A New Beginning - January 23, 2013
Hello Friends and Fans - 2013 is rolling along at a fast clip. Our president was elected for a 2nd term and January 15, 2013 marks what would have been Martin Luther King's 84th birthday. We are rejoicing on both accounts. The Cultural Heritage Choir will perform three concerts in honor of MLK Jr's birthday. Please check our calendar and don't forget that February is Black History month in the U.S.
Here are some little known facts about MLK Jr. and two other 20th century African American leaders/activists.
Born as Michael King Jr. on January 15, 1929, Martin Luther King Jr. was the middle child of Michael King Sr. and Alberta Williams King. The King and Williams families were rooted in rural Georgia. Martin Jr.'s grandfather, A.D. Williams, was a rural minister for years and then moved to Atlanta in 1893.
Michael King Sr. stepped in as pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church upon the death of his father-in-law in 1931. He too became a successful minister, and adopted the name Martin Luther King Sr. in honor of the German Protestant religious leader Martin Luther. In due time, Michael Jr. would follow his father's lead and adopt the name himself. In 1948, Martin Luther King Jr. earned a sociology degree from Morehouse College and attended the liberal Crozer Theological Seminary in Chester, Pennsylvania. He thrived in all his studies, and was valedictorian of his class in 1951, and elected student body president. He also earned a fellowship for graduate study. Martin also rebelled against his father’s more conservative influence by drinking beer and playing pool while at college. He became involved with a white woman and went through a difficult time before he could break off the affair.
During his last year in seminary, Martin Luther King Jr. came under the influence of theologian Reinhold Niebbuhr, a classmate of his father's at Morehouse College. Niebbuhr became a mentor to Martin, challenging his liberal views of theology. Niebuhr was probably the single most important influence in Martin's intellectual and spiritual development. After being accepted at several colleges for his doctoral study including Yale and Edinburgh in Scotland, King enrolled in Boston University.
Richard Allen - Minister, educator and writer Richard Allen was born into slavery in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on February 14, 1760. He converted to Methodism at age 17, and bought his freedom in 1783. In 1816, he founded the African Methodist Episcopal church, the first black denomination in the United States. He became an activist and abolitionist whose writings inspired Frederick Douglass and Martin Luther King Jr. He died in 1831.
Arturo Alfonso Schomburg - (1874–1938), bibliophile, bibliographer, curator, historian, and Pan-Africanist; also wrote under the name Guarionex. Arthur Alfonso Schomburg's vast private collection, now housed in the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture (formerly the 135th Street branch of the New York Public Library), is one of the outstanding collections of materials concerning the history and culture of people of African descent.
Schomburg was born on 24 January 1874 to an unwed freeborn mulatta, Maria Josepha, in Saint Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, and raised in Puerto Rico by his mother's family. Although he adopted his surname, there is no evidence that Schomburg's father, Carlos Federico Schomburg, a German-born merchant living in San Juan acknowledged or supported his son. While Schomburg was in grade school, one of his teachers claimed that blacks had no history, heroes or accomplishments. Inspired to prove the teacher wrong, Schomburg determined that he would find and document the accomplishments of Africans on their own continent and in the diaspora, including Afro-Latinos, such as Jose Campeche, and later Afro-Americans. Schomburg was educated at San Juan's Instituto Popular, where he learned commercial printing. At St. Thomas College in the Danish-ruled Virgin Islands, he studied Negro Literature.
Schomburg immigrated to New York on April 17, 1891, and settled in the Harlem section of Manhattan. He continued his studies to untangle the African thread of history in the fabric of the. After experiencing racial discrimination in the US, he began calling himself "Afroborinqueño" which means "Afro-Puerto Rican". He became a member of the "Revolutionary Committee of Puerto Rico" and became an active advocate of Puerto Rico's and Cuba's independence from Spain.
In 1911, Schomburg co-founded with John Edward Bruce the Negro Society for Historical Research, to create an institute to support scholarly efforts. For the first time it brought together African, West Indian and Afro-American scholars. Schomburg was later to become the President of the American Negro Academy, founded in Washington, DC in 1874, which championed black history and literature.
This was a period of founding of societies to encourage scholarship in African American history. In 1915, Dr. Carter G. Woodson co-founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (now called the Assoc. for the Study of African American Life and History) and began publishing the Journal of Negro History.
Schomburg became involved in the Harlem Renaissance movement, which spread to other African-American communities in the U.S. The concentration of blacks in Harlem from across the US and Caribbean led to a flowering of arts, intellectual and political movements. He was the co-editor of the 1912 edition of Daniel Alexander Payne Murray's Encyclopedia of the Colored Race.
In 1916 he published what was the first notable bibliography of African-American poetry, A Bibliographical Checklist of American Negro Poetry. In March 1925 Schomburg published his essay "The Negro Digs Up His Past" in an issue of the Survey Graphic devoted to the intellectual life of Harlem. It had widespread distribution and influence.
By the 1920s Schomburg had amassed a world-renowned collection which consisted of artworks, manuscripts, rare books, slave naratives and other artifacts of Black History. In 1926 the New York Public Library purchased his collection for $10,000 with the help of a grant from the Carnegie Corporation. The collection formed the cornerstone of the Library's Division of Negro History at its 135th Street Branch in Harlem. The library appointed Schomburg curator of the collection, which was named in his honor: the Schomburg Center foe Research in Black Culture. Schomburg used his proceeds from the sale to fund travel to Spain, France, Germany and England, to seek out more pieces of black history to add to the collection.