Black Women in Europe: Power List 2010

Courtesy of Adrianne George, Integrated Marketing Communications Consultant at AG Communications Group (Stockholm, Sweden)

Black Women in Europe: Power List 2010

Annie Turnbo Malone: A Black Philanthropist and Entrepreneur

Photo of Annie Turnbo Malone (1869-1957)

Before Oprah Winfrey and Madame C.J. Walker there was Annie Turnbo Malone (aka Annie Minerva Turnbo Pope Malone and Annie Minerva Turnbo Malone), an African American entrepreneur and philanthropist during the early 20th century. Malone is reportedly the U.S.'s first black millionaire based on reports of $14 million in assets held in 1920 from her beauty and cosmetic enterprises.

Early Life of Annie Turnbo

On August 9, 1869, Robert Turnbo and Isabella Cook became parents to Annie in Metropolis, Illinois. Annie attended school in Illinois where she apprentenced with her sister as a hairdresser. By 1889, Malone had developed her own scalp and hair products that she demonstrated and sold from a buggy throughout Illinois.

Launches the "Poro" Brand in St. Louis, MO

Image of Poro College, St. Louis

By 1902, Malone's business growth led her to St. Louis, Missouri, which at the time held the fourth largest population of African Americans. In St. Louis she copyrighted her Poro brand beauty products. In 1914, in a St. Louis wedding, Malone married the school principal Aaron Eugene Malon.

Photo of Poro College Administrative Building

By 1917, Malone opened the doors of Poro College, a beauty college which was later attended by Madam C.J. Walker. The school reportedly graduated about 75,000 agents world-wide, including the Caribbean. By 1930, the first full year of the Great Depression, Malone had moved from Missouri after divorcing her second husband and settled on Chicago's South Side.

The Black Philanthropist

From 1919 to 1943, Malone served as board president of the St. Louis Colored Orphan's Home.  She had donated the first $10,000 to build the orphanage's new building in 1919. During the 1920s, Malone's philanthropy included financing the education of two full-time students in every historically black college and university. Her $25,000 donation to Howard University was among the largest gifts the university had received by a private donor of African descent.

Photo of Annie Turnbo Malone

On May 10, 1957, Annie Turnbo Malone was treated for a stroke at Provident Hospital in Chicago where she died. At the time of her death Poro beauty colleges were in operation in more than thirty U.S. cities.

St. Louis honors her memory with the Annie Malone Children and Family Service Center whose mission is "is to improve the quality of life for children, families, elderly and the community by providing social services, educational programs, advocacy and entrepreneurship."

Further reference: Annie Malone Children and Family Service Center:

Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela: First Black President of South Africa

Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela was the first black president of the 
Republic of South Africa, serving from 1994 to 1999

On July 18, 1918, Mandela was born along the Mbashe River in the village of Mvezo, in the Umtata district. and the BBC both report that Mandela was "born Rolihlahla Dalibhunga." Mandela explains in his 1994 autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom, that he was given the English name "Nelson" by his teacher Miss Mdingane on his first day at school, which he explains was a common practice within white South African institutions, where whites were unable or unwilling to pronounce African names.

In Long Walk to Freedom, Mandela writes that "[a]part from life, a strong constitution, and an abiding connection to the Thembu royal house, the only thing my father bestowed upon me at birth was a name, Rolihlahla. In Xhosa, Rolihlahla literally means 'pulling the branch of a tree,' but its colloquial meaning more accurately would be 'troublemaker.'"

Mandela's father, Gadla Henry Mphakanyiswa, was chief of Mvezo in the Transkeiean territories, and from the African indigenous Thembu royal family line. His mother was Nosekeni Fanny, the third of his father's four wives. Mandela was one of thirteen children and had three older brothers.

The Education of Nelson Mandela

In 1930, when Mandela was nine years old, his father died. He was adopted by the paramount chief Jongintaba Dalindyebo. Under the Regent Jongintaba's guardianship, Mandela attended Wesleyan Mission School, where he was trained for leadership. He also studied at Clarkebury Boarding Institute and Wesleyan College. He also studied at Fort Hare University before he and Oliver Tambo were expelled in 1940 after boycotting against university policies. In a turn of history, the University of Hare would later establish the Nelson R. Mandela School of Law.

