Blast From The Past:
OUR HAMITE AWARD WINNER FOR 1908:
Blind Tom Wiggins
"Blind Tom" Wiggins was an African-American musical prodigy on the piano. Although he lived and died before autism was recognized, he is now regarded as an autistic savant.
Wiggins was born enslaved in Harris County, Georgia. Blind at birth, he was sold in 1850 along with his parents to lawyer, General James Neil Bethune. We would have thought Wiggins would have been put to death at childhood because of his blindness, but not in this case. He couldn't work the fields like other slaves, but was allowed to roam the plantation freely. Wow, that's unusual, somebody had a heart at this plantation.
When Wiggins was very young, he developed an interest in the piano, after hearing his master's daughters playing. By age four he reportedly had acquired some piano skills by ear and gained access to the keyboard. By age five Tom reportedly had composed his first tune, The Rain Storm, after a torrential downpour on a tin roof.
Bethune started to notice the talent this young boy possessed and had the boy moved into an empty room with a piano in it. Wiggins would play everyday for at least 12 hours. His other passion in life was food. As a child, Tom began to echo the sounds around him, repeating the crow of a rooster or the singing of a bird accurately.
What Bethune knew early on their was money to be made off the musical prodigy and eventually hired him out to tour across America, performing as often as four times a day and earning Oliver and Bethune up to $100,000 a year. General Bethune's family eventually made a fortune estimated at $750,000 at the hands of Blind Tom.
Did Bethune have sincere love for the young man, perhaps thinking of him as part of the family?
No, he didn't. He was a typical, selfish greedy American, and I say that because he marketed Wiggins as a “Barnum-style freak” advertising the transformation from animal to an artist. In the media, Tom was frequently compared to a bear, baboon, or mastiff.
Wiggins had the ability to repeat what he heard without fault. Bethune hired professional musicians to play for Tom, who could faithfully reproduce their performances, often after a single listening. Wiggins had learned over 7,000 different works of music.
In 1860, Blind Tom performed at the White House before President James Buchanan; he was the first African-American to give a command performance at the White House. Mark Twain attended many of Blind Tom's performances over several decades and chronicled the proceedings.
In 1875, General Bethune transferred management of Blind Tom's professional affairs to his son John Bethune. Trouble began when John Bethune got married. His new wife was Eliza Stutzbach who grew angry that Bethune and Wiggins were on the road so much, filed for divorce and spousal support. John Bethune dies shortly after in a railway accident.
Wiggins was sent back to live with the General, over Eliza's objections.
Isn't it strange how greed motivates people? If this black boy wasn't worth any money, do you think Eliza would have objected to Wiggins going back home to the General?
Eliza took the matter to court and went so far as to contact Wiggins, birth mother for testifying on her behalf and giving her the understanding she would share in the sure financial windfall. Guess what? She won. She was awarded custody of "Blind Tom" Wiggins. The mother ended up going back home empty handed because it seemed Eliza had forgotten about the deep understanding they had with each other. Amazing! It seemed the birth mom had greed in her heart also and had given up on her son.
After being dogged by constant legal challenges to her custodianship of Tom, Eliza took Tom off the concert circuit around 1893.
Eliza relocated to Hoboken, New Jersey, with Tom. They kept out of public view, though neighbors could hear Tom's piano playing at all hours of the day and night. Tom suffered a major stroke in April 1908 and died the following June. He was buried in the Cemetery of the Evergreens in Brooklyn, New York. Well we have to give it to Eliza, at least she stayed with "Blind Tom" Wiggins to the end.
We feel this person "Blind Tom" Wiggins. is more than deserving of the 1908 Hamite Award. Although his stay on this earth was handicapped, he was still able to carve out a piece of African American history for himself. He accomplished more in his lifetime than people on this earth with their full mental faculties intact. We honor and thank you. You are not forgotten "Blind Tom" Wiggins.
To listen to a little of "Blind Tom" Wiggins wonderful piano playing, click here
Blind Tom Wiggins |
Blind Tom Wiggins
Blind Tom Wiggins holding a copy of his first musical composition, The Rain Storm
|How were blacks feeling in 1908?
The mood of the Negro this year is sad and disappointed because one word can describe our treatment by the American government and white people.
Our growth as American citizens is snuffed out at every turn. We don't have a voice in the political arena because we have been disenfranchised by whites who have terrorized, raped, tortured, lynched, and murdered us with total impunity.
Every single President since Abraham Lincoln has done nothing to address this problem, although most have made grand speeches on behalf of the Negroes Civil Rights which proves to me that they are aware, choose to let our problems fester and pass it on to the next administration, but in the mean time we have to get by the best way we know how. Do you think the black crime rate will go up in the coming years? Dang skippy it will.
We can't vote, we are not welcome in public places in American society but designated to the dirty colored section, similar to a family who has a doghouse in the backyard for the unclean dog.
How will this affect the disposition of the American Negro in future years, will he be a happy or a sad camper? Will he pass this down to the next generation? You don't have to be a genius to figure that out.
