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Moments in History: Loving v. Virginia


The Loving Family

Did you know that Richard and Mildred Loving broke down racial barriers with the landmark civil rights case, Loving v. Virginia? Growing up in Essex County, Virginia, I didn’t realize that I lived minutes away from the Loving family, who lived in the neighboring county of Caroline. They were instrumental in legalizing interracial marriage (specifically between blacks and whites) throughout the South.

Mildred Jeter was born on July 22, 1939 in Central Point, Virginia. She was of African-American and Native American ancestry. Richard Loving, who was white, was born October 29, 1933 in Central Point as well, and he first met Mildred at her school. Eventually, the two quietly started dating despite their six-year age gap and, when Mildred became pregnant at the age of 18, the two decided to get married.

In June of 1958, they married in Washington, DC because the Racial Integrity Act of 1924 prohibited interracial marriages in their home state. They returned to Caroline County and were arrested. In 1959, they pled guilty to violating the act and were given a one year suspended sentence under the condition that they leave Virginia and not return for 25 years. They challenged the law and, in March of 1966, the Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals upheld the law. By June 1967, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously ruled the law unconstitutional. Because of this ruling, the 16 states that still had anti-miscegenation laws on their books were forced to repeal them.

On June 29, 1975, Richard Loving, 41, was tragically killed by a drunk driver while his wife lost sight in her right eye. Mildred Loving passed away from pneumonia on May 2, 2008, at the age of 68.

Richard and Mildred became reluctant activists in the 1960s Civil Rights Movement and forever changed the view of many on interracial marriage in the South.



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Moments in History: Jacob Lawrence

Did you know that Jacob Lawrence was one of the most notable African-American painters of the 20th-century? The Harlem Renaissance artist was uniquely known for his portrayal of African-American life. Lawrence’s 60-panel Migration Series, which was painted on cardboard, gained him national recognition when he was just 23-years-old.


Jacob Lawrence

On September 7, 1917, Lawrence was born in Atlantic City, New Jersey. He was thirteen when his father, mother, sister, and brother moved to New York City. In an attempt to keep him busy, his mother enrolled him in classes at an arts and crafts settlement house in Harlem. The young Lawrence often drew patterns with crayons. Early on, he copied patterns of his mother’s carpets; leading one of his art teachers to note Lawrence’s great potential.

Dropping out of school at sixteen, Lawrence went to work in a laundry and a printing plant. He continued honing his craft by attending classes at the Harlem Art Workshop. His classes were taught by the renowned African-American artist Charles Alston, who eventually urged him to attend the Harlem Community Art Center, led by the sculptor Augusta Savage. While at the centers, Lawrence studied African art, Aaron Douglas’s paintings, and African American history. Savage played a key role in securing Lawrence a scholarship to the American Artists School and a paid position with the Works Progress Administration (WPA), a program founded by the Franklin D. Roosevelt administration. While at the WPA, Lawrence studied and worked with Alston and Henry Bannarn–both notable Harlem Renaissance artists.

Lawrence began painting in a series format in the late 1930s, completing 41 paintings on the life of Toussaint L’Ouverture, the revolutionary who established the Haitian Republic. Other series followed on the lives of the abolitionists Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, and John Brown. The Migration of the Negro, one of his best known series, was completed in 1941. The series depicted the Great Migration of African-Americans from the rural South to the urban North. A part of Migration of the Negro was featured in a 1941 issue of Fortune Magazine.

Also in 1941, Lawrence married painter Gwendolyn Knight, also a student of Savage’s, on July 24th. They were married until his death. In October 1943, he enlisted in the United States Coast Guard and served with the first racially integrated crew on the USCGC Sea Cloud, under Carlton Skinner. During his service, he continued to paint and sketch.

After living in New York for decades, Lawrence and Knight moved to the Seattle in 1970, where he had been invited to be an art professor at the University of Washington.

Jacob Lawrence taught at several universities throughout his life but he eventually returned to NYC. He continued to paint until a few weeks before his death in June 2000 at the age of eighty-two. His last commissioned public work, the mosaic mural New York in Transit, was installed in October 2001 in the Times Square subway station.

Some of Lawrence’s recognitions include, the NAACP Spingarn Medal (1970), the Algur H. Meadows Award for Excellence (1996), The Washington Medal of Merit (1998), and the U.S. National Medal of Arts in 1990.



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PBS: African American World


Happy Birthday Toni Morrison


Toni Morrison

Toni Morrison (born Chloe Ardelia Wofford on February 18, 1931) is an American novelist, editor, and professor. Her novels are known for their epic themes, vivid dialogue, and richly detailed characters. Among her notable novels are The Bluest Eye, Sula, Song of Solomon and Beloved. She won the Pulitzer Prize in 1988 for Beloved and the Nobel Prize in 1993. May 2012, she received the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Moments in Black History: Mary McLeod Bethune

Did you know that educator and civil rights leader Mary McLeod Bethune founded Bethune-Cookman University and was an advisor to Franklin D. Roosevelt? Dubbed “The First Lady of The Struggle” because of her commitment to the racial advancements of African Americans, Bethune started the school for African-American students in Daytona Beach, Florida.


