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A master of portraits, Edwin Harleston #BlackHandSide

On this date in 1882, Edwin Harleston was born. He was an African American painter.

From Charleston, S.C., Edwin Augustus Harleston was one of eight children, his father was a rice planter, a sea captain, and owned a funeral home.

Harleston received a scholarship to study at the Avery Normal Institute in Charleston and graduated valedictorian in 1900. For four years he attended Atlanta University where he played football and sang in a quartet. In 1905, he relocated to Boston to attend the art school of the Boston Museum of Fine Art. There he studied under William Paxton and Frank Benson until 1913.
The seven year course was formed under the Beaux Arts tradition and formed the foundation of his style. Harleston reluctantly returned to South Carolina to help in his father’s funeral home. It was during this time that he became active in local civil rights groups and eventually became president of the newly formed Charleston branch of the NAACP. He led an effort that soon forced the public school system to hire Black teachers. In 1920 Harleston married Elise Forrest, a photographer and two years later they opened a studio, which featured both of their works.
Influenced by of much of her work, he developed a highly realistic and academic technique of portraiture; many of his works were commissioned. A few of his subjects were, the president of Atlanta University, philanthropist-Pierre S. Dupont, and the president of the Atlanta Life Insurance Co. Harleston other painting include The Bible Student 1924, and Miss Bailey with the African Shawl 1930.
At the request of Aaron Douglas, he assisted in painting murals for Fisk University that depicted a panoramic view of Black history from slavery onward. This work was completed in 1931 the year that he died. Shortly before his death Edwin Harleston received the Alain Locke Prize for portrait painting for his work The Old Servant at an exhibition of the Harmon foundation.
Edwin Harleston died on May 10, 1931.
Reference:The St. James Guide to Black ArtistEdited by Thomas RiggsCopyright 1997, St. James Press, Detroit, MIISBN 1-55862-220-9


Kwame Nkrumah fathered Pan-Africanism

On this date we mark the birth of Kwame Nkrumah in 1909. He was a Black African Statesman and political activist from Ghana.

He led his country to independence from Britain in 1957 and was a powerful voice for African nationalism. He was overthrown by a military coup nine years later after his rule grew dictatorial.

Nkrumah was born in the town of Nkroful in the southwestern corner of the British colony of the Gold Coast (now Ghana). He was an excellent student in local Catholic missionary schools, who as a teenager, became an untrained elementary school teacher in the nearby town of Half Assini.

In 1930, at Achimota College in Accra, the capital of the Gold Coast Nkrumah earned a teacher’s certificate and taught at several Catholic elementary schools. In 1939 he graduated from Lincoln University with B. A. degrees in economics and sociology, earned a theology degree from the Lincoln Theological Seminary in 1942, and received M. A. degrees in education and philosophy from the University of Pennsylvania in 1942 and 1943.

While studying in the United States, Nkrumah was influenced by the socialist writings of German political philosopher Karl Marx, German political economist Friedrich Engels, and Russian revolutionary leader Vladimir Lenin.

He formed an African student’s organization and became a popular speaker, advocating the liberation of Africa from European colonialism.

He also promoted Pan-Africanism, a movement for cooperation between all people of African descent and for the political union of an independent Africa. In 1945 he went to London, to study economics and law. That year he helped organize the fifth Pan-African Congress, in Manchester; with black American sociologist and writer W. E. B. Du Bois, future president of Kenya Jomo Kenyatta, and American actor and civil rights activist Paul Robeson.

In 1946 Nkrumah left his academic studies to become secretary general of the West African National Secretariat. That same year, Nkrumah became vice president of the West African Students Union, a pro-independence organization of younger, more politically aggressive African students studying in Britain.

Nkrumah returned to the Gold Coast in 1947 when the United Gold Coast Convention (UGCC), a nationalist party, invited him to serve as its secretary general. He gave speeches all over the colony to rally support for the UGCC and for independence.

