africans you should know

anonymous asked:

I'm writing a story where my lead character is a 12 yr old African-American girl with curly hair. I know writing the individual is the most important part of creating a character (& I've got that part figured out) but I also don't want to mishandle any cultural aspects that may connect with so many kids who aren't represented in media so much. As the writer of Riri Williams (&, if I'm not mistaken, the father of an African-American girl with curly hair) is there anything you think I should know?

Excellent question.. I lucked out in that I’ve spent the last nine years learning and perfecting my knowledge of African-American female hair.  I have two daughters. we have the products, we have the silk pillow cases, we are on it…

 when we first adopted Sabrina, and didn’t know anything,  even though we took a class in it, African American women would so nice and politely come up to us with all kinds of recommendations.  it was embarrassing but everyone was so nice.

Years ago, A friend of ours told me to watch Chris rock’s good hair which was a documentary I was going to watch but never got around to. 

On top of it being a very excellent Chris rock project it’s an outstanding primer into this world in the broadest sense. It perfectly illustrates how complicated the culture around  African-American hair can be and how different it is from other hair culture. here’s a clip…

then go to hair salons who clearly specializes on African american hair and ask questions. i have never been turned away from asking someone who knows something. people want their expertise represented on page and screen and are happy to help.  this goes for everything and every subject. 

Did You Know That Memorial Day Was Started By Ex-Enslaved Africans?

One of the things that most black people know is that the public school system does a horrible job teaching black history. They will gladly tell you all the wonderful things that white people did and maybe even go back to Europe, but the contributions of African Americans are kept entirely on the back-burner.

A fact that you should probably know is that African Americans are the reason that Memorial Day even exists in the first place. According to Professor David Blight of Yale University, the event began on May 1, 1865. A group of former slaves in Charleston, SC gave a proper burial to 257 Union soldiers who’d been put into a mass grave.

The black community of Charleston then consecrated the new cemetery with “an unforgettable parade of 10,000 people.” The event was initially called “Decoration Day” and was led by 3,000 black school children who started off by singing the song “John Brown’s Body.” They were then followed by hundreds of black women with baskets of flowers and crosses. After that, black men marched behind them in cadence, followed by Union infantry.

The Union soldiers lived in horrible conditions, and 257 of them died from exposure and disease. This was the reason for the creation of the mass grave site. A total of 28 black men went to the site an re-buried the men properly, largely as a thank you for helping fight for their freedom.

They also built a fence around the cemetery, and on the outside, put the words, “Martyrs of the Race Course.”

Now you know the rest of the story. Go tell this one to everyone you know.

No one is stopping you from wearing african print or clothing. I do not care. But you should know the culture from which what you wear or do comes from. It is out of respect. No one is saying that AA are not from Africa you are..But understand that the Africa that your ancestors knew and the Africa today has changed. And like with anything new, to say that you know it and are apart of it, you must learn. And that is all I am saying you must do. Learn the difference between cultures, learn African history, why because it is your history. But it is also mine, and it is disrespectful for me to see ANYONE claiming that they apart of my culture when they are not. You can become apart of African culture once again like AA once were, but that is not done buy simple buying an outfit, or jewelry. And that is all I am saying. And if you do know the history the culture, good for you!  - from a random blog, I agree      like I remember when I was younger being made fun of for being African and my culture by AA kids and now it’s like a new trend like :/

feel free to state your opinion on the matter

#39 Country Pref | You're from South Africa


“Come on Y/N can’t we go see it?” Luke whined pulling on your arm as you both were sitting on the couch in your family home. “Luke I don’t even know what you’re talking about.” You exclaimed placing your phone on your lap giving him your full attention. “It’s this penguin thing I’ve read about.” He tried to explain making you knot your eyebrows. “ That didn’t help me much.” You sighed. “God Y/N you’re South African you should know.” He pointed out making you cross your arms. “I’m sorry I don’t know what penguin thing you’re thinking about.” You started to laugh as he grew frustrated. “It’s this penguin colony. I’ve read that there’s one here in South Africa. And I really wanna go see it!” He explained better making you nod your head. “I’ll go call my mom then.” You mumbled standing up from the couch. “ You’re the best.” He commented as he hugged your waist.


“This is awesome.” Cal commented at the TV as he was having a beer in his hand, you laying next to him with your head in his lap your brother on the other side of him. “Is she sleeping?” Your brother asked Cal making him look down at your almost sleeping form. “She never sleeps under a Rugby game.” He said in disbelief and Cal shrugged. “She was tired. We’ve been through the half of South Africa I think. We were walking a lot. And after that we went to the beach. She’s just exhausted.” Cal explained as he caressed your hairline. “It’s still unbelievable.” Your brother laughed as he took a sip of his beer. “She’s been watching this since she was 7. It’s almost like a family tradition.” He joked making Calum chuckle lightly. He poked your cheek a couple of times trying to see for any reaction. “No she’s out.”


