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Archive for May, 2017

“Lucy Laney is an excellent builder. Her contribution to American life is that of building character.”     Attorney James C. Waters, Former Secretary of the Law School, Howard University.

Lucy Craft Laney was a true builder of society. Remembered as the founder and principal of the Haines Institute in Augusta, Georgia for fifty years, Lucy is one of the most famous educators in the United States. She founded the first kindergarten and the first nurses’ training school in Georgia.

Lucy Craft Laney was born a slave in 1854 in Macon, Georgia. She spent most of her childhood in Savannah where her father, Reverend David Laney was a preacher or exhorter. He became an ordained Presbyterian minister and pastored a church. Lucy’s mother, Louise was a very godly woman who raised not only her own large brood of children but took in the Laney cousins and many orphans. Lucy loved being around other children. She would continue to love the company of children her whole life long.

Lucy was very bright and was taught to read at the age of four by Miss Campbell, the master’s sister. Miss Campbell recognized Lucy’s giftedness and in spite of the local prejudice against blacks undertook to educate Lucy herself. Thanks to Miss Campbell Lucy was later able to attend Atlanta University at the tender age of fifteen. In 1873 Lucy was a member of the first graduating class of Atlanta University. She then began a teaching career in Savannah.

After teaching for 10 years, Lucy began her own school in the basement of Christ Presbyterian church in Augusta. On the first morning there were six pupils, three little girls, one older girl, and two boys. At first, Lucy had only wanted to take girls but her heart was too big for poor children and she accepted many underprivileged boys. When the boy would show up at her door, Lucy had the gift to see past the child’s raggedness to what the boy could become.

By the end of the first year Lucy had 75 students. At the end of the second year she reported 234. In 1886, Lucy visited the Presbyterian Board’s annual meeting to seek funds. The Board was impressed with her work but only voted to give her the funds to get home. However, while attending the Board conference Lucy made friends with Mrs. Francine Haines who would become a great benefactor. The little school which had been called Miss Laney’s school was renamed in honor of Mrs. Haines. Later it would be chartered and named the Haines Normal and Industrial Institute.

By 1893 the institution had become a large boarding school, furnishing a home for 60 – 70 girls and some rented cottages for 15 – 20 boys. In 1906 an administration building, McGregor Hall was erected. Miss Laney believed that girls should get a good education for a teaching career but should also be self-sufficient. Therefore, the school ran a model garden.

Soon the school would boast 26 teachers and 713 students. Graduates would go on to attend Atlanta University, Fisk U., Howard U., Shaw U., and Taladega College. Her students would be found in all walks of life throughout the United States.

One of Lucy’s most important contributions to the community was the introduction of trained nurses into Atlanta. Lucy convinced the city to give her an old “pest house” where patients with infectious diseases were kept, to use as a hospital. She brought a white trained nurse from Canada to be superintendent. Ten girls at Haines studied nursing. Later when the city built a new two-hundred bed hospital, one of these colored girls was made its superintendent.

Besides all of her work at the school, Lucy was involved with efforts to alleviate the prejudice against blacks in her community. She helped to found the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in 1918. She was active in the Interracial Commission, the National Association of Colored Women, and the Niagara Movement. She helped integrate into the community the work of the YMCA and the YWCA. Many prominent blacks were her friends including Madame C. J. Walker (see post 5/2/17) and Mary McLeod Bethune (story posted on 4/11/17).

In recognition of her accomplishments Lucy was awarded the degree of Master of Arts by Lincoln University in 1904; by her alma mater, Atlanta University, in 1923; by South Carolina State College in 1925; and by Howard University in 1930.

Lucy passed away in 1933. In 1974, she was honored to have her portrait placed in the Georgia state capitol by Governor Jimmy Carter, along with portraits of Rev. Henry McNeal Turner and Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Lucy’s portrait bears tribute to “the mother of the children of the people,” …. a woman who knew that “God didn’t use any different dirt to make me than the first lady of the land.” Lucy was inducted into the Georgia Women of Achievement in 1992.

I really love looking at old pictures of people and I found this wonderful video on You Tube. You will get a few more details of Lucy’s story as well as the enjoyment of seeing much that can be explained better in pictures than in my short biography. I know you will really enjoy this story of a truly great American educator. It’s a little over 9 minutes long and the production is professionally done. Author – Tina Calhoun.

https://youtu.be/lRiEJdz6tco

You should also consider checking out the Lucy Craft Laney Museum of Black History if you are ever in Augusta.

