“A Woman Called Moses”- Harriet Tubman

By Jerome Fitts

(February 13th, 2017- REPOST)

To close Black History Month, I was asked why the majority of our readers this month were caucasion, instead of those who should celebrate the individuals who drew the blue print for “their opportunities and progression” in our world. – people of color.

Harriet Tubman influence.- 2013. Getty Images. Copyright controlled. 2015

Harriet Tubman influence.- 2013.
Getty Images. Copyright control. 2015

Prior to taking the defensive stance, I had to succomb to the embarrassment of the truth. All of a sudden the relevancy of this weeks featured story became more relevant, we choose Harriet Tubman.

Her words; ” I freed a thousand slaves. I could have freed a thousand more if only they knew they were slaves.”- rang out to me.

The WorthJourneys’ blog is a blog based on facts in our attempt for our readers to engage in the information posted and gather more facts for themselves. If one find those facts educational, then please utilize the tools of our brave new world and share it. If by chance the aformention action does take place, then our joint efforts and objectives would have been met.

“The Woman They Call Moses”- Harriet Tubman.

Early Life:

Harriet Tubman, whose original name was Araminta Harriet Ross, was one of nine children born to Harriet “Rit” Green (mother) and Ben Ross (father). Because slaves were not recognized as civilians, historians have estimated Araminta (Harriet) birth was between 1820 and 1825. (ref.1)

Harriet Tubman and Family. Copyright controlled. New York Times 2015

Harriet Tubman and Family.
Copyright control. New York Times 2015

In 1844, Arminta (Harriet), married a free slave by the name of John Tubman. To honor her mother, Araminta changed her name to Harriet while carrying the surname of her husband. Harriet and her husband were later seperated by her choice to live a life of being free. Harriet eventually escaped from slavery, while her husband decided to remain in the south.

Abolitionism and The Underground Railroad:

In 1849 Harriet, escaped from slavery fleeing to Philadelphia, using the “Underground Railroad”. (ref.2) Harriet – later returned to free up to her entire family.

The first series of trips is when Harriet, earned the nickname “Moses” for her courage and leadership. Those courageous voyages resulted in the Fugitive Slave Law.

reward photo

The Fugitive Slave Law stated that escaped slaves in the North could be captured and returned to the south. This led to law enforcement officials in the North aiding slave capturers. – (Hint -12 Years a Slave).

During her courageous escapdes of freeing more slaves Ms. Tubman was qouted as saying;

“If you hear the dogs, keep going. If there is shouting after you, keep going. Dont ever stop! Keep going. If you want a taste of freedom, keep going.”- Harriet Tubman

Harriets response to this law, was to re-route “The Underground Railroad” to Canada – where slavery was prohibited.

During the Civil War, Harriet worked for the Union Army as a cook and a nurse. As the first woman to lead a combat expedition, Harriet was recognized as the leader in the Combahec River Raid.This event liberated more than 700 slaves in the South Carolina.

Getty images. Copyright controlled. 2015

Getty images. Copyright controlled. 2015

After the Civil War, Harriet re-married a Civil War veteran by the name of Nelson Davis. The couple, with their adopted daughter Gertie, resided in Auburn, New York.

Getty Images. Copyright control. 2015

Getty Images. Copyright control. 2015

Harriet, died of pneumonia in 1913, in the home that was named after her : “The Harriet Tubman Home for the Aged”

References:

(1)Retrieved on February 19th, 2015. By Jfitts http://www.blackhistorystudies.com/resources/resources/facts-about-harriet-tubman/

(2) Retrieved on February 19th, 2015. By JFitts http://www.encyclopedia.com/topic/Harriet_Tubman.aspx

Dr. A.G. Gaston- “The Entreprenuer of the Century”

When Arthur George Gaston, was approaching his 100th birthday, he was dubbed “Entrepreneur of the Century”.(1)

A.G.Gaston business enterprises consisted of providing jobs and recourses to the Africa-American community before and after the Civil Rights movement. Those enterprises still exist in 2015 as well as the results of his efforts. A.G. Gaston ideas, concepts and influence has made a difference.

The opportunities Gaston created was in the heart of Dixie in the state of Alabama. Most notably the communities within the cities of Birmingham and Mobile. He was also a key figure in the civil rights movement.

A.G.Gaston was born on July 4th, 1892 in Demopolis, Alabama. Gaston, who was raised in a log cabin that his former slave grandparents built, began his entrepreneurship as a child. Gaston would charged the neighborhood children a button and pin to play on the swing in his yard. He would later sell the button and pens to local women for their sewing.(1)

In 1900, Gaston and his mother Rosie moved to Birmingham, because his mother was hired as a cook for the Lovemanns.

For his preliminary education Gaston, attended the Carrie Tuggle Institute, a boarding school which was ran by former slaves. Although Gaston left the school in the 10th grade because he could not afford the expenses of the boarding school. To make ends meet, he began selling subscriptions for the Birmingham Reporter.

