African American News and Genealogy

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Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Defense Attorney Johnny Cochran, Jr. Dies

Johnnie Cochran Jr., Who Successfully Defended O.J. Simpson on Murder Charges in 1995, Dies at 67 By LINDA DEUTSCH The Associated Press Mar. 30, 2005 - Johnnie L. Cochran Jr., who was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor in December 2003, died Tuesday at his home in the Los Feliz area of Los Angeles. He was 67. Cochran's legal career representing both victims of police abuse and celebrities in peril converged under the media glare when he successfully defended O.J. Simpson from murder charges. With his gift for courtroom oratory, Cochran became known for championing the causes of black defendants and for the iconic phrase, "If it doesn't fit, you must acquit," in Simpson's murder trial. "He was a brilliant strategist who never lost touch with the common man," said Sanford Rubinstein, a former colleague. "He took particular pride in standing up with those who were wrongfully treated. He truly loved people and the public adored him." While Cochran represented celebrities who included professional football players and rappers, he also stuck up for as one colleague put it the "common man." Cochran represented a Haitian immigrant tortured by New York police, a 19-year-old black woman who was shot a dozen times by police as she sat in a locked car and a white trucker who was videotaped being beaten by a mob during the 1992 Los Angeles riots. He proudly displayed copies in his office of the multimillion-dollar checks he won for ordinary citizens who said they were abused by police. "The clients I've cared about the most are the No Js, the ones who nobody knows," he once said. Over the years, Cochran represented football great Jim Brown on rape and assault charges, actor Todd Bridges on attempted murder charges, rappers Tupac Shakur on a weapons charge, Snoop Dogg on a murder charge and Sean "P. Diddy" Combs on gun and bribery charges stemming from a nightclub shooting. Cochran used the "if it doesn't fit" phrase in his closing argument at the Simpson trial, describing the moment when the former football player tried on bloodstained "murder gloves" to show jurors they did not fit. One glove was found at the murder scene; the defense said the other glove was planted at Simpson's home by racist police. Jurors found Simpson not guilty of the 1994 slayings of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman. "I've got to say, I don't think I'd be home today without Johnnie," Simpson said Tuesday by telephone from Florida. "I always tell people, if your kids or your loved ones got in trouble, you would want Johnnie. Even his adversaries respected him." After Simpson's acquittal, Cochran appeared on countless TV talk shows, was awarded his own show on cable's Court TV, traveled the world giving speeches, and was parodied in films and on such TV shows as "Seinfeld" and "South Park." In other cases, Cochran also represented former Black Panther Elmer "Geronimo" Pratt, who spent 27 years in prison for a murder he didn't commit. When Cochran helped Pratt win his freedom in 1997 he called the moment "the happiest day of my life practicing law." He won a $760,000 award in a wrongful death lawsuit filed by the family of Ron Settles, a black college football star who died in police custody in 1981. Cochran challenged police claims that Settles hanged himself in jail after a speeding arrest. The player's body was exhumed and an autopsy revealed that Settles had been choked. His clients included the family of Tyisha Miller, a 19-year-old black woman shot to death by Riverside police who said she reached for a gun on her lap when they broke her car window in an effort to disarm her. "He was an inspiration to many, many young lawyers," said Harvard Law School professor Alan Dershowitz, a colleague on the Simpson case. "It's a sad, sad day." Cochran was born Oct. 2, 1937, in Shreveport, La., the great-grandson of slaves, grandson of a sharecropper and son of an insurance salesman. He came to Los Angeles with his family in 1949, and became one of two dozen black students integrated into Los Angeles High School in the 1950s. His skills as an attorney took shape as a child. He loved to argue, and in high school he excelled in debate. He came to idolize Thurgood Marshall, who would eventually become the Supreme Court's first black justice. After graduating from UCLA, Cochran earned a law degree from Loyola Law School in Los Angeles. He spent two years in the Los Angeles city attorney's office before establishing his own practice, later building his firm into a personal injury giant with more than 100 lawyers and offices around the country. Although he frequently took police departments on in court, Cochran denied being anti-police and supported the decision of his only son, Jonathan, to join the California Highway Patrol. Associated Press writer Greg Risling contributed to this report. Copyright 2005 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Copyright © 2005 ABC News Internet Ventures


