Henry Johnson and the Harlem Hellfighters (369th)

William Henry Johnson was born in Winston Salem, North Carolina in 1892.  While still a teenager, Johnson moved to New York...he was an industrious young man and found work as a soda mixer, in a coal yard, as a chauffeur, and eventually as a redcap porter in Albany’s train station. 

In April of 1917 the United States declared war on Germany and, just two months later, William Henry Johnson volunteered to serve his country—he enlisted on June 5, 1917.

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Danita Smith
A Brave and Gallant Soldier at the Battle of Bunker Hill

In June of 1775, Revolutionary forces got word of a British plan to capture high areas around Boston in an effort to squash the Colonial uprising.  Colonial forces, made up of about 1,000 men from Connecticut and Massachusetts marched to an area on the Charlestown peninsula to lay claim to this area before British troops could get there.

Colonial leaders hoped to fortify an area called Bunker Hill.  So on the night of June 16, 1775, Revolutionary forces marched to the Charlestown peninsula to set up a fortified area, in anticipation of the British advancement.

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Danita Smith
Biddy Mason: An American Pioneer

Biddy Mason was born, enslaved, in Hancock, Georgia in 1818.  Her owner, Robert Smith, later moved to Mississippi where he became acquainted with the Mormon religion. The mid-1800s were a tumultuous time in American politics and 1850 was an important year, in many ways. 

Unbeknownst to Biddy Mason, decisions being made about California and Utah were about to have a significant impact on her life.

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Danita Smith
George Thomas Downing (1819 - 1903)

George Thomas Downing was born in 1819, in New York City.  His father was the well-known businessman, Thomas Downing.  Thomas Downing moved to New York, in the early 1800s, and eventually opened up what would become a very successful business—a restaurant called the Oyster House

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Danita Smith
The Red Summer and "If We Must Die"

In 1919 more than 20 different racially violent events took place throughout the United States, from May of 1919 to October of 1919.  The events were so violent that this time span became known as the “Red Summer.”

NOTE: THE CONTENT OF THIS POST IS VERY GRAPHIC.

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Danita Smith
Benjamin Banneker: A Renaissance Man & an Abolitionist

Benjamin Banneker was born on November 9, 1731 in what is today Baltimore County, Maryland.

According to accounts his grandmother, Molly Welsh, was a white English woman who was sent to the American colonies as an indentured servant.  

After serving her indentured time, she was able to obtain her own property—which was a remarkable thing for a woman to do in the late 1600s.  She then purchased enslaved people to work her land...she ended up buying two human beings—one of whom was said to be the son of an African king, whose name was Bannaka.  

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Danita Smith
Dr. Charles Burleigh Purvis: An Activist

Charles Burleigh Purvis was born in 1842 in Philadelphia, PA.  His father was the well-known abolitionist, Robert Purvis, and his mother was Harriet Forten.  She was the daughter of the well-known African-American activist and businessman, James Forten.  Yes, Charles Purvis was Jame Forten’s grandson.

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Danita Smith
Mary Touvestre: Civil War Intelligence

Some 200,000 African Americans served in the Civil War as soldiers and sailors, but not much is known about the many men and women who provided intelligence to the Union, during the war.  Mary Touvestre was one such person. 

Mary Touvestre was a free (formerly enslaved) housekeeper of a Confederate engineer, during the Civil War.  Before the war, the U.S. Navy had a significant naval base in Norfolk, VA.  When the war began, the military ordered the destruction of ships in that base, so that they wouldn't fall into enemy hands.

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Danita Smith
President of the Confederacy: His Last U.S. Senate Speech

On January 21, 1861 Jefferson Davis rose on the Senate floor to explain why the state of Mississippi decided to secede from the Union—it would be his last speech as a U.S. Senator.  After sharing some thoughts about nullification and secession and expressing his support for secession, even if a northern state decided to do so, he went on to explain:

“It has been a conviction of pressing necessity, it has been a belief that we are to be deprived in the Union of the rights which our fathers bequeathed to us, which has brought Mississippi into her present decision.  

She has heard proclaimed the theory that all men are created free and equal, and this made the basis

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Danita Smith
Frederick Douglass: How He Became a Man

Many times we tend to see people the way they are when they are at the height of their fame, but you never know what a person went through to get where they are...and in Frederick Douglass's case, what he went through to get into a position to help others.  In 1834, on January 1st, Frederick made his way to the home of the man who was supposed to “break” him.  Edward Covey was a small man who believed in harsh treatment, as a way of making sure enslaved people would be, forever, obedient.  

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Danita Smith
The Riot of 1835: Washington, DC

In the summer of 1835 Arthur Bowen was on his way home in the evening, when he reached the front door of his owner’s residence.  Bowen was about eighteen years old and he was owned by Anna Thornton, who was the widow of William Thornton—the first Architect of the Capitol.  Dr. William Thornton was born in the British West Indies and his proposed design for the U.S. Capitol was accepted by George Washington, in 1793.  He was awarded $500 and a lot in the city of Washington for his work.  He moved to the city in 1794 and George Washington appointed him to a position as one of the city’s commissioners.  Thomas Jefferson, later, appointed him head of the Patent Office, in 1802.

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Danita Smith
Harriet Tubman and the Dover Eight

What caused Harriet Tubman to fight back?  What political actions supported the existence of slavery?  This book explores the life of Harriet Tubman and some of the religious, political and social supports that made slavery exist for so long.  

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Danita Smith
Frederick Douglass's Mother: Harriet

Frederick Douglass was born Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey in Talbot County, Maryland.  His mother’s name was Harriet and she was forced to leave her children, by the man who owned them.  She was hired out to neighboring farms and her children would stay with her mother, until they were several years old.

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Danita Smith
Fanny Jackson-Coppin: Excellence in Education

“I am always sorry to hear that such and such a person is going to school to be educated.  This is a great mistake.  If the person is to get the benefit of what we call education, he must educate himself, under the direction of the teacher.”

If there were a few words that could sum up Mrs. Fanny Jackson-Coppin they would be, “excellence in education.”

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Danita Smith
Sit-ins and Standing Up

Four young men from North Carolina Agricultural & Technical College changed their world when they decided to stand up for their own rights. 

Their names were Ezell Blair, Jr., Franklin McCain, David Richmond, and Joseph McNeil.  They were freshmen at North Carolina A&T in the fall of 1959 and they became friends when they met that year.  One of the things that they had in common was that they shared a disdain for the inequalities that surrounded them.

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Danita Smith
Collingwood's Massacre

In 1781 a slave ship, named the Zong (based out of Liverpool, England), was on a horrible trip to get human beings—to sell them in Jamaica.  The ship made it to Africa, along the coast of present-day Ghana, and then to Sao Tome (or St. Thomas, an island near present day Gabon and Equatorial Guinea).  Luke Collingwood was the captain of the ship and he decided to go with a “tight” packing method.

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Danita Smith