Category Archives: History

The Obama’s and Mourners Attend Funeral and Unseen Footage: Dr. Dorothy I. Height with President Obama and First Lady Michelle at the White House

Posted by: Audiegrl

Dr. Dorothy I. Height, 1912 - 2010, RIP

Watch never-before-seen video of President Obama, First Lady Michelle and “the godmother of the Civil Rights Movement,” Dr. Dorothy Height, during a January intergenerational reflection on the civil rights movement at the White House. She recounts here her memories of meeting one 15 year-old Martin Luther King, Jr. Dr. Height passed away on April 20, 2010 at the age of 98.

Also, please check out our memorial page to Dr. Height.

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Dorothy Height Funeral: President Obama Honors ‘Godmother’ Of Civil Rights Movement

President Barack Obama speaks at the funeral service of civil rights leader Dorothy Height April 29, 2010 in Washington, DC. Height led the National Council of Negro Women and marched with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images North America)

AP~President Barack Obama on Thursday eulogized Dorothy Height as a history-making figure in the civil rights movement whose quiet perseverance produced gains in “a righteous cause.”

Speaking to hundreds of mourners in the stately Washington National Cathedral, Obama recounted Height’s commitment to the cause during decades of work, mostly behind the scenes while the movement’s male leaders earned more attention and fame.

“She never cared about who got the credit,” the president said. “What she cared about was the cause. The cause of justice, the cause of equality, the cause of opportunity, freedom’s cause.”

His 13-minute tribute often drew gentle laughter as Obama remembered Height’s doggedness and energy. Height, who died last week at age 98, led the National Council of Negro Women for decades and marched with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

Height visited the Obama White House 21 times, the president said. He noted that she was determined to attend a meeting of African-American leaders on unemployment last winter even though she was in a wheelchair and a blizzard was approaching.

She wouldn’t allow “just a bunch of men” to control the meeting, Obama said. When Height’s attendance became impossible because cars could not reach her snow-choked driveway, he said, she still sent a message with her ideas.

Noting Height’s trademark attire, Obama said, “we loved those hats she wore like a crown. Regal.”

He cited her role in desegregating the YWCA and in leading the National Council of Negro Women with “vision and energy, vision and class.” He said her name should be associated with great leaders such as King and W.E.B. DuBois.

“She too deserves a place in our history books,” Obama said. “She too deserves a place of honor in America’s memory.”

He urged Americans to honor Height’s memory by serving their country and making it better. “We can all be drum majors for a righteous cause,” the president said.

Others were spoke at the service included poet and author Maya Angelou and former Labor Secretary Alexis Herman. Opera singer Denyce Graves performed for the audience, which included First Lady Michelle Obama and Vice President Joe Biden.


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Remembering Dr. Dorothy I. Height

Written by Valerie Jarrett

Dr. Dorothy Height with Oprah

Dr. Dorothy I. Height was grace personified. She displayed a quiet strength. She vigorously defended the Constitution and fought for equal rights, women’s rights, and human rights for citizens of our country and for people the world over.

Today we said our final goodbyes to this extraordinary woman, and the President of the United States paid tribute to her during the final service. It is more than fitting that this should be the case.

Even in what would be the final year of her life, Dr. Height pressed the National Council of Negro Women to stay in the fight for health care, to make sure that working families had the support they needed to survive during these challenging economic times, and to continue inspiring young girls and women to reach their highest aspirations. Dr. Height visited the White House 21 times since President Obama’s Inauguration. Indeed, when invited to the White House in February to meet with the President and a group of Civil Rights leaders, only the worst blizzard in Washington in 100 years could keep her away.

On another occasion, Dr. Height joined us on Martin Luther King Day when a group of African American seniors and young children met with the President and Mrs. Obama for a moment of reflection on the road traveled by African Americans in our country. She told us of the first time she met Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as a teenager and the promise he conveyed even then. Later the group joined the President in the Oval Office to review an original copy of the Emancipation Proclamation hung that very day.

During Women’s History Month this year, President Obama recognized Dr. Height for her life’s work by including her in the proclamation declaring the annual celebration of the contributions women have made in shaping our democracy. She joined us at the White House for what would be one of her final visits to honor women from all walks of life, many of whom had been inspired by her noble acts.

I believe Dr. Height had what Dr. King called “long life and longevity” because she was selfless in her service and lived to uplift her neighbor, whether they lived next door or half way around the world. In one of her final interviews just over a month ago, Dr. Height was asked what advice she would offer to teenage girls trying to find their way. She offered a very basic yet profound charge: find a purpose.

