Monthly Archives: February 2008


Jane Bolin has lived many firsts.She was the first African American woman to graduate from Yale Law School, in 1931.

She was the first African American woman to be named assistant corporate counsel for the City of New York, in 1937.

And when she was appointed to the Domestic Relations Court (now the Family Court of New York) in 1939, Jane Bolin became the first female African American judge in the nation.

She held that post for 40 years, until mandatory retirement age forced her to step down.

A barrier-breaker, she also was a crusader. In her role as judge, she pushed for changes, making sure the assignment of probation officers was done without regard for race or religion, and making sure childcare agencies that received public funds did not refuse service to children based on race or ethnicity.

“Her talents and good heart,” said New York Mayor Fiorello La Guardia, the man who first appointed her to the judgeship, were “devoted entirely to the public good.”

‘Saddened and maddened’
Born April 11, 1908, in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., Jane Matilda Bolin was the youngest of Gaius C. and Matilda Bolin’s four children. Gaius Bolin, an attorney himself, also was a first ý the first African American graduate of Williams College.

Jane Bolin’s mother died when Bolin was 8 years old. She spent a lot of time, subsequently, in her father’s law office after school. “Those leather-bound books just intrigued me,” she told one writer.

She was one of two African American students at Wellesley College, where, in 1928, she graduated in the top 20 of her class. Years later, she wrote about the ostracism she felt at that school.

I am saddened and maddened even nearly half a century later … (M)y college days for the most part evoke sad and lonely personal memories. … I report my memories honestly because this racism too is part of Wellesley’s history and should be recounted fully, if only as a benighted pattern to which determinedly it will never return and, also, as a measure of its progress.

At Yale, she was one of only three women in her class, and the only African American. After Yale, she clerked with her father, then married and moved to New York to begin her own law practice.

It was there that Mayor La Guardia appointed her as a family-court judge. La Guardia described Bolin as “gentleness personified with the weak and unhappy (and) stern and unrelenting with the wicked and wrongdoer.”

Bolin had one son, Yorke Bolin Mizelle, born in 1941. Her husband died two years later. She remarried in 1950.

Following retirement in the late 1970s, Bolin volunteered in the New York City Public Schools system and reviewed disciplinary cases for the New York State Board of Regents.

She has held local and national posts in many high-profile organizations, including the Urban League and the NAACP. Bolin also has honorary degrees from several universities.Bolin was an activist for children’s rights and education. She served on the board of the Child Welfare League. She received honorary degrees from Tuskeegee Institute, Williams College, Hampton University, Western College for Women and Morgan State University.

She retired in 1979 and served on the New York State Board of Regents. She died in Queens, and was survived by her son.

But instead of being a name most people know, Jane Bolin instead is the answer to an online trivia quiz, question No. 5, listed with Maxine Waters and Margaret Walker.
Jane Bolin, from the Harmon Collection at the US National Portrait Gallery:
Jane Bolin 1942.jpg
Judge Jane Bolin (photograph dated 1942), first black female to occupy a court bench.


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Pearl Primus was an American dancer, choreographer, anthropologist, and teacher whose performance work drew on the African American experience and on her research in Africa and the Caribbean.

This U.S. dancer, choreographer, and teacher (b. Nov. 29, 1919, Trinidad–d. Oct. 29, 1994, New Rochelle, N.Y.), pioneered the use of authentic African elements in her works and influenced a number of black dancers and choreographers, among them Alvin Ailey and Donald McKayle.

*Pearl Primus was a Trinidadian-American dancer, choreographer, and anthropologist. Her work helped establish the importance of African-American dance in United States culture.
Primus was from Trinidad and moved with her family to the United States as a young child. In 1940 she graduated from Hunter College with a degree in biology and premedical studies. Ms. Primus planned to become a doctor, but she became involved with a dance group and, after rapid progress, she studied, taught, and researched her first major choreographic work, African Ceremonial in 1943. In 1948 she won a Rosenwald Fellowship and spent 18 months traveling and studying dance in Africa. Pearl Primus subsequently returned to Africa several times, spending two years as director of Liberia’s Performing Arts Center.

She and her husband, Percival Borde, collaborated on several works and opened a dance school in New York City. Primus lectured and taught both dance and anthropology throughout the United States. In 1978 she completed her doctorate in anthropology at New York University. Much of her work utilized her knowledge of African and Caribbean dances. She also examined racial issues in the United States in such well-known dance pieces as Strange Fruit, about a woman’s reaction to a lynching, and The Negro Speaks of Rivers, based on the poem by American writer Langston Hughes.

Primus died in 1994. Her own dance company has performed her work in many Broadway musicals

CPrimus was born in Trinidad and raised in New York City, where she attended Hunter College. After graduating in 1940 with a degree in biology, she received a scholarship to study at the New School for Social Research in New York. Primus made her professional debut in New York in 1943, performing her own “African Ceremonial.” She then began performing at the Cafe Society Downtown, an integrated nightclub, and in 1944 she gave her first solo recital, performing to poetry and the music of folksinger Josh White. That show met with such success that it moved to Broadway. In 1946, Primus appeared in a New York revival of “Showboat,” as well as in Louis Gruenberg’s opera “The Emperor Jones” at the Chicago Civic Opera.Primus, who founded her own dance company in 1946, was best known for her “primitive” dances. She was famed for her energy and her physical daring, which were characterized by leaps up to five feet in the air. Dance critics praised her movements as forceful and dramatic, yet graceful and deliberately controlled. During this time Primus often based her dances on the work of black writers and on racial issues. In 1944, she interpreted Langston Hughes’ “The Negro Speaks of Rivers” (1944), and in 1945 she created “Strange Fruit”, based on the poem by Lewis Allan about a lynching. “Hard Time Blues” (1945) is based on a song about sharecroppers by folksinger Josh White. In 1949, Primus received a grant from the Julius Rosenwald Foundation to study dance in Central and West Africa. In the years that followed, she also studied and danced throughout the Caribbean and the southern United States. She drew her subjects from a variety of black cultures and figures, ranging from African stonecutters to Caribbean religious practices to rural life in the American South.Primus married the dancer and choreographer Percival Borde in 1954, and began a collaboration that ended only with his death in 1979. In 1959, the year Primus received an M.A. in education from New York University, she traveled to Liberia, where she worked with the National Dance Company there to create “Fanga,” an interpretation of a traditional Liberian invocation to the earth and sky. In 1978, Primus received a Ph.D. in Dance Education from New York University. The following year she created “Michael, Row Your Boat Ashore,” about the 1963 Birmingham, Alabama, church bombing. From 1984 to 1990 Primus served as a professor of ethnic studies, and artist in residence at the Five Colleges consortium in Massachusetts. In 1990, she became the first chair of the Five Colleges Dance Consortium. Her original dance company eventually grew into the Pearl Primus Dance Language Institute, where her method of blending African-American, Caribbean, and African influences with modern dance and ballet techniques is taught. In 1991, President George Bush honored Primus with the National Medal of Arts.

