The celebration of black history began in 1926 when Dr. Carter G. Woodson, a Harvard Phd., initiated Negro History Week. February was chosen because it included the birthdays of Fredrick Douglas and Abraham Lincoln. In 1976, the week-long observance was extended to the entire month of February in order to have enough time for the celebratory programs and activities.
The history of African Americans is an integral part of the history of America. These courageous and talented people broke barriers and achieved great success, often despite great odds.
Each weekday, during the month of February, WLSM will highlight African American men and women who have made and continue to make a lasting contribution to our American history.
Benjamin Banneker was a free-born descendant of slaves who became a famous 18th century astronomer, mathematician and surveyor. His interest in the scientific world was piqued in 1752 when he crafted a working replica of a pocket watch out of pieces of wood. He taught himself astronomy and published a popular almanac, Benjamin Banneker’s almanac: from 1792 to 1797. He was appointed to assist in surveying the federal territory, the plot of land that was to become Washington, DC. Banneker never married and much of his personal papers and belongings were destroyed in a fire that occurred on the day of his funeral.
Gwendolyn Bradley of Bishopville, South Carolina, was recognized by her high school music teacher at an early age to have a remarkable voice. A finalist in the national Metropolitan Opera competition, and as the youngest singer on the roster, she made her met debut in 1981. Performing on European stages, she found an artistic home at the Deutsche Oper Berlin, becoming one of their leading international stars. She continues to share her knowledge and expertise with young artists. She teaches at Nyack college and the masters school in Dobbs Ferry, NY.
Michael Goss was born September 26, 1980 in Ackerman, MS. He was a member of the 1999 graduating class of Louisville High School. Michael attended Jackson State University and played both baseball and football. He was selected in the 11th round by the Boston Red Sox in the 2002 major league baseball draft. Micheal is the son of Louisville residents Edna Goss, class of 1970 and Ralph Goss, class of 1968.
Simmie Knox is a portraitist and the first black to paint an official presidential portrait. He had his works unveiled at the White House on June 14, 2004. The paintings are the official White House portraits of former President Bill Clinton and former First Lady, New York Senator Hilary Clinton. Anative of Mobile, Alabama, Knox attended Central High School and later earned a bachelor’s and master’s degree in Fine Arts from the Tyler School of Art at Temple University in Philadelphia. He has painted for over 5o years and has specialized in oil portraiture since 1981. Prior to that he taught at various colleges, universities and public schools in delaware, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Washington, DC.
Colby Miller was born October 19, 1976 in Ackerman, Mississippi. He is a 1995 graduate of Louisville high school. Colby is an American track and field athlete who specializes in sprint events. He had his first successes as a collegiate athlete at Auburn University. In 1999 he won the 200 meters at the NCAA indoor championships and came second in the outdoor championships. In his career, he recorded a sub-10 personal best in the 100 meters and a sub-20 best in the 200 meters. He competed at the 2004 world indoor championships, but failed to make the 200 meters final. Since the 2004 Olympics, Miller has not attended any major international competitions. However, he regularly competed at track meetings during the 2004-2008 period. He competed at the Ponce Grand Prix in May 2009.
Charles Drew is known for his pioneering work in blood storage. Surgeon and scientist, Dr. Charles Drew is credited with the invention of the blood bank; a process which has revolutionized the medical profession and given millions of individuals a second chance at life. In an era of ubiquitous racial discrimination, Drew managed to achieve an extremely high level of education, earning his medical degree at Mcgill University in Canada and going on to publish a groundbreaking doctoral dissertation entitled banked blood: a study in blood preservation, in 1940. Today, thousands of vital blood transfusions are performed each day in hospitals around the world because of the life and work of Dr. Charles Drew.
Celebrated poet Nikky Finney was born in Conway, South Carolina, the daughter of an attorney and teacher, both civil rights activists. Ms. Finney’s fourth book of poetry, Head Off and Split, was awarded the 2011 national book award for poetry. An alumna of Talladega College and Atlanta University, Ms. Finney is the Guy Davenport Endowed Professor in English and creative writing at the University of Kentucky. Her poems have been described as powerful and warm, like her southern roots, and provide glimpses into the human adventures of birth, death, family, violence, sexuality, and relationship, exploring the soul of human community.