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For the last few weeks we have focused on the contributions to society made by black women. Bessie Coleman, early stunt flyer and first black woman with an international pilot’s license (post April 4, 2017), Mary McLeod Bethune, educator and leader (April 11); Mae Jemison – first female black astronaut (April 18); Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson – achievements in the space industry and instrumental in getting the first Americans in space and on the moon (April 25); (May 2) Madame C. J. Walker, entrepreneur and philanthropist, and last week (May 9) Rosa Parks, courageous mother of the civil rights movement.

This week I would like to share an article from Christians for Biblical Equality (CBE) about Rev. Emily Awino Onyango, written by Sarah Rodriquez. The title is – “Journey into Priesthood: Egalitarian Women Making History”, published on March 22, 2017. There are many stories of courageous women at CBE’s website. Please consider joining the organization and supporting their work. They also have a book store and you will find many of the books that I have reviewed on this site there. http://www.cbeinternational.org/

In shining a light on these women’s stories, we will defy patriarchy’s attempts to marginalize the historical contributions of women. Instead, we will unashamedly celebrate their courage and persistence.

This week’s article will focus on Rev. Emily Awino Onyango, an Anglican priest ordained in her native Kenya.

Emily was born and raised in a Christian home. She spent her childhood learning Christian values, having family prayers, and attending church. At the age of ten, Emily attended a children’s camp. It was at this camp that Emily first decided to have a personal relationship with Christ.

As she grew older, the people around her encouraged her in her faith. For instance, she said, “When I was in secondary school, I was greatly inspired by my Christian religious education teacher, Lorna Mwanga, who was very passionate about her faith. I also greatly admired the life and vocation of the prophets that she was teaching about.”[1] Emily learned much from her religious teachers, and she grew to greatly admire the female evangelists and administrators in her church.

I also asked Emily to list some female missionaries who inspired her. She named Olive Owen, the wife of Archdeacon Owen who worked in Nyanza, Kenya in the 1940s. Olive Owen supported the women in her community and fought for women’s rights in the community and in the church. Thus, it is easy to see why she inspires Emily, as Emily has faced her share of uphill battles while entering church ministry in Kenya.

According to Emily, “Olive Owen said that her main mission was to liberate the girls in her community who were suffering. She was one of the people who worked hard for the establishment of a girl’s school… and supported the girls who were being forced into marriage with older men.”[2]

Emily felt that God had called her to church ministry, so she applied to St. Paul’s United Theological College, from which she graduated in 1983. Next, she became a Sunday school coordinator in the diocese and a lay reader at St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Kisumu, Kenya. She describes this work as “very fulfilling, as [she] had the opportunity to influence the worldview of the children.”[3] Emily advanced in church leadership when she was appointed as a deacon on July 29, 1984. She was eventually ordained as a priest on December 15, 1985.

Naturally, Emily faced much resistance as she climbed church leadership. Although the Lambeth Conference in 1978 allowed for women to be ordained in the Anglican Church, each diocese was allowed to choose whether or not they were going to ordain women as priests.

The Diocese of Maseno South decided to affirm women’s ordination, and Rev. Lucia Okuthe became the first female Anglican priest in Kenya. Of course, Rev. Okuthe’s ordination was not without controversy. According to Emily, “People found [women’s ordination] difficult to accept because it was against African culture . . . Even as I was teaching, they had stereotypes, like ‘women are stupid’ and ‘women cannot keep secrets.’”[4]. Emily had to contend with a great amount of gender-based prejudice when she started going through the process of ordination, something most women in ministry experience in pursuing their calling.

Many disagreed with the ordination of Rev. Lucia Okuthe, but according to Emily, she still had an advantage over Emily. She said, “People argued that Lucia was in a better position because she was a widow and she was past menopause, while I was young and single.”[5] The clergy of the church in which Emily was ordained mainly objected to Emily’s marital status, because they believed that marriage made women distinguished and respectable in society. Nevertheless, Emily was ordained as a single woman.