In the meantime, most of white America goes on as if nothing is wrong, and I guess nothing is wrong in their lives, but one day they are going to have to deal with millions of angry, tired, disrespected, uneducated, American Negroes who are just not going to take it anymore.
I can feel my blood pressure going up, so I gotta quit for now. Hopefully next year it will start to get better.
For the year 1908:
- Jack Johnson was the first African-American heavyweight boxing champion.
- John Baxter Taylor on the track and field medley relay team was the first African-American Olympic gold medal winner.
- Alpha Kappa Alpha was the first African-American intercollegiate Greek-letter sorority established by African Americans.
The Coloured Hockey League performed from 1895-1930
John Baxter Taylor
| Sports in 1908 |
- Jack Johnson becomes the first African American heavyweight-boxing champion, defeating Tommy Burns.
- African American track and field athlete John Baxter Taylor becomes the first African American to win an Olympic gold medal.
- April 27– October 31, 1908 - The 1908 Summer Olympics are held in London.
- 1895-1930 - Coloured Hockey League was an all-black ice hockey league founded in Nova Scotia in 1895, which featured teams from across Canada's Maritime Provinces. The Coloured League is credited by some as being the first league to allow the goaltender to leave his feet to cover a puck in 1900. This practice was not permitted elsewhere until the formation of the National Hockey League in 1917. Historians also claim that the first player to use the slapshot was Eddie Martin of the Halifax Eureka in 1906. Trivia: In the Revolutionary War, America and the British promised the black slaves freedom if they fought for their respective sides. Of course, we all know that America won the war but failed to keep its promise to the slaves and forced them back into slavery. President George Washington had to know about this and did nothing on the slave's behalf. On the other hand, the British kept their promise and transported these slaves who were also called black loyalist to Nova Scotia and Sierra Leone, Africa to start a new life. The Coloured Hockey League players were from Nova Scotia and introduced exciting innovations to the game of hockey.
History of Education (1900-1950)
Black and Mexican kids were excluded
| Education in 1908 |
- January 15, 1908 - Alpha Kappa Alpha the first Greek-lettered sorority established and incorporated by African-American college women is founded.
- 1908 - Morris College was founded in 1908, initially as a grade school, high school, and college. The college is named after the Reverend Frank Morris because of his outstanding leadership throughout the African American community of South Carolina.
The 26th President of the United States Theodore Roosevelt standing next to the elephant
he shot on safari. Roosevelt and his companions killed or trapped approximately 11,400
animals, from insects and moles to hippopotamuses and elephants. The 1000 large animals
included 512 big game animals, including six rare White rhinos. It took years to mount them all.
| Political Scene in 1908 |
- Theodore Roosevelt became the 26th President of the United States after the assassination of William McKinley. Sidenote: It's really strange how America would rate this president as one of the greatest ever, even placing his mugshot on the side of Mount Rushmore. Well from a Negro perspective Mr. Theodore Roosevelt didn't measure up in the least.
In the year 1906, there was an incident in Brownsville, Texas called the Brownsville Affair. It was a racial incident that arose out of tensions between black soldiers and white citizens in Brownsville, Texas, in 1906. When a white bartender was killed and a police officer wounded by gunshot, townspeople accused the members of the 25th Infantry Regiment, a unit of Buffalo Soldiers stationed at nearby Fort Brown. Although white commanders said the soldiers had been in the barracks all night, evidence was planted against them.
What did Roosevelt do about this matter? He ordered the dishonorable discharge of 167 soldiers of the 25th Infantry Regiment, costing them pensions and preventing them from serving in civil service jobs. Some of these men had served their country for over 20 years and were close to retirement. Roosevelt didn't even give them due process. A renewed investigation in the early 1970s exonerated the discharged black troops. The government pardoned them and restored their records to show honorable discharges but did not provide retroactive compensation. But the damage was already done. ABSOLUTELY SHAMEFUL, FROM THE TOP DOWN
Another incident that gives up a look into the character of this President was shortly after entering office Roosevelt invited Booker T. Washington to dinner at the White House, but got bitter resentment from the South, and guessed what? Yes, that was the last invite Washington received from Roosevelt. He was a passive sort. He admitted that the South made a huge mistake with the slave trade because America has a huge population of Negroes and his wise words of wisdom were:
I have not been able to think out any solution of the terrible problem offered by the presence of the Negro on this continent, but of one thing I am sure, and that is that inasmuch as he is here and can neither be killed nor driven away, the only wise and honorable and Christian thing to do is to treat each black man and each white man strictly on his merits as a man, giving him no more and no less than he shows himself worthy to have.
Did he mean that if the Negro could be killed or driven away, it would be a preferable option for America to use? I don't know; maybe I understood him the wrong way. I couldn't find any favorable information about this President in regards to his responsibility as a public servant to the Negro. He will just pass this ever-growing problem to the next President. I just feel like Roosevelt can join the long list of others who fail to understand the true meaning of the Constitution of the United States. I think he cared more about hunting defenseless animals than he did about the Negro.
