Ralph Bunche

Ralph BuncheRalph Bunche was a Nobel Peace Prize–winning academic and U.N. diplomat known for his peacekeeping efforts in the Middle East, Africa and the Mediterranean.

Ralph Johnson Bunche was born on August 7, 1904 (some sources say 1903), in Detroit, Michigan. After his family relocated to Albuquerque, New Mexico, Bunche’s mother died during his early adolescence; reports vary on whether his father died soon after or had left the family. As a result, Bunche and his younger sister relocated to Los Angeles and were taken in by his maternal grandmother, Lucy Taylor Johnson, who became a major advocate for the education of her grandson.

Bunche proved to be a brilliant student, graduating as valedictorian from Jefferson High School and excelling in athletics. He attended the University of California on scholarship, playing varsity sports and working as a janitor to pay for additional expenses.

Bunche graduated in 1927 as valedictorian of his class and a member of Phi Beta Kappa. He entered Harvard University and earned his M.A. in 1928 and his Ph.D. in governmental/international relations in 1934, thus becoming the first African American to earn a political science doctorate. In 1928 he also joined the faculty of Howard University, and subsequently helped to launch their political science department. He later did postgraduate anthropological work at institutions like the London School of Economics and the University of Cape Town.

One of Bunche’s major achievements was his efforts from 1947 to 1949 to bring peace to the region of Palestine, the site of major conflict between Arab and Israeli forces. Bunche was called upon to helm the talks on the island of Rhodes. The long negotiation process was defined by the diplomat’s willingness to meet with both sides and be meticulous, calm and patient about getting parties to sit with each other and get used to signing off on smaller matters. The Armistice Agreements were signed in 1949. Bunche won the Nobel Peace Prize the following year, becoming the first African American and person of color in the world to receive the award.

Bunche continued his service into the 1960s, orchestrating the cessation of conflict in the Congo (Zaire), Cyprus and Bahrain. Domestically, Bunche also served as part of the board of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People for more than two decades and participated in other efforts in the civil rights movement.

After suffering from a number of ailments, including kidney and heart disease, Bunche died in New York City on December 9, 1971. Over his career he’d received more than four dozen honorary doctorates and many, many other accolades, including the U.S. Medal of Freedom from President John F. Kennedy.

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Quote: “International machinery will mean something to the common man throughout the world only when it is translated into terms that he can understand: peace, bread, housing, clothing, education, good health, and above all, the right to walk with dignity on the world’s great boulevards.”

Gordon Parks

Gordon ParksGordon Gordon Roger Alexander Buchanan Parks was a prolific, world-renowned photographer, writer, composer and filmmaker known for his work on projects like Shaft and The Learning Tree.

Born on November 30, 1912, in Fort Scott, Kansas, Gordon Parks was a self-taught artist who became the first African-American photographer for Life and Vogue magazines. He also pursued movie directing and screenwriting, working at the helm of the films The Learning Tree, based on a novel he wrote, and Shaft. Parks has published several memoirs and retrospectives as well, including A Choice of Weapons.

His father, Jackson Parks, was a vegetable farmer, and the family lived modestly. Parks faced aggressive discrimination as a child. He attended a segregated elementary school and was not allowed to participate in activities at his high school because of his race. The teachers actively discouraged African-American students from seeking higher education. After the death of his mother, Sarah, when he was 14, Parks left home. He lived with relatives for a short time before setting off on his own, taking whatever odd jobs he could find.

Parks purchased his first camera at the age of 25 after viewing photographs of migrant workers in a magazine. His early fashion photographs caught the attention of Marva Louis, wife of the boxing champion Joe Louis, who encouraged Parks to move to a larger city. Parks and his wife, Sally, relocated to Chicago in 1940.

In 1969, Parks became the first African American to direct a major Hollywood movie, the film adaptation of The Learning Tree. He wrote the screenplay and composed the score for the film.

