“Black Panther” continues to dominate the North-American box office for the fourth weekend in a row, earning $41.1 million , according to Variety.com. In second place is the Ava DuVernay‘s family-friendly fantasy adventure “A Wrinkle in Time” with $33.5 million, not only giving Disney the two top movies for the weekend, but the first weekend in box office history where the top two movies are directed by African-Americans.
With $562 million in 24 days, “Black Panther” is now the seventh-highest domestic grosser of all time. It’s the first film since “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” to lead the North American box office for four straight weekends and it’s grossed $1.08 billion worldwide, 21st highest of all time. The Ryan Coogler tentpole is the 33rd movie to gross $1 billion. It’s the 16th Disney film to reach this milestone, and the fifth Marvel film to do so — joining the ranks of “The Avengers,” “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” “Iron Man 3,” and “Captain America: Civil War.”
CHARLESTON – A swift, cool breeze lifts off the Cooper River. It frisks through the crowns of the towering palm trees that line the paved walkway. Small boats wobble in the calm waters on the east side of the Charleston peninsula. A neatly manicured patch of grass provides a tranquil spot for a blanket and a book. In the distance, the steel cables of the Ravenel Bridge stretch in splendor. To the right, flags fly over Fort Sumter, where the first shots of the Civil War were fired.
Soon, this waterfront will be home to the International African American Museum. The $100 million, 40,000-square foot facility will bridge solemn history and modern magnificence. It will offer captivating exhibits, engaging events and a breathtaking view of the Charleston Harbor.
However, this land is more than prime riverfront real estate. It connects deeply to the heritage the museum aims to commemorate. Ship voyage records reveal that nearly half of the enslaved Africans who were shipped to North America disembarked in Charleston. Many slaves took their first steps on American soil on this patch of land, which was once the largest wharf in North America. Historians estimate that more than 90 percent of all African-Americans can trace at least one ancestor to this land.
Eighteen years ago, former Charleston mayor Joe Riley pledged to build an iconic museum that honors that heritage and illuminates the achievements cultivated from that regrettable past. Since then, 37 other museums dedicated to African-American history and culture have been constructed. However, IAAM supporters contend that this land grants it a distinctive, visceral magnetism.
Riley’s vision has attracted support from city, county and state government, local business owners, national organizations and historians. Yet, Riley and IAAM chief executive officer and president Michael Boulware Moore (who is the great-great-great grandson of Civil War Hero and Congressman Robert Smalls) must raise millions more before construction can begin.
Moore’s passion for this project is personal. When he walks this pristine patch of grass, he can hear the shackles rattling as they dragged against the wooden planks. He can see his great-great-great-great grandmother walking across the wharf. “We know that she landed here. That’s sort of my original anchor to Charleston. It’s really deep emotional territory for me,” Moore said. “Every time I go, it hits me.”
“I understand the history that occurred there,” he said. “I understand tens of thousands of people, including my ancestors, disembarked there in chains. I am confronted by the emotions that must have been felt on that space and just by the enormity of what happened.”
The land’s significance
This serene site was once the epicenter of America’s ugliest enterprise. Nearly 250 years ago, this area was merely brackish marsh. Charleston merchant Christopher Gadsden converted it into the largest wharf in North America. It covered 840 feet from the Charleston Harbor to East Bay Street, between what are now Calhoun and Laurens Streets. Initially, Gadsden’s Wharf primarily serviced the rice industry. Eventually, it became a hub of the international slave trade. From 1783 to 1808, approximately 100,000 enslaved African men, women and children were forced into ships and carried on a voyage through darkness across the Atlantic Ocean into the Charleston Harbor.
According to historian and former South Carolina Historical Society archivist Nic Butler, on Feb. 17, 1806, the City Council of Charleston passed an ordinance stipulating that all vessels importing enslaved Africans port in Gadsden’s Wharf. Enslaved Africans were stored like crops in a wharf warehouse. Shackled to despair, hundreds of men, women and children died from fevers or frostbite. They were buried unceremoniously in a nearby mass grave. Those who survived those subhuman conditions were advertised in newspapers, sold and dispersed.
