The First Michigan Colored Infantry was formed in response to the Union Armys desperate need for manpower to save and preserve the Union and the existence of the United States of America during our great Civil War. In July 1863, the United States Secretary of War authorized Michigan Governor Austin Blair to organize one regiment of infantry composed of colored men. Prior to this time, only White males were allowed to enlist and fight on behalf of the Union in the Civil War. Recruiting for the First Michigan Colored Infantry commenced on August 12, 1863, and the regiment was mustered into service in Detroit, on Feb. 17, 1864.
The First Michigan Colored Infantry left Detroit on March 28, 1864, and arrived in Annapolis, Maryland, where it joined the United States Army. Shortly thereafter, it was detached and sent by transports to Hilton Head, SC, where it arrived on April 19, 1864. During the next two months, the 102nd United States Colored Infantry was assigned on picket duty at St. Helena, Jenkins Islands and on Hilton Head Island, SC. The regiment then occupied Port Royal,SC, and assisted in constructing fortifications and other fatigue duty.
In August of 1864, the 102nd was sent to Jacksonville, FL, and then marched to Baldwin, FL, where it was engaged in picket duty and destroyed numerous railroad operations. It was attacked by forces of the confederacy and during the ensuing engagement, the 102nd established itself as a highly motivated and efficient fighting force.
After a long march through Eastern Florida, the 102nd embarked on transports at Magnolia, FL for Beaufort, SC, where it arrived on Aug. 31, 1864. In September of 1864, the 102nd was sent to Coosa and Port Royal Islands. In October, the elements of the Confederate Army attempted to surprise and capture the regiment, but following a ferocious engagement, the Army of the Confederate States was repulsed and driven off.
On November 30, 1864, elements of the 102nd joined forces under General Foster at Boyds Landing and engaged the confederacy at Honey Hill, Tillifinny and Deveaux (De Vo) Neck, SC.
At Gorhansville, SC, detachments of the 102nd fought a gruesome battle with the Army of the Confederacy, and received the highest commendation for the determination that the African American regiment displayed in holding its ground under severe fire and in repulsing the charge of the confederacy and carrying out its own offensive attack.
The artillery of the 102nd suffered severely from the confederacy fire and so many horses had been killed that tow guns had to be abandoned. However, in order to save the cannons, they were moved off of the battle field by hand by members on the 102nd and, thus, were saved from destruction and were able to be used again later in the war. Many of the men, the wounded and bleeding, displayed exceptional heroism and motivation by refusing to go to the rear of the battle for appropriate medical treatment and/or to be relieved, but instead fought in the engagement until the battle was successfully concluded.
During February of 1865, the full regiment was reunited and made several expeditions into territory held by the confederacy, driving off elements of the confederacys calvary and destroying railroads and building fortifications. The 102nd was then sent to Charleston, SC, where they built defenses and then embarked for Savannah, GA, and returned to Charleston, on April 9, 1865. Here the regiment was divided, each wing making daring excursions into the interior of South Carolina where it engaged Confederate forces in several skirmishes and emerged victorious in each engagement.
On May 29, 1865, after General Lee and General Johnson surrendered the Union Army, the 102nd proceeded to Charleston and for the next few months occupied the following South Carolina towns: Summerville, Branchville, Orangeburg, Winnsboro, and returned to Charleston, where the 102nd was mustered out of federal service on September, 30, 1865, and returned to Detroit, MI.
The First Michigan Colored Infantry was disbanded on Oct. 17, 1865.
The total number of the First Michigan Colored Infantry was approximated 1,673 men. Of that number, 128 lost their lives, with an additional 114 were discharged because of disability (wounds and disease) contracted while in active service.
Accordingly, these men have earned our undying gratitude for the efforts that they have made to perverse the land of the free and the home of the brave.
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Preparing Leaders For The 21st Century
By Bernice Powell Jackson
In order to graduate from college and receive my liberal arts degree, I had to pass a swimming test. My college believed that swimming was a life skill which was necessary to live in the world, just as my studies in economics, literature and biology were.
All the demographics for the United States in the 21st century show that our nation will radically change demographically and that there will be no one racial/ethnic group which will be in the majority. European Americans will be just one among many groups and the largest single racial/ethnic group is likely to be Hispanic. Yet too few of our educational institutions are focusing on this reality and requiring courses which will prepare leaders to swim in the 21st century realities. Too many of our future leaders are not being required to learn about living in a diverse world of many races, cultures and religions.
