Buffalo Soldiers, WWII, Bessie Smith, Who Knows?


I need to take a day off today. Another day added to the past, more history to reflect on!

I expect I’ll be able to do two posts tomorrow, if not AM & PM, then maybe both in the afternoon.

I got an email from my library today that the David Graham Du Bois novel, And Bid Him Sing, that I wanted has come in. David Du Bois taught my African-American journalism course at UMass-Amherst. Getting to know him in the student-teacher relationship and hearing about his life in Egypt meant something to me. He’s one of the people whom I expect to write about before the end of Black History Month.

David’s mother, Shirley Du Bois, lived for a time here in southern Arizona, and ran the USO at Fort Huachuca in Sierra Vista. I’d like to write about her and, of course, about W.E.B. Du Bois.

Here are the people who have been on my mind this month. I didn’t want to do a content matrix for the whole month. I could have planned out every day, but I wanted to let each day unfold.

Here’s the list of possibilities as it stands today:

  1. W.E.B. Du Bois
  2. Shirley Du Bois
  3. David Du Bois
  4. Charles Gordone, playwright
  5. Mahalia Jackson
  6. Bessie Smith
  7. Billie Holiday
  8. Frederick Doulgass
  9. Mary McLeod Bethune
  10. Avon Long, actor
  11. Langston Hughes
  12. Thurgood Marshall & revisit the NAACP
  13. Nat King Cole
  14. The Buffalo Soldiers
  15. Oscar Micheaux
  16. Booker T. Washington
  17. Crispus Attucks
  18. Jackie Robinson

More points of reflection than there are days in the month. That’s just a heads up. I’m not trying to nail down a schedule.

I’m glad I’ve done this Black History Month experience this year. It has made me much more mindful of my heritage in my day-to-day living. By “heritage,” I don’t just mean the overarching group of prominent African-Americans through history, but also, and I think, more importantly, the previous four generations of my family.

I’ve found myself wondering when my maternal grandfather might have first heard Jelly Roll Morton and what he thought of him. I wonder when that part of my family got its first phonograph.

In squaring myself with how many questions I’m now curious about, but have no answers to, I find that I’m almost envious of children today with all the recording tools available to them.

Those are some of my family members, over my shoulder in the picture above. I’ve probably thought more about time travel in this month than at any other time in my life. My grandfather was born just 35 years after the abolition of slavery. There is much that I would like to understand from his point of view and from my other elders who have passed on. This has been the most personal Black History Month for me yet. Thanks for reading along. I look forward to each and every day ahead.

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