Mandela began his law studies at the University of Witwatersrand, but would earn his law degree in 1942 from the University of South Africa. Mandela's political activism made his legal studies a challenge; he initially failed the exams required for his LLB law degree in 1948. This was the same year the apartheid promoting National Party won its political victory. Along with Sisulu, Tambo, and others, Mandela organized the African National Congress Youth League (ANCYL) in Johannesburg.

By 1952, Mandela opened his law office, teaming up with Oliver Tambo to create the first black legal practice in South Africa. Mandela became the ANCYL's deputy national president. Here, he challenged institutional apartheid and fought for civil rights through land redistribution, trade union rights, and free and compulsory education for all children. The same year, the apartheid government banned Mandela's attendance at any political meetings or from holding an office within the ANC under the Suppression of Communism Act. In response, Mandela and Tambo initiated the M-plan (M for Mandela), which broke the ANC down into cells that could operate underground if necessary.

The Treason Trial and the Start of an Armed Struggle

On December 5, 1956, in response to the adoption of the Freedom Charter at the Congress of the People, Nelson Mandela and Chief Albert Luthuli, then ANC President, were among the 156 people arrested and charged with high treason for their political activism. Punishment for high treason was death. Those arrested included most of the leadership of the ANC, Southern African Indian Congress, Coloured People's Congress, Congress of Democrats, and the South African Congress of Trade Unions, known collectively as the Congress Alliance. Eventually acquitted, during the treason trial Nelson Mandela met and eventually married his second wife Nomzamo Winnie Madikizela (aka Winnie Mandela, Winnie Madikizela Mandea and Nomzamo Winifred Madikizela). She would be his champion during his 27 years of incarceration as a political prisoner.

Photo of Nelson Mandela with Winnie Mandela

South African Apartheid and the Sharpeville Massacre

While Mandela was formerly committed to non-violent protest, he began to believe that armed struggle was the only way to achieve change. He co-founded Umkhonto we Sizwe, also known as MK, an offshoot of the ANC dedicated to an armed struggle, including sabotage and guerrilla war tactics to end apartheid. By 1959, however, the ANC lost much of its militant support when the Africanists broke away to form the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC).

On March 21, 1960, 69 black Africans were killed and about 180 were injured when the South African police opened fire on demonstrators at Sharpeville. This transformed the ANC's strategy from a nonviolent movement using civil unrest techniques such as boycott, strike, civil disobedience and non-cooperation, to that of an armed struggle using guerrilla warfare against the apartheid regime.

As a brief history of European settlement, the Portuguese explorer Bartolomeu Dias was among the first Europeans to reach the region in 1487. The two major groups were the Xhosa and Zulu peoples at the time of European contact in Southern Africa. By 1652, Dutchman Jan van Riebeeck established a settlement at the Cape of Good Hope at Cape Town on behalf of the Dutch East India Company. Dutch is the primary origin of the Afrikaan language, with an estimated 90 to 95 percent of Afrikaans vocabulary being of Dutch origin.

South Africa commemorates the 50th Anniversary of the Sharpeville Massacre

Nelson Mandela: From Prison to Presidency

In 1964, Mandela was arrested again, this time on a charge of sabotage. This time, however, he was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment. He was incarcerated on Robben Island, near Cape Town, as prisoner 46664 for 18 of his 27 years in prison. Mandela imprisonment became a symbol of black oppression and a world-wide symbol of the resistance to racism. It sparked Pan Africanist responses from the Americas through support of organizations like TransAfrica under the efforts of the African American lawyer Randall Robinson. Mandela gained world-wide support, even from Europe. He was allowed to study for a Bachelor of Laws through a University of London correspondence program.

Mandela may have become the most revered prisoner in modern history. He would indeed be the trouble-maker, using his life to help dismantle apartheid to form a new multiracial democracy. In 1990, Nelson Mandela was released from prison under then leadership of his country's president Frederik Willem de Klerk. By July 1991, he was elected president of the ANC. In 1993, Mandela and de Klerk were both awarded Nobel Peace Prizes.

Photo of Nelson Mandela and Frederik de Klerk at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting Davos 1992

On May 10, 1994, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela was elected the first black South African president as a result of its first multiracial elections. The same year he married Evelyn Mase, Walter Sisulu's cousin. He served as president until 1999 before retiring from active politics. He maintained a busy schedule of fund-raising for his Mandela Foundation, which aims to build schools and medical clinics in South Africa’s rural regions. In 2001, he was diagnosed and treated for prostate cancer. June 2004, at age 85, he announced his formal retirement from public life.
Photo of Nelson Mandela in his native South Africa

Kwame Nkrumah: Ghanaian Pan Africanist

Photo of Osagyefo Kwame Nkrumah (born: September 21, 1909 - died: April 27, 1972).
First President of Ghana and a founding member of the Organization of African Unity.

