Musician Nina Simone passed away in 2003 at 70 years old, but her legacy survives. A 2015 documentary on her life, What Happened, Miss Nina Simone?, received an Oscar nomination and her influence has touched everyone from Lauryn Hill to Mary J. Blige.
Now the icon is receiving a huge honor. Her childhood home in Tryon, North Carolina will be designated a national treasure by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
Her home is now a vacant wooden cottage with three rooms and measuring 660-square feet. The house was put on the market in 2016 and was recently purchased by four Black artists to maintain Simone’s legacy. One, Adam Pendleton, said in a press release, “Last year, my fellow artists and I felt an urgent need to rescue Nina Simone’s childhood home—a need sprung from a place of political activism as well as civic duty.” He continued, “A figure like Nina Simone—an African American woman from a small town in North Carolina who became the musical voice of the Civil Rights Movement—is extraordinarily relevant to artists working today. She constantly expressed her commitment to the democratic values our country espouses by demanding that we live up to them. We are honored to partner with the National Trust to further protect her legacy.”
Stephanie Meeks, president and CEO of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, said in a press release, “Nina Simone’s distinctive voice and social critique in the mid-20th century was unlike anything America had ever heard before. And while her musical and social justice legacy burns bright, her childhood home has been neglected. We’re delighted to work with the home’s new owners and the local community to chart a new future for the property that will honor her tremendous contributions to American society and inspire new generations of artists and activists to engage with her legacy.”
“My papers reflect 50 years of involvement in activist and scholarly collaborations seeking to expand the reach of justice in the world,” Davis said in a statement. “I am very happy that at the Schlesinger Library they will join those of June Jordan, Patricia Williams, Pat Parker, and so many other women who have been advocates of social transformation.”
Jane Kamensky, Carl and Lily Pforzheimer Foundation Director of the Schlesinger Library, sees the collection yielding “prize-winning books for decades as people reckon with this legacy and put [Davis] in conversation with other collections here and elsewhere.”
When looking for new material, Kamensky said the library seeks collections “that will change the way that fields know what they know,” adding that she expects the Davis archive to inspire and inform scholars across a range of disciplines.
Henry Louis Gates Jr. said that he’s followed Davis’ life and work ever since spotting a “Free Angela” poster on the wall at his Yale dorm. Gates, the Alphonse Fletcher Jr. University Professor, has worked to increase the archival presence of African-Americans who have made major contributions to U.S. society, politics, and culture. He called the Davis papers “a marvelous coup for Harvard.”
“She’s of enormous importance to the history of political thought and political activism of left-wing or progressive politics and the history of race and gender in the United States since the mid-’60s,” said Gates, who directs the Hutchins Center. “No one has a more important role, and now scholars will be able to study the arc of her thinking, the way it evolved and its depth, by having access to her papers.”
The acquisition is in keeping with the library’s efforts to ensure its collections represent a broad range of life experiences. In 2013 and 2014 an internal committee developed a diverse wish list, “and a foundational thinker and activist like Angela Davis was very naturally at the top,” said Kamensky.
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.
Civil Rights activist and grass roots hero Fannie Lou Hamer would have turned 100 years old this October 6. GirlTrek, the largest national public health nonprofit and movement for Black women and girls, is celebrating her legacy by hosting 100 national walks.
Known for her courage on the frontlines of the American Civil Rights Movement, Hamer stunned the world with her electrifying account of brutal attacks and local terror in the Jim Crow South. She stood strong, demanding the attention of U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson by leading an unparalleled grassroots campaign and political party in Mississippi that delivered over 60,000 votes. Fannie Lou Hamer is responsible for helping secure the 1965 Voting Rights Act and changing the tide of justice.
The scale of her impact is made greater by her life story. Fannie Lou Hamer worked as a sharecropper from age 6. As a young woman, in an extralegal, violent act, she was given a forced hysterectomy. Unbroken, she adopted children. At 44 years old, Fannie Lou Hamer joined the American Civil Rights Movement. From church basements to the White House, Hamer was celebrated for her ability to inspire everyday people to action.