"Colored Waiting Room" sign from
segregationist era United States
photo #100 -year-1878
An example of the destruction caused to the Black Residential area by race riots in Springfield, Illinois, 1908.
A man lynched from a tree. Face partially concealed by angle and headgear.
| Race in 1908 |
- August 14-15, 1908 - The Springfield race riot was a mass civil disturbance in Springfield, Illinois, sparked by the arrest of two African Americans as suspects in violent crimes against whites. When a mob seeking to take the men for lynching discovered the sheriff had transferred them out of the city, it rooted in black neighborhoods and killed black citizens on the street and destroyed businesses and homes. This was one of the few riots of whites against blacks in 20th-century United States history in which white death (five) were recorded than black (two). Sidenote: Get ready for yet another sad story in American history.Please Google the complete story for yourself. There was a black man named Joe James who had broken into a white man's home during the night and was chased off by the owner, Clergy Ballard who also had a young daughter. Ballard gave chase and was killed by James. Whites heard about what James had done and beat him until the police arrested him locking him up in jail. The press suggested that Ballard had saved his daughter from a sexual attack attempting to arouse and incite the whites. Shortly after in an entirely different case a white woman claimed to have been raped by a local caretaker George Richardson. Richardson was arrested and thrown into jail with James. An angry white mob of about 5,000 - 10,000 show up at the jail to lynch the pair and were angry when they discovered the sheriff had moved them to another city. That's when they went on a rampage through the black neighborhoods, stealing, setting fires to black businesses, and beating it's residents. They encountered Scott Burton, an African American who owned his barbershop and had only whites as clients. Burton defended his business by firing a warning shot; the mob killed him with return fire. They burned his shop and dragged his body to a nearby saloon, hanging it outside from a tree. Later, hundreds of men and boys went to the home of black resident William Donnegan who was around 76 years old and also married to a white woman. When Donegan came outside after threats to burn his house, the mob captured him, cut his throat, and lynched him in a tree across the street, two blocks from the governor's office. There were five whites and two blacks that lost their lives in this riot.
The case went to court, was justice served?
What about justice for the murdered black men, Scott Burton and William Donnegan you may ask?
A grand jury brought 107 indictments against nearly 80 individuals who had allegedly participated in the riots (including four police officers), There were a few misdemeanor pleas, but most of the perpetrators of the violence went free.
What about the alleged black burglar, Joe James in this case?
James punishment was swift and severe; he was convicted of the murder of Ballard and hanged in the Sangamon County Jail in the same year.
What about the white lady who claimed to be raped and along with Joe James had a huge part in starting this mess?
Mabel Hallam later admitted that her accusation of rape against George Richardson was false, and he was released from jail without incident. She and her husband moved to Chicago.
What about the local press who also played a huge part in inciting the mob with innuendo and no facts?
No charges were ever brought against the press.
Commentary: We notice a subtle change in the way America is dealing with it's lowly Negro citizens, and we think it's because the Negro is finally fighting back. This was rare for more whites to be killed than blacks in a riot. If you went back starting from the Civil War, you would notice that in just about all the riots against the American Negro, he remained passive, not fighting back. There were countless amounts of black men, women and children killed, raped and tortured by white American citizens with total impunity. It was a common occurrence. It's in the history books for all to read, and not hard to find. But we notice in the early 1900s; blacks have had enough and white reaction is different, because, for the most part, there wouldn't even be a trial, but since whites died, it was a must.
Historically, when only blacks were killed in riots, it was more like the attitude "Oh poor Negro, he will get over it" But it seems they put on a trial as a pretense to accomplish two things, and that was to hang Joe James with due process legally and at the same time showing the Negro that justice was at least being attempted to calm the angry Negro. But the facts speak. Those innocent black men who died by the white lynching mob were human beings with families just like whites, and their lives mattered just as much to their families, but sadly, American justice was not realized in this case. It will be interesting to see if more of these "Pretense Trials" appear in the future.
- 1908 - Eighty-nine black Americans are known to have been lynched in 1908.
- February 18, 1908 - Japanese emigration to the United States is forbidden under terms of the Gentlemen's Agreement of 1907. Sidenote: There was much discrimination against the Japanese, mostly in California. Japan was a very powerful nation during this period, and wasn't going to put up with it's people being treated poory by Americans, so this Gentlemen's Agreement was agreed upon by the two nations.
"It is worthy of emphasis, that the antiquity of the Negro race is beyond dispute. His brightest days were when history was an infant; and, since he early turned from God, he has found the cold face of hate and the hurtful hand of the Caucasian against him."
George Washington Williams
Dislike of black people is a relatively new phenomenon that started after the 16th century. Before this time there wasn't a thing such as racial prejudices. If color issues did arise, it was an infrequent occurrence. It's hardly mentioned in history books. For the most part, skin color was not a factor.