Dr. Height’s purpose was to open doors that had been closed for far too long. Upon reflection on receiving the Congressional Gold Medal in 2004 when she was well into her nineties, and when many of us would have thought a good rest was long overdue, Dr. Height said, “I felt pleased and proud, but also challenged to see what more I could do.”

In her honor, we all should be willing to challenge ourselves to see what more we can do every single day.

Valerie Jarrett is Senior Advisor to the President.

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Special 44-D Tribute ~ Dr. Dorothy I. Height, Founding Matriarch of Civil Rights Movement, Dies at 98
“She was a dynamic woman with a resilient spirit, who was a role model for women and men of all faiths, races and perspectives. For her, it wasn’t about the many years of her life, but what she did with them”

Looking for more stories on the First Lady? Check out our brand new section: FLOTUS: All Things Michelle Obama

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Filed under African-Americans, Civil Rights Movement, First Lady Michelle Obama, History, Pres. Barack Obama, Uncategorized, Video/YouTube

Happy 420! ~ A Brief History of Weed

Posted by: Audiegrl


HP/Ryan Grim~When it’s finally written — if it’s finally written — the history of the American drug war will begin and end in the same town: San Francisco. The city passed the first anti-narcotics law in 1878, specifically targeting not opium, but opium dens, and aimed at their Chinese proprietors.

Other towns, counties and states liked San Francisco’s new law, and found others to pile on top — it was a way to satisfy voters’ anti-immigrant moods, hostility to people of a different race and that fundamental American desire to control the behavior of our compatriots. That impulse has been strong since the first colonists settled here — as has been a rival desire — that for liberty and rugged, individual expression. The two strains have been at war with each other since before the founding of the nation and we have seen the tension expressed most violently in the war against drugs — or, more accurately, the war against drug users.

A little less than a year ago, I wrote about the battle between these foundational American influences in the book This Is Your Country On Drugs: The Secret History of Getting High in America. Judging by America’s relationship with drugs and drug policy over the years, I wrote that if we as a people ever did legalize drugs, the laws would be undone the same way they were done, city by city, state by state.

The pace has quickened since Obama took office.

The arc of American drug policy began to bend in the 1970s, with 13 states decriminalizing marijuana, but even as that arc bent back up again in the 1980s, San Franciscans were at work reversing the history they had sparked. In 1991, city voters passed Proposition P, which ushered in the medical marijuana movement. Five years later, the state passed its now-famous medical marijuana law.

Thirteen more states have followed and even the nation’s capital is writing final rules to allow legal marijuana dispensaries that members of Congress will walk past on their way to work. Maryland, New York, Illinois and a host of other states are considering similar legislation, and the momentum is thanks to Obama’s announcement that he would not raid shops or patients operating within state laws.

The next stage is in process, too: California voters, in 2010, will be asked to legalize marijuana for all adults, not just the ill. The potential for tax revenue and job creation have become central to the debate, just as they were when Americans repealed alcohol prohibition. Meanwhile, activists in Oregon and Washington state are gathering signatures for similar ballot initiatives.

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History of the White House Easter Egg Roll

Posted by: Audiegrl

The public attends the Annual Easter Egg Roll on the White House grounds in 1954.


The Easter Egg Roll is an annual event, that is held on the White House lawn each Easter Monday for children and their parents. I’ve put together a list of little know historical facts about the Annual White House Easter Egg Roll. And to add some visual flava, there’s a slide show chronicling the party through history…Enjoy!