In 1948, Nkrumah and several other UGCC leaders were arrested by British colonial authorities and briefly imprisoned. After setting up a series of colony-wide strikes in favor of independence that nearly brought the colony’s economy to a standstill, Nkrumah was again imprisoned for subversion in 1950.

However, the strikes had convinced the British authorities to move the colony toward independence.

In 1951 Nkrumah, while still in prison, won the central Accra seat by a landslide.

The British governor of the Gold Coast released Nkrumah from prison and appointed him leader of government business. The following year he named him Prime Minister. Reelected in 1954 and 1956, Nkrumah guided the Gold Coast to independence in 1957 under the name Ghana, after an ancient West African empire.

Nkrumah built a strong central government and attempted to unify the country politically and to muster all its resources for rapid economic development.

As a proponent of Pan-Africanism, he sought the liberation of the entire continent from colonial rule, offered generous assistance to other African nationalists, and initially pursued a policy of nonalignment with the United States and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR).

His goal was never realized, but his efforts helped bring about the Organization of African Unity, which promotes peace and cooperation between African nations.

In 1960 Ghana became a republic and Nkrumah was elected president. Between 1961 and 1966 Nkrumah put together an ambitious and very expensive hydroelectric project on the Volta River that though highly successful, was laced with economic mismanagement along with several other developmental schemes over the period.

Nkrumah did not hesitate to use strong-arm methods in implementing his domestic programs. He remained popular with the masses, yet his tactics made enemies among civil servants, judges, intellectuals, and army officers.

While Nkrumah was visiting China in 1966, his government was overthrown in an army coup.

Nkrumah lived in exile in Guinea, where Guinean president Sékou Тоигй appointed him honorary co-president of Guinea.

He died in 1972 in Romania while receiving treatment for throat cancer.

Kwame Nkrumah’s remains were returned to Ghana for burial in his hometown.


The Encyclopedia Britannica, Fifteenth Edition. Copyright 1996 Encyclopedia Britannica Inc. ISBN 0-85229-633-0

A Caribbean Patriot, Sir William Arthur Lewis

Sir William Arthur Lewis was born on this date in 1915. He was a Black Caribbean economist, educator and Nobel Prize winner.

From St. Lucia, he was the fourth son of George Ferdinand and Ida Lewis. He was educated in St. Lucia up to the secondary Level. He proved during this time to be quite a scholar. Later he entered the London School of Economics where he distinguished himself as a student of Economics. His excellence was rewarded, when at the age of twenty-three, he was made a lecturer. During this time he published numerous papers and pamphlets.
Lewis in 1947 married Gladys Jacobs and had two daughters, Elizabeth and Barbara. Between 1951 and 1957 he was Stanley Jevons Professor of Political Economy at Manchester University. During this time, he was also adviser to numerous governments and served as adviser on underdeveloped countries. He advised the Ghana government in 1953 and in 1957. He also served in the same capacity in Nigeria, Trinidad and Barbados. He had also been on numerous United Nations Commissions.
He won a Nobel Prize in 1979, with Theodore Schultz, for pioneering research on economic development in emerging countries. He published a book, The Theory of Economic Growth, in 1954 that is regarded as the seminal study in the field. In this book he advocated the development of infrastructure, education in all its areas and specialization in agriculture and high employment.
Arthur Lewis also served as Vice Chancellor of the University of the West Indies, adviser to the British Colonial Development Corporation, Chancellor of the University of Guyana, Professor at Princeton University and as the Chairman of the Caribbean Development Bank. Sir Arthur Lewis died on June 15th, 1991. He is buried on the grounds of Sir Arthur Lewis Community College in St. Lucia a marked the end of a distinguished St. Lucian and Caribbean patriot.
Reference:Africana The Encyclopedia of the African andAfrican American ExperienceEditors: Kwame Anthony Appiah and Henry Louis Gates Jr.Copyright 1999ISBN 0-465-0071-1

Carter G. Woodson, pioneering Black historian

Carter Godwin Woodson was born on this date in 1875.

He was an African American writer, educator and historian.

