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Life on the Sea Isles

The Atlantic Monthly has preserved Charlotte Forten Grimké’s writings in their archives.  Read them below (in two parts):

Video

Guion Bluford, in his own words

Cheat Sheet

Quick Read: The Sullivan Principles

Leon Sullivan created principles for running businesses in a responsible way.  These two codes of conduct were instrumental in bringing an end to apartheid in South Africa.  These principles were:

  • Non-segregation of the races in all eating, comfort, and work facilities.
  • Equal and fair employment practices for all employees.
  • Equal pay for all employees doing equal or comparable work for the same period of time.
  • Initiation of and development of training programs that will prepare, in substantial numbers, blacks and other nonwhites for supervisory, administrative, clerical, and technical jobs.
  • Increasing the number of blacks and other nonwhites in management and supervisory positions.
  • Improving the quality of life for blacks and other nonwhites outside the work environment in such areas as housing, transportation, school, recreation, and health facilities.
  • Working to eliminate laws and customs that impede social, economic, and political justice. (added in 1984)

These principles were updated in 1999 along with UN Secretary General Kofi Annan.  You can read the Global Sullivan Principles here.

Charles Barkley’s Black History Month All-Stars

The former NBA great highlights a month's worth of Philadelphia's African American heroes

The former NBA great highlights a month's worth of Philadelphia's African American heroes

[Editor’s Note: In December, Charles Barkley made national headlines when he stumped for Doug Jones in Alabama’s U.S. Senate special election. “At some point, we got to stop looking like idiots to the rest of the nation,” he said. Now, to mark Black History Month, we’re rerunning the series of profiles Barkley—who still resides in the Philadelphia suburbs during the summer months—penned for us of local African American achievers.]

I speak at a lot of schools across the country, and I’ve encountered a trend that drives me freakin’ nuts. I always ask students the following question: “How many of you want to be a professional athlete or a rapper?”

At inner-city, mostly African American schools, nearly every hand shoots up. When I ask the same question in a white suburban school, maybe 10 percent of hands are raised. I speak to a lot of schools, and this happens without fail.

I tell black kids all the time, “You ain’t gonna be me.” Even if you’re any good on the court, the odds are stacked against you. But I can tell from the blank way they look back at me: They’re putting all their eggs in this totally unlikely basket. But I get why. Young black kids get from the media an unrealistic picture of African American success. Athletes and rappers, with Denzel and Oprah thrown in.

Many of these All-Stars didn’t make it into the history books or even the newspapers of their time. But their stories are inspiring and worth knowing.

Guion Bluford

Astronaut/Scientist
(born November 22, 1942)

Guion Bluford astronautThe first African American to go into space is Philadelphia’s own Bluford, 73, who grew up here before earning an aerospace engineering degree from Penn State through the Air Force ROTC program. After flying 144 combat missions in Vietnam, Bluford became the first African American NASA astronaut in 1979, eventually going into space on the Challenger and Discovery. Bluford logged over 28 days in space and 5,100 hours on different fighter pilots. “I’ve come to appreciate the planet we live on,” Bluford said. “It’s a small ball in a large universe. It’s a very fragile ball but also very beautiful. You don’t recognize that until you see it from a little farther off.” After his retirement, Bluford joined private industry, eventually becoming president of Aerospace Technology, an engineering consulting firm.

 

EDUCATION:

  • Penn State, B.S. 1964
  • Air Force Institute of Technology, M.S. 1974, Ph.D. 1978
  • University of Houston-Clear Lake, MBA 1987

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:

  • Earned honorary degrees from 14 universities, including Drexel University and University of the Sciences
  • Inducted into the International Space Hall of Fame in 1997 and U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame in 2010
  • Over two-dozen awards and accolades for his years of service as a pilot and astronaut
  • A part of the Tuskegee Airmen
  • Ranked colonel in U.S. Air Force

 

FINAL WORD:
In Guion’s International Space Hall of Fame biography, he says, “I felt an awesome responsibility, and I took the responsibility very seriously, of being a role model and opening another door to black Americans, but the important thing is not that I am black, but that I did a good job as a scientist and an astronaut. There will be black astronauts flying in later missions … and they, too, will be people who excel, not simply who are black . . . who can ably represent their people, their communities, their country.”