— Elizabeth V. Foley 


Emery, Lynne Fauley. BLACK DANCE FROM 1619 TO TODAY. Salem, Mass., 1988.
Thorpe, Edward. BLACK DANCE. London, 1989.
Wright, Patricia. “The Prime of Miss Pearl Primus.” CONTACT 10, no. 3 (February 1985): 1316.

Source Citation: “Pearl Primus.” ENCYCLOPEDIA OF AFRICAN-AMERICAN CULTURE AND HISTORY. 5 vols. Macmillan, 1996. Reprinted by permission of Gale Group.




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Historical Introduction

Over 2,700 years ago, the Assyrians exiled the ten tribes of the Kingdom of Israel. “In the ninth year of Hoshea, the king of Assyria captured Samaria and he carried them away to Assyria and placed them in Halah, and on the Habor, the river of Gozan, and in the cities of Medes.” In the years 722-721 BC (over 2700 years ago), the Ten Tribes who comprised the northern Kingdom of Israel disappeared. Conquered by the Assyrian King Shalmaneser V, they were exiled to upper Mesopotamia and Medes, today modern Syria and Iraq. The Ten Tribes of Israel have never been seen since. Or have they?


Tudor Parfitt, the protagonist of the NOVA documentary “Lost Tribes of Israel,” made a journey through southern Africa to study the unusual traditions of a black African tribe called the Lemba. This Bantu-speaking group claimed Jewish ancestry and observed many Semitic traditions such as kosher-like dietary restrictions and slaughter practices, male circumcision rites, strict rules against intermarriage, and Semitic-sounding clan names.

Once described as “a sort of British Indiana Jones,” Parfitt spent many months with the Lemba, meeting their tribal and religious leaders and observing some of their most sacred rituals. He came to the conclusion that the origin of many of the Lemba traditions was indeed Semitic, not African. But whether these traditions came from Islamic or Jewish sources was impossible to discern from the historical and anthropological evidence available. It would take Y-chromosome studies to delve deeper into this question of origin.

A few years after his travels, Parfitt teamed up with a group from The Center for Genetic Anthropology at University College London to look for a genetic counterpart to the Lemba’s oral tradition of Jewish descent. Using a relatively new technique in genetic studies, the team identified a particular series of genetic markers on the Y chromosome of Lemba males. They then compared these markers to other groups with whom the Lemba might have shared a common ancestor long ago. 

The Lemba: The Black Jews of Southern AfricaBadagry, Nigeria — Slave Trade HistoryHistorical Timeline of Ancient EgyptJoseph, Egypt & The HyksosTutankhamen & AkhenatonAncient Egyptian Religions

Map of Ancient Africa

Text on Rosetta Stone

The Pyramid Puzzle

Rosetta Stone

Ancient Nubia


The team collected DNA samples from Bantu (African), Yemeni (Arab), and Sephardic Jews and Azhkenazi Jews (including Cohanim from both communities) to compare the amount of similarity that existed between each of these groups. As we’ve seen, the more similar the Y chromosome, the more closely related are some individuals in the different groups to a common paternal ancestor. As a consequence, one can establish links between populations.In an interview with NOVA, team member Dr. David Goldstein commented on the team’s findings: “The first striking thing about the Y chromosomes of the Lemba is that you find this particular chromosomal type (Cohen modal haplotype) that is characteristic of the Jewish priesthood in a frequency that is similar to what you see in major Jewish populations. Something just under one out of every 10 Lemba that we looked at had this particular Y chromosomal type that appears to be a signature of Jewish ancestry. Perhaps even more striking is the fact that this Cohen genetic signature is strongly associated with a particular clan in the Lemba. Most of the Cohen modal haplotypes that we observe are carried by individuals of the Buba clan which, in Lemba oral tradition, had a leadership role in bringing the Lemba out of Israel.”What this study shows is that the Lemba, and more specifically some members of the Buba sub-clan, seem to have an ancestral connection to Judaic populations. Like an oral history, but written in the letters of their DNA, the Lemba Y chromosome hands from father to son a living record of the past.


The Journeys of Tudor Parfitt in discovering the Lemba’s origin


Lembas believe their ancestors built the ancient city,
Great Zimbabwe


B L A C K       B L O O D       I N       I S R A E L?

 * Genesis 12:16 – Not only Hagar, but many of Abraham’s servants were gifts from 
    Pharaoh and in this period it is fairly likely that many were Nubians. (approx. 1921 BC) 
 * Genesis 13: 6-8 – Abraham had a large number of herdsmen and 318 male servants who 
    were born into his house. 
 * Genesis 25 – Isaac, Abraham’s son and then Jacob inherited everything. 
 * Genesis41:50 – Joseph fathered two tribes, Ephraim and Manasseh, by an Egyptian wife, 
    automatically making Israel nearly 10 percent Egyptian. Joshua was from one of these 
    half-African tribes, Ephraim; in later years this tribe became so dominant that the 
    northern tribes of Israel were sometimes simply called “Ephraim”. When the Israelites 
    were subjected to slavery under the Egyptians, they and their former servants were now 
    all defined as Israel together; this means that much intermarriage must have taken 
 * Exodus 12:38 – After 400 years, a “mixed multitude” left Egypt during the Exodus. 