The year 1910 saw Gaston enlist in the U.S. Army, which he served as a sergeant in an all black unit in France during World War I. After he left the Army in 1918, he worked briefly as laborer at Tennessee Coal and Iron Company. While working there and with the help of his mother,  he sold lunch boxes to fellow coworkers for an extra income. It should be noted that he also loaned his coworkers money and charged them 25 cents on each dollar loaned.

In 1923, most blacks in the south did not have an option of burying relatives and love ones in traditional funeral homes because of cost or segregation. It was then he started “Brother Gaston’s Burial Society”.

Gaston’s policy, was to provide a respectful burial for those who perished in the African-America community.The policy that exist today was; the customers paid a regular fee in exchange for the security of a burial paid for when their love ones perished.

In 1932, the aforementioned business was incorporated as Booker T Washington Insurance. This was the foundation for many other businesses that prospered. One of those businesses was Booker T Washington Business College, which was set up to train clerks for Gastons other businesses.

The Booker T Washington Business College was, at the time, the only school that African-American women could receive a certificate for business training.

During this time he also suffered a business failure in Brown Belle Bottling Company. A.G.Gaston was quoted in 1986 by saying that: “The bottling company failed due the fact that this venture was formed to make money, where as the other ventures was created to serve the people.”

A.G.Gaston Motel was founded to serve black travelers when they were not allowed to stay in white hotels. The motel, which is today recognized as a historical site, was the headquarters for the SCLC (Southern Christrian Leadership Conference). The motel was also known for  accommodating Civil Rights Leaders and in some cases served as a safe haven.

Martin Luther King Jr. at the A.G. Gaston Motel.  copyright getty images. 2015

Martin Luther King Jr. at the A.G. Gaston Motel.
copyright getty images. 2015

 

 

When Martin Luther King was arressted in Birmingham, Alabama during the Civil Rights Movement it was A.G Gaston who posted the $150,000 bail from his personal finances.

Business Timeline:

1955- Vulcan Reality and Investment Corporation

1957- Citizen Federal Savings and Loans Association

1963- A.G.Gaston Home for Senior Citizens

1966- A.G.Gaston Boys and Girls Club– (It should be noted that the author of this post was a member of A.G. Gaston Boys Club).

1975- WENN-FM and WAGG-AM

1986- A.G.Gaston’s Construction Company

All of Gaston enterprises gave their employees stock options. The majority of his businesses was created to give the community (mostly black) an opportunity or something they needed.

“Becoming rich was accidental because my main objective was to serve the community”-Gaston said in 1992.” (4)

Dr. Gaston outside Citizens Insurance Building.  copyright getty images. 2015

Dr. Gaston outside Citizens Insurance Building.
copyright getty images. 2015

On January 19th, 1996 Arthur George Gaston died. He was 103 years old and still working. He is survived by great grandchildren and grandchildren who is now continuing his legacy of sharing and making the community of Birmingham, Alabama better.

Arthur George Gaston is without question the “Entrepreneur of the Century”.

References:

1. Retrieved on February 16th, 2015. By Jerome Fitts http://www.nytimes.com/1996/01/20/us/a-g-gaston-103-a-champion-of-black-economic-advances.html?

2. Retrieved on February 16th, 2015. By Jerome Fitts http://www.al.com/business/index.ssf/2013/03/where_is_todays_ag_gaston_blac.html

3. Retrieved on February 16th, 2015. By Jerome Fitts http://www.aaregistry.org/historic_events/view/g-gaston-financier-and-advocate-equality

4. Retrieved on February 16th, 2015. By Jerome Fitts http://www.encyclopediaofalabama.org/article/h-2062

 

Hans Massaquoi; “Growing Up Black in Nazi Germany”

By:  Jerome Fitts
February 4th, 2015

To celebrate Black History Month, we, (WJ), are honored to feature individuals who are people of color, that set examples and standards for our society today. On February 4th, 2015 we are celebrating the life of Hans Massaquoi.

Hans Massaquoi (1926-2013)

Hans Massaquoi
(1926-2013)

Hans Massaquoi, a former managing editor of EBONY magazine (1957-1997) most noted for his award winning 1999 memoir; “Destined to Witness: Growing Up Black in Nazi Germany”. In the book Massaquoi, details his difficult, sometimes desperate life as a child and teen during a murderous time in modern history.(1) His book, has been recognized as the “sole” biography of the Nazi era from a black person viewpoint.

Hans Jurgen Massaquoi was born on January 19, 1926, in Hamburg, Germany and passed away on his birthday in 2013. He was the son of Al-Haj Massaquoi, an African business man from Liberia and Bertha Baetz, a German nurse.

His father (Al-Haj), who was the son of a Liberian consul general, left Germany because of the rise of the Nazi regime.