“In the iconic words of Fannie Lou Hamer, we’re ‘sick and tired of being sick and tired.’ She died too soon putting her body on the line for our freedom and we want to celebrate her life in a big way. In her honor, we are going to raise an army of sisters, #FanniesArmy, who will lead 100 walks across America at sunset on October 6th,” said GirlTrek cofounder T. Morgan Dixon.
To participate in #FanniesArmy, walk for 100 minutes at sunset on October 6th wherever you are with family and friends. To be counted, register your walk at https://rebrand.ly/fanniesarmy. The first 100 leaders to sign up will receive special edition #FanniesArmy T-shirts.
“While the country reels from conflict in Charlottesville, this is an opportunity to herald the legacy of an American hero who brought us together,” Dixon said. “Fannie Lou Hamer died too early at 59, her body riddled with heart disease and cancer. I’m reminded of the words of R. Boylorn, [Hamer] ‘never saw death coming because she was too busy taking care of others.’ She worked tirelessly in field offices and late hours registering people to vote. When pain rendered her homebound, she taught Freedom Riders the ways of resistance in her night gown from her front porch.”
Dick Gregory, who became the first black stand-up comic to break the color barrier in major nightclubs in the early 1960s, a decade in which he satirized segregation and race relations in his act and launched his lifetime commitment to civil rights and other social justice issues, died Saturday. He was 84.
His death was confirmed on his official social media accounts by his family. “It is with enormous sadness that the Gregory family confirms that their father, comedic legend and civil rights activist Mr. Dick Gregory departed this earth tonight in Washington, DC.,” his son Christian Gregory wrote. Even before the confirmation from the family, Rev. Jesse Jackson, a longtime friend of Gregory’s, had memorialized him in a tweet: “He taught us how to laugh. He taught us how to fight. He taught us how to live. Dick Gregory was committed to justice. I miss him already.”
In a life that began in poverty in St. Louis during the Depression, the former Southern Illinois University track star became known as an author, lecturer, nutrition guru and self-described agitator who marched, ran and fasted to call attention to issues ranging from police brutality to world famine. An invitation from civil rights leader Medgar Evers to speak at voter registration rallies in Jackson, Miss., in 1962 launched Gregory into what he called “the civil rights fight.” He was frequently arrested for his activities in the ’60s, and once spent five days in jail in Birmingham, Ala. after joining demonstrators in 1963 at the request of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
Gregory, who was shot in the leg while trying to help defuse the Watts riots in 1965, made a failed run for mayor of Chicago as a write-in candidate in 1967. A year later, he ran for president as a write-in candidate for the Freedom and Peace Party, a splinter group of the Peace and Freedom Party. Hunter S. Thompson was one of his most vocal supporters.
In the late ’60s, Gregory began going on 40-day fasts to protest the Vietnam War. In 1980, impatient with President Carter’s handling of the Iranian hostage crisis, he flew to Iran and began a fast, had a “ceremonial visit” with revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini and met with the revolutionary students inside the embassy. After four and a half months in Iran, his weight down to 106 pounds, he returned home.
But before Dick Gregory the activist, there was Dick Gregory the groundbreaking comedian. He was a struggling 28-year-old stand-up comic in Chicago who had launched his career in small black clubs when he received a life-changing, last-minute phone call from his agent in January 1961: The prestigious Playboy Club in Chicago needed someone to fill in for comedian Irwin Corey on Sunday night. Gregory was so broke he had to borrow a quarter from his landlord for bus fare downtown. Never mind that his audience turned out to be a convention of white frozen-food-industry executives from the South.
