WASHINGTON — Just before the March on Washington in 1963, President John F. Kennedy summoned six top civil rights leaders to the White House to talk about his fears that civil rights legislation he was moving through Congress might be undermined if the march turned violent.
Whitney Young Jr. cut through the president’s uncertainty with three questions: “President Kennedy, which side are you on? Are you on the side of George Wallace of Alabama? Or are you on the side of justice?” One of those leaders, John Lewis, later a longtime congressman from Georgia, tells the story of Young’s boldness in “The Powerbroker: Whitney Young’s Fight for Civil Rights,” a documentary airing during Black History Month on the PBS series “Independent Lens” and shown in some community theaters.
The First U.S. Colored Troops Recruits at Camp Nelson in Danville, Kentucky were honored at a dedication ceremony Monday. A historical highway marker was unveiled by re-enactors from the 12th U.S. Colored Heavy Artillery Regiment from Camp Nelson for the men.
On May 23, 1864, nearly 150 African-American men, mostly slaves, left Boyle County to march to Jessamine County to enlist in the Union Army. On the way, people from Danville threw stones, and shot pistols at the recruits. When they reached Camp Nelson, they were initially turned away by Union Col. Andew Clark because there was no policy for the recruitment of slaves.
The men were accepted into the Army, which prompted a Union policy change allowing able-bodied African American men into the service. More than 5,000 U.S. colored troops were eventually recruited at Camp Nelson. To see a video of the dedication, click the link below:
(Photo: Courtesy of Smithsonian Institution)
Willa Brown, born on Jan. 21, 1906, was one of the pioneer figures in the world of African-American aviators. She was the first Black female officer in the Civil Air Patrol and the first Black woman to hold a commercial pilot’s license in the United States.
Brown was the coordinator of war-training service for the Civil Aeronautics Authority and later was a member of the Federal Aviation Administration’s Women’s Advisory Board.
A native of Glasgow, Kentucky, Brown earned a degree from Indiana State Teachers College and a master’s degree from the Aeronautical University in Chicago. She later earned a master’s in business administration from Northwestern University. She and her husband, Cornelius Coffey, formed the Coffey School of Aeronautics to train African-American pilots. Brown retired in 1971 as a schoolteacher. She died of a stroke in 1992.
article by Jonathan P. Hicks via bet.com
Pioneering sculptor Isaac Scott Hathaway (pictured) was chosen as the first African American to design a U.S. Mint coin on this day 66 years ago. Then-President Harry S. Truman authorized a commission for the Mint to jump
start the design of a new 50-cent piece. Hathaway received the clearance to design the coin, which featured educator and author Booker T. Washington (pictured right) who was chosen as the coin’s face because Truman wanted “to commemorate the life and perpetuate the ideas and teachings of Booker T. Washington.”
Already the highest-ranking African-American female in the U.S. Army, Gen. Marcia Anderson’s recent promotion to the rank of major general makes her the first black woman to hold the title in the history of the military branch.
Anderson formerly served as a deputy-commanding general of the human resources command in Fort Knox, Kentucky. Now in the third highest-ranking position in the army, Gen. Anderson will now be stationed at the office of the chief of the U.S. Army Reserve in Washington, D.C.
The 30-year vet spoke to the Associated Press following her promotion. In her interview, the general spoke of the limited opportunities available for blacks prior to and the immediate years following World War II that affected many African-Americans, including her father.
“This is for people like him who had dreams deferred,” Anderson to the AP referring to her father’s failed dream of flying bombers during his time in the military. Her dad drove trucks instead because of the narrow opportunities for blacks at the time.
Anderson assumed her new post on September 30 in Washington, D.C.
Organizers in distressed communities from Los Angeles to Washington, D.C., will soon begin plans to create what the Department of Education envisions as “Promise Neighborhoods,” where children and families receive support services that boost a student’s chance of being successful in school. Twenty-one applicants for the program to transform communities and student outcomes were named on Tuesday. They will receive planning grants of up to $500,000. “Communities across the country recognize that education is the one true path out of poverty,” Education Secretary Arne Duncan said. “These Promise Neighborhoods applicants are committed to putting schools at the center of their work to provide comprehensive services for young children and students.”
The program is modeled after the Harlem Children’s Zone, which provides comprehensive support for families from pregnancy through birth, education through college and career. Children in the program’s charter schools have made impressive gains on standardized tests and in closing the achievement gap.
More than 300 communities applied to become Promise Neighborhoods. Applicants hope they can reproduce the results of the Harlem Children’s Zone, even if they can’t create charter schools and will have a fraction of the organization’s $84 million budget. “If we want to address the challenges of student achievement and success, you have to work in the traditional public school system,” said Sheena Wright, president and CEO of the Abyssinian Development Corporation in Harlem, one of the organizations that was awarded a Promise Neighborhoods grant. The local public high school Wright’s group works with has attained strong results, including a graduation rate of more than 90 percent for African American men, she said.
Dreama Gentry, director for external affairs at Berea College, which will work with three communities in rural Kentucky, said a smaller budget wasn’t a barrier to improving student outcomes. The key will be engaging the community, particularly those who have lost faith in the value of education, she said. “That’s what it takes to create the change, not necessarily the big budget,” Gentry said. The Promise Neighborhoods were part of President Barack Obama’s presidential campaign platform, and he has requested $210 million in the 2011 budget to implement the program and plan for more Promise Neighborhoods. Duncan said Tuesday that if less is granted, “a lot of children will lose out.” The idea is this: Students don’t learn in isolation, and if they come to school with an empty stomach, or don’t feel safe at home, they’ll have a harder time learning in the classroom.
“We’re hoping we can bring families back together,” said Geri Small, chief professional officer for the Boys & Girls Club of the Northern Cheyenne Nation, one of the organizations that won the grant. Duncan visited the Montana reservation last year, which has been plagued by high dropout rates and unemployment. The community has been challenged by drug and alcohol abuse, and the breakdown of the family structure, with many children in single family households, or with a parent in jail, Small said. “The whole community, all the different organizations came together,” she said.
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article originally printed May 13, 1946 in Time Magazine