Tag Archives: perseverance

Happy Amos Fortune Day


In 1955, New Hampshire Governor Lane Dwinell would declare 20th February Amos Fortune Day.
We join in this celebration of an exemplar of resilience and good citizenship.

We have reproduced the text of Governor Dwinell’s declaration below.

WHEREAS, AMOS FORTUNE, Negro, born in 1710 free in Africa, made a slave and sold in America, did by the strength of his character and by his industry surmount almost impossible obstacles to become a free and distinguished citizen of Nev‘ Hampshire, and

WHEREAS, said AMOS FORTUNE, though for many years a slave, did acquire an education above average for his time, did become an expert tanner and did purchase freedom for himself and three other slaves, and

WHEREAS AMOS FORTUNE did not only by his life exemplify the highest obligations of good citizenship but on his death in 1801 did bequeath to the church and school of Jaffrey, New Hampshire, sums of money to be used in the furtherance of religion and education, and

WHEREAS, the day, February 20, is part of America’s Negro History Week and American Brotherhood Week

NOW, THEREFORE, I, Lane Dwinell, Governor of the State of New Hampshire, in behalf of our people, do proclaim the day February 20, 1955 to be AMOS FORTUNE DAY, and I do call upon the citizens of New Hampshire to consider on that day their obligations of tolerance and good citizenship.

For more on Amos Fortune, please see last Friday’s post
For more on Negro History Week, see our post on the origins of Black History Month.


TDH: British declare formal end to Hostilities with the U.S.


February 4, 1783 Britain proclaims formal end to hostilities with the U.S.

Triumph of resilience before the BritsAfter the thirteen American colonies declared their Independence there was the small matter of the British to consider. Today, given the sheer size and population of the United States it is hard to imagine how they could possibly lose.

230 years ago, it was not a foregone conclusion. The colonies had just transformed themselves into states. They had no infrastructure for raising and supplying and army. Relatively few colonists were interested in volunteering. They had previously depended on Britain for such manufactures. Inflation was rampant and local merchants would not sell to the revolutionaries who had only paper money from new-born states whereas the British paid with gold and silver.

On the other hand, the British were the largest navy a well-equipped army and access to the greatest Empire the world had yet known, including Canada. The Americans only had support from French.

Yet from 1775 George Washington and the revolutionaries remained resilient. In 1781, with the help of the French commander Count Jean Baptiste de Rochambeau, they defeated Britain’s Cornwallis at Yorktown. This victory sapped Britain’s will to continue the war and proved the value of the Americans’ perseverance. On this date, the British would declare a formal end to hostility as they negotiated a formal peace with the Americans, Spain and France.

On this day, George Washington proved the virtue of resilience in pursuing and achieving even the most ambitious goals.


TDH: Germans defeated at Stalingrad


Feb 2, 1943: Germans surrender at Stalingrad reversing the tide of World War 2

Resilience in War - StalingradThe Battle of Stalingrad was until the battle of Leningrad, the most bloody battle in human history. In just over 5 months of fighting, the Red Army suffered approximated 750,000 casualties. A comparison of pre- and postwar censuses shows that of half a million civilians living in Stalingrad before the war barely 1,500 remained. Over 40,000 died in just the first two days of bombing. Countless others suffered starvation as both armies turned to pets, then to vermin then to each other for sustenance.

Prior to the battle, the Nazi übermentschen and their allies were presumed invincible by the Soviets and their western allies. Indeed, over 50,000 Soviet citizens joined the German side in the battle in the hopes of preserving themselves after a Soviet defeat that seemed inevitable. So certain, were the Soviet leaders themselves that defeat was on the horizon that much of the city’s food was moved out before the battle.

Yet, the performance of those Russians who stood to defend the city in door to door combat and the Red Army that ultimately encircled the Axis forces engulfed by the vastness of the Russian steppes bear testament to the virtue of perseverance in even the most dire circumstances. Prior to the resistance of these Soviets starved for food and confidence, it was certain that the Germans would successfully march through Europe. But on this day seventy year ago the Nazis were turned back and the tide of the man’s most gruesome war turned.