The Black Jews of Southern Africa

 This Bantu-speaking group claimed Jewish ancestry and observed many Semitic traditions such as kosher-like dietary restrictions and slaughter practices

The team collected DNA samples from Bantu (African), Yemeni (Arab), and Sephardic Jews and Azhkenazi Jews (including Cohanim from both communities) to compare the amount of similarity that existed between each of these groups. As we’ve seen, the more similar the Y chromosome, the more closely related are some individuals in the different groups to a common paternal ancestor. As a consequence, one can establish links between populations.

What this study shows is that the Lemba, and more specifically some members of the Buba sub-clan, seem to have an ancestral connection to Judaic populations. Like an oral history, but written in the letters of their DNA, the Lemba Y chromosome hands from father to son a living record of the past.

The Journeys of Tudor Parfitt in discovering the Lemba’s origin

Lembas believe their ancestors built the ancient city, Great Zimbabwe








Journey to the Vanished City
Journey to the Vanished City by Tudor Parfitt (Hardcover – Jul 16, 1992)
5.0 out of 5 stars (8)



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1815-1817 | 1820-1847 | 1847-1871 | 1900-1997
 After the struggle for liberty in the American Revolution, free and enslaved African Americans faced continued hardship and inequality. A number of white Americans, for a variety of reasons, joined them in their efforts to resolve this complex problem. One possible solution (advocated at a time when the assimilation of free blacks into American society seemed out of the question) was the complete separation of white and black Americans. Some voices called for the return of African Americans to the land of their forebears.

1815-1817 Black Colonization

1815– African-American Quaker and maritime entrepreneur Paul Cuffee (or Cuffe) financed and captained a successful voyage to Sierra Leone where he helped a small group of African-American immigrants establish themselves. Cuffee believed that African Americans could more easily “rise to be a people” in Africa than in America with its system of slavery and its legislated limits on black freedom. Cuffee also envisioned a black trade network organized by Westernized blacks who would return to Africa to develop its resources while educating its people in the skills they had gained during captivity. Cuffee died in 1817 without fully realizing his dream.1817– The partial success of Paul Cuffee’s African venture encouraged white proponents of colonization to form an organization to repatriate those free African Americans who would volunteer to settle in Africa. Prominent Americans such as Henry Clay, John Randolph of Roanoke, and Justice Bushrod Washington were members of the American Colonization Society (ACS) during its early years. Many free African-Americans, however, including those who had supported Paul Cuffee’s efforts, were wary of this new organization. They were concerned that it was dominated by Southerners and slave holders and that it excluded blacks from membership. Most free African-Americans wanted to stay in the land they had helped to build. They planned to continue the struggle for equality and justice in the new nation. See African-American Mosaic: Colonization:

1820-1847 From Colony to Republic1820– The American Colonization Society sent its first group of immigrants to Sherbro Island in Sierra Leone. The island’s swampy, unhealthy conditions resulted in a high death rate among the settlers as well as the society’s representatives. The British governor allowed the immigrants to relocate to a safer area temporarily while the ACS worked to save its colonization project from complete disaster. See African-American Mosaic: Personal Stories and ACS New Directions. See African-American Mosaic: Personal Stories and ACS New Directions:

1821-The American Colonization Society (ACS) dispatched a representative, Dr. Eli Ayres, to purchase land farther north up the coast from Sierra Leone. With the aid of a U.S. naval officer, Lieutenant Robert F. Stockton, Ayres cruised the coastal waters west of Grand Bassa seeking out appropriate lands for the colony. Stockton took charge of the negotiations with leaders of the Dey and Bassa peoples who lived in the area of Cape Mesurado. At first, the local leaders were reluctant to surrender their peoples’ land to the strangers, but were forcefully persuaded — some accounts say at gun-point — to part with a “36 mile long and 3 mile wide” strip of coastal land for trade goods, supplies, weapons, and rum worth approximately $300. See “The fourth annual report of the American Society for Colonizing the Free People of Color of the United States: with an appendix.”

See “The fourth annual report: (African-American Perspectives) of the American Society for colonizing the Free People of Color of the United States: with an appendix.

1822 – April 25 – The survivors of Sherbro Island arrived at Cape Mesurado and began to build their settlement. With the wavering consent of the new immigrants, the American Colonization Society governed the colony through its representative. In time, however, some colonists objected strenuously to the authoritarian policies instituted by Jehudi Ashmun, a Methodist missionary who replaced Ayres as the ACS governing representative. Such disagreements created tensions within the struggling settlement.

1824 – Believing that the colonial agent had allocated town lots and rationed provisions unfairly, a few of the settlers armed themselves and forced the society’s representative to flee the colony. The disagreements were resolved temporarily when an ACS representative came to investigate the colony’s problems and persuaded Ashmun to return. Steps were initiated to spell out a system of local administration and to codify the laws. This resulted, a year later, in the Constitution, Government, and Digest of the Laws of Liberia. In this document, sovereign power continued to rest with the ACS’s agent but the colony was to operate under common law. Slavery and participation in the slave trade were forbidden. The settlement that had been called Christopolis was renamed Monrovia after the American president, James Monroe, and the colony as a whole was formally called Liberia.

Christopolis was renamed Monrovia after President James Monroe and the colony was formally called Liberia (the free land). (Nelson) See the Map of Liberia with Monrovia:

1827 – Slave states in North America, increasingly interested in getting rid of their free African-American populations, encouraged the formation of colonization societies. These groups organized themselves independently of the ACS and founded their own colonies in Liberia for transplanting free African-Americans. Some of the “volunteers” were emancipated only if they agreed to emigrate. The Maryland State Colonization Society established its colony in Cape Palmas, Liberia: Virginia and Mississippi also established Liberian colonies for former slaves and free blacks.

