The University of California Berkeley is naming its newest residence hall in honor of David Blackwell. Dr. Blackwell, an accomplished statistician, was the first African American to be grant tenured at the university. He joined the mathematics department at Berkeley in 1954 and stayed on the faculty there until retiring in 1988. Dr. Blackwell died in 2010.
The new residence hall will house 750 undergraduate students and is expected to be ready to open this fall. Chancellor Carol Christ said that Professor Blackwell is “an exemplar of what Berkeley stands for: scholarly excellence of the highest caliber tied to a mission of social justice and inclusion.”
A native of Illinois, in 1935 Blackwell entered the University of Illinois at the age of 16. By 1941 he had earned bachelor’s, master’s, and Ph.D. degrees in mathematics. He then joined the Institute of Advanced Study in Princeton but left after one year. Professor Blackwell taught at Southern University and Atlanta University before joining the faculty at Howard University in 1944. At Howard, he became a full professor and chaired the department of mathematics. In 1965 Dr. Blackwell was the first African American to be inducted into the National Academy of Sciences.
An elementary school in Utah has traded one Jackson for another in a change that many say was a long time coming.
Jackson Elementary School in Salt Lake City will no longer be named for Andrew Jackson, the seventh U.S. president, whose slave ownership and treatment of Native Americans are often cited in the debate over memorializing historical figures associated with racism.
Instead, the school will honor Mary Jackson, the first black female engineer at nasa whose story, and the stories of others like her at the space agency, was chronicled in Hidden Figures, a 2016 film based on a book of the same name by Margot Lee Shetterly.
A unanimous vote by the the Salt Lake City school board this week was met with a standing ovation from the crowd in the room, reportsThe Salt Lake Tribune’s Erin Alberty. School employees and parents have discussed changing the elementary’s school name “for years,” Alberty reported, and last year started polling and meeting with parents, alumni, and others. More than 70 percent supported the change. Of the school’s 440 students, 85 percent are students of color, according to the Salt Lake City School District.
Mary Jackson, a native of Hampton, Virginia, worked as a math teacher, a receptionist, and an Army secretary before she arrived at NASA’s Langley Research Center in 1951 as a member of the West Area Computing unit, a segregated division where African American women spent hours doing calculations with pencil and paper, including for the trajectories of the country’s earliest space missions.
Two years in, a NASA engineer picked Jackson to help him work on a wind tunnel that tested flight hardware by blasting it with winds nearly twice the speed of sound. The engineer suggested Jackson train to become an engineer. To do that, Jackson had to take night courses in math and physics from the University of Virginia, which were held at the segregated Hampton High School. Jackson successfully petitioned the city to let her take the classes. She got her promotion to engineer in 1958. After 34 years at the space agency, Jackson retired in 1985. She died in 2005, at the age of 83.
Many — perhaps most — African Americans can trace family roots back to Charleston. About 40 percent of enslaved Africans brought to North America arrived on ships that docked in Charleston Harbor.
Slaves then were sold to plantation owners throughout the Antebellum South. During the “Great Migration,” about 6 million blacks moved from the South to the Northeast, Midwest and West between 1916 and 1970, chastened by the ghosts of their oppressed ancestors and motivated by the prospect of a better life.
On the cusp of the Civil War, the U.S. was home to 4 million slaves, 400,000 of whom lived in South Carolina. Their labor created enormous wealth for white rice and cotton planters, and it built whole cities, including Charleston.
Now, 50 years since the death of Martin Luther King Jr., the South Carolina African American Heritage Commission has named 10 top black history sites to visit in the state, including several associated with King and the civil rights movement. The commission also has compiled a much larger list of about 300 sites for its new online travel guide, Green Book of South Carolina (www.GreenBookofSC.com).
Dawn Dawson-House, an ex officio board member who works for the S.C. Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism, said the initiative is meant to raise awareness of black history and to assist the commission’s efforts to identify, preserve, mark and protect the state’s many sites connected to black history and heritage.
“In the past 24 years, more than 200 markers have been added to the official state markers program,” Dawson-House said. “When the commission started, there were only about 35 markers dedicated to black history.”
She said historical sites can be found throughout the state, and many local people know about the ones near them.
“No matter where you are in South Carolina, there is an important African-American heritage element or place to visit,” Dawson-House said. “But the entire story is not told collectively. It’s told in bits and pieces in everybody’s community. At the commission we’ve decided we have to pull together an entire portrait of this history.”
Michael Allen, a founding board member of the commission, said the Green Book — “a manifestation of out 24-year journey” meant to assist anyone interested in black history — is a reference to the Jim Crow-era guide that African Americans used when traveling through the South. The old guide provided information about black-owned businesses (gas stations, hotels, restaurants, hospitals) that were safe for black travelers during the period of legal segregation.
“When you went traveling some place, you cooked your food, packed your food, the food was in your car,” Allen said. “You planned visits according to where relatives lived, or drove straight to where you needed to be.”
In April of 2017, I had the good fortune to visit the National Museum of African American History and Culture as part of a business trip. Once in Washington D.C. and at the National Mall, I was thrilled to learn that the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial was only a ten-minute walk away, so after my work was done, I headed over. Photos don’t do it justice, but it is an awesome space, and one I’d encourage every American to visit it if ever in our nation’s capital. It’s the quotes that strike you first – the aesthetic beauty of the words coming out of the granite, then the meaning, then the context of each one of them. Like the MLK we know publicly, it is equal parts solemn, potent, righteous and wise.
