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black history

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Margaret and Roumania, The Tennis Superstars That Paved The Way For Venus And Serena

Decades before Venus and Serena Williams overpowered the sport, Margaret and Roumania Peters changed the face of women’s tennis.

Affectionately known as “Pete” and “Repeat” Peters, they made history with their doubles record from the 1930s to the 1950s. At a time when African Americans were not allowed to compete against whites, the Peters sisters played in the American Tennis Association, which was created specifically to give Blacks a forum to play tennis competitively.

Margaret and Roumania Peters
Roumania (left) and Margaret (right) Peters dominated the American Tennis Association in the 1940s. (Photo courtesy of Fannie Walker Weekes)

Margaret Peters was born in 1915 in Washington, D.C., and Roumania Peters was born two years later in the same city. The girls began playing tennis for fun when Margaret was about ten years old. They played in a park across from their home in Georgetown.

They began to play competitively when they were teenagers in the 1930s. The Peters sisters played for the American Tennis Association (ATA), which was created in 1916 to organize Negro Tennis Clubs across the country and to provide competitions for African-American tennis players.

At that time tennis, like most other sports, was segregated so African Americans were not allowed to compete against whites.

By the time tennis integrated, Margaret and Roumania Peters were in their 30’s — considered to be the retirement age for elite players. As a result, they barely missed their own opportunity to make history.

As Roumania’s daughter, Fannie Walker Weeks put it, “My father always said that they just came along at the wrong time but they were happy with their lives. They were happy with what tennis did for them.”

After retiring from the ATA in the early 1950s, Margaret and Roumania earned master’s degrees and worked in the D.C. Public Schools, while continuing to inspire and encourage the next generation of D.C. tennis players.

For twelve years, Roumania taught tennis in the Department of Recreation’s summer tennis camp at Rose Park. Many of her protégés went on to receive four-year-athletic scholarships to college.

Margaret and Roumania Peters
Mayor Muriel Bowser and Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson along with Peters family members, friends and officials unveil the Peters plaque for the tennis courts at Rose Park. | Photo by Robert Devaney

Years later, Margaret and Roumania Peters received overdue recognition for their athletic accomplishments. In 2003 the USTA presented the sisters with an “achievement award” and inducted them into the Mid-Atlantic Section Hall of Fame.  In 2015, the DC Government officially dedicated the Rose Park Tennis Courts to Margaret and Roumania Peters.

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Rebecca Lee Crumpler, The First African American Woman in the United States to earn an M.D. Degree

Rebecca Lee Crumpler challenged the prejudice that prevented African Americans from pursuing careers in medicine.

Crumpler was born in 1831 in Delaware, to Absolum Davis and Matilda Webber. An aunt in Pennsylvania, who spent much of her time caring for sick neighbors and may have influenced her career choice, raised her.

Rebecca Lee Crumpler
Presumed portrait of Rebecca Lee Crumpler as a nurse | Source: Wikimedia Commons/ Public Domain

By 1852 she had moved to Charlestown, Massachusetts, where she worked as a nurse for the next eight years (because the first formal school for nursing only opened in 1873, she was able to perform such work without any formal training).

In 1860, she was admitted to the New England Female Medical College. She graduated in 1864 as the first African American woman in the United States to earn an M.D. degree, and the only African American woman to graduate from the New England Female Medical College.

Dr. Crumpler married twice and had one child, Lizzie Sinclair Crumpler. She passed away in Boston in 1895 and is buried in Fairview Cemetery. Her life and work testify to her talent and determination to help other people, in the face of doubled prejudice against her gender and race.

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Patrice Lumumba: His Last Words To His Wife Before His Assassination

On January 17th, 1961, Patrice Lumumba, the first Prime Minister of the independent Democratic Republic of the Congo was assassinated.

He was the second of five leaders of independence movements in African countries to be assassinated in the 1960s by their former colonial masters, or their agents.

patrice lumumba
Patrice and Pauline Lumumba with their children.