See “The tenth annual report (African-American Perspectives) of the American Society for Colonizing the Free People of Colour of the United States: with an appendix.” and named after the state. Virginia and Mississippi also founded colonies for former slaves in Liberia. (Liebenow, 17; Nelson, 15).

1838– The colonies established by the Virginia Colonization Society, the Quaker Young Men’s Colonization Society of Pennsylvania, and the American Colonization Society merged as the Commonwealth of Liberia and claimed control over all settlements between Cestos River and Cape Mount. The Commonwealth adopted a new constitution and a newly-appointed governor in 1839. See African-American Mosaic: Liberia:

Former Virginian Joseph Jenkins Roberts (America’s First Look into the Camera), a trader and successful military commander, was named the first lieutenant governor and became the first African-American governor of the colony after the appointed governor died in office (1841).


1842– The Mississippi settlement at the mouth of the Sinoe River:  joined the commonwealth. (Nelson, 16; Boley, 20)

1846 – The commonwealth received most of its revenue from custom duties which angered the indigenous traders and British merchants on whom they were levied. The British government advised Liberian authorities that it did not recognize the right of the American Colonization Society, a private organization, to levy these taxes. Britain’s refusal to recognize Liberian sovereignty convinced many colonists that independence with full taxing authority was necessary for the survival of the colony and its immigrant population.

In October, Americo-Liberian colonists voted in favor of independence.

1847-1871 Nationhood and Survival

1847– On July 26, The Liberian Declaration of Independence was adopted and signed. In it, Liberians charged their mother country, the United States, with injustices that made it necessary for them to leave and make new lives for themselves in Africa. They called upon the international community to recognize the independence and sovereignty of Liberia. Britain was one of the first nations to recognize the new country. The United States did not recognize Liberia until the American Civil War.1848– The Liberian Constitution was ratified and the first elections were held in the new republic.

The Liberian colony’s former Governor, Joseph Jenkins Roberts:  (America’s First Look into the Camera), was elected Liberia’s first President.

1851– Liberia College was founded.

See the remarks on the colonization of the western coast of Africa by the free blacks of the United States, and the consequent “civilization” of Africa and suppression of the slave trade.

1854– Maryland Colony declared its independence from the Maryland State Colonization Society but did not become part of the Republic of Liberia. It held the land along the coast between the Grand Cess and San Pedro Rivers.

See the “African slave trade in Jamaica, and comparative treatment of slaves”: (African-American Perspectives).

1856– The independent state of Maryland (Africa) requested military aid from Liberia in a war with the Grebo and Kru peoples who were resisting the Maryland settlers’ efforts to control their trade. President Roberts assisted the Marylanders, and a joint military campaign by both groups of African American colonists resulted in victory. In 1857, Maryland became a county of Liberia. The second president of the Republic of Liberia was Stephen Allen Benson,(1856-1864):  (America’s First Look into the Camera)

Benson, born free in Maryland, U.S.A., had previously served as the vice-president and had a practical knowledge of the republic’s local peoples and social institutions. He spoke several indigenous languages. In 1864, he was succeeded by Daniel B. Warner, who served until 1868.

1862– The American president, Abraham Lincoln, extended official recognition to Liberia. See “The relations and duties of free colored men in America to Africa: A Letter to Charles B. Dunbar.”

See “The relations and duties of free colored men in America in Africa: A Letter to Charles B. Dunbar”:  (African-American Perspectives).

1865– 346 immigrants from Barbados joined the small number of African Americans coming to Liberia after the American Civil War. With overseas immigration slowing to a trickle, the Americo-Liberians (as the settlers and their descendents were starting to be called) depended on immigrants from nearby regions of Africa to increase the republic’s population. The Americo-Liberians formed an elite and perpetuated a double-tiered social structure in which local African peoples could not achieve full participation in the nation’s social, civic, and political life. The Americo-Liberians replicated many of the exclusions and social differentiations that had so limited their own lives in the United States.

See “The absolute equality of all men before the law, the only true basis of reconstruction.” An address by William M. Dickson:  (African-American Perspectives).

1868– A government official, Benjamin Anderson, journeyed into Liberia’s interior to sign a treaty with the king of Musardo. He made careful note of the peoples, the customs, and the natural resources of those areas he passed through, writing a published report of his journey. Using the information from Anderson’s report, the Liberian government moved to assert limited control over the inland region.

1869– The True Whig Party was founded. In the late nineteenth century, it became the dominant political party in Liberia and maintained its dominance until the 1980 coup. James Skivring

Edward J. Roye:  (America’s First Look into the Camera) succeeded James Spriggs Payne (1868-70) as president for about one year.

1871– A high-interest British bank loan to the Liberian government contributed to a political crisis that led to President Edward J. Roye’s removal from office. He was replaced by Vice President James Skivring Smith for the remainder of his term.

From 1871-72, James Skivring Smith: (America’s First Look into the Camera) was the interim president of Liberia and was followed by two former presidents: Joseph Jenkins Roberts (1872-76) and James Spriggs Paynes (1876-78). Next, Anthony William Gardiner (1878-83) was elected president for three terms. Gardiner resigned during his third term and was replaced by Alfred Francis Russell (1883-84).

1874– Benjamin Anderson made a second journey into inland Liberia:  .

1875– A war broke out among a confederation of Grebo peoples. The Liberian government asked the United States to serve as mediator. In response, a United States emissary visited the G’debo kingdom and the Liberian republic and dispatched a naval ship to assist the Liberian government in settling the conflict.

1883– Liberia could not protect its claim to the Gallinas, a northern coastal area between the Mano and Sewa Rivers, from European colonial encroachment. Economically and militarily weak, Liberia was forced to allow the British to annex the area next to Sierra Leone. President Gardiner resigned over the issue, but in 1885, President Hilary Wright Johnson (1884-1892) formally acquiesced in the annexation.

Hilary Johnson, Elijah Johnson’s son, was Liberia’s first native-born president.

