#TIBH: George Washington Carver

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George Washington Carver (front row, center) with faculty colleagues at the historically Black Tuskegee Institute 1906. Frances Benjamin Johnston, photographer. Courtesy Library of Congress.

Today in Black History, George Washington Carver was born into slavery in Missouri in 1864 (or possibly 1861). A pioneering American scientist, Prof. Carver encouraged the diversification of crops in the South using alternatives such as peanuts and soybeans.  He invented over 100 uses for the peanut including gasoline and nitroglycerin. Although Carver never legally married, he was survived by his longtime companion, fellow scientist and Tuskegee professor Austin W. Curtis, Jr.

Haitian Independence Day

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To Preserve Their Freedom by African American artist Jacob Lawrence           from his series the Life of Toussaint L’Ouverture

 

January 1, 1804 the Haitian revolution succeeds. To learn more about Haitian history, Progressive Pupil suggests The Black Jacobins by C.L.R. James and The Uses of Haiti by Paul Farmer.  What are some of the biggest misconceptions we have about Haiti today?

“I Wish to Inquire for My People”

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On January 1, 1863 President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation making slavery illegal in the US.  Soon afterwards, newspapers such as the Southwestern Christian Advocate in New Orleans were flooded with letters and advertisements by freedmen searching for their mothers, children, and spouses who had been sold or disappeared, or who had fled the brutality of plantation owners.  These letters reveal no one ever adjusted to slavery. And the trauma the experience caused endured long after Lincoln’s decree. How does slavery continue to impact African American families today?

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Riding with Death: Defining Anti-Blackness

Riding with Death by Jean Michel Basquiat.

Riding with Death by Jean Michel Basquiat.

Black people only have one recognized right in this world — the right to death. This right is not the right to choose when or how we will die, it is not a coveted right. This right is also not the same guarantee of death that all living beings share. That everyone will eventually die is not to say everyone shares the same relationship with death. The anti-black world positions black people in close proximity to death so that the threat of gratuitous murder awaits us at every corner. This is the price of living Black in the Anti-Black world.

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Freedmen’s Children and Racism in the Cherokee Nation

Rena Logan with her Cherokee Nation identification card. Photo courtesy of Sulekha.com

Rena Logan with her Cherokee Nation identification card. Photo courtesy of Sulekha.com

African and Native American peoples came together in the Americas because of colonization and slavery. Over centuries, Black people and Native Americans created shared histories, communities, families, and ways of life. They were joined in a struggle against prejudice, laws, and twists of history. Earlier in the colonial period some Native Americans were enslaved alongside Africans. Later on, select tribes harbored runaway slaves where intermarriage and the joining of cultures gave way to new and interesting communities of African American and Native people. There are still Blacks today who enjoy Indian citizenship and celebrate their mixed heritage, however, one group has been stripped of that right. In 2007 The Cherokee Nation decided to limit its membership to people who can prove they have Indian blood. This took away the citizenship rights of about 2,800 Black Americans who are descendants of slaves once owned by wealthy Cherokees.

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12 Years a Slave

12 Years a Slave in an exciting and compelling text, which provides a unique glimpse into the lives of U.S. slaves during the 1800s. The book’s author and protagonist, Solomon Northup, was born a free man and lived with his wife and three children in Saratoga Springs, NY. In 1841, he was kidnapped and taken to Washington D.C., where he was then sold to a plantation owner in Louisiana. Northup’s account of the following twelve years is eloquent, raw and, at times, extremely hard to read. His vivid descriptions of the horrors of slavery are juxtaposed with his optimism and unwavering will to live and return to his family. Finally, with the help of friends and allies, Northup was able to return to New York as a free man. He spent the rest of his life dedicated to the abolition movement and assisting with the Underground Railroad.

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Chávez, Salsa and AfroVenezolanos

AfroVenezuelan group "Eleggua." Photo courtesy of newsamericamedia.org

AfroVenezuelan group “Eleggua.” Photo courtesy of newsamericamedia.org

In honor of AfroLatin@ Heritage Month, I want to pay tribute to two of my great loves: Salsa music and racial justice! Two dynamic personalities empowered a nation of AfroVenezolanos (AfroVenezuelans): Oscar D’León, one of my favorite salseros, and Hugo Chávez, the late president of Venezuela, who died at age 58 in March 2013.

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