Mary McLeod Bethune

Mary Jane McLeod was born in Mayesville, South Carolina on July 10, 1875 to Samuel and Patsy McIntosh McLeod, both former slaves, . Although she began working in cotton and rice fields at the age of five, she demonstrated an early interest in her education. Bethune’s teacher, Emma Jane Wilson, helped her obtained a scholarship to attend Scotia Seminary from 1888-1893. After graduating from the seminary, she went to the Dwight Moody’s Institute for Home and Foreign Missions in Chicago with hopes of becoming a missionary in Africa. Bethune decided to be a teacher when that dream didn’t materialize. In 1904, she started the Daytona Normal and Industrial Institute for African-American girls. The school started out with only five students (four girls and her son), but the institute grew to more than 250 students over the first few years.

Mary married fellow teacher Albertus Bethune in 1898. The couple had one son—Albert McLeod Bethune—before separating nine years later. However, she remained married until his death in 1918.

Bethune served as the president for the Daytona Normal and Industrial Institute and she remained its leader even after it was combined with the Cookman Institute for Men in 1923 (some sources say 1929); becoming the Bethune-Cookman College. The college was one of the few places that African-American students could pursue a college degree. Bethune stayed with the college until 1942.

Additional to her work in education, Bethune contributed largely to American society. She served as the Florida chapter president of the National Association of Colored Women for many years. In 1924, she became the organization’s national leader, beating out fellow reformer Ida B. Wells for the top position.

Bethune also became involved in government service, lending her expertise to several presidents. President Calvin Coolidge invited her to participate at a conference on child welfare. For President Herbert Hoover, she served on the Commission on Home Building and Home Ownership and was appointed to a child health committee. However, her most significant public service roles were with President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

By 1935, Bethune became a special advisor to President Roosevelt on minority affairs. That same year, she also began the civil rights organization, the National Council of Negro Women, which was created to represent numerous groups working on critical issues on behalf of African-American women. President Roosevelt gave her an another appointment the following year. In 1936, she became the director of the Division of Negro Affairs of the National Youth Administration. One of her main  concerns was helping young people find job opportunities. In addition to her official Roosevelt administration role, Bethune became a trusted friend and adviser to both the president and his wife, Eleanor Roosevelt.

Bethune spent much of the rest of her life devoted to social causes after leaving Bethune-Cookman College in 1942. She took up residence in Washington, D.C., at the National Council of Negro Women headquarters in 1943 and lived there for several years. As an early member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), along with W.E.B. DuBois, she helped represent the group at the 1945 conference that founded the United Nations. In the early 1950s, President Harry Truman appointed her to a committee on national defense and appointed her to serve as an official delegate to a presidential inauguration in Liberia.

Eventually, Mary Mcleod Bethune returned to Florida to retire and then died on May 18, 1955, in Daytona.

Bethune’s legacy advanced the rights of both African Americans and women in early 20th century America. Yet, her renowned dedication to education of African-Americans was highly important in the black community. Before her death, Bethune penned “My Last Will and Testament,” which served as a reflection on her life and legacy in addition to addressing a few estate matters.



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Alice Walker Featured In TV Documentary

PBS’ ‘American Masters’ To Profile Alice Walker

Black History Month

Welcome to February everyone,

This month feature events such as Groundhog Day, Valentine’s Day, Presidents Day, Super Bowl Sunday, National Wear Red Day, and National Bird-Feeding Month. However, growing up the one that meant the most in my community was Black History Month. When my parents were children their history books didn’t reflect any African-American contributions to American society. So, for me, Black History Month was an inherent part of my childhood. Moreover, this event originally began as a week long celebration, courtesy of historian Dr. Carter G. Woodson.


Black History Month 2014

In 1926, Dr. Woodson and the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History proclaimed that the second week of February to be “Negro History Week.” This week was chosen because it marked the birthday of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. Dr. Woodson contended that the teaching of black history was essential to ensure the physical and intellectual survival of the race within broader society. Beginning this initiative in the nation’s public schools was essential. However, the first Negro History Week was met with a less than stellar response, cooperation was gained from the Departments of Education of the states of North Carolina, Delaware, and West Virginia as well as the city school administrations of Baltimore and Washington, D.C. Despite the acceptance, an annual repeat of the event was planned.

By 1969, Kent State’s Black United Students proposed the week be expanded to a whole month. The first celebration of the Black History Month took place at Kent State one year later, in February 1970. In 1976, the informal expansion was officially recognized by the U.S. government.

The initial aim of Black History Month was to encourage the teaching of Black American’s history. Now, the current aim should be more than memorizing facts and events, but explore the various journeys of our black citizens, present and past. And unlike my parents academic upbringing, black history now has a firm place in U.S. history textbooks.

My hope for Black History Month is that it has a positive effect on everyone that chooses to celebrate it. I want the personal narratives to command a deep appreciation from its audience and change narrow minded views. Hopefully, this will bring more meaning to words in a textbook and give inspiration to all Americans.



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