In fact, it's well documented how the early Greek philosophers who were all white, Socrates, Herodotus, Thales, Alexander the Great, Aristotle among others happily mingled with the blacks. Africa was known as the learning capital of the world, and many philosophers traveled to Africa to study about everything from philosophy to mathematics. Pythagoras is believed to have made it the furthest, having studied in Kemet for 23 years.
The Greek Poet Homer was one of those travelers and made the following statement:
"In ancient times the blacks were known to be so gentle to
strangers that many believed that the gods sprang from them.
Homer sings of the Ocean, father of the gods; and says that
when Jupiter wishes to take a holiday, he visits the sea,
and goes to the banquets of the blacks,--a people humble,
courteous, and devout."
Mr. Reade http://www.gutenberg.org/files/15735/15735.txt
Black people had a good reputation for being intelligent, kind and hospitable and enjoying an advanced civilization that the Greeks envied.
If alive today, Greek scholars would find it surprising how a person might believe in superiority simply because of skin color.
History makes the answer easy. After the 16th century, race became an issue for whites because of three dynamics. Greed, science, and white history (legacy).
Not to pick on white people, but it's entirely accurate they made our co-existence on this earth a race issue. This developed scorn or dislike they have for blacks continues down to our day.
- Greed The trans-Atlantic slave trade was about greed. Free black labor aided in making Europeans countries and America very rich on the backs of black slaves. This created animosity between the blacks and whites.
- Erroneous science theoriesThe introduction of false science teaching aided European and Americans in abandoning their conscience, because science didn't require one. Early Western philosophy advocated peace and treating all men with respect, but subsequent white generations did the opposite. Whites started to feel like gods themselves with their advancements in science and began to exhibit hubris, which is a Greek word denoting overconfident pride combined with arrogance. In other words, their heads became too big.
- Incomplete history recording Eurocentric history is always portrayed as the centerpiece of world history. African history was habitually erased by invading troops to eliminate its contributions and accomplishments to the world while preserving their European legacy. White history regularly portrays Africa as a wasteland full of ignorant savages, but current excavations prove the opposite. Africa was a developed continent with advanced civilizations just as good as Europe if not better.
Listed below are a few of the so-called geniuses who got the ball rolling in pitting white against black.
Not one ounce of truth could be found in what these early scientists preached as fact. Modern science doesn't agree with them. But guess what? There's still a lot of people who believe in this ridiculous white superiority crap, either conscious or unconsciously, which doesn't say much for the intelligence of these people.
Believe it or not, this is one reason a lot of whites dislike blacks today. It's not rare to hear about media services about blacks being called derogatory names associated with past world history.
So to honestly answer the question above "Why do many in America dislike black people?" At this point, it's because they want to.
Thomas Wentworth Higginson, a white officer in the Union army had the task of training colored soldiers in the Civil War. He kept a diary for our enjoyment today. (click here)
George W. Williams - History of the Negro Race in America From 1619 to 1880. (click here)
Europeans Come to Western Africa -
The Characteristics of the Negro People -
Lionel Hampton at the Aquarium, New York
Adam Clayton Powell
| Famous Birthdays in 1908 |
- April 11, 1908 - Jane Matilda Bolin LL.B. was the first African-American woman to graduate from Yale Law School.
- April 20, 1908 - Lionel Hampton was an American jazz vibraphonist, pianist, percussionist, bandleader and actor.
- July 8, 1908 - Louis Thomas Jordan was a pioneering American musician, songwriter and bandleader who enjoyed his greatest popularity from the late 1930s to the early 1950s. Known as "The King of the Jukebox", he was highly popular with both black and white audiences in the later years of the swing era.
- August 30, 1908 - Willie Bryant was an American jazz bandleader, vocalist, and disc jockey.
- September 4, 1908 - Richard Nathaniel Wright was an African-American author of sometimes controversial novels, short stories, poems, and non-fiction.
- November 29, 1908 - Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. was a Baptist pastor and an American politician, who represented Harlem, New York City.
John Baxter Taylor
Jane Elizabeth Manning James
William Harvey Carney
| Famous Deaths in 1908 |
- January 6, 1908 - George Dixon was a Black Canadian professional boxer and the first black world boxing champion in any weight class. Ring Magazine founder Nat Fleischer ranked Dixon as the #1 Featherweight of all-time. Dixon was inducted into the Ring Magazine Hall of Fame in 1956 and the International Boxing Hall of Fame as a first-class inductee in 1990. Trivia: George Dixon is the inventor of Shadowboxing.
- April 16, 1908 - Jane Elizabeth Manning James was an early African-American member of the Latter Day Saint movement who lived with Joseph Smith, Jr. and his family for a time in Nauvoo, Illinois.
- June 14, 1908 - Thomas "Blind Tom" Wiggins was an African-American musical prodigy on the piano. He had numerous original compositions published and had a lengthy and largely successful performing career throughout the United States.
- December 2, 1908 - John Baxter Taylor was an American track and field athlete, notable as the first African American to win an Olympic gold medal. He was a member of the Sigma Pi Phi, the first black fraternity.
