Walter Dean Myers started school, looking to conquer the world. He could read well; he had discovered the powers of the written word. Words failed him, though, when it came time to speak. He had a speech impediment, one that caused him immense frustration: some words he couldn't pronounce. His frustration soon turned to anger. Luckily, a teacher recognized his problem. She told him to write words he could pronounce, and he began to write. He created poems at first, then short stories, full of words that he did not fear reading aloud. He was soon being praised for his writing: it was just a preview of the praise he would receive when he embarked on his life of writing.
In 1939, talented singer Marian Anderson was denied the spotlight at the D.A.R.'s Constitution Hall on account of her race. First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt quickly saw to it that she had another venue--the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. On Easter Sunday, a crowd of 75,000 listened to her in person, and her music was carried on the radio and heard by many more. After the concert, Marian Anderson went on to break more racial barriers in the entertainment industry and became a voice of the Civil Rights Movement.
Chester Himes had a hard life, even for someone growing up in the 'thirties. He took some knocks early on, knocks many people get in life; it was the racism he encountered in LA that made him bitter, a bitterness which put a fire in his belly and informed so much of his best work. Himes probably would have drawn little consolation over the fact he was breaking new trails for authors such as Walter Mosley. But he did.
Born a slave in Franklin County, Virginia, Booker T. (Taliaferro) Washington went on to become a nationally-known leader and educator. He shared his educational philosophy with U.S. presidents and served as the first president of Tuskegee Institute, now Tuskegee University.
Last Tuesday, our librarians discussed ten books we found worthy of the Coretta Scott King author and illustrator awards. The actual winners will be announced next Monday, January 18, at the American Library Association conference in Boston. Click here on Monday morning at 7:45 for a live webcast of the announcements.
The Coretta Scott King Awards are given to African American authors and illustrators for outstanding inspirational and educational contributions. Among our nominations for the Illustrator Award is “The Negro Speaks of Rivers,” a poem by Langston Hughes illustrated by E. B. Lewis.
Robert Hodge reported in 1981 that this is from a report prepared by a students of Germanna Community College in circa 1979. Report is not verified and was unsigned. Indeed, there is a variation in the name Bumbrey - represented as Bumbray here, but there are stones with Bumbrey in the cemetery. The original list was accompanied by the following statements:
"The following list of names is a list of people buried in an all black cemetery in the City of Fredericksburg at the corner of Monument Avenue and Littlepage Street.
Nine months before Rosa Parks made history, a fifteen-year-old girl was arrested for refusing to move to the back of a bus in Montgomery, Alabama. Claudette Colvin was well aware of the convoluted rules about where blacks could sit on the city buses, but on this day she decided not to obey the bus driver’s command to give up her seat. She was arrested and eventually convicted of assault and violating the segregation law.
Deemed too emotional to become the public face of the civil rights cause, Colvin has been a footnote to history for the last fifty years. But that has changed with the publication of Philip Hoose’s “Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice,” winner of this year’s National Book Award for Young People’s Literature.
This is an oral history interview with Johnny P. Johnson, Fredericksburg artist, teacher, civil rights activist, on July 1 and August 14, 1997, at his art studio at 1311 Charles St., Fredericksburg. This interview was suggested, in part, by Mr. Johnson's personal and yet objective picture of the civil rights movement in Fredericksburg as related during a 1997 Black History Month program.
Johnny Johnson, Part I
By Janet Payne
Janet Payne is the retired fine arts coordinator of the Stafford (VA) County Public Schools.
This article originally appeared in the International Review of African American Art, volume 16, number 1, and is reproduced here with the permission of this publication.
(This brochure was originally printed in the fall of 2002.)
Africans first arrived in the Virginia colony in 1619 as indentured servants. In the late 1600s slaves were brought into the sparsely settled Rappahannock Valley, primarily to serve as agricultural laborers.