Frederick Douglass: American
February 28, 2011

A Truly Great American With a Life that Stands on Its Own

Dr. Woodson Ultimately Is Responsible for Black History Month and Started It Partly With Douglass In Mind

Black History Month:  Some time ago, February was designated as Black History Month.   I have mixed emotions about that particular designation.  I think it’s always a good thing to focus attention on history, particularly American history since so many Americans really don’t know a lot about their nation.  I suppose the whole idea rose from the notion that the school system in this country didn’t really mention much about African-Americans except in the context of slavery.  However, I have a problem with a focus on a particular group of Americans. I am not saying that it’s wrong to have such a month; I guess I really think that its too bad that it was a necessity.  You see,  those individuals who are discussed in February are part of American history and I believe that they should be seen simply as Americans because all citizens, past and present are, in my view, my American brother and sister and my fellow American.  Race, religion or ethnicity does not add or dimish their position as an American.  Another thing that bothers me is the a grand oversight.  I’ve gone to some Black History Month presentations and they always quite properly include Dr. Martin Luther  King, Jr.  Sometimes they talk about the contributions of George Washington Carver at the events of which I have attended.  Typically following the discussion of such well-known luminaries, they go off into some modern rappers or sports stars.  If it’s a good presentation, then it will rightfully include Jackie Robinson, but Mr. Robinson sometimes loses out to other Americans whose acheivements really don’t measure up to that of Robinson or Carver and certainly not even in the same neighborhood as Dr. King.  But, almost every time, they leave out someone whom I believe to be one of the most important Americans in our history.  His name is Frederick Douglass and all Americans should know about the man.

Slave Cabin probably not unlike one Douglass shared with his grandmother for a few short years

Even though Douglass often is left out of the Black History month discussion, his life was actually part of the reason why February has the designation.  The foundation of Black History Month dates back to the 1920’s when a Harvard doctoral graduate and former slave chose the month of focus since both Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass were born in February and Douglass also died then as well.  Douglass was born into slavery in Maryland in February 1818.    Douglass often suggested that his mother, Harriet Bailey, conceived Douglass following the advances of white man who was not his mother’s husband.  It may be for that reason that Douglass did not live with his mother but instead was put in the cabin of his grandmother Besty Bailey by owner, Captain Aaron Anthony.  Even though he lived with his grandmother, it didn’t take long for Douglass to be hired out and so his familial ties were not strong.  In 1826, he went to Baltimore to work and live in the household of Hugh and Sophia Auld.  Sophia was Capt Anthony’s daughter and Douglass lived with the couple for 7 years from 1826 to 1833.  During that time, he watched the Auld’s young son and also was taught to read and write by Sophia…that is until Hugh told her to stop.  But, the seeds were already sewn.

Frederick Douglass Broke the Chains and Headed into History

Douglass continued to teach himself to read and write on his own.   He secretly helped organized schools for slaves.  He resisted his position as a slave.  He tried to escape and was imprisoned for awhile and was sent to a plantation where slaves who needed to be “broken” were sent.  But, he never bowed.  In 1838, he broke his bonds and escaped to New York.  He got married and had children.  He fell in with abolitionists.  He had read books related to oratory and taught himself to make public speeches.  At the age of 23, he gave a speech at the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society convention and caught the attention of many abolitionists included renown abolitionist William Garrison.  Now, Douglass given name was really Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey but he realized that if he were to go on the speaking circuit, then he’d have to change his name to Frederick Douglass.  Afterall, he was officially a fugitive slave and could be returned to slavery.  So, he adopted the last name of Douglass. 

Click on Image For Information Regarding Book that details relationship between Lincoln and Frederick Douglass

On two occasions, Douglass fled to Europe to avoid recapture.  On one of his trips, sympathetic Europeans who heard Douglass speak raised money and bought his freedom.  By the time of the Civil War, Frederick Douglass finally was safe in the land of the free and home of the brave.  His autobiography that detailed his life in slavery was a huge hit and the words  he wrote and the words he spoke were significant contributors to the ultimate destruction of slavery.  Not only for the general public, but also for President Abraham Lincoln who consulted with Douglass regarding Lincoln’s policies and thoughts concerning slavery and the emancipation issue.  That included an idea Lincoln had about creating a colony in South America where freed  slaves could live.  Lincoln for a time had  the notion that Blacks and Whites were never intended to live together nor was it possible.  While he did  not believe in equality of the races, Lincoln also felt it was morally wrong for take what was earned from “the sweat of another man’s brow.”  Douglass impressed him as a tremendous mind and thinker and also took into consideration Douglass’ admonition that America was as much his country as it was the President’s.  Remember, Lincoln was born in the country just 9 years prior to Douglass.  Lincoln knew that Douglass had a very good and strong point.

