Celebrating Black History Month on Social Media
We hope that you enjoyed the series. We are blessed to have so many tremendous national difference-makers hail from our state.
In case you missed any of the posts, here is the entire series:
February 1st, Harriet Tubman: We start the month with one of the most well-known Marylanders in American history: Harriet Tubman. Born into slavery on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, Tubman was a pivotal figure in the Underground Railroad. In 1850, at the age of 30, Tubman escaped slavery and by 1851 was working to help others gain freedom. Over a ten year span, she made 19 trips back into the South as a conductor on the Underground Railroad. Frederick Douglass said of Tubman, “excepting John Brown -- of sacred memory -- I know of no one who has willingly encountered more perils and hardships to serve our enslaved people.” Last year was the 100th anniversary of her death in 1913 and to mark the centennial President Obama signed into law the creation of the Harriet Tubman Monument in Cambridge, Maryland.
February 2nd, Matthew Henson: Today’s entry is explorer Matthew Henson who travelled further north than any man or woman had before and who planted the American flag at what was believed to be the North Pole in 1909. Henson was born in Charles County Maryland in 1866. Henson’s mother died when he was two and his father died when Henson was nine. By age 12, Henson was working as a cabin boy in Baltimore. In 1887, he met the explorer Robert Peary and was hired for a voyage to Nicaragua. Henson was part of Peary’s crew on his 1890 expedition to Greenland and soon became indispensable. For the next twenty years, Henson spent much of his time in the Arctic, developing his skills driving dog sleds and learning the Inuit language. They reached the furthest point north of any expedition in 1906. In 1909 Henson was part of a six-man expedition to the North Pole. Henson was the only American to join Peary on the trip. Traveling ahead of Peary on April 6 1909, Henson approached the Pole. After walking back to join Peary, Henson told him, “I think I'm the first man to sit on top of the world.” Henson is buried at Arlington National Cemetery, where he is credited as Co-Discoverer of the North Pole. His tomb reads, “The lure of the Arctic is tugging at my heart. To me the trail is calling. The old trail. The trail that is always new.”
February 3rd, Frederick Douglass: Today’s entry is civil rights icon Frederick Douglass. Douglass was born a slave in 1818, in Talbot County and later moved to Baltimore. Although he did not learn to read or write until he was 12, Douglass would eventually author one of the most widely read and influential works of the 19th century: Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave. Douglass escaped slavery at the age of 20 and by the age of 23 he was an abolitionist speaker and writer, later becoming the editor of the abolitionist newspaper The Northern Star. His autobiography, published in 1845, sold 30,000 copies by 1860 and helped educate the nation about the cruelty and inhumanity of slavery. Douglass’s 1852 speech, “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July” forcefully held up slavery to the light of the nation’s founding principles, calling it a “scorching irony.” By the time of his death in 1885, Douglass was known around the world as an advocate for justice, freedom, and equality.
February 4th, Thurgood Marshall: Today’s entry is Thurgood Marshall (1908-1993) the first African-American to serve on the Supreme Court. Born in Baltimore, Marshall earned his undergraduate degree from Lincoln University in Pennsylvania and later obtained a law degree from Howard University Law School in Washington. Marshall became chief counsel for the NAACP in 1938 and throughout his career helped advance many decisions that led to greater racial equality, including his 1954 triumph, Brown vs. Board of Education which ended racial segregation. An exceptional jurist, Marshall won 29 of the 32 cases he argued before the Supreme Court. In 1967, President Lyndon B. Johnson nominated Marshall for the Supreme Court, where he served until 1991.
