Tag: African American

#SaturdayStamps: Jean Baptiste Pointe DuSable

Du Sable, whose French father had moved to Haiti and married a black woman there, is believed to have been a freeborn. At some time in the 1770s he went to the Great Lakes area of North America, settling on the shore of Lake Michigan at the mouth of the Chicago River, with his Potawatomi wife, Kittihawa (Catherine). His loyalty to the French and the Americans led to his arrest in 1779 by the British, who took him to Fort Mackinac. From 1780 to 1783 or 1784 he managed for his captors a trading post called the Pinery on the St. Clair River in present-day Michigan, after which he returned to the site of Chicago. By 1790 Du Sable’s establishment there had become an important link in the region’s fur and grain trade.

In 1800 he sold out and moved to Missouri, where he continued as a farmer and trader until his death. But his 20-year residence on the shores of Lake Michigan had established his title as Father of Chicago.

#SaturdayStamps: Josh Gibson

Josh Gibson (1911-1947) spent his entire baseball career in the Negro Leagues. His powerful hits made him one of black baseball’s biggest attractions, and the length of his homers was legendary. Gibson was often called the “Babe Ruth of the Negro Leagues.”
A native of Buena Vista, Georgia, Gibson made his baseball debut with the Homestead Grays in 1930 when he was 18 years old. He filled in for the team’s starting catcher, who was injured. The six-foot-one-inch, 215-pound Gibson earned the nickname “Boxer.”
In 1932, Gibson began playing for the Pittsburgh Crawfords. As a member of the Crawfords, Gibson teamed up with pitcher Satchel Paige. Gibson returned to the Grays in 1937. During the winter, he played in Mexico, Puerto Rico, and the Dominican Republic.
Josh Gibson posted the Negro League’s highest batting average twice. His 1943 average of .517 was the second highest in its history. He also led the league in home runs nine times. Officially, Gibson’s home run count stands at 137. But his at-bats during his three best seasons, 1942, 1943, and 1946, were never recorded. For those years, he is credited with hitting 30 homers, making his unofficial career total 167. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1972.

#SaturdayStamps: Roberta Martin

Roberta Martin (1907-1969) was one of the most articulate and influential singers of black American gospel music. A singer, pianist, composer, arranger, and organizer of groups and choirs, Roberta Martin’s unique combination of musical elements became the standard for what was known as the gospel era.
One of six children, Roberta was born in Helena, Arkansas. Her family moved to Chicago when she was 10 years old. Her first role in the church was as a pianist for the Young People’s Choir of Ebenezer Baptist Church. There she organized a quartet, which in 1936 expanded to include two more singers and became the Roberta Martin Singers. The group traveled all over the country, playing concert halls, stadiums, churches, festivals, and on radio and television stations in the United States and Europe, until their retirement in the 1960s. The choral sound that the ensemble created provided a model for community-based church gospel choirs.
In 1939, Roberta established what became the largest gospel music publishing house in Chicago. Through this position, she was able to reach thousands of performers across the country. During her lifetime, Roberta Martin published 280 gospel songs.

#SaturdayStamps: Katherine Dunham

Katherine Dunham revolutionized American dance in the 1930’s by going to the roots of black dance and ritual and transforming them into significant artistic choreography that speaks to all. She is a pioneer in the use of folk and ethnic choreography; she is one of the founders of the anthropological dance movement. She showed the world that African American heritage is beautiful.

Dunham prepared herself by dancing and performing throughout her youth in Peoria, Illinois, by her graduate studies in social anthropology at the University of Chicago, and by living among the native in the West Indies.

Between her initial education and her appointment to Southern Illinois University in 1967, Ms. Dunham did ground breaking work in every aspect of dance, theater, music and education. She danced, choreographed, and directed on Broadway. She danced with Les Ballet Negre, the first black ballet company in the United States, and appeared in the films “Stormy Weather” and “Cabin in the Sky” which she co-choreographed with George Balanchine. Dunham chose to leave Hollywood soon after to create a more culturally comfortable place for American black people to perform, in East St. Louis, Illinois. She formed the Katherine Dunham Dance Company, which toured in more than 60 countries, amassing cultural and theatrical experiences, which would be recounted in eight books, numerous articles and short stories which she wrote.

