#FridayFun – Laughs For Black History Month

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#FashionFriday: Ann Lowe

Ann Lowe — a highly sought after designer in her day — is the first world-renowned black designer who created dresses for socialites and brides. She created looks for families including the Auchinclosses, DuPonts, Kennedys, Posts, Rockefellers, and Roosevelts. She is also the first black designer to own a boutique on Madison Avenue. And her stunning creations were also sold at Henri Bendel, Saks Fifth Avenue, and Neiman Marcus.

Lowe was born in Clayton, Alabama in 1898 although the specific date is unknown.  Lowe was a great-granddaughter of a skilled seamstress slave and a white plantation owner. Her mixed-race grandmother, Georgia Tompkins, was given her freedom after being purchased by a freeman named General Cole. Ann learned to sew from Georgia and from her mother Janey Lowe, who made dresses for Southern society women. Janey Lowe died in 1914 when Lowe was sixteen. At the time of her death Janey Lowe was working on four ball gowns for the First Lady of Alabama, Elizbeth Kirkman O’Neal. Lowe finished the dresses.

In 1912 when she was fourteen, Lowe married Lee Cohen with whom she had a son, Arthur Lee. Lowe’s husband wanted her to give up working as a seamstress but she left him after she was hired to design a wedding dress for a woman in Florida. In 1917, 19-year-old Lowe and her son moved to New York City, New York where she enrolled at St. Taylor Design School. The segregated school required Lowe to attend classes in a room alone. After graduating from St. Taylor Design School in 1919, Lowe and her son moved to Tampa, Florida. The following year, she opened her first dress salon “Annie Cohen.” In 1928, Lowe returned to New York City after saving $20,000 of her earnings. While there she began to work on commission for Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue, Henri Bendel, Chez Sonia, and other prominent retailers.

In 1946, Lowe designed the dress that actress Olivia de Havilland wore to accept the Academy Award for Best Actress. In 1950, Lowe and her son open a second salon called Ann Lowe’s Gowns, on New York City’s Lexington Avenue. Here Lowe created designs for some of the most prestigious families in the nation including the Rockefellers, the Lodges, the DuPonts, the Posts, and the Biddles. In 1953, she was hired to design a wedding dress for Jacqueline Bouvier for her wedding to Massachusetts Senator John F. Kennedy but was never properly credited for her creation. Lowe was chosen by Jacqueline’s mother Janet Auchincloss, who previously commissioned Lowe to design the wedding dress she wore when she married Hugh D. Auchincloss in 1942. The wedding dress was widely admired at this highly publicized social event.

Throughout her career, Lowe worked for wealthy clients who often persuaded her to charge hundreds of dollars less for her work than her competitors.  Eventually in 1962, she lost the salon in New York City after failing to pay taxes. That same year, her right eye was removed due to glaucoma.  Lowe also developed a cataract in her left eye which was saved by surgery. In 1968, at the age of 70, Lowe opened a new store called Ann Lowe Originals, on Madison Avenue.  She retired two years later in 1972.

Lowe was married twice.  Her son by Lee Cohen, Arthur Lee, was Lowe’s business partner from the 1930s until his death in 1958. Lowe married a second time but that marriage also ended in divorce. As a single woman, Lowe later adopted a daughter, Ruth Alexander.

Ann Lowe died on February 25, 1981.

