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Week of November 15-21, 2017

November 15

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JOHN MERCER LANGSTON

1884—The Berlin Conference begins. This stands as one of the most significant events in all of African and Black history. Basically, seven European powers sat down and divided Africa for their benefit. They created countries which divided tribes and were often unworkable economically. The divisions and exploitations, resulting from the Berlin Conference, plague Africa to this day. The conference was completed in Berlin, Germany, in February 1885.

1897—John Mercer Langston dies. Today, Langston is an unsung hero, but in the 1800s he was one of the nation’s most dedicated fighters for Black freedom and betterment. Born to a White slave owner and an emancipated Black woman, Langston became an accomplished lawyer. He helped organize the National Black Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1848; organized Blacks to fight in the Civil War; worked in the Freedman’s Bureau; organized Howard University’s law department; became president of the Virginia Normal & Collegiate Institute; and became the first Black elected to Congress from Virginia. The town of Langston, Okla.—home of Langston University—is named after him.

November 16

PAUL CUFFEE

1780—Paul Cuffee organizes a demonstration by free Blacks protesting the fact that they were being taxed, but were not allowed to vote. Cuffee was a prominent whaling captain and businessman who organized the first integrated school in Massachusetts. In his later years he became frustrated with American racism and advocated the establishment of a free Black colony in the West African nation of Sierra Leone which was then controlled by the British.

W.C. HANDY

1873—W.C. Handy is born in Florence, Ala. The prolific composer and publisher would become known as “The Father of The Blues.” Handy helped move the blues from just a musical genre among low income Blacks to national status. His works became so popular that his 84th birthday was celebrated at the Waldorf Astoria in New York City and drew a crowd of over 800 blues enthusiasts. Handy’s full name was William Christopher Handy.

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