Tag: African American

#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.

Advertisements

#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.”

#SaturdayStamps: Wilma Rudolph

Wilma Glodean Rudolph was born prematurely on June 23, 1940, in St. Bethlehem, Tennessee, the 20th of 22 children born to dad Ed across his two marriages. She went on to become a pioneering African-American track and field champion, but the road to victory was not an easy one for Wilma Rudolph. Stricken with double pneumonia, scarlet fever and polio as a child, she had problems with her left leg and had to wear a brace. It was with great determination and the help of physical therapy that she was able to overcome her disabilities.

Growing up in the segregated South, Rudolph attended the all-black Burt High School, where she played on the basketball team. A naturally gifted runner, she was soon recruited to train with Tennessee State University track coach Ed Temple.

Pioneering Olympic Medalist

Nicknamed “Skeeter” for her famous speed, Wilma Rudolph qualified for the 1956 Summer Olympic Games in Melbourne, Australia. The youngest member of the U.S. track and field team at age 16, she won a bronze medal in the 400-meter relay. After finishing high school, Rudolph enrolled at Tennessee State University, where she studied education. She also trained hard for the next Olympics.

Held in Rome, Italy, the 1960 Olympic Games were a golden time for Rudolph. After tying a world record with her time of 11.3 seconds in the 100-meter semifinals, she won the event with her wind-aided mark of 11.0 seconds in the final. Similarly, Rudolph broke the Olympic record in the 200-meter dash (23.2 seconds) in the heats before claiming another gold medal with her time of 24.0 seconds. She was also part of the U.S. team that established the world record in the 400-meter relay (44.4 seconds) before going on to win gold with a time of 44.5 seconds. As a result, Rudolph became the first American woman to win three gold medals in track and field at a single Olympic Games. The first-class sprinter instantly became one of the most popular athletes of the Rome Games as well as an international superstar, lauded around the world for her groundbreaking achievements.

Following the Games, Rudolph made numerous appearances on television and received several honors, including the Associated Press Female Athlete of the Year Award in both 1960 and 1961. She retired from competition not long after, and went on to teach, coach and run a community center, among other endeavors, though her accomplishments on the Olympic track remained her best known.

Later Years, Death and Legacy

Rudolph shared her remarkable story with her 1977 autobiography, Wilma, which was turned into a TV film later that year. In the 1980s, she was inducted into the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame and established the Wilma Rudolph Foundation to promote amateur athletics. She died on November 12, 1994, in Brentwood, Tennessee, after losing a battle with brain cancer.

Rudolph is remembered as one of the fastest women in track and as a source of great inspiration for generations of athletes. She once stated, “Winning is great, sure, but if you are really going to do something in life, the secret is learning how to lose. Nobody goes undefeated all the time. If you can pick up after a crushing defeat, and go on to win again, you are going to be a champion someday.”

#FashionFriday: Tracy Reese

Tracy Reese is an American designer whose signature rich, daring colors and unique prints are crafted into joyful, feminine pieces for the modern woman. The TRACY REESE design philosophy is rooted in a commitment to bringing out the beauty in women of all shapes, sizes and colors. Stimulated by the world around her, Reese takes inspiration from nature, art, dance, travel and global cultures.

Reese attended Parsons New School for Design, where she received an accelerated degree in 1984. Upon graduation, she apprenticed under designer Martine Sitbon, while working for the small contemporary firm Arlequin. She has also worked at some of the industry’s top fashion houses- including Perry Ellis where she was design director for Women’s Portfolio.

In 1997, Reese launched her eponymous collection to rave reviews. By combining bold hues and prints with modern silhouettes and shapes, she creates fresh designs perfect for the confident, sophisticated woman.

Her secondary line, plenty by Tracy Reese, was introduced in 1998. Plenty embodies the modern bohemian spirit, offering a distinctive combination of joyful color palettes and playful details. The line is all about versatile everyday essentials with effortlessly, sexy styling.

Launched in Spring 2014, plenty DRESSES by Tracy Reese captures the needs of the contemporary dress consumer who is seeking fashion which takes her from work to a special occasion. Color, vivid prints and feminine styles have instantly made this brand a stand out.

Reese’s designs have been featured in the top fashion publications including Vogue, Elle, Glamour, InStyle, O, the Oprah Magazine, Essence and WWD. Her distinct point of view has also made her a celebrity favorite. Notable fans of the brand include First Lady Michelle Obama, Sarah Jessica Parker and Taylor Swift.

Reese serves on the CFDA Board of Directors. She is a champion for many charities and social causes—she is an advocate for HIV/AIDS charities and has served on the AIDS Fund Committee for the New York Community Trust for five years. She is also part of the Turnaround Arts program through the President’s Committee of the Humanities and Arts and is the Turnaround Artist for Barnum School in Bridgeport, Connecticut.

Tracy Reese, plenty by Tracy Reese, and plenty DRESSES by Tracy Reese are sold nationwide in top department stores and specialty boutiques as well as retailers throughout Europe & Asia.

