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Black History

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Shirley Chisholm Shirley Chisholm was the first African-American woman to be elected to the U.S. Congress. She served seven terms as a representative from New York's 12th district, from 1969 until her retirement in 1982. Chisholm grew up in Barbados and also in New York City, where she earned a graduate degree from Columbia University in 1952. She taught school before entering the New York state assembly in 1964 and then easily winning election to Congress in 1968. She ran for the Democratic nomination for president in 1972, becoming the first African-American woman to run for the office. An opponent of the Vietnam War and a proponent of education and child welfare, she received about 5% of the vote at the party's national convention. (She lost the nomination to George McGovern, who was defeated by Republican incumbent Richard Nixon in the general election.) Chisholm wrote the memoirs Unbossed and Unbought (1970) and The Good Fight (1973).

Jan E. Matzeliger Jan Ernst Matzeliger was born on September 15, 1852 in Surinam (South America), the child of a biracial marriage. His father was a white engineer from Holland and his mother was a black woman in the Dutch colony. By his third birthday Matzeliger was sent to live with his father’s sister. By the time he turned 10 years old, Matzeliger became a worker in the machine shop that his father owned. It was at this time that he quickly became aware of his talent for working with machinery.

Although he was skilled in this area, Matzeliger did not initially pursue a career in engineering or inventing. In 1871 at the age of 19 he left Surinam and worked as a sailor for two years. By 1873 he settled in Philadelphia where he worked in a variety of trades. In 1876 he moved to Lynn, Massachusetts, the emerging center of the American shoe manufacturing industry.

Matzeliger arrived in Lynn barely able to speak English. Nonetheless he began working in a shoe factory. Despite his language difficulties, Matzeliger began working on various innovations that would improve shoe manufacturing productivity. On March 20, 1883, Matzeliger received patent no. 274, 207 for a “Lasting Machine” that rapidly stitched the leather and sole of a shoe. Matzeliger’s invention quickly made Lynn the “shoe capital of the world.” Matzeliger became one of the founders of the Consolidated Lasting Machine Company which was formed around his invention.

Matzeliger’s work habits and his neglect of his health, however, soon took a toll. In the summer of 1887, he caught a cold then developed tuberculosis. Jan Ernst Matzeliger died on August 24 of that year at the age of 39.

Barack Obama Barack Obama is the 44th president of the United States and the first African-American president in American history. Obama has spoken often of his multicultural background: his father was from Kenya, his mother from Kansas, and they met at the University of Hawaii. After his parents divorced and his father returned to Africa, Obama stayed with his mother and was raised in Indonesia and Hawaii. He earned an undergraduate degree from Columbia University in 1983 and a law degree from Harvard in 1991. He then joined the Chicago law firm of Miner, Barnhill & Galland, which specialized in civil rights legislation. He also taught constitutional law for 12 years at the University of Chicago. Obama was elected to the Illinois Senate in 1996, and then to the U.S. Senate in 2004, beating Republican candidate Alan Keyes.
Obama shot to national fame after delivering a stirring keynote speech in support of John Kerry at the 2004 Democratic national convention. Obama ran for president in 2008, defeating a Democratic primary field that included New York Sen. Hillary Clinton, the former First Lady. He named Delaware senator Joe Biden to be his running mate at the Democratic Convention that August, and they defeated Republican nominees John McCain and Sarah Palin in the November general election. They took office on 20 January 2009. Obama published the personal memoir Dreams from My Father in 1995, and published a second book, The Audacity of Hope, in 2006. The title of the latter book was also the title of his 2004 keynote speech, and both books won Grammys for best spoken word album. Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009, for "his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples."

Dr. Charles Drew Dr. Charles Drew is the father of the modern blood bank. In 1940 he published a paper showing that when plasma is separated from the rest of human blood, it can be stored for much longer periods of time. This discovery allowed the creation of blood banks, where donated plasma could be kept until urgently needed. Drew became the medical director of the first Red Cross blood bank in 1941, and his discovery saved uncounted lives during World War II. Drew spent much of his later career teaching at Howard University in Washington, D.C.,; he also became chief of staff and medical director at nearby Freedman's Hospital. He died after a 1950 car crash.
Drew attended Dunbar High School and Amherst College, then medical school at Montreal's McGill University... He made his blood discoveries while doing graduate research at Columbia University... Drew was an African-American, but contrary to popular rumor he did not bleed to death when a segregated Southern hospital refused to give him a transfusion after a car crash. He received timely treatment by white doctors, but died of the overwhelming injuries he suffered in the accident.

Martin Luther King Jr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was an African-American clergyman who advocated social change through non-violent means. A powerful speaker and a man of great spiritual strength, he shaped the American civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s. King was pastor of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama from 1954-59. There he led blacks in the Montgomery bus boycott of 1955-56, an action inspired by the arrest of Rosa Parks when she refused to give up her seat on a public bus. Racial segregation on city buses was ruled unconstitutional in 1956; the boycott ended in success, and King had become a national figure. helped found the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in 1957, serving as its first president. King's efforts led to the 1963 March on Washington, where King delivered his "I Have a Dream" speech. There, he expanded American values to include the vision of a color blind society, and established his reputation as one of the greatest orators in American history.
King returned to his home town of Atlanta in 1959 and became co-pastor with his father of the Ebenezer Baptist Church, a position he held until his death. On the 100th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation in 1963, King organized a march on Washington, D.C. that drew 200,000 people demanding equal rights for minorities. King won the 1964 Nobel Peace Prize, becoming at the time the youngest recipient ever. His writings included Stride Toward Freedom (1958, a history of the Montgomery bus boycott), Why We Can't Wait (1963) and Where Do We Go From Here? Chaos or Community (1967). King was assassinated on April 4, 1968, in Memphis, Tennessee. He was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1977 and Congressional Gold Medal in 2004; Martin Luther King, Jr. Day was established as a U.S. federal holiday in 1986.

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