Before his assassination, Lumumba wrote his wife a letter:


My dear wife,

I am writing these words not knowing how they will reach you and when they will and whether I shall still be alive when you read them.

All through my struggle for the independence of my country, I have never doubted for a single instant the final triumph of the sacred cause to which my companions and I have devoted all our lives.

But what we wished for our country, its right to an honourable life, to unstained dignity, to independence without restrictions, was never desired by the Belgian imperialists and their Western allies who found direct and indirect support, both deliberate and unintentional amongst
certain high official of the United Nations that organization in which we placed all our trust when called on its assistance.

They have corrupted some of our compatriots and bribed others. They have helped to distort the truth and bring our independence into dishonour. How could I speak otherwise?

Dead or alive, free or in prison by order of the imperialists, it is not I myself who count. It is the Congo, it is our poor people for whom independence has been transformed into a cage from beyond whose confines the outside world looks on us, sometimes with kindly sympathy but at other times with joy and pleasure.

But my faith will remain unshakeable. I know and I feel in my heart that sooner or later my people will rid themselves of all their enemies, both internal and external, and that they will rise as one man to say no to the degradation and shame of colonialism, and regain their dignity in the clear light of the sun.

As to my children whom I leave and whom I may never see again, I should like them to be told that it is for them, as it is for every Congolese, to accomplish the sacred task of reconstructing our independence and our sovereignty.

For without dignity there is no liberty, without justice there is no dignity, and without independence there are no free men.

Neither brutality nor cruelty nor torture will ever bring me to ask for mercy, for I prefer to die with my head unbowed, my faith unshakeable and with profound trust in the destiny of my country, rather than live under subjection and disregarding sacred principles.

History will one day have its say, but it will not be the history that is taught in Brussels, Paris, Washington or in the United Nations. But the history which will be taught in the countries freed from imperialism and its puppets.

Africa will write its own history and to the north, and south of the Sahara, it will be a glorious and dignified history.

Do not weep for me, my dear wife. I know that my country which is suffering so much, will know how to defend its independence and its liberty.

Long Live the Congo. Long Live Africa!

Patrice

 


Tony O. Lawson

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Meet Lt. Col Merryl Tengesda, The First Black Woman Spy Plane Pilot

Lt. Col Merryl Tengesdal, a Bronx native, has become the first Black woman to ever pilot the U-2 Dragon Lady — an ultra-high altitude reconnaissance aircraft used for intelligence gathering and can fly up to altitudes of 70,000 feet.

Merryl Tengesdal
Lt. Col Merryl Tengesdal

According to an article by the United States Air Force, Tengesdal, “As a child she imagined flying amongst the stars, thousands of miles above the earth’s surface, and today Lt. Col. Merryl Tengesdal is one of eight female pilots to ever fly the U-2 and the only black female pilot during the aircraft’s history.”

The article also goes on to say that she has been recommended for promotion to colonel as well.

As a child she imagined flying amongst the stars, thousands of miles above the earth’s surface, and today Lt. Col. Merryl Tengesdal is one of eight female pilots to ever fly the U-2 and the only black female pilot during the aircraft’s history.

Merryl Tengesda

A Bronx, N.Y. native, Tengesdal is  a U-2 pilot and 9th Reconnaissance Wing inspector general who was recently selected for promotion to the rank of colonel.

“Flying at more than 70,000 feet is really beautiful and peaceful. I enjoy the quiet, hearing myself breathing, and the hum of the engine. I never take it for granted.”

The U-2 first flew in 1955, in the same year the Montgomery, Alabama, bus boycott and the Civil Rights Movement began, setting the stage for desegregation.

“Every aircraft I’ve flown has something unique,” Tengesdal said. “The U-2 is no exception. I enjoy the challenge of landing on two wheels.”

Tengesdal is no stranger to challenges. The colonel acknowledged that during her childhood, there were many opportunities for her to stray down the wrong path.

