A Los Angeles native, Varnette Patricia Honeywood was the younger of two daughters of Stepney and Lovie Honeywood, elementary school teachers who had moved to the city from Mississippi and Louisiana. At 12, she began studying art at the Chouinard Art Institute in Los Angeles.
At Spelman College, she had planned to major in history but switched to art after being encouraged by a drawing teacher and fellow students. Soon she began developing the signature style that she sometimes described as “figurative abstraction.” Brilliant colors and intricate designs were a hallmark of her oil paintings and collages. She received her bachelor’s degree from Spelman in 1972.
After earning a master’s degree in education from the University of Southern California in 1974, she taught art and helped design multicultural arts and crafts programs for use in the public schools.
In the mid-1970s she and her sister founded Black Lifestyles, one of the first art and greeting-card companies devoted to black themes. The time she spent visiting relatives in the South during her childhood, her college experience at Spelman and a 1977 trip to Nigeria all provided themes for her paintings.
In the 80s, her vibrant, quilt-like style received worldwide recognition after television series such as “Amen” and “227” also made use of her paintings. “Little Bill,” the animated television series was based on Honeywood’s illustrations and she designed the characters and contributed to the program. Ms. Honeywood also designed several book covers for the acclaimed author (and fellow Spelman alum) Tina McElroy Ansa.
Varnette Honeywood died at age 59 on September 12, 2010, in Los Angeles after fighting cancer for two years. Her family started the Varnette P. Honeywood Foundation to support those who suffer from and are prone to having reproductive cancers.
Bessie Stringfield (1911 – February 1993) was the first African-American woman to ride across the United States solo, and during World War II she served as one of the few motorcycle despatch riders for the United States military.
Credited with breaking down barriers for both women and African-American motorcyclists, Stringfield was inducted into the Motorcycle Hall of Fame. the award bestowed by the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) for “Superior Achievement by a Female Motorcyclist” is named in her honor.
Stringfield was born in Kingston, Jamaica, in 1911 to a black Jamaican father and a white Dutch mother. The family migrated to Boston when she was still young. Her parents died when Stringfield was five and she was adopted and raised by an Irish woman.
At the age of 16 Stringfield taught herself to ride her first motorcycle, a 1928 Indian Scout. In 1930, at the age of 19, she commenced traveling across the United States. She made seven more long-distance trips in the US, and eventually rode through the 48 lower states, Europe, Brazil and Haiti. During this time, she earned money from performing motorcycle stunts in carnival shows. Because of racism, Stringfield was often denied accommodation while traveling, so she would sleep on her motorcycle at filling stations. Due to her sex, she was refused prizes in flat track races she entered.
During WWII Stringfield served as a civilian courier for the US Army, carrying documents between domestic army bases. She completed the rigorous training and rode her own blue 61 cubic inch Harley-Davidson. During the four years she worked for the Army, she crossed the United States eight times. She regularly encountered racism during this time, reportedly being deliberately knocked down by a white male in a pickup truck while traveling in the South.
In the 1950s Stringfield moved to Miami, Florida, where at first she was told “nigger women are not allowed to ride motorcycles” by the local police. After repeatedly being pulled over and harassed by officers, she visited the police captain. They went to a nearby park to prove her riding abilities. She gained the captain’s approval to ride and didn’t have any more trouble with the police.
She qualified as a nurse there and founded the Iron Horse Motorcycle Club. Her skill and antics at motorcycle shows gained the attention of the local press, leading to the nickname of “The Negro Motorcycle Queen”. This nickname later changed to “The Motorcycle Queen of Miami”, a moniker she carried for the remainder of her life. In 1990 the AMA paid tribute to her in their inaugural “Heroes of Harley-Davidson” exhibition she having owned 27 of their motorcycles. Stringfield died in 1993 at the age of 82 from a heart condition, having kept riding right up until the time of her death.
In 2000 the AMA created the “Bessie Stringfield Memorial Award” to recognize outstanding achievement by a female motorcyclist. Stringfield was inducted into the Motorcycle Hall of Fame in 2002.
She married and divorced six times, losing three babies with her first husband. She ended up keeping the last name of her third husband, Arthur Stringfield, since she had made it famous.
Dr Haynes was a Mathematician and Educator. In 1943, she became the 1st African-American woman to earn a PhD in mathematics in the U.S.
