Friday, February 29, 2008

The African American National Biography Shines Light on Famous and Overlooked Black Historical Figures

The African American National Biography Shines Light on Famous and Overlooked Black Historical Figures

By Bob Thompson
Washington Post

January 28, 2008

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. -- "Ever heard of Ted Rhodes? There he is, right before Condoleezza Rice."

Harvard historian Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham is paging through the index to the eight-volume African American National Biography. She co-edited this massive new biographical treasure chest -- to be published next month by Oxford University Press -- with her Harvard colleague Henry Louis "Skip" Gates Jr.

Higginbotham is trying to underscore how many fascinating lives the biography will help rescue from obscurity: people such as Rhodes, a black professional golfer who paved the way for Tiger Woods.

"Valaida Snow's interesting," Higginbotham says, mentioning a jazz singer who was interned in a Nazi concentration camp. "You know Major Taylor? He's a bicyclist. . . . Margaret Smith was a midwife; she delivered over 3,000 babies in Alabama. . . . "

Name after name, life after life:

There's Cathay Williams, "cook, laundress, and Buffalo Soldier," who fled her slave master during the Civil War and disguised herself as a man to enlist in the postwar U.S. Army. There's John Carruthers Stanly, born a slave in North Carolina, who ended up owning 163 slaves himself.

And there's Rayford Logan, Higginbotham's old history professor at Howard University who helped create the Dictionary of American Negro Biography -- the best-known antecedent of the Gates-Higginbotham effort.

When it was published in 1982, Logan's dictionary was by far the most professional African American biography project ever completed. It had 626 entries. This one will have 4,100, and there are plans to add thousands more to the online version. Gates calls it "the most important recovery project in the history of African American studies."

Black history has long been important to Higginbotham, chairwoman of Harvard's Department of African and African American Studies. As a child in her parents' house in Washington, she met Logan and other pioneers of the field such as Carter Woodson, whom her father, a school principal, helped out at the Assn. for the Study of Negro Life and History.

After Woodson's death in 1950, she says, her father drummed his friend's historical credo into her:

"We must refute the lies that the Negro has no past or that the Negro has no past worth respecting."

The African American National Biography was the brainchild of the entrepreneurial Gates. No one involved can quite imagine anyone else pulling it off.

Reached by phone in California, Gates credits his inspiration to two sources.

One was Yale historian John Blassingame, who introduced him to the outpouring of quirky black biographical dictionaries of the 19th and early 20th centuries. Largely efforts to refute the most damaging lie of all about black people -- that they were intellectually inferior to whites -- these works tended toward hagiography but preserved many names that might otherwise have been lost.

The other inspiration, Gates says, was one of his heroes, "the smartest black intellectual in the first half of the 19th century." James McCune Smith was the first professionally trained black physician in the United States, the nation's first black candidate for political office and an influential abolitionist. Seven years ago, Gates looked for Smith in the premier American biographical dictionary, Oxford's American National Biography.

He wasn't there. Nor were most of the names on a list of maybe 25 prominent blacks Higginbotham assembled after Gates told her of the gaps he was finding.

Gates called Casper Grathwohl, who headed Oxford's reference division, and told him he needed to publish a stand-alone African American reference work.

"Do you think you can fill it up?" Gates recalls Grathwohl asking.

Not a problem.

An initial database, compiled at the Gates-run W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research at Harvard, ran to more than 12,000 names. Many, brought to light by burgeoning research efforts in African American history over the last quarter century, remained virtually unknown outside the academy.

Gates and Higginbotham set out to turn that database into what Gates calls "the grandest history of the African American people ever written."

Members of the staff they assembled began work in 2002, based in the Du Bois Institute. By 2004, they had produced a handsome 600-entry volume called African American Lives that served as a kind of advertisement for the full biography. But soon after this, the editors began to fear that the larger project would never get done.

Indeed, Gates is a man who, asked what he's working on now, has trouble recalling the full list. His sabbatical project is "a book on race and the Enlightenment." Another book, "In Search of Our Roots," will be out in April. He's just gotten approval from Oxford University Press for a huge African biography project. There's a PBS show airing next month, the second to be based on African American Lives. Oh, and he's forgotten to mention "the big project I'm gearing up to do": an eight-hour PBS series on the history of the African American people -- "the whole sweep, from the slave trade to Barack Obama."

In short, Gates is hardly a typical academic. He is uncomfortable with the slower rhythms of university scholarship, and some academics, in turn, are uncomfortable with him.

"A lot of people working for Skip get a little freaked," says Kate Tuttle, a book editor and journalist whom Gates and Higginbotham brought in to jump-start the project. When Tuttle signed on in 2004, she says, the biography was mostly a Du Bois Institute production, with little input from the publisher, and there was a feeling among the staff "that the project was impossible." Her chief idea for retooling it was to get Oxford more involved.

A key decision, says Tuttle's Oxford counterpart, Anthony Aiello, was to reduce the responsibilities of the Du Bois staff by recruiting 17 credentialed "subject editors" -- for education, art, slavery, civil rights and so on. The subject editors approved biographical entries in their fields, to be written mainly by some 1,700 outside contributors.

Unknown figures from centuries past are hard to research; the living, meanwhile, offer their own challenges.

What do you do, for example, with sprinter Marion Jones, who had yet to admit to using steroids when her biography was written? Or with Barry Bonds? What about Condoleezza Rice and Colin L. Powell? Both were shoo-ins for inclusion, but both have had their legacies of achievement destabilized by the Iraq war. What happens when Deval Patrick suddenly becomes governor of Massachusetts?

The beauty of a biographical dictionary produced in 2008 is that it can be updated online. The print version can be ordered for $795. The online version is proceeding more slowly and won't include all 4,100 entries for nearly a year. It is part of a collection of online reference tools called the Oxford African American Studies Center, available by subscription.

Putting this and similar works online may resolve a question that the compilers of specialized biographical dictionaries are forever being asked: Aren't they, despite their good intentions, perpetuating a form of ghettoization?

Online, Gates explains, "you can have your cake and eat it too." Users will soon be able to search across all Oxford's reference tools without specifying race -- but they'll still be able to separate African American entries if they want to.

"I'm exhilarated," Gates says. If someone had enough time, it would be great "just to start with A and read to the end."

You won't catch him doing that himself, however. And it's not just because he's thinking ahead to his African biography project, which should daunt him. No. He's already lighting out for new territory.

"Oxford doesn't know it yet," Gates says cheerfully, "but I want to do blacks in Latin America and the Caribbean."

Source: Los Angeles Times

Original Source:

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Who really invented the light bulb?

Fascinating facts about Lewis Howard Latimer inventor of an improved process for manufacturing light bulb carbon filaments in 1881.

Louis Latimer received a patent for an improved process for manufacturing the carbon filaments in light bulbs. These improvements allowed for a reduction in time to produce and an increase in quality. During his life time he had worked with and for Alexander Bell, Hiram Maxim and Thomas Edison. Latimer was the only black member of an exclusive social group, the Edison Pioneers. THE STORY

Criteria; First practical.
Birth: September 4, 1848 in Chelsea, Massachusetts
Death: December 11, 1928 in New York, New York
Nationality: American

Invention: electric lighting improvements in 1881

Function: noun / electric light bulb carbon filament
Definition: An electric lamp in which a filament is heated to incandescence by an electric current. Today's incandescent light bulbs use filaments made of tungsten rather than carbon,
Patent: 252,386 (US) issued January 17, 1882

1848 Lewis Latimer was born in Chelsea, Massachusetts, on September 4, and reared in Boston
1864 joins Navy as a cabin boy on the USS Massasoit
1865 joins Boston, Massachusetts based Crosby and Gould, patent solicitors, as office boy
1879 moves to Bridgeport, Connecticut to work as a draftsman
1880 joins United States Electric Lighting Co. as a draftsman working for Hiram Stevens Maxim
1880 230,309 Hiram Maxim 7/20 for Process of Manufacturing Carbon Conductors Latimer witnessed
1880 230,310 Hiram Maxim 7/20 for Electrical Lamp
1881 237,198 Hiram Maxim 2/1 for Electric Lamp (assigned to U.S.E.L.Co.) Latimer witnessed
1881 247,097 Lewis Latimer and Joseph V. Nichols 9/13 for Electric Lamp
1882 252,386 Lewis Latimer 1/17 for Process of Manufacturing Carbons (assigned to U.S.E.L.Co.)
1982 255,212 Lewis Latimer 3/21 for Globe Supporter for Electric Lamps (assigned to U.S.E.L.Co.)
1882 left U.S.E.L.Co to work for several companies in the electrical industry
1885 Latimer found stable employment with the Edison Electric Light Company of New York
1892 Edison Electric Light Company merged with Thomson-Houston to become General Electric
1896 Latimer joined the Board of Patent Control, a joint arrangement between GE and Westinghouse
1910 968,787 William S. Norton 8/30 for Lamp-Fixture (assigned 50% to Lewis Latimer)
1911 began work in the private consulting firm headed by Edwin Hammer and Elmer Schwarz.
1918 Lewis becomes a charter member of a rather exclusive social group: the Edison Pioneers
1922 Latimer retired when failing eyesight caused an end to his career as a draftsman
1928 Lewis Latimer died on December 11, in New York
CAPs: Latimer, Lewis Latimer, Lewis Howard Latimer, Joseph V. Nichols, Alexander Bell, Hiram Maxim, Thomas Edison, Edison Pioneers,
SIPs: carbon filament, light bulb, light bulb making machine, inventor, biography, profile, history, inventor of, history of, who invented, invention of, fascinating facts.

