provide direction to the cause of education for Black children. President Roosevelt appointed Bethune to the position of Director, Division of Black Affairs, National Youth Administration. She was the first Black woman in American history to be appointed to a head a federal agency.

In 1935, Bethune received the prestigious Spingarn Medal. The award was established by the NAACP to honor “the highest or noblest achievement by a Negro.” Mary McLeod Bethune’s contribution to Black America were indeed great. Her efforts toward the full inclusion of Black children are unparalleled. True to her calling to become a missionary, Bethune’s service went far beyond her life.

 

GENERAL COLIN L. POWELL

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The Military man of the Hour

by Elizabeth Singleton

More than 400,000 American soldiers are in the Saudi Arabian Gulf at this time. Morale among the troops was reported high, the climate in the Middle East is violent, and American emotions mixed about continued U.S. presence to police the region indefinitely. Some have voiced thier opposition to the war stating “We are 15% of the total population, 30% of the Army and yet president Bush vetoed the 1990 Civil Rights Bill. We have a war right here” President Bush is meeting daily with numerous cabinet members, top military officials, and influential world leaders concerning the United States use of force, and other alternative military options to ease tensions in this escalating conflict between Iraq and Kuwait. Among the President’s Key Advisors stands General Colin L. Powell, the youngest Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the first African American ever to hold the nation’s highest military post.

On August 3rd at an early morning White House meeting, according to administration insiders Chairman Powell presented the situation so as to leave few choices for President Bush, other than force. Kuwait had been invaded. Being a great power, the United States had to respond decisively. Thus the planning of Desert Shield was shaped.

General Powell has left his legacy upon the military landscape of this nation. From Harlem to the Joint Chiefs of Staff no military officer has ever travelled farther.

General Powell has left his legacy upon the military landscape of this nation. From Harlem to the Reagan Administration’s National Security Advisor, no military officer has ever travelled farther. Born Colin Luther Powell, during the depression, in Harlem, Powell was nurtured in a close-knit loving family. His parents, Jamaican immigrants, labored in Manhattans’ Garment district, while young Powell grew wise beyond his years. Growing up in the impoverished South Bronx could not have been easy, and Colin was always thinking and planning ahead. Both his parents emphasized getting a good education and demanded that their son make something of his life.

 Like many young students, in the beginning Powell was not very serious about school, and confessed that his grades were not very good. However, while attending City College of New York, he enrolled in the Reserve Officers Training Corp (ROTC), and it was there that he realized his life’s career. He enjoyed the stern discipline and his skills which surfaced during training, were excellent. He did so well that he graduated “Cadet Colonel” in 1958, the highest rank. Commissioned Second Lieutenant in the army, Powell then went to West Germany.

In 1960, Powell returned to duty at Fort Devens, Massachusetts. In 1962, Powell was sent to Vietnam, where in 1963 he led a combat unit near the Northern Vietnamese border. In 1963, Powell was reassigned to Fort Benning, Georgia. There he signed up for advanced study at the Army Command and General Staff College in Fort Levenworth, Kansas. Midway through his training he requested to attend graduate school. He was told by the Officer in Charge, that his college record was not good enough. Angry Powell, tightened up and finished second in his class of 1,244 students. However, Powell was sent back to Vietnam instead of graduate school. 

When Powell’s division Commander read a story published by the Army Times, about the top five graduating students at Leavenworth, he was furious that Powell was in the trenches, and demanded that he be brought on his staff. Major Powell was then named Operations Chief, and soon established a reputation for courage. He went on several missions where he rescued trapped GI’s from smoldering fires and other hazardous life threatening situations. For his bravery Powell received a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart, and has accumulated fifteen major decorations during his career. And what a career it has been. It has spanned 32 years and has included the command of 72,000 troops in Germany and more than a million on the U.S. mainland. As one of his colleagues stated he understands the uses and limitations of military power and he recognizes the merits of negotiations and negotiable solutions, but he will fight if he has to fight.

In 1969, Powell finally fulfilled his desire to go to graduate school. He attended George Washington University where he earned a Master’s degree in Business Administration. In 1972, Powell, then working as an analyst in the Pentagon was contacted about a position as a “White House Fellow”, an elite group of special assistants. The White House Fellows afforded Powell the opportunity to work with important government officials such as Casper Weinberger, then Director of the Office of Management and Budget, and Weinberger’s Deputy, Frank Carlucci.
After only one year Powell was assigned to Korea because of growing tensions between black and white troops which exploded into race riots. In September of 1973, Powell headed the 1st Battalion of the 32nd Infantry. Within a few months the black and white troops were training and socializing together.

It was during the Carter Administration that Powell held top advisory posts in the Pentagon and the Department of Energy, where he was promoted to Brigadier General. In 1981, during the Reagan Administration, Powell rejoined both Weinberger who became Secretary of Defense and Weinberger’s Deputy, Carlucci. From June 1983 to June 1986, Powell served as Weinberger’s military assistant, where he was exposed to events that later fueled the Iran-Contra Scandal. In 1985, Powell opposed the President’s National Security Council staff’s decision to make TOW missiles available to Iran to encourage the release of American Hostages. He later won the respect of his Capitol Hill colleagues because he wrote National Security Advisor, John M. Poindexter, reminding him of the legal protocol to inform Congress of the transfer of arms.

