Barack Obama’s Slave Ancestry Reportedly Discovered By Researchers

From the New York Times

President Obama's slave ancestry has been uncovered

President Obama’s slave ancestry has been uncovered

 President Obama’s biography — son of a black father from Kenya and a white mother from Kansas — has long suggested that unlike most African-Americans, his roots did not include slavery.

Now a team of genealogists is upending that thinking, saying that Mr. Obama’s mother had, in addition to her European ancestors, at least one African forebear and that the president is most likely descended from one of the first documented African slaves in the United States.

The findings are scheduled to be announced on Monday by, a genealogy company based in Provo, Utah. Its team, while lacking definitive proof, said it had evidence that “strongly suggests” Mr. Obama’s family tree — on his mother’s side — stretches back nearly four centuries to a slave in colonial Virginia named John Punch.

In 1640, Mr. Punch, then an indentured servant, escaped from Virginia and went to Maryland. He was captured there and, along with two white servants who had also escaped, was put on trial. His punishment — servitude for life — was harsher than what the white servants received, and it has led some historians to regard him as the first African to be legally sanctioned as a slave, years before Virginia adopted laws allowing slavery.

Read more of the story here.

This Day in Black History: Artist Betye Saar is Born

From the African American Registry

"The Liberation of Aunt Jemima" by Betye Saar

“The Liberation of Aunt Jemima” by Betye Saar

Betye Irene Saar was born on this date in 1926. She is an African-American artist and educator, famous for collages that lampoon racist attitudes about blacks and for installations featuring mystical themes.

Born Betye Irene nue Brown in Pasadena, CA, Saar studied design at the University of California at Los Angeles (B. A. 1949) and education and printmaking at California State University at Long Beach. In the early 1960s, she created etchings and intaglio, but after seeing a Joseph Cornell show in 1968, she began to expand her work from two to three dimensions, working in assemblage. She also augmented her mystical and occult themes with challenges to racist myths and stereotypes.

She also reiterated occult themes with explorations of mysticism in the digital age. Saar’s exhibitions included shows at the Whitney Museum of American Art (1975) and at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles (1984). She collaborated in shows with two of her daughters and taught at the University of California at Los Angeles and at the Parsons-Otis Institute in Los Angeles.

Read more about Saar here.

Might the US Learn from This? France Reflects on Its Role in Wartime Fate of Jews

From the New York Times

PARIS — Early on a Thursday morning in July 1942, more than 4,000 police officers set out in pairs through the streets of occupied Paris, carrying arrest orders for scores of Jewish men, women and children. Within days, 13,152 people had been rounded up for deportation to death camps. No more than 100 would survive.

 French Jews had to wear yellow stars during the German occupation of France.

In an exhibit in France today: The yellow starts that French Jews had to wear during the German occupation of France.

The mass arrests, the largest in wartime France, were planned and carried out not by the Nazi occupiers but by the French. That difficult reality, for years denied, obscured, willfully ignored or forgotten, is now increasingly accepted here, historians and French officials say, part of a broader reckoning with France’s uncomfortable wartime past.

The 70th anniversary of that dark episode — known as the Vel d’Hiv roundup, after the arena where many of those arrested were taken — has brought a flurry of commemorations this month, with official ceremonies, museum exhibits, wide news media coverage and an address by President François Hollande. Perhaps most telling, though, is a modest installation at the municipal hall of the Third Arrondissement in central Paris, where the national police are exhibiting for the first time the documents that record the operation in cold administrative detail….

Pascale Hassoun, 69, a psychologist, visited the police exhibit the day it opened. “It authenticates things,” she said softly in the echoing marble hall. Ms. Hassoun’s family “did not want to be completely aware” of the horrors carried out during the war, she said. “The first reflex is to not know,” Ms. Hassoun said. “It’s not a denial, it’s rather a willful ignorance.

“We need to learn to live with this stain,” she said, as the country’s past cannot be expiated. “We will never be able to do enough.”

Read more here.

Question for ABHM visitors:

Do you think that white America will ever accept responsibility for the holocaust inflicted on African American citizens, as the Germans and French have for the holocaust inflicted on their Jewish citizens?

Please comment below.

This Day in Black History: Central State University Founded

From the African American Registry

Central State University Marker

Central State University Marker

Central State University was founded on this day in 1887 in Ohio. It is one of more than 100 Historically Black Colleges and Universities in America.

CSU’s history begins with its parent institution, Wilberforce University. It was established at Tawawa Springs, Ohio, and affiliated with the African Methodist Episcopal (A.M.E.) Church. It is one of the oldest Black-administered institutions of higher education in the nation.

In 1867, the Ohio General Assembly enacted legislation that created a Combined Normal and Industrial Department at Wilberforce University. The goals of this department were to provide teacher training, vocational education, and program stability with a financial base similar to that of other state-supported institution. The statute establishing the Combined Normal and Industrial Department declared that the institution was “open to all applicants of good and moral character,” thereby having no limitations as to race, color, sex, or creed. It was clear, however, that the design was to serve the educational needs of Black students. Though part of Wilberforce University, a separate board of trustees was appointed to govern the state-financed operations.