February 5th, The Edmonson Sisters: Today’s entry is the Edmonson Sisters, whose flight to freedom gained national attention and raised awareness of the abuses suffered by women in the slave trade. Mary and Emily Edmonson (born in 1832 and 1835 respectively) were children born into slavery in Montgomery County. In April of 1848, the sisters were among those stowed away on the Pearl, a ship bound for New Jersey, in the hopes of finding freedom. Upon discovering their slaves were missing, slave owners caught up to the ship and brought it back to Washington. The abolitionist Henry Ward Beecher raised funds to free the girls and bring them to New York. The sisters went on to obtain an education and participated in mock slave auctions to bring awareness to the heinous conditions of slavery. The sisters were active in the abolitionist movement, worked alongside Frederick Douglass, and lobbied against the Fugitive Slave Act in the years before the Civil War. Examples of courage, a statue of the sisters stands in Alexandria. Their bravery in fighting slavery and their courage in helping others out of similar situations will not be forgotten.
February 6th, Enolia Pettigen McMillan: Today’s entry is Baltimore educator and civil rights activist Enolia Pettigen McMillan, the first woman to serve as the national president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). McMillan was born in 1904, the daughter of a former slave. She attended Frederick Douglass High School in Baltimore, Maryland and later Howard University in Washington, D.C. She received her master’s degree in education and became a teacher in Caroline County, Maryland. She initially worked in segregated schools, which would later influence her involvement as a NAACP activist in the 1930s. McMillan served as president of the Maryland State Colored Teachers’ Association and worked for racial equality in the Maryland public school system. She helped to bring better quality books to African American students and improve salaries for African American teachers. McMillan first served as the president of the Baltimore NAACP branch in the 1970s and 1980s. In 1984, she became the national president of the NAACP and held office until 1990. As president, McMillan pushed for educational opportunities and fair housing and worked to overcome financial difficulties within the NAACP. She was known for encouraging everyone to buy a white button for $1 that read “I gave NAACP”, and helped raise $30,000 through this effort alone. In 2006 Julian Bond credited her with saving the NAACP from financial crisis. McMillan died on October 24, 2006, shortly after celebrating her 102nd birthday.
February 7th, Noah E. Clarke: Today’s entry is Noah E. Clarke, an education activist and reformer. Clarke was born in 1878 as the son of a freed slave. In the early 1900’s Clarke fought for social justice. As a teacher and community leader, Clarke helped start the first African-American Secondary School in Montgomery County Maryland in 1955 after segregation had officially been dismantled. Clarke died in 1958 and in 2006 was inducted into the Montgomery County Office of Human Rights Hall of Fame along with his granddaughter Christine (Tina) Clarke. His legacy is remembered as one of widening education opportunities for all in Montgomery County.
February 8th, Juanita Jackson Mitchell: Today’s entry is teacher and civil rights activist Juanita Jackson Mitchell, the first African-American woman to practice law in Maryland. Mitchell was born in 1913 in Hot Springs, Arkansas. In the 1930s, Mitchell taught in the Baltimore public school system. During the summers as a teacher, she travelled throughout the U.S. and represented the Bureau of Negro Work and the Department of Young People’s Work. In 1950, she became the first African-American woman to graduate from the University of Maryland School of Law. Mitchell later became the special assistant to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) National Secretary Walter White. She became the first national director of the NAACP Youth and College Division. Mitchell worked very hard to revive the NAACP Baltimore branch and reach out to large numbers of youth in the Baltimore area. As a lawyer, she took on civil rights issues and fought against discrimination. She worked to eliminate discrimination in restaurants and public schools in Maryland and helped to make Maryland the first southern state to integrate its school system after the 1954 Supreme Court decision in Brown versus Board of Education. Mitchell died in Baltimore in 1992. To honor Mitchell’s achievements, each year the NAACP awards the Juanita Jackson Mitchell Award for Legal Activism.
