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Celebrating Black History makers

10:55 PM, Feb 10, 2008   |    comments
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February is Black History Month

African-Americans… in history and making history


Ella Jane Fitzgerald – (April 25, 1917 – June 14, 1996)

Fitzgerald was known as Lady Ella and First Lady of Song, is considered one of the most influential jazz vocalists of the 20th century. She had a vocal range spanning three octaves and was noted for her purity of toe, faultless phrasing and intonation; particularly her ‘scat singing’. Her record career lasted fifty-seven years. She was the winner of thirteen Grammy Awards, and was awarded the National Medal of Art by Ronald Reagan and the Presidential Medal of Freedom by George H.W. Bush.

Ray Charles – (September 23, 1930 – June 10, 2004)

Born Ray Charles Robinson. He was a pioneering American pianist and musician who shaped the sound of rhythm and blues. He brought a soulful sound to country music, and pop standards. When he was six, Charles began to go blind, becoming totally blind by the age of seven. After he left school, Charles began working as a musician in several bands that played in various styles, including jazz and, in Tampa “with a hillbilly band called The Florida Playboys." Charles was married twice and fathered twelve children by seven different women

Prince – (June 7, 1958)

Born Prince Rogers Nelson. He uses the stage name Prince, but has also been known by various other names, among them an unpronounceable symbol and The Artist Formerly Known As Price. His career has spanned several styles; from his early material, rooted in R&B, funk and soul, he has consistently expanded his musical palette throughout his career, absorbing many other genres including New Wave, pop, rock, jazz and hip hop. Prince is a prolific artist having released several hundred songs both under his own name and with other artists. Well known as a perfectionist, Prince is highly protective of his music, He produces, composes, arranges and performs nearly all of the songs on his albums.


Thomas Elkins –

An improved refrigerator design was patented by Elkins. One unusual fact about Thomas Elkins' refrigerator was that it was also designed to chill human corpses.

George Washington Carver – (July 12, 2864 – January 5, 1943)

Carver’s influence is still being felt today. Rising from slavery to become of the world’s most respected and honored men. He devoted his life to understanding nature and the many uses for the simplest of plant life. He is best know for developing crop-rotation methods for conserving nutrients in soil and discovering hundreds of new uses for crops; such as peanuts. Carver received three patents between 1925 – 1927.

Lonnie Johnson – (October 6, 1949)

Lonnie Johnson, an Aerospace Engineer from Los Angeles invented The Super Soaker in 1988. The original name was called, "Power Drencher". The Power Drencher was the first water blaster to incorporate air pressure into its design. Three years later in 1991 when Johnson received his patent, the Power Drencher was renamed "Super Soaker" and a nation-wide advertising campaign was launched. Kohnson has earned over 40 patents, and continues to invent in the realms of thermo- and fluid dynamics as well as toys.


Spike Lee – (March 20, 1957)

Born Shelton Jackson Lee. Lee, is an Emmy Award - winning, and Academy Award - nominated American film director, producer, writer, and actor noted for his films dealing with controversial social and political issues. He also teaches film at New York University and Columbia University. His production company, 40 Acres & A Mule Filmworks, has produced over 35 films since 1983.

Halle Berry(August 14, 1966)

Berry has received an Academy Award for Best Actress in 2002 for her performance in Monster's Ball, becoming the only woman of African-American descent to have won the award for Best Actress. She has also received an Emmy and a Golden Globe awards for Introducing Dorothy Dandridge, and she is one of the highest-paid.

Sidney Poitier – (February 20. 1927)

Poitier is an Academy Award, Golden Globe, and Grammy-winning American actor, film director, and author. He broke through as a star in acclaimed performances in Amerian films and plays, which by consciously defying racial stereotyping, gave a new dramatic credibility for black actors to mainstream film audiences in the Western World. In 1963, Poitier became the first black man to win the Academy Award for Best Actor- for his role in Lilies of the Field.


