Tag: African American

#SaturdayStamps: Mary Church Terrell and Mary White Ovington 

Mary White Ovington (April 11, 1865 in Brooklyn, New York – July 15, 1951) a suffragette, socialist, unitarian, journalist, and co-founder of the NAACP.

Her parents, members of the Unitarian Church were supporters of women’s rights and had been involved in anti-slavery movement. Educated at Packer Collegiate Institute and Radcliffe College, Ovington became involved in the campaign for civil rights in 1890 after hearing Frederick Douglass speak in a Brooklyn church.

In 1895 she helped found the Greenpoint Settlement in Brooklyn. Appointed head of the project the following year, Ovington remained until 1904 when she was appointed fellow of the Greenwich House Committee on Social Investigations. Over the next five years she studied employment and housing problems in black Manhattan. During her investigations she met William Du Bois, an African American from Harvard University, and she was introduced to the founding members of the Niagara Movement.

Influenced by the ideas of William Morris, Ovington joined the Socialist Party in 1905, where she met people such as Daniel De Leon, Asa Philip Randolph, Floyd Dell, Max Eastman and Jack London, who argued that racial problems were as much a matter of class as of race. She wrote for radical journals and newspapers such as, The Masses, New York Evening Post, and The Call. She also worked with Ray Stannard Baker and influenced the content of his book, Following the Color Line (1908).

On September 3, 1908 she read an article written by socialist William English Walling entitled “Race War in the North” in The Independent. Walling described a massive race riot directed at black residents in the hometown of Abraham Lincoln, Springfield, Illinois that led to seven deaths, 40 homes and 24 businesses destroyed, and 107 indictments against rioters. Walling ended the article by calling for a powerful body of citizens to come to the aid blacks. Ovington responded to the article by writing Walling and meeting at his apartment in New York City along with social worker Dr. Henry Moskowitz. The group decided to launch a campaign by issuing a “call” for a national conference on the civil and political rights of African-Americans on the centennial of Lincoln’s birthday, February 12, 1909. Many responded to the “call” that eventually led to the formation of the National Negro Committee that held its first meeting in New York on May 31 and June 1, 1909. By May, 1910 the National Negro Committee and attendants, at its second conference, organized a permanent body known as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) where Ovington was appointed as its executive secretary. Early members included Josephine Ruffin, Mary Talbert, Mary Church Terrell, Inez Milholland, Jane Addams, George Henry White, William Du Bois, Charles Edward Russell, John Dewey, Charles Darrow, Lincoln Steffens, Ray Stannard Baker, Fanny Garrison Villard, Oswald Garrison Villard and Ida Wells-Barnett.

The following year she attended the Universal Races Congress in London. Ovington remained active in the struggle for women’s suffrage and as a pacifist opposed America’s involvement in the First World War. During the war Ovington supported Asa Philip Randolph and his magazine, The Messenger, which campaigned for black civil rights.

After the war Ovington served the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People as board member, executive secretary and chairman. The NAACP fought a long legal battle against segregation and racial discrimination in housing, education, employment, voting and transportation. They appealed to the Supreme Court to rule that several laws passed by southern states were unconstitutional and won three important judgments between 1915-1923 concerning voting rights and housing.

She wrote several books and articles including a study of black Manhattan, Half a Man (1911), Status of the Negro in the United States (1913), Socialism and the Feminist Movement (1914), an anthology for black children, The Upward Path (1919), biographical sketches of prominent African Americans, Portraits in Color (1927), an autobiography, Reminiscences (1932) and a history of the NAACP, The Walls Come Tumbling Down (1947).

Ovington retired as a board member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in 1947 and in doing so, ended decades of service with the organization. She died in 1951.

#SaturdayStamps: Ella Baker and Ruby Hurley

Ella Jo Baker was born on December 13, 1903, in Norfolk, Virginia. She developed a sense for social justice early in her life. As a girl growing up in North Carolina, Baker listened to her grandmother tell stories about slave revolts. As a slave, her grandmother had been whipped for refusing to marry a man chosen for her by the slave owner.

Baker studied at Shaw University in Raleigh, North Carolina. As a student she challenged school policies that she thought were unfair. After graduating in 1927 as class valedictorian, she moved to New York City and began joining social activist organizations. In 1930, she joined the Young Negroes Cooperative League, whose purpose was to develop black economic power through collective planning. She also involved herself with several women’s organizations. She was committed to economic justice for all people and once said, “People cannot be free until there is enough work in this land to give everybody a job.”

Ella Baker began her involvement with the NAACP in 1940. She worked as a field secretary and then served as director of branches from 1943 until 1946. Inspired by the historic bus boycott in Montgomery, Alabama, in 1955, Baker co-founded the organization In Friendship to raise money to fight against Jim Crow Laws in the deep South.