When Emily first entered ministry, she saw a great gender disparity. She had graduated with men who immediately began earning twice as much as she did. Moreover, she did not receive housing allowances like the men. When she started teaching in a Bible school, “it was evident that most of the ordinands, who were predominately men, were against having women in the ministry.”[6]

Every area of the world faces different challenges to gender equality. Emily noted that some parts of her culture have perpetuated gender disparity in the church. She said that African traditional culture contains “negative stereotypes and myths [about women] that inform the worldview of the people.” Emily believes that these beliefs, along with a patriarchal interpretation of Scripture, have impeded the growth of egalitarianism in Africa.

Nevertheless, Emily still remains positive. While she encountered resistance to her ordination, she also met many Christians and parishioners who encouraged her and praised her spiritual gift for ministry.

Emily is currently researching gender inequality. She aims to devise a curriculum that will empower members of the clergy and the laity to understand gender issues. She also continues to train clergy, evangelists, and others, as well as perform advocacy work in her community. Emily is one of the many women forging a path for other women in church leadership.

Notes

[1] Emily Onyango, interview by Sarah Rodriguez, October 6, 2016.
[2] Ibid.
[3] Ibid.
[4] Ibid.
[5] Ibid.
[6] Ibid.

 

 

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We cannot recount the stories of so many courageous black women without telling the story of Rosa McCauley Parks.

 

 

 

 

We have admiration for Bessie Coleman, early pilot, daredevil and stunt flyer (April 4, 2017);

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mary McLeod Bethune, educator and leader (post, April 11);

 

 

 

 

 

Mae Jemison – first female black astronaut (April 18);

 

 

 

Katherine Johnson,

 

 

Dorothy Vaughan,

 

 

 

 

and Mary Jackson – achievements in the space industry and instrumental in getting the first Americans in space and on the moon (April 25);

 

 

 

Last week (May 2) Madame C. J. Walker, entrepreneur and philanthropist.

 

 

 

 

Ida B. Wells (post May 13, 2015) did in 1884 what Rosa Parks did in 1955 but on a train. Ida suffered humiliation and abuse as a black woman. A turning point for Ida came one day in 1884 when she was riding the train between Memphis and Nashville. She had bought a first class ticket and expected to use it. Ida got into the first class compartment for whites only. The train officials told her to get in the “Negro”* car instead and she refused to move. The railway men physically removed her. Ida sued the railroad and won a settlement, but the Tennessee Supreme Court overturned it.

Ida B. Wells became an activist seventy years before Rosa Parks. In 1955, Rosa Parks refused to go to the back of a bus where the “colored”* people were supposed to sit. Rosa’s act of defiance was the beginning of the Civil Rights movement in the United States.

Rosa McCauley was born in Tuskegee, Alabama on February 4, 1913. She met Raymond Parks and they married when she was 19 years old. They lived in Montgomery Alabama.

Raymond was a barber and Rosa worked at a department store. She joined the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in 1943. She was the secretary for the organization.

 

During this period of time, segregation laws forced black people to sit at the back of buses. If the seats for white people were full, black people had to give up their seats or get off of the bus. On December 1, 1955 Rosa got on the bus after work as usual and sat in the black section. As the bus began to fill up the bus driver moved the “colored” sign further back and told Rosa to move back. She refused. The bus driver got off and called for the police.

 

Rosa was arrested and charged with breaking Montgomery’s segregation laws. She went to jail until some friends could bail her out.

 

Inspired by her courage and the preaching of Martin Luther King Jr., a bus boycott began. Beginning on Monday, December 5 thousands of people stayed off of the buses. They found other ways to get to work sometimes even walking for miles. The bus companies began to lose a lot of money. After 381 days the city of Montgomery got rid of the busing segregation laws. This was a huge victory for the Civil Rights movement.

But it caused hard times for Rosa and Raymond.
They both lost their jobs. They suffered harassment and threat of bodily harm. Finally, they made the decision to move to Detroit, Michigan.

 

 

 

As the Civil Rights movement grew Rosa continued to work for equality for African Americans. In 1987, Rosa founded the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self Development. She also received many awards including the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Clinton in 1996. In 1999, she received the Congressional Gold Medal.

 

Rosa died at age 92 on October 24, 2005. She was honored greatly by being buried at the United States Capitol Building in Washington, D.C. More than 50,000 people attended her ceremony.

Rosa is one of those people whose lives changed history. She is a hero to all.

*In the 1800’s African Americans were referred to as “Negroes” or Blacks. In the mid-twentieth century the term “colored” was common.

 

I watched a movie produced about Rosa Parks starring Angela Bassett called “The Rosa Parks Story”. It was released in 2002 by Xenon Pictures. It was beautifully done. Rosa was just an ordinary person who took an extraordinary stand against injustice.

