Tag Archives: African-American

Black History Month: George Horton—Myself


Black History Month: George Moses Horton—Myself

I feel myself in need
Of the inspiring strains of ancient lore,
My heart to lift, my empty mind to feed,
And all the world explore.

I know that I am old
And never can recover what is past,
But for the future may some light unfold
And soar from ages blast.

I feel resolved to try,
My wish to prove, my calling to pursue,
Or mount up from the earth into the sky,
To show what Heaven can do.

My genius from a boy,
Has fluttered like a bird within my heart;
But could not thus confined her powers employ,
Impatient to depart.

She like a restless bird,
Would spread her wing, her power to be unfurl’d,
And let her songs be loudly heard,
And dart from world to world.d.

—George Moses Horton

In honor of Black History Month, we will post an inspirational cultural item each day.


Black History Month: Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me ‘Round


Black History Month—Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me ‘Round

Ain’t gonna let nobody, Lordy, turn me ’round,
Turn me ’round, turn me ’round,
Ain’t gonna let nobody turn me ’round,
I’m gonna keep on a-walkin’,
Keep on a-talkin’,
Marching up to freedom land.

Ain’t gonna let no jail house turn me ’round,
Turn me ’round, turn me ’round,
Ain’t gonna let no jail house turn me ’round,
I’m gonna keep on a-walkin’,
Keep on a-talkin’,
Marching up to freedom land.

Ain’t gonna let no sheriff turn me ’round,
Turn me ’round, turn me ’round,
Ain’t gonna let no sheriff turn me ’round,
I’m gonna keep on a-walkin’,
Keep on a-talkin’,
Marching up to freedom land.

—Traditional song adapted as a protest song in the 1960s


TDH & Black History Month: Carter G. Woodson establishes Negro History Week


February 7, 1926: Carter G. Woodson establishes Negro History Week

The story of Black History Month begins in Chicago during the late summer of 1915. Three years earlier, Carter G. Woodson had received a doctorate from Harvard, and was in Chicago to participate in a national celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of emancipation sponsored by the state of Illinois. Thousands of African Americans also made the trip to see exhibits highlighting African American progress since the end of slavery and an overflow crowd of six to twelve thousand waited outside the Coliseum for their turn to view the exhibits. Inspired by the three-week celebration, Woodson met with A. L. Jackson and three others to form the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (ASNLH).

Resilient Academic

Carter G. Woodson

He intended that others would popularize the findings that he and other black intellectuals would publish in The Journal of Negro History, which he established in 1916. As early as 1920, Woodson urged black civic organizations to promote the achievements that researchers were uncovering. A graduate member of Omega Psi Phi, he urged his fraternity brothers to take up the work. In 1924, they responded with the creation of Negro History and Literature Week, which they renamed Negro Achievement Week. To generate greater interest he sent out a press release announcing Negro History Week in February, 1926.

Woodson chose February to build on the established tradition of celebrating the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass on the 12th and the 14th, respectively. Since Lincoln’s assassination, the black community, along with other Republicans, had celebrated Lincoln’s birthday. Since the late 1890s, black communities across the country had been celebrating Douglass’. Woodson, innovated by asking the public to expand their study of black history beyond the celebration from the study of two great men to that of the accomplishments of African Americans.

Excerpted and paraphrased from a more detailed posting by Prof. Daryl Michael Scott at asalh.org.

On this day in 1926 Carter G. Woodson established what would become Black History Month


America’s first self-made female millionaire


BHM Entrepreneurs: Annie Turnbo Malone (1869-1957)

A Pioneer in St Louis

Model of a Black EntreprenuerAnnie Turnbo Malone was quite likely America’s first female self-made millionaire. She pioneered the development and manufacture of beauty products for black women and was a leading philanthropist, making significant donations to black colleges and political institutions even though she herself did not complete high school. In an era when many African-Americans sought to downplay any link to Africa and when cosmetics distributors were accused of diminishing pride in African features, she chose a Mende word, Poro, as her trademark.

Turnbo was born in 1869, the tenth of eleven children born to parents who had only recently moved to Illinois after winning their freedom. She attended high school in Peoria but dropped out due to illness. By age 20 she had developed her own shampoo and scalp treatment to grow and straighten hair. She took her creation to the streets, going around in a buggy making speeches and demonstrating the new shampoo even though she was later described as reticent.  Another resilient black entrepreneurIn 1900, while living in what is now Brooklyn, Illinois, she began to sell the Wonderful Hair Grower, five years before Madam C.J. Walker would market a similar product under the same name. She also developed hair straighteners to replace the damaging grease and the chemicals that were the only alternatives at the time. In 1902 she moved to St Louis to take advantage of the city’s booming economy and to prepare for the 1904 World’s Fair. St. Louis gave her access to the fourth largest black middle class community in the country. She was able to capitalize on the publicity and the sales associated with the World’s Fair to tour the South. There she recruited black women as sales agents and as customers. After five years of service, these women were often rewarded with a diamond ring or other luxurious gifts for their service. In the interim, they earned up to $15/day which compared well to the $11/week that an unskilled white worker earned or the less than a 70 cents/day typical of sharecropper families in the South or the $1.25/day of washerwomen in the North. Because store-based channels were closed to black entrepreneurs, these women and the pyramid distribution model pioneered by California Perfume Company (now known as Avon) were essential to her success. She herself had started first by going door to door with a small group of sales agents and often used free hair and scalp treatments to convince potential customers.

