Viewing page 5 of 355

The Long Journey from the back of the bus...

It is ironic that two unrelated incidents resulted in my tracing of 200 years of Contributions Blacks gave this nation as part of our Bicentennial Celebration, but the incidents happened.

The first presented itself when Gordon Parks, the celebrated movie director and musician and photographer (whom I first met a couple of decades ago around the Harlem Y), and I retreated to a next door bar to relieve ourselves for a few moments from our duties as honorary pall bearers at the Bier of the late and great Duke Ellington, in the Third Avenue Funeral Parlor where our mutual friend was laid out.

We retreated to the bar only to be joined by a stack of great names in show business, who, too, wanted to cry in their beers and tell some tall tales about their acquaintanceship with the great Duke. As the sauce flowed up and down the bar and between telephone calls that the cats made to their home and to friends, the conversation got around to why someone should document for posterity not only what the great Duke had done, but also what others of the craft who had gone ahead, like Langston Hughes and Andy Rosaff and Fats Waller had done.

Gordon thought I should do the documenting because he argued "You had years of writing about our trials with that newspaper (Pittsburgh Courier) and you have seen us in action."

I felt suckered and retaliated by accusing Gordon of wanting to get some facts for a movie script - So, I shouted back, "no,you do it - you have the proper medium. You have films and you have your camera."

Our conversation came to an abrupt halt when Thelma Carpenter came into the bar and chased us back to our post at Duke's bier.

Gordon left town after the funeral to go on location to film his "Leadbelly" movie. I returned to the office of the Borough President.

The idea f tracing the contributions Blacks made to the cultural heritage of these United States came suddenly in focus when I was appointed by Percy Sutton to represent our office coordinating some of the Bicentennial projects the City was to present.

The results are herewith presented:

Now there are numerous ways in which writers can present history. A lot of our history never got in the history books because of the interpretation by some writers who went before.

This tracing, born at Duke's bier and nurtured in a local watering spa, and given direction by a chance appointment, is slanted from a political standpoint, on what Blacks have accomplished down through the two hundred years.

I have used Black research written in books by Blacks for the first hundred years. I have relied on some of the Twentieth Century who made it, and are still around to tell it.

I am indebted to the late William Kilpatrick of the Southern jurisdiction, and the Prince Hall Mason of New York, for giving me a copy of a speech about Crispus Attucks, delivered at the 1960 Shriners' Convention by the late John Wesley Dobbs.

Mr. Dobbs said Crispus Attucks was the first patriot to die on Boston Commons, five years before the Revolution for our country's freedom.

I was fascinated by some sentences left out of the Constitution of the United States written by those sterling founding fathers. The boys simply forgot about human rights for Blacks. Our history continues with notes on Blacks, like Prince Whipple and Peter Salem and the Handcock Bucks who fought in the Revolution.

Benjamin Bannecker was the first of the real activists. He not only laid out the City of Washington when L'Enfante, the French architect quit and went home in disgust, but wrote vitriolic letters to Thomas Jefferson castigating him for his insensitivity to the rights of Blacks.

The Reverend Richard Allen was forced to start his own Church, the AME Zion Church, when he was not allowed to worship at the white church in his City.

In 1830, John Russwam and Samuel Cornish felt that the establishment press was not doing anything on our cause, so they printed our first Black newspaper to tell the world about us.

After the founding of the Black press, comes the work of Sojuner Truth and Harriet Tubman. These two ladies were the real Civil Righters of their times.

I am indebted to Dr. Leslie Alexander of the National Medical Association for telling me about Dr. McKinney, the first Black lady doctor of her time. I am indebted, to Langston Hughes for this research which I found in a book he and Milton Meltzer called a "Pictorial History of the Negro in America."

The first court case on Education for Blacks was argued by Charles Sumner in Boston on behalf of the Blacks in that City in 1843. We have never gotten over going to court to get rights for Blacks in the schools of the staid City of Boston, Mass.

Then came the Dredd Scott decision in which Jutice Toney in St. Louis, rules that Blacks had no rights whites had to respect.

Then a man named Frederick Douglass, the first of the great abolitionists, who exerted phenomenal influence on Abe Lincoln and Ulysses Grant, two U.S. Presidents, for our rights. Through Mr. Douglass and the Civil War, I found out what role Blacks played in shaping the commercial destiny of this country with their inventions.

Norbert Rillieux developed a fast inexpensive method for refining sugar cane in 1846. Lewis Howard Latimer helped to invent the telephone. Elijah McCoy worked on lubrication for machines. Granville T. Woods developed the steam boiler. Jan Matzeliger invented a method of pleating leather in shoe manufacture. Then, our agrarian economy was revolutionized by the birth of George Washington Carver, the man who did so much with the lonely peanut.
(Continued on page 6)


2225 Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10037

MEL PATRICK, President and Publisher
HILDA STOKELY Exec. Vice President
(212) FO 8-5559

ANN PATRICK Secretary and Treasurer

[[2 column table]]
Page No. | [[topic]]
1-137 | The Negro in America, 1550-1976
138-139 | New York Chapter, National Ass'n of Black Social Workers
141-144 | National Caucus of Black School Board Members
146-149 | Northern Jurisdiction, Prince Hall Masons
151 | Empire State Medical Association
152-153 | Prince Hall Grand Lodge
157-161 | National Newspaper Publishers Association
164-165 | Links
166-167 | Chi Delta Mu Fraternity
168-169 | Chi Delta Mu Wives
170-173 | National Association for the Advancement of Colored People
176-177 | Navy
178 | Elks of the World
184-189 | Democratic Party
196-199 | Chi Eta Phi
200-204 | Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority
205-209 | Zeta Phi Beta Sorority
210-211 | Common Cause Ladies
215-219 | National Association of Business & Professional Negro Womens Club
226-233 | Church Ushers Association of N.Y. State Inc. National United Church Ushers Association
234-237 | Eta Phi Beta Sorority
238-239 | National Bar Association
240-243 | Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity
246-259 | National Urban League
260-263 | Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority
264-271 | N.B.C.
273-277 | National Medical Association
279-281 | Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity
282-285 | National Association of Negro Women
288 | CBS
294-299 | Shriners
300-301 | Daughters of Isis
302-305 | Omega Psi Phi Fraternity
308-309 | Republican Convention
310-311 | Museum of Art
314-315 | Bourban Story
316-317 | Whitney M. Young Classic
320-323 | Tennis
324-331 | Black Caucus
333-335 | 369th Veterans Association
336-337 | Southern Jurisdiction
338-343 | Phi Beta Sigma
344-345 | Paul Robeson-Langston Hughes
346-348 | Edges
350-351 | Happenings
352 | In Memoriam
Please note that the language and terminology used in this collection reflects the context and culture of the time of its creation, and may include culturally sensitive information. As an historical document, its contents may be at odds with contemporary views and terminology. The information within this collection does not reflect the views of the Smithsonian Institution, but is available in its original form to facilitate research. For questions or comments regarding sensitive content, access, and use related to this collection, please contact