Hans Parents-

Hans Parents- Al-Haj Massaquoi and  Berthan Baetz

Unlike other German women at the time who were giving their “Brown Babies” up for adoption, his mother Bertha, decided to raise Hans in Germany alone instead of joining Hans father in Liberia.(2)

In his autobiography Hans mentions being taunted on a daily bases in regards to his colour stating his classmates would say ; “Neger, Neger, Schornsteinfeger!” (*Schornsteinfeger means chimney sweep in English)-Ed

It is highlighted in “In Destined to Witness”, that when Hitler and the Nazi Party came to power in 1933 he was fascinated by the uniforms, “goose-stepping” marches and the military might of the Nazi soldiers. Massaquoi recalled the first time Hitler’s motorcade came to Hamburg, and the thrill that he experienced watching the new “Führer” roll past.(1)

“Like everyone around me, I cheered the man whose every waking hour was dedicated to the destruction of ‘inferior non-Aryan people’ like myself.”- Massaqoui

tumblr_mh2xdnHtTD1qcw9y0o1_250As a 7-year-old boy in Hamburg, Massaquoi noted that his proudest moment was when a baby sitter sewed a swastika on his sweater. He also stated that the disappointment he had because a teacher told him he couldn’t join Hitlers Youth.

“Of course I wanted to join. I was a kid and most of my friends were joining. They had cool uniforms and they did exciting things – camping, parades, playing drums,”- wrote Massaquoi.

During his teenage years Massaqoui and his mother lived in fear because of the Nazi elimination of all non Aryans. He mentions that although he was not deported himself, he credited this to being black. He felt because he was black he was more of a rarity than a threat.

“Unlike Jews, blacks were so few in numbers that they were relegated to low-priority status in the Nazis’ line-up for extermination,” Massaquoi said.

When Massaquoi’s mother lost her job because she had a black son, he boxed as well as played saxophone in a “Swing Jazzband” to support himself and his mother. It should be noted that at the time and yet still today (February 2015), Swing and Jazz music as well as any type of Urban Music is considered “Black Music” in Germany. Massaquoi, who dreamed of immigrating to America as he followed the careers of African American sports heroes Joe Louis and Jesse Owens, boxed to earn extra money but was forbidden by law to take on Aryan opponents in the ring.(1)


He also revealed the kindnesses of German neighbors and friends who helped him and his mother survive during these difficult months. At one point, Massaquoi even attempted to join the Germany Army after recognizing that he was the only young man left in his neighborhood who did not wear a uniform. “This Lieutenant Colonel bawled me out saying how dare I even presume to ask. So that did it for me. That was the real turning point. By then, I had got all the Nazi stuff out of my head, and it was the final insult.”- Massaquoi recounted.

In 1948, Massaquoi left Germany for Liberia and lived with his father. However, he became dissatisfied with the black-on-black racism and applied and received a student visa for America.

Hans arriving in America. *photo used by kind permission.2015

Hans arriving in America.
*photo used by kind permission.2015

While attending aviation mechanics school in Chicago, he received a draft notice to fight in the Korean War, despite having alien status. Massaquoi was stationed in the deep south of America ironically enough during the start of the Civil Rights movements.

After the Korean War, in which he was never deployed to fight in combat, he returned to Chicago to resume his studies. Massaquoi began working at Ebony Magazine in 1957 in as an associate editor. By 1967, ten years after working at the prestigious publication, Massaquoi was awarded the Managing Editors position. He held this position for another 30 years until his retirement in 1967.

Encouraged by the late Alex Haley (Roots), he penned the remarkable “adversity turned triumphed”, autobiography “Destined To Witness; Growing Up Black in Nazi Germany.” (3)

Qouting Hans Massaqoui Jr in loving memory of his late father; “Hans Massaquoi lived to become not just a footnote in history, but a figure of note.” (4)

nie-hans

Hans Massaqoui, The WorthJourney not only celebrate your remarkable life, but we thank you for setting the example of creating and accomplishing your dreams.- J.Fitts

We encourage all of our readers to not only buy the book but read it!

 

Career: Played saxophone in jazz clubs in Hamburg, mid-1940s; British Military Government, Hamburg, Germany, interpreter, 1945-48; National Association of Educational Broadcasters, Urbana, IL, editor, 1956-57; Jet Magazine, Chicago, IL., associate editor, 1957-58; Ebony Magazine, Chicago, associate editor, 1958-64, assistant managing editor, 1964-67, managing editor, 1967-.

Awards: Overseas Press Club of America citation, 1975, for coverage of Heads of Government Conference in Kingston, Jamaica.

References:
(1) Retrieved on February 1st, 2015. By Jerome Fitts http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-2873200048.html
(2) Retrieved on February 1st, 2015. By Jerome Fitts http://inamerica.blogs.cnn.com/2011/11/20/germanys-brown-babies-still-searching-for-their-american-fathers
(3) Retrieved on February 1st, 2015.By Jerome Fitts. http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/obituaries/hans-massaquoi-who-grew-up-black-in-nazi-germany-dies-at-87/2013/01/23/3faaa5bc-64b1-11e2-b84d-21c7b65985ee_story.html
(4) Retrieved on February 1st, 2015. By Jerome Fitts http://www.npr.org/2013/01/26/170281062/ebony-editor-began-life-black-in-nazi-germany