“Drugs and alcohol were prevalent in my hometown, but I was influenced to pursue other aspirations,” she said.

With guidance from her mother and teachers, she excelled in high school, particularly in math and science. After high school, she attended the University of New Haven in Connecticut and graduated in 1994 with a Bachelor of Science in electrical engineering. Afterward, she attended Officer Candidate School in the Navy, commissioned as an ensign in September 1994, and attended flight training shortly after.

“During the mid-90s, the military had just begun opening more roles for women in combat,” Tengesdal said. “Combat pilot was one of the opportunities. There was also a massive push for more minorities into the pilot training program. I remember when I attended flight training, it was racially diverse, which I was surprised to see. It was a good feeling. However, I could tell there were a few people who did not appreciate us.”

The first aircraft she flew was the Navy’s SH-60B Seahawk helicopter, used for anti-submarine warfare, search and rescue, anti-ship warfare and special operations. She loved the versatility of the aircraft and its capabilities.

In 2004, Tengesdal followed her dream of flying higher and cross-commissioned into the Air Force, joining less than 1,000 pilots to join the U-2 program at Beale.

The U-2 pilot training is a rigorous nine-month course. Every candidate must conduct training missions aboard the TU-2S, a duel seat trainer aircraft located only at Beale. A solo high-flight occurs as a final challenge. Upon completion, pilots are often deployed around the world.

The U-2 Dragon Lady

Tengesdal has been deployed to multiple locations and has flown missions in support of Operation Olive Harvest in Afghanistan and Iraq. In addition, she has also aided in preventing terrorism and piracy in the Horn of Africa. Throughout her career, she has logged more than 3,400 flight hours and more than 330 combat hours.

“I have been truly blessed to have experienced all I have during my time in the military,” Tengesdal said.

According to Tengesdal, many women have contacted her to tell her they are proud of her accomplishments and that she is an inspiration to them.

“I’m incredibly fortunate. It’s surreal.” Tengesdal said. “From my time in the Navy to my experiences in the U-2 program, I like to think I’ve played a part in helping some of the troops on the ground get home safely.”

She has flown at the edge of space and witnessed a shooting star from the inside of a cockpit. She achieved what no African American woman ever had before.

“It is very uncommon, even for this day and age, to be a female pilot, much less a female minority,” Tengesdal said. “My career field is very male dominated, but I hope I have helped other females with similar aspirations to realize this is an option. I think we are all limitless as to what we can accomplish.”

 

Source: Welcome2thebronx

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Meet The World’s First Black Woman Cruise Ship Captain

Back in the not-so-good-old days of cruising, women were considered to be bad luck on ships, a distraction to the crew and an anger to the seas. Until the 1970s, many professional maritime academies didn’t admit women, and there were no female cruise ship captains until 2007.

Things are definitely getting better for women in the cruise industry: They now make up 18 to 20% of the workforce. But there’s still a long way to go. Of the more than 300 passenger cruise ships worldwide, fewer than a dozen have female captains at the helm and it’s still a rarity to find women in the upper echelons of the cruise industry, since women only account for 5.4% of officers.

But those statistics didn’t let Belinda Bennett — the world’s first black female cruise ship captain— hold her back. Bennett has worked for the small ship line Windstar Cruises for 14 years and sails the MSY Wind Star through the Caribbean in winter and Europe in summer. She recently won the U.K.’s prestigious Merchant Navy Medal for Meritorious Service. With International Women’s Day and Women’s History month just around the corner, we caught up with this trailblazing woman who is making history and helping create a sea change in her industry.

Belinda Bennett

Starting Out: I originally came from a small island called St. Helena, which is in the South Atlantic Ocean between South America and South Africa, smack bang in the middle of the Atlantic, miles from anywhere. Growing up on a small island, from the age that I could walk I was in the water. I loved the ocean. It used to be that the only way off the island was by ship. So when I was 17, I took a job on the RMS St. Helena, the ship that supported the island. That’s when my adventures started.

