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Black History Month – Vivien Thomas and Heart Surgery

Vivien T. Thomas

The Johns Hopkins Medical Institution holds Personal Paper Collections in the Alan Mason Chesney Medical Archives, including papers about the “blue baby” disease.  The surgical procedure eventually developed to save the lives of babies born with congenital heart malformation, robbing their blood of oxygen, is known as the Blalock-Taussig Shunt.  However, it was a Black man named Vivien T. Thomas who created that shunt.

Vivien T. Thomas was born on August 29, 1910 in Lake Providence, Louisiana. His family later moved to Nashville, Tennessee.  His father was a carpenter and Vivien followed in his dad’s footsteps until 1929.  That year, Vivien began working as an orderly in a private infirmary and he enrolled as a premedical student at Tennessee Agricultural and Industrial College.

The stock market crash bankrupted the bank where Vivien had saved money for school, and his savings were wiped out.  He dropped out of school and in 1930, he was hired at Vanderbilt University as a laboratory assistant for Dr. Alfred Blalock.  Blalock was conducting medical research using dogs, and Vivien’s responsibilities included taking care of the animals and cleaning-up after them. Read the rest of this entry

Black History Month, Katherine Johnson – “Hidden Figures”

With the release and popularity of the movie “Hidden Figures” and this being Black History month, I thought that copying a post written by guest blogger Yahteebutterfly would be appropriate.

By Guest Blogger Yahtzeebutterfly

Katherine Johnson, the African American mathematician who calculated the trajectory of NASA’s first manned spacecraft was born on  August 26, 1918 in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia.

Her father, a farmer and logger who only had a sixth grade education, was a whiz at math.  In an interview with Cathy Lewis of WHROTV, Dr. Johnson recalled that her father could listen to a difficult math word-problem and immediately have the answer and that he could determine the number of board feet he could get from a tree just by looking at it. When it came time for high school and college for his four children he began working at a hotel and had extra jobs to support the studies of his four children.

Watching her three siblings enter elementary school before she did, Katherine could hardly wait to attend school.  She loved learning and had a special fascination for numbers.  She loved counting everything around her, even the number of steps she walked on her way to church. When she finally did attend school, she was such an outstanding student that she was skipped to second grade, and by the time she was 10, she entered high school where mathematician Angie King recognized her mathematical talent and mentored her during those four years.   Read the rest of this entry

Remembering Martin Luther King, Jr


12 Historic Facts About Martin Luther King Jr.


Monday, January 16, marks Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the federal date of recognition for one of the most important figures in the civil rights movement. Signed by President Reagan in 1983, the holiday marked the culmination of efforts that started just four days after King’s assassination in 1968, when Representative John Conyers of Michigan began 15 years of introducing and reintroducing a bill to establish the holiday. (Stevie Wonder joined the chorus of Americans backing Conyers’ efforts; in 1980 he wrote the song “Happy Birthday” to help create a groundswell of support.)

While it would be impossible to encompass everything King accomplished in a mere list, we’ve compiled a few intriguing facts that may pique your interest in finding out more about the man who helped unite a divided nation.


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September – This Month In Black American History

By Guest Blogger Yahtzeebutterfly


September 2, 1766 – Businessman and abolitionist James Forten was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  Author Julie Winch discusses her book on the life of James Forten at this link.

September 3, 1895 – Lawyer Charles Hamilton Houston in Washington, D.C.


September 4, 1908 – Writer Richard Wright in Natchez, Mississippi


September 5, 1939 – Claudette Colvin, the first person arrested for not giving up her bus seat to a White woman in Montgomery, Alabama.

Interview by Democracy Now with Claudette Colvin:

Read the rest of this entry

August – This Month In Black American History

By Guest Blogger Yahtzeebutterfly



August 1, 1894 – Benjamin Mays in Epworth, South Carolina


August 2, 1924 – James Baldwin


August 4, 1961 – Happy Birthday, President Barack Obama!

obama-happy-birthday Read the rest of this entry

July – This Month In Black American History

By Guest Blogger Yahtzeebutterfly

Each month, Yahtzeebutterfly writes a This month in Black American History.  Throughout the month, she updates in the comment section.  Your contributions and discussions are welcomed.


July 2, 1908 – Thurgood Marshall


July 6, 1931 –   Singer and actress Della Reese



July 7, 1915 –  Writer and poet Margaret Walker

Former Georgia Court Justice Leah Ward Sears tells of the impact of Margaret Walker’s poem “For My People” and then reads the poem:

Read the rest of this entry

Black History Month – Clementa Pinckney, Pastor and State Senator

By Guest Blogger, Yahtzeebutterfly


Rev. Clementa Pinckney

Rev. Senator Clementa Pinckney was both a strong, inspirational leader and a caring, compassionate servant to his community.  It is my hope that he will be remembered in history books and during future Black History Months and also that his legacy will lead others to follow in his path.

Born July 30, 1973, in Beaufort, SC, Pinckney became a pastor at the age of 18 and a state representative at the age of 23. He was 27 when he became a state senator, a position he held until a white supremacist’s bullet took his life on June 17, 2015.

I watched a video where Rev. Pinckney explained to a group visiting the Mother Emanuel Church in Charleston why he chose to be both a pastor and a state legislator:

There are many people who say, “Why would you as a preacher, why would you as a pastor, be involved in public life?” And, I’ve already said it, but I’ll say it again.  Our calling is not just within the walls of a congregation, but we are part of the life of the community in which the congregation resides.

Read the rest of this entry

African American Family Records From Era of Slavery to be Available Free Online


African American fugitive slaves provide support to the Union war effort, circa 1863. African American fugitive slaves provide support to the Union war effort, circa 1863. (Photograph: Andrew J Russell/Medford Historical Society Collection/CORBIS)

Millions of African Americans will soon be able to trace their families through the era of slavery, some to the countries from which their ancestors were snatched, thanks to a new and free online service that is digitizing a huge cache of federal records for the first time.

Handwritten records collecting information on newly freed slaves that were compiled just after the civil war will be available for easy searches through a new website, it was announced on Friday.

The records belong to the Freedmen’s Bureau, an administrative body created by Congress in 1865 to assist slaves in 15 states and the District of Columbia transition into free citizenship.

Before that time, slaves were legally regarded as property in the US and their names were not officially documented. They…

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Black piano keys: Do you know?

The video is not just inspiring but it is also educational. Thanks so much for blogging this.

Black piano keys
At Carnegie Hall, gospel singer Wintley Phipps delivers perhaps the most powerful rendition of Amazing Grace ever recorded.

He says, “A lot of people don’t realize that just about all Negro spirituals are written on the black notes of the piano. Slaves were not permitted to use the white keys.

Probably the most famous on this slave scale was written by John Newton, who used to be the captain of a slave ship, and many believe he heard this melody that sounds very much like a West African sorrow chant. And it has a haunting, haunting plaintive quality to it that reaches past your arrogance, past your pride, and it speaks to that part of you that’s in bondage. And we feel it. We feel it. It’s just one of the most amazing melodies in all of human history.” After sharing the noteworthy history of the song…

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