The movie tells of her early life, romance, and marriage. The struggles that Rosa went through affected her relationship with Raymond, but they weathered the storms together. I hope you will see the movie. You will be inspired and touched.

 

 

 

 

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Madam C. J. Walker (1867 – 1919) is known as the first black woman millionaire in America. She created a successful line of hair care products that are still being sold today. Born Sarah Breedlove, she was orphaned by age 8, married by age 14, a mother by age 17 and a widow at age 20.

Sarah’s story is told by her great-great-granddaughter, A’Lelia Bundles in “On Her Own Ground: The Life and Times of Madam C. J. Walker” (Pocket Books, NY, 2001). I highly recommend this book as incredibly interesting and informative.

 

Sarah was working as a laundress when she discovered that her hair was falling out uncontrollably. “I was on the verge of becoming entirely bald,” Sarah said. Desperate for a solution she prayed to the Lord. She claims that her answer came to her in a dream. A black man told her what to put in a mixture for her scalp. She concocted the ingredients and rubbed them into her scalp which began to heal. Soon she had gorgeous hair. The treatment really worked!

She began to bottle and sell her product. Marketing her product was easy as everyone could see the results of the “Walker system” on the beautiful heads of hair on the women who had formerly had scraggly, rough hair. Sarah took ads out in newspapers but her best advertisement was testimonials of thousands of happy women. Sarah traveled many miles selling her product directly to black women. She was warm and friendly and not only won loyal customers but a fleet of thousands of enthusiastic saleswomen.

She taught her ladies a good sales pitch using a familiar agricultural lesson. “Do you realize that it is as necessary to cultivate the scalp to grow hair as it is to cultivate the soil to grow a garden?” she queried. Everywhere her saleswomen went they were successful because Sarah’s product and methods were successful. In a day when there were so many “snake oil” salesmen running around, people could recognize when something really worked and were glad to pay for it.

Other hair treatment manufacturers were selling products to straighten hair, but Sarah would have none of that. She always maintained that her products were for growing healthy hair. She started a salon and trained beauty culturalists to work with women helping them to have healthier practices. She taught them to massage and clean scalps so that hair would grow. She eventually had over twenty products for healthy hair and skin.

Sarah grew very rich doing this but she gave much of her money away. She started clubs for her employees and encouraged them to be generous in charitable giving. She donated to the WMCA; she encouraged black soldiers during WW1. She knew Ida B. Wells (see posts on this blog May 9 and 13, 2015) and worked to stop the illegal lynching of black people. Sarah also donated $5000 to Daytona Normal and Industrial Institute, founded by Mary McLeod Bethune (see post April 10, 2017).

Sarah literally wore herself out. When she became ill in 1919 her doctor told her to rest. That was hard for her to do. Finally, one day her kidneys failed. Before Madam went into a coma she said, “I want to live to help my race.” Sarah died Sunday morning, May 25, 1919.

Today Sarah’s legacy is remembered in two landmarks – her Irvington-on Hudson, New York, mansion and the Madam Walker Theatre Center in Indianapolis, Indiana (where she built her manufacturing plant). The center includes a museum and sponsors theatrical and musical performances. Her papers and letters are archived at the Indiana Historical Society in Indianapolis.

The original Madam C. J. Walker Manufacturing company was sold in 1986. She was recently honored by the American Health and Beauty Aids Institute when they inducted her into their hall of fame. In 1998 the U.S. Postal system released a stamp as part of the Black Heritage Series.

I enjoyed going to her website – www.madamcjwalker.com. You will find her story as well as the story of what has become of her company and where you can buy some products!!

A great video production from “People Plan”, February 23, 2014) with many pictures and great biographical information is from:

“Madam CJ Walker – First African American Female Self Made Millionaire”

Sarah Breedlove (McWilliams Davis) Walker’s life is told beautifully with an emphasis on her character. Her business acumen, philanthropy, love and care for her race, including empowering over 25,000 women to get good jobs is recounted. Her selfless giving is to be admired. She was an inspiration to others to give also. Madam was also active in politics, WWI, and social issues including the struggle against the illegal lynching of blacks. One of the most successful entrepreneurs of all times, her legacy continues to be admired.

Here is the link:

https://youtu.be/w64zkMY5H94

 

 

 

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