“Some have described it as the enslaved Africans’ Ellis Island,” University of South Carolina history professor Bobby Donaldson said. “If you can imagine people who endured and survived the Middle Passage from West Africa across the Atlantic, Gadsen’s Wharf is where they see land, where they see a dark and unknown future.”
Slaves were taken to different corners of the fledgling country. They toiled in fields to quicken the economy and fostered a lineage of influential American inventors, educators, soldiers, politicians, writers, philosophers, entrepreneurs, entertainers, activists and athletes.
At last night’s 90th Annual Academy Awards ceremony, “Get Out” writer/director/actor Jordan Peele won the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay, the first African American to ever earn this honor. On Saturday evening, Peele also won Independent Spirit Awards for Best Feature and Best Director.
Last year, “Moonlight” writers Barry Jenkins and Tarell Alvin McCraney won the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay, and the first African American to win an Oscar in either writing category was Geoffrey Fletcher for “Precious” in 2009. The only other African-American to win for writing is John Ridley in 2013 for the Adapted Screenplay to “12 Years A Slave.” “Mudbound” writer/director Dee Rees made her own bit of history this year by being the first African-American woman nominated in the Best Adapted Screenplay category; the first woman ever nominated in either category was Suzanne DePasse in 1972 for “Lady Sings The Blues.”
Retired NBA superstar Kobe Bryant took home the Oscar with his creative partner Glen Keane for “Dear Basketball,” the first nomination and win for an African American in the Best Animated Short category.
The complete list of last night’s winners is below:
Best Picture:“The Shape of Water” (WINNER)
“Call Me by Your Name”
“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”
Frances McDormand, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” (WINNER)
Sally Hawkins, “The Shape of Water”
Margot Robbie, “I, Tonya”
Saoirse Ronan, “Lady Bird”
Meryl Streep, “The Post”
Gary Oldman, “Darkest Hour” (WINNER)
Timothée Chalamet, “Call Me by Your Name”
Daniel Day-Lewis, “Phantom Thread”
Daniel Kaluuya, “Get Out”
Denzel Washington, “Roman J. Israel, Esq.”
“The Shape of Water,” Guillermo del Toro (WINNER)
“Dunkirk,” Christopher Nolan
“Get Out,” Jordan Peele
“Lady Bird,” Greta Gerwig
“Phantom Thread,” Paul Thomas Anderson
“Remember Me” from “Coco,” Kristen Anderson-Lopez, Robert Lopez (WINNER)
“Mighty River” from “Mudbound,” Mary J. Blige
“Mystery of Love” from “Call Me by Your Name,” Sufjan Stevens
“Stand Up for Something” from “Marshall,” Diane Warren, Common
“This Is Me” from “The Greatest Showman,” Benj Pasek, Justin Paul
“The Shape of Water,” Alexandre Desplat (WINNER)
“Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” John Williams
“Dunkirk,” Hans Zimmer
“Phantom Thread,” Jonny Greenwood
“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” Carter Burwell
“Blade Runner 2049,” Roger Deakins (WINNER)
“Darkest Hour,” Bruno Delbonnel
“Dunkirk,” Hoyte van Hoytema
“Mudbound,” Rachel Morrison
“The Shape of Water,” Dan Laustsen
Recently the University of South Carolina unveiled a nine-foot statue of Richard T. Greener on campus. The bronze statue, located between the library and the student health center, honors the first Black faculty member at the university.
In 1870 Richard T. Greener became the first African American graduate of Harvard University. He taught high school in Philadelphia and Washington before joining the faculty at the University of South Carolina in 1873, which for a brief period during Reconstruction admitted Black students. Greener also studied law at the university while teaching philosophy, Latin, and Greek. After Blacks were purged from the University of South Carolina at the end of Reconstruction, Greener worked at the U.S. Treasury Department and taught at the Howard University School of Law.