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  • The Easter Egg Roll is a White House tradition dating back to 1878 and President Rutherford B. Hayes, but there are records of informal egg rolling events even earlier. Dolley Madison, the wife of President James Madison, held a event in 1814 and hundreds of children brought their decorated eggs to join in games.
  • The White House Easter egg roll was originally in front of Capitol Hill. That site was closed off after President Ulysses S. Grant signed a bill in 1876 banning egg-rolling because it caused too much wear and tear to the lawns. The law was so strictly enforced that the Capitol Police had to eject some die-hard rollers.
  • On Easter day in 1878, when the ban on egg rolling at the Capitol was enforced, some claim that President Hayes saw tearful children while riding by the Capitol Grounds in his carriage and invited them to play on the White House lawn
  • Grover Cleveland was the first President to join the egg roll. In 1885 a group of kids demanded a personal audience with the president after walking into the East Room of the White House (security clearly wasn’t as tight then). After that, the rollers weren’t allowed indoors.
  • Music was added to the party in 1889. The United States Marine Band, conducted by John Philip Sousa, was asked to play for the children. Sousa’s “Easter Monday on the White House Lawn” was composed in honor of the tradition. The Jonas Brothers, a favorite band of First Daughters Malia and Sasha Obama, played for the rollers in 2008.
  • By 1899, the White House Easter Egg Roll had become quite popular, with over 8,000 people in attendance. This year, 30,000 were invited to attend the event
  • First Lady Grace Coolidge was known for her love of pets, but none were more famous than her pet raccoon, Rebecca, who made an appearance at the White House Easter Egg Roll in the 1920’s
  • The White House instituted a one adult per child rule in the 1930s. The crowd got so sneaky about circumventing the rule that the Secret Service had to regulate at the gates. Crafty children would even charge adults to come in with them.
  • The Easter Egg Roll has been held at the White House every year except during World War I, World War II and the Truman Renovation of the White House, when it was moved to other Washington locations or canceled
  • President Nixon and First Lady Pat Nixon were the first to include the White House Easter Bunny in the festivities. A member of Mrs. Nixon’s staff dressed up as the first human-sized bunny. Since then, life-sized bunnies and other animals have strolled the White House lawns during the event.
  • President Ronald Reagan was the first President to hide autographed eggs for children to find in the Egg Hunt
  • President George H.W. Bush and First Lady Barbara Bush were the first to affix the signature of the President and First Lady to the commemorative egg
  • In 2009 the Obama administration allocated tickets for same-sex couples and their children to attend the Easter Egg Roll. In 2006, Conservative groups accused gay and lesbian parents attending the event of “crashing.” SMDH
  • In 2009, the Obamas chose a green egg as their souvenir. In the spirit of a greener White House, kids got an egg designed to be “the greenest egg in White House Easter Egg Roll History” that year.
  • In 2010, President Obama and First Lady Michelle had the packaging of the eggs, made from recyclable paperboard, designed to minimize waste and environmental impact, and include fruits and vegetables for the event that were organically grown. In addition, the goody bags included a brochure on healthy eating
  • In 2010, 250,000 tickets were requested through the online lottery, allowing residents from all 50 states to have a chance to attend. Of the 30,000 ticket winners, at least one family from all 50 states was successful in the lottery. In addition, 3,000 tickets were distributed to students of DC, MD and VA schools, and 4,000 tickets were distributed to military families

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Filed under Easter, First Lady Michelle Obama, History, Obama Administration, Pres. Barack Obama, Uncategorized

White House Butler for 8 Presidents Dies

Posted by: Bluedog89

WP~Eugene Allen, who endured a harsh and segregated upbringing in his native Virginia and went on to work for eight presidents as a White House butler, died March 31 of renal failure at Washington Adventist Hospital in Takoma Park. He was 90.

Mr. Allen and his wife, Helene, were profiled in a Washington Post story in 2008 that explored the history of blacks in the White House. The couple were excited about the possibility of Barack Obama’s historic election and their opportunity to vote for him. Helene, however, died on the eve of the election, and Mr. Allen went to vote alone. The couple had been married for 65 years.

Afterward, Mr. Allen, who had been living quietly in a simple house off Georgia Avenue NW in the District, experienced a fame that he had only witnessed beforehand. He received a VIP invitation to Obama’s swearing-in, where a Marine guard escorted him to his seat. Eyes watering, he watched the first black man take the oath of office of the presidency.

Mr. Allen was besieged with invitations to appear on national TV shows. There were book offers and dozens of speaking requests, all of which he declined. He also received hundreds of letters, some from as far away as Switzerland, from people amazed at the arc of his life and imploring him to hold on while thanking him for his service to the nation. People in his neighborhood would stop him and explain to their children the outlines of his life.

“He liked to think of himself as just a humble butler,” his only child, Charles, said Thursday. Aside from his son, Mr. Allen is survived by five grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

Mr. Allen was born July 14, 1919, in Scottsville, Va. He worked as a waiter at the Homestead resort in Hot Springs, Va., and later at a country club in Washington. In 1952, he heard of a job opening at the White House and was hired as a “pantry man,” washing dishes, stocking cabinets and shining silverware for $2,400 a year.

He became maitre d’, the most prestigious position among White House butlers, under Ronald Reagan. During Mr. Allen’s 34 years at the White House, some of the decisions that presidents made within earshot of him came to have a direct bearing on his life — and that of black America.