Parks’s next film, Shaft, was one of the biggest box-office hits of 1971. Starring Richard Roundtree as detective John Shaft, the movie inspired a genre of films known as blaxploitation. The 93-year-old Gordon Parks died of cancer on March 7, 2006, in New York City. He is buried in his hometown of Fort Scott, Kansas. Today, Parks is remembered for his pioneering work in the field of photography, which has been an inspiration to many.

Quote:  “There’s another horizon out there, one more horizon that you have to make for yourself and let other people discover it, and someone else will take it further on, you know.”

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Zora Neale Hurston

Zora Neale HurstonBorn in Alabama on January 7, 1891,in Notasulga, Alabama, Zora Neale Hurston spent her early adulthood studying at various universities and collecting folklore from the South, the Caribbean and Latin America. Hurston was a fixture of the Harlem Renaissance, rubbing shoulders with many of its famous writers. Hurston created several acclaimed works of fiction, including her 1937 masterwork of fiction, the novel Their Eyes Were Watching God. She was also an outstanding folklorist and anthropologist who worked to record the stories and tales of many cultures, including her own African-American heritage.

Hurston was the daughter of two former slaves. Her father, John Hurston, was a pastor, and he moved the family to Florida when Hurston was very young. Following the death of her mother, Lucy Ann (Potts) Hurston, in 1904, and her father’s subsequent remarriage, Hurston lived with an assortment of family members for the next few years.

To support herself and finance her efforts to get an education, Hurston worked a variety of jobs, including as a maid for an actress in a touring Gilbert and Sullivan group. In 1920, Hurston earned an associate degree from Howard University. She published one of her earliest works in the university’s newspaper. A few years later, she moved to New York City’s Harlem neighborhood, where she became a fixture in the area’s thriving art scene. Living in Harlem in the 1920s, Hurston experienced a few early literary successes, including placing in short-story and playwriting contests in Opportunity magazine.

Hurston also had serious academic interests. She landed a scholarship to Barnard College, where she pursued the subject of anthropology and studied with Franz Boas. Hurston released her first novel, Jonah’s Gourd Vine, in 1934. Two years later, she received a Guggenheim fellowship, which allowed her to work on what would become her most famous work: Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937). In 1942, Hurston published her autobiography, Dust Tracks on a Road. This personal work was well-received by critics. Despite all of her accomplishments, Hurston struggled financially and personally during her final decade. She kept writing, but she had difficulty getting her work published. Additionally, she experienced some backlash for her criticism of the 1955 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education, which called for the end of school segregation.

A few years later, Hurston had suffered several strokes and was living in the St. Lucie County Welfare Home. The once-famous writer and folklorist died poor and alone on January 28, 1960, and was buried in an unmarked grave in Fort Pierce, Florida.

W.E.B. Du Bois

W E B DuBois

“The cost of liberty is less than the price of repression.”

William Edward Burghardt Du Bois, better known as W.E.B. Du Bois, was born on February 23, 1868, in Great Barrington, Massachusetts. While growing up in a mostly European American town, W.E.B. Du Bois identified himself as “mulatto,” but freely attended school with whites and was enthusiastically supported in his academic studies by his white teachers. In 1885, he moved to Nashville, Tennessee, to attend Fisk University. It was there that he first encountered Jim Crow laws. For the first time, he began analyzing the deep troubles of American racism.

After earning his bachelor’s degree at Fisk, Du Bois entered Harvard University. He paid his way with money from summer jobs, scholarships and loans from friends. After completing his master’s degree, he was selected for a study-abroad program at the University of Berlin. While a pupil in Germany, he studied with some of the most prominent social scientists of his day and was exposed to political perspectives that he touted for the remainder of his life. Du Bois became the first African American to earn a Ph.D. from Harvard University in 1895.

Not long after, Du Bois published his landmark study—the first case study of an African-American community—The Philadelphia Negro: A Social Study (1899). In 1903, Du Bois published his seminal work, The Souls of Black Folk, a collection of 14 essays. In the years following, he adamantly opposed the idea of biological white superiority and vocally supported women’s rights. In 1909, he co-founded the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and served as editor of its monthly magazine, The Crisis.