Kwame Nkrumah was born September 21, 1909 at Nkroful, Gold Coast (now Ghana). He was originally named after Francis Nwia-Kofi, an honored family personality. Son of goldsmith Kofi Ngonloma of the Asona Clan and Elizabeth Nyanibah of the Anona Clan, Nkrumah showed an early thirst for education. In 1930, Nkrumah completed studies at the acclaimed Prince of Wales’ Achimota School in Accra. Dr. Kwegyir Aggrey, Assistant Vice Principal and the first African staff member at the college, became his mentor.

Kwame Nkrumah U.S. Studies

By 1935, Nkrumah undertook advance studies in the United States at Lincoln University, Pennsylvania. In 1939,  he earned an BA in Economics and Sociology. By 1942, he earned an BA in Theology. By 1943, Nkrumah had earned an M.Sc. (Education), an MA (Philosophy), and completed course work for a Ph. D. degree at the University of Pennsylvania.

During his U.S. undergraduate studies, Nkrumah also pledged the predominately African-American Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, an academic honor society. He is said to have introduced African traditional steps to the fraternity's stepping tradition, including cane stepping

Kwame Nkrumah Organizes Pan-Africans in Europe

Arriving in London in May of 1945, Nkrumah organized the 5th Pan-African Congress in Manchester, England and began networking through organizations like the West African Students' Union, where he served as vice-president. This same year he officially changed his name from Francis Nwia-Kofi to Kwame Nkrumah.

Image of the West African nation of Ghana

By December 1947, Nkrumah had returned to his homeland as a teacher, scholar, and political activist. He became General Secretary of the United Gold Coast Convention (UGCC), which explored strategies for gaining independence from colonial England. Under Nkrumah's leadership, the UGCC attracted local political support from farmers and women. Women did not have the right to vote in many traditional patriarchial societies and farmers who were not land-owners also did not have the suffrage. In 1948, Accra, Kumasi, and other areas of the Gold Coast were experiencing general social unrest, which the British colonial government accredited to the UGCC. By 1949, Nkrumah had galvanized wide support and reorganized his efforts under the Convention People's Party (CPP).

Nkrumah advocated for constitutional changes. This included self-government, universal franchise without property qualifications, and a separate house of chiefs. Jailed by the colonial administration in 1950 for his political activism, the CPP's 1951 election sweep was followed by Nkrumah's release. Ghana was declared an independent state on March 6, 1957.

Photo of Kwame Nkrumah and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

A devout Pan-Africanist, Nkrumah supported African federation under the auspices of the United States of African. He also had meaningful dialogue with African intellectuals from the diaspora, including W.E.B. DuBois, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Marcus Mosiah Garvey. He also corresponded with Trinidadian C.L.R. James, whom he credited with teaching him how an "underground movement worked." Nkrumah played a pivotal role in developing the Organization of African Unity (OAU) in 1963, the same year he was awarded the Lenin Peace Prize.

Photo of Nkrumah Hall at the University of Dar es Salaam
in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

President of Ghana in West Africa

By 1964, Ghana was operating as a one-party state with Nkrumah as life president. Often criticized for developing non-participatory governance, by 1966 the Ghanaian military overthrew Nkrumah's administration. Nkrumah died in exile on April 27, 1972 in Bucharest, Romania. Nkrumah authored over 20 books and publications. For further references, Panaf Books has a list of Nkrumah's writings at their on-line website.
Photo of Kwame Nkrumah Mausoleum and Memorial Park is located
in downtown Accra, the capital of Ghana

Here is a video dedicated to Kwame Nkrumah by Ghana's very own musician Obrafour:

Charles Hamilton Houston: Legal Social Engineer for a Just Society

As scholar, educator, and lawyer, Charles Hamilton Houston dedicated his life to fighting racism with the rule of law as an instrument for justice and social change.