- December 9, 1908 - William Harvey Carney was an African American soldier during the American Civil War. In 1900, he was awarded the Medal of Honor for his gallantry during the Battle of Fort Wagner in 1863.
- 1908 - David Augustus Straker was an author, lawyer, and politician.
"Harvard's best baseball player",
William Clarence Matthews
| Famous Weddings in 1908 |
- 1908 - Baseball player, Lawyer, William Clarence Matthews and Pamela Belle Lloyd were wed in holy matrimony.
- 1908 - Inventor Garrett Morgan and Mary Anne Hassek were wed in holy matrimony.
- 1908 - Amos and Andy's Tim Moore and Hester Moore were wed in holy matrimony.
Cover of theatre programme
- photo#112a - yr1900
Vaudeville star George Walker
| Entertainment in 1908 |
- The Rabbit's Foot Company was a leading traveling vaudeville show in the first part of the twentieth century. Owner Pat Chappelle became known as one of the biggest employers of African-Americans in the entertainment industry, with many tent traveling shows. Chappelle was described at that time as the "Pioneer of Negro Vaudeville" and "the black P. T. Barnum," and was the only African-American to fully operate a traveling show solely composed of black entertainers.
- George Walker formed the The Frogs (club)
Why did George Walker start a black club for actors when he could have just joined the American Actors Beneficial Association? Because like everything else in America, it was becoming commonplace for blacks and whites to be separated in everything. Doctors, Realtors, Lawyers, Unions, etc. and every other organization you can think of was segregated. It's almost like whites needed a race of people such as the lowly Negro to measure it's greatness against. Blacks had no choice but to organize for their benefit. The Negro didn't want it this way, but like a famous rapper once said: "That's just the way it is" The American Actors Beneficial Association excluded blacks from its memberships and didn't appreciate it when Walker formed the Frogs. His original start up group, The Colored Vaudeville Benevolent Association, received negative attitude from white producers. The concept of the colored man supporting himself through performance and no longer just “taking what they were given” posed a threat to the white vaudevillian and professional community. With this, Walker set forth to create The Frogs. On July 18, 1908, at Walker’s home at 52 West 153rd St in Harlem, eleven of the most prominent names in the industry formed together to create the African American theatrical organization. The Frogs became known for their big event “The Frolic of the Frogs” or “The Frogs Frolic” every August at the Manhattan Casino (New York City) at 155th Street and Eighth Avenue. For 50 cents, people enjoyed a combination ball, party, and vaudeville show where favors were given to the ladies and door prizes went to the three individuals wearing unique costumes symbolic of the frogs. With a large success in the early years of the event, “The Frolic of the Frogs” was able to tour their event in cities such as Philadelphia, Richmond, Baltimore and Washington D.C. Popularity in the frolic was found among both blacks and whites. We love happy stories like "The Frogs" had given the people of New York. Come on let's face it, 99% of the time because of racial oppression; it's was negative for the Negro.
Cover of theatre programme
- photo#112a - yr-1900
| It's a Party in 1908 |
(photo#113 & 114-yr-1900)
- Back in the early 1900s because of prejudice and racial discrimination, black entertainers had to be very careful where they traveled. They weren't always welcome in various venues, so they created what's called a Chitlin Circuit. They named it Chitlin Circuit because of blacks typical love for soul food with chitlins being near the top as favorite. So, in other words, they understood they would be love on the circuit. They knew that the clubs, juke joints, theaters, etc. in the circuit were welcoming of the black race and safe to visit. This way of life existing from the early 1900s - 1960s. Noted theaters and entertainers on the circuit included:
The Fox Theatre in Detroit; the Victory Grill in Austin, Texas; the Carver Theatre in Birmingham, Alabama; the Cotton Club, Small's Paradise and the Apollo Theater in New York City; Robert's Show Lounge, Club DeLisa and the Regal Theatre in Chicago; the Howard Theatre in Washington, D.C.;the Royal Peacock in Atlanta; the Royal Theatre in Baltimore; the Uptown Theatre in Philadelphia; the Hippodrome Theatre in Richmond, Virginia; the Ritz Theatre in Jacksonville, Florida; and The Madam C. J. Walker Theatre on Indiana Avenue in Indianapolis.
These entertainers provided much needed joy and happiness for black folks. Once the band's gig was over, they would leave for the next stop on the circuit. Sounds like a lot of fun and an exciting life!
Many notable performers worked on the chitlin' circuit, including Patti LaBelle, Count Basie, Hammond B-3, Jeff Palmer, Sam Cooke, Jackie Wilson, Sheila Guyse, Peg Leg Bates, The Supremes, George Benson, James Brown & The Famous Flames, Cab Calloway, Ray Charles, Dorothy Dandridge, Sammy Davis, Jr., Gladys Knight & the Pips, Ella Fitzgerald, The Jackson 5, Redd Foxx, Aretha Franklin, Jimi Hendrix, Billie Holiday, John Lee Hooker, Lena Horne, Etta James, B.B. King, The Miracles, Donna Hightower, Moms Mabley, The Delfonics, Wilson Pickett, Richard Pryor, Otis Redding, Duke Ellington, Dr. Lonnie Smith, Little Richard, Ike & Tina Turner, The Four Tops, Tammi Terrell, The Isley Brothers, Marvin Gaye, The Temptations, Little Anthony and the Imperials, Muddy Waters, Flip Wilson and Jimmie Walker.