W.E.B. Du Bois died on August 27, 1963—one day before Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech at the March on Washington—at the age of 95, in Accra, Ghana, while working on an encyclopedia of the African Diaspora.

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Jack Arthur Johnson

4th July 1910: American boxer Jack Johnson (1878 - 1946), the first African-American World Champion, after he defeated Jim Jeffries in Reno, Nevada. (Photo by Sean Sexton/Getty Images)

4th July 1910: American boxer Jack Johnson (1878 – 1946), the first African-American World Champion, after he defeated Jim Jeffries in Reno, Nevada. (Photo by Sean Sexton/Getty Images)

“The possession of muscular strength…does not necessarily imply a lack of appreciation for the finer and better things of life.”

In 1908, Boxer Jack Johnson, the son of ex-slaves and the third of nine children, became the first African American World Heavyweight Boxing Champion.

Johnson, born in Galveston, Texas, in 1878 and nicknamed “the Galveston Giant,” possessed an air of confidence and drive to exceed beyond the hardscrabble life his parents had known.

After a few years of school, Johnson went to work as a laborer to help support his family. A good deal of his childhood, in fact, was spent working on boats and sculleries in Galveston.

By the age of 16, Johnson was on his own, travelling to New York and later Boston before returning to his hometown. Johnson’s first fight came around this time. His opponent was a fellow longshoreman, and while the purse wasn’t much—just $1.50—Johnson jumped at the chance and won the fight. Not long after he earned $25 for managing to stick out four rounds against professional boxer Bob Thompson.

Eager to get out of Galveston and try and forge a life around boxing, Johnson left his home again in 1899. By the early 1900s, the 6’2″ Johnson, who’d become known as the Galveston Giant, had made a name for himself in the black boxing circuit and had his eyes set on the world heavyweight title, which was held by white boxer Jim Jeffries. But Jeffries refused to fight him. He wasn’t alone. White boxers would not spar with their black counterparts.

But Johnson’s talents and bravado were too hard to ignore. Finally, on December 26, 1908, the flamboyant Johnson, who often taunted his opponents as he beat them soundly, got his chance for the title when champion Tommy Burns who had succeeded Jeffries, fought Johnson outside of Sydney, Australia. The fight, lasted until the 14th round, when police stepped in and ended it. Johnson was named the winner.

On July 4, 1910, he finally got his chance to fight Jim Jeffries. Dubbed the “Fight of the Century,” more than 22,000 eager fans turned out for the bout, held in Reno, Nevada. After 15 rounds, Johnson came away victorious, affirming his domain over boxing and further angering white boxing fans who hated seeing a black man sit atop the sport. For the fight, Johnson earned a purse of $117,000. It would be five years before he relinquished the heavyweight title, when Johnson fell to Jess Willard in a 26-round bout in Havana, Cuba. Johnson continued to fight for another 12 years, hanging up his gloves for good at the age of 50.

Jack Johnson died in an automobile accident in Raleigh, North Carolina in 1946.

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Marian Anderson

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Quote: “Everyone has a gift for something, even if it is the gift of being a good friend”

Deemed one of the finest contraltos of her time, Marian Anderson became the first African American to perform with the New York Metropolitan Opera in 1955. An acclaimed singer whose performance at the Lincoln Memorial in 1939 helped set the stage for the civil rights era, Marian Anderson was born on February 27, 1897, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The oldest of three girls, Anderson was just 6 years old when she became a choir member at the Union Baptist Church, where she earned the nickname “Baby Contralto.” Her father, a coal and ice dealer, supported his daughter’s musical interests and, when Anderson was eight, bought her a piano. With the family unable to afford lessons, the prodigious Anderson taught herself.

By the late 1930s, Anderson’s voice had made her famous on both sides of the Atlantic. In the United States she was invited by President Roosevelt and his wife Eleanor to perform at the White House, the first African American ever to receive this honor. Much of Anderson’s life would ultimately see her breaking down barriers for African-American performers. Despite Anderson’s success, not all of America was ready to receive her talent. In 1939 her manager tried to set up a performance for her at Washington, D.C.’s Constitution Hall. But the owners of the hall, the Daughters of the American Revolution informed Anderson and her manager that no dates were available. That was far from the truth. The real reason for turning Anderson away lay in a policy put in place by the D.A.R. that committed the hall to being a place strictly for white performers.