Lewis Howard Latimer, a pioneer in the development of the electric light bulb, was the only Black member of Thomas A. Edison's research team of noted scientists. While Edison invented the incandescent bulb, it was Latimer, a member of the Edison Pioneers, who developed and patented the process for manufacturing the carbon filaments.

Lewis Latimer was born in Chelsea, Massachusetts, on September 4, 1848, and reared in Boston. Latimer's parents, as runaway slaves in the 1830s, had been assisted by whites as well as blacks. Their case had galvanized the Boston abolitionist community to its first major political activity. Latimer and his brothers had enlisted in the military and served in the Civil War. At sixteen Latimer joined the Union navy as a cabin boy on the USS Massasoit. After an honorable discharge in 1865 Latimer returned to Boston.
In his early career in Boston, Latimer was surrounded by technological communities that subscribed to the American ideal that any poor boy could make his fame and fortune through invention and innovation. The Union victory in the Civil War seemed to open the way for African Americans to participate fully in the American dream, and Latimer set his course accordingly.

Skills he had developed in mechanical drawing landed him a position with Crosby and Gould, patent solicitors. While with the company he advance to a chief draftsman and soon began working on his own inventions.While working at the Boston firm, Latimer met Alexander Graham Bell who hired him to draw the plans for a new invention, the telephone. Latimer's detailed descriptions of the geographic proximity of his office to the place where Bell was teaching, and of meeting with Bell add credibility to his claim, although no supporting evidence has been found in either the Bell family papers or the patent applications themselves.

His first patent (US 147,363), approved on February 10, 1874, was for a "water closet for railway cars."
Reading the application, a modern observer would probably agree that Latimer's "closed-bottom hopper" would have been preferable to the "open-bottom hopper" in use at the time. Given the superiority of the new design, and Latimer's own ambitions, it would have been exceedingly strange if Latimer and his colleague had indeed made no effort to market their new device. However, there is no record of any such attempt, and Latimer does not mention it in his autobiographical reminiscences.

After leaving Boston in 1879, Latimer arrived in Bridgeport, Connecticut shortly after his thirty-first birthday. He immediately set about making himself useful in the technical community of this busy seaport. In 1880 a combination of circumstances led him into the young electrical utility industry as an employee of Hiram Stevens Maxim, then chief engineer at the United States Electric Lighting Company. Within a week Lewis was installed in Mr. Maxim's office busily following his vocation of mechanical draughtsman, and acquainting himself with every branch of electric incandescent light construction and operation.

When the company moved to Brooklyn in 1880, Latimer moved with it and continued to diversify his achievements. In addition to his desk work and shop work, he went out into the field assisting in arc and incandescent installations of Maxim equipment in New York, Philadelphia, and Montreal. In his logbook, he later recalled:

The following year Latimer and fellow inventor Joseph V. Nichols received a patent for their invention of the first incandescent light bulb with carbon filament. Prior to this breakthrough, filaments had been made from paper.

Of the numerous inventions Latimer made during his employment with U.S. Electric, three were patented: a new support for arc lights, an improvement to Maxim's method of manufacturing filaments for incandescent bulbs, and a new way to attach the carbonized filament to the platinum wires that brought electricity into the bulb from the base. In addition, Latimer's unpatented inventions improved designs for virtually all the other equipment and steps involved in the lampmaking process: the oven that baked the filaments; the preparation of phosphoric anhydride (a chemical used for drying the inert gas that filled the bulb and prolonged the filament life); glassblowing equipment to produce bulbs; and a new socket and switch.

His last assignment for U.S. Electric Lighting was in London, to advise the English on setting up a lamp factory. He arrived New Year's Day of January 1882. By this time, his mentor Maxim was only minimally associated with the electric business.

While in London Latimer began drawings for improvement in elevators. Although the elevator improvement was never patented, Latimer continued to work on it. As late as 1898, Latimer was actively bringing his elevator work to the attention of the Westinghouse, General Electric, and Otis Elevator companies. None of these companies were inclined to pursue the matter. The elevator stands, however, as symbol and evidence of Latimer's continuing pursuit of the American dream of upward mobility via invention.

Although Maxim did meet at least once with Latimer in London, his time and interest were increasingly absorbed in developing the machine gun which brought him his greatest fame. Latimer returned to New York later in 1882, but Maxim stayed in London for many years.

When Latimer returned to the United States late in 1882, the U.S. Electric Light Company had undergone several corporate changes. Maxim was no longer associated with the company, and Latimer found he had no place in the new organization. There is considerable conflicting evidence regarding the dates and firms of Latimer's employment for the next few years. The names of the Weston Company, Olmstead Electric Co., Imperial Electric Light Co., Mather Electric Co., and Acme Electric Light Co. all appear in various biographical and autobiographical accounts prepared more than a decade later. Drawings prepared by Latimer for C. G. Perkins at the Imperial Electric Light Co. during 1884 and 1885 are in the Smithsonian's collection.

About 1885, Latimer found stable employment with the Edison Electric Light Company of New York (parent company of all the Edison electric utility companies) and related or successor firms. He achieved a respected professional position on the basis of his patent expertise, his encyclopedic knowledge of lamp design and manufacturing, his drafting skills, and his creative intelligence.

He entered the Engineering Department of the Edison Electric Light Company and about 1889 was transferred to the Legal Department. He became Edison's patent investigator and expert witness in cases against persons trying to benefit from Edison's inventions without legal permission.

Edison encouraged Latimer to write the book, Incandescent Electric Lighting: A Practical Description of the Edison System. Published in 1890, it was extremely popular as it explained how an incandescent lamp produces light in an easy-to-understand manner.

When the Edison General Electric Company merged with Thomson-Houston in 1892, Latimer continued to serve in the Legal Department of the newly formed General Electric Company. (After a bitter struggle, Edison's name was dropped, and Edison himself had no more involvement with the company beyond defending his patents.) About 1896, Latimer joined the Board of Patent Control, a joint arrangement between General Electric and the Westinghouse Company,

On several occasions Latimer testified regarding his observations while working for Edison's competitors. Since Latimer had worked with or been employed by most of the men who challenged Edison's patents, his testimony as to what was going on in their shops was valuable to the Edison cause. One of the biographical sketches, apparently prepared as a letter of reference, states that while in the Legal Department of "the Edison Company . . . he made drawings for Court exhibits, had charge of the library, inspected infringing plants in various parts of the country, and testified as to facts in a number of cases, without materially encouraging the opposing counsel. He also did considerable searching for which his previous experience, and a moderate knowledge of French and German qualified him, rendering efficient service along these lines in the historical filament case and others of this period, involving basic patents.

While working for the Edison and General Electric companies, and thereafter, Latimer continued to invent at a much reduced rate (his last patent was granted in 1905 for a "Book Support"). About 1911, Latimer began work in the private consulting firm headed by Edwin Hammer and Elmer Schwarz.

In 1918, Latimer became a founding member of a rather exclusive social group: the Edison Pioneers. These men were business or technical affiliates, either of Edison's many companies, or of Edison himself. They had all played some part in the development of the electric utility industry; the organizational documents speak vaguely of carrying on the ideals and goals of Thomas Edison, but the primary purpose of the group was probably a mixture of social and professional networking.

In 1922 Latimer retired when failing eyesight caused an end to his career as a draftsman.
He continued to invent and teach his drafting skills until his death in 1928.

In addition to the Edison Pioneers, Latimer treasured his membership in the Grand Army of the Republic, a symbol of his service in the Civil War. He became Adjutant of the George Huntsman post of the GAR in Flushing, New York. Latimer was also a founding member of the Flushing Unitarian Church. While these were integrated, predominantly European American organizations, Latimer was also active on behalf of African Americans both locally and nationally.

In his personal life, Latimer again worked within nineteenth-century American ideals. He maintained an advanced amateur's gentlemanly pursuit of music, art, and literature, and he promoted these cultural interests in his family. Latimer's literary efforts included poetry, prose, and plays. Throughout his life, Latimer pursued his objectives with quiet dignity. The testimony of his career, his colleagues, and his family affirms his high level of success.