February 9th, William O. Wilson: Today, we entry is William O. Wilson, the first resident of Washington County Maryland to receive the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest military award. Wilson was born September 16, 1867 in Hagerstown, Maryland. In 1889, Wilson enlisted in the 9th Calvary, popularly known as the Buffalo Soldiers. When Wilson’s unit was surrounded by hostile forces in 1890, scouts refused to risk their lives to send a message for assistance. At that point, Wilson volunteered to break out of the blockade to deliver a message for help, helping to turn the tide of battle. In 1891, Wilson was awarded the Medal of Honor, and in 1898 he returned to Hagerstown and began his civilian life. In 1988, a traffic triangle was named for him and a marker placed there. In 1997, his grave was located at Rose Hill Cemetery and the Veterans Administration placed a military marker there. We salute this brave veteran for his service, and highlight him so he is never forgotten.
February 10th, Francis Harper: Today’s entry is Francis Harper, an abolitionist and author. Harper was born in 1825 as a free woman in Baltimore and published her first book of poems at 20 years old. Committed to helping others, Harper was an integral part of the Underground Railroad assisting slaves from southern states gain freedom in Canada. She was a strong supporter of the abolitionist movement as a member of the American Anti-Slavery Society and an outspoken advocate for women’s suffrage, giving a well-regarded speech in 1866 at the National Women’s Rights Convention. Harper’s most famous literary work, lola Leroy, published in 1892, was for many years was considered the first novel published by an African-American woman. The novel was one of the best-selling works authored by an African-American in the nineteenth century. A prolific journalist, she was also known as the mother of African-American journalism. Harper passed away in 1911, nine years short of women gaining the right to vote.
February 11th, Marguerite Doleman: Today’s entry is Marguerite Doleman, founder of the Doleman Black Heritage Museum in Hagerstown. As a teacher, Doleman was giving a presentation to students at North Hagerstown High School in the 1970’s when one of the students suggested she start a museum with all the documents and artifacts she showcased. Doleman took the advice of the young student and with the help of her husband Charles, continued to collect myriad pieces of local African-American history including birth certificates, newspaper clippings, cultural and sports memorabilia. Doleman passed away in 2000 but her legacy and her incredible collection of local African-American history live on.
February 12th, Benjamin Todd Jealous: Today’s entry is political and civic leader Benjamin Todd Jealous, a former president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Jealous comes from a family of activists: his mother helped to desegregate Baltimore’s Western High School and his father fought to desegregate Baltimore’s downtown business district. Jealous was elected to head the NAACP in 2008 at age 35 and served as the youngest president in the organization’s history. While studying at Columbia University, he started working as an organizer with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. He later traveled to Mississippi to organize with a local NAACP chapter to help keep three African-American colleges in the state open and funded. During his time in office, the number of NAACP online activists increased from 175,000 to more than 675,000 and the number of total NAACP activists reached over one million. During his time as president, Jealous also opened and expanded national programs on criminal justice, voting rights, health, and environmental justice, and opened the NAACP Financial Freedom Center to provide financial education and banking resources. He currently resides in Silver Spring with his wife and two children.
February 13th, Samuel Lytton: Today’s entry is Samuel Lytton, founder of Lyttonsville. Lytton was a freed slave who in 1853, bought property near Silver Spring. Lytton built a home on his property, which began to draw many more African-Americans to the area. Lyttonsville grew into a close-knit, welcoming community. Lyttonsville is believed to be one of the first predominantly African-American neighborhoods in Montgomery County. Several descendants of the original freed slaves who settled there still call the neighborhood home, which now features residents from around the world.
February 14th, Ulysses Grant Bourne: Today’s entry is Ulysses Grant Bourne, the first African-American doctor at Frederick Memorial Hospital. Bourne was born in Calvert County in 1873, the ninth out of 10 children. In 1903 he came to Frederick and practiced medicine until 1953, delivering 2,600 babies before he eventually retired. Because African-American patients were initially not allowed to be admitted into the Frederick hospital, in 1919 he and his associate Dr. Charles Brooks opened a 15-bed hospital to better care for the African-American community of Frederick. This hospital operated until 1928 when the Frederick City Hospital began to allow African-American patients. Dr. Bourne additionally was the founder of the Maryland Negro Medical Society in 1931 and the co-founder of the Frederick branch of the NAACP. He later became the first African-American from Western Maryland to run for a seat in the House of Delegates, and served as the regional vice president of the sixth Republican district. In 2007, a bronze bust was unveiled at Frederick Memorial Hospital to honor his achievements.