In 1957, Baker moved to Atlanta to help organize Martin Luther King’s new organization, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). She also ran a voter registration campaign called the Crusade for Citizenship.

On February 1, 1960, a group of black college students from North Carolina A&T University refused to leave a Woolworth’s lunch counter in Greensboro, North Carolina where they had been denied service. Baker left the SCLC after the Greensboro sit-ins. She wanted to assist the new student activists because she viewed young, emerging activists as a resource and an asset to the movement. Miss Baker organized a meeting at Shaw University for the student leaders of the sit-ins in April 1960. From that meeting, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee — SNCC — was born.

Adopting the Gandhian theory of nonviolent direct action, SNCC members joined with activists from the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) to organize the 1961 Freedom Rides. In 1964 SNCC helped create Freedom Summer, an effort to focus national attention on Mississippi’s racism and to register black voters. Miss Baker, and many of her contemporaries, believed that voting was one key to freedom.  We agree that if we do not exercise our collective voice, we are unable to influence the policies and laws that impact our lives. To be counted, we must be heard. Our Soul of the City civic engagement work and participation with Oakland Rising builds on the Voting Rights work of the 60s.

With Ella Baker’s guidance and encouragement, SNCC became one of the foremost advocates for human rights in the country. Ella Baker once said, “This may only be a dream of mine, but I think it can be made real.” Her audacity to dream big is a cornerstone of our philosophy. Her influence was reflected in the nickname she acquired: “Fundi,” a Swahili word meaning a person who teaches a craft to the next generation. Baker continued to be a respected and influential leader in the fight for human and civil rights until her death on December 13, 1986, her 83rd birthday.

Ruby Ruffin was born on November 7, 1909 in Washington, D.C. to Alice and Edward R. Ruffin. She graduated from Dunbar High School in 1926. She attended Miner Teachers College and Robert H. Terrell Law School. She worked briefly for the federal government and at the Industrial Bank of Washington. She married William L. Hurley, a lieutenant in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

In 1939, Hurley was on a committee that was tasked with arranging for a performance from Marian Anderson, an African-American opera singer who was barred from singing at Constitution Hall by the Daughters of the American Revolution. The committee was able to secure a venue change and Anderson performed at an open air concert on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial to a crowd of 75,000.

For the next four years, Hurley worked reorganizing the D.C. branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), bolstering their youth council. Walter Francis White, who headed the NAACP, appointed Hurley to the position of national Youth Secretary in 1943. She moved to New York City and stayed in that role until 1950. Hurley traveled across the country organizing youth councils and college chapters, increasing their number from 86 to over 280 during her tenure.

In 1951, she moved from New York to Birmingham, Alabama to set up an NAACP office and oversee membership drives in Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, and Florida. It was the first permanent NAACP office located in the Deep South. She became Regional Secretary of the NAACP’s newly formed Southeast Regional Office the following year. In 1955 Hurley joined with civil rights activists Amzie Moore and Medgar Evers, who was Field Secretary at the NAACP’s Mississippi office, in investigating the murders of minister George W. Lee and 14-year-old Emmett Till. In order to interview witnesses for Till’s case, Hurley wore cotton picker’s clothes. Following the Brown v. Board of Education ruling in 1954, Hurley worked to implement racial integration in the South. While she practiced Christian nonviolence, she appeared on the cover of Jet magazine’s October 6, 1955 issue with a caption reading “Most Militant Negro Woman In The South”. In 1956, Hurley helped to prepare the case of Autherine Lucy to be allowed to attend the University of Alabama. Hurley’s efforts were met with open hostility and she suffered from fatigue and weight loss. Her house was attacked and she received obscene telephone calls. Following a riot at the University of Alabama campus, black taxi drivers offered protection, circling her home.

Remembering Elijah Cummings (1951-2019)

The Baltimore-area Democrat who chaired the powerful House Oversight Committee and drew the ire of President Donald Trump — died early Thursday at Johns Hopkins Hospital due to complications from longstanding health challenges, his office said in a statement. He was 68.

Cummings had represented Maryland’s 7th Congressional District for 23 years before ascending in January to his perch atop the Oversight panel, from which he oversaw several investigations into the current administration. 

Cummings was a force inside the Democratic caucus who earned the trust of Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to take on some of the toughest and most politically sensitive assignments. Known for his booming oratory and poetic delivery, Cummings quickly emerged as one of Democrats’ most effective critics.

“When the history books are written about this tumultuous era, I want them to show that I was among those in the House of Representatives who stood up to lawlessness and tyranny,” he said in a Sept. 24 statement.

“Those in the highest levels of the government must stop invoking fear, using racist language and encouraging reprehensible behavior. It only creates more division among us,” Cummings said in his speech in early August. Despite his central role in some of the most politically explosive investigations in recent years, Cummings was a rare figure who forged friendships and bonds across the aisle.

