Wednesday, February 23, 2011
Photographer of the Harlem Renaissance James Van Der Zee was born in 1886 in Lennox, Massachusetts. Van Der Zee was self-taught photographer made famous by capturing the African American in a state of transition. He took pictures of such people as pan-African creator Marcus Garvey,neo-expressionist Basquiat. He moved to Harlem in 1905 to make a better life for himself.He took pictures of celebrities and of every day folk as well. He was very well known around the city but sadly he and his wife fell into poverty, and obscurity. Van Der Zee was nearly forgotten until someone decided to exhibit his work in a 1969 in a show titled Harlem on My Mind. This breathed new life into his career and brought his work back into the public. He passed away in 1983 at the age of 96. James Van Der Zee captured life as we lived it. He captured the beauty of life and death. We will always remember him for his talent as it will live on through his pictures.
Thursday, February 10, 2011
Most people's approach to life is not to reinvent the wheel, but Bill Becoat did just that and it has put him into the history books. Bill Becoat invented the gear that turns the standard bicycle into a two wheel drive machine. Having two-wheel drive gives the rider more control and the freedom to ride in different terrains. Becoat is an accomplished blues musician and small business owner. In the late 80s while fixing his son's bike he stumbled upon this idea to make bike riding easier. After much trouble, he got his idea patented in over 32 countries including China (1993), financed,and manufactured. We are all now enjoying the fruits of his labor and he is peddling that bike all the way to the bank. This is just an example of Black History being current and effecting not just the nation, but the world.
Wednesday, February 9, 2011
If you're like me then you love to laugh. One of the best ways to do this is by watching the weekly sketch show Saturday Night Live. BUT I have noticed that the show is lacking some sisters of that look like me. I began to wonder, had they ever had one. In my research for BHM I found that SNL did have one regular cast member that mirrored my skin. Her name was Danitra Vance. She was apart of the cast from 1985-1990. Danitra struggled with being typecast as hookers and maids on the show. After leaving the show she performed in a critically acclaimed one-woman show The Radical Girl's Guide to a Radical Mastectomy. This told of her experiences with the disease. Sadly she passed away in 1993 at the age of 35. Although she had a short life she broke open a door for others to follow in her courageous and funny footsteps.
Monday, February 7, 2011
Lonnie G. Johnson is the inventor of one of the coolest toys ever created. The summertime favorite the Super Soaker. Johnson has worked with the US Air Force and with NASA and has over 40 patents. The Super Soaker is a simple machine, that produces maximum entertainment. Johnson has taken his product and made millions and brought smiles to many faces. He used that initial idea as a spring board to create his own company, Johnson Research and Development. Thanks to the intelligence and ingenuity of Lonnie G. Johnson, we have the Super Soaker and that has become synonymous with summer.
Sunday, February 6, 2011
In observance of Superbowl Sunday, I'd thought I give you an African-American in football fact.
Charles Follis was the first documented black professional football player. While he never played in the NFL, he still was talented enough to be seen and asked to play for a team in Shelby, Ohio back in 1902. This fact would not be accepted as valid until 1975 when written records proving this were found. He was even paid $500 for him playing. He was faced with harsh criticism before, during, and after he played opponents, sometimes inciting minor riots. He may not have earned a ring but he definitely has earned respect and place in the history books. His name is not one we should forget.
Saturday, February 5, 2011
Human rights activist Clara "Mother" Hale founded the first and, at the time, the only black social services agency in America in 1975. Over the course of her life, Mother Hale received more than 370 awards for her work in the fight against AIDS and inner city drug use. It's because of people like Mother Hale that children from forgotten areas weren't forgotten. She gave them the nurturing they deserved. She did not let politics interfere with the greater cause of humanity.
Friday, February 4, 2011
Dr. James E West is the inventor of the polymer foil electrets that are used in microphones. This invention can be found in over 90% of modern microphones. Telephones, camcorders, baby monitors, and even hearing aids use this piece of technology. So the next time you pick up a phone, or reach for that camcorder to put a video on Youtube, thank Dr.West for having the foresight to realize that an inexpensive piece of metal would impact the world.
Thursday, February 3, 2011
Augusta Savage was a sculptor originally from Florida who moved to Harlem during the Great Migration. Her father, a Methodist preacher was against her art calling it "pagan." Augusta didn't listen to her father, thankfully. Like many African-Americans during the Harlem Renaissance she was greeted with racism in the form of rejection by a European art school. From this her art became political. She got funding from the Julius Rosenwald Fellowship. She was commissioned to sculpt busts of W.E.B. DuBois, and Marcus Garvey. She was one of four women and the only African American woman whose art was featured at the 1939 New York World's Fair. Sadly,due to her financial situation much of her work was never casted into metal and ultimately destroyed. Augusta Savage was not only a talented sculptor,and a spirited teacher. She was an activist. She was a force to be reckoned with. She won't be forgotten.
Wednesday, February 2, 2011
In 1959, Ella Fitzgerald became the first African-American woman to earn a Grammy Award. She won five awards that year, including an award for best jazz soloist and one for best female pop vocalist. known as the "First Lady of Song" and "Lady Ella," was an American jazz and song vocalist. She was noted for her purity of tone, impeccable diction, phrasing and intonation, and a "horn-like" improvisational ability, particularly in her scat singing.
Her recording career that lasted an astonishing 59 years, she was the winner of 14 Grammy Awards and was awarded the National Medal of Art by Ronald Reagan and the Presidential Medal of Freedom by George H. W. Bush. A few of her major hits are :"A Tisket, A Tasket", "It's Only A Paper Moon","Baby It's Cold Outside". Ms.Fitzgerald was true talent.
Paul Cuffee an African-American, philanthropist, ship captain, and devout Quaker transported 38 free African-Americans to Sierra Leone, Africa in 1815 in the hopes of establishing Western Africa. He also founded the first integrated school in Massachusetts in 1797. One of 10 children, Mr. Cuffe was half African-American and half native American, and born free. A devout Christian, Cuffee often preached and spoke at the Sunday services at the multi-racial Society of Friends meeting house in Westport. In 1813, he donated most of the money to build a new meeting house. He became involved in the British effort to resettle former slaves in the colony of Sierra Leone; many had been transported from the US to Nova Scotia after the American Revolution after gaining freedom with the British. Cuffee helped to establish The Friendly Society of Sierra Leone, to gather financial support for the colony.
Artist Charles Alston founded the "306 Group". Artist Henry Bannarn came on little later and became a co-director. It was a club that provided support and apprenticeship for African-American artists during the 1940s. It served as a studio space for prominent African-American artists such as poet Langston Hughes; sculptor Augusta Savage; and mixed-media artist Romare Bearden.Located at 306 West 141st street in Harlem the shows were attended by people from all over. Including the northeast, west and even Europe. It became a place where our talent was on display and could be appreciated.
(I'm a little behind in the dates for posting, don't judge me)
In honor of Black History Month I'll be dedicating posts to random African Americans. We are a beautiful and talented people with a history that is too deep and long to be held to a mere 28 days. Hopefully I'll be giving you some information that you haven't seen before. We are more than Martin,Malcolm, Jesse, and even Obama. There is nothing wrong with these men but we more than them. SO...get hip and get educated.