Is Black History Month Necessary?

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Faces of Our History: John S. Rock

rock_johnJohn S. Rock was born to free African American parents John and Maria in Salem, New Jersey on October 13, 1825.

Although attending school in his formative years was rare for African American children, his parents pushed him to focus on his education. John did exactly what his parents required him and earned enough to allow him to become a teacher. In 1844, he landed a job in a Salem class from where he would continue for four years.

John had an amazing work ethic, so much so he got the attention of fellow teachers. He began teacher classes longer and offered private tutor classes. Dr. Shaw and Dr. Gibson, two distinguished medical doctors taught him all they knew about medicine. John started his apprenticeship, to that he could gaining the appropriate medical training to pursue his career. In 1848, John applied to medical school but was denied due to his race.

In 1849, John transferred to a dentistry and started his apprenticeship under Dr. Harber who had recently opened a dental practice in Philadelphia in 1850. A year after he was awarded a medal for his work on a set of silver dentures. John applied to American Medical College in Philadelphia and was admitted. In 1852, he graduated becoming the f1st African American earn a degree in medicine.

John was proud of his accomplishments, at the age of 27 he had established himself and was well-respected as a teacher, dentist, and physician.

John was also known as a passionate abolitionist and civil rights leader. John became a part of the national Equal Rights League, along with many other famous abolitionist including Fredrick Douglass, Henry H. Garnet and many others.

John is known for coining the phrase “Black is Beautiful” during a speech in March 1858 at Faneuil Hall. It was later said that although he did not speak those exact works, rather saying something similar like “the beautiful, rich color of the negro”.

In 1856, John traveled to Paris seeking medical attention after being denied a passport. Upon his return doctor’s orders stated that he needed to cut his workload to remain healthy. During this time, he decided to study law. John passed and was admitted to the Massachusetts Bar. He began to work even harder for the rights of African Americans.

John felt as though he was not making any head way for his fellow African Americans and strive to achieve another level in which he could make more of an impact. February 1, 1865, congress approved the 13th Amendment ending slavery. Charles Sumner put forth a motion that made John the 1st African American to be admitted to the bar of the US Supreme Court and also the 1st African American to be received on the floor the US House of Representatives.

The Civil Rights Acts which enforced the 13th Amendment was passed on April 9, 1866. John was excited and happy, but shortly after fell ill. On December 3, 1866 he passed away in his mother home at the age of 41. He was laid to rest and buried in Everett’s Woodlawn Cemetery.

 

Faces of Our History: Louise Beavers

viewLouise Beavers was born to Ernestine and William M. Beavers on March 8, 1902 in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Louise’s mother was a teacher and worked as a voice coach. Louise learned how to sing for concerts from her mother. Louise attended Pasadena High School where she engaged in several after school activities. After graduation in June 1920, she got a job working as a dressing room attendant. She also was the personal made to a white film start named Leatrice Joy.

It is uncertain how her acting career started but due to the lack of roles for African Americans, her role choices we slim. Most of her roles were playing the character of “mammy”. Louise’s role as Julia in the movie “Coquette” which starred a known actress by the name of Mary Pickford. Her role was a maid who was the mother figure to a white woman.

In 1934, she landed the role of Delilah in “Imitation of Life”. This role was much more than what standard roles for black people in that time. Her character was a secondary parallel plot. This role made people pay attention to the unfair practices of Hollywood actor/actress of color to their racial counterparts. Although, her performance was praised she was not recognized by the Academy solely based on her skin color.

As Louise became more famous, she spoke about the unfair practices and limited portrayal of African Americans in the film industry. She endorsed and support those who wanted to right for civil rights of African Americans.

Louise died following a heart attack on October 26, 1962 at Cedars of Lebanon Hospital in Los Angeles.

In 1976, Louise was inducted into the Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame.

 

Lewis H. Latimer

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Faces of Our History: Lloyd L. Gaines

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Lloyd L. Gaines

 

Lloyd Lionel Gaines was born in 1911 in Water Valley, Mississippi. He was the one out of eleven children born into the Gaines family. Lloyd was a great academic, he went on to be the class valedictorian at Vashon High School. Lloyd participated in was essay writing college and won a scholarship for college, attending Lincoln University. He received his bachelor’s degree in history.

In 1936, Lloyd applied to University of Missouri School of Law, but was denied because of his race. The Missouri Constitution called for segregated education of the races. The law required Missouri to send Lloyd to school outside of his home town. Lloyd, however was determined to attend the school in his home town. Lloyd reached out to the NAACP to help him fight the separate by equal laws that the NAACP had experience with and had successfully overcome such laws.

In 1938, Lloyd won the Gaines v. Canada. He case paved the way for similar cases like his to be heard and won. Most notably, was Brown v. Board of Education, which made it illegal to segregate public schools.

March 1939, Lloyd Gaines was never seen again. His last known whereabouts was in Chicago. He fought so hard to attend law school, but never got the chance to attend. He was 28 years old at the time of his disappearance.

Lloyd’s family never requested he be declared dead. There were many rumors going on around the time of his disappearance, some saying he went into hiding, was bribed, committed suicide, and that he was killed. The family hoped that he just left due to the pressure. In 1999, the family had a monument erected in a cemetery in Missouri.

The University of Missouri started a scholarship in Lloyd’s name in 1995. Even though he never was admitted as a student they wanted to recognize him for his part in making history. In the school law building, Lloyd portrait hangs in a prominent place. The Missouri state bar granted him an honorary law license.

On Black History

It’s just like when you’ve got some coffee that’s too black, which means it’s too strong.  What do you do?  You integrate it with cream, you make it weak.  But if you pour too much cream in it, you won’t even know you ever had coffee.  It used to be hot, it becomes cool.  It used to be strong, it becomes weak.  It used to wake you up, now it puts you to sleep.  ~Malcolm X