One scholar called Katherine Dunham “a hip swinging anthropologist”; “the hottest thing to hit Chicago since Mrs. O’Leary’s cow kicked the bucket” and “an authoritative interpreter of primitive dance rhythm.” She made her debut as a dancer on Broadway in the1930’s sporting a birdcage on her head and a cigar in her mouth. Such accoutrements are standard for the ladies who circulate around Caribbean ports, which her anthropological studies had taught her.

Throughout the years, Katherine Dunham continues to fight for racial equality. She devoted much of her talent and insight to re-directing the energy of violent street gangs through the performing arts. Her work resulted in the formation of the Performing Arts Training Center. She also founded the Katherine Dunham Museum and Children’s School, which continues today.

Ms. Dunham is the recipient of ten honorary doctorates, numerous awards, including the Kennedy Center Honors. As well, she continues to receive the admiration and devotion of the hundreds of students and colleagues whose lives have been enriched. Women’s International Center is privileged to offer the Living Legacy Award to a magnificent teacher, dancer, choreographer, actress and humanitarian, Katherine Dunham.

#SaturdayStamps: Robert Hayden

The United States Postal Service has honored ten of America’s most illustrious poets of the 20th century on 45-cent First-Class Mail Forever stamps. Among those chosen was Robert Hayden, the first African-American to be appointed Poet Laureate. Hayden was also a longtime Baha’i.

Born Asa Bundy Sheffey in 1913 in the Paradise Valley neighborhood of Detroit, Mr. Hayden spent much of his time reading and writing. He attended Detroit City College (now Wayne State University) on a scholarship and earned a master’s degree at the University of Michigan, where he was mentored by celebrated poet W.H. Auden.
In 1943, while in graduate school, Mr. Hayden became acquainted with the Baha’i Faith and was drawn to its focus on racial harmony. He incorporated those beliefs into his poems and thought of himself as an American poet, rather than a black poet.
Mr. Hayden was awarded the grand prize for poetry in 1966 for his collection Ballad of Remembrance at the First World Festival of Negro Arts held in Senegal. The award earned him long-awaited worldwide recognition. In 1976, he was named Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress, which later became the esteemed title Poet Laureate of the United States. His poetry is wide-ranging and includes tributes to black leaders such as Dr. Martin Luther King, folklore, politics, life in the slums and the Vietnam War. One of his most-well-known poems is “Those Winter Sundays,” in which a son reminisces about his father.

Robert Hayden taught at Fisk University in Nashville for 23 years and then at the University of Michigan from 1969 until his death in 1980 at age 66.
Other Twentieth-Century Poets honored by the Postal Service include Elizabeth Bishop, Joseph Brodsky, Gwendolyn Brooks, E.E. Cummings, Denise Levertov, Sylvia Plath, Theodore Roethke, Wallace Stevens and William Carlos Williams. Each stamp features a photograph of one of the 10 poets. Text on the back of the stamp sheet includes an excerpt from one poem by each poet. The art director was Derry Noyes.

#SaturdayStamps: Roy Campanella

Nicknamed “Campy,” Roy Campanella (1921-1993) was the first black catcher in the history of Major League Baseball. Known for his years with the Brooklyn Dodgers, the famous “Boys of Summer,” Campanella is remembered as a talented all-around player. He hit 242 home runs during his 10-year Major League career, he was a catcher in five World Series, and he was named Most Valuable Player three times.

Born in Philadelphia, Campanella began his career by playing ball with a semiprofessional Negro League team, the Bacharach Giants, during his teens. He played for the Baltimore Elite Giants from 1937 to 1945 and was considered one of the best catchers in the Negro Leagues. He also played in briefly in the Mexican League.

Campanella began playing for the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1948. During his 1953 MVP season, he hit 41 home runs, chalked up 142 RBIs, scored 103 runs, and batted .312, considered one of the best seasons ever recorded by a catcher. With Campanella, the “Boys of Summer” won five National League pennants between 1949 and 1956 and won the World Series in 1955.

In 1958, Campanella was paralyzed in a car accident, but for decades he worked behind the scenes and in community relations for the Dodgers in Los Angeles. In 1969 he was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame. In 1991, two years before he died, Campanella and his wife founded The Roy and Roxie Campanella Physical Therapy Scholarship Foundation, which provides support for those living with paraplegia and funds scholarships for students who pursue degrees in physical therapy.