Early Life of Charles Hamilton Houston

Charles Houston owed much of his early success to his remarkably dedicated parents. He was born on September 3, 1895. His mother was Mary Hamilton Houston a stylist (seamstress and hairdresser) to Washington D.C. politicians. His father was William Le Pre Houston Houston, a general practice attorney for more than four decades in D.C. who also taught law practice management tat Howard University's law school.
Photo of Charles Hamilton Houston (center) with his mother and father

Houston graduated from high school at 15 years old. In 1915, he was one of six valedictorians graduating from Amherst College in Massachusetts. He was also the only black student in his class. By 1917, Houston started teaching "Negro Literature" and English at Howard University in D.C., the same year the U.S. government entered World War I. Houston enlisted in the war in 1919 as a second lieutenant in field artillery where he served in France.
Photo of Lieutenant Charles Hamilton Houston

Houston understood racism and its impact on African Americans. As an U.S. officer in France, Houston endured the double fight of the black U.S. soldiers in Europe. Black soldiers fought on two fronts against both Nazi aggression and white racist aggression that was a great part of military life.

Houston Returns from War and Studies Law

After an honorable discharge from the military, Houston returned to D.C. He applied to Harvard Law School and was accepted. He graduated in 1922 with a Bachelor of Laws. By 1923, he had earned a doctorate, distinguished himself as a scholar at Harvard where he became the first black editor of the Harvard Law Review.

Photo of Attorney William Le Pre Houston Houston,
father of Charles Hamilton Houston, in his law office

In 1924, after his return from studying at the University of Madrid, Houston joined his father's D.C. law firm. In addition to starting a civil rights law practice, in 1924 Houston began teaching at Howard University School of Law, then a part-time night school.

Houston Mentors Other Lawyers

Hamilton believed that a lawyer was "either a social engineer or a parasite on society" and saw his role as a legal educator as part of his social responsibility. By 1929, Howard University had developed into a full-time law school under his encouragement and was the training ground for about a quarter of the nation's black law students.

Photo of Thurgood Marshall (standing) with
a seated Charles Hamilton Houston (center)

Houston's pupils at Howard University included Thurgood Marshall, the nation's first African American U.S. Supreme Court Justice. Marshall was also part of the legal team in the 1954 U.S. Supreme Court landmark case of Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, 347 U.S. 483 (1954) -- which comprised many of his fellow Howard Law School alums. Other former students of Houston was A. Leon Higginbotham, William Hastie, James Nabrit, Robert Carter, George E.C. Hayes, Jack Greenberg, Oliver Hill, and Spottswood Robinson. In Brown, the U.S. Supreme Court made the historic ruling that racial segregation in primary and seconary public school was unconstitutional.

Houston's Legal Attack on the "Separate But Equal" Doctrine
Photo of Charles Hamilton Houston in the courtroom

As a constitutional scholar, Houston knew that the "separate but equal" doctrine accepted by the U.S. Supreme Court in the landmark case of Plessy v. Ferguson, 163 U.S. 537 (1896) was contrary to a sound rule of law. In 1934, Houston became special counsel with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People's (NAACP). He surrounded himself with a select group of young lawyers, many of his aforementioned former Howard Law School students. Houston soon became "senior counsel" to the young legal strategists that would end legalized racial segregation in the United States.

As the NAACP's special counsel, Houston traveled throughout the U.S. South with a camera and a typewriter. He and his team of lawyers recorded conditions at public facilities for blacks and whites, reasoning that segregationist states were not even meeting the Plessy "separate but equal" standard.

Developing Important Early Civil Rights Case Law

 By 1935, Charles Hamilton Houston and Thurgood Marshall prevailed in Murray v. Pearson, 182 A. 590, 169 Md. 478, 103 A.L.R. 706  (1936), a Maryland Court of Appeals decision where the black plaintiff challenged his denied entry into the then segregated University of Maryland law school. Legal counsel for the university argued that their client's met the separate but equal requirement when it granted qualified black applicants scholarships to enroll in law schools out-of-state.

The Maryland state courts rejected this argument, holding that Maryland’s out-of-state option was not an equal opportunity for law students who wanted to practice law in Maryland as Maryland lawyers. In 1936, the law school was ordered to admit qualified black students. Thurgood Marshall was among the previously qualified students denied entry into the Maryland law school, making the legal victory an especially sweet one for the Houston legal team.

In 1939, another of Houston's important civil rights cases was ruled upon in State of Missouri ex rel. Gaines v. Canada, 305 U.S. 337 (1938).  In Gaines, the reasoning in the Pearson state case was adopted by the U.S. Supreme Court and applied nationwide. In essence, the Court held that Missouri law school faculty's unique curriculum made "separate but equal" unattainable in legal education.