Latimer's other patented inventions include such diverse items as the first water closet (i.e., toilet) for railroad cars (Patent No. 147,363 issued February 10, 1874), a forerunner of the air conditioner (Patent No.334,078 issued January 12, 1886), a locking rack for hats, coats, umbrellas, etc. ( Patent No. 557,076 issued March 24, 1896) and a book support (Patent No. 781,890 issued February 7, 1905).

Although today's light bulbs use filaments of tungsten, which lasts even longer than carbon, Latimer will always be remembered for making possible the widespread use of electric light.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

A Journey into 366 Days of Black History 2008 Calendar

Source: A Journey into 366 Days of Black History 2008 Calendar

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Harlem Renaissance

Purchase Here: It's A Black Thang

Bill Pickett

Famous Cowboys . . .

Bill Pickett holding a cow by biting its lip. This technique was invented by Bill Pickett and is known as bulldogging.

William (Will, Bill) Pickett was a legendary cowboy from Taylor, Texas of black and Indian descent. He was born December 5, 1870, at the Jenks-Branch community on the Travis County line. He died April 2, 1932, near Ponca City, Oklahoma.

From 1905 to 1931, the Miller brothers' 101 Ranch Wild West Show was one of the great shows in the tradition begun by William F. "Buffalo Bill" Cody in 1883. The 101 Ranch Show introduced bulldogging (steer wrestling), an exciting rodeo event invented by Bill Pickett, one of the show's stars.
Riding his horse, Spradley, Pickett came alongside a Longhorn steer, dropped to the steer's head, twisted its head toward the sky, and bit its upper lip to get full control. Cowdogs of the Bulldog breed were known to bite the lips of cattle to subdue them. That's how Pickett's technique got the name "bulldogging." As the event became more popular among rodeo cowboys, the lip biting became increasingly less popular until it disappeared from steer wrestling altogether. Bill Pickett, however, became an immortal rodeo cowboy, and his fame has grown since his death.

He died in 1932 as a result of injuries received from working horses at the 101 Ranch. His grave is on what is left of the 101 Ranch property near Ponca City, Oklahoma. Pickett was inducted into the National Rodeo Hall of Fame in 1972 for his contribution to the sport.

Bill Pickett was the second of thirteen children born to Thomas Jefferson and Mary Virginia Elizabeth (Gilbert) Pickett, both of whom were former slaves. He began his career as a cowboy after completing the fifth grade. Bill soon began giving exhibitions of his roping, riding and bulldogging skills, passing a hat for donations.

By 1888, his family had moved to Taylor, Texas, and Bill performed in the town's first fair that year. He and his brothers started a horse-breaking business in Taylor, and Bill was a member of the national guard and a deacon of the Baptist church. In December 1890, Bill married Maggie Turner.

Known by the nicknames "The Dusky Demon" and "The Bull-Dogger," Pickett gave exhibitions in Texas and throughout the West. His performance in 1904 at the Cheyenne Frontier Days (America's best-known rodeo) was considered extraordinary and spectacular. He signed on with the 101 Ranch show in 1905, becoming a full-time ranch employee in 1907. The next year, he moved his wife and children to Oklahoma.

He later performed in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, South America, and England, and became the first black cowboy movie star. Had he not been banned from competing with white rodeo contestants, Pickett might have become one of the greatest record-setters in his sport. He was often identified as an Indian, or some other ethnic background other than black, to be allowed to compete.

Bill Pickett died April 2, 1932, after being kicked in the head by a horse. Famed humorist Will Rogers announced the funeral of his friend on his radio show. In 1989, years after being honored by the National Rodeo Hall of Fame, Pickett was inducted into the Prorodeo Hall of Fame and Museum of the American Cowboy at Colorado Springs, Colorado. A 1994 U.S. postage stamp meant to honor Pickett accidentally showed one of his brothers.


Saturday, February 23, 2008

Black Ball : The Negro Baseball Leagues 2008 Wall Calendar

Click to enlargepadBlack Ball: The Negro Baseball Leagues 2008 Wall Calendar

In the early days of professional baseball, officially erected obstacles and “gentlemen’s agreements” excluded black ballplayers from the major leagues. More than fifty years would pass before Jackie Robinson broke baseball’s color barrier. But racism didn’t keep black athletes off the field altogether: The first enduring all-black league formed in 1920, and franchises soon popped up across the United States. This calendar celebrates the Negro Leagues’ players and teams in rare photographs, concise biographies, stats, key dates, and memorable quotations. Partial proceeds go to support assistance organizations for former
Purchase Here:

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Ernest Just

Ernest Everett Just was a true scholar. He sought to find "truth" using scientific methods and inquiry. Although Dr. Just was bold enough to challenge the theories of leading biologists of the 19th and 20th centuries, he was humble and unassuming. Dr. Just was passionately driven to understand the world of the cell. His tenacity and motivation led him to add to our understanding of the process of artificial parthenogenesis and the physiology of cell development.

Dr. Just was born August 14, 1883 in Charleston, South Carolina. At an early age, he demonstrated a gift for academic research. For example, in 1907, he was the only person to graduate magna cum laude from Dartmouth College with a degree in zoology, special honors in botany and history, and honors in sociology.

On November 17, 1911, Just assisted three Howard students (Edgar Amos Love, Oscar James Cooper, and Frank Coleman), in establishing the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. The name Omega Psi Phi was derived from a Greek phrase meaning "friendship is essential to the soul", and became the fraternity's motto. Manhood, scholarship, perseverance, and uplift were adopted as Omega's cardinal principles.

Immediately after graduation, Dr. Just taught at Howard University where he was appointed head of the Department of Zoology in 1912. At Howard, he also served as a professor in the medical school and head of the Department of Physiology until his death. The first Spingarn Medal was awarded to the reluctant and modest Just by the NAACP in 1915 for his accomplishments as a pure scientist. In 1916, Dr. Just gradutated magna cum laude from University of Chicago receiving his doctorate in experimental embryology.

Dr. Just received international acclaim for work he completed during the summers from 1909 to 1930 at the Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) in Woods Hole, Massachusetts. At MBL, he conducted thousands of experiments studying the fertilization of the marine mammal cell. In 1922, he successfully challenged Jaacque Loeb's theory of artificial parthenogenesis, pushing the envelope. Using his research conducted at Wood's Hole, he published his first book entitled, Basic Methods for Experiments on Eggs of Marine Mammals.

Although Dr. Just was considered a leader and authority for his work with cell development, as an African American, he experienced racism and prejudice. For this reason, Dr. Just decided to study in Europe in 1930. It was in Europe that he published his second book, The Biology of the Cell Surface. While in Europe in 1938 he published a number of papers and lectured on the topic of cell cytoplasm. Dr. Just died October 27, 1941 in Washington D.C.

A. Phillip Randolph

A. Philip Randolph, a black labor movement leader and the founder of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, believed that the key to black progress rested in the black working class. Beyond this, however, Randolph later found that defeating segregation was also an important cause. Although he was much older by this time, it failed to stop him from implementing his idea for one of the most memorable events during the civil rights movement—the March on Washington.

Source: Asa Philip Randolph - Profile of Labor & Civil Rights Leader
Purchase Here: It's A Black Thang

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Joel Augustus Rogers

Joel Augustus Rogers was born September 6, 1883 at Negril, Jamaica. Very little is known about his early schooling. The historian is said to have had a "good basic education" but lacked higher formal education.

J.A. Rogers immigrated to the United States in 1906 and became a naturalized citizen in 1917. Despite his light complexion and mulatto background, Rogers bitterly discovered that Black people were all treated the same, no matter the complexion. Rogers, however, rejected the dogma of white superiority, even as a child. In a class and color conscious Jamaica, the young Rogers observed, "I had noticed that some of my schoolmates were unmixed blacks and were, some of them, more brilliant than some of the white ones." Rogers grew up around Blacks who were physicians and lawyers--graduates of "the best English and Scottish Universities." This realization that the doctrine of white superiority was contradicted by the talent and expertise of Black intellect inspired Rogers to begin his research into the Black experience.

J.A. Rogers published his first book, the 87 page "From Superman to Man" in 1917. At the time he wrote the book, he was working as a Pullman porter out of Chicago. Rogers had gone to Chicago to Study art. Rogers was one of the first and few African historians to use art extensively in helping to validate the achievements of African people.

J.A. Rogers' search for truth led him to examine the African blood lines of Europeans and Americans. His signal work, "Nature Knows No Color-Line" and the three-volume set, "Sex and Race" destroyed the myth of Aryan race purity.

Rogers' other historical focus was on producing biographical portraits of prominent African personages. In 1931, he published "The World's Greatest Men of African Descent" and in 1947, published "The World's Great Men of Color 3000 B.C. to 1946 A.D." Joel Augustus Rogers died on his birthday, September 6, 1966.