Martha Euphemia Lofton was the only daughter of William S. Lofton, a dentist and financier, and Lavinia Day Lofton. She was the valedictorian of M Street High School in 1907 and then graduated from Washington D.C. Miner Normal School with distinction in 1909. She went on to earn an undergraduate mathematics major (and psychology minor) from Smith College in 1914.
In 1917 she married Harold Appo Haynes. She gained a master’s degree in education from the University of Chicago in 1930. In 1943 gained her PhD from The Catholic University of America with a dissertation, supervised by Aubrey Landrey, entitled The Determination of Sets of Independent Conditions Characterizing Certain Special Cases of Symmetric Correspondences.
Dr. Haynes contributed quite grandly to the educational system of the District of Columbia. She taught in the public schools of Washington, D.C., for 47 years and was the 1st woman to chair the DC School Board.
Dr. Haynes taught 1st grade at Garrison and Garfield Schools, and mathematics at Armstrong High School. She taught mathematics and served as chair of the Math Department at Dunbar High School. Haynes was a professor of mathematics at Miner’s Teachers College where she was chair of the Division of Mathematics and Business Education, a department she created.
Dr. Haynes retired in 1959 from the public school system, but went on to establish the mathematics department at Miners Teacher’s College. She also occasionally taught part-time at Howard University.
Dr. Haynes was involved in many community activities, such as:
She served as first vice president of the Archdiocesan Council of Catholic Women.
Chair of the Advisory Board of Fides Neighborhood House.
She was on the Committee of International Social Welfare.
She served on the Executive Committee of the National Social Welfare Assembly.
She was secretary and member of the Executive Committee of the DC Health and Welfare Council.
She served on the local and national committees of the United Service Organization.
She was a member of the National Conference of Christians and Jews.
She was a member of the Catholic Interracial Council of Washington.
She was a member of the Urban League, NAACP, League of Women Voters, and the American Association of University Women.
Dr. Haynes was awarded the Papal Medal–Pro Ecclesia et Pontific from the Catholic Church in 1959.
Dr. Euphemia Lofton Haynes died of a heart attack on July 25, 1980 in her hometown, Washington, D.C. Her family papers are housed in the Catholic University archives.
She had set up a trust fund to support a professorial chair and student loan fund in the School of Education, giving $700,000 to Catholic University.
December 20, 1986: Michael Griffith, a 23-year old man who was born in Trinidad and who lived in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, was killed after being hit by a car. Griffith was chased onto a highway by a mob of white youths who had beaten him and his friends.
The Howard Beach incident was a racially charged killing of 1 black man and another was beaten in Howard Beach, Queens, New York, in December 1986 that heightened racial tensions in New York City.
Griffith’s death was the second in a string of three infamous racially motivated killings of blacks by white mobs in New York City in the 1980s. The other victims were Willie Turks in 1982 and Yusuf Hawkins in 1989.
Late on the night of Friday, December 19, 1986, four black men, Michael Griffith, 23; Cedric Sandiford, 36; Curtis Sylvester, 20; and Timothy Grimes, were riding in a car when it broke down in a deserted stretch of Cross Bay Boulevard near Broad Channel. Three of the men walked about three miles north to seek help in the Howard Beach neighborhood of Queens, an insular, mostly white community. Sylvester remained behind to watch the car. They had an argument with some white teens who were on their way to a party, and after the argument, left.
By 12:30 a.m. on the morning of the 20th, the men reached the New Park Pizzeria on Cross Bay Boulevard. After having a quick meal, the men left the pizzeria at 12:40 a.m. where they were confronted by a group of about ten white men who were with the group they had earlier confronted. Racial slurs were exchanged. A fight ensued, and Sandiford and Griffith were seriously beaten. Grimes escaped unharmed.
Griffith, while trying to evade his tormentors, ran in front of a moving car, driven by the son of a police officer, and was killed. His body was found on Shore Parkway at 1:03 a.m.
Griffith’s death provoked strong outrage and immediate condemnation by then Mayor of New York Ed Koch. On December 22 three arrests were made of local teenagers; the accused were Jon Lester, Scott Kern and Jason Ladone. The driver of the car that struck Griffith, 24-year old Dominick Blum, was not charged with any crime and was cleared by a grand jury in May 1987.