Cummings was the beloved son of Baltimore, born in the city on January 18, 1951, and could often be seen walking the streets of the inner-city district, an area where he lived in the same house for more than three decades. “He worked until his last breath because he believed our democracy was the highest and best expression of our collective humanity and that our nation’s diversity was our promise, not our problem.”

#SaturdayStamps: Gee’s Bend Quilt

Gee’s Bend is a small, isolated, rural community in southern Alabama. Joseph Gee had a cotton plantation there that he sold to Mark Pettway in 1845. After the Civil War, Pettway’s freed slaves became tenant farmers. Many bought their farms in a 1940s’ New Deal program.
The women of Gee’s Bend made dozens of quilts. They were needed for warm bed coverings. Quilts were hung on walls to keep out drafts and laid on floors for children to sit on. The quilters passed their skills down through generations. They pieced together recycled fabrics in a bold, geometric style more like modern abstract paintings than familiar quilt patterns.
In Gee’s Bend, the top is designed and stitched by one quilter. Sewing together the top, batting, and back is sometimes done communally. In 2003, more than 40 women founded the Gee’s Bend Quilter’s Collective. Typically, half of the proceeds from each quilt sold goes to the designer and the rest is divided among the collective’s members.
In the 1930s, Gee’s Bend quilts sold for two dollars. Now, having been discovered by the outside world and displayed in museums across the country, top Gee’s Bend quilts sell for as much as $35,000. Gee’s Bend Quilt stamps are part of the American Treasures Series.

Remembering Diahann Carroll (1935-2019)

Diahann Carroll made a number of films during her career and was nominated for an Academy Award for Claudine in 1974. It wasn’t until she was cast as the lead in Julia in 1968, however, that Carroll became a bona fide celebrity. The role made her the first African-American woman to star in her own TV series. She was nominated for an Emmy for Julia in 1969 and won the Golden Globe Award in 1968.

Early Life and Career

Actress and singer Carol Diahann Johnson was born on July 17, 1935, in The Bronx, New York. She attended Manhattan’s School of Performing Arts and worked as a nightclub singer and model before making her Broadway debut in The House of Flowers in 1954. That year, she also made her film debut alongside Dorothy Dandridge in Carmen Jones.

Acting Career

Carroll made a number of films during her career and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress for her work in Claudine in 1974. She starred in No Strings (1962) and also appeared in I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1979). It wasn’t until she was cast as the lead in Julia in 1968, however, that Carroll became a bona fide celebrity. The role made her the first African-American woman to star in her own television series. She was nominated for an Emmy Award for Julia in 1969 and won the Golden Globe Award in 1968.

Carroll was also well known for her role as jet setter Dominique Deveraux on Dynasty from the 1980s. She received her third Emmy nomination in 1989 for her role on A Different World. Most recently, Carroll has made recurring guest appearances on the hit dramedy Grey’s Anatomy.

Death

Carroll passed away on October 4, 2019, in Los Angeles, California after a long battle against cancer.

#SaturdayStamps: James VanDerZee

 

Beginning in 1916, James Van Der Zee (1886-1983) photographed the people of Harlem for more than six decades, depicting the life of one of the most celebrated black communities in the world. By providing elaborate costumes, props, and backdrops, in combination with creative double exposures, expert retouching, and airbrushing, Van Der Zee became renowned for the quality of his portraits. Although he gained fame for his portrayal of African-American celebrities who passed through Harlem, Van Der Zee made his daily living by taking thousands of photographs of Harlem’s residents, including family groups, weddings, athletic teams, and social clubs.

#SaturdayStamps: Errol Garner

Pianist and songwriter Erroll Garner was born June 15, 1921. Blessed with a natural talent, he began playing the piano by ear at age three. Although he never received any formal training, and was never able to read or write music, Garner was able to play any song – even if he had heard it only once!
Garner started performing with local bands in 1937. He moved to New York City at age 23 and began playing clubs on 52nd Street, including the Three Deuces and Tondelayo’s. His unique piano styling was featured on recordings by the Slam Stewart Trio before he recorded under his own name with a bassist and drummer. From 1945 to 1949, Garner made a number of records on a freelance basis before signing an exclusive contract with Columbia Records. In 1948 he performed at the Paris Jazz Festival.
Garner’s music appealed to non-jazz audiences, and he enjoyed great success in the late 1950s. He toured Europe in 1957 and ’58. His most famous song, “Misty,” was a big hit in 1959 and enjoyed a resurgence in 1971, when it became the theme song for the Clint Eastwood film “Play Misty For Me.” He is also remembered for the songs “It Gets Better Every Time,” “Dreamy,” “Nightwind,” and “La Petite Mambo.”t’s Notice,” and “Equinox.”