February 2007 was the best fundraising month yet for the Martin Luther King Jr. Washington, DC National Memorial. Harry Johnson, President and Chief Executive of the memorial's foundation is asking everyone, including school kids, to get involved in the effort to raise the $100 million dollars needed to build and maintain the memorial on the national mall. On February 27th, the National Association of Realtors announced a $1 million donation, bringing the total value of gifts raised from all sources to $78 million dollars. Last week, I donated copies of the Empower Encyclopedia Salute to Black History DVD to a silent auction, sponsored by a major media organization, with all proceeds going to the King Memorial fund. The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial is scheduled to open in 2008, facing the Jefferson Memorial, on the banks of the Tidal Basin.
On Monday, February 26, a plaque was unveiled in the U.S. House of Representatives Press Gallery in Washington, DC honoring civil rights activist Frederick Douglass (1817-1895). Best known for his support of the Abolitionist (anti-slavery) movement, Douglass spent most of his career as a journalist. He founded the North Star, an African American newspaper, in 1847. He was the first black reporter allowed into the Capitol press galleries. Journalists watch laws being created on the floors of the House and Senate from the press galleries. Douglass was instrumental in urging President Abraham Lincoln to use black troops in the Civil War. During Reconstruction after the war, Frederick Douglass kept the African American community informed about what was really happening in Congress.
We often think of black history in terms of past achievements by exceptional individuals. If you wanted a broad general snapshot of most African American people today, the trends in their neighborhoods, and the factors that will influence the emerging black leaders of tomorrow, where would you turn? A new website has created an extremely easy way to discover information about racial and ethnic groups in the USA by using census data gathered by the U.S. government. According to the creators, "Diversity Data is an online tool for exploring quality of life data across different metropolitan areas, for people of different racial/ethnic groups in the United States.” Diversity Data “provides values and rankings for the largest U.S. metropolitan areas on different indicators in 8 areas of life (domains), including demographics, education, economic opportunity, housing, neighborhoods, and health." Just pick a state, select a metropolitan area, then instantly observe what the trends reveal. By using an option called "customize profile," you can dissect and analyze the information in more ways than you could ever imagine. Each state can be searched by selecting from the largest counties. The brainchild of this fantastic free tool is the Harvard School of Public Health. I highly recommend Diversity Data for: Population Demographics and Diversity Health Housing Opportunities Economic Opportunities Education Residential Integration and Neighborhood Characteristics Crime Physical Environment Where are the rural or urban centers in the USA where different racial and ethnic groups are striding ahead? You'll discover the answer to this question and a lot more by digging into Diversity Data online. The trends reflect possible history in the making. If you spot differences in your state that are surprising, let the information challenge you to think about some ways you might influence your community’s destiny.
Genealogy research and DNA analysis have been the rage the last few years. More African American families are using these technologies to discover African ancestral connections. The PBS television series African American Lives, hosted by Henry "Skip" Louis Gates Jr., (shown above with Oprah Winfrey), debuted in February during Black History Month, 2006. African American Lives is fascinating. Famous black history people in the USA trace their lineage to Africa with Gates guiding the series along. I was very glad I watched several episodes last year. It's Oprah's chance this week, with a new, updated episode. One good thing about PBS, the programs are always repeated, so you'll eventually get a second chance to watch Oprah's Roots: An African American Lives Special.
An edited version of an article by Chris Ochayi from the Nigerian News site Vanguardngr.com Nigeria's rich cultural heritage will again take center stage in the United Kingdom during the month-long Black History Month Festival this October. The UK event, under the auspices of Back To My Roots, will showcase the best of African culture, arts, and business. Supported by the British Council and UNESCO, Back To My Roots is expected to attract over 5 million people. Black History Month is celebrated every October by the British government saluting black contributions to European development. Events will take place in four cities: London, Bristol, Birmingham and Glasgow in Scotland.
John Messeder, writing in the GettysburgTimes.com, reports that "an organization attempting to unite 175 miles of history, from Gettysburg to Monticello, recently received a grant to help research and interpret the African American role in the USA's formation." "The Journey Through Hallowed Ground Partnership has been awarded a $10,000 grant from the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities to research, identify and interpret African American sites along the pathway. Partnership President Cate Magennis Wyatt feels that "Understanding African American history helps us understand the fabric of our American culture and expands our understanding of ourselves as a people." The 175-mile Old Carolina Highway, now designated U.S. 15, once carried Thomas Jefferson toward Philadelphia during his work on the Declaration of Independence. Eight presidents have made their homes in the region. Although possibly best known for its Civil War battles, the region played critical roles in the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812. It also has a high concentration of Underground Railroad stations. In announcing the $10,000 Virginia Foundation for the Humanities grant, Wyatt noted much African American history is only beginning to be documented at local levels."
With Tuesday's 2006 baseball All-Star Game behind us, and rampant speculation swirling about Barry Bonds' quest to catch Henry Aaron, we take a quick look at the career of the all time home run king, Hammerin' Hank. He passed Babe Ruth’s record on April 8th, 1974 when he hit home run number 715 as an Atlanta Brave. Aaron became a professional player in 1952 for the Indianapolis Clowns, a black barnstorming team, and famous sports name in African American history. The National League Milwaukee Braves purchased his contract for $2,500 later that year and assigned him to their Eau Claire, Wisconsin farm team. Hank Aaron was promoted to Jacksonville in the Sally League in 1953 finally breaking in at the major league level in 1954, never to look back. On August 1, 1982, the greatest home run hitter of all time with 755 "round trippers" was inducted into the baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York. With baseball behind him, Hank has been a success in the business world too as an entrepreneur, and as a corporate Vice President of Community Relations for Turner Broadcasting System, Inc.
Personal papers and books of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. are safe and sound. Valued at about $30 million, the individual components of the collection were to be auctioned off to the highest bidders this week. Dr. King's alma matter, Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia will receive the entire collection. Corporate donors and philanthropists put up the money to secure the collection for Morehouse. Andrew Young, an advisor of Dr. King, and Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin lead the effort to liberate the civil rights leader's archive from Sotheby's auction house. I never had a doubt that this happy outcome would materialize. Dr. King's papers are clearly one of the most valuable collections of 20th century history. Among black history people, Dr. King's impact supersedes race. His legacy as a Nobel Peace Prize winner proves how possible it is for one person to change the world.