1888– Edward Wilmot Blyden:  (America’s First Look into the Camera) (1832-1912) published the important study Christianity, Islam and the Negro Race. Blyden was Liberia’s leading intellectual, a journalist, scholar, diplomat, statesman, and theologian. Born in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, he arrived in Liberia in 1850 and was soon deeply involved in its development. From 1855-1856, he edited the Liberia Herald and wrote A Voice From Bleeding Africa. In addition to holding many positions of leadership in politics and diplomacy, he also taught classics at Liberia College (1862-1871) and served as its president (1880-1884). From 1901-06, Blyden directed the education of Muslims in Sierra Leone.

1892– France sent military forces into Liberia to force it to relinquish its claim to lands between the Cavalla River:  to the northwest and San Pedro River in the southeast.

1900-1997 One Nation, Many Peoples

1903– The British and Liberian governments came to an agreement about the borders between Sierra Leone and Liberia.1904– The Liberian government instituted an administrative system that brought indigenous peoples into an indirect political relationship with the central government through their own paid officials.

1919– Liberia was one of the nations to sign the League of Nations covenant after World War I.

1929– An International Commission investigated charges of slavery and forced labor in Liberia. A year later, the committee could not substantiate such charges according to international law. They did find, however, that Liberian officials, including the republic’s vice president, profited from indigenous people’s forced labor.

1944– William V. S. Tubman was elected to the first of seven terms as Liberian president.

1946– The right to vote and participate in elections was extended to Liberia’s indigenous peoples.

1958– Liberian representatives attended the first conference of independent African nations.

1967– Liberian officials served on the Organization of African Unity’s Consultation Committee on Nigeria’s civil war.

1971– President Tubman died in office.

1972– William R. Tolbert, Jr. was elected to Liberia’s presidency after finishing Tubman’s unexpired term.

1979– On April 14, a rally protesting the increase of rice prices ended in riot.

1980– A military coup led by Samuel K. Doe, a Liberian of non-American descent, assassinated President Tolbert and overthrew the government that had held sway over Liberia since 1847. This ended Liberia’s first republic.

1985– Civilian rule was restored.

1986– A new constitution established the second republic of Liberia. Samuel K. Doe, the 1980 coup leader, retained power as head of state.

1989– Charles Taylor, an Americo-Liberian, and his followers toppled the Doe-led government. This action helped precipitate a civil war. Various ethnic factions fought for control of the nation.

1990– Rebel forces executed Liberia’s former head of state, Samuel K. Doe, who had overthrown the first republic a decade before.

The West African Peacekeeping force was formed to maintain order in the region.

1995– The 16-member Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) brokered a peace treaty between Liberia’s warring factions. An interim State Council established a tentative timetable for elections.

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) re-negotiated peace.

1997– Charles Taylor was elected president of the third republic of Liberia.

Selected Readings on Liberia

Boley, G.E. Saigbe, Liberia: The Rise and Fall of the First Republic. New York:
MacMillan Publishers, 1983

Cassell, C. Abayomi, Liberia: The History of the First African Republic. New
York: Fountainhead Publishers’, Inc, 1970.

Dunn, Elwood D., and Hails, Svend E., Historical Dictionary of Liberia.
African Historical Dictionaries Series. Metuchen: Scarecrow Press, 1985.

Johnston, Harry, Liberia. London: Hutchinson, 1906.

Liebenow, J. Gus, Liberia: the Quest for Democracy. Bloomington: Indiana
University Press, 1987.

Nelson, Harold D., ed., Liberia: A Country Study. Washington D.C.: U.S.
Government Printing Office, 1985.

Shick, Tom W., Behold the Promised Land: The History of Afro-American
Settler Society in Nineteenth-Century Liberia.
Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins
University Press, 1980

Smith, James Wesley, Sojourners in Search of Freedom: The Settlement of
Liberia of Black Americans.
Lanham: University Press of America, 1987.

Staudenraus, P.J., The African Colonization Movement, 1816 – 1865. New York:
Columbia University Press, 1961; reprint, New York: Octagon Books, 1980.

Maps of Liberia Home Page: 



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This was once home to a firefighter and a mill worker.


Henry and Gladys Smith lived in this home on Morris Avenue. Few people knew they were wealthy until after their deaths, when their estate funded two different college scholarships.
Photo by Shannon Szwarc / Ledger-Enquirer
Henry and Gladys Smith lived in this home on Morris Avenue. Few people knew they were wealthy until after their deaths, when their estate funded two different college scholarships.

You’d have never known Henry and Gladys Smith were wealthy.

They lived in a small wood-frame house on Morris Avenue, a few blocks off River Road. A high school dropout, Henry was a Columbus fireman who retired as a captain in 1972. Gladys was a mill worker, a spinner at Swift Spinning and then at The Bibb Mill.

They met and married later in life. Both worked until the age of 65.

“They were both very humble people,” said longtime neighbor and friend Martha McCrary. “They were hard workers. There was no pretentiousness whatsoever. They were just private people.”

In 1999, Henry died at the age of 91. Less than three years later, Gladys followed. She was 93.

Then people discovered their secret. The fireman and the mill worker had left behind an estate worth more than $1 million. They also left specific instructions.

Apart from gifts to their church, a few nieces and close friends, most of the money went into two scholarship funds. Half went to Columbus State University, and the other half went to the Community Foundation of the Chattahoochee Valley Inc., a Columbus-based nonprofit charitable organization that helps families build and maintain philanthropic endowment funds.

The Community Foundation has recently rolled out the James Henry Smith and Gladys Manning Smith Scholarship Fund, designed to benefit Muscogee County students looking to receive a college education. The scholarship will pay up to $7,500 per year for four years to deserving students. Applications for the first scholarship are being taken through March 14.

“They had a heart for people who worked hard and didn’t get very far,” said longtime friend Romayne Lloyd, whose parents introduced Henry and Gladys to each other. “Though they didn’t have children, they wanted children from meager wage-earning families to have an opportunity to see what they can be.”

James Henry Smith

When his father died, Henry dropped out of school to provide for his mother.