Houston on the Role of Lawyers as Social Engineers
Photo of attorney Charles Hamilton Houston
According to Houston, "[the] Negro lawyer must be trained as a social engineer and group interpreter. Due to the Negro's social and political condition . . . the Negro lawyer must be prepared to anticipate, guide and interpret his group advancement. . . . [Moreover, he must act as] business advisor . . . for the protection of the scattered resources possessed or controlled by the group. . . . He must provide more ways and means for holding within the group the income now flowing through it."

McNeil, Groundwork at 71 (1983), quoting Charles Hamilton Houston, "Personal Observations on the Summary of Studies in Legal Education as Applied to the Howard University School of Law," (May 28, 1929).
In 1940, ill health led Houston to retire from the NAACP as special counsel. On April 22, 1950, Houston died, four years after the U.S. Supreme Court's 1954 ruling in Brown v. Board of Education. In 1950, the NAACP posthumously awarded him the Spingarn Medal. In 1958, Howard University School of Law's main building was dedicated as Charles Hamilton Houston Hall.

 Charles Hamilton Houston's words continues to guide Howard University School of Law's mission:
"'A lawyer's either a social engineer or he's a parasite on society'. . . . A social engineer was a highly skilled, perceptive, sensitive lawyer who understood the Constitution of the United States and knew how to explore its uses in the solving of 'problems of . . . local communities' and in 'bettering conditions of the underprivileged citizens.'"
McNeil, Groundwork at 84 (1983), quoting Charles Hamilton Houston (McNeil cites Thurgood Marshall as quoted in Geraldine Segal, In Any Fight Some Fall at 34 (Mercury Press 1975)).
Thurgood Marshall is reported as having remarked that “[w]e owe it all to Charlie.


  • Greenberg, Jack, "Crusaders in the Courts: How a Dedicated Band of Lawyers Fought for the Civil Rights Revolution," Basic Books (1994)
  • Kruger, Richard, "Simple Justice: The History of Brown v. Board of Education and Black America's Struggle for Equality," Vintage Books (1977)
  • McNeil, Genna Rae McNeil, "Groundwork: Charles Hamilton Houston and the Struggle for Civil Rights," U. of Pa. Press (1983)
  • Smith, Jr., J. Clay, "Emancipation: The Making of the Black Lawyer, 1844-1944," U. of Pa. Press (1993) 
  • Tushnet, Mark V., "The NAACP's Legal Strategy Against Segregated Education, 1925-1950," Univ. of North Carolina Press (1987)
Law Review Articles:
  • Charles Hamilton Houston Commemorative Issue, 32 How. L. J. (1989) 
  • Charles Hamilton Houston Symposium, 27 New England L. Rev. (1993)
  • Brittain, John C., The Culture of Civil Rights Lawyers: A Tribute to Justice Thurgood Marshall, 61 Conn. L. Rev. 1 (1992) (including copious discussion of Charles Hamilton Houston)
  • Higgonbotham Jr., A. Leon, Reflections on the Impact of Charles Hamilton Houston - from a Unique Perspective, 27 New England L. Rev. 605 (1993)
  • Hobbs, Steven H., From the Shoulders of Houston: a Vision for Social and Economic Justice, 32 How. L. J. 505 (1989)
  • Jones, Nathaniel R., The Sisyphean Impact on Houstonian Jurisprudence (attorney Charles Hamilton Houston), 69 U. Cincinnati L. Rev. 435 (2001)
  • Levi, Jennifer L., Paving the Road: A Charles Hamilton Houston Approach to Securing Trans Rights, 7 Wm & Mary J. Women & the Law 5 (2000)
  • Reed, Michael Wilson, The Contribution of Charles Hamilton Houston to American Jurisprudence, 30 How. L. J. 1095 (1987)
  • Tushnet, Mark, The Politics of Equality in Constitutional Law: The Equal Protection Clause, Dr. Du Bois, and Charles Hamilton Houston, 74 J. Am. History 884 (1987)
  • Walter J. Leonard, Charles Hamilton Houston and the Search for a Just Society, 22 N. Carolina Central L. J. 1 (1996)
  • Ware, Leland, A Difference in Emphasis: Charles Houston's Transformation of Legal Education, 32 How. L. J. 479 (1989)

Johannes Leo Africanus and the Recorded Legacy of Timbuktu

Title page of A Geographical Historie of Africa by
Johannes Leo Africanus (1600)

Johannes Leo Africanus (c. 1494 - 1554) was a Moorish diplomat, traveler, historian, and writer best known for his book Description of Africa (Descrittione dell’Africa) which described North African geography, including the famed city of Timbuktu (Timbuctoo) in Mali, West Africa.

