As controversial as that is for some, I have found it to be wonderful time to expand my knowledge and broaden my horizons. I found an article that listed 54 famous African Americans. I am not sure who selected these 54 or even how or why they made the list. I just thought it would be a neat idea to select one of those individuals each day during the month of February and to incorporate their story into my daily reading plan as part of my observance of Black History Month. I am not selecting them in any particular order other than they caught my attention from list of 54. Will you let me share the first five with you as this week's Steve's Story.
1. Anna Murray-Douglas. She was the first wife of Frederick Douglas and was a leading American abolitionist. She was also very instrumental in the Underground Railroad. Unlike her seven older brothers and sisters, who were born in slavery, she and her four younger siblings emancipated. Her parents were set free by their owners just a month before her birth. By the age of 17 she had established herself at a laundress and housekeeper and later became a very wealthy. Being the wife of Frederick Douglas was not easy, but later her daughter would say these words about her "The story of Frederick Douglass' hope and aspirations and longing desire for freedom has been told--you all know it. It was a story made possible by the unswerving loyalty of Anna Murray."
2. Frederick Douglas. I am more familiar with the social reformer, abolitionist, orator, writer, and statesmen Frederick Douglas. I would assume that most know his name and at least a little of his history. I would just like to share a quote I found in reading an article about him this week. "It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men." It is hard to believe that this wonderful orator and writer had once been a slave who escaped his slavery and went on to become such an influential personality.
3. Bessie Coleman. I really enjoyed reading about this woman who was the first female pilot of African American descent and the first Native American woman to hold a pilot's license. Since, as a woman, she was denied flight school opportunities in our country she traveled to France to become a licensed pilot. She went on to become a successful airshow performer until her accidental death in 1926 while testing her new plane. Her pioneering role inspired many early pilots, especially those from African American and Native American descent.
4. Bessie Smith. Bessie Smith was an American blues singer in the 20's and 30's. Nicknamed "The Empress of the Blues", she was the most popular blues singer of her time. She is often regarded as one of the greatest singers of her era and, along with Louis Armstrong, a major influence on other jazz vocalists. Her career was cut short by the Great Depression, that almost destroyed the music industry. I love this quote attributed to her, "It's a long old road, but I know I'm gonna find the end." She died as the result of a terrible automobile accident in 1937 and was laid to rest in an unmarked grave. In 1970 Janis Joplin paid to have a tombstone erected marking the grave of Bessie Smith who had been influential on her career. I would like to add you have not lived until you have heard Bessie Smith sing "I Ain't Got Nobody."
5. Granville Woods. Woods developed several improvements to the railroad system and was referred to by some as the Black Edison. In his day, the black newspapers often express their pride in his achievements, saying he was "The Greatest of Negro Inventors" and sometimes even calling him "Professor" even though there is no evidence he every graduated from a university or college. In 1985 he patented a device that was a combination of a telegraph and a telephone. He sold the rights to this device the American Bell Telephone Company.
I have found this exercise of reading about African Americans really enjoyable and look forward to the rest of the month. It is a great reminder that we are all created "in the image of God."
This is my story...