One program which seeks to prepare 21st century leaders is the Diversity Management Program of Cleveland State University and the National Training Laboratory. This new graduate studies program is aimed at a variety of people, including human resource professionals, school administrators, law enforcement officials and health care administrators to help them become facilitators and leaders in the workplace of the present and the future. As the workforce becomes more and more diverse, as clients and product markets and membership bases diversify, there will be increasing demand for leaders who understand themselves and their own culture and who understand how to relate to people of other races and cultures. Students in this 18-20 month long program can earn either a continuing education certificate or a master's degree in psychology.
Clearly, this exciting program is just one much-needed step as we poise our entry into a new century and a new millennium. But courses in diversity "management," in the history of the contributions of all races and cultures to this nation, in understanding different religions, in understanding race and racism should all be pre-requisites for graduation not only for those who are majoring in African American or Latino/a or native American or Asian American studies, but for all who attend our colleges.
And what about at the high school and junior high and elementary levels? All children attending schools in this increasingly-diverse nation, even those who live for the moment in an entirely homogenous town, must learn all of our histories and should be excited by learning about their own and other cultures. In this increasingly mobile world, where most of us will move several times over our lifetimes, and in this increasingly global village marketplace, where a small town business person may be suddenly dealing with a client thousands of miles and several cultures away, all our children must be educated to understand and value diversity.
Swimming is a life skill which all should have. So is understanding and living in a diverse world. For the leaders of the 21st century not to have this life-saving skill will mean they will be swimming upstream their whole lifetime.
(NOTE: For more information on the Diversity Management Program, write Dr. Melodie Yates, Cleveland State University, Rhodes Tower 1227, Cleveland, OH 44115 or call (216) 687-9394 or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Lansing Africentric Entreprenuer Move to New Heights
by Gregory P. Kelley (12/98)
Johnnie Hood-Watts Afrikan-Egyptian Bazaar has found another place to call home.
Currently, the store sign hangs at 2200 E. Michigan Ave., the new address for her unique, African-centered cultural, craft and fashion boutique.
But Hood-Watts knows all about searching, packing and moving to that next better place.
In 1985, she opened her first Lansing based business at the Davis Complex, located on Main Street on the near east side.
In 1988, she moved to the Fox Island Plaza, located near the corners of Waverly Road and Grand River.
In 1991, Hood-Watts set up shop at the City Market. And few years later established her business base at the South Point Mall, located on S. Cedar Street.
Then the hard driving Tuscaloosa, Ala. born entrepreneur pulled up stakes and moved to Frandor where she became a fixture.
However, for the past year, the intrepid business woman was in search of a new site for her business.
Last fall, she was notified that the Afrikan-Egyptian Bazaar would have to vacate its Frandor location due to the reconstruction of that shopping area.
And the news could not have come at worse time. Hood-Watts just received word that her estranged husband, George Watts, died in Alabama.
Emotionally strained, Hood-Watts spent the winter packing her wares, looking for new digs and praying.
For the last two years Ive passed this place on Michigan Avenue every night wondered if it was available, but there was no sign in the window, she continued. I went to my (heavenly) Father with a positive attitude and then one day there was a sign.
So when I finally got into the building I saw a mess. The floor was buckled and pipes were exposed.
But, Hood-Watts was happy with the site.
This was the place. God gave me vision to see beyond the condemned condition - to see to possibilities, she said. So, I asked for the whole building. It took them three months to remodel it. And I took that time to ease my earthly spirit. It gave me time to think and decide how to make this store look better than the
I thought the Frandor location was the best place I would ever have. But that was me putting limits on my dream, Hood-Watts continued. The Creator showed me otherwise.
She pointed out that the 2200 E. Michigan Ave. location offers a bright, sun-lit open setting with a
floor plan with twice the
space of the Frandor shop.
It was worth the move and the changes I went though to get here, Hood-Watts explained.
The Creator has placed me here to educate the people who want to be educated about our proud ancestors and our rich history, so Im following His direction.
Buffalo Soldiers (12/98)
After the Civil War, the United States government dispatched infantry and mounted troops into the western territories to prevent the armed conflicts between settlers and Indians.
Into the highly flammable situation the army thrust four Black regiments, the Ninth and Tenth Cavalry and the Twenty-fourth and Twenty-fifth Infantry. Their job was to assist in preserving the peace that government policy had made untenable.
The organization of the Black regiments was authorized by Congress in 1866 in response to the need for "pacification" of the West and in recognition to the fine record established by Black troops during the Civil War.
The troopers from the Ninth and Tenth Regiments, comprising 20 percent of the U.S. Cavalry in the West, soon achieved an outstanding record on the frontier.
They patrolled from the Mississippi to the Rockies, from the Canadian border to the Rio Grande, and sometimes crossed into Mexico in hot pursuit of outlaws or Indians.