“Good evening, ladies and gentlemen,” Gregory said, coolly eyeing the audience. “I understand there are a good many Southerners in the room tonight. I know the South very well. I spent 20 years there one night. …“Last time I was down South, I walked into this restaurant, and this white waitress came up to me and said: ‘We don’t serve colored people here.’ I said: ‘That’s all right, I don’t eat colored people. Bring me a whole fried chicken.’ ”Despite having to deal with what he later described as “dirty, little, insulting statements” from some members of the audience, the heckling soon stopped as Gregory won them over with his provocatively funny but nonbelligerent satirical humor.
“Segregation is not all bad,” he said on stage. “Have you ever heard of a wreck where the people on the back of the bus got hurt?” What was supposed to be a 55-minute show, Gregory later recalled, went on for about an hour and 40 minutes. And by the time he walked off stage, the audience gave him a thundering ovation. He did so well, he was booked at the club for two weeks and then held over for several more.
According to blavity.com, Octavius Valentine Catto will be honored with a statue outside of Philadelphia’s city hall this September. Catto’s statue will be the first monument built to honor an African American erected on public land in the City of Brotherly Love. Although Catto’s memorial has been in the works for years, in the wake of the push to take so many Confederate statues down across the nation, the timing for this statue’s unveiling could not be better.
In Charleston, South Carolina on February 22, 1839, Catto was born a free black man. Catto excelled at his studies, attending a school for black children in Philadelphia, the Institute for Colored Youth, an institution he later led.
According to phillyvoice.com, in his early 20s, Catto was already an active leader in the African American community. He was a member of the 4th Ward Black Political Club, the Union League Association, the Library Company and the Franklin Institute. He demanded that African Americans fight in the Civil War and helped get their regiments inducted into the war. In 1863, at the height of the Civil War, he joined the army and enlisted as a volunteer in defense of the state of Pennsylvania.
Catto was also a major in the Pennsylvania National Guard and played baseball as captain and second baseman for the Pythians, an African American baseball team. He was inducted into the Negro League Baseball Museum’s Hall of Fame.
Beyond being an educator, ball player and a war hero, Philadelphia is celebrating Catto for his local civil rights activism, which went into full gear after he was kicked off of a segregated horse-drawn trolley. He staged a sit-in on the streetcars, refusing to move off of the car. The driver drove the car off of its track and unhitched its horses, unsure how else to get rid of Catto. Catto remained aboard; the other passengers and the driver left him there. Catto also defended several black women who were forcibly ejected from the city’s streetcars, and used a fine levied against his fiancée to drum up publicity for his cause. Finally, in 1867, due in large part to Catto’s pressure, the city desegregated its streetcars.
Remember the Titans scribe Gregory Allen Howard has teamed with Chris Columbus’ 1492 production company to tell the story of Fannie Lou Hamer, a sharecropper with a sixth-grade education who became an important voting-rights advocate and founded the first integrated political party in the South in mid-’60s Mississippi.
Hamer grew up in a family of 20 kids and picked cotton for most of her life. After going to a doctor to have a tumor removed, she discovered she was given a hysterectomy at age 47 by a white doctor, without her consent, because of a movement by the state to sterilize women to reduce the number of poor blacks in Mississippi.
Hamer became a Civil Rights activist, surviving assassination attempts
and a near-fatal beating to get her moment at the Democratic National Convention, where she challenged President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1968 with her legendary, “Is This America?” speech.
While LBJ hastily called a ruse press conference in the hope of diverting attention away from her speech, Hamer’s powerful words were widely broadcast and reverberated around the world. Howard, who studied Hamer’s accomplishments as a college student, has long been obsessed with bringing her story to the screen. Hamer died in 1977.
The Jackie Robinson Museum is one step closer to becoming a reality.
The Jackie Robinson Foundation hosted a groundbreaking ceremony for donors on April 27, 2017. The 18,500-square foot space will honor the late sports legend Jackie Robinson, who broke the color barrier in Major League Baseball and played an active, pioneering role in the modern civil rights movement. “Jack lived his life with such great purpose,” said Rachel Robinson, JRF Founder and wife of Jackie Robinson. “I hope that visitors to the Museum will not only learn about his journey and experience his energy, but that they will be inspired to view each day as a chance to make a difference.”