“Y/N what in the world is this?” Michael asked grabbing the plastic bag of meat out of your snack cabinet looking at it weirdly. That’s just biltong.” You mumbled too occupied with the pot in front of you, making a meal for the both of you. “Michael weren’t you supposed to-““Can I taste it?” He interrupted and you looked up from the boiling meal. “What?” You asked unconcentrated and he rolled his eyes. “The biltong thing.” He laughed holding the bag in front of you. “Oh.. Sure.” You shrugged before looking for the coriander yourself and he opened the bag gladly. He took the meat out sniffing it before taking a massive bite almost filling the whole in his mouth. “Good?” You laughed as you saw his satisfied face and he nodded his head. “Do we have more?” He asked already looking down for another bag. “You can have one after dinner.” You laughed pulling him away from the snack closet.


”Oh my god Caspar!” You squealed in surprise running into the blond haired boy’s waiting arms. He swung you back and forth for a minute before you pulled back seeing Ashton’s confused expression staring at the two of you. “You know Caspar?” He asked in disbelief. “ You know Y/N?” Caspar asked Ashton in disbelief making the three of you look weirdly at each other. “I’m dating Y/N.” Ashton said, “I used to go to school with Caspar in South Africa.” You added as Ashton raised an eyebrow. He thought for a minute before the pieces were pulled together. “That’s why your accent reminds me of him.” He exclaimed making you nod your head. “We’re childhood friends.” You said gesturing to a nodding Caspar. “How awesome is that.” The girl I’m dating is from South Africa. How could I miss that?” Ash said whilst running a hand through his hair. “ Well you know now.” You smiled making him nod his head.  

Five You Should Know: Black Freedom Fighters

Sojourner Truth

Image: Unknown photographer, Sojourner Truth, 1864, albumen print, 3 ¼ × 2 ¼ in. (8.1 × 5.7 cm). National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

Born Isabella Baumfree, Sojourner Truth was one of the most powerful African American women’s rights activists of her time. Incensed with a need for freedom, she escaped slavery before New York’s ban in 1827. A mother to four children, she escaped with her youngest and had to leave her other children behind. Upon learning that her son had been illegally sold south, she successfully campaigned for his return, the first time an African American woman had done so. William Lloyd Garrison published her memoirs in 1850 under the title, The Narrative of Sojourner Truth: A Northern Slave.

Read an excerpt from a speech given by Truth at the Women’s Rights Convention, 1851, in Akron, Ohio:

“I want to say a few words about this matter. I am a woman’s rights. I have as much muscle as any man, and can do as much work as any man. I have plowed and reaped and husked and chopped and mowed, and can any man do more than that? I have heard much about the sexes being equal. I can carry as much as any man, and can eat as much too, if I can get it. I am as strong as any man that is now. As for intellect, all I can say is, if a woman have a pint, and a man a quart – why can’t she have her little pint full? You need not be afraid to give us our rights for fear we will take too much, – for we can’t take more than our pint’ll hold. The poor men seems to be all in confusion, and don’t know what to do. Why children, if you have woman’s rights, give it to her and you will feel better. “

William Still 

William Still was born free in 1821 and was known as the “Father of the Underground Railroad.”  Still helped over 800 people escape slavery and continue on the road to freedom. He also served as chairman of the Vigilance Committee for the Pennsylvania Anti-Slavery Society. A meticulous recordkeeper, Still once discovered that he aided in the escape of his older brother who was left behind when his parents escaped their own bondage. Still worked with a team across New Jersey, New York, New England and Canada and even crossed paths with Harriet Tubman.

In 1872, Still published an account of his work on the Underground Railroad in The Underground Railroad Records. A leader in the community, Still also helped to establish an African American orphanage and open the first YMCA for blacks in Philadelphia.

Pauli Murray

Photo: Pauli Murray. Carolina Digital Library and Archives. “Murray, Pauli, 1910-1985.” 5 July 2007. Online image. UNC University Library. Accessed 8 April 2011.

Pauli Murray was a civil rights activist, lawyer and author who was ahead of her time. Known for her short haircut and tomboy style, Murray often passed as a teenage boy and openly flaunted her numerous relationships with women.

A staunch advocate for women’s rights, Murray coined the term “Jane Crow” in response to sex discrimination and criticized the lack of women leadership in the Civil Rights Movement. In 1966, she cofounded the National Organization for Women in a hope to pursue women’s rights.

Murray was also a lawyer active in efforts to end segregation — using her law school training to advocate for equal rights for African Americans. Her book, States’ Laws on Race and Color, was considered a bible for Civil Rights lawyers that examined and critiqued segregation laws. The book was referenced in arguments for Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, the landmark SCOTUS case that ended school segregation.

In 1977 Murray became the first African American woman to become an Episcopal Priest. Her first autobiography was published posthumously in 1987 and later released as, Pauli Murray: the Autobiography of a Black Activist, Feminist, Lawyer, Priest and Poet.