The Rabbit's Foot Company was a leading traveling vaudeville show in the first part of the twentieth century. Owner Pat Chappelle became known as one of the biggest employers of African-Americans in the entertainment industry, with many tent traveling shows. Chappelle was described at that time as the "Pioneer of Negro Vaudeville" and "the black P. T. Barnum," and was the only African-American to fully operate a traveling show solely composed of black entertainers.
Black Patti Troubadours
Storyville, New Orleans
| Music in 1908 |
Popular Soul Dances
- The Texas Tommy
- Turkey Trot
Musical Happenings in 1908:
- Scott Joplin publishes the education School of Ragtime, "a landmark in the development and diffusion of classic ragtime".
- The first black bandmasters are appointed to the U.S. Army, for the Ninth and Tenth Cavalry and the Twenty-Fourth and Twenty-Fifth Infantry regiments.
- Sissieretta Jones formed the Black Patti Troubadours (later renamed the Black Patti Musical Comedy Company), a musical and acrobatic act made up of 40 jugglers, comedians, dancers and a chorus of 40 trained singers. Jones sang passionately and pursued her career choice of opera and various repertory regardless to her lack of audience attendance. For more than two decades, Jones remained the star of the Famous Troubadours, while they graciously toured every season and established their popularity in the principal cities of the United States. The Black Patti Troubadours reveled in vernacular music and dance. Jones retired from performing in 1915.
- Will Marion Cook wrote and published many songs, was prominent as a conductor, and was the musical director for Bert Williams and George Walker's string of groundbreaking musicals, including The Sons of Ham (1900), In Dahomey (1903) (the first musical composed and performed entirely by African-Americans in a major Broadway theater), Abyssinia (1906), and Bandana Land (1908). Cook also wrote music for The Southerners (1904), the first Broadway show to feature a racially integrated cast. He worked with Ernest Hogan on a musical Jes Lak White Folks (1899) and with Hogan's Memphis Students performance troupe, with whom he toured Europe in 1905.
- Chicago’s Pekin Theatre was the first black-owned musical and vaudeville stock theater in the United States. Between 1905 and 1911, the Pekin Theatre served as a training ground and showcase for Black comic talent, vaudeville acts, and musical comedies. Additionally, the theater allowed “African-American theater artists with an opportunity to master stage craft and contribute significantly to the development of an emerging Black theater tradition.”
Storyville was the red-light district of New Orleans, Louisiana from 1897 to 1917. It was established by municipal ordinance under the New Orleans City Council, to regulate prostitution and drugs. The ordinance did not legalize prostitution, but rather designated a sixteen block area as the part of the city in which it was not illegal. The area was originally referred to as "The District," but its nickname, "Storyville," soon caught on. It became a centralized attraction in the heart of New Orleans. Only a few of its remnants are now visible.
Establishments in Storyville ranged from cheap "cribs" to more expensive houses, up to a row of elegant mansions along Basin Street for well-heeled customers. New Orleans' cribs were 50-cent joints, whereas the most expensive establishments could cost up to $10. Black and white brothels coexisted in Storyville; but black men were barred from legally purchasing services in either black or white brothels.
Trivia: It's interesting to note that Jim Crow even restricted the Negro male from legally purchasing the services of a prostitute. Amazing!
In the early 1900s, a Blue Book could be purchased for 25 cents. Blue Books were created for tourists and those unfamiliar with this area of New Orleans and contained, in alphabetical order, the names of all the prostitutes of Storyville, and separated them based on race.
Jazz did not originate in Storyville, but it flourished there as in the rest of the city. Many out-of-town visitors first heard this style of music there before the music spread north. Some outsiders continue to associate Storyville with the origins of jazz. It was the tradition in the better Storyville establishments to hire a piano player and sometimes small bands. Famous musicians who got their start in Storyville include Buddy Bolden, Jelly Roll Morton, and Pops Foster.
At the start of World War I, Secretary of War Newton Baker did not want troops to have distractions while deploying. The Navy had troops located in New Orleans, and the city was pressed to close Storyville. Prostitution was made illegal in 1917, and Storyville was used for the purpose of entertainment. Most of its buildings were later destroyed.
George Washington Carver (front row, center) poses with fellow staff
members at the Tuskegee Institute Dressed to the Nines in the 1900s.
Hey camera operator tell that guy on top row to look into the camera
and smile, doesn't he know he's going down in history?
George Walker and Bert Williams
styling in the 1900s
George E. Taylor, Presidential Candidate, 1904
Fashions for young African American women
Fashions for African American men
The Black Victorians
(Victorian Era 1800s-1900s)
| Fashions in 1908 |
Popular entertainers of the 1990s, George Walker and Bert Williams in the fancy clothes they wore back in the 1900s. Sharp as a tack!