Their White scouts included Kit Carson and Wild Bill Hickok. Although some White officers, including General George Custer, refused assignment to the Black troopers, others, such as John J. Pershing considered such assignment a professional honor.
Young Lieutenant Pershing earned the nickname of "Black Jack" by leading a company of the Tenth Cavalry against bandits and Indians in Montana, against Spaniards at San Juan Hill, and against Pancho Villa in Mexico.
These Black troopers won the respect of every military friend or foe they encountered.
Their Indian adversaries, intrigued by their short, curled hair, and comparing them to an animal they considered sacred, named them the "Buffalo Soldiers." The name caught hold and within a short time found its way onto the military crest of the Tenth Cavalry.
The Buffalo Soldiers served their country during an age of mounting anti-Negro violence and hostility and, paradoxically, helped bring law and order to the frontier.
They suppressed civil disorders, chased Indians who left the reservation out of frustration or in search of food, arrested rustlers, guarded stagecoaches, built roads and protected survey parties.
For many years, the exploits of these African-American soldiers were largely ignored. They were rarely mentioned in stories and movies about the winning of the west. Joining the struggle to build a new post-slavery America, the Buffalo Soldiers came to play an important role in a wild, sweeping, sometimes heartless, but glorious saga.
The life of the Buffalo Soldiers was a mission of courage and valor. They fought their battles bravely and fiercely; despite the inferior supplies they were given.
Their legacy is one of dedication, desire and discipline.
The Buffalo Soldiers distinguished themselves as some of the most decorated United States military men of all time.
Prof. Van Sertima sets record straight during Lansing visit
by Talib El Amin, Willie Davis, PhD. and Curlada Eure-Harris
On Thursday, Feb. 26 marked the return to the Capital City of noted multidisciplinary professor, author, editor literary critic, lecturer, South American and African American - the renown - Ivan Van Sertima.
His new book, Early America Revisited: Reply to My Critics will be available at the end of March was the basis for his morning presentation and his previously published book, Blacks In Science: Ancient and Modern was the basis of his afternoon lecture.
Dr. Van Sertima has been assailed by his critics as lacking proof of his assertions that Africans came to America before Columbus. The scientific community has established that historical events needed eight proofs. However, Van Sertima has researched for seven years to establish 12 categories of proof. Ten are listed below.
1. Early eyewitness accounts for a dozen Europeans that sighted Blacks in the Americas in the 15th century. In 1987, Dr. Van Sertima addressed the U.S. Congressional Committee on the Columbus Holiday.
He related that Columbus was the first to suggest that there were Africans in America before himself. He said when Columbus was in Haiti, the native Americans told him that black skinned people had come from the south and south-east trading in gold tip metal.
Van Sertima related, that even one of Columbuss four sons stated that his father told him he saw Negros (Spanish for black) north of Honduras. The book Human Species shows independent African settlements in Panama, Brazil, Florida, St. Vincent, Nicaragua, Columbia and Ecuador prior to Columbus. They were also called Mandiga and Ghanini as in Western African and Ethiopian (Greek for burnt skin).
2. Linguistically, rock carving script in the Americas matches Ancient Libyan script and words in America are similar to African words.
3. evidence in the New World supports Van Sertimas thesis of an African presence.
The Olmec were native Americans but had influence from African visitors, according to Van Sertima. Archeologist have found ancient African skeletons next to the ancient Olmec. In about 1700 B.C. seven ships left Egypt for the far west and native Americans report seven ships arriving. This is documented in the Finch book, Star of Deep Beginnings.
4. Van Sertima pointed out botanical evidence such as the banana, indigenous to Africa, can be traced through six south American languages to appear in the Americas as a new plant.
5. Using oceanography, Van Sertima spoke about the experiments of Thor Hyerdahl and others on rafts, which documented that three powerful sea routes moved by currents take ships without motors from Africa to the Americas and back before the time of Jesus Christ. Evidence from Abubakari in the 12th century that he sent 200 ships twice across the Atlantic . The second group never returned.
6. From cartography, the professor/author presented a pre-Christian map found by a Turkish captain and misnamed the Ottoman Map, which showed longitude, latitude, the Andes mountains, the Amazon river and Canary Islands.
7. Using the Spanish metallurgic studies Van Sertima showed artifacts as well as minerals in the Americas that are identical with their ancient African counterparts.
8. Iconographically, the great stone heads with African features found in Mexico are more than 2,000 years old.
9. There are six original European scripts. Actually English, French, Spanish comes from Roman Script and thus do not have their own. Others are Greek, Punic. There are six African scripts which predate the European: hieroglyphic, Ethiopic, Akan and others.