“I don’t think he got to the ninth grade,” Romayne Lloyd said.

But Henry’s life was about to prove that education is more than school and books.

He fought in World War II, then returned to Columbus and was hired by the Fire Department in 1942.

Frank Petty fought fires with Smith — “on the same line, the same nozzle.”

“He was no nonsense at all,” Petty said.

And he was frugal.

“On the Friday or Saturday after payday, we would go get a steak,” Petty said. “Every once in a while he would ask me to get him one. But not very often.”

Smith knew Columbus and its roads like the back of his hand — “back when your brain was your computer,” Petty said.

“He got in his car and learned every street in the city of Columbus,” Petty said. “He knew the numbers as well as the hydrants. He knew all of the apartments — Wilson, Peabody, BTW and Baker Village. He had all of those numbers in his head.”

Those weren’t the only numbers in Smith’s head. He liked to dabble in investments, mostly the stock market.

Petty, retired from the Fire Department and now working in security for Aflac, remembers those days well.

Contact Chuck Williams at 706-320-4485

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Tuesday, February 26, 2008; Page A17

How weird is this presidential election? So weird that I’m about to give a nod of appreciation (of sorts) to Geraldo Rivera, of all people — and also to, gulp, Fox News.

On “Fox and Friends” last week, the mustachioed infotainer gave his take on Barack Obama‘s borrowing of his campaign chairman’s words: “When I saw that they were the same words that Deval Patrick, the black guy who won as Massachusetts mayor — as Massachusetts governor — had used, I said to myself, it seems so premeditated. It’s almost as if they went to a camp where these black geniuses got together and figured out how to beat the political system. . . . What’s the other formula that they’re going to use?”Ridiculous? Of course — this is Geraldo, remember. But it’s absurd in a way that’s new and refreshing. If Fox viewers are being invited to entertain the notion of a Black Genius Camp where young Afro-brainiacs are busy plotting world domination, something has changed.

Whether Obama wins or loses, his campaign has made it impossible for anyone so inclined to cling to certain racist assumptions — just as Hillary Clinton has blown some old sexist assumptions to smithereens.

In this day and age, no one can claim to be surprised at encountering an African American man of superior intellect. But whether or not you think Obama would be a good president, his campaign brings the often-overlooked reality of mainstream black America into the nation’s living rooms every day — and into the nation’s subconscious.

We in the media spend a lot of time and energy covering African American dysfunction, with good reason. Far too many young black men are in prison (although Obama is wrong when he says more are in jail than college). Far too many young black women are single mothers. Far too many black communities are marred by drugs, crime and mindless violence.

But that’s just part of the story. Since the great civil rights victories of the 1960s, a huge mainstream African American middle class has risen via the traditional path of hard work and education. This successful black America gets very little coverage, for the obvious reason that good news isn’t really news in the traditional sense. The headline “Family Celebrates Daughter’s Graduation From Princeton” did not greet Michelle Obama when she received her degree.

The Obamas are the real-life version of our first great illustration of black success: “The Cosby Show.” That family, too, was a picture of upper-middle-class rectitude, ambition and achievement. The fictional Huxtables, however, lived in an almost exclusively African American world. The school that both Cliff and Clair attended, and to which they sent their daughter Denise, was the historically black Hillman College. The school that Barack and Michelle Obama have in common is Harvard Law.

The Obama campaign hasn’t had success just on black America’s terms but on white America’s terms. For all the impact of Barack Obama’s soaring rhetoric, he wouldn’t be where he is without a campaign organization that is second to none. He’s the one with more money and more offices. He’s the one who made the better decisions about where to spend resources. Obama has won overwhelming support from black voters, but there’s nothing stereotypically “black” about his campaign. It’s as if a black American is beating white America at its own game.

So when Clinton made an issue of how a passage from a Deval Patrick speech found its way into a Barack Obama speech, Geraldo Rivera imagined some sort of secret conclave of black geniuses who had developed a foolproof formula for winning elections. He didn’t envision a basketball camp, or a prison camp; he saw a genius camp, presumably for African Americans who had figured out just how white America works and just what buttons to push. How diabolically clever.

Hey, if I’m trying to catch a taxi late at night, I’d rather have the cab driver wondering if I’m secretly plotting world domination than thinking I’m about to mug him.

Who else attended Black Genius Camp? Will Smith must have spent at least one summer there — he’s the most bankable star in Hollywood right now. And Tiger Woods, who has conquered our whitest sport. Condoleezza Rice enjoys sitting around the campfire, entertaining everyone with corny knock-knock jokes in Russian. And Oprah‘s a regular, of course; she even has her own “cabin,” although it looks more like a luxury hotel.

Oops — I think I’ve said too much. Forget I mentioned it. And pay no attention to Geraldo’s paranoid fantasies.

The writer will answer questions at 1 p.m. today at His e-mail address


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The Sun with some sunspots visible. The two small spots in the middle, have about the same diameter as our planet Earth. 

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Sunspot #923, is the biggest dark spot at the sunset image. You also can see two brown pelicans and two small distant birds, whick look like sunspots. The insert shows the same sunspot photographed at the same day with a solar telescope. 

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Active region 9393 as seen by the MDI instrument on SOHO hosted the largest sunspot group observed so far during the current solar cycle. On en:30 March en:2001, the sunspot area within the group spanned an area more than 13 times the entire surface of the Earth. It was the source of numerous flares and en:coronal mass ejections, including one of the largest flares recorded in 25 years on en:2 April en:2001. Caused by intense en:magnetic fields emerging from the interior, a sunspot appears to be dark only when contrasted against the rest of the solar surface, because it is slightly cooler than the unmarked regions.

Images courtesy of NASA. The author composited the images, added the annotation, and removed the date stamp from the inset.

Photos courtesy of Wikipedia.

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Diary: State of the
Black World Conference

By Baji
Special to

Talk about racism and the World Conference. Click here.