Born into poverty in Buckingham County, Virginia, Woodson supported himself by working in the coal mines of Kentucky as a teenager and was, as a consequence, unable to enroll in high school until he was 20. After graduating in less than two years, he taught high school, wrote articles, studied at home and abroad, and received his Ph.D. from Harvard University in 1912. Woodson also studied at Berea College and the University of Chicago.
He was dean of the School of Liberal Arts at Howard University from 1919 to 1920 and at what is now West Virginia State College from 1920 to 1922.
Woodson devoted his life to making “the world see the Negro as a participant rather than as a lay figure in history.” To this end he established the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History; founded and edited the Journal of Negro History; organized the first annual Negro History Week, which became Black History Month.
Woodson also founded the Negro History Bulletin newspaper. Among his many published books are “The Mis-Education of the Negro Prior to 1861,” “History of the Negro Church,” and “The Rural Negro.”Woodson’s life’s work is the personal inspiration of Benjamin Mchie the founder of African American Registry. Carter G. Woodson died April 3,1950,
Reference: Black Heroes of The Twentieth Century Edited by Jessie Carney Smith Copyright 1998 Visible Ink Press, Detroit, MI ISBN 1-57859-021-3

The Grandfather of Black History

The Grandfather of Black History

In his 1925 essay, The Negro Digs Up His Past, Arthur Schomburg highlights three major points about the increasingly systematic study of our history and culture…Gradually as the study of the Negro’s past has come out of the vagaries of rhetoric and propaganda and become systematic and scientific, three outstanding conclusions have been established:

  1. First, that the Negro has been throughout the centuries of controversy an active collaborator, and often a pioneer, in the struggle for his own freedom and advancement. This is true to a degree which makes it the more surprising that it has not been recognized earlier.
  2. Second, that by virtue of their being regarded as something “exceptional,” even by friends and well-wishers, Negroes of attainment and genius have been unfairly disassociated from the group, and group credit lost accordingly.
  3. Third, that the remote racial origins of the Negro, far from being what the race and the world have been given to understand, offer a record of creditable group achievement when scientifically viewed, and more important still, that they are of vital general interest because of their bearing upon the beginnings and early development of culture.

In this critically important essay, Schomburg carefully chronicles the early and evolving effort among our ancestors to document and share information about our history as African people, dispersed throughout the world though we may be.
In closing, Schomburg acknowledges the hard work remaining, and the work for which there will continue to be great resistance, the placement of African people, history and culture into its/our proper context – at the center of world history and civilization…
Of course, a racial motive remains – legitimately compatible with scientific method and aim. The work our race students now regard as important, they undertake very naturally to overcome in part certain handicaps of disparagement and omission too well-known to particularize. But they do so not merely that we may not wrongfully be deprived of the spiritual nourishment of our cultural past, but also that the full story of human collaboration and interdependence may be told and realized.
Especially is this likely to be the effect of the latest and most fascinating of all of the attempts to open up the closed Negro past, namely the important study of African cultural origins and sources. The bigotry of civilization which is the taproot of intellectual prejudice begins far back and must be corrected at its source. Fundamentally it has come about from that depreciation of Africa which has sprung up from ignorance of her true role and position in human history and the early development of culture.
The Negro has been a man without a history because he has been considered a man without a worthy culture. But a new notion of the cultural attainment and potentialities of the African stocks has recently come about, partly through the corrective influence of the more scientific study of African institutions and early cultural history. partly through growing appreciation of the skill and beauty and in many cases the historical priority of the African native crafts, and finally through the signal recognition which first in France and Germany, but now very generally the astonishing art of the African sculptures has received. Into these fascinating new vistas, with limited horizons lifting in all directions, the mind of the Negro has leapt forward faster than the slow clearings of scholarship will yet safely permit.