Monday, February 18, 2008

More African American males apply and are accepted into med school in 2007 than ever before!

2007 U.S. Medical School Entering Class is Largest Ever
Enrollment Increases, More Black and Hispanic Males Apply
For Immediate Release

Washington, D.C., October 16, 2007 - The 2007 entering class to U.S. medical schools is the largest in the nation's history, according to new data released today by the AAMC (Association of American Medical Colleges). The number of first-year enrollees totals almost 17,800 students, a 2.3 percent increase over 2006. More than 42,300 individuals applied to enter medical school in 2007, an increase of 8.2 percent over 2006. Nearly 32,000 were first-time applicants, the highest number on AAMC record.

The 2007 medical school applicant pool also included more individuals from racial and ethnic minorities. The number of black male applicants and Hispanic male applicants both increased this year by 9.2 percent (higher than the growth rate of the total applicant pool). The number of black males who ultimately were accepted and enrolled in medical school this fall increased by 5.3 percent, a rate nearly double that of the first-year entrant increase overall. Hispanic male first-year enrollees remained at the same level as 2006.

"With our nation expected to face a serious shortage of physicians in the future, we are pleased to see interest in medicine as a career continuing to increase," said AAMC President Darrell G. Kirch, M.D. "We are especially encouraged by the growing interest among students from groups historically underrepresented in medicine."

As of 2006, 28.8 percent of the U.S. population was black/African American, Hispanic/Latino, or Native American, yet these groups accounted for only 14.6 percent of medical school graduates. Nationwide, only 6 percent of practicing physicians are members of these groups. The AAMC has identified increasing diversity in medicine as one of its key strategic priorities.

-And it's not 'cause standards are being lowered...

Overall, the academic credentials of applicants to medical school this year were stronger than ever before, with the highest MCAT® (Medical College Admission Test) scores and cumulative grade point averages on record. In addition, over the past five years there has been an increase in applicants' average amount of experience in premedical activities, including time spent in medical research and community service in clinical and nonclinical settings.

In addition to increases in the size of the applicant pool, 11 of the 126 U.S. medical schools boosted their entering class size by more than 10 percent this year. First-year enrollment at the nation's medical schools has increased more than 7 percent since 2003, when the AAMC first began to investigate the possibility of a physician workforce shortage.

For more information on medical student diversity and efforts to encourage minority undergraduate students to pursue careers in medicine, go to

Link to press release:

Why Learn Black History?

Some people question the necessity of students learning African American history. The students of the d’Zert Club are a perfect example why. The d’Zert Club and its African Genesis Corrective History Educational Program recently celebrated 10 years of exposing Black youth to their true history and their connection to the land of their ancestors – Africa. Founded in Philadelphia and now operating in 12 cities nationwide, the organization has changed the lives of Black youth. The organization offers a proactive, three semester, educational/cultural program for African American youth ages 7-14, focused on developing an understanding and awareness of the African experience in America. Over a 27-month period, students are exposed to African American history through classes, assignments and field trips. The course of study is based on a curriculum written by Dr. Edward Robinson who helped write the Black History curriculum for Philadelphia Public Schools. At the end of the program, the children are taken free of charge to Egypt and West Africa to see the wonders about which they have been learning.

Most youth enrolled in the program are average students. Some have negative attitudes when they join. Some have poor grades. But, during those two years, their academic proficiency increases enormously, their behavior becomes exemplary and 97 percent go on to college. In 10 years of operation, there have been only two incidents of questionable behavior. What’s the reason behind these changes? It’s the children’s learning of the achievements of their ancestors of the land of their origin. After living in a society that negates and demonizes everything Black and African, learning the truth about your history is life changing. The reason that people perform at their maximum when relating positively to their land of origin is discussed scientifically in the book, “The Territorial Imperative” by Dr. Robert Ardrey. The book discusses why, when humans are programmed to despise their land of origin, their intelligence decreases and their social behavior turns negative.

Dr. Robinson proved this through demonstration projects in two public schools that were experiencing disruptive behavior from African American students. After being exposed to Robinson’s curriculum, student offenses decreased tremendously and grade averages were raised to B+. It was with the learning of the greatness of their ancient African ancestors that changes came.

The youth in the d’Zert Club learn that their African ancestors were reading and writing 9,000 years ago while the first book written by Europeans was only 2,800 years ago. They were ecstatic to learn that algebra was created by an African man, Ahmose, in Egypt and his book is there for all to see in a British museum today. The students’ proficiency soared when archeologists in West Africa recently discovered thousands of exquisitely written legal and medical treatises and books from around Timbuktu, buried there by their Songhai ancestors in West Africa when the Europeans invaded Songhai in 1591. And, everyone now knows that the oldest human fossils on Earth were found in Africa. They learn that their ancestors did not just contribute to civilization --they created it.

The d’Zert Club is a living testimony to how true knowledge of one’s history can be a deterrent to low selfesteem, negative thinking and under achievement. We also believe that knowledge of self and one’s history is an anti-violence measure that is intentionally overlooked when seeking solutions for the violence that pervades Black communities nationwide. Our motto is, “It is better to build a child than repair an adult”.

The d’Zert Club will hold informational/enrollment
meetings in:

-South Jersey, 12 noon, Saturday, February 23 at the Cherry Hill Holiday Inn, 2175 Route 70 East

-Delaware, 4:00PM, Saturday, February 23 at the Doubletree Hotel, 4727 Concord Pike in Wilmington

-2:00PM, Sunday, February 24 at Temptations 218-220 W. Chelten Avenue, Philadelphia

For more information on how you can get involved with the d’Zert Club in your city, call 1-888-257-5991 or go to

Ali and Helen Salahuddin founded the d’Zert Club in Philadelphia in 1997 after the Million Man March.

-February 15, 2008 Issue

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Great African Queens

AMINA QUEEN Of ZARIA (1588-1589)
This queen of Zazzua, a province of Nigeria now known as Zaria, was born around 1533 during the reign of Sarkin (king) Zazzau Nohir. She was probably his granddaughter. Zazzua was one of a number of Hausa city-states which dominated the trans-Saharan trade after the collapse of the Songhai empire to the west. Its wealth was due to trade of mainly leather goods, cloth, kola, salt, horses and imported metals. At the age of sixteen, Amina became the heir apparent (Magajiya) to her mother, Bakwa of Turunku, the ruling queen of Zazzua. With the title came the responsibility for a ward in the city and daily councils with other officials. Although her mother's reign was known for peace and prosperity, Amina also chose to learn military skills from the warriors. Queen Bakwa died around 1566 and the reign of Zazzua passed to her younger brother Karama. At this time Amina emerged as the leading warrior of Zazzua cavalry. Her military achievements brought her great wealth and power. When Karama died after a ten-year rule, Amina became queen of Zazzua. She set off on her first military expedition three months after coming to power and continued fighting until her death. In her thirty-four year reign, she expanded the domain of Zazzua to its largest size ever. Her main focus, however, was not on annexation of neighboring lands, but on forcing local rulers to accept vassal status and permit Hausa traders safe passage. She is credited with popularizing the earthen city wall fortifications, which became characteristic of Hausa city-states since then. She ordered building of a defensive wall around each military camp that she established. Later, towns grew within these protective walls, many of which are still in existence. They're known as "ganuwar Amina", or Amina's walls. She is mostly remembered as "Amina, Yar Bakwa ta san rana," meaning "Amina, daughter of Nikatau, a woman as capable as a man.
Contributed by Danuta Bois

Alexander reached Kemet (Ancient Egypt) in 332 B.C., on his world conquering rampage. But one of the greatest generals of the ancient world was also the Empress of Ethiopia. This formidable black Queen Candace, was world famous as a military tactician and field commander. Legend has it that Alexander could not entertain even the possibilty of having his world fame and unbroken chain of victories marred by risking a defeat, at last, by a woman. He halted his armies at the borders of Ethiopia and did not invade to meet the waiting black armies with their Queen in personal command.

QUEEN OF KEMET (Ancient Egypt the land of the blacks) (69-30 B.C)
Although known to be of African descent she is still deliberately portrayed as being white. She came to power at the tender age of seventeen and the most popular of seven queens to have had this name. She was also known to be a great linguist and was instumental in making Kemet(Egypt) into the world number one super power at that time.