Day One

As the “State of the Black World Conference” opens in Atlanta on November 28 2001, the panel is impressive: Rev. Jesse Jackson (JJ), Rev. Al Sharpton (AS), Martin King III (MK3), Congresswoman Maxine Waters (MW), Sonia Sanchez (SS), Haki Madhubuti (HM), David Comissiong (DC) from Barbados, Simon Woolley (SW) from England and Minister Lesly Voltaire (LV) from Haiti are among the notables. Comedic actor Chris Tucker, among the hundreds of attendees, was invited to join the panel, although he refrained from actively participating in the discussion.

If there’s one thing Black folk can do well it is talk, and we were treated to some of our finest orators. The audience was appreciative and responsive. Here are a few highlights noted:

JJ: The new definition of terrorist makes us all suspects.
SS: The inner light of the black world is under attack.
MLK3: U.S. needs to apologize and atone.
HM: Look at what’s hanging on your walls & your kids’ walls to see the state of our black mind.
DC: Barbados is worse off today than 20-30 years ago. Help us change U.S. policies.
SW: We have no power in Europe, but more consciousness.
AS: We are not following our legacy of resistance.
MW: Congress is turning back our civil liberties; look for an escalation of drugs in our communities—big time.

The oratory, the personalities, the audience of beautiful Black people in our array of hair styles, attire and ways of being was indeed stimulating.

The Q/A degenerated the evening’s program as person after person, instead of posing a salient question, used the microphone to push their own personal agendas. As I left the convention center, based on what I had heard, I could draw only one conclusion to the question, What is the state of the black world?


Day Two

We begin with proper ceremonies respecting our African origins (libations, invocation, Black National Anthem, Nguza Saba, etc.).

Ah, again, our folks do love to talk.

Tavis Smiley presented a stirring speech in his usual fast-paced breathless rhetorical style. (I do miss his BET nightly talk show.) In typical Tavis style, he wove his word magic and worked the crowd up like the professional speaker he is. His refrain was, “How do we take this defining moment and redefine America for us?”

Throughout the day we were presented with more outstanding orators, including Dr. Julianne Malveaux, Danny Glover, Dr. Joseph Lowery, Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney, among many others. I was just amazed by the breadth of organizations represented and the volume of knowledgeable speakers. The conference organizer, Ron Daniels (no relation) did a phenomenal job of pulling all this together. The brother deserves all the kudos he receives.

Friday’s program focused on three main issues: the response of people of African descent to the Sept 11 attacks; the World Conference Against Racism that took place in Durban, South Africa, ( and reparations.

Julianne Malveaux made many important points. For example, in discussing how people of African descent should respond to the 9/11 attacks, she said, “When George Bush talks about this being a ‘long war’ we should be clear that he is not just talking about Afghanistan. There’s not that much to do over there. His long view is world control.”

Most people who know me would say I am a positive woman. However, perhaps it is because I am a veteran of the 60s/70s black struggle that I bring a perspective about this conference that may seem somewhat cynical. It’s déjà vu for me. As I sat there listening, taking notes and observing my surroundings, I was catapulted back thirty years. Believe me, this can feel disheartening at times. Been there… heard that… did that… and here we go again…

Most of the presenters on the dais were my generation, although Ron Daniels made a concerted effort to involve the “hip-hop” generation in the proceedings (ugh, that word “Hip-hop”… they need a new moniker, don’t you think? This sounds so fly.) Nevertheless, a young woman, Kim Ellis, who is a doctoral candidate, made one of the most brilliant presentations. She has done extensive research on the Tulsa Riots of 1921, which she likened to the terrorists attacks on 9/11. Brilliant analysis.

Attorney Esther Stanford, a young woman from London, gave another masterful speech. She spoke on the issue of reparations. Apparently the UK has a history of activism around this issue, dating back to the 1700s.

If there is one issue that is sure to divide us (and I mean black folk vs. black folks), it is discussion about reparations. The Jewish world community was able to coalesce around this issue and bring about substantive adjudication. As far as people of African descent… well, we’re still talking about it. Many of us want to pretend slavery never happened. However, the topics of apology and atonement won’t go away. In fact, discussion about reparations will intensify over the next few years as those involved in this movement are becoming more aggressive and sophisticated in their strategies. For more information, check into NCOBRA (National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations in America:

There’s so much information out there for us to read, and yet most of us are woefully uninformed. That’s why I registered for the conference. That’s why I sit through the sessions, even though as Ron Daniels stated, “everything has changed for our people, but fundamentally nothing has changed.” I feel it is my minimal responsibility to be informed. And of course as a retired college educator, if I get pertinent information, I will share it with others.

By the way, I’ve been told that the conference proceedings were cybercast, so it was possible to tune in on the Internet and access it directly. Also, the radio discussions on the Bev Smith Show on the American Urban Radio Networks were broadcast nightly from the lobby of the Sheraton Gateway Hotel.

At the end of the second day, I again asked myself the same question, “What is the state of the black world?”

My answer today:

Day Three

The star today was Rev. Al Sharpton. If I had to use one word to describe him it would be “sharp.” What’s in Rev. Al’s head is infinitely more important—and impressive—than what’s on his head.

The schedule consisted of extended work sessions, which lasted more than 4 hours. An outstanding panel of presenters for each session was available throughout the day to educate the conferees.

A partial list of topics covered included:

  • African Centered Education and Culture
  • Transforming the Criminal Justice System
  • The Black Community’s Fight for Environmental Justice
  • Black Media and Communications
  • Technology as a Tool for Community Development
  • Inter-Generational Dialogue on the Future of the Black Freedom Struggle
  • Healing the Divisions Among People of African Descent

Back to the sharp Rev. Al Sharpton. He all but formally announced his candidacy for the 2004 presidential race. He said he is “exploring the feasibility” but, to me, he sounded like a solid candidate. He explained that due to the silence of the current so-called democratic leadership in Congress, he is compelled to speak out on pertinent issues they should be addressing. He explained how he can use his visibility as a presidential candidate to give voice to controversial topics. He likened this strategy to the way Jesse Jackson changed the political paradigm when he ran for office.

