Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Lucy Laney

Lucy Laney was born on April 13, 1854 in Macon, Georgia. She was born to two free parents, Louisa and David Laney. Lucy learned to read and write by the age of four and by the time she turned twelve, she was able to translate some Latin passages including Julius Caesar’s Commentaries on the Gallic War. She attended Lewis High School in Macon and had graduated and started attending Atlanta University at age fifteen. She graduated with a degree in teaching and taught for 10 years in Macon, Savanna, Milledgeville, and Augusta. Then in 183 she opened her own school in the basement of Christ Presbyterian Church in Augusta. Two years after the school opened, the enrollment at her school was over 200. A year after that the school got it’s name, Francine E.H. Haines who donated $10,000 to help establish the institute.
Not only did she found her institution, but also helped found the Augusta branch of the NAACP in 1918. She was also active in the Interracial Commission, National Association of Colored Women, and the Niagara Movement, and helped integrate YMCAs and YWCAs. She was also the first African American to have her portrait displayed in the Georgia state capitol because of her work with education. She has numerous education buildings, museums, and awards named after her. Lucy Laney opened the door for African Americans in education and helped the push for integration.


Friday, February 18, 2011

Congo Square

On November 28, 1817 Congo Square became a registered area of the southern area of Louis Armstrong Memorial Park in New Orleans. Officially named Beauregard Square, the site was a large home for African American music and dancing. Before 1800, Black slaves gathered on Sunday afternoon in the open field for many different reasons. They, also, used the space as a market place. In 1817, the New Orleans City Council passed legislation allowing slaves to meet and have a place to gather on Sunday afternoons, which was informally named Congo Square. The use of this area declined in the 1840s and ended by the beginning of the Civil War.
It had brought about not only jazz music, but also New Orleans jazz music and is a staple to those who play and listen to jazz today. It has since been listed on the National Register of Historical Places. There never is a for sure way of knowing what may have helped or lead jazz music in America, but Congo Square and Louis Armstrong Memorial Park did have an impact on the development of music in the south.


Thursday, February 17, 2011

Lonnie G. Johnson

Lonnie G. Johnson was born on October 6th 1949 in Mobile, Alabama to a civilian driver father and homemaker mother. His father played a big part in his early inventions by showing him how to repair things and encouraging him and his brothers to create their own toys. A couple of his early inventions included creating a go-cart out of a lawn mower and other household items, and experiment with pyro techniques in his kitchen. By the time he got to high school he took part in a national science competition sponsored by U of Alabama. He showed a robot made form junkyard scraps named “Linex”, and placed first in the competition and entered Tuskeegee University on a mathematics scholarship. During college there he graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering and went on to receive a Master’s in Nuclear Engineering.
Upon graduating he took a position at the Savannah River National Laboratory, conducting thermal analysis on plutonium spheres. In about 1982 he worked developing a heat pump that would circulate water by taking some tubing found in his basement. He then discovered that the strong stream that came out of the tubing could make a great water gun. After thinking this he set out to develop a pressurized water gun that would be safe enough for children to play with. When he finally made a prototype that he was pleased with, he and his partner, Bruce D’Andrade, began marketing it and securing a patent. After securing the patent, the next task was to see if anyone would manufacture his invention. Larami Corporation in New York took in the invention, and the Super Soaker was put on shelves in 1989. By 1990, his toy was outselling Nintendo as the number one selling toy in America.
Shortly after that, Johnson went on his own and received a contract by NASA to develop a water based cooling system that was 25 percent more efficient than conventional heat pumps and air conditioners.
He has since won numerous awards, and was inducted into the Hasbro Inventor’s Hall of Fame in 2000. He made it possible for other inventors to come out to show their product, and have it be more than successful, and also to develop into more than there invention. I would personally like to thank him for making my childhood a bit more interesting and pushing my tomboy limits.


Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Charlie Sifford

Charlie Sifford was born on June 2, 1922 in Charlotte, North Carolina. His story stood out to me because he was the first African American to play in the Professional Golfers Association. He has since been called the Jackie Robinson of golf. One year after Jackie Robinson’s courageous integration of Major League Baseball in 1946, Charlie said he planned on doing the same thing to golf. He grew up being a caddie earning 60 cents and by age 13 he could shoot par.
He started his career with hardships in 1952 at the Phoenix Open alongside four other black competitors, including Joe Louis (it’s all coming together :-)). Their hardships during this open included excrements in the first hole and having to wait over an hour for them to replace it. He ended up breaking barriers and par in this open. He then won the National Negro open five straight times from 1952-56, but he didn’t earn a PGA player card until 1960. He then won the PGA tour twice in 1967 and 1969; about 5 years after the PGA dropped its “Caucasian only” clause.
He not only broke barriers during his playing years, but in 2004 he became the first black golfer to be inducted in the World Golf Hall of Fame, which only had about 100 people in it over all. He broke barriers single handedly and allowed for people like Tiger Woods, and all those little golfers out there, to be able to not only compete but also succeed in the golf world. He currently resides in Houston, Texas with his wife of fifty years. He has since been in periodicals and written an autobiography about his experience. He’s an amazing person who fought obstacles for not only himself, but for a whole culture of people.


Sunday, February 13, 2011

Amazing Grace

John Newton created the song “Amazing Grace” in 1779. It has since been known as one of the best-known musicals in the world. Newton wrote it, along with many other hymns, in the attic of his house to go along with his sermons. He also took time to write the hymn for more than just poetic reasons. Newton’s lyrics were personal and showed a conversion experience. It wasn’t until 1835 that music was put to accompany the lyrics, and that is the same tune that is used today. The hymn has been featured and recreated on more than 1,000 albums, in numerous books, and on Pop charts across the world. This song was also a staple for the empowerment of African American slaves that were freed. If it weren’t for Newton and his powerful hymn writing, a song that captured not only a culture, but also the world would have never existed.


Saturday, February 12, 2011

Ann Plato

Ann Plato was born on August 11, 1820 in Hartford, Connecticut. Like many blacks born at this time there was very little recorded information about her. The way that her life was recorded was what she is known for now.
Plato was the first black woman to publish a book of essays and one of the first black women to publish a book in America. Her introduction to her biography written by Reverend W.C. Pennington seems to have the only known information of her life in it. Plato was said to have a Native American father and a Black mother. In her early career days, she worked as a schoolteacher at the Black Zion Methodist Church School of Hartford.
In 1841, her book of essays was published titled Essays: Including Biographies and Miscellaneous Pieces in Prose and Poetry. The collection of essays was a reflection on her community’s puritan views. Topics for the essays included “Benevolence”, “Education”, “Employment”, and “Religion”. Her work has been critiqued as unoriginal and has been put down for not mentioning the issue of American slavery.
Her time after writing this book, including her death, is unknown. She has since been remembered in a couple different ways. In 1988, Oxford Press as part of a library celebrating black women writers republished her book. Also, that year, Trinity College established the Ann Plato Fellowship in her honor.
Plato opened the door to not only women getting a voice, but African American women being able to develop as writers as well.


Thursday, February 10, 2011

The History of Juneteenth

On June 19th 1865, African American slaves around the United States were freed. Since then, this day is still celebrated around the US as Juneteenth. This day, in 1865, is not the day that the Emancipation Proclamation was signed, but the day that the Union Soldiers announced the end of the Civil War.
Juneteenth has continued to be celebrated as an Independence Day for African American people. It’s also been not only celebrated as a holiday, but as a time of reflection and healing. There has been a struggle across the country in getting this day revered as a holiday, though. The only state that observes it as a legal state holiday is Texas, where this day originated.
The celebration has been known to include many different activities. Rodeos, barbecues, and baseball are just some of the things that people join in during the celebration. Mostly, it’s a time of gathering for all types of people and usually takes place in areas with a high population of African American people. It celebrates not only freedom, but also achievement among African American people, as well as respect among all cultures. Fortunately the future of this celebration looks promising. The number of states that have joined in celebration continues to grow and more and more people in political power have supported this.
So take second, the next time you think of June 19th, the struggle, achievements, and hope that the African American people have gone through and the bright future that lies ahead for all cultures.