Cliffsnotes of the Arthur Schomburg Essay

But there is no doubt that here is a field full of the most intriguing and inspiring possibilities.
Already the Negro sees himself against a reclaimed background, in a perspective that will give pride and self-respect ample scope, and make history yield for him the same values that the treasured past of any people affords.
May Schomburg’s example continue to remind us that there is no substitute for deliberate and thoughtful study.
Our Ancestors deserve nothing less.
Our future generations are depending on it.
Read the actual essay here:

The Honorable Marcus Garvey

This date marks the birth of Marcus Garvey in 1887.

He was an African American Black Nationalist leader, who was a proponent of the “Back to Africa” movement in the United States.
Garvey was the youngest of 11 children from Saint Ann’s Bay, Jamaica. He left school at the age of 14 to serve as a printer’s apprentice. A few years later, he took a job at a printing company in Kingston, where in 1907 he led a printers’ strike for higher wages. Garvey then traveled to South America and Central America.
In 1912, he went to England, where he became interested in African history and culture. He returned to Jamaica in 1914 and shortly thereafter founded the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) and the African Communities League. In 1916 he moved to the United States and settled in New York City. There he incorporated the UNIA and started a weekly newspaper, the Negro World.
A persuasive orator and author, Garvey urged American Blacks to be proud of their race and preached their return to their ancestral homeland, Africa. To this end, he founded the Black Star Line in 1919 to provide steamship transportation, and the Negro Factories Corporation to encourage black economic independence. Marcus Garvey attracted thousands of supporters and claimed two million members for the UNIA. He suffered a series of economic disasters, however, and in 1922 he was arrested for mail fraud. Garvey served as his own defense attorney at his trial, was convicted, and went to prison in 1925.
His sentence was commuted two years later, but he was immediately deported to Jamaica. Unable to resurrect the UNIA or regain his influence, Marcus Garvey moved to London, where he died in relative obscurity in 1940.
Reference: The African American Atlas Black History & Culture an Illustrated Reference by Molefi K. Asanta and Mark T. Mattson Macmillam USA, Simon & Schuster, New York ISBN 0-02-864984-2