Allen, far right, while working for President Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Mr. Allen was in the White House when Dwight D. Eisenhower dealt with the Little Rock desegregation crisis. Eisenhower once asked him about the cancellation of Nat “King” Cole’s TV show, which the president enjoyed. Mr. Allen told him that the show had difficulty attracting advertisers, who were worried about white Southern audiences boycotting their products.

When John F. Kennedy was assassinated, Mr. Allen was invited to the funeral. He declined for the most generous of reasons: “Somebody had to be at the White House to serve everyone after they came from the funeral,” he told The Post. When first lady Jackie Kennedy returned to the White House afterward, she gave him one of the president’s ties. Mr. Allen had it framed.

Mr. Allen served entertainers including Sammy Davis Jr., Duke Ellington, Pearl Bailey and Elvis Presley. He flew aboard Air Force One. He sipped root beer at Camp David with Jimmy Carter and visited Eisenhower in Gettysburg after he left the White House. There were always Christmas and birthday cards from the families of the presidents he had served.

He looked up one evening in the White House kitchen to see a lone figure standing in the doorway: It was Martin Luther King Jr., who had insisted on meeting the butlers and maids. Mr. Allen smiled when King complimented him on the cut of his tuxedo.

Allen, far right, with President Lyndon B. Johnson, Archbishop Humberto Medeiros of Boston, and President Richard M. Nixon.

Mr. Allen served cups and cups of milk and Scotch to help Lyndon B. Johnson settle his stomach when protesters were yelling outside the White House gates during the Vietnam War. He longed to say something to Johnson about his son, who was serving in Vietnam at the time but dared not — save for acknowledging that his son was alive when Johnson asked about him.

It pained Mr. Allen to hear vulgar words, sometimes racially charged, flowing from Johnson’s mouth; and it delighted him when Johnson signed the historic civil rights bills of 1964 and 1965.

Mr. Allen serves a party hosted by President Gerald Ford.

Sometimes Mr. Allen’s own life seemed to stop beneath the chandeliered light. First lady Nancy Reagan came looking for him one afternoon, and Mr. Allen wondered whether he or a member of his staff had done something wrong. She assured him that he had not but also told him that his services would not be needed at the upcoming state dinner for German Chancellor Helmut Kohl. Mr. Allen tensed, wondering why.

Mr. Allen with President and Mrs. Ronald Reagan.

“She said, ‘You and Helene are coming to the state dinner as guests of President Reagan and myself,’ ” he recounted in the Post interview. Mr. Allen thought he was the first butler to receive an invitation to a state dinner. He and Helene — she was a beautiful dresser — looked resplendent that night. The butlers on duty seemed to pay special attention to the couple as they poured champagne for guests — champagne that Mr. Allen himself had stacked in the kitchen.

Mr. Allen was mindful that with the flowering of the black power movement, many young people questioned why he would keep working as a butler, with its connotations of subservience. But the job gave him great pride, and he endured the slights with a dignified posture.

“He was such a professional in everything he did,” said Wilson Jerman, 81, whom Mr. Allen hired to work at the White House in the early 1960s. “When my wife, Gladys, died in 1966, he told me not to worry about a thing. I didn’t think I could get through that period, and he just took me by the hand. I’ll never forget it.”

Mr. Allen retired in 1986, after having been promoted to maitre d’ five years earlier. He possessed a dazzling array of framed photographs with all of the presidents he had served, in addition to gifts and mementos from each of them.

The last item to be framed and placed on Eugene Allen’s basement wall was a condolence letter from George W. and Laura Bush. It arrived from the White House just after the death of Helene.

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What the Health Care Bill Does for Average Americans

Posted by: Bluedog89

President Barack Obama addresses doctors at the White House.

HP~After months of fierce debate around the country and after an intense day of voting on Capitol Hill, a health care reform bill is on its way to President Obama’s desk.

Once Obama signs the bill into law, as he is expected to do on Tuesday, it will mean an end to the current health care system as we know it.

Pundits on the right and left have been reacting to passage of the legislation, but what does the bill actually mean for the average American?

The immediate effects of the health care bill as well as some that will take effect in the first year of implementation are as follows:

1. Health Insurers cannot deny children health insurance because of pre-existing conditions. A ban on the discrimination in adults will take effect in 2014.

2. Businesses with fewer than 50 employees will get tax credits covering up to 50% of employee premiums.

3. Seniors will get a rebate to fill the so-called “donut hole” in Medicare drug coverage, which severely limits prescription medication coverage expenditures over $2,700. As of next year, 50% of the donut hole will be filled.

4. The cut-off age for young adults to continue to be covered by their parents’ health insurance rises to the age 27.

5. Lifetime caps on the amount of insurance an individual can have will be banned. Annual caps will be limited, and banned in 2014.