She fought against the Arab incursion in North Africa where under her leadership Africans fought back fiercely and drove the Arab army northward into Tripolitania. Queen Kahina was of the Hebrew faith and she never abandoned her religion. Her opposition to the Arab incursion was purely nationalistic, since she favored neither Christians nor Moslems. Her death in 705 A.D by Hassen-ben-Numam ended one of the most violet attempts to save Africa for the Africans. She prevented Islam's southward spread into the Western Sudan. After her death the Arabs began to change their strategy in advancing their faith and their power in Africa. The resistance to the southward spread of Islam was so great in some areas that some of the wives of African kings committed suicide to avoid falling into the hands of the Berbers and Arabs who showed no mercy to the people who would not be converted to Islam

QUEEN OF KEMET (Ancient Egypt the land of the blacks) (1503-1482 B.C.)
One of the greatest queens of ancient Kemet was Queen Hatshepsut. While she was known as a "warrior" queen, her battles were engaged with her own rivals for the position of power in Kemetic hierarchy. A born dynast in her own right, Hatshepsut proved to be an aggressive and overpowering force. However, it was not in war, but in her aspiration to ascend to the "Heru (Horus) consciousness," she displayed the strength that has given her a place in history. She adopted the Truth of Maat and became involved in the elimination of undesirable people and elements from Kemet. Determined to be revered in times yet to come, Hatshepsut depicted herself in as many masculine attributes as possible, i.e. male attire, king’s beard, etc. Although she ascended to the throne upon the death of her king-brother Thutmose II, she exerted her rightful claim to the throne. In exercising her power, she involved herself in foreign campaigns, a concentration on domestic affairs, extensive building and commercial ventures. The most famous of her commercial ventures was the Punt expedition in which goods and produce were acquired from the rich market there to be brought back to Kemet. While it would appear that her opponents were not antagonistic regarding her sex, they were so regarding her non-aggressive philosophy.
Even before becoming legal ruler, Hatshepsut, was actively pushing things dearest to the hearts of all Africans leaders: the expansion of foreign trade, international diplomatic relations, perfection of national defense, vast public building programs, securing the South and the North through either peace or war and, one of her "pet projects", building a great navy for both commerce and war. Her success on most of these fronts made her one of the giants of the race.

QUEEN OF SHEBA (The symbol of Beauty) (960 B.C.)
"I am black but comely, O ye daughters of Jerusalem, As the tents of Kedar, As the curtains of Solomon, Look not upon me because I am black Because the sun hath scorched me." (Song of Solomon)

Although most of Black history is suppressed, distorted or ignored by an ungrateful modern world, some African traditions are so persistent that all of the power and deception of the Western academic establishment have failed to stamp them out. One such story is that of Makeda, the Queen of Sheba, and King Solomon of Israel. Black women of antiquity were legendary for their beauty and power. Especially great were the Queens of Ethiopia. This nation was also known as Nubia, Kush, Axum and Sheba. One thousand years before Christ, Ethiopia was ruled by a line of virgin queens. The one whose story has survived into our time was known as Makeda, "the Queen of Sheba." Her remarkable tradition was recorded in the Kebar Nagast, or the Glory of Kings, and the Bible. The Bible tells us that, during his reign, King Solomon of Israel decided to build a magnificent temple. To announce this endeavor, the king sent forth messengers to various foreign countries to invite merchants from abroad to come to Jerusalem with their caravans so that they might engage in trade there. At this time, Ethiopia was second only to Egypt in power and fame. Hence, King Solomon was enthralled by Ethiopia's beautiful people, rich history, deep spiritual tradition and wealth. He was especially interested in engaging in commerce with one of Queen Makeda's subjects, an important merchant by the name of Tamrin.1 Solomon sent for Tamrin who "packed up stores of valuables including ebony, sapphires and red gold, which he took to Jerusalem to sell to the king."2 It turns out that Tamrin's visit was momentous. Although accustomed to the grandeur and luxury of Egypt and Ethiopia, Tamrin was still impressed by King Solomon and his young nation. During a prolonged stay in Israel, Tamrin observed the magnificent buildings and was intrigued by the Jewish people and their culture. But above all else, he was deeply moved by Solomon's wisdom and compassion for his subjects. Upon returning to his country, Tamrin poured forth elaborate details about his trip to Queen Makeda. She was so impressed by the exciting story that the great queen decided to visit King Solomon herself.3 To understand the significance of state visits in antiquity in contrast to those of today, we must completely remove ourselves from the present place and time. In ancient times, royal visits were very significant ceremonial affairs. The visiting regent was expected to favor the host with elaborate gifts and the state visit might well last for weeks or even months. Even by ancient standards, however, Queen Makeda's visit to King Solomon was extraordinary. In I Kings 10:1-2, the Bible tells us: "1. And when the Queen of Sheba heard of the fame of Solomon concerning the name of the Lord, she came to prove him with hard questions. "2. And she came to Jerusalem with a very great train, with camels that bear spices and very much gold, and precious stones. And when she was come to Solomon she communed with him of all that was in her heart." I Kings 10:10 adds: "She gave the king 120 talents of gold, and of spices very great store and precious stones; there came no more such abundance of spices as these which the Queen of Sheba gave to King Solomon." We should pause to consider the staggering sight of this beautiful Black woman and her vast array of resplendent attendants travelling over the Sahara desert into Israel with more than 797 camels plus donkeys and mules too numerous to count. The value of the gold alone, which she gave to King Solomon, would be $3,690,000 today and was of much greater worth in antiquity. King Solomon, and undoubtedly the Jewish people, were flabbergasted by this great woman and her people. He took great pains to accommodate her every need. A special apartment was built for her lodging while she remained in his country. She was also provided with the best of food and eleven changes of garments daily. As so many African leaders before her, this young maiden, though impressed with the beauty of Solomon's temple and his thriving domain, had come to Israel seeking wisdom and the truth about the God of the Jewish people. Responding to her quest for knowledge, Solomon had a throne set up for the queen beside his. "It was covered with silken carpets, adorned with fringes of gold and silver, and studded with diamonds and pearls. From this she listened while he delivered judgments."4 Queen Makeda also accompanied Solomon throughout his kingdom. She observed the wise, compassionate and spiritual ruler as he interacted with his subjects in everyday affairs. Speaking of the value of her visit with the King and her administration for him, Queen Makeda stated: "My Lord, how happy I am. Would that I could remain here always, if but as the humblest of your workers, so that I could always hear your words and obey you.

"How happy I am when I interrogate you! How happy when you answer me. My whole being is moved with pleasure; my soul is filled; my feet no longer stumble; I thrill with delight.

"Your wisdom and goodness," she continued, "are beyond all measure. They are excellence itself. Under your influence I am placing new values on life. I see light in the darkness; the firefly in the garden reveals itself in newer beauty. I discover added lustre in the pearl; a greater radiance in the morning star, and a softer harmony in the moonlight. Blessed be the God that brought me here; blessed be He who permitted your majestic mind to be revealed to me; blessed be the One who brought me into your house to hear your voice.

Solomon had a harem of over 700 wives and concubines, yet, he was enamored by the young Black virgin from Ethiopia. Although he held elaborate banquets in her honor and wined, dined and otherwise entertained her during the length of her visit, they both knew that, according to Ethiopian tradition, the Queen must remain chaste. Nevertheless, the Jewish monarch wished to plant his seed in Makeda, so that he might have a son from her regal African lineage. To this end the shrewd king conspired to conquer the affection of this young queen with whom he had fallen in love. When, after six months in Israel, Queen Makeda announced to King Solomon that she was ready to return to Ethiopia, he invited her to a magnificent farewell dinner at his palace. The meal lasted for several hours and featured hot, spicy foods that were certain to make all who ate thirsty and sleepy (as King Solomon had planned.) Since the meal ended very late, the king invited Queen Makeda to stay overnight in the palace in his quarters. She agreed as long as they would sleep in separate beds and the king would not seek to take advantage of her. He vowed to honor her chastity, but also requested that she not take anything in the palace. Outraged by such a suggestion, the Queen protested that she was not a thief and then promised as requested. Not long after the encounter, the Queen, dying of thirst, searched the palace for water. Once she found a large water jar and proceeded to drink, the King startled her by stating: "You have broken your oath that you would not take anything by force that is in my palace. The Queen protested, of course, that surely the promise did not cover something so insignificant and plentiful as water, but Solomon argued that there was nothing in the world more valuable than water, for without it nothing could live. Makeda reluctantly admitted the truth of this and apologized for her mistake, begging for water for her parched throat. Solomon, now released from his promise, assuaged her thirst and his own, immediately taking the Queen as his lover."6 The following day as the Queen and her entourage prepared to leave Israel, the King placed a ring on her hand and stated, "If you have a son, give this to him and send him to me." After returning to the land of Sheba, Queen Makeda did indeed have a son, whom she named Son-of-the-wise-man, and reared as a prince and her heir apparent to the throne. Upon reaching adulthood, the young man wished to visit his father, so the Queen prepared another entourage, this time headed by Tamrin. She sent a message to Solomon to anoint their son as king of Ethiopia and to mandate that thenceforth only the males descended from their son should rule Sheba. Solomon and the Jewish people rejoiced when his son arrived in Israel. The king anointed him as the Queen had requested and renamed him Menelik, meaning "how handsome he is." Though Solomon had many wives, only one had produced a son, Rehoboam, a boy of seven. So the king begged Menelik to remain, but the young prince would not. Solomon therefore called his leaders and nobles and announced that, since he was sending his first born son back to Ethiopia, he wanted all of them to send their firstborn sons "to be his counselors and officers." And they agreed to do so. Menelik asked his father for a relic of the Ark of the Covenant to take back with him to the land of Sheba. It is said that while Solomon intended to provide his son with a relic, the sons of the counselors, angry at having to leave their homes and go to Sheba with Menelik, actually stole the real Ark and took it to Ethiopia. Menelik returned to Sheba and, according to tradition, ruled wisely and well. And his famous line has continued down to the 20th century when, even now, the ruler of Ethiopia is the "conquering lion of Judah" descended directly from King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba.