February 15th, Eubie Blake: Today’s feature is musician and composer Eubie Blake. Born in Baltimore in 1887, Blake’s musical interest began at an early age. While his mom was shopping in a department store when Blake was four or five, Eubie began playing on the store’s organ. Blake performed on the vaudeville circuit as a ragtime artist and gained prominence in the 1920s with the production of Shuffle Along, one of the first Broadway shows headed by African-Americans. Blake cowrote the play with his longtime collaborator Noble Sissie. In the 1950s, interest in ragtime revived and Blake became a regular on television. Blake was a frequent guest on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. In 1978 the musical Eubie! opened, which featured his works and in 1979, at the age of 92, he performed on Saturday Night Live. In 1981, he received the Medal of Freedom from President Reagan.
February 16th, Henry Highland Garnett: Today we honor Henry Highland Garnett, a passionate advocate for the abolition of slavery who is best known for being the first African-American to speak in the U.S. House of Representatives. Born a slave in Kent County in 1818, Garnett eventually gained his freedom and became a Presbyterian minister in New York. Garnett became a member of the American Anti-Slavery Society and helped recruit African-Americans to join the Union Army when the Civil War broke out. In 1865, President Lincoln invited Garnett to speak in the House chamber in the U.S. Capitol to commemorate the passage of the 13th Amendment, which ended slavery. In his historic remarks, Garnett challenged Congress to “Emancipate, Enfranchise, and to Educate.” Years later, Garnett was appointed U.S. Minister to Liberia, where he died in 1881.
February 17th, Josiah Henson: Today’s entry is Josiah Henson (1789-1883) an author, abolitionist, and minister. Henson was born into slavery in Charles County and eventually worked on a farm in Montgomery County. He escaped to Canada in 1830, where he worked as a farm laborer and a preacher in Ontario. Henson became involved in the Underground Railroad and the abolitionist religious circuit. In Canada, he founded his own community of escaped slaves, the Dawn Settlement, and started a school there. In 1849, Henson published his autobiography, The Life of Josiah Henson, Formerly a Slave, Now an Inhabitant of Canada, as Narrated by Himself. Henson’s story inspired some of the events in Harriet Beecher Stowe’s landmark novel, Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Henson was the first black man to be featured on a Canadian stamp. The Josiah Henson cabin and park commemorate his story in North Bethesda.
February 18th, Donald G. Murray: Today’s entry is Donald G. Murray, the first African-American accepted into the University Of Maryland School Of Law. After receiving his Bachelor’s Degree from Amherst College in 1934, Murray was denied admission to the University Of Maryland School Of Law in 1935 on the basis of race. Following an unsuccessful appeal to the Board of Regents, Murray challenged the university in court. In Murray v. Pearson, Murray was represented by Baltimore NAACP member and future Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall. Marshall’s argument stated, "Since the State of Maryland had not provided a comparable law school for blacks that Murray should be allowed to attend the white university." The lower court decision, allowing Murray to attend the university, was affirmed by the highest court in Maryland after an appeal by the university in 1936. Murray went on to graduate from the University Of Maryland School Of Law in 1938 and was involved in many legal challenges to segregation. Murray died in 1986 but is remembered for blazing the trail and breaking the color barrier at UMD Law.
February 19th, Pansye S. Atkinson: Today’s entry is educator Pansye S. Atkinson. Atkinson received her Master’s Degree from Frostburg State College and in 1969, was the first person to hold the position of coordinator of integration at Frostburg State. Prior to Atkinson’s hire, African-American enrollment at the university was only one percent. As a result of Atkinson’s position, enrollment began to increase at the college and as her position progressed (it was later called Director of Minority Affairs) Atkinson developed programs to help welcome minorities into the Frostburg community. Atkinson also went on to write a book titled Brown vs. Topeka: Desegregation and Miseducation, An African American's View, which focused on the effect of the landmark Supreme Court ruling in Brown v. Board of Education on the African-American community. Atkinson retired from Frostburg in 2005 after also serving as the first Director of Affirmative Action/Equal Employment Opportunity.