In about 1494, Leo Africanus was born in Granada, a city at the foot of the Sierra Nevada mountains in Spain. This was a major city on the Spanish (Iberian) peninsula. It had been conquered by the Moors of Africa for nearly 800 years. After Leo Africanus' birth, his family moved from Spain to Fez, Morocco in North Africa. In Morocco, he studied at the University of Al Karaouines and started the intellectual journey that would lead him on diplomatic missions across Africa and Europe. This included the Maghreb (Also Maghrib, Berber: Tamazgha, Arabic: بلدان المغرب ,) and the Timbuktu region (c. 1510), then part of the Songhai (Songhay) Empire.

Fifteen kilometers north of the Niger River, Timbuktu is a historic city whose very name conjures a sense of mystery. Known as the City of Wisdom, the legacy of the muslim king Mansa Musa and the recorded history of the Songhai and Mali Empires are part of Timbuktu's rich historical heritage.

The Kingdom of Mali

By the 11th Century, Mali's rulers had been converted to Islam in the West African region of Timbuktu, a city in the Tombouctou Region of Mali. Three centuries later, commentators note from Arab travelers that the religion of Islam practiced in this region of Africa is somewhat Africanized from that practiced by their Arabian brethren. Mansa Musa was known in his time as the richest king in Africa because of the wealth he acquired in his Empire's wide network of commercial trade.

Untitled woodcut map of Africa from Leo Africanus,
Historiale description de l'Afrique, tierce partie dv monde

Illustration f Mansa Musa depicted holding
a gold nugget (cir. 1375 Catalan Atlas)

The earliest full account of Timbuktu came from Africanus in the 16th Century. He described the city's splendent court life, its scholars, noted as "bountifully maintained at the king's cost." Timbuktu had a reputation for its learned universities, pomp royal palace ceremonies, architectural glories, and busy markets that included international traders.

Once a central center of Islamic teaching in Africa, Timbuktu’s architectural glories, including many mosques, have been reclaimed in part by the desert. By 1828, French adventurer René Caillié's pilgrimage to Timbuktu found the city ravished by the raids of neighboring tribes. Populated by the Fulani, Mande, Songhai, and Tuareg, the people and the historical romance of scholarship and trade within Timbuktu remains.

Video of lost libraries of Timbuktu - City of Scholars (BBC)

George Washington Carver: Scientist and Inventor

Picture of George Washington Carver (1864-1943)
taken by Frances Benjamin Johnston in 1906
“I love to think of nature as an unlimited broadcasting station, through which God speaks to us every hour, if we will only tune in.” ~ George Washington Carver
The peanut butter packaged and sold by such American brands as Skippy was invented by George Washington Carver. In U.S. society, George Washington Carver is the first person of record to make oil out of the peanut. This is the same peanut oil that can be found on many grocery store shelves today. While many people know about these innovations, they do not know that Carver created from the peanut, pecan, and sweet potato hundreds of inventions.

Dr. Carver works included the development of agricultural derived adhesives, gasoline fuel, shaving cream, shampoos, hand lotions, insecticide, glue, bleach, sugar, synthetic rubber, and other innovations from natural agricultural resources. He devoted his life to understanding nature and the alternative uses of a simple plant. He is reported to have extracted medicines from weeds and through the separation of fats, oils, gums, resins and sugars, he found over 300 new uses for the peanut alone.

Photo of the George Washington Carver National Monument, a unit of the National Park Service located about two miles west of Diamond, Missouri. Depicting Dr. Carver as a young boy, this statute was founded on July 14, 1943 by Franklin Delano Roosevelt who dedicated $30,000 to the monument. It was the first national monument dedicated to an African-American and first to a non-President.
In 1864 (exact birth date unknown), George Washington Carver was born into the institution of slavery near Diamond Grove, Missouri. He was kidnapped from his mother by slavers as a baby. As a slave, his early weak condition in body made him of no use in the field. Carver worked in a domestic capacity and gardening became a part of his work. On the plantation he was known as the 'Plant Doctor." Despite the challenge of his birth, Carver applied and was admitted to Highland College in Highland, Kansas from his application submission that did not mention or request his race. When he arrived at Highland College its president, learning then of his skin color, withdrew the college's acceptance.