#TuesdayArtist: Jacob Lawrence

Daybreak – A Time to Rest is one in a series of panel paintings that tell the story of Harriet Tubman, the famed African American woman who freed enslaved people using a fragile network of safe houses called the Underground Railroad. This abstracted image emphasizes Tubman’s bravery in the face of constant danger. Lying on the hard ground beside a couple and their baby, she holds a rifle. Her face, pointing upward to the sky, occupies the near center of the canvas, her body surrounded by purple. Tubman’s enormous feet, grossly out of proportion, become the focal point of the work. The lines delineating her toes and muscles look like carvings in a rock, as if to emphasize the arduous journeys she has made. Reeds in the foreground frame the prone runaways. Three insects (a walking stick, a beetle, and an ant) are signs of activity at daybreak.

Jacob Lawrence is renowned for his narrative painting series that chronicles the experiences of African Americans, which he created during a career of more than six decades. Using geometric shapes and bold colors on flattened picture planes to express his emotions, he fleshed out the lives of Tubman, Frederick Douglass, John Brown, and African Americans migrating north from the rural south during and after slavery. Lawrence was 12 in 1929 when his family settled in Harlem, New York, at a time when African American intellectual and artistic life was flourishing there. As a teen, he took classes at the Harlem Art Workshop and Harlem Community Art Center, where he studied works of art by African American artists and learned about African art and history. Lawrence went on to create images that are major expressions of the history and experience of African Americans.

#MeteorologyMonday: Spencer Christian

Among the meteorologists who provide weathercasts on the broadcast networks’ popular morning news programs, Spencer Christian has set the tone as an amiable provider of the nation’s rain or shine outlook to millions of viewers. Christian, who often fills in as co-host with Joan Lunden on Good Morning America, has been described by TV Guide’s Marvin Kitman as “an intelligent, entertaining, likable fellow, not a somber bone in his body.”

Spencer Christian was born in July of 1947 to Spencer Christian Sr. and Lucy Greene Christian in Newport News, VA. He spent the late 1960s as an English major at Virginia’s Hampton College, and also served in the U.S. Army Reserves. After graduating with a minor in journalism, Christian taught school at the Stony Brook School, a private secondary institution on Long Island. However, in 1971, he moved back to Virginia to take a job at WWBT-TV in Richmond. He worked as a news reporter for one year. When the station’s weathercaster quit, Christian’s boss approached him and asked if he knew anything about meteorology. “I told him that the upper-level winds moved from east to west and steer the frontal systems. He said, That’s enough for now. We need you to fill on for a couple of weeks,” Christian recalled to Ebony writer Douglas C. Lyons. Christian wound up remaining the station’s weathercaster for three years before taking a similar job in Baltimore.

At Baltimore’s WBAL-TV, Christian honed his skills as a meteorologist. In addition to preparing and delivering weather forecasts, he also hosted a weekly half-hour talk show called Spencer’s World. His special five-part news report concerning the decline of verbal skills in America entitled “Does Anyone Here Speak English?,” which he produced and narrated, won an Emmy. His on-air successes soon brought him to the biggest market in the country-New York City. Along with his wife, Diane Chambers Christian and their two children, Spencer moved to the Big Apple in 1977 when he was offered a job at WABC-TV. After four years as a weathercaster, he switched to the sports department in 1981. He occasionally filled in as weathercaster on ABC’s highly-rated morning news program, Good Morning America.

In the summer of 1986 a greater opportunity arose for Christian when Good Morning America’s regular meteorologist left the show; Christian was offered the job and he accepted. He debuted on Good Morning America in August of 1986 and was a fixture until 1998. Currently, he works for ABC7 based out of the Bay Area.

 

 

The History of Black History Month

During the dawning decades of the twentieth century, it was commonly presumed that black people had little history besides the subjugation of slavery. Today, it is clear that blacks have significantly impacted the development of the social, political, and economic structures of the United States and the world. Credit for the evolving awareness of the true place of blacks in history can, in large part, be bestowed on one man, Carter G. Woodson. And, his brainchild the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, Inc. is continuing Woodson’s tradition of disseminating information about black life, history and culture to the global community.

Recognizing the dearth of information on the accomplishments of blacks in 1915, Dr. Woodson founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History, now called the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH).

Under Woodson’s pioneering leadership, the Association created research and publication outlets for black scholars with the establishment of the Journal of Negro History (1916) and the Negro History Bulletin (1937), which garners a popular public appeal.

In 1926, Dr. Woodson initiated the celebration of Negro History Week, which corresponded with the birthdays of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln. In 1976, this celebration was expanded to include the entire month of February, and today Black History Month garners support throughout the country as people of all ethnic and social backgrounds discuss the black experience. ASALH views the promotion of Black History Month as one of the most important components of advancing Dr.Woodson’s legacy.

In honor of all the work that Dr. Carter G. Woodson has done to promote the study of African American History, an ornament of Woodson hangs on the White House’s Christmas tree each year.

*Originally posted on ASALH.org