February 20th, Ethel Llewellyn Ennis: Today’s entry is Ethel Llewellyn Ennis, an American jazz musician, entrepreneur, cultural ambassador, and civic activist. Ennis was born in 1932 in Baltimore, Maryland. Her interest in music started at a young age, when she started to play the piano at age seven. After graduating high school, Ennis began touring with jazz and R&B artists and performed throughout the U.S. and London. In 1958, “King of Swing” Benny Goodman selected Ennis as the female vocalist for an “all-star band” that toured throughout Europe. Ennis performed with many accomplished jazz and R&B artists including Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, and Wynton Marsalis. She also became known for her solo performances throughout her career and sang at the White House for President Nixon and President Carter. In 1982, Ennis and her husband were appointed as Cultural Ambassadors of the City of Baltimore. She was later nominated to the Hall of Fame of Frederick Douglass High School. In 1984, Ennis opened “Ethel’s Place”, a music club located in Baltimore, which broadcasted live on public television on New Year’s Eve in 1985 and 1987. Ennis has used her music to promote compassion and unity, believing it is not only a form of entertainment, but also a way to “inform and inspire” others.
February 21st, Harry S. Cummings: To celebrate Black History Month, each day this February we’re spotlighting an African-American from Maryland on our Facebook page. Today’s entry is Harry S. Cummings, the first African-American city councilman in Baltimore. Cummings was born in 1866 and was first elected to the Baltimore city council in 1890. During the 1904 Republican National Convention, Cummings gave a speech endorsing Theodore Roosevelt for the presidential nomination, at a time when there were vastly fewer speakers at national conventions. In his speech, Cummings said that a man “should be judged on merit alone” and that “every race and every religion” be protected by law. Cummings continued to serve on the city council and was elected again in 1907, 1911, and 1915. In office he was a strong advocate for education in his community. Cummings died on September 7, 1917 and is remembered as an African-American leader in Maryland.
February 22nd, Elizabeth Fran Johnson: Today’s entry is Elizabeth Fran Johnson, public servant and educator. Johnson was born in Baltimore in 1928. At an early age, Johnson overcame barriers when in 1944, she became first African-American to receive the Girl Scouts of America’s highest honor, the Gold Bar. Johnson also contributed to the federal Head Start program, which dealt with early education. Johnson assisted in starting an educational program regarding the new Health Maintenance Organization (HMO’s) during the 1970’s. She served several high profile positions with-in the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Division. Johnson was an educator as well and taught at several universities. In addition, she served on the Board of Regents of Morgan State University. Johnson has been inducted in the Maryland Women’s Hall of Fame for her commitment to public service and education.
February 23rd, Parren Mitchell: Today’s entry is Parren Mitchell, the first African-American elected to Congress from Maryland. Born in Baltimore, Mitchell served as an officer in World War II, receiving a Purple Heart for his service in Italy. In 1950, Mitchell sued the University of Maryland for the right to attend graduate school in College Park, and won admission. In 1970 Mitchell was elected for Congress, representing Maryland’s 7th District. He was the first black legislator elected to a state south of the Mason-Dixon Line since 1898. Mitchell would serve in the House until 1987, leading the Congressional Black Caucus and became the first African-American to chair the Small Business Committee, where he was a staunch advocate for minority-owned businesses. Mitchell died in 2007. Congressman Elijah Cummings delivered his eulogy, saying, “He earned the trust of people throughout the country and the world because he was constantly building bridges for others to cross, while tearing down the walls that had excluded them.”