Overcoming Challenges: Unfortunately, I had a rough start. When I was training as a cadet, I sailed with chief officers who made me work harder than the other guys. During your cadetship you’re starting out as a sailor, so you do every job that they do. I had a chief officer, unfortunately, who made me work later than the sailors, so they would knock off for the day, and I would be left outside continuing to work until it got dark. It really was a make-or-break-you time, and me being me, I refused to be broken.

Breaking Barriers: After working on a private yacht off of Monaco for over two years, I did a stint on the Isle of Man Steam Packet ferries. Then I went back to school for my masters. After that, I tried to go back into yachts, but I was unsuccessful. The yachting industry wasn’t quite ready for me at that time. I remember being sat down by an agent in Antibes and being told that finding a job in the yachting industry would be very hard because of three things: 1) I had a higher education than most captains at the time; 2) I was a woman; 3) I was black. So I had to reevaluate my options, and Windstar, here I came. I got a job with Windstar Cruises in 2005.

Rising Through The Ranks: I came to Windstar as a second officer. Eventually, I went to chief officer. And then in January 2016, I was made captain of the MSY Wind Star, a four-masted sailing ship with 148 guests and 101 crew.

Captain Bennett and her senior staff.PHOTO COURTESY OF WINDSTAR CRUISES

On Success: I had goals in life, which I’ve succeeded at, and I’m a very strong woman. Being a woman, you have to work extra hard to prove yourself — even more than a man. Some men might not like that, but that’s the way it is. I’m driven. I wanted to be captain, and so, I am.

Meeting Guests: The Wind Star is a small ship, and we have an open bridge policy, which means you can stop by at almost any time and visit me on the bridge. This is a rarity in the cruise industry. The hotel manager and I also like to greet our guests on the gangway when they arrive. Some people say to the hotel manager, “You’re the captain?” And the hotel manager loves to say, “No, she is.” You get all different reactions. It’s quite fun to watch. I think the women love it. Some men are in awe, and some are slightly “What, you’re the captain?”

Role Model: I like to think that I’m a role model for other women. When I first came to sea, there were only five of us in a class of seventy-something. Over 20 years later, out of the five of us, I’m the only one still at sea. I do like to encourage women to come to sea.  There’s been an increase in women working at sea, but it’s not happening fast enough — or as fast as I’d like to see it, anyway.

Inspiring Women Staffers: To the women on my staff, I tell them, “When you put your mind to something and you really want something, you will work for it. And if you really really want it, no matter what obstacles come in your way, you can overcome those obstacles.”

Being A Woman Leader: As a woman, you can get away with a little more. You can be more direct and you can pretty much tell the guys how it is. If I don’t like something, I’m going to say it. I think men-to-men can be more confrontational. I never have that situation. Whenever I have constructive feedback to give, I like to end on a high note. Open communication is key in this job. If you can talk to your team and get them to talk to you, life is a lot easier.

Favorite Places: Any Italian port with leather bags and leather shoes, I am there. Bequia — a tiny island in the Caribbean — has the best lobster pizza in the world. The best gelato is in Portoferraio on the Italian island of Elba. I’ve been lucky enough to transit the Panama Canal, and the ingenuity is amazing. I recommend you see it at least once in your lifetime.

Inspiring The Next Generation: Every time I go back to St. Helena, I go to a high school and I talk to the kids. I tell them, “Look, I was once in your chair. I was schooling just like you, and then after so many years, I am now captain on a cruise ship that travels throughout the world. I love traveling. Being paid to travel? Bonus! ”

On Determination: When I first came to sea, the more someone said, “You will never make it,” the more determined I was to make it. I’m very headstrong. My parents will definitely agree with that. You need to be determined, you have to be a strong person. You will have a lot of challenges along the way. Doing this job, you will meet people who will not accept you being a woman. But the world is changing, it’s getting better.