In 1941, the department expanded from a two- to a four-year program, and six years later, it legally split from Wilberforce, becoming the College of Education and Industrial Arts at Wilberforce. The name was changed in 1951 to Central State College, and in 1965, the institution achieved university status. Charles H. Wesley, who had been president of Wilberforce before the split in 1947, served as Central State’s first president. His tenure lasted for almost two decades.

Ellen and William Craft Make a “Crafty” Escape from Slavery

From the African American Registry

The lives of Ellen and William Craft are celebrated on this date. They were two African-American abolitionists who were known for William’s autobiographical slave narrative describing the couple’s dramatic escape from slavery.

William and Ellen Craft’s self-liberation is one of the most remarkable escapes ever recorded in a historic slave narrative.

William Craft

William Craft

Ellen was born in 1826 in Clinton, GA, to a biracial slave woman and her white master, and was so light-skinned that she was often mistaken for a member of her father’s family. This infuriated her mistress and, as a result, at age 11, Ellen was given as a wedding gift to a daughter who lived in Macon. There she met William, whom she married in 1846.

Two years later, the Crafts began to devise their escape plan, which involved Ellen posing as a white slaveholder traveling with “his” slave, William. This required several levels of deception. She cut her hair, changed her walk, and wrapped her jaw in bandages to disguise her lack of a beard. To hide her illiteracy, she wrapped her right arm in a sling to have a ready excuse for being unable to sign papers; and Craft explained all of the bandages by claiming to be an invalid traveling north to receive medical care. In this manner, the Crafts traveled from Georgia to Pennsylvania by train, steamer, and ferry without being discovered.

Ellen (disguised as a disabled gentleman traveler) and William (as her slave)

Ellen (disguised as a disabled gentleman traveler) and William (as her slave), as imagined by artist Judith Hunt,

They arrived in Philadelphia on Christmas Day, 1848. The Crafts moved to Boston, and began traveling as antislavery lecturers. The passage of the Fugitive Slave Law in 1850, however, put their freedom in danger. In November of that year, they fled to England. Running a Thousand Miles for Freedom, William’s autobiography, was published in London in 1860. In 1868, following the Civil War, the Crafts returned to the United States with two of their children and settled in Ways Station, Georgia, near Savannah.

Ellen Craft died in 1891 and, at her request, was buried under her favorite tree on their land. William Craft eventually moved to Charleston, SC, where he died in 1900. The Crafts’ story remains a testimonial to the intelligence, cunning, and courage many African-American slaves brought to their determination to be free.

Read more about the Crafts here.

Running a 1000 Miles for Freedom

William Craft’s memoir of his life and escape from slavery.


You can read William Craft’s entire book online here.

Emmett Till Would Have Turned 71 Years Old Today – Had He Not Been Brutally Lynched at Age 14

From the African American Registry

Emmett Till was born on this date in 1941. He was a young African-American boy whose murder is still a graphic reminder of the volume of 20th century white racial hate in America against Black people.

Emmett Till & his mother

Emmett Till & his mother Mamie Till Bradley in Chicago about eight months before he was murdered.

Emmett Louis “Bobo” Till was from Chicago, the son of Mamie Carthan and Louis Till. His parents separated in 1942, and Mamie largely raised him. His father was drafted into the United States Army to fight in World War II in 1943. He was accused of and executed by the U.S. Army for raping two Italian women and murdering a third.

In the summer of 1955, when young Till was 14 years old, he went to stay with family in Mississippi. He arrived in Money, Mississippi on August 21, and went to stay with his great uncle, Moses Wright.

On the August 24, he joined other teenagers as they went to Bryant’s Grocery and Meat Market to get some refreshments. They were children of sharecroppers and had been picking cotton all day. The market was owned by Roy and Carolyn Bryant, whose clientele was made up of the local sharecropper population. While in the store, Till reportedly whistled at Carolyn and/or made a romantic proposition of her, an action that supposedly angered her husband. At about 2:30 AM on August 28, 1955, Roy Bryant and his half brother, J.W. Milam, kidnapped Emmett from his uncle’s house.

They brutally beat him and then shot him with a .45 caliber pistol before tying a heavy fan to his neck with barbed wire in order to weigh it down. An eye was also gouged out. Milam and Bryant were soon under suspicion in the boy’s disappearance, and were arrested on the August 29. Emmet’s body was recovered from the Tallahatchie River three days later on the last day of August. Till’s mother brought his body back to Chicago. A funeral home director asked her if she would like the body to be cleaned up for viewing, but she declined. She wanted people to see how badly the boy’s body had been disfigured in the incident, and chose to leave his coffin open.

Press photographers took pictures and circulated them around the country, drawing intense reaction by the public. Some reports indicate that up to 50,000 people filed through the funeral home to view the body. The photograph of Emmett Till’s mutilated corpse energized the African American civil rights movement when they appeared in Jet Magazine.

Read more about the Till case and reaction to it, here.


