25th Infantry Bicycle Corp: Black Soldiers On Wheels

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bicycle-infantry-at-yellowstone U.S. Army 25th Infantry Bicycle Corp

The 25th Infantry Bicycle Corp was formed in 1869. It was one of four African American military units serving as a peacekeeping force west of the Mississippi. The black soldiers were known as “Buffalo Soldiers”. The unit was originally stationed in Texas until 1880. It then moved to the Dakota Territory and then eight years later the unit moved to Fort Missoula, Montana. The soldiers were used as guards and peacekeepers during railroad and mine strikes. They also fought forest fires in Montana and Idaho. The development of the chain driven safety bicycle in 1874 and in 1888 the pneumatic tire invention increased the use of bicycle for sports and leisure piqued the interest of the military as a possible method of transport.

The U.S. Army began experimenting with the use of bicycles in 1896 deploying the 25th

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DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince: 1st Rap Artists To Win A Grammy Award

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dj-jazzy-jeff-fresh-prince-013-jpg Jeffrey Townes aka “DJ Jazzy Jeff” (left), Will Smith aka “The Fresh Prince” (right)

On February 22, 1989, DJ Jazzy Jeff (Jeffrey Townes) and The Fresh Prince (Will Smith) won the first Rap Grammy Award, for “Best Rap Performance” for their hit single, “Parents Just Don’t Understand” written by Ready Rock C (Clarence Holmes).  The group eventually sold over 5 million albums worldwide.  The rap group formed in 1986.  At the time the group launched, the Grammy Awards did not include a hip hop category.  This did not occur until 1989.  Though the group was nominated the category nomination was not going to be televised.  The group was however, asked to perform their hit single at the Grammy Awards Show. 

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Diane Nash – Unsung Hero Of The Civil Rights Movement

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A native of Chicago, IL, Diane Nash (1938-) was one of the pioneering forces behind the Civil Rights movement. Nash and many women who were champions of the movement.  She became active in the movement in 1959 as a new student at Fisk University in Nashville, TN.  While at Fisk she would encounter the harsh realities of segregation and prejudice that were previously unknown to her.  In 1959 she attended a workshop focused on non-violent protesting. She would quickly become a respected leader of Nashville’s “sit in” movement.  Her efforts were instrumental in organizing the first successful campaign to end segregation of lunch counters.  This effort engaged hundreds of black and white college students as volunteers.  She was also one of the founders of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC).  SNCC would play a major role in the civil rights movement by engaging young college…

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An Untold Story: Slavery In Canada

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We are often told about the history of slavery in the United States. However, Canada also participated in the slave trade.  In comparison to the U.S., the number of people estimated to be enslaved in Canada was much lower.  Still those enslaved in Canada experienced the same mistreatment and abuse.  We often hear narratives of enslaved people escaping to freedom in Canada.  However there were also groups of slaves in Canada who escaped to freedom in the United States by crossing the border into to Detroit, MI.  The stories of those enslaved in Canada has often gone untold or been ignored.  Slavery was legal in Canada for 200 years. 

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Black History Featured During SIUE East St. Louis Learning Resource Center’s Grand Reopening

For original article by Pat Merritt of SIUE  click here http://www.siue.edu/news/2017/02/LRCGRandOpening.shtml#.WJt5pBs2pzc.facebook

8 February 2017, 10:01 AM

ReginaldPettyA collection of historical facts, like famed black history figures W.E.B. DuBois and Ida B. Wells coming to East St. Louis after the 1917 Race Riots, were presented Tuesday, Feb. 7 as part of the weeklong grand opening activities of the Southern Illinois University Edwardsville East St. Louis Learning Resource Center.

“Our open house began on Monday, and we have many interesting and educational events planned throughout the week to celebrate the reopening of the library and Black History Month,” said Lara Jennings, director of the Learning Resource Center.