Douglass' marriage to Helen (sitting) Was Not Popular with White or Black late 19th century America

Frederick Douglass was a proud man.  He was a tough man.  He was a smart, self taught man and great thinker.  He was bold and fearless.  Not only did he contribute to the rights of  Blacks, he also lent his name and effort to the equality of women.  He even was on the ticket for an early feminist presidential candidate.  Age did not diminish his courage though.  After his first wife died, he married a white, feminist woman and that, he said, brought condemnation and scorn from both Blacks and Whites alike.  His story is absolutely remarkable and one that every American should know and be proud to be able to say that Frederick Douglass was our American brother.  So, as Black History month comes to a close  just remember that the legacy and life of a great American, Frederick Douglass,  deserves as much recognition and acknowledgement as any American.  In my view, there is no other adjective beside “American” is needed to describe Frederick Douglass.  As he did in life, he can stand on his own for  the ages.

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Everyone Should Know The Name of Althea Gibson
July 6, 2010

althea_gibson_fp1On This Date in 1957: American Althea Gibson won the women’s championship at London’s All English Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club. It is known as the Wimbledon Championship. She was the first American of African heritage to do so.  In the 1940’s she won the national black women’s championship numerous times.  Tennis at the time was largely segregated but National Champion Alice Marble lobbied on Gibson’s behalf and in 1950 she was invited to play at the US Open. In 1956 she won the French singles and doubles title. After winning Wimbledon, she went on to win the US Open in September of 1957. In 1958, she won Wimbledon and the US Open again. She was the AP Female Athlete of the Year in 1957 and 1958.  Ms. Gibson went on to become the first African American woman to be on the LPGA tour on which she played in 171 tournaments and is said to have regularly drove the ball over 300 yards.

Champion Joe Louis Also Early Civil Rights Catalyst

Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in baseball in 1947 and has his place in the annals of the Civil Rights movement.    Heavyweight boxing champion Joe Louis always seems to get overlooked for who he was as a man and as a catalyst toward the effort gain true civil liberties for all Americans.  I believe a strong argument can be made that Joe Louis was a Civil Rights pioneer and may have paved the way for Jackie Robinson.  However, the achievements of Althea Gibson should not be overlooked; like Louis, that has often been the case.

Althea Could Hit a Drive Up to 325 yards

Althea Gibson was born on August 25, 1927 in Silver, South Carolina.  The family moved to Harlem, NY where she lived in the ’30’s and ’40’s.  Young Althea is said to have struggled in school, ran away from home on several occasions and was client of the Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Children.  She played table tennis at several New York public recreation programs where she won several tournaments.  A fairly well known jazz musician named Buddy Walker took notice of her and thought she might do well at tennis so he took her to the Harlem River Tennis Courts where she learned the game. Donations were raised for her membership and lessons at the Harlem Cosmopolitan Tennis Club.  By 1942, she had won the girls’ singles event at the American Tennis Association’s New York State tournament.    Her family was poor but she caught the eye of Lynchburg, VA physician Dr. Robert Walter Johnson.  Dr. Johnson was active in the tennis community and he became Althea’s patron.  Later, Johnson did the same for another young African-American tennis player named Arthur Ashe.   With Johnson’s support, Gibson won the  American Tennis Association (ATA) tournaments, the all-black association, ten consecutive years and attended Florida A&M University. 

Gibson Carried Her Champion's Heart, Style, Grace and Humility Everywhere She Went

Gibson was a product of the tough streets of Harlem and went on to be a guest at the Royal courts of Europe. Like Robinson, she was an inspiration to many, overcoming the racial prejudice of the time and paving the way for the likes of Venus and Serena Williams.   Gibson won 56 singles and doubles titles as an amateur before her athletic prowess almost screamed for her to be on the pro tour.  She won 11 Grand Slam titles with three doubles championships at the Australian Open and three consecutive French Open doubles titles in ’56, ’57 and ’58.  As previously mentioned but worth repeating, she could also rose to the occasion playing singles as she won singles titles in 1957 and 1958 in both Wimbledon and the US Open in addition to her 1956 French Open singles championship.  With all of her success and the hurdles she had to overcome, she still maintained a sense of class, dignity and sportsmanship.   Her humility was exemplified by a famous quote (s) that she made: “No matter what accomplishments you make, someone helped you. ”   She was a true American Champion on many levels.

Weather Bottom Line:  There is a big fat ridge over the Eastern United States.  Rain chances are pretty much off the board for a few days though by the end of the week we may not only have a frontal boundary approaching but also the remnant of an area of low pressure that has been messing up the oil clean up efforts should be getting caught up in the flow and coming up into the Ohio Valley.  Our rain chances should go up sufficiently to bring what will be needed rainfall and perhaps a break in the excessive heat and humidity that we are having.

Althea Gibson: American; First US effort battling Air Pollution was a nice start, but the job’s not done
July 6, 2009

althea_gibson_fp1On This Date in 1957: American Althea Gibson won the women’s championship at London’s All English Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club. It is known as the Wimbledon Championship. She was the first American of African heritage to do so. In the 1940’s she had won the national black women’s championship twice. Tennis was largely segregated but National champion Alice Marble lobbied on Gibson’s behalf and in 1950 she was invited to play at the US Open. In 1956 she won the French singles and doubles title. After winning Wimbledon, she went on to win the US Open in September of 1957. In 1958, she won Wimbledon and the US Open again. She was the AP Female Athlete of the Year in 1957 and 1958.   She went on to become the first African American woman to be on the LPGA tour. 

Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in baseball in 1947 and has his place in the annals of the Civil Rights movement. However, the achievements of Althea Gibson should not be overlooked.   Gibson was a product of the tough streets of  Harlem and went on to be a guest at the Royal courts of Europe.  Like Robinson, she was an inspiration to many, overcoming the racial prejudice of the time and paving the way for the likes of Venus and Serena Williams.  Her humility was exemplified by a famous quote (s) that she made:  “No matter what accomplishments you make, someone helped you. ” She was a true American Champion on many levels.

Victorian London Smog

Victorian London Smog

On This Date in 1955,  the US began investigating cleaner air.

The first air pollution control efforts began in 1306 when England’s Edward I banned the use of sea-coal in craftsman’s furnaces because of the noxious smoke emissions. In the early 20th century, the automobile was seen as an environmental savior because it eliminated the need for animal power. Animals produce wastes that piled up in cities and created a health hazard. But, as I’ve talked about often on these here pages, there were unintended consequences. Air pollution was largely seen as a nuisance not a health problem until 1952 when London suffered some 4000 fatalities when it was shrouded in what was called the “killer fog.” Analysis revealed it was caused by the reaction of nitrogen oxide and hydrocarbons with ultraviolet radiation. The result was the formation of low level ozone…or 3 oxygens clinging together. On July 6, 1955 the US the first Air Pollution Control Act in an effort to study the effects of auto emissions. Obviously, it wasn’t enough because they amended that act then others followed in 1963, 1970 and 1990. I think it’s safe to say that more can be expected. This American Meteorological Society doucument tracks the evolution of air pollution legislation

City of Angels Shrouded in Pollution

City of Angels Shrouded in Pollution

The EPA tracks the evolution of modern air pollution and regulation. It’s interesting to me that it says that the idea of air pollution control evolved from the need for water pollution control. That water pollution problems as a health hazard has been known since the early Middle Ages, yet, we continue to poison ourselves through our rivers, lakes, streams and oceans. We get all worked up over a potential problem that would alter civilization yet ignore one that is actually killing life on earth as we speak.

Here is the EPA Origins of Modern Air Pollution Regulations

Weather Bottom Line:  High pressure will continue to build in from the northwest.  With a slight northerly flow, we will remain relatively dry with a warm afternoon in the low to mid 80’s.  The northerly component will persist somewhat over the next couple of days so, while we get to the upper 80’s, humidity levels will still be subdued.   However, by Wednesday afternoon, the high drifts to the east and we begin getting a southerly component to the winds.  Temperatures will ease to the low 90’s and humidity will become an issue by the end of the week.

Althea Gibson: American Champion;Air Pollution: Global Problem
July 6, 2008

On This Date in 1957: American Althea Gibson won the women’s championship at London’s All English Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club. It is known as the Wimbledon Championship. She was the first American of African heritage to do so. In the 1940’s she had won the national black women’s championship twice. Tennis was largely segregated but National champion Alice Marble lobbied on Gibson’s behalf and in 1950 she was invited to play at the US Open. In 1956 she won the French singles and doubles title. After winning Wimbledon, she went on to win the US Open in September of 1957. In 1958, she won Wimbledon and the US Open again. She was the AP Female Athlete of the Year in 1957 and 1958. Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in baseball in 1947 and has his place in the annals of the Civil Rights movement. However, the achievements of Althea Gibson should not be overlooked. She was a true American Champion on many levels.

On This Date in 1955, the US began investigating cleaner air. The first air pollution control efforts began in 1306 when England’s Edward I banned the use of sea-coal in craftsman’s furnaces because of the noxious smoke emissions. In the early 20th century, the automobile was seen as an environmental savior because it eliminated the need for animal power. Animals produce wastes that piled up in cities and created a health hazard. But, as I’ve talked about often on these here pages, there were unintended consequences. Air pollution was largely seen as a nuisance not a health problem until 1952 when London suffered some 4000 fatalities when it was shrouded in what was called the “killer fog.” Analysis revealed it was caused by the reaction of nitrogen oxide and hydrocarbons with ultraviolet radiation. The result was the formation of low level ozone…or 3 oxygens clinging together. On July 6, 1955 the US the first Air Pollution Control Act in an effort to study the effects of auto emissions. Obviously, it wasn’t enough because they amended that act then others followed in 1963, 1970 and 1990. I think it’s safe to say that more can be expected. The American Meteorological Society tracks the evolution of air pollution legislation:

AMS Air Pollution Legislation synopsis

The EPA tracks the evolution of modern air pollution and regulation. It’s interesting to me that it says that the idea of air pollution control evolved from the need for water pollution control. That water pollution problems as a health hazard has been known since the early Middle Ages, yet, we continue to poison ourselves through our rivers, lakes, streams and oceans. We get all worked up over a potential problem that would alter civilization yet ignore one that is actually killing life on earth as we speak.

Here is the

EPA Origins of Modern Air Pollution Regulations