Little Known Black History Fact: Riverside General Hospital

Riverside General Hospital (RGH) in Houston, Texas is the only remaining historically black hospital in the United States.

Riverside General Hospital (RGH) in Houston, Texas is the only remaining historically black hospital in the United States.

From Black America Web

Riverside General Hospital (RGH) in Houston, Texas is the only remaining historically black hospital in the United States. Formerly known as the Houston Negro Hospital, the 1927 facility was the dream project of several black doctors.

Funded by a wealthy white Texas oilman named J. S. Cullinan, Houston Negro Hospital was dedicated to the black community on the Juneteenth holiday in 1926. The Tiffany Company donated a bronze tablet for the event. Interestingly, the dedication was one year prior to the actual opening of the hospital doors.

In 1961, the hospital building was extended and renamed Riverside General. It was the first medical center for black patients in Houston, and provided a place for Black physicians to work who were not allowed to admit patients to the black wards of Houston’s white hospitals.

The staff and faculty of Riverside General Hospital were all African-American. Benjamin C. Covington and Rupert O. Roett, from Meharry Medical School were part of the first wave of black physicians. Hospital memberships were sold to black families for $6 a year. This included free hospitalization for ill patients. Though it was intended to serve the 15,000 in the black community of Houston, the hospital would only average about eight patients per day. This directly affected RGH’s unique black nurses program, which was the only one in the city.

Read more about the hospital here.

Photo of Boy in Public Housing with an iPad Prompts Debate

By Jarvis DeBerry of the New Orleans Times-Picayune (

In a story that appeared on Wednesday’s front page, some residents of the Iberville public housing development talked about their fears that the scheduled implosion of the nearby Pallas Hotel will make them sick. Concerns about airborne particles prompted state officials to offer hotel rooms for residents who live within a 600-foot radius of the demolition site – but the Pallas Hotel and Iberville are separated by 725 feet. So, before Wednesday at least, there was nothing special being planned for folks in the 400-apartment complex.

But forget about the residents’ health worries. Some readers were more worked up over a photograph that accompanied Wednesday’s story. It showed an 8-year-old boy at the development busying himself with an iPad. That’s a relatively expensive piece of technology. Predictably, outrage ensued.

iPad boy

Ayanna Gabriel, 12, top left, looks on as Michael Smith Jr, 8, plays on his iPad at the Iberville public housing complex in New Orleans on Tuesday. Photograph by Rusty Constanza, New Orleans Times-Picayune.

[For example, one comment said] “…the able-bodied welfare recipients that infest that place are waiting in line…to go hit the taxpayer once again….”

The idea that most people in public housing are living the lush life has persisted for at least as long as presidential candidate Ronald Reagan started using the offensive “welfare queen.” But you ought to take a walk through the Iberville if you think its residents are living like royalty. Walk through and see if you’d exchange their thrones for yours.

The sight of a kid in public housing with an iPad doesn’t offend me. Actually it gives me hope. So many poor people have no access to the digital world. They fall behind in school because of it. They miss the opportunity to apply for certain jobs. Yes an iPad is an expensive gadget, but we can’t deny its usefulness. As computers go, an iPad comes cheaper than most laptops and desktops.

Read the complete article here.

This Day in Black History: Detroit Race Riot

From the African American Registry

National Guard in 1967

National Guard in 1967

On this date in 1967, the Detroit rebellion occurred. The summer of that year was a turbulent time in American history, “the worst year for riots in the United States,” with 165 uprisings taking place.

The Detroit uprising began near 12th Street and Clairmount in a predominantly Black, overcrowded, low-income neighborhood. Early on the morning of July 23, 1967, Detroit police raided a blind pig (a speak-easy), which was illegally selling alcohol after hours. A crowd gathered as those arrested were put in a police wagon.  Unrest erupted and quickly spread. Detroit Mayor Jerome P. Cavanagh asked Governor George Romney to send in the State Police. Cavanagh later authorized Romney to call in the National Guard.

It took 17,000 army forces, the Michigan National Guard, and Detroit police two days to subdue the rebellion. The effects of the unrest were enormous: 43 people died, 1,700 stores were looted, 7,231 people were arrested, 1,383 buildings were burned, and property valued at about $50 million was damaged.

Read more of the story here.

The NAACP Develops an HIV Manual for Black Churches

From the Website

About NAACP’s Commitment to HIV/AIDS as a Social Justice Issue


NAACP’s Info-Graphic about HIV

Throughout our history, the NAACP has fought to combat policies and practices that undermine human rights and social justice. HIV is now one of these important issues for our community. Black people are more likely to become infected, less likely to know they have the disease and more likely to die from HIV/AIDS than any other race.

Based on this belief, the NAACP conducted a year-long, 11-city research tour with over 250 faith leaders across denominations to identify best practices and challenges when addressing HIV within the Black Church. With this collected research and insight from the HIV manual advisory committee, we developed The Black Church and HIV: The Social Justice Imperative.

Read more about this initiative here. Download the Manual and/or the Pastoral Brief here.