Katherine Reynolds Chaddock, a retired professor of education at the University of South Carolina, said that Greener “accomplished some worthwhile things at the university in the few years it was open during Reconstruction. He acquired scholarship money for poor students and established a preparatory program for freshmen. He even went to Howard University to recruit South Carolina students who had enrolled there, inviting them to return to their own state for a college education at the now-integrated university.”
Professor Chaddock is the author of a biography about Greener, Uncompromising Activist: Richard Greener, First Black Graduate of Harvard College (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2017).
The John Jay College of Criminal Justice, part of the City University of New York, has announced the establishment of the New York Slavery Records Index, an online archive of slavery records from 1525 until the end of the Civil War.
The new online archive includes more than 35,000 records. The index includes census records, slave trade transactions, cemetery records, birth certifications, manumissions, ship inventories, newspaper accounts, private narratives, legal documents and many other sources. Include are 1,400 birth certificates of slaves and more than 30,000 records that list the names of slave owners in New York. Also included are more than 500 advertisements seeking the capture and return of enslaved New Yorkers.
Karol V. Mason, President of John Jay College, said that “this vast, public database will serve as an important research tool that will support information-based scholarship on slavery in New York and across the nation. The launch of this index marks a significant contribution to understanding and remembering the country’s history of slavery and advances the college’s mission of educating for justice.”
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.
Gladys West was putting together a short bio about herself for a sorority function that recognized senior members of the group.
She noted her 42-year career at the Navy base at Dahlgren and devoted one short-and-sweet line to the fact she was part of the team that developed the Global Positioning System in the 1950s and 1960s.
Fellow Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority member Gwen James was blown away by the statement. The two had known each other for more than 15 years, and James had no idea that the soft-spoken and sharp-minded West played such a “pivotal role” in a technology that’s become a household word.
“GPS has changed the lives of everyone forever,” James said. “There is not a segment of this global society — military, auto industry, cell phone industry, social media, parents, NASA, etc. — that does not utilize the Global Positioning System.”
The revelation that her 87-year-old sorority sister was one of the “Hidden Figures” behind GPS motivated James to share it with the world. “I think her story is amazing,” James added.
West, who lives in King George County, VA, admits she had no idea at the time — when she was recording satellite locations and doing accompanying calculations — that her work would affect so many. “When you’re working every day, you’re not thinking, ‘What impact is this going to have on the world?’ You’re thinking, ‘I’ve got to get this right.’ ”
And get it right she did, according to those who worked with her or heard about her.
In a 2017 message about Black History Month, Capt. Godfrey Weekes, then-commanding officer at the Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division, described the “integral role” played by West.
“She rose through the ranks, worked on the satellite geodesy (science that measures the size and shape of Earth) and contributed to the accuracy of GPS and the measurement of satellite data,” he wrote. “As Gladys West started her career as a mathematician at Dahlgren in 1956, she likely had no idea that her work would impact the world for decades to come.”
As a girl growing up in Dinwiddie County south of Richmond, all Gladys Mae Brown knew was that she didn’t want to work in the fields, picking tobacco, corn and cotton, or in a nearby factory, beating tobacco leaves into pieces small enough for cigarettes and pipes, as her parents did. “I realized I had to get an education to get out,” she said.
When she learned that the valedictorian and salutatorian from her high school would earn a scholarship to Virginia State College (now University), she studied hard and graduated at the top of her class. She got her free ticket to college, majored in math and taught two years in Sussex County before she went back to school for her master’s degree.
She sought jobs where she could apply her skills and eventually got a call from the Dahlgren base, then known as the Naval Proving Ground and now called Naval Support Facility Dahlgren. “That’s when life really started,” she said.