George Washington Carver in his laboratory.

At that point in his life, instead of college, Carver went into business. He opened a laundry and subsequently worked as a cook in Winterset, Iowa. Saving his money, Carver was the first person of African descent to be admitted to Simpson College in Iowa. He eventually transferred to Iowa Agricultural College (Iowa State College). There he earned a Bachelors and Masters of Science degrees in agricultural and bacterial botany. Carver became the first black teacher at Iowa State College.

George Washington Carver (center, front row) poses with fellow
Tuskegee Institute staff members in 1902 (now known as Tuskegee University)

Upon the invite of Booker T. Washington, Dr. Carver relocated to Alabama's Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute (Tuskegee Institute, now known as Tuskegee University). At Tuskegee, Carver spearheaded the university's Agricultural Department, a dynamic agricultural research department that he served for more than 50 years. There was much farming innovation developed out of Tuskegee during the course of Carver's leadership. This included translating scientific theory into great practical assistance to local farmers, including former slaves, who sought self-sufficiency through farming. Carver assisted many southern farmers, black and white, in producing additional products from their staple crops in an effort to increase family farm income.

Illustration of George Washington Carver by Charles Alston (1943)

Carver's work was a course in sustainable development. His legacy is the original green. This included providing American farmers training in soil fertilization and crop rotation innovations. He introduced southern farmers to new soil enriching plants such as the peanut, pecan, and the sweet potatoe. This diversified the agricultural tradition of farmers in the U.S. southern states whose agricultural economy was based predominantly on cotton production. Carver's work in agricultural recycling is significant in that he introduced southern farmers to practical innovative uses for farm waste. Tuskegee Institute research during this time included scientific works in chemistry, nutrition, plant pathology, and genetics.

Painting of George Washington Carver,
by Betsy Graves Reyneau, oil on canvas (1942)
“Reading about nature is fine, but if a person walks in the woods and listens carefully, he can learn more than what is in books, for they speak with the voice of God.” ~ George Washington Carver
“All mankind are the beneficiaries of his discoveries in the field of agricultural chemistry," stated the late U.S. President Franklin T. Roosevelt. "The things which he achieved in the face of early handicaps will for all time afford an inspiring example to youth everywhere."

George Washington Carver stamp issued on January 5, 1948 by the United States Postal Service

George Washington Carver received three formal U.S. patents from his peanut inventions. His works, however, includes 118 applications for inventions derived from sweet potatoes, cowpeas, soybeans, and pecans. His sweet potato inventions included 73 dyes, 17 wood fillers, 14 candies, 5 library pastes, 5 breakfast foods, 4 starches, 4 flours, 3 molasses’s, vinegar and spiced vinegar, dry coffee and instant coffee, candy, after-dinner mints, orange drops, and lemon drops.

The National Peanut Board reports Dr. Carver's works to include food products that ranged from "peanut lemon punch, chili sauce, caramel, peanut sausage, mayonnaise and coffee. Cosmetics included face powder, shampoo, shaving cream and hand lotion. Insecticides, glue, charcoal, rubber, nitroglycerine, plastics and axle grease are just a few of the many valuable peanut products discovered by Dr. Carver.”

An African American worker at the Richmond Shipyards, Richmond, California, USA (April 1943) rushing the SS George Washington Carver ship to completion. Black skilled workers played an important part in the construction of the SS George Washington Carver, the second Liberty Ship named for a person of African descent, in the Richmond Shipyard No. 1 of the Kaiser Company (California).
Statute of George Washington Carver

Black Cowboys in America

Black cowboy with horse (cir. 1890),
Western History/Genealogy Department, Denver Public Library

The black cowboy redefined the perception of what it means to be an American-born cowboy. For the black cowboy, being a cowboy became more of a way of independent family farm living that centered around family, outdoors cooking (lots of smoke outs and bar-b-ques on these farms), and maintaining a stable of horses alongside other farm raised animals.

Actor Steven Williams with Madison "Nat Love" Walker
at a Single Action Shooting Society meeting

Some years back in Chicago, I was privileged to watch a traveling black rodeo show and was invited to a cookout afterwards. Below are some of the pictures I took.

Black cowboys performance at a rodeo on
the southside of Chicago
(cir. 1990 © Photo by Vanessa Cross)

One activity especially revered by black cowboys is highly skilled horse sportsmanship that is the historical trademark of cowboy culture.