Barack Obama – (August 4, 1961)

Barack Obama is currently the junior Since announcing his presidential campaign in February 2007, Obama has emphasized ending the Iraq War, increasing energy independence, and providing universal health care as major priorities. He married in 1992 and has two daughters. He has written two bestselling books: a memoir of his youth titled Dreams from My Father, and The Audacity of Hope, a personal commentary on U.S. politics. United States Senator from Illinois and a leading candidate for the Democratic nomination in the 2008 presidential election. The U.S. Senate Historical Office lists him as the fifth African American Senator in U.S. history, the third to have been popularly elected, and the only African American currently serving in the Senate.

Thurgood Marshall – (July 2, 1908 – January 24, 1993)

Thurgood Marshall was an American jurist and the first African American to serve on the Supreme Court of the United States. Prior to becoming a judge, he was a lawyer who was best remembered for his high success rate in arguing before the Supreme Court and for the victory in Brown v. Board of Education.


Willie Mays, Jr. – (May 6, 1931)

Mays is a retired American baseball player who played the majority of his career with the New York and San Francisco Giants before finishing his career with the New York Mets. Nicknamed The Say Hey Kid, Mays was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1979, his first year of eligibility. Mays won two MVP awards and tied a record with twenty-four appearances in the All-Star Game. He ended his career with 660 career home runs, third at the time of his retirement, and currently fourth all-time. Many consider him to be the greatest all-around player of all-time.

Tiger Woods – (December 30, 1975)

Born Eldrick Tiger Woods. Woods a professional golfer whose achievements rank him among the most successful golfers of all time. He is currently the World No.1, Woods is the highest paid professional athlete in 2006, having earned an estimated $100 million from winnings and endorsements. Woods has won 13 professional major golf championships, 62 PGA Tour events, tied fourth-most of all time. It is predicted that Woods will become the world’s first billionaire athlete in 2010.

Michael Jordan – (February 17, 1963)

Jordan is now a retired American professional basketball player and active businessman. The NBA says he is one of the "greatest players of all time". Jordan was one of the most effectively marketed athletes of his generation, and was instrumental in popularizing the NBA around the world in the 1980s and 1990s. Some of Jordan’s accolades and accomplishments include five NBA MVP awards, ten All-NBA First Team designations, nine All-Defensive First Team honors, fourteen NBA All-Star Game appearances and three All-Star MVPs, ten scoring titles, three steals titles, six NBA Finals MVP awards, and the 1988 NBA Defensive Player of the Year Award. He holds the NBA record for highest career regular season scoring average with 30.1 points per game, as well as averaging a record 33.4 points per game in the playoffs. In 1999, he was named the greatest North American athlete of the 20th century by ESPN, and was second to Babe Ruth on the Associated Press's list of athletes of the century.


Maya Angelou – (April 4, 1928)

Born Marguerite Ann Johnson. An American poet, memoirist, actress and an important figure in the American Civil Rights Movement. In 2001 she was named one of the 30 most powerful women in America by Ladies Home Journal. Maya Angelou is known for her series of six autobiographies, starting with I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, (1969) which was nominated for a National Book Award and called her magnum opus. Her volume of poetry, Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water 'Fore I Die (1971) was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize.

Toni Morrison – (February 18, 1931)

Born Chloe Anthony Wofford. Toni is a Nobel Prize-winning American author, editor, and professor. Her novels are known for their epic themes, vivid dialogue, and richly detailed African American characters; among the best known are her novels The Bluest Eye, Song of Solomon, and Beloved, which won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1988. In 2001 she was named one of the "30 Most Powerful Women in America".

Kalamu ya Salaam (March 24, 1947)

Salaam is a poet, author, and teacher from the 9th Ward of New Orleans. A well known activist and social critic, Salaam has spoken out on a number of racial and human rights issues. For years he did radio shows on WWOZ. Salaam is the co-founder of the NOMMO Literary Society, a weekly workshop for Black writers.


Bob Johnson – (April 8, 1946)

Johnson is a businessman and found of Black Entertainment Television (BET), and is its former chairman and CEO. Johnson is currently the chairman of RLJ Development which he is also the founder. In addition, he is also the owner of the Charlotte Bobcats, a NBA franchise. He became the first black billionaire in American in 2001.