Charlotte Forten Grimké

Writer/Teacher
(August 17, 1837- July 23, 1914)

Charlotte Forten Grimké teacher educatorBorn into a wealthy family that valued both intellect and activism, Charlotte Forten Grimké was always eager to educate and engage a deprived African American community. She was the first black northerner to go south and teach former slaves. It was during the Civil War, on union-occupied St. Helena Island, where Forten taught ex-slaves as part of the Port Royal Experiment. While there, she struggled to connect with the islanders who hardly spoke English and who struggled following the daily routines of school. Nevertheless, once she detailed her experiences in an article published by Atlantic Monthly, more schools started popping up in the south for African Americans. She was also an avid writer and kept journals that have drawn attention for their insightful take on America during and after slavery.

 

EDUCATION:

  • Higginson Grammar School
  • Norman School

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:

  • Leader of the Port Royal Experiment
  • Appointed clerk in the U.S. Treasury Department
  • Had work published in William Lloyd Garrison’s The Liberator
  • The Journals of Charlotte Forten Grimké was published in 1988

 

FINAL WORD: “I shall dwell again among ‘mine own people.’ I shall gather my scholars about me, and see smiles of greeting break over their dusky faces. My heart sings a song of thanksgiving, at the thought that even I am permitted to do something for a long-abused race, and aid in promoting a higher, holier, and happier life on the Sea Islands,” Forten said.

Nathan Francis Mossell

Physician
(July 27, 1856 – October 27, 1946)

Nathan Francis Mossell doctor physicianNathan Francis Mossell was a pioneer physician who established the first black private hospital in Philadelphia, Frederick Douglass Memorial Hospital and Training School, that both treated African Americans and trained black nurses and doctors. Uncle to All Star Sadie Mossell Alexander, he was the first African American to graduate from the University of Pennsylvania medical school, and the first to join the Philadelphia County Medical Society. Mossell was also an activist, founding the Philadelphia chapter of the NAACP, and joining W.E.B. DuBois’s Niagara Movement. Mossell left his papers to Penn, including his autobiography in which he writes, “It is plain therefore, that prior to the Civil War, the so-called free colored people had few, if any, rights that the white man felt bound to respect. This mental attitude on his part, so hampered the colored people’s ideas of themselves that it still shrouds their efforts to attain a more inclusive legal franchise for themselves.”

 

EDUCATION:

  • Lincoln University B.A., 1879
  • University of Pennsylvania M.D., 1882

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:

  • First African American to earn a medical degree from Penn
  • First African American to join the Philadelphia Medical Society
  • Founded first private black hospital in Philadelphia that would not only treat African Americans but also train and teach black nurses and doctors
  • Fought for the desegregation of Girard College

 

FINAL WORD: In Mossell’s autobiography, he writes, “One may wonder how a physician can find so much time to champion the cause of his people. I have been no less spared from the indignities of segregation and discrimination than the non-professional colored person. In waging a fight to help free others from the infringements of Jim Crowism, I also help free myself.”

Caroline Still Anderson

Physician
(November 1, 1848 – June 1 or 2, 1919)

Caroline Still Anderson physician doctorThe daughter of abolitionists, Anderson graduated as the youngest in her class and earned her B.A. at 19. She taught elocution, drawing and music until 1875, when he decided she wanted to go into medical school. After initially being rejected because of her race for an internship at Boston’s New England Hospital for Women and Children, Anderson went in person and awed the board, who unanimously voted to hire her. She returned to Philly, opened her own dispensary and medical practice, and then began teaching hygiene and public speaking. She also opened her own liberal arts school Berean Manual Training and Industrial School that was praised by W.E.B. DuBois, along with her other work for the black community in Philadelphia. Anderson wrote in a letter to her husband before attending medical school, “I am tired of being so situated as to accomplish so little either for myself or anybody else.”

 

EDUCATION:

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:

 

FINAL WORD: Colleague of Anderson, Dr. Matthew Anderson said, “I cannot find words sufficiently expressive of her value to me in this work. For over thirty years [Caroline] has been my chief inspiration and unfailing support. When I would become weak and think of giving up the work because of the discouraging aspect she was always able to infuse in me new courage and zeal to go forward. Like myself, she was by birth and training peculiarly fitted for this work …. A burning zeal to assist in improving the condition of her race in every way, fitted her to be my companion in this work.”