The Last African Slave Born in America – Cudjo Lewis

Cudjo Lewis (the last African slave in America) born

The birth of Cudjo Lewis, c 1840 is celebrated on this date. He was an African laborer in America, Historian and the last known survivor of the Middle Passage, the Atlantic slave trade between Africa and the United States. He was born Oluale Kossola in the present-day West African country of Benin to Oluale and his second wife Fondlolu. He was the second of four children and had 12 stepsiblings. He was a member of the Yoruba people, the Isha (a Yoruba sub-group), whose traditional home is in the Banté region of eastern Benin. Though born into a modest family, his grandfather was an officer of the town’s king. Kossola and his siblings had a happy and active childhood. At 14, he began training as a soldier and learned how to track, hunt, camp, use a bow & arrow, spear, and defend his village, which was surrounded by four tall walls. The teenager was also inducted into oro, a secret Yoruba male society whose role is to police and control society. At age 19, Kossola fell in love with a young girl and at his father’s urging underwent initiation that enabled young men and women to get married. In April 1860, in the midst of Kossola’s training, Ghezo, the King of Dahomey, and his army attacked the town, killed the king and many of the people, and took the rest of the townspeople prisoner. Kossola and his companions were marched to Abomey, Dahomey’s capital, then on to Ouidah on the coast, where they were held for weeks in a slave pen known as a barracoon (a prison where captives were held before being sent across the Atlantic). Then he and 109 others from various regions of Benin and Nigeria boarded the slave ship Clotilda, captained by Mobile, Alabama ship builder William Foster and embarked on the Middle Passage. During his 45 days on the ship, a naked Kossola suffered from thirst and the humiliation. In Alabama, he was enslaved by James Meaher, a wealthy ship captain and brother of Timothy Meaher, who had organized the slave transaction. During his enslavement, he and many of the other Clotilda captives were located at an area north of Mobile known as Magazine Point, the Plateau, or “Meaher’s hammock,” where the Meahers owned a mill and a shipyard. Although only three miles from the town of Mobile, it was isolated, separated from the city by a swamp and a forest, and easily accessible only by water. James Meaher was unable to pronounce his name, so Kossola told his new owner to call him Cudjo, a name given by the Fon and Ewe peoples of West Africa to boys who are born on Monday. During his five years of enslavement, Cudjo worked on a steamship and lived with other slaves under Meaher’s house, which was built high above the ground. After the abolition of slavery and the end of the Civil War, the Clotilda captives tried to raise money to return to their homeland. The men worked in lumber mills and the women raised and sold produce, but these occupations did not allow them to raise enough money. After realizing that they would not be able to return to Africa, the group deputized Lewis to ask Timothy Meaher for a grant of land. When he refused, the members of the community continued to raise money and began to purchase land around Magazine Point. On September 30, 1872, Lewis bought about two acres of land in the Plateau area for $100.00 and named it Africatown. Africatown developed as a self-contained community. The citizens appointed leaders to enforce communal norms derived from their shared African background, and developed institutions including a church, a school, and a cemetery. Sylviane A. Diouf, Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture contributed to this article and she explains that Africatown was unique because it was both a “black town,” inhabited exclusively by people of African ancestry, and an enclave of people born in another country. She writes, “Black towns were safe havens from racism, but African Town was a refuge from Americans.” Writing in 1914, Emma Langdon Roche noted that the surviving founders of Africatown preferred to speak in their own language among themselves. She described the English of adults as “very broken and not always intelligible even to those who have lived among them for many years.” However, the residents also adopted some American customs, including Christianity. Lewis converted in 1869, joining a Baptist church. Regarding emancipation, American born former slaves became citizens upon the passage of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution in July 1868, this change in status did not apply to the members of the Clotilda group, who were foreign-born. Cudjo Kazoola Lewis became a naturalized American citizen on October 24, 1868. Lewis utilized the American legal system in 1902 after his injury in the buggy-train collision. After the Louisville and Nashville Railroad refused to pay damages, he hired an attorney, sued the railroad, and won a significant settlement of $650.00. The award was overturned on appeal. After Reconstruction in the first quarter of the 20th century, Lewis began to serve as an resource for scholars and other writers, sharing the history of the Clotilda Africans and traditional stories and tales. Emma Langdon Roche, a Mobile-based writer and artist, interviewed Lewis and the other survivors for her 1914 book Historic Sketches of the South. She described their capture in Africa, enslavement, and lives in Africatown. They requested that she use their African names in her work, in the hope that it might reach their homeland “where some might remember them.” By 1925, Lewis was the last African survivor of the Clotilda; he was interviewed by educator and folklorist Arthur Huff Fauset of Philadelphia. In 1927 Fauset published two of Lewis’ animal tales, “T’appin’s magic dipper and whip” and “T’appin fooled by Billy Goat’s eyes,” and “Lion Hunt,” his autobiographical account about hunting in Africa, in the Journal of American Folklore. In 1927, Lewis was interviewed by the archeologist and folklorist Zora Neale Hurston. The next year she published an article, “Cudjoe’s Own Story of the Last African Slaver” (1928). According to her biographer Robert E. Hemenway, this piece largely plagiarized Emma Roche’s work, although Hurston added information about daily life in Lewis’ home village of Banté. In 1928 Hurston returned with additional resources; she conducted more interviews, took photographs, and recorded what is the only known film footage of an African who had been trafficked to the United States through the slave trade. Based on this material, she wrote a manuscript, Barracoon, which Hemenway described as “a highly dramatic, semi fictionalized narrative intended for the popular reader.”After this round of interviews, Hurston’s literary patron, philanthropist Charlotte Osgood Mason, learned of Lewis and began to send him money for his support.Lewis was also interviewed by journalists for local and national publications. Hurston’s book Barracoon: The Story of the Last Black Cargo was published on May 8, 2018. Cudjo Lewis died July 17, 1935 and is buried at the Plateau Cemetery in Africatown. Since his death, his significance as the last survivor of the Clotilda and the written record created by his interviewers have made him a public figure of American history and of the community.

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