February 24th, Harry Augustus Cole: Today’s entry is Harry Augustus Cole, lawyer, legislator, and judge. In 1921, Cole was born in Washington, but after the untimely death of his father, his family moved to Baltimore. Cole graduated as the valedictorian from Morgan State Collage in 1943. Cole served in the US Army following his collegiate studies. After his service, Cole received a law degree in 1949 from the University of Maryland and became the first African-American to serve in the office of the Attorney General in Maryland as Assistant Attorney General. Cole was elected the first African-American in the Maryland Senate in 1954. Continuing to tear down barriers, in 1977 Cole was appointed by Governor Blair Lee III to the Maryland State Court of Appeals, again, the first African-American to hold this position. Cole retired in 1991 and passed away in 1999 at the age of 78.
February 25th, Donna Edwards: Today’s entry is Congresswoman Donna Edwards, the first African-American woman to represent Maryland in Congress. Before joining the House of Representatives, Edwards was a public interest advocate and worked on NASA’s Spacelab project. Edwards was the co-founder of the National Network to End Domestic Violence, a legal support group for victims, and her work helped lead to the passage of the 1994 Violence Against Women Act. Congresswoman Edwards is currently the U.S. Representative for Maryland’s 4th congressional district, which includes parts of Anne Arundel and Prince George’s counties. She was first elected in 2008 and her first act as a Member of Congress was to add Maryland to the Afterschool Suppers Program, guaranteeing access to nutritional meals to after school and youth development programs in schools located in low-income areas. Representative Edwards serves on the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology and the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. Congresswoman Edwards has also introduced legislation to increase research and development, domestic manufacturing, and infrastructure spending.
February 26th, Gloria Richardson: Today’s entry is Gloria Richardson, known as the leader of the Cambridge Civil Rights movement during the early 1960’s. After receiving a degree in sociology from Howard University in 1942, Richardson as well as many in the Cambridge community were dissatisfied with the poor wages and segregation they faced. Richardson created the Cambridge Nonviolent Action Committee, which promoted peaceful social reform, as opposed to violent action. Richardson’s movement helped integrate schools, restaurants, movie theaters and other venues, while also focusing on economic justice. Richardson was saluted as one of six women leaders during the 1963 March on Washington. The Cambridge Nonviolent Action Committee was also the first non-student branch of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Campaign, which conducted civil rights advocacy around the country. Richardson, now 91, remains an icon for women and African-Americans.
February 27th, Wes Moore: Today’s entry is author and advocate Wes Moore. After graduating from Johns Hopkins, Moore was a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford. Following school, Moore was a Captain in the U.S. Army, serving a tour of duty in Afghanistan with the 82nd Airborne Division in 2005. His service included managing the American Strategic Support Plan for the Afghan Reconciliation Program. In 2006, Moore became a White House Fellow, and served as a Special Assistant to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice until 2007. Moore currently serves on the Board of Trustees for the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, John Hopkins University, and Valley Forge Military Academy and College. Moore founded STAND!, a John Hopkins University Program that works with Baltimore youth involved in the criminal justice system. Moore is a best-selling author for the book The Other Wes Moore, which details his conversations and journey with a fellow Baltimorean convicted of murder also named Wes Moore. In 2008, he was a featured speaker at the Democratic National Convention in Denver, Colorado. In 2011, he was named to Ebony Magazine’s Power 100 List.
February 28th, Elijah Cummings: Our final entry is Congressman Elijah Cummings, who represents Maryland’s Seventh District. Born and raised in Baltimore, Congressman Cummings graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Howard University, majoring in Political Science, and received his law degree from the University of Maryland School Of Law. Cummings served for 14 years in the Maryland House of Delegates, where he became the first African-American to be named Maryland Speaker Pro Tem. Elected to the United States House in 1996, Congressman Cummings serves as Ranking Member of the Committee on Oversight and Governmental Reform, and senior member on both the Joint Economic Committee and the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. A past Chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, some of Cummings’s priorities in Congress have been health care reform, education, fair housing, and economic opportunity.