Her final years were spent in Portland, Oregon, where she’d moved in with her nephew. She died there of natural causes on April 8, 1993.

Biography.com

Quote: “Everyone has a gift for something, even if it is the gift of being a good friend”

Ida Bell Wells

Ida B Wells

Quote:  “The way to right wrongs is to turn the light of truth upon them.”

Ida B. Wells was an African-American journalist and activist who led an anti-lynching crusade in the United States in the 1890s. A daughter of slaves, Ida B. Wells was born in Holly Springs, Mississippi, on July 16, 1862. A journalist, Wells led an anti-lynching crusade in the United States in the 1890s, and went on to found and become integral in groups striving for African-American justice.

On one fateful train ride from Memphis to Nashville, in May 1884, Wells reached a personal turning point. Having bought a first-class train ticket to Nashville, she was outraged when the train crew ordered her to move to the car for African Americans, and refused on principle. As she was forcibly removed from the train, she bit one of the men on the hand. Wells sued the railroad, winning a $500 settlement in a circuit court case. However, the decision was later overturned by the Tennessee Supreme Court.

This injustice led Ida B. Wells to pick up a pen to write about issues of race and politics in the South. Using the moniker “Iola,” a number of her articles were published in black newspapers and periodicals. Wells eventually became an owner of the Memphis Free Speech and Headlight, and, later, of the Free Speech. Ida B. Wells established several civil rights organizations. In 1896, she formed the National Association of Colored Women. After brutal assaults on the African-American community in Springfield, Illinois, in 1908, Wells sought to take action: The following year, she attended a special conference for the organization that would later become known as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

She died in 1931 in Chicago, Illinois. She left behind an impressive legacy of social and political heroism. With her writings, speeches and protests, Wells fought against prejudice, no matter what potential dangers she faced.

 

Frederick Douglass

Frederick DouglassThe author of the most influential African American autobiography of his era rebelled against his enslavement in the South and rose through the ranks of the American antislavery movement in the North to become the most electrifying speaker and compelling writer produced by black America in the nineteenth century. With the publication of the Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, Written by Himself in June 1845, Frederick Douglass (1818895) became an international sensation at the age of twenty-seven. Within five years of its publication, Douglass’s Narrative had become a best-seller, with an estimated thirty thousand copies in print by 1850.

  • Born: 1818 · Talbot County, MD
  • Died: Feb 20, 1895 · Washington, D.C., United States

 

Quote:

For it is not light that is needed, but fire; it is not the gentle shower, but thunder. We need the storm, the whirlwind, and the earthquake. The feeling of the nation must be quickened; the conscience of the nation must be roused; the propriety of the nation must be startled; the hypocrisy of the nation must be exposed; and its crimes against God and man must be proclaimed and denounced.

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Everything We Need

Surely, this commandment that I am commanding you today is not too hard for you, nor is it too far away. It is not in heaven, that you should say, “Who will go up to heaven for us, and get it for us so that we may hear it and observe it?” Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, “Who will cross to the other side of the sea for us, and get it for us so that we may hear it and observe it?” No, the word is very near to you; it is in your mouth and in your heart for you to observe. Deuteronomy 30:11-14

Everything we need to do every good work, God in the fullness of grace, has already given us. To know God means there is no room for excuses. We simply do the very best we can with what God has given us.

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Labor Day

Enjoy Your Day!

Colossians 3:23-24 Whatever your task, put yourselves into it, as done for the Lord and not for your masters, since you know that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward; you serve the Lord Christ.

Ephesians 6: 7-8 Render service with enthusiasm, as to the Lord and not to men and women, knowing that whatever good we do, we will receive the same again from the Lord…

Malachi 3:10 Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in my house, and thus put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts; see if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you an overflowing blessing.