Category Archives: Black History Month

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: Augustus Nathaniel Lushington

Posted by BuellBoy

Dr. Augustus Nathaniel Lushington (1869-1939)

Dr. Augustus Nathaniel Lushington (1869-1939)

When the students at the University of Pennsylvania enter its veterinary school, one of the first portraits they see is of Augustus Nathaniel Lushington. Lushington, a native of Trinidad, became one of the first Black degreed veterinarians in 1897.

Looking for job opportunities, Lushington left his British West Indies home with his new wife and ended up with a vet degree. Ironically, he had come to America looking for opportunity and ended up finding discrimination and racism.

He did most of his work out of Lynchburg, Virginia, where he would walk miles to treat sick animals in farm country. White farmers often requested his services but then refused to pay, and as a black man in the South in the early 1900s, Lushington had no rights for taking legal action or right to refuse services to the non-payers. Working for little pay, he took on other jobs, including meat inspector and a weekend probation officer.

Though he was subject to the social depression of blacks in the 19th century, Lushington’s work spoke volumes, and he gained national recognition. He held memberships with the Federal Department of Agriculture and Lynchburg Chamber of Commerce.

Lushington worked until he died in 1939. His practice was passed down to a father-son team, George Jackson Sr. and Jr.

Note: It was not until the veterinary school at Tuskegee Institute was established by Dr. William Henry Waddell IV that the number of African-American veterinarians in the United States began to increase.

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Little-Known Black History Fact: Lois Mailou Jones

Posted by BuellBoy

Lois Mailou Jones in 1936

Lois Mailou Jones in 1936

Textile artist Lois Mailou Jones was a Harlem Renaissance artist; in fact, she was one of the longest living members of the Harlem Renaissance.

Jones found her inspiration in Martha’s Vineyard as a teen. As her interest grew, she decided to attend the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in 1937, learning textile design.

Though a cultured profession, textile artists of her day were not excluded from racism. Sometimes she was required to clean the studio in order to us it. At one point, Jones saw her textile work hanging in a boutique. After introducing herself as the creator of the design, the owner told her a colored girl could not have possibly made such a beautiful design. After enduring more discrimination, Jones found herself in Paris, where she was accepted. It was there that she worked with Josephine Baker, Albert Smith and Emile Bernard.

Lois Mailou Jones

Lois Mailou Jones

Wishing to find her place in America, Jones entered “whites only” art contests using the face of her white colleague to make a name for herself. She connected with greats like with Mary McCleod Bethune, Arthur Schomburg, Alan Locke, Zora Neale Hurston and Danny Glover.

She took her expertise to an HBCU – the one place she was allowed to teach – and taught at Howard University for 47 years.

Before she died in 1998, Jones presented her work to President Bill and First Lady Clinton. She now lays to rest in Martha’s Vineyard, where it all began.

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Little-Known Black History Fact: Selena Sloan Butler

Posted by BuellBoy

Selena Sloan Butler

Selena Sloan Butler

Selena Sloan Butler was the past president of Georgia Congress of Colored Parents and Teachers 1919-1926. Following the success of the National Congress of Mothers PTA, African-American teacher and Spelman College graduate Selena Sloan Butler heard the call, so on May 7, 1926, the National Congress of Colored Parents and Teachers (NCCPT) was formed, with Sloan holding the title of its first national president.

Butler was dedicated to teaching. When her community lacked a kindergarten for black children, she held classes in her living room.
Butler’s goal was to create an organization that held interest in all children, regardless of color or social status. The first local chapter was at Yonge Elementary school in Atlanta in 1911 and grew from there. However, because of segregation, the Colored Mothers PTA would work independently of the larger National PTA until 1970.

Young Street Parent Teachers Association Atlanta 1919

Young Street Parent Teachers Association Atlanta 1919

An activist in the community, Butler co-founded the Spelman College Alumnae Association, organized the Phyllis Wheatley Branch of the Atlanta YWCA and was the first president of the Georgia Federation of Colored Women’s Club. From 1929 to 1930, she served under President Herbert Hoover’s cabinet on the Child Health and Protection committee.

