Heritage – Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou

  • Marguerite Annie Johnson was born April 4, 1928 in St. Louis, Missouri
  • Attended George Washington High School
  • Poet, Novelist, Civil Rights Activist, Educator
  • Actress, Producer, Historian, Filmmaker
  • Over 50 honorary degrees
  • Album – Miss Calypso – 1957
  • Actress – The Blacks – 1961
  • Northern Coordinator for the Southern Christian Leadership
  • Autobiography – I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings – 1969
  • Poetry – Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water Before I Diiie – 1971
  • Award – Coretta Scott King Honor – 1971
  • Screenplay – Georgia, Georgia – 1972
  • Actress – Look Away – 1973
  • Poetry – And Still I Rise – 1978
  • Autobiography – The Heart of a Woman – 1981
  • Poetry – I Shall Not Be Moved  – 1990
  • Award – Langston Hughes Medal – 1991
  • Award – Horatio Alger – 1992
  • Poetry – On the Pulse of Morning – 1993
  • Poetry – Phenomenal Woman – 1995
  • Director – Down in the Delta – 1996
  • Award – Presidential Medal of Arts – 2000
  • Award – Lincoln Medal – 2008
  • Autobiography – Mom & Me & Mom – 2013
  • Maya Angelou passed away on May 28, 2014 at the age of 86

For more information about Maya Angelou, please visit http://mayaangelou.com/ for details.

Heritage – James Howard Meredith

James Meredith

  • James Howard Meredith was born on June 25, 1933 in Kosciusko, Mississippi.
  • Meredith is a former serviceman in the United States Air Force serving from 1951 to 1960.
  • He attended Jackson State University from 1960 to 1961.
  • On October 1, 1962; James Howard Meredith became the first African-American admitted to the University of Mississippi. Meredith was admitted after previously being denied admission three times. 
  •  Meredith went on to graduate with a degree in political science in 1963.
  • From 1964 to 1965, Meredith attended the University of Ibadan in Nigeria and earned a postgraduate degree in economics.
  • He published his memoir, Three Years in Mississippi, in 1966.
  • To encourage voter registration amongst African-Americans, Meredith organized a civil rights march, Meredith March Against Fear, extending from Memphis, Tennessee to Jackson, Mississippi during which he was shot and wounded by a sniper on June 6, 1966.
  • Initiated his political career as a Republican, unsuccessfully running against Adam Clayton Powell, Jr.
  • Meredith also received his law degree from Columbia University in 1968.
  • Amidst controversy, from 1989 to 1991, he became an adviser to southern conservative United States Senator Jesse Helms.
  • Currently residing in Jackson, Mississippi at the age of 80.


Heritage – Paul Robeson


  • Paul Leroy Robeson was born April 9th, 1898 in Princeton, New Jersey
  • Singer, actor, social activist, lawyer
  • Acclaimed international performer
  • Black nationalist
  • Rutgers University, Phi Beta Kappa, valedictorian 1915-19
  • First Team football All-American Rutgers University 1917-18
  • Earned 15 letters in 4 varsity sports
  • Member of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity
  • Bachelor of Laws from Columbia University in 1922
  • Film – Body & Soul – 1925
  • Film – The Emperor Jones – 1933
  • Musical – Showboat – 1936
  • Film – Song of Freedom – 1936
  • Play – Othello – 1943
  • NAACP Spingarn Medal – 1945
  • Published biography, Here I Stand in 1958
  • Died at the age of 77 on January 23rd, 1976

Added reading: http://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/episodes/paul-robeson/about-the-actor/66/