I was amazed at the amount of statistical facts Rev. Sharpton presented, without notes, regarding domestic and international issues. He is certainly articulate and clear as far as his understanding of critical issues affecting people of color globally. As I listened, there was really nothing substantial I could criticize, and I realized how the media has maligned him. We have to be careful not to be swayed by media mis-characterizations. Study the man and his record for yourself.

Following his speech, a panel of broadcast personalities peppered him with provocative questions, which he responded to impressively. Tavis Smiley flew back in town to be part of this panel and Chris Tucker was also back on stage. Again, he didn’t speak. I guess he realized this was not the setting for wisecracks. At the conclusion of this event there was such a stir in the room it was electrifying.

After a break, it was time for the evening’s entertainment—or should I say “Cultural Edu-tainment,” as it was billed. And what a night it was. We were treated to drummers and dancers from Guinea as well as remarkable local talent. There were spoken word artists, including rappers with positive messages. The headline performance was Arrested Development. They were outstanding.

If there’s one thing black folks can do better than talk, it is party. We had a party.

Day Four

On Sunday, Dec. 2, the conference concluded with reports back from the various Saturday workshops. Check the conference web site for feedback on these sessions.

I have to admit I was absent from the final session. Maybe it was all that partying? Whatever… I just felt I needed a time-out. I normally attend church service at Hillside Chapel On the Hill here in Atlanta (a non-denominational congregation). Today I had a private service (just me and nature) on the hill of my favorite walking trail. This is just what I needed. I put aside all the political rhetoric, got away from the hoards of people, and went into the silence. Out of the silence I was able to create a poem and a prayer.

Thank you for sharing this conference with me, albeit through my filtered lens.

See related article:

— December 21, 2001


© Copyright 2001-05 Seeing Black, Inc

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 Angela Davis speaking at the Myer Horowitz Theater of the University of Alberta, on march 28, 2006.

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Boston Common demonstration for Angela, Boston, 1970.



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Cuban poster saying:  “Freedom for Angela Davis”, 1971.

Educator, author and activist Angela Davis, 64, recently spoke in Denver, Colorado as part of the 25th Black World Conference held at Metropolitan State College. After her address, the former Black Panther Party member was questioned about her views on the presidential campaign and said she has never been a registered member of the two major parties but at one time was a registered Communist. She was even a Vice Presidential candidate for that party in 1980 and 1984. No longer a Communist, this year she voted in the California primary and cast for Cynthia McKinney, a Green Party Candidate. Below are Davis’ comments concerning other aspects of the election year campaign:


“It’s very interesting that the media had a complete block out of the independent parties, the parties that are not either Republican or Democrat. About the elections, I think it’s absolutely amazing that there’s so much interest, it’s really an exciting moment in this country particularly for young people who have been described as apathetic. We had generations of apathetic voters, so they tell us, but come to find out that people were apathetic because there was no one interesting to vote for.


I’m always very cautious when it comes to electoral politics and I think that here in this country we have a tendency to invest our full collective power in individuals, like we have what I sometimes call the Messiah complex. This is why, when we think of the civil rights movement, we think of Martin Luther King but can’t imagine that that movement could have been created by huge numbers of people [we] do not even know or talk about.


The Montgomery Bus Boycott would not have been possible were it not for Black women domestic workers, women who refused to ride a bus. Those are the Black people who were riding the bus but we can’t imagine that they were the agents of history that gave us this amazing civil rights movement.


All of this is to say that this incredible enthusiasm that has been generated over the last year that has been called a movement – [Barack] Obama specifically has referred to what’s happening around his campaign as a movement – if it is to be a movement, it has to demand much more than the election of a single individual.In a sense, Obama is a canvas on which many of us are painting our desires, our dreams, and our hopes. That could be okay if we understand that’s what we’re doing, if we understand it’s not enough to do that, and if we understand that, even if he is elected, or if Hillary [Clinton] is elected, we have to keep up the pressure.”


A hattip and thanks to Adeeba Folami of Black House News:


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Michelle Obama speaks Monday night at the University of Houston.

Eric Kayne: Chronicle

Feb. 25, 2008, 10:44PM
Wife says Obama can relate to average Americans

GALVESTON — Michelle Obama showed that her rhetorical skills are as good as her husband’s Monday as she delivered a stump speech saying Barack Obama will remove the barriers confronting average Americans.Speaking to an audience of more than 900 that crowded into the historic Galveston Grand 1894 Opera House, Michelle Obama said her husband should be the Democratic presidential nominee because his humble background allows him to understand the obstacles confronting working Americans.Michelle Obama drew applause and laughter when she said she and her husband were close to paying off their student loans.

“The only reason we’re not in debt today is because Barack wrote two best-selling books,” she said.

Mishell Valiulis, 33, of Galveston, said she was leaning toward Obama’s Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton, when she came to the rally out of curiosity.

“Honestly, I am walking out of here an Obama supporter,” Valiulis said.

Emily Nystedt, 19, a student at Texas A&M University at Galveston, said Michelle Obama’s speech transformed her from a fence-sitter to an Obama supporter. “She’s like a genuine person,” Nystedt said. “What she said about needing a change — that’s true.”

Michelle Obama failed to persuade Peter Yates, 21, also a student at Texas A&M University at Galveston. Yates said he remained undecided.

“I thought it was great,” he said about the speech. “I still would like to learn more about what Obama is planning on doing than on what needs to be done.”

Michelle Obama appeared in Galveston less than a week after the spouse of Barack Obama’s opponent did.

Former President Bill Clinton spoke in front of the Galveston County Courthouse on Wednesday before a crowd of about 300, saying the Texas and Ohio primaries next Tuesday could decide the party nominee.

Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are vying for Texas’s 228 delegates and Ohio’s 161 delegates in Tuesday’s primary elections. Primary voters in Rhode Island, with 32 delegates, and Vermont, with 23 delegates, also will choose a candidate.

Michelle Obama also spoke later Monday at the University of Houston.

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