Yonge Elementary was renamed in honor of her husband, Dr. Henry Rutherford Butler, and Selina Sloan Butler’s portrait now hangs in the Georgia State Capitol building.

Selana Butler died October 1964.

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First Lady Michelle Obama Meets With 11 Black History Month Essay Winners from England

Posted by: Audiegrl

First Lady Michelle Obama talks with students from London February 18, 2010 at the White House in Washington, DC. Students from schools in the borough of Islington were rewarded with a trip to the United States sponsored by the U.S. Embassy in London. In April 2009, Mrs. Obama visited the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson School in Islington. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

AP~First Lady Michelle Obama has given a pep talk to visiting students from England, saying they have shown they aren’t afraid of hard work that will take them somewhere in life.

Mrs. Obama met with the group of 11 students at the White House on Thursday. They are from schools across the London borough of Islington and were rewarded with the trip to the U.S. for winning a Black History Month essay competition.

She urged them to make the most of this time. She called it “practice for the rest of your life.”

First Lady Michelle Obama hugs Sahar Abdulrahman as she greets students

One girl is a student at the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson School in Islington. Mrs. Obama spoke at the school during a visit to London last.

From the pool report: First Lady Michelle Obama hosted 11 school students – six girls, five boys – from schools across the London borough of Islington, in the Old Family Dining Room on Thursday morning.

The kids won an Islington Black History Month essay competition and were rewarded with the trip, sponsored by the US Embassy in London.

They sat around an oval-shaped wooden table, decorated with two glass bowls of shiny apples), nervously waiting for Flotus to arrive. Four teachers/adults sat on the side and one asked your pool to desist from asking questions, saying the kids were very excited and wanted to compose themselves.

Flotus entered at 11:03 and said “Hi everybody!” Then proceeded to go around the table and hug all the kids. How are you all doing? “Tell me about your trip. When did you get here?” she asked as she sat at the table.

She welcomed the kids and told them about the room they were in, saying the president hosted the king of Spain here the previous day. Oohs and aahs.

Flotus visited the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson School in Islington in April 2009. One of the girls visiting today – Nanah Davies – is from that school and Flotus patted her on the back as she described that that visit was one of the highlights of her first year.

We’re living in a wonderful time where if you work hard… The opportunities are endless. That was true for me. Never did I realize that everything I did before would prepare me for being First Lady, but it did,” she said, stressing the importance of working hard at school.

Said that you don’t just wake up and be someone, says you have to work to become someone. Said her husband didn’t just wake up one day as president.

You’re going to trip and fall and slip along the way – he (the president) certainly did, I slipped a little less – don’t be afraid to be wrong, to get a few things wrong, but you’re learning, it’s all practice.”

Flotus encouraged them all to help other people, act as mentors.

Curtly Meijas talked about his essay, about his grandmother who emigrated from Trinidad to the UK.

The students were going on a tour of the White House afterwards.

The students attending were:

  • Abdul Hakim Abdullahi
  • Malcolm Atrobah
  • Degol Tesfai
  • Curtly Mejias
  • Care Ceven
  • Shenece Liburd
  • Ann Kirabo
  • Layla Mohamud
  • Sahar Adbulrahman
  • Nanah Colly Davies
  • Boji Alexandre Weirsangera

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

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Little-Known Black History Fact: Clarence Otis Jr.

Posted by BuellBoy

Clarence Otis Jr.

Clarence Otis Jr.

Clarence Otis Jr. has become a household name in America. Well, families at least talk about and visit his chain of restaurants every day of the week.

Since 2004, Otis, 53, has served as the chief executive officer of Darden Restaurants – which includes Olive Garden, Red Lobster, Longhorn Steakhouse, The Capitol Grille and Bahama Breeze restaurants – and he is Black. It is the world’s largest company that owns and operates its own restaurants.