With the decline of the bustle, sleeves began to increase in size and the 1830s silhouette of an hourglass shape became popular again. The fashionable silhouette in the early 1900s was that of a confident woman, with full low chest and curvy hips. Unfussy, tailored clothes were worn for outdoor activities and traveling. The shirtwaist, a costume with a bodice or waist tailored like a man's shirt with a high collar, was adopted for informal daywear and became the uniform of working women. This decade marked the full flowering of Parisian haute couture as the arbiter of styles and silhouettes for women of all classes. Large hats were worn with evening wear. Shoes were narrow and often emphasized. They had a pointed toe and a medium height heel.
The long, lean, and athletic silhouette of the 1890s persisted. Hair was generally worn short. Beards were less pointed than before and moustaches were often curled. The sack coat or lounge coat continued to replace the frock coat for most informal and semi-formal occasions. Formal dress shirt collars were turned over or pressed into "wings". Collars were overall very tall and stiffened. The usual necktie was a narrow four-in-hand. Ascot ties were worn with formal day dress and white bow ties with evening dress. Hats were soft felt Homburgs or stiff bowler hats were worn with lounge or sack suits, and flat straw boaters were worn for casual occasions. Shoes for men were mostly over the ankle. Toe cap, lace up boots in black, gray, or brown were the most common for everyday wear.
Dang it! We're so Tired of all the Hate|
We can't wait to leave this wicked South,
and make the big bucks in the North!
Will our white American brothers love us there?
What type of employment awaits the Negro in the 1900s?
FSA photo of cropper family chopping the weeds
from cotton near White Plains, in Georgia Postmarked 1912
90% of Negroes still lived in the South up until the late 1910s.
King Cotton was still a big source of income for blacks. These workers were hired as temporary help. Many were tenant farmers, renting a piece of land and some of their tools and supplies, and paying the rent at the end of the growing season with a portion of their harvest. White and black farm laborers were paid comparable wages, and rental rates. Blacks didn't exclusively work in the cotton fields, for example some blacks worked in the Turpentine industry.
"Dipping and scraping pine trees. Turpentine industry in Florida." Postmarked 1912
Whites were much more likely to own land as opposed to blacks. Black children were unlikely to be in school because they helped the parents in the fields to support the family and also because of a lack of good quality schools. Funds that were intended for black schools went to white schools instead in the form of raising teacher salaries and per-pupil funding while reducing class size. Black schools suffered at this expense. Separate but Equal was a big lie, because it was anything but equal.
The government didn't have a special watchdog organization to enforce these racist laws, and the requirement of equality was not enforced. Black children never really had a fair chance.
Boll weevil ruins Cotton Crops in the 1920s
Of course hindsight is 20-20. But wouldn't it have been nice if during slavery someone would have thought to travel to Mexico and bring back the Cotton boll weevil to transplant them into Southern cotton crops?
Cotton boll weevil |
Where were you when we really
needed you, pre-1863?
A little integration of the boll weevil and Mr. King Cotton would have been a good thing for the Negro. We wonder what kind of effect that would have had on chattel slavery?
Well what the heck is a boll weevil?
The boll weevil is a beetle which feeds on cotton buds and flowers. Thought to be native to Central America, it migrated into the United States from Mexico in the late 19th century and had infested all U.S. cotton-growing areas by the 1920s, devastating the industry and the people working in the American south.
Southern blacks were tied to the cotton fields in the early 1900s, but after 1914, many were fed up and wanted to try something new and different. By then they were open for a change because of restrictive Jim Crow laws and the boll weevil destroyed many crops, putting them out of work. They decided to take the plunge, a new and exciting life for them. Their move was called the Great Migration. News had spread to these poor black Southerners about better opportunities in the North, so many of them packed up their belongings and bid farewell to the South, never looking back.
During World War I, blacks were very much desired in the workplace. The United States had a quota for Colored soldiers to enlist for service. Blacks filled the quota very quickly, and many had to be turned back. With white men fighting in the war, this left openings in industry for blacks to fill. How did they do? Employers loved them and wanted more. They proved themselves to be excellent workers. This is probably one of the main reasons for so many riots when the white soldiers returned to America because blacks had taken their jobs. So by the early 1900s, we have proven ourselves to be excellent and courageous soldiers and dependable workers at home.
In other cases, some Negroes were recruited to travel North by agents of the businesses who would pay their fare. In some cases, these poor blacks were tricked into traveling a great distance for jobs only to discover they would be hired as strikebreakers, which was a very dangerous undertaking. Money was better for the Negro in the North, but in many cases, racism persisted with many riots happening. Many unions in the North had explicit rules barring membership by black workers.
Blacks had various successes at different job locations, for example when the auto industry took off, Ford Motor Co. hired many blacks to work in its automobile plant, but other auto plants often excluded them. Jobs were not a certainty for the Negro; he had to stay alerted and knock on many doors. But blacks were making a little advancement, by 1940 there were more than 200,000 African Americans in the CIO, many of them officers of union locals.