Heritage – Langston Hughes

Langston Hughes

  • James Mercer Langston Hughes was born on February 1st, 1902 in Joplin, Missouri
  • American poet, social activist, novelist, playwright, and columnist
  • Early innovator of jazz poetry
  • Published first poem The Weary Blues in 1926
  • Witter Bynner Undergraduate Poetry Prize in 1926
  • Published Fine Clothes to a Jew in 1927
  • Earned Bachelor of Arts from Lincoln University in 1929
  • Published novel Not Without Laughter in 1930
  • Co-wrote play Mule Bone with Zora Neale Hurston in 1931
  • Published short story The Ways of White Folks in 1934
  • Awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1935
  • Let America Be America Again, published poem in 1935
  • Columnist for the Chicago Defender from 1942-62
  • Awarded honorary Doctor of Letters from Lincoln University in 1943
  • Published Montage of a Dream Deferred in 1951
  • Awarded the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award in 1954
  • Awarded Spingarn Medal in 1960
  • Wrote play Black Nativity in 1961
  • Awarded an honorary doctorate from Howard University in 1963
  • Wrote play Jericho-Jim Crow in 1964
  • Died at the age of 65 on May 27, 1967

Added Reading: http://www.poetryfoundation.org/bio/langston-hughes, http://www.english.illinois.edu/maps/poets/g_l/hughes/life.htm

Heritage – Carter G. Woodson

carter g. woodson 2

  • Carter Godwin Woodson was born on December 19, 1875
  • Graduated from Douglass High School in 1897
  • Became principal of Douglass High School in 1900
  • Earned his Bachelor of Literature degree from Berea College in 1903
  • Earned both bachelor’s and master’s degrees from University of Chicago in 1908.
  • Earned doctorate from Harvard University in 1912
  • Historian, educator, author, publisher, and journalist
  • Founder of Association for the Study of African-American Life and History in 1915
  • Authored The Education of the Negro Prior to 1861 in 1915
  • Founded The Journal of Negro History 1916
  • Became Dean of the School of Liberal Arts at Howard University in 1920
  • Founded The Associated Publishers in 1920
  • Authored The History of the Negro Church in 1922
  • Established Negro History Week in February 1926, which later expanded to Black History Month
  • Authored The Mis-Education of the Negro in 1933
  • Founded the Negro History Bulletin in 1937
  • Died at the age of 74 on April 3, 1950

Heritage – Thurgood Marshall


  • Born Thoroughgood Marshall on July 2, 1908 in Baltimore, Maryland
  • Graduated from Frederick Douglass High School in 1925
  • Earned Bachelor of Arts in Humanities, majoring in Literature and Philosophy from Lincoln University in 1930
  • Graduated magna cum laude, earning his degree in law, from Howard University School of Law in 1933
  • Worked as assistant special counsel at National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in Baltimore in 1936
  • Successfully argued first civil rights case, Murray v. Pearson, in 1936
  • Successfully argued first United States Supreme Court case, Chambers v. Florida, in 1940
  • Director of NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund in 1940
  • Successfully argued Smith v. Allwright in 1944
  • Awarded Spingarn Medal in 1946
  • Successfully argued Shelley v. Kraemer in 1948
  • Successfully argued Sweatt v. Painter in 1950
  • Successfully argued McLaurin v. Oklahoma State Regents in 1950
  • Successfully argued Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka in 1954
  • Appointed to the United States Second Circuit Court of Appeals by President John F. Kennedy in 1961.
  • Appointed United States Solicitor General by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1965
  • First African-American appointed to Supreme Court in 1967
  • Retired from the Supreme Court in 1991
  • Received the Liberty Medal in 1992
  • Received Presidential Medal of Freedom, posthumously, from President Bill Clinton in 1993
  • Marshall died at the age of 84 years old on January 24, 1993


Heritage – Madam C.J. Walker

Madam CJ Walker

  • Born Sarah Breedlove on December 23, 1867
  • Moved to Vicksburg, Mississippi in 1877 after the death of both parents
  • Breedlove was hired as a commission agent by Annie Malone, and she moved to Denver, Colorado in 1905
  • Married Charles Joseph Walker – 1905
  • Adopted the moniker Madam C.J. Walker as she began to create her line of cosmetics – Madam Walker’s Wonderful Hair Grower
  • Walker opened a factory and a beauty school, the Lelia College for Walker Hair Culturists, in Pittsburgh in 1908
  • Created the Walker System: a vast line of cosmetics, licensed Walker Agents, and Walker Schools
  • Moved operations to Indianapolis, Indiana; built a factory, hair and manicure salon, and another training school
  • Employed up to 5,000 workers and agents
  • First female self-made millionaire in the United States
  • In 1927, her daughter, A’Lelia Walker Robinson completed the Walker Building in her memory
  • United States Postal Service issued a stamp of Madam C.J. Walker for its “Black Heritage” series – 1998
  • Madam C.J. Walker died of hypertension on May 25, 1919