HISTORIC PHOTO EXHIBITION OF BLACK CLASSICAL SCHOLARS OPENS AT VAN PELT-DIETRICH LIBRARY AT THE UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIAScholar Produces "12 Black Classicists" to Honor African-American Intellectuals Who Made Groundbreaking Achievements in Academia at the End of the Civil War Philadelphia --March, 2005-- A historic exhibition profiling African-American classical scholars who made groundbreaking achievements in education at the end the Civil War will be on display in the Kamin Gallery of the Van Pelt-Dietrich Library at the University of Pennsylvania from April 1 to June 30. The exhibition, created by classical scholar Michele Valerie Ronnick of Wayne State University in Detroit, is titled "12 Black Classicists," and focuses on the lives of African-American men and women who taught Greek and Latin at the college or university level and whose academic accomplishments helped pave the way for future generations of African-Americans entering American universities."With them," says Ronnick, "begins the serious study and teaching of philology (the study of language) by African Americans. All who study language and literature in the U.S. today, be it Italian, Swahili, Sanskrit, English or Arabic, trace the origin of their disciplines to the men and women featured in this photo installation." African-American academics featured in the exhibit include William Sanders Scarborough, the first black member of the Modern Language Association and author of a Greek textbook (1881), Lewis Baxter Moore, who earned the first Ph.D. awarded by the University of Pennsylvania to an African-American for his work on the Greek tragedian Sophocles, Wiley Lane, the first black professor of Greek at Howard University and John Wesley Gilbert who was the first black to attend the American School in Athens, Greece. The installation was created by Michele Valerie Ronnick, and funded by the James Loeb Classical Library Foundation at Harvard University. The show comes to the University of Pennsylvania with the support of the Wright Hayre Foundation of Philadelphia.Michele Valerie Ronnick will lecture on "The Origins of Black Classicism" on Thursday April 14, 5:30 p.m. in the Class of '55 Room, second floor Van Pelt-Dietrich Library. A reception and book signing of Ronnick's book The Autobiography of William Sanders Scarborough: An American Journey from Slavery to Scholarship, 416 pages forward by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. .will follow. William Sanders Scarborough (1852-1926), Courtesy of Rembert E. Stokes Library, Wilberforce University For Immediate Release Date: March 28 , 2005 Contact: Michael Ryan, Director Annenberg Rare Book Room, University of Pennsylvania (215) 898-7552 FAX (215) 573-9079

BOBBY SHORT, 1924-2005

March 23, 2005 -- New York has lost an institution — and the world a little elegance and a lot of class — with the passing of Bobby Short. Short, the longtime mainstay at the Carlyle Hotel, succumbed to leukemia Monday; he was 80. Born in Danville, Ill., Robert Waltrip Short, a self-taught singer and pianist, was touring vaudeville by the age of 12. By 1948, he was a regular at the upscale Los Angeles hotspot, the Cafe Gala. A few years later, he abandoned America for Europe, where his growing popularity brought him an album contract with Atlantic Records. His breakthrough came in 1968: Two nights at Town Hall with singer Mabel Mercer put Short on the map. Later that year, a two-week engagement at the Carlyle Hotel led to a more steady gig. For six days a week, eight months a year — for 35 years — Bobby Short would be found playing the Carlyle, popularizing the songbooks of George Gershwin, Cole Porter and Rodgers & Hart for younger generations, all the while burnishing his reputation as the world's greatest cabaret singer. Full Story:

Friday, March 25, 2005

Family portrait: Harriet Paige finds inspiration and mystery in her antique tintypes

BY THERESA WALKERThe Orange County Register SANTA ANA, Calif. - (KRT) - The sepia-toned portrait on the wall just inside Harriet Paige's front door catches the eye almost immediately upon entering her home. The young African-American man looks handsome in his derby, bow tie, white shirt and dress coat. His face is clean-shaven, boyish but serious. This is a photo of Paige's father, Nathaniel Mayfield, taken in the first decade of the 20th century when he was in his early 20s. "Nat," his friends called him. He was a carpenter. Other old photographs from the same era line the mantel over her fireplace or hang on opposite walls. Every picture tells a story, and Paige, a retired preschool teacher and Irvine, Calif., schools administrator, wishes she knew more about the people of the past who are ever-present in her home. None more so than her most precious family portraits, two dozen 19th century tintype photographs that she protects in a special photo album. They are at least 130 years old –– men, women and children she doesn't recognize, with two exceptions. Full Story:

Slave holder's heir finds descendents of slaves

By PAUL DAVISThe Providence JournalFebruary 28, 2005 - No one knows her real name. As a little girl she sang and played games in a village 100 miles from the West African coast. Beneath a grass roof she slept on a bed of clay. In 1756, slave traders raided her village. The little girl may have been sold to an African trader, a middleman operating along a river route. She may have been delivered to an African, European or Afro-European buyer stationed at a coastal trading post, where a dozen or more men lived in mud huts. Or she may have been ferried to Bunce Island, a British slave-trading fort in the Sierra Leone River. Employing between 50 and 75 whites, it was one of 40 slave castles on the African coast, and the only major British fort along the Rice Coast, a region stretching from modern Senegal in the north to Liberia in the south. On June 30, 1756, rice grower Elias Ball Jr. bought the little girl and four other children for 460 pounds. Mild-mannered, in his mid-40s, he owned two plantations, Comingtee and Kensington, both on the Cooper River, north of Charleston, S.C. Ball gave the children English names, Peter, Brutus and Harry ... He called the little girl Priscilla and marked her age in his ledger as 10. Priscilla lived for another 55 years as a slave on the Commingtee plantation. She took a mate, Jeffrey, and they had 10 children. She died in 1811 and was buried in a clearing on the plantation, near the Cooper River. Full Story:

Roots Recovered Proclaimed as the Premiere Publication for African Heritage Travel for People of African Descent

By Prudent Press Agency “Roots Recovered” The How To Guide for Tracing African American and West Indian Roots Back to Africa and Going There for free or on a shoestring Budget is the African travel book that shows African Americans and West Indians how to trace their roots back to Africa and travel there for free or on a shoestring budget “Roots Recovered” is a travel guide unlike any other. Roots Recovered contains bullets of information that range from African history, psychology, obtaining passports and visas to very specific country information. However, unlike other African travel books, the purpose of Roots Recovered is to use African travel as a vehicle to open the door for understanding Black psychology, history and to develop a positive Black self-concept for future growth. Roots Recovered is the guide for anyone of African descent who wants to travel to Africa. Not only does the book tell you how to fly to Africa for free or very cheaply, it guides the reader on how to trace your roots back to your specific tribal grouping utilizing a combination of traditional genealogy methods, the Internet and DNA technology. The book has received rave reviews and generated great interest since its release in January 2004 and was featured on the Tavis Smiley Show on National Public Radio. Besides appearing on the Tavis Smiley show the author James White and the book have also been featured on numerous radio shows such as “Africa meets Africa” with Angelique Shofar on Pacifica Radio; on WHUR “The Caribbean Experience “, on Radio One and WKGO Radio on the number one rated travel talk show “John Hamilton On the Go”. The book was selected for the DiverCity Book of the Month Club March 2004 as well as featured on The University of South Florida Africana Heritage website, the Boston Globe, the Westside Gazette;, October Gallery’s Paint Magazine; The Trentonian ; Cream Magazine; Kitchen Table News; Rolling Out Urban Style Weekly; The Washington Informer; Black as well as many other internet and media outlets in the United States and Europe. Additionally, the author James E. White appeared at the TransAfrica Writer’s Forum workshop and book signing in Washington, D.C. and he delivered a lecture on the topic of African travel, history and tracing your roots at the Herkhuti African Enlightenment Council’s Free Your Mind Lecture Series at the public library in Albany, N.Y. He most recently appeared at a book signing and lecture at the Hue-Man Bookstore in New York City. To learn more about “Roots Recovered” visit the author’s website at The book can also be purchased at the author’s website or at www.barnes&,, and a host of other Internet outlets. It also can be ordered at any bookstore.

