Black History Month – Our People, Our History Vol.2

Black History Kids - John Glover Speaks

Week 2 summary of our Black History figures. My purpose is to showcase and cover individuals who have made contributions to life as we know it and to also make you aware of people you would not normally hear or learn about in school, from the media or even possibly at home from family. So sit back and enjoy, do some research of your own and share with me a few figures you have learned about.

Feb 10th Black History Person of the Day:


Isaac Murphy - John Glover SpeaksIsaac Burns Murphy – (1861-1896) was an African-American Hall of Fame jockey, who is considered one of the greatest riders in American Thoroughbred horse racing history. Murphy won three Kentucky Derbies.

Isaac Burns was born in Frankfort, Franklin County, Kentucky. His father served in the Union army in the Civil War, until his death at Camp Nelson as a prisoner of war. After his father’s death Burns’ family moved to Lexington, where they lived with Burns’ grandfather Green Murphy. When he became a jockey at age 14, he changed his last name to Murphy in honor of his grandfather.

African American played an important role in the early years of horse racing in the United States. Aware that a horse’s success was often dependent on the skills of it’s jockey, southern horse owners turned to their Black slaves, who had long been responsible for the physical care of their owner’s horses. These slaves proved extremely adept at riding, and by 1800 diminutive Blacks accounted for almost all the jockeys in the southern United States. The first known African American jockey was 4’6″ Monkey Simon. Considered the country’s best jockey in the early 1800’s, Simon was able to earn more than $100 per ride for himself or his master. Despite the slave jockeys achievements, credit was usually given to the horses owner instead.

After the Civil War, African American jockeys became active again. Between 1880 and 1905, Black riders won more than 110 major races including 13 Kentucky Derbies. Isaac Murphy was one of the best jockeys of his time, Black or White. When he was twelve he obtained his jockey apprentice license and began his career as an exercise rider. After developing excellent skills as a hand rider, a jockey who rarely needed a whip to motivate his horse, Murphy won his first major victory aboard Lady Greenfield at Louisville in 1875. By 1882 he was earning $10,000 per year, $25 per winning ride and $15 for every loss.

In 1884 with four different horses he won six races, including the Kentucky Derby. He was the first jockey to win three Kentucky Derbies, a record that stood until 1948. In 1891 the Louisville Times said of Murphy “His integrity and honor are the pride of the Turf, and many of the best horsemen pronounce him the greatest jockey that ever mounted a horse.” Murphy died in 1896 of pneumonia at the age of thirty five.

As the nineteenth century came to a close, segregation and discrimination in American society worsened. This development was reflected in the events on the horse track. An observer noted: “The white riders retaliated against the victories of Black jockeys by ganging up against the black riders on the rails. A Black boy would be pocketed, thrust back in a race: or his mount would be bumped out of contention an a white boy’s stirrup, and toss him out of the saddle. Those white fellows would slash out and cut the nearest Negro rider, they literally ran the black boys off the track.”


Feb 11th Black History Person of the Day:


George Crum - John Glover SpeaksGeorge Crum – (born George Speck; 1828 – 1914) According to a story on August 24, 1853, a customer complained that Crum’s french fries were “too thick”. This angered Crum, so he purposely cooked the customer the complete opposite of what he wanted by slicing potatoes paper-thin, over-frying them to a crisp, and seasoning them with an excessive amount of salt. He expected the customer to dislike them very much, but he actually loved them. The chips became popular and subsequently known as “Saratoga chips” or “potato crunches”. Crum opened his own restaurant in 1860 with the profits he made selling his new chips. They remained a local delicacy until the Prohibition era, when an enterprising salesman named Herman Lay popularized the product throughout the Southeastern United States.

Feb 12th Black History Person of the Day:


Todd Duncan - John Glover SpeaksTodd Duncan – February 12, 1903 – February 28, 1998, born in Danville, Kentucky in 1903. He obtained his musical training at Butler University in Indianapolis with a B.A. in music followed by an M.A. from Columbia University Teachers College.

In 1933, Duncan debuted in Pietro Mascagni’s Cavalleria rusticana at the Mecca Temple in New York with the Aeolian Opera, a black opera company. Duncan was George Gershwin’s personal choice as the first performer of the role of Porgy in Porgy and Bess in 1935 and played the role more than 1,800 times. He led the cast during the Washington run of Porgy and Bess at the National Theatre in 1936, to protest the theatre’s policy of segregation. Duncan stated that he “would never play in a theater which barred him from purchasing tickets to certain seats because of his race.”