Heritage – Shirley Chisholm

Shirley Chisholm

  • Born Shirley Anita St. Hill on November 30, 1924
  • Graduated from Girls High School in 1942
  • Earned Bachelor of Arts from Brooklyn College in 1946
  • Earned Masters of Arts in Education from Columbia University in 1952
  • Director of the Hamilton-Madison Child Care Center from 1953 to 1959
  • Educational consultant to New York City’s Bureau of Child Welfare from 1959-64
  • Representative for New York State Legislature 1964-68.
  • First African-American woman elected to Congress in 1968 representing 12th Congressional District, New York, 1969-83
  • Authored Unbought and Unbossed in 1970
  • Co-founder of the Congressional Black Caucus in 1971
  • Co-founder of the National Women’s Political Caucus in 1971
  • First African-American to run for President of the United States in 1972
  • Authored The Good Fight in 1973
  • Awarded an Honorary Doctor of Laws degree by Smith College in 1975
  • Purington Professor at Mount Holyoke College from 1983-87
  • Inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame in 1993
  • Chisholm died at the age of 80 years old on January 1, 2005

Heritage – Toni Morrison

Toni Morrison

  • Born Chloe Ardelia Wofford on February 18, 1931
  • Graduated from Lorain High School in 1949
  • Earned Bachelor of Arts in English from Howard University in 1953
  • Earned Masters of Arts in English from Cornell University in 1955
  • English instructor at Texas Southern University in Houston, Texas from 1955–57
  • Senior editor at Random House beginning from 1967-83
  • Authored The Bluest Eye in 1970
  • Authored Sula in 1974
  • Authored Song of Solomon in 1977
  • Awarded National Book Critics Circle Award for Song of Solomon in 1977
  • Appointed to National Council on the Arts
  • Authored Tar Baby in 1981
  • Wrote play Dreaming Emmett, it premiered in 1986
  • Authored Beloved in 1987
  • Awarded Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for Beloved in 1988
  • Awarded MLA Commonwealth Award in Literature in 1989
  • Awarded Nobel Prize for Literature in 1993
  • Awarded Pearl Buck Award in 1994
  • Authored The Big Box in 1999
  • Awarded National Humanities Medal in 2000
  • Authored The Book of Mean People in 2002
  • Received Honorary Doctorate of Letters from Oxford University in 2005
  • Awarded Norman Mailer Prize – Lifetime Achievement in 2009
  • Received Honorary Doctorate of Letters from the University of Geneva in 2011
  • Awarded Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2012

The Toni Morrison Society

Heritage – Emmett Till

Lil Wayne is back in the spotlight again – and not in a good way. The former GQ Man of the Year is feeling some undesirable heat due to a controversial lyric he contributed to a song by fellow hip hop artist, Future. Guest-starring on a remix track of “Karate Chop”, Wayne proudly boasts that he will “beat dat p*$#y up like Emmett Till”. Well, the unauthorized track got leaked, with said lyric, and the Till family are none too pleased. It didn’t take long for Epic Records to issue an apology, and they have vowed to pull it down from the airwaves. Now, I am not going to dive into First Amendment rights and why Lil Wayne is an idiot; sadly the lyric probably would have flown over the heads of this young generation that buy his music. Some probably wouldn’t care anyway. Ironically, if the Till reference is omitted, the song would still be profane, offensive, and distasteful towards women. Just replace the Till reference with, say, drum. Then, Lil Wayne can “beat dat p#$%y like a drum”. Would Epic Records still make the concerted effort to pull the song? Probably not – that is what sells nowadays. Nothing is sacred anymore. So, don’t be surprised in the near future when a label signs an artist called Martin Luther Bling. It’s coming – book it! But, until that day arrives, all we can do is try teach, learn, and appreciate our history. And if you don’t know the story of Emmett Till and don’t understand why the family would be upset, please view the video above.