Rural black history - 'the whole story'

By Glenda S. Jenkins, News-Leader Rather than spend a lot of time talking about it, William Jefferson placed his family history on tables all around the room."The artifacts do a lot of the speaking for me," Jefferson said. "That's another way to remember your family history because everything has a story."Jefferson presented his family story to an audience at the Peck Community Center in Fernandina Beach last month. Gloria Jean Thomas and Howard Alderman joined Jefferson to talk about the black families who established communities in Yulee and Lessie.Jefferson's family artifacts include photographs, old advertising posters, farming tools, pottery, dishes, a chipped sap bucket from a turpentine still and a shoe cobbler's tool. All these objects reflect the Hooper family life and history in Nassau County."If you took these objects to an antique shop, they probably wouldn't be worth much," Jefferson said. "But they're worth something to me because they belonged to my family." Full Story:

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Remembering Black History and the legacy of slave Leah Ruth and grandson inventor, William Chester Ruth

Born on July 19, 1882, William Chester Ruth was a well known black inventor during the rolling 20s and depression 30s. He was one of 12 children born from a descendent of slaves and was a long time resident of the Ercildoun and Gap areas. His grandmother was Leah Ruth Warner, who came to the Ercildoun area in 1895, after William's father, Samuel, a former slave, went searching for his mother after 30 years of separation.Leah Ruth was a young, robust African woman from the west coast of Africa, the area of Guinea. She was captured and brought to the United States on a slave ship in the 1820s. Nothing is known about her family or the exact village from which she came.She arrived in South Carolina in the Beauford District, where plantation owner Robert Frederick Ruth purchased her. She was given the name Leah and, according to the customs on the plantation, male slaves were chosen to be mates so their children could also be servants and slaves to the plantation.The facts were that slave owners or overseers would take sexual advantage of female slave workers, as in the case of owner Robert Ruth, who was said to have fallen in love with Leah. Full Story:

Rebuilding their old alma mater

Efforts on MB Colored School mirror state trendBy Emma RitchThe Sun News Nina Eaddy hasn't been inside her alma mater for years. She was one of its first students in 1933 and valedictorian around 1940. Now, she's part of a community push to use the old classrooms to educate adults and teach children the importance of education. Eaddy, 84, hasn't visited in a while because her four-room school - the first school for black children in Myrtle Beach - was disassembled and is waiting in a warehouse to be rebuilt. But Eaddy won't have to wait much longer to visit one of Horry County's remaining pieces of black history. The Myrtle Beach Colored School will be rebuilt within a few months at a new site on Mr. Joe White Avenue and Dunbar Street, a short distance from its original location. The project will be done with recently secured donations. Full Story:

Patent Examiner Tells the Story of African American Inventors

By Nancy Beardsley Washington, D.C. 17 March 2005 Generations of schoolchildren in the United States have learned about George Washington Carver, a scientist whose innovations helped revitalize southern agriculture in the early 20th century. But author Patricia Carter Sluby believes too many other black inventors remain unknown to the general public, even though they have had a huge impact on the way Americans live and work. Her new book -- The Inventive Spirit of African Americans: Patented Ingenuity -- chronicles a history of achievement dating back to America's early days as a nation. Ms. Sluby's book grew out of her job as an examiner at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. After being asked by an administrator there to put together a list of African American inventors, she began searching back through history for names. She was surprised by what she found. "The African American inventor has invented in every subject any other person has invented in," Ms. Sluby says. "From agriculture to games to computers, they have turned around industries, bringing us a better level of living." While black slaves invented all kinds of farm and household devices to make their lives easier, Patricia Carter Sluby says they were unable to lay claim to their inventions or protect them in court. However, free blacks could and did become inventors. Full Story:

Thursday, March 17, 2005

African American History Burns in Little Rock

Story by Margaret Foster / Mar. 16, 2005 Earlier today, a fire gutted a 94-year-old building that was the heart of an African American community in Little Rock, Ark. Booker T. Washington dedicated the building in 1913 as the headquarters of a fraternal organization called the Mosaic Templars of America, founded by freed slaves in 1882. In the 1950s, Ella Fitzgerald and Cab Calloway performed at the Mosaic Templars of America Headquarters. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1990, the four-story, 22,800-square-foot brick building was being renovated as a cultural center. The final phase of work began earlier this month, and first two floors were scheduled to be completed by late next year. No archival material was inside the building, and no one was hurt in the blaze, which officials say fire started at 2:00 a.m. Full Story:

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Colorectal Cancer Rates among African Americans Continue to Rise

New Educational Video Fills the Gap for Needed Patient Outreach; March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month PHILADELPHIA, March 16 /PRNewswire/ -- Despite advances in research andtreatment that continue to help many people live beyond a colorectal cancerdiagnosis, African Americans are more likely to die from the disease than anyother racial or ethnic group. Knowing this, Edith P. Mitchell, M.D., anoncologist at Thomas Jefferson University, became the force behind aneducational film, The Colon Cancer Puzzle: Putting all the Right PiecesTogether to Beat It, now available to physicians and healthcare professionalsto educate their African-American patients and the community at-large aboutcolorectal cancer and the importance of early detection. "It is essential that physicians talk to their patients, particularlytheir African-American patients, about colorectal cancer," said Mitchell,clinical professor of medicine, division of Medical Oncology, JeffersonMedical College of Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia. "If members ofthe community are educated, they can recognize when they are at risk and askthe right questions regarding prevention, screening and treatment." Full Story:

Monday, March 14, 2005

Life of Harriet Tubman celebrated in Annapolis

By Jamie Stiehm Sun Staff Originally published March 10, 2005, 7:48 PM EST Four female descendents of Harriet Ross Tubman visited Annapolis Thursday to mark the state holiday honoring the famed fugitive slave who became a leader on the Underground Railroad."This is her day, her one day to celebrate," said Patricia Ross Hawkins, 43, of Cambridge, near where Tubman was born into slavery on the Eastern Shore. The exact date of her birth is unknown. Noting that Tubman died in her early 90s in Auburn, N.Y., on March 10, 1913, Hawkins added, "We don't know her birthday, so this is her day." This is the fifth year the state has marked Harriet Tubman Remembrance Day. Relatives said Thursday that Tubman escaped alone, using her wits, strength and starlight to guide her north, from the slave-holding farm where she'd worked the land until she was 25. Full Story:,1,5016313.story?coll=bal-local-headlines&ctrack=1&cset=true

Martha Vineyard African American Film Festival

African American will convene on the beautiful island of Martha's Vineyard to enjoy a four day weekend of film screening from emerging and independent film makers. New York, NY, USA, March 11, 2005 -- The 3rd Annual Martha’s Vineyard African-American Film Festival (MVAFF), a celebration that showcases the work of independent and established filmmakers, will take place August 11-14, 2005 in Oak Bluff and Vineyard Haven, which is located on Martha’s Vineyard. The festival is now announcing a call for entries for its film competition. Entry forms are available by logging on to The four-day festival will focus on “Women of Color in Filmmaking”. Given the nature of African-Americans in the film industry, we will showcase the works of independent and established African-American women and discuss the issues, challenges and triumphs they face.Conceived four years ago on a balmy July night, the festival has grown into a large annual event that brings filmmakers, studio executives, festival scouts and filmgoers to the island. The festival continues to become an increasingly important part of the arts scene on the Vineyard.Last year’s festival drew more than 450 participants from as far away as Europe New Orleans, Detroit and Los Angles and included panel discussions by actors Vanessa Williams of Soul Food and Vondie Curtis Hall, director of Redemption starring Jamie Foxx and Lynn Whitfield. This year, the festival is expected to draw more than 1,000 participants. Full Story:

Art in black women's hands

Reviewed by Dodie Bellamy Sunday, February 27, 2005 Creating Their Own Image The History of African-American Women Artists By Lisa E. Farrington OXFORD UNIVERSITY PRESS; 354 PAGES; $55 Edmonia Lewis (1843-1911) was one of America's pre-eminent sculptors during Reconstruction, and her neoclassical masterpiece "The Death of Cleopatra" was exhibited at the Philadelphia Centennial of 1876. It survives to this day only because a racetrack owner bought it to use as a tombstone for one of his favorite steeds. In 1972, a fireman, taken by its beauty as it stood in a machine yard in a Chicago suburb covered with grime, lobbied for its restoration. Finally, in 1987, more than a century after its creation, conservators discovered it was Lewis' lost "Cleopatra." Black women artists, argues Lisa Farrington in her new book, "Creating Their Own Image,'' have never had it easy, and they are still struggling for acknowledgement and representation. "Creating Their Own Image" is the first comprehensive history of African American women artists. Farrington, who is the author of "Art on Fire: The Politics of Race & Sex in the Paintings of Faith Ringgold," finds it "unpardonable" that such a history has not been written sooner. Historical surveys can be tedious and stodgy, but Farrington's personal engagement in her subject matter and her emotional investment in the politics of race, gender and personal expression make "Creating Their Own Image" an exciting -- and disturbing -- read. Full Review:

Saturday, March 05, 2005

After the Civil War, a new educational institution was born

March 5, 2005 By DON KRAUSE ¥ Hannibal Courier-Post During the Civil War, the 62nd and 65th Colored Infantries were largely made up of freed slaves or those who ran away. These men joined the army hoping to make a difference. At a time of prejudice and misunderstanding, when many others saw blacks as an inferior, these units saw little fighting during the war. Instead, much of their time was spent on other tasks, such as digging trenches. Their units were poorly equipped and disease took its toll. During their service more than 400 men from the 62nd and 65th died not from injury, but disease. Mostly from Missouri, the men of the 62nd and 65th were uneducated, as were most blacks at the time. But 1st Lt. Richard Foster, who came from an abolitionist family and who was educated at Dartmouth, taught these soldiers to read. Foster had worked with John Brown against slavery. Once the soldiers realized the power of education, they sought to ensure others would have the opportunity to learn. These soldiers came up with an idea to found a school, a place where African-Americans could gain the skills necessary to become successful in life. Their idea was only a starting point, and with the help of Foster and others, their dream became reality. "Foster knew he had to do something that was very much out of the normal thing of the time," said Elizabeth Wilson, director of the Inman Library at Lincoln University and researcher of the school's history. "He was a hero." Lincoln Institute Full Story:

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Park name-change compromise offered

by Sebastian Montes Staff Writer The Montgomery Village Foundation is considering a compromise that would rename a park after a social and civil rights activist. The foundation had recommended naming the 17.5-acre park after Milton M. Kaufmann, a Village resident who has earned international acclaim for championing environmental causes. A baseball diamond would have been named Prather Field, after the historic black community founded by freed slaves in 1883, which faces the park across Wightman Road. Residents of Prathertown have been urging the foundation to name the entire park after the Rev. James E. Prather, who died in November 2003 after decades of social work, including a role in integrating county schools. Full Story:

Slave Bible auctioned for over $10K


March 1, 2005

A 1771 Bible owned by Samuel Townsend of Oyster Bay that contains four pages of inscriptions about family slaves is coming back to the family's ancestral home."I'm just thrilled to have it," said Paula Weir of Oyster Bay, a trustee of the Raynham Hall Museum, which occupies Townsend's West Main Street home. "It belongs at Raynham Hall."

The museum bought the leather-bound volume at an auction for more than $10,000 -- more than twice the pre-auction estimate.Swann Galleries in Manhattan, which had estimated conservatively that the Bible would sell for $3,000 to $4,000, opened the bidding at $2,800. The volume and slipcase sold for $9,000 plus the 15-percent seller's commission, for a total of $10,350. Museum director Sarah Abruzzi, who made the winning bid, said "it's priceless for us. To have people learn from it will be wonderful."Abruzzi said she engaged in a bidding war with a private individual at the gallery and another on a phone line, with about 10 bids placed overall.She said she spent almost all the museum's acquistions budget but "it ended up working out perfectly for us. We were committed to getting it so we probably would have bought it anyway [at a higher price] and figured out how to pay for it later."Townsend was one of the founders of Oyster Bay. The Bible remained in the family until yesterday's sale in in Swann Galleries' 10th annual auction of African-Americana. But it's not clear when the Bible left Raynham Hall. Full Story:,0,15102.story?coll=ny-linews-headlines