10. Early Native American and Egyptian parallels are the pouring of libations, opening of the mouth ceremony, Phallic symbols, burial coffin design, representation of the soul departing the body (Ba), the Judgment scene, the wearing of purple among the priestly class, the wearing of the double crown, documented contact around 1200 and 800 B.C. and the cocaine leaf among the ancient Egyptian mummies.
Van Sertimas ground breaking book, Blacks In Science traces the early African contribution to civilization in ways that only now are being rediscovered. Among these are medicine, metal instruments, math and outer space.
For example, Africans did cataract surgery in Mali and in ancient Egypt and developed the pill and medicines such tetracycline, antiseptics and vaccines including a cure for smallpox. Metal instruments were found African buried 4500 years ago.
Africans built pyramids from highly developed mathematics including the concept of pi and quadratic equations, which they taught to the Greeks, who readily tell of their knowledge coming from Egypt (Kemet), where they studied.
African smelted steel more than 1500 years ago using temperatures higher than 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit. Van Sertima documents that this Tanzanian steel was used to make the finest swords of Europe.
The Dogons of ancient and modern Africa charted the stars before the time of Christ. When, NASA compared their maps of the heavens with the Dogon sky map there was only a one degree difference, according the Van Sertima. He says that the Dogon knew that the universe was continually expanding, and they were able to chart comets not seen by the naked eye. He also said they knew the position of at least seven planets and could discuss the atom fluently.
Dr. Van Sertima is a tenured professor of African Studies, Linguistics and Anthropology at Rutgers University in New Jersey. He is the author of 18 books that documents the African presence at the foundation of the development of civilization in Europe, Asia and the Americas.
Amistad: Spielberg's historical dilution
By Ronald O. Craig
Out of darkness a flash of lightning illuminates something that appears to be alive. We soon see that this "alive thing" is the face of a chained Black man. Blood trickles through his fingers as he struggles to free himself. Once freed, he proceeds to free his fellow African men, women, and children. We learn that these Africans are enslaved captives aboard the slave ship Amistad. (Incidentally Amistad means friendship in Spanish.) It is the year 1839 and these 53 Africans led by Joseph Cinque (Djimon Hounsou) revolt to retrieve their freedom. This is only the beginning of Stephen Speilberg's latest movie Amistad.
Speilberg has contended that this movie is Cinque's story told through his eyes. While it is true that Cinque played an important role by freeing himself first, in reality he was not the only African hero. There were many acts of heroism with an African child playing a key role in the Amistad saga. This is just one of many historical facts that Speilberg left out and introduced his own diluted fictional history.
Although the Africans freed themselves they did not initially attack the ships captain and crew as the movie depicts. In reality the mulatto slave cook threw food scraps to them. Seeing that the Africans were not interested in food, the next thing was to kill one of them. After their African brother was shot fatally, only then did Cinque and the rest of the Africans attack.
After being captured by the U.S. Navy, the Africans found themselves weaving through the federal courts. The movie introduces a wealthy free Black man - Mr. Theodore Joadson, (Morgan Freeman), who takes up their cause. This character plays a prominent role throughout the film. First of all this character, a Black free abolitionist, did not exist period. This is a Speilberg creation. Do you honestly think, in 1839, a free Black man could attend court, enter federal buildings, and dine at a former president home? This is just one of many instances by Spielberg to present the glorification of white morality and ethical neutrality.
Mr. Joadson spends much unsuccessful time trying to convince John Quincy Adams (Anthony Hopkins) to assist them in the plight for the Africans. In reality Adams did not have an abolitionist record as the film suggest. While President, Adams never had a problem with the institution of slavery. Adams character had to tell the fictional Negro character Joadson who he was, ÒWhatÕs your story?Ó he inquired. Somehow SpeilbergÕs free fictional ÔNegroÕ character was competent enough to become a wealthy Black abolitionist, but incompetent when came to knowing who he was, and what he stood for. FreemanÕs character is happily humbled as all Black men should be when good white folks get to define who we are.
Little is mentioned about the three surviving children who were on the Amistad. In reality a young male African captive learned to read, write, and speak English. It was the young African who wrote former President John Quincy Adams appealing to him to take their case, not the real estate lawyer Roger Baldwin (Mathew McNaughery).
Many people made claims to the rights of the Amistad's human cargo. A federal court judge rules for freedom for the Africans. Additionally, President Martin Van Buren was required to return them back to Africa. The judge did this after an implied intercession with GOD. Never mind that at the time period, religion was a key variable in justifying slavery. However, while in jail Christianity is introduced to the Africans as if they had no GOD to believe in.