Oprah – (January 29, 1954)

Oprah is a multiple-Emmy Award winning host of The Oprah Winfrey Show, the highest-rated talk show in television history. She is also an influential book critic, an Academy Award-nominated actress, and a magazine publisher. She has been ranked the richest African American of the 20th century, the most philanthropic African American of all time, and the world's only black billionaire for three straight years. She is also, according to some assessments, the most influential woman in the world.


Mary McLeod Bethune - (July 10, 1875 - May 18, 1955)

Founded the Daytona Normal and Industrial Institute for Negro Girls (now Bethune-Cookman College) in 1904, and served as president from 1904-1942 and from 1946-47. Was a leader in the black women's club movement and served as president of the National Association of Colored Women. Was a delegate and advisor to national conferences on education, child welfare, and home ownership.Was Director of Negro Affairs in the the National Youth Adminstration from 1936 to 1944.

Charlotte Forten - (1837-1914)

Charlotte Forten was the first northern African-American schoolteacher to go south to teach former slaves. Forten is best remembered for her diaries. From 1854-64 and 1885-92, she recorded the life of an intelligent, cultured, romantic woman who read and wrote poetry, attended lectures, worked, and took part in the largest social movement of her time.

Booker T. Washington – (April 5, 1856November 14, 1915)

Washington was an American educator, author and leader of the African American community. He was freed from slavery as a child, gained an education, and as a young man was appointed to lead a teachers' college for blacks. From this position of leadership he rose into a nationally prominent role as spokesman for African Americans.


Sean “Diddy” Combs – (November 4, 1969)

Combs is a record producer, CEO, clothing designer, actor and rapper. He is known as one of the most successful producers of all time. His business ventures and interests include, Bad Boy Records, the clothing lines, Sean John and Sean by Sean Combs, a movie production company, and two restaurants. His net worth is $358 million, making him the third richest hip-hop entertainer.

Russell Simmons – (October 4, 1957)

Simmons is an entrepreneur and activist. He was the co-founder of the hip-hop label, Def Jam, a founder of Russell Simmons Music Group, and the creator the clothing fashion line, Phat Farm and fragrance label Atman. Russell Simmons is the third richest hip-hop entrepreneur, having a net-worth estimate of $340 million.

Florida’s African American History

Education –

Bethune-Cookman College and Florida A&M University are historically black institutions of higher learning. B-CC in Daytona Beach began in 1904 as a school for black girls under the leadership of a dynamo named Mary McLeod Bethune. The school gradually evolved and the state OK'd a four-year liberal arts and teaching program in 1941.

Today B-CC offers degrees in 39 subjects. For the 1999-2000 academic year, it awarded degrees to 268 students.

Florida A&M University - which stands for Agricultural and Mechanical - was chartered in Tallahassee in October 1887 as the State Normal College for Colored Students. In the 1950s and '60s, it became the first black institution to be accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and School.

New History: Black Luxury Hotel

The Royal Palm Crowne Plaza is an $84 million, Art Deco facility on Miami's trendy South Beach will be the nation's first black-owned luxury hotel when it opens this month.

Spearheaded by real estate developer R. Donahue Peebles, the 422-room hotel plans to target groups and leisure travelers from the Northeast. Those travelers account for a good percentage of the $36 million African-American tourism market.

American Beach

American Beach: Back in 1930, A.L. Lewis, president of the African American Life Insurance Co. in Jacksonville, was looking for a place where his employees could enjoy what he termed "relaxation without humiliation." So he bought 200 acres on a strip of beach northeast of downtown and began American Beach.

It was THE beach resort for African Americans until around 1970 and attracted visitors from all levels of society.

These days, MaVene Betch, Lewis' great-granddaughter, is the town's unofficial mayor. The town is about half the size it used to be, in part because of pressure from surrounding land developers.

Complied by Elyce Grimes from the,,, and

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