Business leaders have called Otis “the Barack Obama of the business world.”

Though they use them in his restaurants, Otis wasn’t raised with a silver spoon in his mouth. He grew up in Watts in the 1960’s, born to a father who dropped out of school and worked as a janitor, and a mother who was a homemaker. Otis was nine years old when the riots broke out in his neighborhood, killing 34 and injuring 1,000 residents. He watched friends turn to gangs for comfort, and a few perished. Fighting was inevitable for Otis, but he was tough. His father once said that his son would occasionally get into fights at school, but would never come home beat up.

Otis found his peace and strength at the library. His father would often drive the family through Beverly Hills to show them what was obtainable to them if they worked and studied hard. He gained a philosophy of appreciating people with passion and allowing others to be leaders around him.

As a result, Otis ranks high among the few African-American CEOs of Fortune 500 companies in America. He earned his bachelors from Williams College, then a law degree from Stanford. After hitting Wall Street, he got on board with several large companies, eventually landing at Darden Restaurants. Now, instead of serving customers as a waiter in an LAX airport restaurant, he’s serving 400 million meals worldwide through his 180,000 employees.

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Black History Month…Re-Imagined

Thoughts by WillieBeyond

I know February is Black history month, but I feel during this month a lot of the focus is on the past, that is very distant from the present.  Not that this history isn’t important, but I feel as we talk about the past we forget some of the things we are doing in the present.  Everyone one will say the greatest thing to happen in Black history recently, would be the election of President Barack Obama. I have mixed feelings about that statement.  This post isn’t about recognizing what will be in a book fifty years from now, but more about realizing the important events that have happened that won’t be recorded.  I would like to have Black History Month changed to Black Culture Appreciation Month or something like that.  I feel a lot of the troubles people get into is because they can only think of the good times of the past, but not of the silver lining in the clouds of the present.  Remember, segregation was no joke, but now we celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King because segregation isn’t legal now (kinda sorta, depends on who you ask).  So lets think of the things that are happening now.

One of the things I feel should be marked and mention this Black Awareness Month (yeah, I like the sound of that) is Dave Chappelle.  Now before anyone gets upset, I am not one of those people who looks to celebrities, as a guideline for how to be happy.  Chappelle just happens to be a really good person to remember for one major reason.  Now we can all Wikipedia the info on Dave Chappelle, but I want us all to think of his actions.  The one I am mostly referencing is his decision to not do a Season 3.  He had the number one show and it was rising, but he stepped away for ethical reasons. I think that should be something that is marked down in history.  Everyone presented his refusal to do Season 3 as either a smart business move to make more money, or as just stupid and an effect of his mind spiraling out of control.  No one said it could just be for him wanting a better place to work (in an “I can sleep a night kind of way”).  Here is someone who had the integrity to step back and go “I don’t want to work at a place where I can’t feel good.”)

I think this action speaks louder than anything else as far as personal standards in my lifetime.  And yes I know Jerry Seinfeld also quit when his show was on the top.  But the huge difference in my mind is Chappelle had a wider resume than Seinfeld and Seinfeld was starting to peak, while Chappelle was still rising (look at season 4 and 5 of Seinfeld and tell me season 9 was as good).  But what do I know, it is just my opinion.  Also, because it doesn’t really matter, I feel I should take this time to point out Chappelle is a Muslim.  That’s right all you people who say Islam and Muslim is bad and yell out I’m Rick James (you know it…don’t lie to yourself) you were laughing a Muslim’s man sense of humor.  Also I don’t want this to be a thing where we forget about the person.  Yes, Dave Chappelle is a Muslim, yes he made us all laugh in one way or the other, and yes he got paid, but most importantly he is a man with a family.  He never let that escape his thought process. He is a man who has to live with himself, and that is what makes him one of my role models.

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