#TheologyThursday: Richard Allen

Richard Allen was born in Philadelphia on February 14, 1760, the slave of Benjamin Chew, a prominent lawyer and Chief Justice of the Commonwealth from 1774-1777. When he was a child, Richard, his parents and his three siblings were sold to Stokeley Sturgis, a Delaware planter whom Richard described as “unconverted…but… what the world called a good master.” Despite his master’s “tenderhearted[ness],” Richard longed to be free, “for slavery is a bitter pill, notwithstanding we had a good master.” When Stokeley got into financial trouble, Richard’s mother and three of his five siblings were sold.
After his own religious conversion, Richard joined the Methodist Society, began attending classes, and evangelized his friends and neighbors. Richard and his brothers attended classes every week and meetings every other Thursday. When white neighbors complained that such indulgence of “Stokeley’s Negroes would soon ruin him,” the brothers decided that they “would attend more faithfully to our master’s business, so that it should not be said that religion made us worse servants.”
Their strategy proved effective; Stokeley boasted “that religion made slaves better and not worse,” and granted Richard permission to “ask the preachers to come and preach at his house. When the charismatic white preacher Freeborn Garretson preached that slaveowners were “weighed in the balance, and… found wanting,” Stokeley “believed himself to be one of that number, and after that he could not be satisfied to hold slaves, believing it wrong.” Richard took up his master’s suggestion that he purchase his freedom. He set out to earn the money by working for the Revolutionary forces, eventually taking the surname “Allen” to signify his free status.
For the next six years, Allen traveled the Methodist circuit, throughout South Carolina, New York, Maryland, Delaware and Pennsylvania, preaching to black and white congregants alike. He worked as a sawyer and wagon driver when he needed to earn money. Allen walked so many miles that at times his “feet became so sore and painful that I could scarcely be able to put them to the floor.”
While preaching in a town near Philadelphia, Allen was asked by the Methodist elder to preach to the black congregants at St. George’s Methodist Church. Allen agreed, though he was required to preach at a 5:00 a.m. so that his services would not interfere with the whites’. He also preached on the commons in areas of the city where black families lived, often preaching as many as four or five times a day. In this way he raised a society of 42 members, while he supported himself as a shoemaker.
As the group grew in number, Allen “saw the necessity of erecting a place of worship for the colored people,” an idea rejected by “the most respectable people of color in the city,” but embraced by “three colored brethren … the Rev. Absalom Jones, William White and Dorus Ginnings [who] united with me as soon as it became public and known.”
The white elder of the church, when this plan was explained to him, “used very degrading and insulting language to us, to try and prevent us from going on. We all belonged to St. George’s church…. We felt ourselves much cramped; but my dear Lord was with us, and we believed, if it was his will, the work would go on, and that we would be able to succeed in building the house of the Lord.”
Allen and Jones continued their discussions, and in 1787 decided to form the Free African Society, a non-denominational religious mutual aid society for the black community. Eventually this society grew into the African Church of Philadelphia. Allen continued his Methodist ministry, and seven years later, in 1794, founded Bethel, which became the “Mother” church of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, the first independent black denomination.
In 1793, Allen and Jones responded to Benjamin Rush’s call to mobilize the black community to serve during Philadelphia’s yellow fever epidemic. When reports circulated of blacks plundering and profiteering from the disease, the two ministers published A Narrative of the Proceedings of the Black People, During the Late Awful Calamity in Philadelphia in the Year 1793 and A Refutation of Some Censures Thrown upon them in some late Publications, a defense of the black community and a documentation of their heroic efforts.
Despite denominational differences, Allen and Jones remained lifelong friends and collaborators. Together with James Forten, they became the acknowledged leaders of the black community. The three men figured prominently on both sides of the ongoing colonization debate.
With the support of his second wife, Sara, whom he married in 1800, Richard Allen remained an ardent activist on behalf of the local and national black community. Allen died in 1831, widely revered as, in the words of abolitionist David Walker, one of “the greatest divines who has lived since the apostolic age.”

And On His Instagram Page, I Found…

So, I met this guy who said he was really into me. A product of the South, he moved to L.A. a while ago and told me that he wanted to settle down, get married & have a family. Of course, these are the words every single woman wants to hear, so needless to say, I wasn’t moved at all.  We exchanged contact information and have talked on the phone a few times & even hung out once. Our conversations ranged from religion to comedy, and from politics to family. With all of our conversation, not once did he mention something so very important.

On his Instagram page (which he asked me to check out), I found out that he had not 1, but 2 kids! A little boy & a young daughter. Can you believe it?! A man who had talked to me for hours not once mentioned that he was a father, let alone a father to two children. How could he leave this “tidbit” of information out of our conversations? Did he not think I would find out eventually?

Was he ashamed of fathering 2 children? Did he not have a good relationship with them or their mothers? Was he expecting me to get to know him first before dropping this bombshell on me? Or maybe he didn’t think that it mattered that I didn’t know? Did he think that I would want to be with him more when I found out from another source that he had kids? Or maybe he wasn’t “hiding” it from me, but he certainly wasn’t forthcoming with the information either. Whatever his explanation was for not telling me just wouldn’t have made any sense to me.

Why would you not want someone to know that you have multiple children? Why would you expect someone to trust you if you are withholding such relevant information from them? No one should ever have to find out over social media that you have kids. That’s reason enough to not call them anymore.

Which is exactly what I did.

What have you found out about someone over social media that you didn’t already know about them?

#TuesdayArtist: Charles White

This work is known by two titles: Mother and Awaiting His Return. The woman who dominates the composition stares into space, her strongly modeled figure a study in patience. Given the work’s date (1945), the framed star in the background (a symbol of the US military), and the word mother inscribed in the lithograph’s lower left corner, the two titles make equal sense. The woman’s face is easily interpreted as that of a mother waiting for a loved one to return from service in World War II. Artist Charles White has chiseled her facial features with determination while infusing her expression with sadness. The cubist faceting of her figure imparts a feeling of solidity and strength in her that is reinforced by her imposing size and foreground placement. Her hands and face are nearly architectural, with their sharp edges and straight-line markings of light and shadow. Yet her tired eyes, her chin set into the palm of her hand, and the merest hint of doubt in her expression signal concern.
In 1942 White, primarily known as a painter of historical murals, shifted his focus to portraits of everyday African Americans on the advice of Harry Sternberg, an instructor at the Art Students League, New York. White’s portraits, including Mother, depict anonymous people dealing with situations common to the black experience. The meticulous draftsman used his skill to render human emotion and endurance in the face of such obstacles as discrimination. His works from the 1950s, the decade when the civil rights struggle exploded in the United States, show the cost of such perseverance in images of black men and women fighting for social justice.

#MeterologyMonday – Vivian Brown

Even as a little girl in Greenville, Mississippi, Vivian Brown was interested in weather and spent her high school summers attending programs that offered internships in meteorology. Armed with a bachelor’s degree in meteorology from Jackson State University, she joined The Weather Channel in 1986 and stayed for nearly 30 years. “The most satisfying thing about my job is knowing that I am able to provide very important information to people, so they can protect themselves, their loved ones and their property from the dangers of violent weather.”