Written by Legrand H. Clegg II

QUEEN OF ZULULAND (Symbol of a woman of high esteem) (1778-1826)
Mother of the great leader Shaka Zulu. Nandi is the evalasting symbol of hard work patience and determination. She withstood and overcame many obsticles to raise to a position of power in all Zululand.

QUEEN OF KEMET (the land of the blacks) (1292-1225 B.C)
Her marriage to the great Rameses II of lower Ancient Egypt is known as one of the greatest royal love affair ever. This marriage also brought an end to the hundred year war between upper and lower ancient Kemet (Egypt), which in essence unified both sections into one great Kemet which was the world leading country. Monuments of this love affair still remains today in the temples that Rameses built for his wife at Abu Simbel.
The immense structures known as the two temples of Abu Simbel are among the most magnificent monuments in the world. Built during the New Kingdom nearly 3,000 years ago, it was hewn from the mountain which contains it as an everlasting dedication to King Ramses and his wife Nefertari. Superb reliefs on the temple detail the Battle of Kadesh, and Ramses and Nefertari consorting with the deities and performing religous rituals. The rays of the sun still penetrate to the Holy of Holies in the rock of the main temple on the same two days of the year: the 20th of October and the 20th of Febuary. This timing is probably connected to the symbolic unification, via the rays of the sun, of the statue of Ra-Herakhty and the statue of Ramses II. Up to today these structures remains as the largest, most majestic structures ever built to honor a wife.

QUEEN OF KEMET (Ancient Egypt the land of the blacks)
It is believe by some historians that Nefertiti was the daughter of Aye and Tiy, while other claims her as the oldest daughter of Amenhotep III. Nefertiti was married to Akhenaten the originated of the one god concept(monotheism) as it became known today. During the early life of Nefertiti she lived in a Kemet where a new model of human nature in relation to god was emerging. This belief considered man primarily has a material entity, whose happiness was measured by his ability to acquire and maintain a material heaven(wealth and pleasure). In this material heaven women were not principals that predicted or participated in social policy, but were objects of sensuality or objects to be used by men. As weaker members of this paradise women could not be participants in its building. This belief was completely contrary to the beliefs of the ancients and the principles of Ma'at. Akhenaten developed another model. The nature of his new religion was that Aton represented by the Sun was the sole god and creator of all life.

Nefertiti could not relegate herself to the traditional role of subservient-queen. She envisioned an active role for herself in reshaping civilization. This was later manifested as she is shown participating in all the religious ceremonies with Akhenaten. It was only through the combined royal pair that the god Aton's full blessing could be bestowed. Nefertiti is displayed with a prominence that other Egyptian queens were not. Her name is enclosed in a royal cartouche, and there are in fact more statues and drawings of her than of Akhenaten. Yet the priest with their materialist model were powerful and they dominated the higher government offices. In this arena women were incapable of divinity. Akhenaten and Nefertiti countered a revolt by the priest and emerged victorious and created a new capital for Kemet called Akhetaten a city that could give birth to their scared mission, a mission in pursuit of Divine life. She insisted on being portrayed has a equal divine partner to Akhenaten and their exist many illustrations of her riding a chariot with Akhenaten during major rituals. While Akhenaten's ideas wanned without him their to defend them. The priest still considered Nefertiti's heresy a greater threat. The concept of a woman bypassing the male priest hood via a mother-goddess to worship the divine was totally unacceptable. And sadly enough continues to be unacceptable in the major religions that dominate the world today. Nefertiti though her devotion and her demand for respect proved she deserved a special place in the history of women.

When the English invaded Zimbabwe in 1896 and began confiscating land and cattle, Nehanda and other leaders declared war. Nehanda also displayed remarkable leadership and organizational skills at a young age. Though dead for nearly a hundred years, Nehanda remains what she was when alive, the single most important person in the modern history of Zimbabwe. She is still referred to as Mbuya (Grandmother) Nehanda by Zimbabwean patriots.

A very good military leader who waged war against the savage slave-hunting Europeans. This war lasted for more than thirty years. Nzingha was of Angoloan descent and is known as a symbol of inspiration for people everywhere. Queen Nzingha is also known by some as Jinga by others as Ginga. She was a member of the ethnic Jagas a militant group that formed a human shield against the Portuguese slave traders. As a visionary political leader, competent, and self sacrificing she was completely devoted to the resistance movement. She formed alliances with other foreign powers pitting them against one another to free Angola of European influence. She possessed both masculine hardness and feminine charm and used them both depending on the situation. She even used religion as a political tool when it suited her. Her death on December 17, 1663 helped open the door for the massive Portuguese slave trade. Yet her struggle helped awaken others that followed her and forced them to mount offensives against the invaders. These include Madame Tinubu of Nigeria; Nandi, the mother of the great Zulu warrior Chaka; Kaipkire of the Herero people of South West Africa; and the female army that followed the Dahomian King, Behanzin Bowelle.

THE NUBIAN QUEEN OF KEMET (Ancient Egypt) (1415-1340 B.C.)
Black, beautiful and georgous, Queen Tiye is regarded as one of the most influential Queens ever to rule Kemet. A princess of Nubian birth, she married the Kemetan King Amenhotep III who ruled during the New Kingdom Dynasties around 1391BC. Queen Tiye held the title of "Great Royal Wife" and acted upon it following the end of her husband's reign. It was Tiye who held sway over Kemet during the reign of her three sons Amenhotep IV (Akhenaton), Smenkhare, and the famous child king Tut-ankh-amen. For nearly half of a century, Tiye governed Kemet, regulated her trade, and protected her borders. During this time, she was believed to be the standard of beauty in the ancient world.

Yaa Asantewa of the Ashanti Empire
Her fight against British colonialists is a story that is woven throughout the history of Ghana.

One evening the chiefs held a secret meeting at Kumasi. Yaa Asantewa, the Queen Mother of Ejisu, was at the meeting. The chiefs were discussing how they should make war on the white men and force them to bring back the Asantehene. Yaa Asantewa noticed that some of the chiefs were afraid. Some said that there should be no war. They should rather go to beg the Governor to bring back the Asantehene King Prempeh. Then suddenly Yaa Asantewa stood up and spoke. This was what she said: "Now I have seen that some of you fear to go forward to fight for our king. If it were in the brave days of, the days of Osei Tutu, Okomfo Anokye, and Opolu Ware, chiefs would not sit down to see thief king taken away without firing a shot. No white man could have dared to speak to chief of the Ashanti in the way the Governor spoke to you chiefs this morning. Is it true that the bravery of the Ashanti is no more? I cannot believe it. It cannot be! I must say this, if you the men of Ashanti will not go forward, then we will. We the women will. I shall call upon my fellow women. We will fight the white men. We will fight till the last of us falls in the battlefields." This speech stirred up the men who took an oath to fight the white men until they released the Asantehene. For months the Ashantis led by Yaa Asantewa fought very bravely and kept the white men in the fort. Yet British reinforcements totaling 1,400 soldiers arrived at Kumasi. Yaa Asantewa and other leaders were captured and sent into exile. Yaa Asantewa's war was the last of the major war in Africa led by a women.

Friday, February 15, 2008



On a recent Sunday in Atlanta, a few guys got together for brunch before the National Basketball Association All-Star game. The group included former President Bill Clinton; former Atlanta mayor Maynard Jackson; former Atlanta mayor and United States ambassador to the United Nations Andrew Young; Perry Christie, the prime minister of the Bahamas; and St. Louis businessmen and former Aldermen Mike and Steve Roberts. “The one person who knew everyone was me,” says Mike Roberts.

When they’re not dining with dignitaries, the Roberts brothers might be making phone calls, attending meetings or considering deals on behalf of The Roberts Companies, a diversified $460 million, 34-company empire. Holdings range from real estate development to business consulting, television stations to wireless communications, aviation to construction...even a gated community in the Bahamas.

Mike is chairman of the board and Steve is president of the company. Each division is named Roberts—even Roberts Isle. And why not—they’ve earned it. “We’ve been breaking down barriers as long as we can remember,” says Steve Roberts.