“It’s important that the Resource Center is open,” said James Young, freshman at the SIUE East St. Louis Charter High School (CHS). “My English instructor (Colin Neumeyer) requires us to read a book each quarter, and with the library open, it will really expand our choices.”

“When I read that the library was opening again, I had to come out,” said Bettye Brown, who was the reference librarian from 1972-1997 at the same location when the library was operated by State Community College. “The library is extremely important to the community, but a lot of people come to use the computers and study. I think it’s a very good idea for the Resource Center to offer computer training and other services.”

During the open house on Tuesday, Reginald Petty, historian, civil rights activist and former Peace Corps director, along with Tiffany Lee, TiffanyLeeSIUE alum and communications instructor at St. Louis Community College at Forest Park, talked with a group of CHS students and others about black history and their native hometown of East St. Louis. Petty and Lee co-wrote the book, Legendary East St. Louisans: An African American Series. Lee’s company, TiffanyRose Publishing, published the book in June 2016.

“There’s so much to tell about the history of East St. Louis and its people,” said Petty. “Did you know that the current Second Chance Shelter at Sixth Street and St. Louis Avenue was once the first black public school in East St. Louis?” It was news to everyone in the small group who had gathered around the 81-year-old.

Lee sat at a table with CHS students and queried them about their interest in the City of East St. Louis, which was founded April 1, 1861, and about black history in general.

Petty, a commissioner of the East St. Louis 1917 Centennial Commission & Cultural Initiative, and Lee, who serves on the Commission’s Educational Committee, spoke in detail about the East St. Louis 1917 Race Riots. They also handed out material and documentation about the East St. Louis Riots, including first-hand accounts written by Ida B. Wells-Barnett.

“Some of the history is hard to hear, like the race riots and slavery,” said CHS freshman Jessie Body, “but black history is important to learn because, it tells us how we got to where we are and why we have to do the things we do to get to a better place.”

The grand opening included a poetry and essay contest submitted by area students. Kimbriel Williams, a CHS junior, wrote the following “I Am Black History” poem:



A gift from God to an unholy earth.

I have done some wrongs and some rights.

I have won and lost some fights.

I am FREE.

Black History is important to me,

Because it resembles our history today.

Why should we only celebrate

Black History for one month, instead of in

Our everyday lives?


I make history. I don’t let it make me.

BettyeBrownGrand opening activities continue today at 8:30 a.m. The featured speaker at 1:30 p.m. is Dr. Eugene B. Redmond, SIUE emeritus professor of English and poet laureate of East St. Louis.


Reginald Petty, co-author with Tiffany Lee of Legendary East St. Louisans: An African American Series, shows a SIUE East St. Louis Charter High School student a glass bottle made in East St. Louis 100 years ago.

Tiffany Lee, SIUE alum and communications instructor at St. Louis Community College at Forest Park, talks about the 1917 East St. Louis Riots.

Bettye Brown was the reference librarian from 1972-1997 at the same location when State Community College operated the library.

Before Brown vs. Board of Education: Roberts v. City of Boston 1849

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 Roberts v. The City of Boston was a court action litigated by attorney Charles Sumner, a white abolitionist lawyer, and Robert Morris, an African American lawyer and abolitionist in 1849. Morris was one of the country’s first African American attorneys.  Slavery had been abolished in the 1700’s in the state of Massachusetts.  So schools were not segregated.  However, African American children faced much discrimination and mistreatment in the desegregated schools they attended.  African American parents sought to improve treatment of their children in public schools.  When this did not happen, they petitioned to have their own separate schools established in 1798.  The initial request was denied by the state.  However white philanthropic donors decided to fund the school.  Two schools for blacks were established, one in 1820 and a second in 1831. New schools for white children continued to open and by the 1850’s…

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She Built a Theater, a Community, Devoted to The Celebration of Blackness

“Black Art is a healing art, and It has the ability to heal the world.” – Dr. Barbara Ann Teer


She was an actor, a dancer, a producer, a writer, a director, a cultural ambassador, and an iconic visionary who saw beyond her station as a young Black girl born in the segregated, Blacks only, south-end section of E. St. Louis.  Even at a young age, Dr. Barbara Ann Teer showed promise.  She graduated high-school early, and went on to major in Dance at the University of Illinois, where she graduated magna cum laude. She would go on to study Dance in Berlin and Paris, and toured with the revolutionary modern dancer, Martha Graham.