Black cowboys perform a horse show at
Chicago rodeo presentation
(cir. 1990 © Photo by Vanessa Cross)

Black cowboy at a cookout at his homestead in
southern Cook County, Illinois
(cir. 1990 © Photo by Vanessa Cross)

Cowboy and his wife in Illinois
(Cir. 1990 © Photo by Vanessa Cross)

There are a number of books in print with the historical accounts of the legacy of the black cowboy and his family. The Black American West Museum is also a great resource for viewing original documents and things related to the history of blacks in the western United States. The museum is located in Denver, Colorado. Established in 1971 by Paul W. Stewart, it is a storehouse of photos, letters, prints, and other historical records and items left behind by blacks from the early American west. This includes records of cowboys, ranchers, homesteaders, miners, and much more.

~ Vanessa

Seydou Keïta and the Genuis of Photography

Photo of the late photographer Seydou Keïta

Seydou Keïta was born in Bamako, Mali, Africa in 1921 (exact date unknown) and died November 21, 2001 in Paris, France. Keïta was the eldest child in a family of five children. His father, Bâ Tièkòró, and his uncle, Tièmòkò, were Malian furniture makers. Upon a return from Senegal to Mali in 1935, his uncle Tièmòkò is reported to have given Keïta a Kodak Brownie camera with film. Mountaga Traoré and French photographic supply store owner Pierre Garnier were among his biggest supporter as he honed his photography skills.

Seydou Keïta Photography Studio in Bamako, Mali

In 1948, Keïta set up his first studio in the family house in Bamako-Koura, behind the main prison. This self-taught photographer captured the heart of Malian society through his exquisite photographic record of the people between 1940 and the 1960.

"Seydou Keita was the place to go if you wanted to have a beautiful image of yourself. That was the studio to go for the local bourgeoisie and even for the middle class who wanted to grow in the social level," states gallery curator N'Gone Fall in a BBC report. Keïta's work was nationally reknown among the Malians and subsequently became world reknown as the prolific photographer's photographs began to be collected in Europe and the U.S. by museums and galleries.

Slide show of a selection of Seydou Keita's photographs

What is Juneteenth?

Photo of Juneteenth Statute, Galveston Island,
Texas, USA, commemorates the reading of the
Emancipation Proclamation at Ashton Villa, June 19, 1865

Juneteenth is short for June 19th. It is celebrated as part of African American history, mostly in Texas and the South, to celebrate the end of slavery in the United States. It dates back to 1865 when soldiers for the federal Union, led by Major General Gordon Granger, made it to Ashton Villa near Gavleston, Texas with news that the Union won the war and human slavery was illegal. This was two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed by the U.S. President Abraham Lincoln on January 1, 1863.

The enforcement of the Emancipation Proclamation in Texas was not made a reality until 1865, with General Granger's arrival with his Union regiment and the surrender of General Lee. This two and a half years delay in receiving the news of federal emancipation has generated many stories of how it was delivered to Texas.

Some say that that the Union troops waited for Texas slaveholders to reap the last cotton harvests. Others say that the messenger was murdered on his way to deliver the news of the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation. Some commentors report that President Lincoln just did not have full authority over the region. In either case, Africans in Texas were freed TWO AND A HALF YEARS after the official historical date for independence of Africans in the United States.

The Juneteenth Statute above is a 9 foot tall bronze statue that was erected in 2005 on the grounds of Ashton Villa in Texas to commemorate an 1979 Texas legislative declaration that made June 19th a state holiday to memorialize the reading of the Emancipation Proclamation at Ashton Villa on June 19, 1865.

Susan L. Taylor: Advocate for Mentoring

Video of Susan Taylor on mentoring as a tool to
combat the public education crisis

Born January 23, 1946 in New York, Susan L. Taylor is now Editor-in-Chief Emeritus of Essence magazine and founder of National CARES Mentoring. In this video she discusses countering the "pipeline to prison" course of failing schools through instituting local mentoring programs that tap into the wealth of support and know-how available from individuals within a community. Each one reach one. This clip was developed January 14, 2010 as part of The Lottery Film (, a film by Madeleine Sackler, released in U.S. theaters May 7, 2010.

Local Mentoring Program Information:

Harlem CARES Mentoring Movement

Atlanta CARES Mentoring Movement

For information on starting a local school mentoring program through the National CARES Mentoring Movement, find more information on its website at


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