Bayard Rustin

Image: Bayard Rustin (center) speaking with (left to right) Carolyn Carter, Cecil Carter, Kurt Levister, and Kathy Ross, before demonstration / World Telegram & Sun photo by Ed Ford. Library of Congress.

“When an individual is protesting society’s refusal to acknowledge his dignity as a human being, his very act of protest confers dignity on him.” - Bayard Rustin

Bayard Rustin was active in the struggle for human rights and economic justice in the United States and around the world for over fifty years. As an activist and political organizer, Rustin played an important role in propelling the civil rights movement forward and fought tirelessly for marginalized communities. He is perhaps best known for his work organizing the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.

As an openly gay African American, Rustin stood at the intersection of several fights for equal rights. During the 1980s, Rustin spoke out publicly for gay rights and worked to bring the AIDS crisis to the attention of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). He also continued working for economic justice.

Rustin’s long-time partner, Walter Naegle, accepted Rustin’s posthumously-awarded Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama in 2013.

Angela Davis 

Born in Birmingham, Alabama,  Angela Yvonne Davis, grew up witnessing racial and social injustices firsthand in her neighborhood that was known as “Dynamite Hill” – for the frequency of Ku Klux Klan bombings. During college Davis became politically active and joined both the socialist party and Black Panther Party for Self-Defense.

 In 1970 Davis was accused of being involved in a court room escape attempt by the Soledad Brothers. She went into hiding and was placed on the FBI’s 10 Most Wanted list until her capture in New York. As her trial approached, Davis' supporters started a successful #freeangela campaign and artists like  The Rolling Stones, John Lennon and Yoko Ono and German Franz Josef Degenhardt dedicated songs to Davis. She was acquitted of all charges in 1972 and went on to become a successful advocate for social change. 

Today, Davis remains an active and respected voice in the fight for civil and women’s rights, poverty issues and health care and prison reform. 


Written by Lanae S., Social Media Specialist, Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture. 

Five You Should Know: African American Firsts

Shirley Chisholm 

Photo: Shirley Chisholm, future member of the U.S. House of Representatives (D-NY), announcing her candidacy. Library of Congress. 

Shirley Anita St. Hill Chisholm was a politician, author and educator. In 1967, she became the first African American woman elected to Congress. She was the first major-party black candidate for the President of the United States in January 1972, and the first woman to run for the Democratic presidential nomination. She received 152 votes at the 1972 Democratic National Convention.

Her legacy continues at Brooklyn College. The college created the Shirley Chisholm Center for Research on Women, which promotes research projects and programs on women. Additionally, the Center upholds and preserves the legacy of Shirley Chisholm. The college’s library also houses an archive titled the Shirley Chisholm Project on Brooklyn Women’s Activism.

Thomas Mundy Peterson

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Photo: Thomas Mundy Peterson of New Jersey, Public Domain.  

Meet Thomas Mundy Peterson– the first African American to vote in an election under the 15th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. His vote was cast March 31, 1870. He lived in Perth Amboy, New Jersey.

To honor Thomas, the citizens of Perth Amboy raised $70 (which is over $1000 in today’s dollars) to award him with a gold medallion. The two inch diameter medallion featured a profile bust of Lincoln, and noted the details of the election on its back.

Mary Fields

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Photo: Mary Fields, Public Domain.

Ever heard of “Stagecoach Mary”? Her full name is Mary Fields. She was the first African American woman, and only the second woman, to work in the United States Postal Service. She never missed a day, and thus got her nickname stagecoach.

Mary Fields stood six feet tall, and was a woman who commanded attention. Born enslaved in Tennessee, Mary Fields traveled around the great expanse of the American West after she achieved freedom. Eventually she settled in Montana, where legend has it she wore a 38 Smith & Weston strapped under her apron and could hit anything within 50 paces. 

Bud Fowler

Photo: Keokuk, Iowa professional baseball club featuring Bud Fowler, 1885. Back row: Schomberg, Darby O'Brien, Bud Fowler, Corcoran, Decker. Middle row: Harrington. Front row: Kennedy, Van Dyke, Dugdale, Hudson, Harter. National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

Bud Fowler is the first African American professional baseball player. He was the first to play on organized teams and often preferred integrated clubs because they offered the stiffest competition. Fowler was the first African American to captain an integrated team. Before Jackie Robinson played, Bud Fowler played more seasons and games than any other African American.

Guion Bluford

Photo:  Official portrait of astronaut Guion S. Bluford. Courtesy of NASA.

Guion Bluford is an engineer, astronaut and he was the first African American in space. Bluford was a Colonel in the U.S. Air Force prior to becoming an astronaut. Between 1983 and 1992 he participated in four Space Shuttle flights. It was in 1983, as a crew member of the Space Shuttle Challenger on the mission STS-8, that Guion Bluford became the first African American in space.