In 1945, he became the first African American to sing with a major opera company, and the first black person to sing in an opera with an otherwise white cast, when he performed the role of Tonio in Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci with the New York City Opera. In the same year he sang the role of Escamillo, the bullfighter, in Bizet’s Carmen. In 1955, Duncan was the first to record Unchained Melody, a popular song with music by Alex North and lyrics by Hy Zaret. The recording was made for the soundtrack of the obscure prison film Unchained, in which Duncan also played a minor character. Following Duncan’s version, the song went on to become one of the most recorded songs of the 20th century.

Feb 13th Black History Person of the Day:


Andrew Rube Foster - John Glover SpeaksAndrew “Rube” Foster – September 17, 1879 – December 9, 1930, Rube Foster left school after the eighth grade to become a ballplayer but was limited to all-black teams, because the major and minor leagues were segregated after 1898. After an outstanding career, Foster moved to Chicago and became the Leland Giants’ playing manager in 1907. Three years later, his squad repeated semipro championships against local white leagues with a closely fought but unsuccessful series against the Chicago Cubs.

In 1910 Foster gained control of the Leland Giants, in partnership with white saloonkeeper John Schorling. After an extraordinary 123–6 record in 1910, the team was renamed the American Giants. An outstanding recruiter and negotiator, Foster always secured for his teams at least half of all nonleague game proceeds; his players earned more than black postal workers or schoolteachers.

On this day (February 13) in 1920, Foster piloted the formation of the Negro National League (NNL), in part to promote economic development in black communities. As president and treasurer of the eight-team circuit, Foster ran it benevolently, wiring money to keep struggling traveling teams afloat, and trading his own star players to keep the league competitive.

In 1926 Foster suffered a nervous breakdown and was committed to an insane asylum. His beloved league collapsed in 1930, partly due to the Great Depression, but mainly from the loss of its leader. In 1981 he was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Feb 14th Black History Fact of the Day:


Morehouse College - John Glover SpeaksMorehouse College – On this day (Feb 14) in 1867, two years after the Civil War ended, Augusta Theological Institute was established in the basement of Springfield Baptist Church in Augusta, Ga. Founded in 1787, Springfield Baptist is the oldest independent African American church in the United States. The school’s primary purpose was to prepare black men for ministry and teaching. Today, Augusta Theological Institute is Morehouse College, which is located on a 66-acre campus in Atlanta and enjoys an international reputation for producing leaders who have influenced national and world history.

Augusta Theological Institute was founded by The Rev. William Jefferson White, an Augusta Baptist minister, cabinetmaker and journalist, with the encouragement of The Rev. Richard C. Coulter, a former slave from Augusta, Ga., and The Rev. Edmund Turney, organizer of the National Theological Institute for educating freedmen in Washington, D.C. The Rev. Dr. Joseph T. Robert, a trained minister and physician was appointed the Institute’s first president by William Jefferson White.

In 1885, when Dr. Samuel T. Graves was named the second president, the institution relocated to its current site in Atlanta’s West End community. The campus encompasses a Civil War historic site, a gift of John D. Rockefeller, where Confederate soldiers staged a determined resistance to Union forces during William Tecumseh Sherman’s famous siege of Atlanta in 1864. In 1897, Atlanta Baptist Seminary became Atlanta Baptist College during the administration of Dr. George Sale, a Canadian who served as the third and youngest president from 1890 to 1906.

A new era, characterized by expanded academic offerings and increased physical facilities, dawned with the appointment of Dr. John Hope as the fourth president in 1906. A pioneer in the field of education and civil rights, he was the College’s first African American president. Hope encouraged an intellectual climate and he openly challenged Booker T. Washington’s view that education for African Americans should emphasize vocational and agricultural skills.

Atlanta Baptist College, already a leader in preparing African Americans for teaching and the ministry, expanded its curriculum and established the tradition of educating leaders for all areas of American life. In addition to attracting a large number of talented faculty and administrators, Hope contributed much to the institution we know today. Upon the death of the founder in 1913, Atlanta Baptist College was named Morehouse College in honor of Henry L. Morehouse.