Chief L.M. Claiborne, Jr. was born on January 22, 1957, in Holmes County (Tchula, MS). He has been the chief of police of the Louisville police department since September 2006 and is the first African American to do so in a permanent position. He served as the director of training and exercises for the Mississippi Department of Public Safety Homeland Security from January 2004-August 2006. Between 1980 and 2000, he served in various law enforcement positions with the Mississippi Highway Patrol which included law enforcement officer, crime scene investigator, and director of training to name a few. Chief Claiborne was director of Mississippi highway patrol/assistant commissioner of public safety where he was the first African American to do so. Chief Claiborne and his family are members of the Still Valley M.B. church where he serves as a deacon, trustee and Sunday school teacher.
Mississippi Representative Mary Coleman was born July 25, 1946, in Noxapater, Mississippi. She is a graduate of Louisville Colored High School and received a BA degree from Tougaloo College in tTougaloo,MS. Representative Coleman has been a Mississippi State House of Representative for District 65, since 1994. Her current house committee memberships are: appropriations, banking and financial services, county affairs public health and human services and vice-chair of public property. Representative Coleman is a member of Cade Chapel Baptist Church in Jackson, MS and a life member of the NAACP.
Reuben V. Anderson became the first black judge to be appointed to the Mississippi Supreme Court on January 11, 1985. Anderson was selected by Governor Bill Allain to replace Justice Francis S. Bowling who retired January 1. Anderson a native of Jackson, MS was born September 16, 1942. He received his bachelor’s degree from Tougaloo College in 1964 and his law degree from the University of Mississippi in 1967. He served as a municipal judge from 1975 t0 1977, and circuit judge, seventh circuit court, state of Mississippi, from 1982 t0 1985. He served on the Mississippi Supreme Court from 1985 to 1990 and later served as president of the Mississippi bar association from 1997 to 1998.
Lawrence Estes also know as “part-time” was born December 9, 1946 in Louisville, MS. He is a 1966 graduate of Louisville Colored High School and attended Alcorn State University. Lawrence was drafted in 1970, round 8; pick 10 by the New Orleans Saints. He played three and a half years with the Saints, almost two years with Philadelphia Eagles and retired from the Kansas City Chiefs. Lawrence is a retired assistant chief of police for Louisville and a reserved police officer.
Coach M. C. Miller was born December 3, 1949, in Louisville, MS. He is a 1967 graduate of Camile High School and attended Alcorn State University. Coach Miller is the first black head football coach at Louisville High School, the first black coach to win a 4A state championship and the first black coach to go undefeated in 3A and 4A conferences. His team won the 2013 3A state championship. Coach Miller retired from the Louisville Municipal School District in 2013 and was presented with a life supply of toothpicks.
Marcus “slick” Thames, born March 5, 1977 in Louisville, Mississippi, is a former American Professional baseball outfielder. Marcus attended East Central Community College in Decatur,MS. He played for the New York Yankees, Texas Rangers, Detroit Tigers and Los Angeles Dodgers. Marcus began his major league career with a bang as he was the 80th player in history to hit a home run in his first time at bat. Marcus hit 8 home runs in 7 consecutive games from June 11 to June 17, 2008, becoming the first Detroit Tiger in team history to achieve that feat. 0n August 9, 2009, Marcus hit his 100th career home run. Marcus Thames was named the hitting coach of the class A-advanced Tampa Yankees on January 10, 2013.
The African American Civil War Soldiers Memorial was dedicated on July 18, 1998 in Washington, DC. The sculpture stands 10 feet tall and features uniformed black soldiers and a sailor poised to leave home. It was designed by Ed Hamilton of Louisville, KY and was the first major art piece by a black sculptor to be placed on federal land anywhere in the District of Columbia.