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

Heritage – Carter G. Woodson

  • 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 – Cab Calloway & The Nicholas Brothers

The Nicholas Brothers were a famous African-American team of dancing brothers that consisted of Fayard & Harold Nicholas. A friend of mine sent me a video of their famous routine from the movie Stormy Weather and it was simply amazing. Their style of tap dancing was a composite of acrobatic technique, fabulous athleticism, and fearless innovation. Growing up in Philadelphia, neither brothers had any formal dance training. They would eventually go on to become stars of the jazz circuit during the height of the Harlem Renaissance. They also had successful careers performing on stage, film, and television. With all due respect to modern performers of today; nothing matches the sheer energy that the Nicholas Brothers display when they launch into their routines. No CGI or stunt doubles required. Ladies and gentlemen – enjoy.

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