Ray Charles – Progressive

imageProgressive – used for describing music that tries new or unusual ideas

Ray Charles Robinson was born September 23, 1930 in Albany, Georgia. He is considered a pioneer of soul music, integrating R&B, gospel, and country to create hits. He is easily considered one of the greatest artists of all time.

Ray Charles went blind by the age of 7, after witnessing his brother drowning to death, he gradually began losing his sight. His mother sent him to the Florida School for the Deaf and Blind. Eventually, he learned to read, write, and arrange music in braille. He also learned to play the piano, organ, saxophone, clarinet, and trumpet.

In 1961, Charles was set to perform at Bell Auditorium in Augusta, Georgia but cancelled the show after learning from students at Paine College (a historically black college) that the auditorium would be segregated. He was sued for breach of contract by the promoter, but later performed at a desegregated Bell Auditorium concert.

In 1979, Ray Charles was one of the first musicians born in the state to be inducted into the Georgia State Music Hall of Fame. His version of “Georgia on My Mind” has been made the official state song for Georgia.

“My version of ‘Georgia’ became the state song of Georgia. That was a big thing for me, man. It really touched me. Here is a state that used to lynch people like me suddenly declaring my version of a song as its state song. That is touching.” – Ray Charles
“I never wanted to be famous. I only wanted to be great.” – Ray Charles

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Garrett A. Morgan – Innovative

Innovative – featuring new methods; advanced and original.

Garrett A. Morgan paved the way for African American inventors. Some of his patents included a hair-straightening product, a breathing device, and an improved traffic signal. In fact, his respiratory device provided the blueprint for gas masks used in World War I.

downloadIn 1916, the city of Cleveland was drilling a tunnel under Lake Eerie, workers hit a natural gas pocket resulting in a huge explosion. The explosion trapped workers underground in the fumes. When Morgan found out, he and his brother put on breathing devices. They were able to save two lives and recover four bodies before their rescue mission was called off. Unfortunately, after this, people refused to buy Mr. Morgan’s products when they realized he was black due to the publicity of the rescue.

Garrett Morgan still decided to focus on fixing problems. He started focusing on everything from hats to seat belts to car parts. After witnessing a carriage accident, he created a new traffic signal, one with a warning light notifying drivers they would need to stop.

Mr. Morgan has saved many lives with his inventions. Many of his inventions were the start of several inventions we now have today. If you want to know what it truly means to be innovative, look up a list of his inventions and you’ll have an idea.

If you can be the best, then why not try to be the best? – Garrett A. Morgan

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Ruby Bridges – Fearless


Ruby Bridges was a childhood favorite of mine. She is known for being the first black child to desegregate the all-white school, William Frantz Elementary School in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Bridges was born September 8, 1954 in Mississippi. At the age of six she became the first African American child to integrate a white southern elementary school. Ruby Bridges had to be escorted to class by her mother and U.S. Marshals because of violent mobs. Even at such a young age, she paved the way for civil rights action.

With parents keeping their children home and no teacher willing to teach her, Ruby began to wonder if she would ever be able to attend class. Thankfully, one teacher, Barbara Henry agreed to teach her. The two sat side by side at desks for a full year working on Ruby’s lessons. As students returned, Ruby was not allowed to go to the cafeteria or recess with the other students. Her entire day was spent in the classroom.

So how does a child endure so much? How does a child endure threats to be poisoned or people showing up with little black dolls in coffins? A child endures through prayer and encouragement from her family. Because of her fearlessness we have books like The Story of Ruby Bridges, and the biographical film adaptation of her story as well.

Thank you Ruby Bridges for teaching us that at any age you can inspire change.

“Racism is a grown-up disease and we must stop using our children to spread it.”- Ruby Bridges

Enjoy these clips:


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Malcolm X – Strong

Malcolm X was born Malcolm Little on May 19, 1925. His father was a preacher and although his family moved several times for safety from white supremacists groups, their home was still burned down. Malcolm’s family also believed that they were responsible for his father’s death as he was found lying across streetcar tracks. Both incidents had been ruled accidents.

