Tag: Black History Month

#SaturdayStamps: Ernest Just

Earnest Everett Just was born on August 14, 1883, in Charleston, South Carolina, to Charles Frazier and Mary Matthews Just. Known as an intelligent and inquisitive student, Just studied at Kimball Hall Academy in New Hampshire before enrolling at Dartmouth College.

It was during his university years that Just discovered an interest in biology after reading a paper on fertilization and egg development. This bright young man earned the highest grades in Greek during his freshman year, and was selected as a Rufus Choate scholar for two years. He graduated as the sole magna cum laude student in 1907, also receiving honors in botany, sociology and history.

Career Success

Just’s first job out of college was as a teacher and researcher at the traditionally all-black Howard University. Later, in 1909, he worked in research at Woods Hole Marine Biological Laboratory in Massachusetts. Just furthered his education by obtaining a Doctor of Philosophy degree from the University of Chicago, where he studied experimental embryology and graduated magna cum laude.

Just pioneered many areas on the physiology of development, including fertilization, experimental parthenogenesis, hydration, cell division, dehydration in living cells and ultraviolet carcinogenic radiation effects on cells.

Just also served as editor of three scholarly periodicals and, in 1915, won the NAACP’s first Spingarn Medal for outstanding achievement by a black American. From 1920 to 1931, he was a Julius Rosenwald Fellow in Biology of the National Research Council—a position that provided him the chance to work in Europe when racial discrimination hindered his opportunities in the United States. During this time, Just penned many research papers, including the 1924 publication “General Cytology,” which he co-authored with respected scientists from Princeton University, the University of Chicago, the National Academy of Sciences and the Marine Biological Laboratory.

Held in high esteem within his field, notable black scientist Charles Drew called Just “a biologist of unusual skill and the greatest of our original thinkers in the field.”

Personal Life

Just married high school teacher Ethel Highwarden on June 26, 1912, and together they had three children—Margaret, Highwarden and Maribel—before divorcing in 1939. That same year, Just married Hedwig Schnetzler, a philosophy student he had met in Berlin. In 1940, the German Nazis imprisoned Just in a camp, but, with the help of his wife’s father, he was released. After making their way out of France, the couple gave birth to daughter Elisabeth.

Earnest Just died of pancreatic cancer in Washington, D.C., on October 27, 1941. He is buried at the Lincoln Memorial Cemetery in Suitland, Maryland.

 

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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.

#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.”

#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.