The hub of all things Roberts is the Victor Roberts Building, a former Sears store on North Kingshighway at Martin Luther King Blvd. The brothers bought it in 1982 and named it for their father who retired from the U.S. Postal Service after 39 years; he’s chief financial officer of The Roberts Companies. Today his namesake building houses an eclectic mix of 50-plus restaurants, retail shops and service businesses. On the top floor are the Roberts’ corporate offices and the master control studio for their television stations.

The brothers were born just a couple of blocks away and spent their early years nearby. They have a younger brother, Mark, who now works in the Denver office and will manage the company’s upcoming Jackson, Miss. office later this year. The youngest Roberts, Lori, works in the company’s St. Louis office.

From a young age, the two brothers were devoted to each other, and to excellence. “We were always linked together,” says Mike, who’s three-and-a-half years older than Steve. “We were pretty much interested in achieving our goals, and in working.”

Steve and Mike Roberts discuss the business of the day.

The brothers cut grass, shoveled snow, delivered newspapers. “In college I had a little business trying to sell dashikis (colorful shirts) and African paraphernalia to bookstores,” Mike says.

Both Roberts attended college as Danforth fellows. Mike attended Lindenwood University, then earned a J.D. degree from Saint Louis University School of Law in 1974. He also attended the Hague Academy of International Law in the Netherlands.

Mike had considered a career in medicine, since the most successful African Americans he saw were doctors. “I also thought of being an Episcopal priest, because in that role I could pontificate to people on Sunday mornings,” Mike says. “But I realized if I went to law school and got into politics I could pontificate every day.”

Steve attended Clark University in Massachusetts. Like Mike, he considered careers in medicine and ministry, “but I think we both realized independently our destinies were in different directions,” he says. He also returned to St. Louis for law school, earning a J.D. and L.L.M. at Washington University.

While Steve studied law, Mike launched Roberts-Roberts & Associates, in 1974. “We never planned to practice law,” Mike explains. He believes “law school is a great extended liberal arts education that also teaches you a new language, how to think, how to perceive opportunities more quickly.”

Mike perceived an opportunity based on his knowledge of Title VII law and how it addressed discrimination in the workplace. “At the time a lot of big companies had big class-action lawsuits against them that cost hundreds of millions of dollars,” he says. “So we had their attention.” Roberts-Roberts & Associates worked with public and private sector clients including Nooter Corporation, Anheuser-Busch, Southwestern Bell, Bi-State Development, MoDOT and others, consulting on increasing participation of minority and women-owned businesses in multi-million-dollar capital construction projects.

At the same time, Mike pursued his goal of seeking elective office. He’d always been active in college and community politics, but he got a real taste of the lifestyle in 1976, when he was Jimmy Carter’s campaign manager in St. Louis. “When he was elected I was at the White House every month,” Mike says. He played tennis with Hamilton Jordan, Carter’s chief of staff, and hob-nobbed with cabinet members. “It was quite an illuminating experience,” he recalls. The following year, 1977, at age 28, he became the youngest person ever elected to the St. Louis Board of Aldermen—that is, until Steve, age 26, was elected two years later.


“Being an alderman is one of the best experiences you can have,” Steve says. “I was in a good position to do a lot of good.” He was the chief sponsor of the St. Louis Centre and Union Station developments, and Mike was the force behind Grand Center. They both had a hand in Laclede’s Landing and Gateway Mall redevelopment.

Longtime friend Mike Jones, executive director of the Greater St. Louis Regional Empowerment Zone, served with the Roberts on the Board of Aldermen. “It was me, Mike, Steve, Virvus Jones and Wayman Smith, the political equivalent of the Temptations. We had a great time every Friday and put on a great show!” Jones recalls. “Each of us five guys were strong individual leaders, but we always found a way to support each other even when we occasionally disagreed.” Though he has been in public service a long time, Jones says, “that period will always stand out as the highlight of my public life.”

(left to right): MIKE JONES, STEVE ROBERTS, MIKE ROBERTS, WAYMAN SMITH and VIRVUS JONES—served together as Aldermen in the early ’80s.

Despite their accomplishments, Mike left the board in 1983 and Steve in 1991. “We both feel that government service needs to be rotated. New ideas should come in,” Mike says. “But just because you’re not elected, that doesn’t mean you can’t serve. We believed now we needed to put our money where our mouth used to be.”

As a result, in the past two decades, Mike and Steve have invested about $25 million in commercial and residential redevelopment in the city through Roberts Brothers Development. “In this environment we have our own laboratory, creating jobs and making sure folks can take care of their families,” Mike says. “We had political empowerment, but now we have economic empowerment, which is much more real and tangible.”

At one point the brothers owned about 90 residential units. Other acquisitions include the Victor Roberts Building; a 40,000-square-foot strip mall at Kingshighway and Delmar plus surrounding properties; the former W.K. Woods Stationery building at 209 N. 4th St.; the former St. Louis School Board headquarters at 911 Locust St.; Roberts Village a 27,000-square-foot development at Martin Luther King and Kingshighway; and a 42,000-square-foot center being built behind the Victor Roberts Building, earned Mike and Steve the Mayor’s Spirit of St. Louis Award last year.

“Every banker I talked to said that’s not a good location. So we set an example and put up a $4 million strip mall ourselves,” Mike says. “Now those bankers are saying please let us refinance you!”


One day in 1981, the Roberts met a man who knew another man who wanted to meet African Americans who might be interested in owning a TV station. “We said, why not? We both had backgrounds in communications,” Steve says. At the time, minorities had an advantage when applying for a broadcast license. The Roberts did their homework and applied. “The challenge was, everyone else applying for the license also was an African American so we were back to a level playing field,” Steve says. “But that was the genesis of Roberts Broadcasting.”

Another challenge was it took six years to actually get the license. And when they got it, they had no programming for it. “We talked to religious broadcasters, shopping networks, everybody,” Steve says. “We met the founders of Home Shopping Network and established a strategic partnership with them. We’d take their programming off the satellite and they’d pay us to broadcast it in this market.”

The new station owners still were missing one vital component: a broadcasting facility. “The original TV stations in the market were built in the 1940s and ’50s, so building a new one was a major undertaking,” Steve says. The station, WRBU-TV Channel 46, which became a UPN affiliate in April, was the first new full-power television station in the St. Louis market in 20 years, and it’s the first fully-automated station in the U.S.

Armed with the experience of establishing one TV station, the Roberts built 11 more and sold eight of them to various broadcasting companies. Today the company owns and operates TV stations in St. Louis and Denver. The brothers hope to build stations in Columbia, S.C. and Jackson, Miss.


Building all those TV towers, the Roberts gained expertise in construction, which led to the establishment of Roberts Construction Company in 1989. An affiliated business, Roberts Tower Company, locates, designs, builds and owns towers for television stations—and for the wireless communication industry.

“When we went through the painful process of putting together our first TV station, we also learned how the system works and became familiar with emerging technologies,” Steve says. “That led to our bidding at the FCC auctions for wireless-phone licenses, and that led to Roberts Wireless.” Again, the Roberts got their licenses—but needed the equipment and hardware to use them. That would cost about $65 million. Their clever solution was to make a deal with Sprint PCS to become an affiliate and return the government licenses.

With the help of Lucent Technologies, which loaned them $56 million for equipment and construction, Roberts Wireless developed Sprint’s PCS network in all of Missouri except St. Louis and KC, plus parts of Illinois, Kansas, Oklahoma and Arkansas. It was the only PCS company wholly-owned by African Americans in the nation. The company’s first Sprint PCS store opened Feb. 2, 1999 in Jefferson City. The late Governor Mel Carnahan and Lt. Gov. Roger Wilson attended the ribbon cutting.

But the brothers didn’t stop there. In summer 2000, Roberts Wireless merged with Alamosa PCS Holdings Inc., another Sprint PCS affiliate, for $4 million cash and 13.5 million shares of stock, about $280 million at the time. Alamosa also took over the $56 million loan from Lucent. The brothers kept their 154 Sprint PCS towers.

All this activity caught the attention of Forbes, Success and Black Enterprise magazine, which listed the Roberts’ broadcasting and wireless communications companies among the largest minority-owned businesses in the United States.


“We are diversified,” Mike says. “I always felt that’s important. If you limit yourself to one sector of business opportunities in this economy, you die.” But, he explains, there is a logical connection between, for example, a wireless phone company and downtown office buildings. “A large part of building a wireless phone company is buying the real estate for the towers,” Mike says.

A real estate deal also was the catalyst for Roberts Steak & Buffet restaurant. The brothers bought a restaurant property complete with equipment and a good I-270 location. “We thought let’s reopen it, and we found someone to run it,” Steve says. The restaurant was sold to Cracker Barrel in May.

