Monday, February 21, 2011

Slaves, Freed Slaves and Free African Americans Contribute

People of color contributed richly to our society and culture. I want to list a few, but cannot do justice to the multitude. I can only give a sampling.

The Colored American Institute was founded in 1851 to celebrate Black American accomplishments. I suspect many still get missed.

One of the first awards went to David Bustill Browser, a self-taught artist. He began his career as a landscape, sign emblem and banner painter. He also painted portraits – including several of Lincoln and one of abolitionist John Brown.

Thomas Jennings was the first African American to receive a patent in 1821. He developed a dry cleaning process.

Henry Blair received a patent in 1834 for his seed planter. He could not read or write and had to sign his patent form with an “X.”

Inspired by John B. Russwurm and Samuel E. Cornish, David Walker published the pamphlet Walker’s Appeal, and David Ruggles published Mirror of Liberty, the first Black magazine.

Mary Ann Shadd Cary, the first black female journalist, founded her own newspaper in Canada, the Provincial Freeman. After the Civil War, she returned to the United States and became the first black female lawyer.

The 54th Massachusetts Infantry was the first all-Black unit organized in the North. Two sons of Frederick Douglass, Lewis H. and Charles R., were among the first recruits.

After being wounded in the head, Sgt. William H. Carney held up the American flag throughout the unsuccessful battle against Fort Wagner. He was the first African American to receive the Medal of Honor – nearly 4 decades later.

Nurse Susie King Taylor also served in the Civil War. Not only did she treat wounded soldiers, she proceeded to teach them to read and write.

Isabella Baumfree listened to Frederick Douglass claim blood would have to be shed for their freedom. She questioned him by asking, “Frederick, is God dead?” This changed the demeanor of the whole crowd. She later changed her name to Sojourner Truth because she traveled around and preached against greed, alcohol and other sins. She spoke on civil rights for African Americans and women and pointed people to God.

These are just a few, but we can see the richness in what they contributed.

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At 5:30 PM, Anonymous Jim Rapp said...

Its me again, Sheila. I'm enjoying your posts. I don't have time to trace all those you reference but it is true that Blacks contributed much to our culture and deserve more recognition than they get. I did a little search on Sojourner Truth. She is an interesting and complex figure. Apparently controversial too in her time. So may of those whom we honor now were not very well recieved in their own time. We tend to fear our radicals until they are dead and then we can praise them. Martin Luther King, Jr. is a good example but probably all of those you write about were very suspect in their time.

Keep up the good work. I check every day to see if you've done something more.


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