Heritage – Gordon Parks


  • Gordon Roger Alexander Buchanan Parks was born on November 30, 1912
  • Awarded a fellowship for photography from the Rosenwald Fund in 1941
  • Photography: Dinner Time at Mr. Hercules Brown’s Home in 1944
  • Photography: Car Loaded with Furniture on Highway in 1945
  • Photography: Ferry Commuters in 1946
  • Photography: Grease Plant Worker in 1946
  • Authored Flash Photography in 1947
  • First African-American staff photographer and writer for Life Magazine in 1948
  • Authored The Learning Tree in 1964
  • Authored A Choice of Weapons in 1967
  • Co-founder of Essence magazine in 1968
  • Editorial Director of Essence magazine from 1968-71
  • Wrote, produced, and directed the film The Learning Tree in 1969
  • Directed the film Shaft in 1971
  • Awarded the Spingarn Medal by the NAACP in 1972
  • Directed and composed the musical score for the film Shaft’s Big Score in 1972
  • Authored To Smile in Autumn in 1979
  • Awarded an honorary Doctor of Humanities degree from Thiel College in 1984
  • Awarded National Medal of Arts by the National Endowment of the Arts in 1988
  • Parks died at the age of 93 on March 7, 2006

The Gordan Parks Foundation

Heritage – Thomas L. Jennings

Thomas L. JenningsThomas L. Jennings was an African-American abolitionist, tailor, and dry cleaner who resided in New York City, New York. On March 3, 1821, Jennings became the first African-American to be granted a patent for his dry cleaning process known as dry scouring – which eventually transformed into modern day dry cleaning. During this era, slaves could not own the rights to their own inventions, as it was legally the property of their owner. Nevertheless, Jennings was a free man and therefore retained the rights of his invention. Jennings was a devout abolitionist who used the profits from his invention to free his family from slavery. He also used his money to further fund the abolitionist agenda. He served as assistant secretary of the First Annual Convention of the People of Color in addition to being the founder and president of the Legal Rights Association. Jennings died in 1856.

Jessie Carney Smith, Black Firsts 4,000 Ground-Breaking and Pioneering Historical Events, Visible Ink Press; 2nd edition (December 1, 2002)

Heritage – W.E.B. Du Bois


  • William Edward Burghardt Du Bois was born on February 23, 1868
  • Graduated from Great Barrington High School in 1884
  • Earned his Bachelor of Arts degree from Fisk University in 1888
  • Earned his Master of Arts from Harvard University in 1891
  • Earned Doctorate in History from Harvard University in 1895
  • Assistant instructor in sociology at the University of Pennsylvania 1896-97
  • Professor of history, sociology and economics at Atlanta University
  • Editor of The Crisis Magazine at the NAACP
  • Authored The Negro in Business in 1899
  • Authored Souls of Black Folk in 1903
  • Co-founded The Niagara Movement in 1905
  • Authored Voice of the Negro II in 1905
  • Co-founded the NAACP in 1909
  • Authored The Negro in 1915
  • Awarded Spingarn Medal in 1920
  • Authored The Gift of Black Folk in 1924
  • Authored Black Reconstruction in 1935
  • Awarded Lenin Peace Prize in 1959
  • Du Bois died at the age of 95 on August 27, 1963

Heritage – Jesse Owens

  • Jesse Owens was born on September 12, 1913
    • Attended East Technical High School
    • Tied world record in 100 m dash at the National High School Championship in 1933
    • Attended Ohio State University
    • Won a record 8 individual medals in the NCAA
    • At Big Ten Meet, broke world records in 220 yd low hurdles, long jump, and 220 yd dash on May 25, 1935
    • Berlin Olympics: captured 4 gold medals: 100 m & 200 m sprint, long jump, 4 x 100 m relay in 1936
    • Inducted into the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame in 1970
    • Awarded Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1976
    • Living Legends Award in 1979
    • Died at the age of 66 on March 31, 1980
    • Posthumously awarded Congressional Gold Medal in 1990
%d bloggers like this: