History – Robert Henry Lawrence & Jr.Guion Bluford

July 5th, 2011 by Black Gospel Choir

The First Black Astronaut
October 2, 1935 – December 8, 1967


He was senior USAF pilot, accumulating well over 2,500 flight hours—2,000 of which were in jets. Lawrence flew many tests in the Lockheed F-104 Starfighter to investigate the gliding flight of various unpowered spacecraft returning to Earth from orbit, such as the North American X-15 rocket-plane. NASA cited Lawrence for accomplishments and flight maneuver data that “contributed greatly to the development of the Space Shuttle.”
In June 1967, Lawrence successfully completed the Air Force Flight Test Pilot Training School at Edwards AFB, California. That same month he was selected by the USAF as an astronaut in the Air Force’s Manned Orbital Laboratory Program, thus becoming the first African-American astronaut candidate.
At the age of 16, he graduated in the top 10 percent from Englewood High School in Chicago. At the age of 20, he graduated from Bradley University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Chemistry.
After entering the U.S. Air Force, the 21 year old he was designated as a pilot after completing flight training at Malden Air Force Base.
He married Barbara Cress, daughter of Dr. and Mrs. Henry Cress of Chicago and at 25, he had completed an Air Force assignment as an instructor pilot in the T-33 training aircraft for the German Air Force.

Lawrence was killed on December 8, 1967, in the crash of an F-104 Starfighter at Edwards Air Force Base, California.

The First Black Astronaut to go up in space


Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on November 22, 1942. He was one of the four kids born to Guion Sr., a mechanical engineer and Lolita,a special education teacher. He graduated from Overbrook Senior High School in Philadelphia, in 1960, and obtained a Bachelors degree in Aerospace Engineering from Pennsylvania State University in 1964. Later, the same year, he married Linda Tull. The couple has two sons; Guion III and James.
Bluford’s first mission was STS-8 aboard Space Shuttle Challenger. It was Challenger’s first mission with night launching and night landing. The shuttle was launched from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, on August 30, 1983. Challenger landed at the Edwards Air Base in California on September 5, 1983, after completing 98 orbits of the Earth in 145 hours. He participated as a mission specialist in four missions, commissioned by NASA between 1983 and 1993. By the end of his fourth mission, Guion had completed 688 hours in space.

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History – Claudette Colvin

April 7th, 2011 by Black Gospel Choir
Claudette Colvin

Ms. Colvin lived in Montgomery, Alabama in 1955 and at the age of 15, she refused to give up her seat on a Montgomery bus to a white person, in violation of local law. Her arrest preceded that of Rosa Parks by nine months. The court case stemming from her refusal to give up her seat on the bus, decided by the U.S. District Court, ended bus segregation in Alabama.
Colvin’s pioneering effort was not publicized by Montgomery’s black leaders because she was a teenager, unwed and pregnant.

At age 15 and a student at Booker T. Washington High School in Montgomery, Claudette Colvin was returning from school on March 2, 1955 when she got on a Capital Heights bus downtown (at the same place Parks boarded another bus nine months later). Colvin’s family did own a car, but she relied on the city’s buses to get to school.
Ms. Colvin was sitting in the section where if a white person was found standing the blacks would have to get up and move to the back. When a white women got on the bus and was standing the bus driver, Robert W. Cleere, ordered her along with two other black passengers to get up. She refused and was removed from the bus and arrested by two police officers. When she refused to get up, she was still thinking about a school paper that she had written that day. It was about the prohibition for black people to try on white clothes in department stores.

Claudette Colvin 15yrs

“The bus was getting crowded and I remember the bus driver looking through the rear view mirror asking her to get up out of her seat, which she didn’t,” said a classmate at the time, Annie Larkins Price. “She had been yelling it’s my constitutional right. She decided on that day that she wasn’t going to move.”
Colvin was handcuffed, arrested and forcibly removed from the bus. She shouted that her constitutional rights were being violated.
“Price testified on Colvin’s behalf in the juvenile court case, where Colvin was convicted of violating the segregation law and assault.” “There was no assault,” Price said.

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History – Henrietta Lacks

February 8th, 2011 by Black Gospel Choir

August 18, 1920 – October 4, 1951

Henrietta Lacks

Her name was Henrietta Lacks but scientists know her as HeLa. She was a poor Southern tobacco farmer who worked the same land as her slave ancestors yet her cells-taken without her knowledge-became one of the most important tools in medicine. The first “immortal” human cells grown in culture they are still alive today though she has been dead for more than sixty years.

HeLa cells were vital for developing the polio vaccine; uncovered secrets of cancer viruses and the atom bomb”s effects; helped lead to important advances like in vitro fertilization cloning and gene mapping; and have been bought and sold by the billions. Yet Henrietta Lacks remains virtually unknown buried in an unmarked grave.

Her story and that of her family are told in a book by Rebecca Skloot called “The Immortal Life Of Henrietta Lacks


NY Times Bestsellers – Non-Fiction

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History – Charles Albert Tindley

November 30th, 2010 by Black Gospel Choir
Charles Albert Tindley

Image by: Courtesy Tindley Temple

Rev. Dr. Charles Albert Tindley (July 7, 1851, Berlin, Maryland, USA – July 26, 1933) was an American Methodist minister and gospel music composer.

Often referred to as “The Prince of Preachers”, he educated himself, became a minister and founded one of the largest Methodist congregations serving the African-American community on the East Coast of the United States. The Tindley Temple United Methodist Church in Philadelphia was named for him.

Tindley’s father was a slave, but his mother was free. Tindley himself was thus considered to be free, but even so he grew up among slaves. After the Civil War, he moved to Philadelphia. He continued his education while working as a church janitor, teaching himself Hebrew and Greek and eventually earning a doctorate. After 25 years, he became the pastor of the same church at which he had been a janitor. Under his leadership, the church grew from 130 to a multiracial congregation of 10,000. Tindley was a noted songwriter and composer of gospel hymns and is recognized as one of the founding fathers of American gospel music. Five of his hymns appear in the revised Methodist hymnal, which is used worldwide. His composition “I’ll Overcome Someday” is credited by some observers to be the basis for the U.S. Civil Rights anthem “We Shall Overcome,”. The song “We Shall Overcome” was composed by artists at the Highlander Folk School in 1947: Tindley’s song had been brought to the school in the 1930s by tobacco workers from Charleston, South Carolina. Zilphia Horton, cultural worker and educator, taught the song at the school, where others, such as Pete Seeger and Guy Carawan, heard it. They altered Tindley’s refrain “I’ll Overcome Someday” to “We Shall Overcome” and the song was slowed down to be sung as a march hymn.

Tindley was the first hymn writer to have a hymn copyrighted. He never intended for his songs to be sung in formal worship services, but rather on informal occasions. He published a hymn collection in 1916, titled New Songs Of Paradise.



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History – Abraham Bolden

October 29th, 2010 by Black Gospel Choir

The First African American Presidential Secret Service Agent

Abraham Bolden was born into a poor family in East St. Louis, Illinois. After graduating from Lincoln University he spent four years as an Illinois State Trooper. His record was so outstanding that in 1959 President Dwight Eisenhower appointed him to the United States Secret Service. Based in Chicago, he won “two commendations for cracking counterfeiting rings”.

In 1961 President John F. Kennedy appointed Bolden as part of the Secret Service White House detail. According to Jim Marrs (Crossfire: The Plt That Killed Kennedy), Bolden was personally selected by Kennedy “in an attempt to integrate the previously all-white Secret Service detail”.

Bolden spent only three months working for Kennedy. He complained about the “separate housing facilities for black agents on southern trips”. At a meeting with James J. Rowley, the head of the Secret Service, Bolden criticized the “general laxity and the heavy drinking among the agents who were assigned to protect the President”. As a result of these complaints, Bolden was sent back to the Chicago office and assigned to routine anti-counterfeiting duties.

Bolden claimed that in October, 1963, the Chicago Secret Service office received a teletype from the Federal Bureau of Investigation warning that an attempt would be made to kill President John F. Kennedy by a four-man Cuban hit squad when he visited the city on 2nd November. Armed with high-powered rifles, the men from “a dissident Cuban group”. According to investigative journalist Edwin Black, the Secret Service arrested two suspects, however, they were eventually released.

Abraham Bolden later discovered that this information was being kept from the Warren Commission. When he complained about this he was warned “to keep his mouth shut”. Bolden decided to travel to


Washington where he telephoned Warren Commission Counsel J. Lee Rankin. Bolden was arrested and taken back to Chicago where he was charged with discussing a bribe with two known counterfeiters. He was eventually found guilty of accepting a bribe and spent six years in prison. When he tried to draw attention to his case, he was placed in solitary confinement.

Sam DeStefano, one of the men who accused Bolden of this crime, was murdered in 1973. DeStefano was close to Sam Giancana, Charles Nicoletti and Richard Cain. It is believed that Cain murdered DeStefano. Soon afterwards, Cain himself was murdered.

Lamar Waldron claims in his book, Ultimate Sacrifice, that according to a Central Intelligence Agency memo, mobsters in Chicago were involved in framing Bolden on the bribery charges.

In 2008 Abraham Bolden published his book, The Echo from Dealey Plaza, an account of his time as a member of the White House Secret Service.

Reuters – Oct 6, 2009
New Research to be Presented at JFK Assassination Conference
Partial list of presenting researchers and authors Abraham Bolden will reveal his personal story as the first African American to join the White House … read more

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