Africa-American

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Ellen DeGeneres presented this Muslim refugee with a check for her student debt

  • On Friday’s episode of The Ellen Show, DeGeneres read a letter from Muslim refugee Ekhlas Ahmed, who shared her story of coming to the U.S. unable to learn English and eventually learning the language by watching DeGeneres’ daytime show and transcribing everything she said.

  • DeGeneres brought a tearful Ahmed, who is now a graduate student, activist and high school English teacher, onto the stage to speak with her after reading the letter Ahmed wrote to her. Read more. (2/18/17, 1:53 PM)

View of dancer Pearl Primus performing with musicians. Handwritten on back: “Prayer of thanksgiving. Belgian Congo, 1949.”

  • Courtesy of the E. Azalia Hackley Collection of African Americans in the Performing Arts, Detroit Public Library

Edmonia Lewis

Edmonia Lewis was the first Native American and African American woman known internationally for her sculptures. Lewis was born in the early 1840s; her father was a free Black and her mother a Chippewa Indian. By age 5, Lewis was orphaned and went to live with her mother’s family. Lewis attended Oberlin College starting in 1859 but was forced to leave in 1863 after she was accused of poisoning her roommates. Lewis was acquitted of the charges, but only after she went through a very public trial. She moved to Boston and began studying under sculptor Edward Brackett. Lewis began making portraits of famous abolitionists and after selling one of John Brown and Colonel Robert Gould Shaw she was able to afford a trip to Europe. Lewis settled in Rome, a common place for American artists. Her specialties were sculptures that represented her heritage.

 (Photo Credit: National Portrait Gallery)

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Jean-Michel Basquiat with the weight of the world on his shoulders photographed by Christopher Makos on May 29, 1984.

December 27 is the 2nd Day of Kwanzaa. Today’s principle is Kujichagulia or Self-determination: To define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves, and speak for ourselves.