To protest the killing of Griffith, 1,200 demonstrators marched through the streets of Howard Beach on December 27, 1986. In the week leading up to this march, Al Sharpton made threats to residents, but on the day of protest, he had people march peacefully. A heavy NYPD presence kept angry locals, who were screaming at the highly emotional crowd of marchers, in check.
The Griffith family, as well as Cedric Sandiford, retained the services of Alton H. Maddox and C. Vernon Mason, two controversial attorneys who would become involved in the Tawana Brawley affair the following year. Maddox raised the ire of the NYPD and Commissioner Benjamin Ward by accusing them of trying to cover up facts in the case and aid the defendants.
After witnesses repeatedly refused to cooperate with Queens D.A. John J. Santucci, Governor of New York Mario Cuomo appointedCharles Hynes special prosecutor to handle the Griffith case on January 13, 1987. The move came after heavy pressure from black leaders on Cuomo to get Santucci, who was seen as too partial to the defendants to prosecute the case effectively, off the case.
12 defendants were indicted by a grand jury on February 9, 1987, including the original three charged in the case. Their original indictments had been dismissed after the witnesses refused to cooperate in the case.
After a lengthy trial and 12 days of jury deliberations, the 3 main defendants were convicted on December 21, 1987 of manslaughter, a little over a year after the death of Griffith.
Kern, Lester and Ladone were convicted of second-degree manslaughter and Michael Pirone, 18, was acquitted. Ultimately 9 people would be convicted on a variety of charges related to the death of Griffith.
On January 22, 1988, Jon Lester was sentenced to 10-30 years imprisonment.
In May 2001, Lester was released and deported to his native England,
On February 11, 1988, Jason Ladone received a sentence of 5-15 years imprisonment.
Ladone, then 29, was released from prison after serving 10 years in April 2000, and later became a city employee. He was arrested again in June 2006, on drug charges.
On February 5, 1988, Scott Kern was sentenced to 6-18 years imprisonment.
Kern was released from prison last of the three main perpetrators, in 2002.
In 1989, Timothy Grimes was sentenced to 16 years in prison for shooting and badly wounding his brother in a 1988 incident in Virginia.
Cedric Sandiford, one of the principal victims and witnesses in the Griffith case, died of AIDS-related complications in 1991.
December 1999, the street where Griffith had lived was renamed “Michael Griffith Street.”
In 2005 the Griffith case was brought back to the public’s attention after another racial attack in Howard Beach. A black man, Glenn Moore, was beaten severely with a metal baseball bat by Nicholas Minucci, who was convicted in 2006.
The case was revisited yet again by the media, after the death of Michael Sandy, 29, who was beaten and hit by a car after being chased onto the Belt Parkway in Brooklyn, New York, in October 2006.
Susie King Taylor (August 6, 1848 – October 6, 1912) was an African American army nurse; she worked with black Union troops during the Civil War. As the author of Reminiscences of My Life in Camp with the 33d United States Colored Troops, Late 1st S.C. Volunteers, she was the only African American woman to publish a memoir of her wartime experiences. She was also the first African American to teach openly in a school for former slaves in Georgia.
Her book of Memoirs can be read here: http://docsouth.unc.edu/neh/taylorsu/taylorsu.html
“You have to be very careful introducing the truth to the black man, who has never previously heard the truth about himself. The black brother is so brainwashed that he may reject the truth when he first hears it. You have to drop a little bit on him at a time, and wait a while to let that sink in before advancing to the next step. “– Malcolm X
February 6, 1820: The first 86 African American freed slaves sponsored by the American Colonization Society depart the New York harbor to start a settlement in present-day Liberia aboard The Mayflower of Liberia.
The American Colonization Society (“The Society for the Colonization of Free People of Color of America”), established in 1817 by Robert Finley of New Jersey, was the primary vehicle to support the return of free African Americans to what was considered greater freedom in Africa.
Paul Cuffee, a wealthy mixed-race New England shipowner and activist, was an early advocate of settling freed blacks in Africa. He gained support from black leaders and members of the US Congress for an emigration plan. In 1811 and 1815–16, he financed and captained successful voyages to British-ruled Sierra Leone, where he helped African-American immigrants get established. Although Cuffee died in 1817, his efforts may have inspired the American Colonization Society (ACS) to initiate further settlements.