Advice For Other Women Who Want To Do This: Work hard, be strong and don’t let anything deter you. I’ve done it. You can do it, too.

 

Source: FORBES

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What Happened To All The Black Jockeys?

Justify won the Triple Crown on Saturday, making him only the 13th horse since 1919 to win the Triple Crown (and only the second since 1978). And for one day, horse racing might have been the biggest horse story in America. But after this past weekend, the attention of sports fans will quickly move on to other sports. So perhaps while attention lingers on horse racing, this is a good time to briefly review some history in the sport.

Jimmy Winkfield

Once upon a time, horse racing was huge. In fact, in the latter part of the 19th century, horse racing was likely the biggest sport in America. And after the horses (of course), the sports stars were the jockeys.

Isaac Burns Murphy was one of these early stars. Murphy won the Kentucky Derby in 1884, 1890 and 1891 — the first jockey to win this race three times. Murphy’s success led to a yearly salary between $15,000 and $20,000, or nearly $1 million in today’s dollars.

Isaac Burns Murphy

Joe Drape, author of “Black Maestro,” told CNN: “Murphy was the first millionaire black athlete. He even had a white valet.”

Murphy was not the only African-American jockey in that era. In fact, African-American jockeys at this time were quite common. Economists Michael Leeds and Hugh Rockoff recently explored this time in a working academic paper. Their paper — “Jim Crow in the Saddle: The Expulsion of African American Jockeys from American Racing” — begins by noting that in 1875, of the 15 horses in the Kentucky Derby, 13 were ridden by African-Americans.

Across the next quarter-century, Leeds and Rockoff noted, African-Americans continued to play a prominent role in horse racing. From 1875 to 1902, African-Americans rode 15 Kentucky Derby winners, with Jimmy Winkfield riding the winning horse in the Kentucky Derby in both 1901 and 1902. But Winkfield remains the last African-American to win this race.

Katherine Mooney noted that from 1921 to 2000, no black jockeys rode a horse in the Kentucky Derby. In addition, a few years ago, Sheena McKenzie of CNN noted that of the 750 members of the national Jockey’s Guild, only 30 — or 4% — were black.

What led to the disappearance of the African-American jockey?

Leeds and Rockoff argue that the high pay of stars like Murphy led more and more white jockeys to enter the field.

We find that African-American jockeys were displaced when the reward was higher. This had echoes about 75 years later, when women who coached women’s sports in American colleges were displaced by men after the passage of Title IX made coaching women’s sports more prestigious and lucrative.

How did white jockeys take away the jobs from African-Americans? Leeds and Rockoff state:

Beginning in about 1900 … white jockeys began a concerted and successful effort to force African American jockeys out of racing. Their method was violence. African-American jockeys were boxed out, run into the rail, hit with riding crops, and so on. Soon after the attack on the African-American jockeys began, they could not get rides. Owners, at the very least, gave their tacit consent to the expulsion of the African-American jockeys. It was another example of the wave of racism that engulfed America at the end of the 19th century and ended in Jim Crow.

In the end, the story of the African-American jockey is essentially the opposite of the story we often hear when we think about race and sports in America.

Cheryl White became the first black female jockey. She was also the first woman at a major track to win five throroughbred races.

As Olivia Waxman observed: In many sports, the professional athletes who broke through the boundaries placed around them for being African-American — like Jackie Robinson or Jesse Owens — have remained famous figures of American history decades after their physical feats first made headlines. But when it comes to horse racing, the story has been somewhat reversed.

Today, jockeys tend to be from rural areas in Latin America. But when horse racing was king in the late 19th century, many of the top athletes were African-Americans. In essence, it was these jockeys who were the first dominant African-American athletes in United States history. And it is a sad legacy of Jim Crow that these athletes were forced out of competition and likely forgotten by most sports fans today.