6. A temporary high-risk pool will be set up to cover adults with pre-existing conditions. Health care exchanges will eliminate the program in 2014.

7. New plans must cover checkups and other preventative care without co-pays. All plans will be affected by 2018.

8. Insurance companies can no longer cut someone when he or she gets sick.

9. Insurers must now reveal how much money is spent on overhead.

10. Any new plan must now implement an appeals process for coverage determinations and claims.

11. This tax will impose a 10% tax on indoor tanning services. This tax, which replaced the proposed tax on cosmetic surgery, would be effective for services on or after July 1, 2010.

12. New screening procedures will be implemented to help eliminate health insurance fraud and waste.

13. Medicare payment protections will be extended to small rural hospitals and other health care facilities that have a small number of Medicare patients.

14. Non-profit Blue Cross organizations will be required to maintain a medical loss ratio — money spent on procedures over money incoming — of 85% or higher to take advantage of IRS tax benefits.

15. Chain restaurants will be required to provide a “nutrient content disclosure statement” alongside their items. Expect to see calories listed both on in-store and drive-through menus of fast-food restaurants sometime soon.

16. The bill establishes a temporary program for companies that provide early retiree health benefits for those ages 55‐64 in order to help reduce the often-expensive cost of that coverage.

17. The Secretary of Health and Human Services will set up a new Web site to make it easy for Americans in any state to seek out affordable health insurance options The site will also include helpful information for small businesses.

18. A two‐year temporary credit (up to a maximum of $1 billion) is in the bill to encourage investment in new therapies for the prevention and treatment of diseases.

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Little-Known Black History Fact: Mary Alexander & Coca-Cola

Posted by BuellBoy

Mary Alexander in Coco-Cola in 1955

Mary Alexander in Coco-Cola ad in 1955

The year 1955 was like a dream come true for Mary Alexander of Ocala, Florida. She was a junior at Clark College in Atlanta, Georgia concentrating on her studies when her dorm mother insisted that she go to a local audition for a Coca-Cola promotion on campus. Little did Alexander know that she would become the first Black woman to be featured in a Coca-Cola ad – the first non-athlete, that is.

Coming to the city of Atlanta from her meager farmhouse beginnings in Ball Play, Alabama, Alexander never thought she could compete against the candidates from Spelman and Morris Brown College.

Alexander’s first ad was published in Ebony magazine that same year, along with several black newspapers. She would continue working with the company, shooting another 15 ads. Overall, Alexander would earn about $1,500 modeling for Coke, even though no one knew her name. By the way, she finally gained her father’s approval when she brought a check home for $600.

It was only because a family friend who saw the ad in her home took a copy back to Coca-Cola headquarters in Atlanta that Coke found their black beauty. After all these years, a name would be put to the face.

Coca-Cola recognized Alexander for being a pioneer in the company’s efforts to reach more African-Americans. Several of the ads she appeared in are on display in the new World of Coca-Cola museum in Atlanta. They also held a reception in her honor.

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Little-Known Black History Fact: Molly Williams

Posted by BuellBoy

Drawing of Molly Williams pulling fire pump through snow storm

Drawing of Molly Williams pulling fire pump through a snow storm in 1818

A slave named Molly Williams was the first known female firefighter in the United States. Little is known about her life, but female firefighters know her heroic story.

Owned by a New York merchant named Benjamin Aymar, Williams became part of the Oceanus Engine Company firehouse in 1815 and would be known as Volunteer Number 11. The members of the house credited her for being as tough as the male firefighters. She would fight amongst them in a calico dress and checked apron.

Besides the bucket brigades, Molly pulled the pumper to fires through the deep snowdrifts of the blizzard of 1818 to save towns. On December 27, 1819, the Fire Department reported that the fire buckets were rapidly being superseded by the use of hose, so the era of fire buckets ended.

Even as a slave, Williams had gained the respect of her fellow firefighters. Her story and strength paved the way for other women, including one the first paid Black female firefighters and the most tenured in the country – Toni McIntosh of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, who served for over 11 years.

Today there are many African-American women working as career firefighters and officers in the United States, along with a number of counterparts in the volunteer ranks. The African American Fire Fighter Museum is a non-profit organization dedicated to collecting, conserving and sharing the heritage of African American firefighters.

The Museum is housed at old Fire Station 30. This station, which was one of two segregated fire stations in Los Angeles, between 1924 and 1955, was established in 1913, to serve the Central Ave community.

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