Throughout his 32-year career, Powell has mastered the art of Diplomacy and the military strategy of force. His skill has earned four stars, which makes him one of the nation’s 36 Four-star generals and 121 three-star generals and admirals who have risen through the ranks. Now Powell’s military prowess is being challenged on middle eastern soil. Having responded brilliantly to the invasion of Kuwait, two things are at stake now. How to win and how to exit. For now military action is being put on the back burner until economic sanctions have had a chance to take affect. Restoring stability in the Gulf could mean an indefinite stay, and in the midst of a forging new world order solutions from U.S. leadership must reflect a sensitivity and understanding of the balance and control of international power.

Reflecting on Powell’s military career would not be complete without mentioning his wife, Alma, of 27 years and his three children. They met on a blind date in 1960, two years later they were married. His son Michael, 27, whose Army service was shortened by a serious accident in Germany in 1987, attended Georgetown Law School. His daughter, Linda appeared in an updated version of “As You Like It.” His other daughter, Anne Marie attended the College of William and Mary. Even though Powell averaged twelve hour work days, he never sacrificed his family for his career. His daughter Linda says of her father, “we never felt that his work was more important than we were.”

Now the lives of tens of thousands of American soldiers depend greatly on the military seasoning and wisdom of General Powell to direct them through and out of the Saudi Arabian Gulf, and those who know him best can think of no better person for the position. As we approach the 21st century, we in this country can internalize the ideals spoken of in the closing remarks made by General Powell when he addressed the National Press Club in October, 1988.

“Finally, there is the interconnection between, freedom, progress and peace itself…A Decade or so ago, some pessimists used to dismiss the philosophy of democracy as a culture-bound luxury of the industrialized nations; doomed forever to minority status in the world. Today it turns out to be a vibrant force—from El Salvador to the Philippines, from Botswana to the Republic of Korea. This is vindication in the values that all of us hold so dear. The West can be proud of what it has achieved and the promise that its future holds…America has contributed to this resurgence of the West and, in turn draws strength from it…This country, for all its unfinished business, remains the beacon of hope and aspiration for all those in the world who aspire to enjoy these blessings, and who struggle for them. We must never let that beacon fail.”

 

ARSENIO HALL: HOST AND EXECUTIVE PRODUCER

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A Biography

At age 12, growing up in Cleveland, Ohio, Arsenio Hall told his mother he wanted “to do what Johnny Carson does.”

At age 30, Hall is doing just that, as the host and executive producer of “The Arsenio Hall Show,” the hour-long, late-night talk show from Paramount Domestic Television that premiered January 3, 1989.

In just a few short years, this dynamic personality has rocketed to stardom, landing his own late-night talk show, an exclusive motion picture agreement with Paramount Pictures and acclaim as an actor, comedian and host.

Hall showed an early talent for performing and show business when he took up magic at the age of seven. “Most kids had a paper route and mowed lawns to make a little money, but I was allergic to grass,” he says, “so I did magic. My father (a Baptist preacher) would do weddings and I would do magic at the reception.”

In high school, Hall explored other areas of his talent. “As I got older, my interests changed. I was a drummer in the marching band and orchestra, and had my own music group. Then in college, I got involved in theatre arts and was a deejay for the campus radio station,” he says.

After graduating from Kent State University, Hall embarked on a career in advertising, but the spotlight still beckoned. Acting on a dare, he started doing stand-up comedy routines in 1979. That was all it took — Hall quit his job and moved to Chicago, where he was discovered in a nightclub by singer Nancy Wilson, who funded his move to Los Angeles.

As a stand-up comedian, Hall has opened for dozens of top name performers including Aretha Franklin, Tom Jones, Wayne Newton, Patti LaBelle, Anita Baker and Tina Turner.

In 1983, he made the transition from clubs to television as cohost of the ABC summer series “The 1/2 Hour Comedy Hour.” The following year he was a regular on “Thicke of the Night,” and went on to co-host Paramount’s long-running music/variety series, “Solid Gold.”

Hall’s rise to stardom accelerated when he was signed as an interim guest host on Fox Broadcasting’s “The Late Show.” During his tenure, the show enjoyed some of its highest ratings ever, and Hall went on to host 13 uproarious weeks of the late-night talk show. Following his “Late Show” stint, he signed an exclusive two year, multi-film agreement with Paramount Pictures, which led to his acclaimed performance in the box office blockbuster Coming to America. Most recently, he was the sole host of the 1988 “MTV Awards.”

Based on his success, Hall has become one of the hottest celebrities in the country, resulting In rapid station sales and extensive media attention for “The Arsenio Hall Show.”

“The Arsenio Hall Show” is a production of Arsenio Hall Communications, Ltd. in association with Paramount Domestic Television.