1800 was a century when more of the accomplishments of African Americans are documented. This month will focus on more African Americans and their lives.
Bert Williams was a Bahamian-born American entertainer, one of the pre-eminent entertainers of the Vaudeville era and one of the most popular comedians for all audiences of his time. He was born in the Bahamas in November of 1874. He is credited as being the first Black man to have the leading role in a film: Darktown Jubilee in 1914. Known as one of the highest paid African American performers in history, Williams worked in many productions including the Ziegfeld Follies of 1917 with WC Fields, Fannie Brice, Eddie Cantor and more. In 1922 Williams collapsed on stage during a performance in Detroit, Michigan. He returned to New York and died at his home in March at the age of 47.
Hattie McDaniel was an American actress, singer-songwriter, and comedian born Kansas in 1893. She started working in minstrel shows and worked her way into radio. She wrote songs and sang for a record company before her big break came. In 1931 she moved to LA and later got a role in I’m No Angel with Mae West. The success of this movie helped her gain other roles. For her role as Mammy in Gone with the Wind, she won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress, becoming the first African American to win an Oscar. McDaniel worked in over 300 films but was only credited in 83. She died in October of 1952 at the age of 59.
Buffalo Soldiers originally were members of the 10th Cavalry Regiment of the United States Army, formed on September 21, 1866, at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. This nickname was given to the Black Cavalry by Native American tribes who fought in the Indian Wars. The term eventually became synonymous with all of the African-American regiments formed in 1866:
- 9th Cavalry Regiment
- 10th Cavalry Regiment
- 24th Infantry Regiment
- 25th Infantry Regiment
- Second 38th Infantry Regiment
Although several African-American regiments were raised during the Civil War as part of the Union Army (including the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry and the many United States Colored Troops Regiments), the “Buffalo Soldiers” were established by Congress as the first peacetime all-black regiments in the regular U.S. Army.
Madam CJ Walker
Madam C.J. Walker was an African American entrepreneur, philanthropist, and political and social activist. She is recorded as the first female self-made millionaire in America in the Guinness Book of World Records. She was born Sarah Breedlove in December 23, 1867 in Delta, Louisiana. Walker made her fortune by developing and marketing a line of cosmetics and hair care products for black women through the business she founded, Madam C. J. Walker Manufacturing Company. She became known also for her philanthropy and activism. She made financial donations to numerous organizations such as the NAACP, and became a patron of the arts.
Paul Laurence Dunbar
Paul Laurence Dunbar (June 27, 1872 – February 9, 1906) was an American poet, novelist, and short story writer of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Born June 27, 1872, in Dayton, Ohio, to parents who had been enslaved in Kentucky before the American Civil War, Dunbar began writing stories and verse when he was a child. He published his first poems at the age of 16 in a Dayton newspaper and served as president of his high school’s literary society. He went on to have work published in The Saturday Evening Post and Harper’s Weekly. He was later diagnosed with tuberculosis and died February 9, 1906.