Leon Sullivan

Civil Rights Leader
(October 16, 1922- April 24, 2001)

Leon Sullivan civil rights leaderRev. Leon Sullivan—the “lion of Zion”—used his pulpit and his position as longtime pastor of North Philly’s Zion Baptist Church to organize for local African American causes, particularly in employment. From 1959 to 1963, Sullivan led area black preachers in organizing “selective patronage” boycotts of local companies—Tasty Baking, Sun Oil, Gulf—deemed to discriminate against African Americans in their hiring, urging black consumers with the slogan “Don’t buy where you don’t work.” The movement opened up several thousand jobs to black workers and drew national attention, including that of Martin Luther King, Jr, who adopted Sullivan’s techniques in his Operation Breadbasket. In 1964, Sullivan opened the first Opportunity Industrial Center, a job-service training program to teach manufacturing skills to black Philadelphians. OIC still operates today, in 22 states and around the globe. Sullivan led Zion for 40 years, growing it from 600 congregants to 6,000, turning it into a community hub (the center still bears his name). Throughout, he also spent time in South Africa helping to fight and dismantle apartheid and creating a set of rules—now dubbed the ‘Sullivan Principles’ —that serve as guidelines for American corporations doing business in South Africa. He recalled in a 1999 interview a trip to South Africa that ended with him enduring a strip search at the airport. “A man with the biggest .45 I’d ever seen said, ‘We do to you what we have to,’” Sullivan recalled to the New York Times. “I stood there in my underwear, thinking, ‘I’m the head of the largest black church in Philadelphia and I’m on the board of directors of General Motors. When I get home, I’ll do to you what I have to.’”

 

EDUCATION:

  • West Virginia State College, B.A. 1943
  • Union Theological Seminary
  • Columbia University, M.A. 1947
  • Virginia Union University, D.D.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:

  • Founded Zion Investments Inc. in 1962
  • Founded OIC in 1964
  • First black Director of General Motors’ board
  • Started first African-African American Summit, 1991
  • Selected as one of 10 outstanding young men in United States by U.S. junior Chamber of Commerce, 1955
  • Named one of 100 Outstanding Young Men of America, Life magazine, 1963
  • Russwurm Award, National Publisher’s Association, 1963
  • Philadelphia Fellowship Commission Award, 1964
  • Philadelphia Book Award, 1966
    Awarded Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1991
  • Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Medal in 1987 for his efforts to eradicate apartheid in South Africa

 

Final Word: The preamble of Sullivan Principles reads: “The objectives of the Global Sullivan Principles are to support economic, social and political justice by companies where they do business; to support human rights and to encourage equal opportunity at all levels of employment, including racial and gender diversity on decision making committees and boards; to train and advance disadvantaged workers for technical, supervisory and management opportunities; and to assist with greater tolerance and understanding among peoples; thereby, helping to improve the quality of life for communities, workers and children with dignity and equality. I urge companies large and small in every part of the world to support and follow the Global Sullivan Principles of corporate social responsibility wherever they have operations.”

Alain Leroy Locke

Writer, ‘Dean’ of Harlem Renaissance
(September 13, 1885 – June 9, 1954)

Alain Leroy Locke Writer, ‘Dean’ of Harlem RenaissanceA writer and philosopher, Alain Leroy Locke is considered the philosophical architect of the Harlem Renaissance, a less widely-known—but no less important—figure than stars Zora Neale Hurston and Langston Hughes. The first African American Rhodes scholar (and last to be selected until 1960), Locke graduated from Central High School and then Harvard University. Despite his talents, even in England Locke faced adversity. Gay and black, Locke was rejected from many schools once he arrived at Oxford University because of his race, and had trouble finding work once he returned home. But he triumphed, teaching and leading at Howard University for 42 years. Sixty years after his death, his ashes were buried in the Congressional Cemetery in 2013, where his tombstone reads: “1885–1954 Herald of the Harlem Renaissance Exponent of Cultural Pluralism”

 

EDUCATION:

  • Harvard University, B.A. 1907
  • Rhodes Scholar at University of Berlin and Hertford College, 1907-1911
  • Harvard University, Ph.D 1918

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:

  • As guest editor for a periodical called Survey Graphic in 1925, Locke expanded the issue to create a collection of writings from African Americans titled The New Negro, which is now credited as the “first national book” of African America
  • Elementary schools are named after him in New York, Los Angeles, Indiana, Chicago and West Philadelphia
  • Locke Hall at Howard University named after him
    Professor at Howard University who encouraged students to look to Africa for inspiration of their works
  • Recipient of prestigious Bowdoin prize from Phi Beta Kappa fraternity

 

FINAL WORD: In March 1986, Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “We’re going to let our children know that the only philosophers that lived were not Plato and Aristotle, but W. E. B. Du Bois and Alain Locke came through the universe.”

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