I’ve since read that the grounds of the Memorial, which opened to to the public on August 22, 2011, cover four acres and includes the Stone of Hope, a granite statue of Dr. King carved by sculptor Lei Yixin. The inspiration for the memorial design is a line from King’s “I Have A Dream” speech: “Out of the mountain of despair, a stone of hope.” In a word, it is formidable. MLK stands as a beacon of strength, hope and possibility, despite seemingly insurmountable challenges and inequity and injustice. Reflecting upon the man, his journey and his words is of course doable from anywhere in any space, but there is something incredibly special about being to do it where he is honored in the same area as other lauded architects of this country such as Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson and George Washington.
There are fourteen quotes around the memorial – above are photos of the ones that I was able to get clear photos of before it started getting dark on my day. Enjoy and Happy Martin Luther King Jr. Day!
The vision of an expanded space for the world famous Motown Museum is closer to fruition with the donation of $500,000 from the Hudson-Webber Foundation, Business Insider reported.
“Every time we get another one of these significant lead gifts in the campaign, not only does it encourage us as a team, but also sends a message to the rest of the funding community about this project, the importance of this development and also makes clear that this is real,” Robin Terry, chairwoman and CEO of the museum, told the Detroit Free Press when the foundation notified her about the award.
This donation comes after the museum received a $1 million donation from the Fred A. and Barbara Erb Family Foundation. In October 2016, the museum announced plans for a $50 million, 50,000-square foot expansion project. The new space will include more interactive exhibits, a performance theater, recording studios, retail shops and meeting spaces.
Museum-goers currently only have access to two houses on Grand Boulevard and the funds from the campaign will allow a third house with more exhibits to be built. The expansion will foster job creation and economic growth in Detroit, providing the local community with nearly 250 job opportunities.
“The Motown Museum project will increase the vitality of the surrounding neighborhood and will expand the museum’s ability to serve as an educational and cultural amenity for the city and beyond,” Melanca Clark, president and CEO of the foundation, told the newspaper. “We’re so proud to support an iconic Detroit institution that connects our city to the world.”
Motown founder Berry Gordy’s sister, Esther Gordy Edwards, established the original museum in 1985.
At Hakim’s Bookstore in West Philadelphia, there are signs of life for what is believed to be the oldest black-owned bookstore in the country. Only a couple of years ago, the store was near death’s door. There is fresh, yellow paint on the walls, brand-new bookshelves, and a newly renovated office space at the back of the store. “I finally got a website about three months ago,” said Yvonne Blake, daughter of Dawud Hakim, who founded the store in 1959.
Two years ago, the landmark at 210 S. 52nd St. was in danger of closing: Competition from internet booksellers and its limited hours — a family member was ill — led many people to falsely believe that Hakim’s was no longer in business, Blake, 66, said. But after attention from a column by Inquirer and Daily News writer Helen Ubiñas, Blake said, “I had a lot of people offer to help.”
She had already launched a GoFundMe campaign (more than $1,140 has been raised), but hearing from people all over the country gave her even more hope — and help. Joel Wilson, the owner of a computer-consulting firm who went to elementary school with her daughter, created the new website and offered a reorganization plan. And Ron Green, founder of a clothing company featuring T-shirts and other apparel aimed at young black activists, paid her a visit.
“I had never heard of Hakim’s,” said Green, CEO of What’s Up African? “I told her, you don’t have social media. You’re not online. You have to go to festivals and events. You have to be visible.” And he advised her: “How can we expect the next generation of readers and leaders to access this store if they don’t know you exist?’
Now, some of Green’s T-shirts, items that appeal to a younger generation, are available at the bookstore.
Johnson also said he was pleased to learn that Temple University professor Marc Lamont Hill just openedUncle Bobbie’s Coffee & Books at 5445 Germantown Ave in Philadelphia.
Hill’s store, “along with the opening of at least seven new black-owned independents this year, is a very positive sign,” Johnson wrote in an email. This is the first year his website added more bookstores than it flagged as having closed. “As Amazon becomes a near-monopoly for online book sales and eBooks, they are certainly having an adverse impact on not just black independents, but all booksellers online and brick-and-mortar,” Johnson wrote.
Joshua Clark Davis, a professor of history at the University of Baltimore who has studied black-owned bookstores in the country, said that the “rise and fall of black radical politics has always had an impact on the popularity of black bookstores.”
Marian Spencer, a civil rights leader and the first African American woman elected to the city council in Cincinnati, Ohio, is being recognized by having a dormitory on the campus of the University of Cincinnati named in her honor. Ironically, when Spencer was a student at the University of Cincinnati in the 1940s, she was not permitted to live in campus housing because of her race.
Spencer was born in 1920 in Gallipolis, Ohio. She lived with her grandfather who was a born a slave. As a child, she remembers watching the Ku Klux Klan parade in the street in front of her house.
Spencer joined the NAACP at the age of 13. She was the valedictorian of her high school class and earned a bachelor’s degree in English at the University of Cincinnati in 1942.
Spencer became active in the civil rights movement and was a major figure in the fight to desegregate the city schools and parks. She was the first woman to chair the Cincinnati chapter of the NAACP and in 1983 was elected to the city council. Spencer also served on the board of trustees of the University of Cincinnati.
The board of trustees recently announced that the university’s new high-rise residence hall on Campus Green will be known as Marian Spencer Hall.