Malcolm developed into a strong leader after being imprisoned for burglary. It was there that he began reading to pass the time by and became a part of the Lost-Found Nation of Islam. He started going by X instead of Little, because that was the name his ancestors inherited from slave owners. Eventually, Malcolm became one of the most well-known faces for black Muslims.

His involvement in the civil rights eras of 1950 and 1960 was important as he promoted black pride, separate black communities, and violence as a means of self-defense. He believed that his approached would benefit the approach Dr. King took:

“I want Dr. King to know that I didn’t come to Selma to make his job difficult. I really did come thinking I could make it easier. If the white people realize what the alternative is, perhaps they will be more willing to hear Dr. King.”

He also stated that although they had different approaches they both wanted the same thing—freedom.

After the controversy of Elijah Muhammad, Malcolm’s hero, he broke ties with the black Muslims Nation of Islam. Following a trip to Mecca, Malcolm came back with a new ideology that was less hateful and more optimistic about peaceful resolutions for America. “The true brotherhood I had seen had influenced me to recognize that anger can blind human vision,” he said. “America is the first country … that can actually have a bloodless revolution.” Unfortunately, shortly after his return Malcolm X was killed by black Muslims on February 21, 1965 before he was able to deliver a speech in Manhattan.

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Frederick Douglass – Intelligent

Intelligent – having or showing intelligence, especially of a high level.

Frederick Douglass is one of the most well-known human rights leaders in the anti-slavery movement and the first African-American citizen to hold a high U.S. government rank. He is also a famed author and orator.

Born into slavery around 1818, Douglass was selected to live in the home of his plantation owners, one of whom they say could have been his father. Eventually Frederick was sent to Hugh Auld’s Baltimore home, which is where he learned to read and write. Auld forbade his wife from teaching Frederick anymore, but he continued to have a zeal for learning.

Later, Douglass became an abolitionist as well as a women’s rights activist. He published three versions of his autobiography during his lifetime. He also produced some abolitionist newspapers: The North StarFrederick Douglass WeeklyFrederick Douglass’ PaperDouglass’ Monthly and New National Era. In 1848, he was the only African American to attend the first women’s rights convention in New York.

When I think of Frederick Douglass I think of intelligence. Is there any surprise why?

One and God make the majority. – Frederick Douglass

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Ode to Black History

Just like Maya

I wish I could write

I wish my words

Would inspire others to join the fight


Like Harriet

I wish I was brave

I’d be so legit

Leading to freedom, today’s modern slaves


I wish I could dream

Like Langston or Martin

I’d come up with great things

To have a part in


And if I was bold

Like Angela Davis

I’d be like Sojourner Truth

I’d be courageous


Or maybe I’d want to be immovable

Like Rosa Parks

I’d want even my sitting

To light a spark


Or what if I could speak

Like Mr. Frederick Douglass

I’d be able to voice the truth

For so many of us


And if like W.E.B. DuBois or Carter G. Woodson

I was smart

I would know where to end

I would know where to start


Yet if I was like Hattie McDaniel

I’d play my part

I’d create and cultivate

I’d perfect my art


If I were a strong leader like Malcolm

With the influence of Martin

Maybe I would soften some hearts

That have been hardened


But even if I’m just Chanel

With limitations

I can still do my part

To motivate this nation


If black history

Means so much to me

I’d put into practice

All that I could be


I’d learn from their examples

And I’d do my best

I would be who that had in mind

When they were on their quests






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Phillis Wheatley – Poetic

Poetic – relating to or used in poetry.

Phillis Wheatley was kidnapped from West Africa and enslaved. She became the first African American and one of the first women to publish a book of poems. After being educated by her owners, in 1767, she published her first poem and her first volumes of poems in 1773, Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral.

This publishing made Wheatley the first African American and first U.S. slave to publish a book of poems. In 1776, Wheatley wrote a letter and poem in support of George Washington. He later replied with an invitation to visit him.

After the Wheatleys death, Phillis was forced to support herself as a seamstress and poet. She later married John Peters, whom she had three children with that all died young.  Her financial struggles made it hard for her to receive other publication. Many of her poems that would be used in her second volume of poetry disappeared and have yet to be recovered.


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