Dr. Benjamin Elijah Mays became the sixth president of Morehouse College. A nationally noted educator and a mentor to The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., class of 1948, Mays is recognized as the architect of Morehouse’s international reputation for excellence in scholarship, leadership and service. During the presidency of Mays, the number of faculty members grew and the percentage holding doctoral degrees increased from two to 34 out of 65 teachers. The College earned global recognition as scholars from other countries joined the faculty, an increasing number of international students enrolled, and the fellowships and scholarships for study abroad became available. Morehouse received full accreditation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools in 1957.

As Morehouse prepares to celebrate its sesquicentennial in 2017, the College continues its long and unique history of delivering an exceptional educational experience that meets the intellectual, moral and social needs of students representing more than 40 states and 14 countries – a distinguished institution dedicated to producing outstanding men and extraordinary leaders to serve humanity as moral cosmopolitans.

Feb 15th Black History Person of the Day:


Elizabeth Freeman - John Glover SpeaksElizabeth (Mum Bett) Freeman – was born to African parents around 1742. While working in the Sheffield home of one of the wealthiest merchants in Massachusetts, Colonel John Ashley, Freeman’s face was scarred for life when the “lady” of the house attempted to strike Elizabeth’s sister with a hot kitchen shovel, and Elizabeth jumped in between them and took the blow instead. Furious at such treatment, Elizabeth left the house of Colonel Ashley forever, although Ashley had the gall to attempt to recover her through the law.

Elizabeth Freeman went to a Mr. Theodore Sedgwick, a lawyer, and asked if she could argue for her freedom under the law. Sedgwick asked her what law that might be, she answered, “that the Bill of Rights said that all were born free and equal, and that, as she was not a dumb beast, she was certainly one of the nation.” Sedgwick accepted her case and Freeman won her suit for freedom from Colonel Ashley. The jury that set her free even awarded her 30 shillings in damages, but the important precedent established by her case was that the Bill of Rights had in fact abolished slavery in Massachusetts.

Feb 16th Black History Person of the Day:

Paul Cuffee 3Paul Cuffee – January 17, 1759 – September 9, 1817, was a Quaker businessman, Sea Captain, patriot, and abolitionist. He was of Aquinnah Wampanoag and African Ashanti descent and helped colonize Sierra Leone. Cuffee built a lucrative shipping empire and established the first racially integrated school in Westport, Massachusetts.

Cuffee was the first man to successfully transport Black Americans to Africa as a ship owner. Cuffee wanted Blacks to return to Africa in order to help Christianize the continent. He also saw colonization as a way to open trade with Africa. In addition, he wanted free Blacks to have the choice to return to Africa if they wished. Cuffee appealed to the federal government and free Blacks to support his plan, and he successfully transported thirty-eight African Americans to freedom in Sierra Leone.

Feb 17th Black History Person of the Day:


Robert Elder Lee - John Glover SpeaksRobert Lee Elder – Born July 14, 1934, one of ten children from Dallas, TX. He was nine years old when his father was killed in Germany during World War II, and his mother died three months later. At the age of 12, Elder found himself moving from one ghetto to another before being sent to Los Angeles, California to live with his aunt. Elder frequently cut classes to work as a caddy, and after two years at Manual Arts High School he dropped out.

Elder did not play a full round of 18 holes until he was 16. He took jobs in pro shops and locker rooms, in addition to caddying where he developed his game by watching his clients, and playing when he had the opportunity. Elder’s game developed sufficiently for him to start hustling. His career took a big step after playing a match with heavyweight boxer Joe Louis, which led to Louis’s golf instructor, Ted Rhodes, taking Elder under his wing for three years. Under the tutelage of Rhodes, Elder was able to polish his game and he began playing in tournaments.

Elder won the United Golf Association Tour (UGA) for black players Professional title four times. He received his PGA card in 1967 and played as a 33 year old rookie. Elder was financially successful in his first 9 PGA events in 1968. In 1971 he won the Nigerian Open and became the first African American to play in the South African Open.

Elder became the Masters Tournament’s first Black entrant when he teed off at the Augusta, GA course on April 10th 1975, his 7th year on the PGA tour. His admittance to the Masters was heralded as a breakthrough of the color line in golf. Yet, 20 years later, the country club that hosts the Masters had only one Black member.

Please share your thought on these people I’ve shared with you. Remember to follow me on Facebook and Twitter.  Keep and eye out for next weeks summary.

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