Black History Month: February 2019

To recall and celebrate the positive contributions to our nation made by people of African descent, American historian Carter G. Woodson established Black History Week beginning on Feb. 12, 1926. In 1976, as part of the nation's bicentennial, the week was expanded into Black History Month.



Poet, author, dancer, actress, singer and civil rights activist Maya Angelou has released several books, including her 1969 memoir, I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings. The book made history as the first nonfiction best seller by an African-American woman.  In 1971, Angelou published the Pulitzer Prize nominated poetry collection "Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water 'Fore I Die". She later wrote one of her most famous works "On the Pulse of the Morning", which she recited at President Bill Clinton's inauguration in 1993. Angelou has received several honors throughout her career including three Grammy Awards for her spoken word recordings, two NAACP Image Awards in the outstanding literary works. Maya died on May 28th, 2014 in Winstom-Salem, North Carolina. She was 86.


Maya Angelou was born Marguerite Ann Johnson in St. Louis, Missouri on April 4, 1928.
In the 1950's, Angelou performed with choreographer Alvin Ailey as part of the act Al & Rita.
She released her first album Miss Calypso in 1957. 
She toured with Porgy And Bess and later performed on Broadway.
Through her friend James Baldwin, became active in the civil rights movement, led by Martin Luther King, Jr.
Martin Luther King died on her birthday and for several years after his death, Maya wouldn't celebrate her birthday.
In 1960, Angelou moved with her son to Egypt and later to Ghana, where she worked on local newspapers. There she met Malcolm X and eventually moved back to the U.S. to work with him, but he was assassinated shortly thereafter.
Angelou appeared in Roots.
In 1981, Angelou was appointed to a lifetime position as the first Reynolds Professor of American Studies at Wake Forest University.
Angelou was the second poet in U.S. history to write and recite and original work at a Presidential inauguration.
Angelou is the first African-American woman to have her screenplay produced, for the 1972 film Georgia, Georgia.
In 1998, she directed the film Down In The Delta, and late appeared in Tyler Perry's 2006 film Madea's Family Reunion.
Angelou was inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame in 1998.
Angelou is good friends with Oprah Winfrey and considers her the daughter she's always wanted. 


On life: "I love to see a young girl go out and grab the world by the lapels. Life's a b*tch. You've got to go out and kick a**."
On love: "Love is that condition in the human spirit so profound that it allows me to survive, and better than that, to thrive with passion, compassion, and style."
On change: "If you don't like something, change it. If you can't change it, change your attitude. Don't complain."
On her love life: "I think men are as crazy as they were, and women as crazy as they were.. I've never had a dislike for men. I've been badly mistreated by some. But I've been loved greatly by some. I married a lot of them."
On Michelle Obama: "Philosophers tell us that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Mrs. Obama is as if it doesn't touch her. She hasn't tried to become anybody else's idea of First Lady. She has remained herself, with her grace, her gentleness, and her sense of humor. That she would dare to wear clothes off the rack, or go out and garden, or have a grandmother in the White House – she knows how to be a public figure without being separate from her family."
On George Zimmerman's acquittal: "A number of people think that only blacks were hurt, that African Americans were hurt by this decision, but that is not true. All you have to do is look at the protesters – they are white and black, Spanish-speaking and Asian. What is really injured – bruised if you will – is the psyche of our national population. We are all harmed. We are all belittled, and we give to the rest of the world more ammunition to sneer at us. It really makes me see how far we have to go, that one man armed with a gun can actually profile a young man because he is black and end up shooting him dead. It is so painful."


Maya Angelou accepts the Literary Award at the 2012 BET Honors

["I know that since life is our most precious gift and as far as we can be absolutely certain it's given to us let us to live at once, that we so live that we will not regret years of inertia and timidity and ignorance. In our last moments we can say, all my life, all my conscience energies have been dedicated to the most noble cause in the world, the liberation of the human mind and spirit beginning with my own. Thank you."] SOUNDCUE (:37 OC: . . .own. Thank you.)

Michelle Obama introduces Maya Angelou at the 2012 BET Honors

["For me, like for so many of you, Maya Angelou was always an iconic, almost other worldly figure, a truly phenomenal woman, to use her words. I would read her books and be spellbound by her stories, by her ability to tell difficult truths. I would listen to her speak and be awed by her intellect, her insight and her clarity. That is the Maya Angelou I first came to know. Maya the historian and Maya the activist and actress. Maya who enchants and enlightens and challenges us with the power of her words."] SOUNDCUE (:45 OC: . . .power of her words.)

(Sources: Imdb, Biography, Wikipedia,


In 1704, Elias Neau, a Frenchman, opened school for Blacks in New York City.
In 1708, Slave revolt, Newton, Long Island (N.Y.). Seven whites killed. Two Black male slaves and an Indian slave were hanged, and a Black woman was burned alive.
In 1778, Rhode Island General Assembly in precedent-breaking act authorized the enlistment of slaves.
In 1859, Arkansas legislature required free Blacks to choose between exile and enslavement.
In 1871, Second Enforcement Act gave federal officers and courts control of registration and voting in congressional elections.
In 1879, Southern Blacks fled political and economic exploitation in "Exodus of 1879." Exodus continued for several years. One of the major leaders of the Exodus movement was a former slave, Benjamin ("Pap") Singleton.
In 1942, Race riot took place at the Sojourner Truth Homes in Detroit.
In 1943, Porgy and Bess opened on Broadway with Anne Brown and Todd Duncan in starring roles.
In 1984, Michael Jackson won eight Grammy Awards. His album, Thriller, broke all sales records to-date, and remains one of the top-grossing albums of all time.



On this date in 1990, "Lift Every Voice and Sing" was sung publicly for the first time at a celebration of the birthday of Abraham Lincoln at Colored High School in Jacksonville, Florida. James. It became known as the "Negro National Anthem". James Weldon Johnson, who wrote the song, said in 1926: "The song not only epitomizes the history of the race, and its present condition, but voices their hope for the future."

Words to "Negro National Anthem:"

Lift every voice and sing

Till earth and heaven ring,

Ring with the harmonies of Liberty;

Let our rejoicing rise

High as the listening skies,

Let it resound loud as the rolling sea.

Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us,

Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us,

Facing the rising sun of our new day begun

Let us march on till victory is won. 

Stony the road we trod,

Bitter the chastening rod,

Felt in the days when hope unborn had died;

Yet with a steady beat,

Have not our weary feet

Come to the place for which our fathers sighed?

We have come over a way that with tears has been watered,

We have come, treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered,

Out from the gloomy past,

Till now we stand at last

Where the white gleam of our bright star is cast. 

God of our weary years,

God of our silent tears,

Thou who has brought us thus far on the way;

Thou who has by Thy might

Led us into the light,

Keep us forever in the path, we pray.

Lest our feet stray from the places, Our God, where we met Thee,

Lest, our hearts drunk with the wine of the world, we forget Thee;

Shadowed beneath Thy hand,

May we forever stand.

True to our GOD,

True to our native land.

(Sources: and


When William Grant Still mounted the podium and began conducting the Los Angeles Philharmonic in 1936, it marked the first time that an African-American had led a major symphonic orchestra. Raised in Little Rock, Arkansas, Still began studying medicine, but gave it up to pursue his first true love, a career in music. He didn't just become a conductor, he composed as well. His symphonies, operas and ballets have been performed in many parts of the world. His most popular work is the ballet Lenox Avenue, which depicted life in Harlem. In the U.S. today, there are 180,000 musicians and composers, 15 percent of them African-American. 

(Source: U.S. Census Bureau)