 

Source: Forbes

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Silent film of Black couple kissing discovered, added to National Film Registry

They are on screen for less than 30 seconds, a couple in simple embrace. The man, dressed in a suit and bowtie, and the woman in a frilled dress. They hug and kiss, swing wide their clasped hands, and kiss again.

Titled Something Good-Negro Kiss, the newly discovered silent film from 1898 is believed to be the earliest cinematic depiction of African-American affection. Thanks to scholars at the University of Chicago and the University of Southern California, the footage is prompting a rethinking of early film history.

The film was announced Dec. 12 as a new addition to the Library of Congress’ National Film Registry—one of 25 selected for their enduring importance to American culture, along with Jurassic ParkBrokeback Mountain and The Shining. The 29-second clip is free of stereotypes and racist caricatures, a stark contrast from the majority of black performances at the turn of the century.

The film was announced Dec. 12 as a new addition to the Library of Congress’ National Film Registry, one of 25 selected for their enduring importance to American culture. The 29-second clip is free of stereotypes and racist caricatures, a stark contrast from the majority of black performances at the turn of the century.

“It was remarkable to me how well the film was preserved, and also what the actors were doing,” said UChicago’s Allyson Nadia Field, an expert on African-American cinema who helped identify the film and its historical significance. “There’s a performance there because they’re dancing with one another, but their kissing has an unmistakable sense of naturalness, pleasure, and amusement as well.

“It is really striking to me, as a historian who works on race and cinema, to think that this kind of artifact could have existed in 1898. It’s really a remarkable artifact and discovery.”

An associate professor in UChicago’s Department of Cinema and Media Studies, Field first saw scanned frames of the film in January 2017. The footage was discovered by USC archivist Dino Everett, who found the 19th-century nitrate print within a batch of silent films he had acquired from a Louisiana collector nearly three years earlier.

In examining the film, Everett noticed physical characteristics that led him to believe the film was made prior to 1903.

“I told students, ‘I think this is one of the most important films I’ve come across,’” Everett said. “But my expertise is not in African-American cinema. I didn’t know if something like this was already out there.”

To find out, Everett reached out to Field, whom he had worked with when she was faculty at UCLA.

A scholar who specializes in both silent and contemporary African-American film, Field is the author of Uplift Cinema: The Emergence of African American Film & The Possibility of Black Modernity. Her 2015 book examined archival materials, such as memos and publicity materials, to explore how black filmmakers used cinema as a method of civic engagement in the 1910s.

To uncover the origins of Everett’s footage, Field relied on inventory and distribution catalogs, tracing the film to Chicago. This was where William Selig—a vaudeville performer turned film producer—had shot it on his knockoff of a Lumière Cinématographe. That camera produced the telltale perforation marks which had tipped Everett off to the print’s age.

With help from the Museum of Modern Art in New York, Field identified Saint Suttle and Gertie Brown, who in the clip are dressed in stage costumes common for minstrel performers.

Their performance is a reinterpretation of Thomas Edison’s “The Kiss,” featuring May Irwin and John Rice. Added to the National Film Registry nearly two decades ago, the 1896 film contained the very first on-screen kiss, and was also one of the first films to be publicly shown.

But less discussed is the fact that Irwin herself was a well-known minstrel performer—a fact that, Field argues, would have shaped how viewers understood both the Irwin-Rice kiss and Something Good-Negro Kiss. Indeed, the discovery of Something Good-Negro Kiss could prompt scholars to reevaluate their perceptions of the time period.

“This artifact helps us think more critically about the relationship between race and performance in early cinema,” Field said. “It’s not a corrective to all the racialized misrepresentation, but it shows us that that’s not the only thing that was going on.”

The discovery also offers a reminder to archivists and film scholars that cinematic knowledge is based on an incomplete record—and the hope that other significant pieces live on, tucked away in basements and storage units.

“I’m optimistic that lost films are just currently lost,” Everett said. “They’re not necessarily wiped off planet Earth. We can still make a lot of important finds.”

 

Source: UChicago News