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Femi  Lewis

Femi\\\'s African-American History Blog


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Legends of the Jazz Age

Saturday May 31, 2014
jazz musicianLouis "Satchmo" Armstrong once said, "My whole life, my soul, my whole spirit is to blow that horn." Like Armstrong, other jazz musicians such as Duke Ellington, James P. Johnson, Eubie Blake and Fletcher Henderson were passionate about arranging and performing.

Alice Walker

Saturday May 31, 2014
Alice Walker is an African-American writer and activist. As a writer, Walker is best known for The Color Purple, which won both the Pulitzer Prize and The National Book Award in 1983, and which was later made in a critically acclaimed film by Steven Spielberg and a Tony Award winning play on Broadway. Walker has also published books of poetry, essays, and other novels. A devoted social activist, Walker defends not only human rights, but the rights of all living beings. She is perhaps best known for bringing female genital mutilation practiced in Africa to the attention of the West.

Please Note:This post and the accompanying article were written by Scott Cerreta.

Bill "Bojangles" Robinson

Saturday May 31, 2014
bojanglesBill ®Bojangles® Robinson was born in Richmond, Virginia May 25, 1878. Though he began dancing in beer gardens at the age of five, his stage career began at the age of eight when he was spotted by a promoter dancing outside the Globe Theater and asked to become a pick in a minstrel show. He became a star of the black vaudeville stage, as well as appearing in white vaudeville shows.

Nikki Giovanni

Saturday May 31, 2014
Poet, activist and educator Nikki Giovanni describes herself as "a Black American, daughter, mother and a professor of English." Throughout her career as a writer Giovanni has used the written word to explore themes such as pride, liberation and African-American feminism. Described as a "national treasure" and honored as one of Oprah Winfrey's "Living Legends," Giovanni's work is considered classic and evocative by readers and critics.

Angela Davis: Political Activist

Saturday May 31, 2014

Angela Davis is an African American political activist, philosopher, and retired professor. Davis was a leader of the Communist Party USA and, though never an official member, also had close ties to the Black Panther Party.

She rose to prominence as an activist in the Civil Rights Movements of the nineteen sixties, and was mostly affiliated with the Students Nonviolent Coordinating Committee until the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., after which she joined the Communist Party. Davis may best be known for her arrest as a suspected conspirator in the failed attempt to free George Jackson from a courtroom in Marin County, California on August 7th, 1970.

Meta V.W.Fuller

Saturday May 31, 2014
mvwfullerMeta Vaux Warrick Fuller traveled to Paris in 1899 to study with RaphaŽl Collin. While studying with Collin, Fuller was mentored by painter Henry Ossawa Tanner. She also continued to develop her craft as a sculpturist at Academie Colarossi and sketching at Ecole des Beaux-Arts. She was heavily influenced by the conceptual realism of Auguste Rodin who declared, "My child, you are a sculptor; you have the sense of form in your fingers."

In 1903 Fuller returned to the United States invigorated and ready to express her ideas through sculptor. However she was met with racism at every turn. Read her biography to discover how she overcame discrimination

Remembering Maya: The Caged Bird Has Sung

Thursday May 29, 2014
maya angelou In 1969, Maya Angelou, a budding yet reluctant writer and strong supporter of the Civil Rights Movement, published I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. The memoir, which would become the first of a six-part series, told the story of Angelou's early life of growing up in the Jim Crow Era in Stamps, Arkansas. Of this experience, Angelou said, "if growing up is painful for the Southern Black girl, being aware of her displacement is the rust on the razor that threatens the throat." I'm just happy that Angelou had the courage to push forward and tell her story.

Remembering Malcolm X

Wednesday May 21, 2014
malcolm x

One of my favorite quotes by Malcolm X is "There is no better than adversity. Every defeat, every heartbreak, every loss, contains its own seed, its own lesson on how to improve your performance next time."

Often, when I think about the struggles that everyday men and women faced during the Jim Crow Era and even in some cases today, I can't help but think about the importance of continuously fighting for change.

Fighting Jim Crow

Wednesday April 30, 2014

The Jim Crow Era in United States history began towards the end of the Reconstruction Period and lasted until 1965 with the passage of the Voting Rights Act. Yet, the Jim Crow Era was more than a body of legislative acts on the federal, state and local levels that barred African-Americans from being full American citizens. It was also a way of life that allowed African-Americans to be oppressed economically, socially and barred the masses from achieving an adequate education.

Yet throughout the Jim Crow Era African-Americans fought to end the prevalent disenfranchisement.

Educators such as Booker T. Washington and Nannie Helen Burroughs established institutions that would train African-American men and women in various trades--allowing them the ability to overcome economic disenfranchisement.

Intellectuals such as William Monroe Trotter , in stark opposition to Washington's philosophy of not fighting against racial inequality but becoming self sufficient, provided men and women the opportunity to voice their opinions in organizations such as the Niagara Movement and the NAACP.

And finally, how can we forget the power of the pen?

My favorite muckraker, Ida B. Wells wrote about the horrors of lynching and singlehandedly started the anti-lynching campaign.

Although the Jim Crow Era was able to thrive in American society for almost one hundred years and we still bear the brunt of this horrid period today, I am always mesmirized by the daring spirit of men and women who accepted the challenge to fight for change.

Five Playwrights of the Harlem Renaissance

Wednesday April 30, 2014

The Harlem Renaissance is often remembered for its novelists and poets, visual artists and musicians.

But what about plays published during this period?

This month, I've collected a list of Harlem Renaissance playwrights. Writers such as George Douglass Johnson, Joseph Seamon Cotter Jr., and Regina Anderson created plays exploring themes such as lynching, racism and the impact of the Great Migration on African-Americans.

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