After her studies, she moved to New York to further her career.  There she starred in numerous shows both on Broadway and Off-Broadway.  She was dance captain in the Tony Award nominated, Kwamina; and won a Drama Desk Award for her role in Home Movies. Her acting earned her many accolades, and despite her great success, she decided to leave ‘mainstream theater’ due to its lack of diverse roles for African-Americans.

In 1968, Dr. Teer wrote in a New York Times article, “We must begin building cultural centers where we can enjoy being free, open and Black.  Where we can find out how talented we really are, where we can be what we were born to be and not what we were brainwashed to be, where we can ‘blow our minds’ with Blackness.” That same year, she founded the revolutionary National Black Theatre in Harlem, an institution devoted to the support and promotion of Black Art, Black Artists, and the Black Community. Her theater was an influential institution during the Black Arts Movement, often referred to as the artistic branch of the Civil Right Movement. Those in the Black Arts Movement through artistic expression: poetry, dance, theatre, etc. fought against injustices by celebrating the multifaceted nature of Black Culture and History.   Though the Black Arts Movement began in New York, its influence would spread nationwide. Dr. Eugene Redmond, also of E. St. Louis, is a noted leader of the Black Arts Movement in the Midwest.  The National Black Theatre was a success, touring in Haiti, South Africa, Trinidad, Bermuda, Guyana and throughout the United States.

dr teer from website picDr. Teer sought to uplift not only the image of the African-American, but also the Harlem Community.  She succeeded in both. Because of her success, she has been awarded several honorary Doctorate degrees.  The National Black Theatre is currently in its 47th season, and thriving under the tutelage of Dr. Teer’s daughter Sade Lythcott.  If you visit New York try to visit the theater started by one of your Legendary Locals, Dr. Barbara Ann Teer.  For more on the theater, visit nationalblacktheatre.org.

Legendary East Saint Louisans by Reginald Petty and Tiffany Lee. Available on at http://amzn.to/29Bs21o.

Fab New Photo Of Harriet Tubman & 10 Amazing But Little Known Facts About Her Life

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harriet-tubman-younger Harriet Tubman (1819?-1913) She is believed to be between 43-46 years old in this photo

A newly discovered photo of a “younger” Harriet Tubman (1819? – 1913) is getting lots of publicity in the media! The photo was discovered among other pictures belonging to a deceased friend of Tubman’s.  It is estimated that Tubman is in her early to mid 40’s in the picture.  Her photo along with 44 other photos will be auctioned on March 30 by Swann Galleries.  The photo was likely taken just after the Civil War.  Tubman was then residing in Auburn, NY on land that would later become the Harriet Tubman National Historical Park.

Tubman also made the news in 2016 after it was announced that her image would be added to the $20 bill beginning in 2030 replacing, President Andrew Jackson. While many of us are familiar with Tubman’s bravery and heroism in…

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Madison Washington: Architect Of The Most Successful Slave Revolt In U.S. History

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slave revolt.jpg

In 1841, Madison Washington, an enslaved African American started a slave revolt aboard the ship, “Creole”. The vessel was taking 130 enslaved people from Virginia who were to be sold in New Orleans.  Madison Washington had escaped to freedom in Canada, but returned to try and free his wife.  He was captured and returned to slavery in Virginia. Washington and the enslaved men and women traveling aboard the “Creole” endured deplorable conditions and abuse. Led by Washington, 12 other enslaved people onboard the “Creole”, launched a revolt.  One of the slave traders was killed and crew members were also wounded.  Washington and the other slaves were able to take control of the ship and demanded that it be sailed to Nassau, Bahamas. 

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