The aviation division, Roberts Aviation, was founded in 2000. “That fit with our other companies, because we had made a big sale and needed an appropriate tax shelter,” Mike says. The company owns and leases a 12-passenger luxury Gulfstream III and a mid-size eight passenger Hawker. “They earn their keep,” he adds.

Then there’s Roberts Isle, the brothers’ Bahamas property located near Nassau. “That put us into international business,” Mike says. The Roberts, who have private homes in the area and have been visiting there for more than 25 years, are working on permits for a $25 million, 54-unit residential development on 2.5 acres.

“We probably have someone submitting some kind of deal to us almost daily,” Steve says. “If it makes that first cut, or if we have a business related to it, we’ll look at the numbers, put a plan together and run it past our experts. None of them is ever shocked or tells us, this time you’ve gone too far.”

Adds Kay Gabbert, senior vice president of the Roberts Companies, “Our philosophy typically is, if there’s an opportunity, let’s go for it. We never say no. We always want next year to be different from this year, and it has been that way for the three of us for 21 years.”


It’s hard to pick up a local publication and not find one or both Roberts brothers mentioned, not just for their business activities, but also for their leadership roles in professional and civic organizations. Mike is or has been a board member of the St. Louis Community College Foundation, United Way, Better Family Life, Home Shopping Network, Acme Communications and Alamosa PCS. Steve also serves on the Alamosa PCS board, as well as Allegiant Bank, Falcon Products and Silver King Communications. He’s vice chairman of the board of MERS/Goodwill, and also a board member of the Muny, the Repertory Theatre, the Missouri Historical Society, the Fair St. Louis Foundation, St. Patrick’s Center, the AIDS Foundation, St. Louis Black Leadership Roundtable and Whitfield School.

In addition, Steve is vice chairman of the Regional Business Council and a member of the RCGA’s Leadership Circle. From that perspective, he says he’d like to see more business people get involved in their communities. “I’d like to see them take just five percent of their time and become mentors, work with Red Cross, serve on local theatre boards, visit seniors or tutor children,” he says. Mike adds, “It’s not a sin to make a lot of money. It’s a sin when you don’t know how to reinvest through contributions back into the community to make a better society in which you operate your business.”

More of Mike’s business philosophies soon will be available in a book he’s writing, Action Has No Season: Understanding the Complexities of Gaining Wealth and Authority. “Basically it’s for my kids,” he says. “It’s the things you don’t learn in school.” Mike and his wife Jeanne have four children, including a twin son and daughter who will graduate next year from Pepperdine University School of Law—and join The Roberts Companies. Steve and his wife Eva Frazer, M.D., have three children.

In their free time, the brothers like to work. “We work seven days a week, not in the office, but we’re always thinking about the business,” Steve says. Adds Mike, “If you enjoy what you’re doing you never work a day in your life.”

Actually, they like to play tennis and ski. “We have always liked to fish,” Mike says. “Now, we do it at our own place in the Bahamas!”

Have things turned out the way they expected? “No, because we never expected anything,” Steve says. “Did we expect we’d be in the wireless communications business, or the tower business, or own a TV station? No! When we were growing up, those things would have been in our furthest fantasies, as alien as building condos on the moon.”

The Ready to Teach (RTT)

Howard University has just been awarded a multi-million dollar grant from the U.S. Department of Education to recruit, train and certify people that are interested in becoming teachers. We are looking for candidates who would like to teach English, Mathematics, Reading, Science or Special Education in Chicago (IL); Clayton County (GA); Houston (TX); Prince George's County (MD); or Washington (DC). The best part -no experience or background in education is required!

The Ready to Teach program (RTT) is ACTIVELY recruiting candidates for the 2008-2009 Cohort. Through this program you can earn a Master's of Arts in teaching Degree and get your teaching certification in one short year! RTT even provides scholarships and financial assistance to its candidates. The program is geared towards African-American males, but everyone is encouraged to apply. Hurry, the application dead line is March 3, 2008!!!

For admissions requirements and more information please visit the website at, or feel free to contact me at

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Carter G. Woodson: The Father of Black History

Today, the month of February is dedicated to the teaching of black history. Advocates say it takes a month because there is so much history to tell.

But that was not always the case.
Through the early decades of the 20th Century, teaching about the African-American experience focused on the issue of slavery. In that telling of history, black Americans were victims, and there were few lessons about black contributions to American history, culture and society.

Carter Godwin Woodson sought to change that, making it his cause to teach the broad spectrum of African-American history to all Americans, black and white alike. To call attention to the issue, he established Negro History Week in 1926; today, that weeklong focus on African-American contributions to America has has expanded and evolved into Black History Month. And Carter G. Woodson is acknowledged as the Father of Black History.

Woodson himself was the son of former slaves. He was born in rural Virginia in 1875, where he spent most of his time working on his family's small farm. Growing up, he was able to attend school only four months a year. Yet the fact that he could read and write distinguished Woodson from many of the people he met while growing up in rural America, and encouraged his lifelong passion for education.

Although he had an appetite for learning and a special interest in the history of African-Americans, it was not until he was 20 that Woodson was able to begin a program of formal schooling. Once he began, he did not stop.

After completing high school in just two years, Woodson enrolled in Berea College where he earned a bachelor's degree. He then attended the University of Chicago, were he was awarded a second undergraduate degree and a master's degree. In 1912, he became the second African-American ever to earn a Ph. D. at Harvard University.

Meanwhile, Woodson supported himself as a school teacher and principal. For a time, he taught in the Philippines, and then he studied at the Sorbonne in Paris. After moving to Washington, D.C. to research his dissertation at the Library of Congress he taught in the city's segregated public school system.

In addition to his studies and teaching, Woodson had become an author. In 1915, he published his first book, "The Education of the Negro Prior to 1861." That same year, he participated in the Exposition of Negro Progress, which marked the 50th anniversary of emancipation. Before the year was out, Woodson had founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History -- today, the Association for the Study of African American Life and History.

Woodson explained the mission of the association, which would become his life's work, in a series of speeches and in the organization's journal. He expressed a belief that education was the key to change and that widespread knowledge of African American history would inspire black Americans and overcome prejudice among white Americans.

Woodson finally left the Washington schools, first to become a dean and head of the history department at Howard University, where he added lessons on black history to the curriculum. Subequently he became dean of West Virginia Collegiate Institute, which today is known as West Virgina State College. Again, he broadened the curriculum and was credited with attracting more students to the school.

He eventually left the academic world when support from the Carnegie Foundation and other philantropists enabled him to take a full-time staff position at the ASLFA and to begin hiring staff researchers. He soon published two more books. "The Negro in Our History" was a standard text used in high school and college classrooms for a quarter of a century.

By the mid-1920s, however, foundation support for Woodson's work diminished and eventually was withdrawn. Many commentators have seen that as the result of the segregationist underpinnings of American society and, in fact, Woodson was investigated by the FBI. Woodson turned successfuly to the black community for funding to make up for the loss of foundation grants. The work of the association continues to this day.

Although his academic credentials and scholarship and his leadership role could have secured his reputation, it was his declaration of Negro History Week in 1926 that led to his popular recognition as the Father of Black History.

This achievement, which has become a national tradition observed annually as Black History Month, has made Woodson the "Father of Black History."

Woodson died in 1950. His Washington home is being preserved as a National Historic Site by the National Park Service.
By Barry Abisch

Doug Williams - NFL's Rosa Parks

Tampa Bay Buccaneers secondary coach Raheem Morris and Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin often greet former Redskins quarterback Doug Williams with a playful, "Hey, Rosa Parks."

A fitting title for the first, and only, African-American quarterback to start and win a Super Bowl.

For one night, there's little doubt we all rode up front with Doug Williams.

Since his historic Super Bowl XXII performance, we've seen two more black quarterbacks, Steve McNair and Donovan McNabb, start in the Super Bowl, Warren Moon inducted into the Hall of Fame and two black head coaches, Tony Dungy and Lovie Smith face off on Super Sunday.

NFL fans have been thrilled by a number of black quarterbacks including the likes of Donovan McNabb, Vince Young, Steve McNair, Jason Campbell, David Garrard, Byron Leftwich, Tavaris Jackson, Cleo Lemon, Daunte Culpepper, Anthony Wright, Charlie Batch and even the former electrifying, now prison bird, Michael Vick.

This season 14 of the NFL's 32 franchises had a black quarterback on their roster. The Raiders, Ravens, Jaguars and Falcons each featured two. Furthermore, two black quarterbacks have been chosen No. 1 overall in the draft, Vick in 2001 and Raiders' JaMarcus Russell in 2007.

All unthinkable outcomes when Williams first entered the league as a Tampa Bay Buccaneer in 1978.

"Doug's spectacular performance in Super Bowl XXII was historic not only because he smashed Super Bowl records," NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said, "but because he helped smash stereotypes."

May young quarterbacks continue to find inspiration in his larger-than-life Super Bowl feat.