A. Philip Randolph|
When the war broke out a very special man by the name of A. Philip Randolph petitioned President Roosevelt for jobs in the Defense plants which previously had been reserved for whites. Randolph had a special card up his sleeve in the form of 100,000 peaceful marchers on Washington to protest if Roosevelt declined.
Roosevelt half-heartedly gave in and created a new program for blacks called the Fair Employment Practice Committee which was designed to monitor the hiring practices of companies. The Committee did accomplish many blacks being hired into the Defense departments at very nice wages but closed down later because of a lack of funding from the U.S. Government.
After World War II, The G.I. Bill which was a law that provided a range of benefits for returning World War II veterans. Benefits included low-cost mortgages, low-interest loans to start a business, cash payments of tuition and living expenses to attend university, high school or vocational education, as well as one year of unemployment compensation was a big boon for whites and was a major factor in the creation of the white American middle class.
But sadly because of racial inequality, many of the benefits of the G.I. bill were not granted to black soldiers. This is because "at the very moment when a wide array of public policies was providing most white Americans with valuable tools to advance their social welfare—insure their old age, get good jobs, acquire economic security, build assets, and gain middle-class status—most black Americans were left behind or left out." It seems like we can get off the ground with these people, but we never give up. Also the black middle class failed to keep pace with the white middle class because blacks had fewer opportunities to earn college degrees.
In time, it became critical to have a college degree, for better pay wages which many whites were now working toward with the help of the G.I. Bill, but blacks were left behind in dying trades or just making it the best way they could because of racial discrimination and National leaders doing absolutely nothing to help.
Once they returned home after the war, blacks faced not only discrimination but also poverty, which confronted most blacks during the 1940s and 1950s and represented another barrier to harnessing the benefits of the G.I. Bill, as poverty made seeking an education problematic to while labor and income were needed at home. Banks and mortgage agencies routinely refused loans to blacks, making the G.I. Bill even less effective for blacks.
In addition to the other obstacles, gaining admission to universities was no easy task for blacks on the G.I. Bill. Most universities had segregationist principles underlying their admissions policies, utilizing either official or unofficial quotas. Those blacks that were prepared for college level work and gained access to predominantly white universities still experienced racism on campus.
During the 70s and 80s, the number of employed blacks increased. The civil rights movement played a huge role in this development. There were heavy gains in blue-collar jobs, such as steel, automobile production, electrical and non-electrical machinery, appliances, food and tobacco manufacturing, and textiles, and also white-collar occupations, where the four major subcategories-professional and technical, managerial and administrative, sales, and clerical increased very sharply.
The black labor force by the late 1990s, approximately sixty percent of these were white-collar sales and clerical personnel; many in this group were non-union workers with limited benefits and wages. However, another twenty percent of the black labor force, nearly three million workers, was classified as professional and technical employees and administrators. The percentage of the black labor force in the blue-collar field declined.
So what type of work did blacks do in the 1900s?
There were black doctors, dentist, newspaper editors, plumbers, mailman, teachers, singers, scientist, athletes, Pullman porters, laborers, politicians, judges, lawyers, mill workers, welders, domestic help, authors, factory workers, customer service, business owners, policemen, firemen, and every other profession you could think of. Sadly, their numbers and presence weren't as high as white Americans because of entrenched discrimination against the black race. It's in the history books, read it for yourself.
Blacks have historically had a harder time than other races being employed in America, ever since emancipation, and for the most part it has to do with racism. We're not fooled into believing any different. But we don't let this stop us and continue to push on. Our amazing journey has had many barriers and roadbloocks every step of the way.
The Fair Employment Practice Committee of the 40s and the Civil Rights movement helped a bit, but after slavery and the following Jim Crow years, racism had become deeply entrenched in the American workforce. It's not out in the open as it was during Jim Crow days but today more subtle and hidden, but just as hurtful, degrading and discouraging. But to our credit, blacks seem always to find a way. Truly remarkable American people, and if it were possible, would make our battered ancestors who sailed deep seas, shout for joy in their graves.
African Americans in the Twentieth Century
African Americans and the G.I. Bill
Blacks in the 1970's
Social and Economic Issues of the 1980s and 1990s
What The Negro Achieved in Industry
Advertising postcard, picture side, for the "Happy Day" washing machine,
sold by the National Sewing Machine Co.
of Belvidere, Illinois.
United States Census for African Americans
in the 1900s
1908 Ford Model T ad from Oct. 1, 1908 Life magazine
| Our Community in 1908 |
Newsworthy Events in the Black Community:
- January 15, 1908 - Alpha Kappa Alpha the first black sorority is founded.
- August 14, 1908 - The Springfield Race Riot breaks out in Springfield, Illinois
- September 27, 1908 - Henry Ford produces his first Model T automobile.
- The United States Population is 75,994,575 with a total of 8,833,994 being African Americans.
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