Love and freedom


BHM Entrepreneurs: Free Frank (1777-1854)—Manufacturer

Free Frank - A Tale of Persevering Love

That Free Frank survived for seventy-seven years the bitter hardships, the disappointments, the limitation imposed on his life by a society that operated continuously and perniciously to defeat his efforts, attests to the strength and indomitable will of this black man in his determination to buy his family from slavery. By 1857, while over forty years had passed since Free Frank purchases Lucy, in 1817, this black pioneer had succeeded. Four generations of his family had been purchased from slavery. (page 163)

Free Frank was born a slave in 1777, the year after the Declaration of Independence. His mother was born free in West Africa. At age 18, his owner (likely his father) moved him to Kentucky to clear and farm a homestead.

Life on the frontier was often brutish and fraught with danger. Within those harsh surroundings Frank met and married Lucy, another slave. Because of the distance between their owners, Free Frank and Lucy would not live together for almost 20 years. They were still too close for either to run away.

Frank’s owner left the county in 1810. This was a most opportune time. Between 1810 and 1812 the price of saltpeter (a critical input for gunpowder) increased 6-fold because of the War of 1812. Frank lacked access to the tools used by other more sophisticated manufacturers. He nonetheless exploited the low barriers to entry, his own industriousness and deep knowledge of the county to earn the $1600 (about $30,000 in today’s money) needed to buy both Lucy’s freedom in 1817 and his own in 1819. It is likely that Frank also paid his owner an additional $1,200 in fees over this period for the right to his own labor.

Over the course of his life, Frank would buy the freedom of another 13 relatives for the equivalent of $341,000 in today’s money. He would leverage the frenzy around the Illinois-Michigan canal to become the first black man to found a frontier town and protected these accomplishments by demanding the right to legally sue.

By any measure, Free Frank exemplified resilience in the face of the challenges of life as a slave in the South and as a free man in Illinois.

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


Black History Month: An Anthem of Perseverance


Maya Angelou Still I Rise

Dr. Angelou Recites “And Still I Rise” from Dr. Maya Angelou.

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
‘Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops.
Weakened by my soulful cries.

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
‘Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own back yard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history’s shame
I rise
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I rise
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.

Maya Angelou

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


TDH: The Oxford English Dictionary


February 1st, 1884: The first fascicle of the OED published.

Many an eager speller has quit within days of trying to read the abridged version of the dictionary from cover to cover. Writing the very first unabridged edition took a bit more time and determination.The project was dreamed up by the London Philological Society in 1857 and expected it to take 10 years. It was actually finally completed in 1928, 70 years after the idea was conceived and 54 years after work began. It took a year of wrangling between the Society and the Oxford University Press just to get started. When completed, it included almost 2 million illustrative quotations drawn from the over 5 million suggested by literally thousands of volunteer readers. Most notable among these was Dr. W. C. Minor, a Union veteran who had been committed to London’s Broadmoor Asylum for the Criminally Insane after killing a working man during a schizophrenic episode. From his cells, where it was presumed that he would simply live out his years, he dedicated 21 years of his life. In one 2-year period he provided no fewer than 12,000 quotations. If the very existence of the Oxford English Dictionary is a testament to the tenacity of the human spirit in the face of the most daunting challenges. The work of Dr W.C.Minor is proof of the redeeming power of focused and selfless work.

Simon Winchester entertainingly tells the story of the creation of the Oxford English Dictionary in his The Meaning of Everything. His The Professor and the Madman focuses on the story of Dr. Minor and Prof James Murray the editor of the project.

By the way:
fascicle, n.
Etymology:  < Latin fasciculus diminutive of fascis: see fasces n.
2. A part, number, ‘livraison’ (of a work published by instalments); = fasciculus n. 2.
1647   J. Mayne Late Serm. False Prophets 19   In your next Fascicle, you say, that I maintaine that some things[etc.].
1858   T. Carlyle Hist. Friedrich II of Prussia II. x. ii. 606   Suhm translates; sends it to him..fascicle by fascicle, with commentaries.
1887   Homeop. World 1 Nov. 521   The Sixth Fascicle completes this beautiful work.