The white abolitionist Mr. Tappan (Stelan Skarguard), suggest that they may be of more value in our cause in death than in life. Implying that killing the Africans and making them martyrs would give stronger support for the cause. It is ironic how very few whites were/are willing to place their life on the line for Black causes. Yet they freely offer up Blacks when necessary.
On behalf of President Van Buren, the case was appealed to the Supreme Court. The High Court heard the case in February 1841 over an eight-day period. Ultimately, Adams takes the case. When arguing before the Supreme Court, Adams rambles on for over ten minutes about the Declaration of Independence, all men are created equal, all men desire freedom, and will fight for it if necessary. He goes on further stating that America can start living up to its ideals and "who we are is who we are" implying that freedom was for all men. Adams character implies that the Africans were men also. This is an erroneous paradox when the United States other great document the Constitution, recognized other persons, meaning African slaves, as 3/5ths of a person. If John Quincy Adams had read from this document, then the viewer would have recognized that this was truly the law of the land.
You can buy into this argument if you forget about the later 1857 Supreme Court decision of Dred Scott. In the Dred Scott decision written by Chief Justice Roger Taney the high Court found that; "the Negro is a subordinate class of beings and therefor had no rights that a white man is bound to respect." Ironically Taney was on the high court in the 1841 Amistad ruling.
The Supreme Court upheld the lower court decision. However it overruled that the Africans be turned over to the President for passage back home. The Court only set them free based upon the treaty of nations that requires one must provide proof of property and cargo. The Spaniards forged the documents of ownership of the Africans therefor ownership is a moot issue. Ruling on an international treaty issue the Supreme Court affirmed lower court's decision to free the Africans. With the exception of the federal government sending them back to Africa. Given all the moral and ethical fluff that Speilberg film provides, one can miss what the actual Supreme Court's ruling was based upon.
Contrary to the film portrayal, the Court decision was not a prelude to the American Civil War. The movie spends time presenting the perspective that the South would retaliate if the Court does not rule in their favor e.g. holding onto the African slaves. This falls short because in reality, the South's response to the Amistad ruling was to keep it quite without discussion.
Because Amistad is a typical Speilberg feel good movie, it has to have a happy ending. In reality Cinque did not have a happy ending to his plight. Speilberg fails to mention that it took Cinque and his fellow African brothers & sisters two more years to get back home. During this time period, while they were stuck in the United States, any of them could have captured taken into the South and sold into slavery. Abolitionist raised enough money to send the Africans back only after one of them committed suicide after growing dispondent over the long wait to return home.
When Cinque did finally return to Africa he found that he had lost everything. His wife and children were gone and his village was destroyed. It is believed that they were captured and sold off into slavery. Instead we are given a fictional account of the British blowing up a slave fortress on the African Coast (where allegedly no one knows its location.). In this film's illusion of the British, they are depicted as model propagators of ethics and human morality for mankind. In actuality, the British were one of the largest trading countries. They only abolished slavery in 1838, one year before the Amistad revolt. For the record the wealth of the United States, Britain, as well as other European countries originated from the slave trade. Incidentally, Lloyds of London, the prestigious insurance company, who does stuff like insuring Tina Turner's legs, grew wealthy from insuring slave ships and their Black human cargo.
As expected Debbie Allen has received some criticism of this film because of the white director Speilberg. I can only say that it is highly doubtful that a Spike Lee or John Singelton would have spent time glorifying the ethical morality of whites as saviors. Thus the moviegoer receives the herofication process of John Quincy Adams, Attorney Roger Baldwin and the British government.
If this is Cinque's story, than why waste the end of the movie on historical distortion? The truth is that for more than twenty years after the Amistad decision, legalized slavery continued in the United States. That meant that Black men and women having no control of their bodies, were physically abused, beaten, whipped, castrated, raped at will, made to perform manual labor, and expected to procreate. And Black babies and children were sold off whenever it became a necessity to make profit. I might add that Jim Crow & Black Code laws existed for nearly 100 year after the Emancipation Proclamation, until the early 1960's. This point is imperative since Speilberg took the liberty of connecting the Amistad decision to the Civil War.
This film epitomizes the helpless Blacks and the moral whites who save them. We are given the illusion that Black folk in the free north could walk around and do as they please, even eat at the former President's house. This is an unrealistic fabrication of historical events. Unfortunately for many of us we're so glad to see ourselves on the big screen, we are willing to overlook herofication, historical half-truths, and shallow Black characters in order for everyone to feel good. The films supposed harsh reality of slavery would have had a stronger impact if the viewer had seen that despite his freedom, Cinque still lost everything that he tried to get home to.