The Jackie Robinson Museum will expand the Foundation’s mission to educate and expose current and future generations of Americans to a man and an era that were pivotal in forming the more inclusive society that we are today. Exciting, interactive exhibitions, educational outreach efforts, and dynamic programing to illuminate the life and character of one of the most storied athletes of all time are all on the Museum’s agenda. “We are proud to realize Rachel Robinson’s dream of establishing a fixed tribute to her husband’s rich legacy,” said Della Britton Baeza, JRF’s President & CEO. “Jackie Robinson’s contributions to our country propelled us through challenging social times and continue to encourage us to practice empathy and brotherhood toward others. The Jackie Robinson Museum will satisfy sports fans who will learn more about Jackie Robinson’s great accomplishments as an athlete and visitors of all walks of life who want to be inspired by a true humanitarian.”
Located in the heart of downtown Manhattan, just blocks north of the 9/11 Memorial, the Foundation has retained Gensler as Design Architect in collaboration with Ralph Appelbaum Associates, Exhibit Designer, to develop the Jackie Robinson Museum.
JRF has secured lead gifts from a diverse group of partners including: Nike, Inc., Phil Knight, the Yawkey Foundation, the City of New York, New York Mets, Citi, Strada Education Network, Los Angeles Dodgers, Major League Baseball, the Tull Family Foundation, New York Yankees, and Stephen Ross. Half way to its $42 million fundraising goal, which is inclusive of a Museum operating endowment, the Foundation plans to open the Museum’s doors in the spring of 2019.
Established in 1973 to perpetuate Jackie Robinson’s memory, the Jackie Robinson Foundation (JRF), a national, public, non-profit organization, administers one of the nation’s premier education and leadership development programs for minority college students. In addition to generous financial assistance, JRF offers a comprehensive set of support services that includes mentoring, job placement, career guidance, leadership training and practical life skills. JRF’s celebrated four-year program yields a consistent, 98% college graduation rate. JRF has provided over $70 million in grants and direct program support to 1,500 students who have attended over 225 colleges and universities.
Georgia congressman John Lewis is finally getting what many believe to be the TV treatment he deserves. The civil rights icon is the focus of a forthcoming new documentary set to air on PBS.
“Get In The Way: The Journey of John Lewis” aims to tell the story of the civil rights pioneer, who led a 26-hour sit-in for gun control, marched with Dr. King, challenged political houses and continues to fight for human rights, per Jetmag.com.
According to the film’s website, it offers a “highly personalized narrative of an epic chapter in U.S. history.” The biographical documentary will air on PBS as part of the network’s Black History Month programming.
“He is the moving, roaring protector of the rights afforded to every person in this nation. Get in the Way arrives at the perfect time,” actress and activist Alfre Woodard is quoted as saying in the documentary highlights.
Toronto, Canada – Viola Desmond, a black civil rights leader who led a struggle against anti-black segregation and racism in Canada in the 1940s will be the first Canadian woman to figure on a banknote.
Desmond will appear on the Canadian $10 bill – replacing John A. MacDonald, the nation’s first prime minister (he will be moved to a higher bill) when new banknotes go into circulation in 2018, Canadian Finance Minister Bill Morneau announced on Thursday morning.
A successful businesswoman from a middle-class family, Desmond is best known for refusing to give up her seat in the “whites only” section of a cinema in Canada’s eastern province of Nova Scotia in 1946.
She was eventually dragged out of the segregated cinema by police, arrested, held in prison overnight, and forced to pay a fine, all for refusing to move to the upstairs balcony reserved for black people.
She was criminally charged with not paying a small tax that would normally apply on a downstairs ticket. But instead of letting the matter rest, Desmond decided to fight her conviction in court.
“Viola inspires us … today as she inspired people years ago,” said her sister Wanda Robson, who attended the announcement. “I’m so proud, I’m almost in tears.”
Her case was the first known legal challenge by a black woman against segregation laws in Canada.