Lifting as she rises

Figure of Entreprenuerial ResilienceAs her business grew, she sparked the career of a number of black women entrepreneurs including Madam C.J. Walker. By 1918, Turnbo would develop the Poro College in St Louis which attracted beauticians from across the country. The college included classrooms as well as 500 seat auditorium and convention facilities which made it a social center for the black middle class who were otherwise shut out of the city’s accommodations (it would become the home of Booker T Washington’s National Negro Business League). It is believed that by this time she was already a millionaire while Walker was denying that she herself was a millionaire. The Guinness Book of Records nonetheless cites Walker as the first self-made female millionaire. By 1922, Turnbo’s products were sold by almost 75,000 agents spread across the U.S., Canada, the Philippines, South America and Africa and by 1924 she was widely regarded as a multimillionaire.

The troubles

Turnbo had the misfortune of marrying poorly. She first married briefly in 1903 but divorced quickly after realizing that her husband did not share her ambitions for Poro. She tried again with Aaron Malone in 1914. That effort ended in a costly 1927 divorce battle in which Malone tried to take credit for much of Turnbo’s success. Local black Republicans supported Malone’s claim and Turnbo settled out of court for an undisclosed amount of cash and real estate. Fruit of Entrepreneurial ResilienceShe left her sizable St Louis mansion and moved to Chicago. There she had difficulty replicating her success owing to competition from Walker’s company and Sarah Spencer Washington (who would also become a millionaire). Turnbo also suffered significant losses in the crash of 1929 and had a difficult time generating sales as the depression persisted and S.B. Fuller (more on him in a later post) came on the scene. She also refused to pay all of the taxes levied against her. This permitted the government to take her business into receivership. In time she would lose her Chicago properties also. Nonetheless, at the time of Turnbo’s death in 1957, Poro College continued to operate in more than 30 cities.

Who was first?

While there is quite a bit of controversy about whether C.J. Walker stole Turnbo’s formula for the Wonderful Hair Grower, it is worth considering that Walker was living in St Louis (and was a former Poro agent). In 1905, Walker claims to have had a ‘dream’ in which she received the ingredients of her own Wonderful Hair Grower (petrolatum, sulphur  and beeswax). These are the same ingredients of Turnbo’s version. In any case, after her inspiration, Walker moved to Denver where a recently widowed sister-in-law lived.

In honor of Black History Month, our regular Tuesday and Friday posts will highlight black entrepreneurs who have displayed exemplary success and resilience.


Black History Month: If We Must Die


Black History Month: Claude McKay—If We Must Die (1919)

If we must die—let it not be like hogsClaudeMackay
Hunted and penned in an inglorious spot,
While round us bark the mad and hungry dogs,
Making their mock at our accursed lot.
If we must die—oh, let us nobly die,
So that our precious blood may not be shed
In vain; then even the monsters we defy
Shall be constrained to honor us though dead!
Oh, Kinsmen! We must meet the common foe;
Though far outnumbered, let us show us brave,
And for their thousand blows deal one deathblow!
What though before us lies the open grave?
Like men we’ll face the murderous, cowardly pack,
Pressed to the wall, dying, but fighting back!

In honor of Black History Month, we will post an inspirational cultural item each day.


Black History Month: The Negro Mother


Langston Hughes: The Negro Mother (1931-1940)

Black Poet Langston HughesChildren, I come back today
To tell you a story of the long dark way
That I had to climb, that I had to know
In order that the race might live and grow.
Look at my face—dark as the night—
Yet shining like the sun with love’s true light.
I am the dark girl who crossed the red sea
Carrying in my body the seed of the free.
I am the woman who worked in the field
Bringing the cotton and the corn to yield.
I am the one who labored as a slave,
Beaten and mistreated for the work that I gave&mdash
Children sold away from me, I’m husband sold, too.
No safety, no love, no respect was I due.
Three hundred years in the deepest South:
But God put a song and a prayer in my mouth.
God put a dream like steel in my soul.
Now, through my children, I’m reaching the goal.
Now, through my children, young and free,
I realized the blessing deed to me.
I couldn’t read then. I couldn’t write.
I had nothing, back there in the night.
Sometimes, the valley was filled with tears,
But I kept trudging on through the lonely years.
Sometimes, the road was hot with the sun,
But I had to keep on till my work was done:
I had to keep on! No stopping for me—
I was the seed of the coming Free.
I nourished the dream that nothing could smother
Deep in my breast—the Negro mother.
I had only hope then, but now through you,
Dark ones of today, my dreams must come true:
All you dark children in the world out there,
Remember my sweat, my pain, my despair.
Remember my years, heavy with sorrow—
And make of those years a torch for tomorrow.
Make of my pass a road to the light
Out of the darkness, the ignorance, the night.
Lift high my banner out of the dust.
Stand like free men supporting my trust.
Believe in the right, let none push you back.
Remember the whip and the slaver’s track.
Remember how the strong in struggle and strife
Still bar you the way, and deny you life—
But march ever forward, breaking down bars.
Look ever upward at the sun and the stars.
Oh, my dark children, may my dreams and my prayers
Impel you forever up the great stairs—
For I will be with you till no white brother
Dares keep down the children of the Negro Mother.

From The Collected Works of Langston Hughes

In honor of Black History Month, we will post an inspirational cultural item daily.