Eartha Kitt – The Beyoncé of Her Time

Eartha Kitt, best known for her recordings of “C’est Si Bon” and “Santa Baby,” was the Beyoncé of her day. Eartha Kitt was born on a plantation in South Carolina until she and her mother moved off the plantation and settled in New York. Upon her arrival in New York, her show-business career began to take off and soon she was appearing in film, theater, cabaret, music and television.  Her initial career began with her starring role in Dr. Faustus and continued to her most renowned role in the television version of Batman as her role of Catwoman. The younger generation typically remember Eartha Kitt for her role as YZMA in the Disney movie, Emperor’s New Groove.

However aside from all of her success in film Eartha Kitt is most notably recognized for her role as an activist and social speaker. It was her position on the Vietnam War that caused her blacklist from the professional community, which transpired during her visit at the White House during President Johnson term. Eartha Kitt’s opinion on the Vietnam War is as follows: 

“The children of America are not rebelling for no reason. They are not hippies for no reason at all. We don’t have what we have on Sunset Blvd. for no reason. They are rebelling against something. There are so many things burning the people of this country, particularly mothers. They feel they are going to raise sons-and I know what it’s life, and you have children of your own, Mrs. Johnson- we raise children and send them to war.”

After her statement on the Vietnam War finding work within the United States became challenging and limited, causing her to network outside of the United States to find work.

For more information on African American Women in History please visit the Rebecca Crown Library.

Reference:

http://www.earthakitt.com/about.html 

http://www.chicagonow.com/as-i-see-it/2012/02/10-people-to-know-during-black-history-month/

Image Credit: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Eartha_Kitt_2007.jpg

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Hiram R. Revels: the First African American Congressman

On February 25, 1870 Hiram R. Revels became the first African American man to be sworn into Congress.  He was a college educated minister from Natchez, Mississippi.  During the Civil War he helped form African American regiments, started a school for freed men, and was a chaplain for the Union army.  He was posted in Mississippi during the war.  Afterwards, he stayed in the state to enter politics.

The Republican Party dominated Southern politics due to a new politically mobilized African American male population.  Hiram R. Revels was elected to fill the vacant seat that once belonged to Confederate President Jefferson Davis.   Revels and 15 other African American men served in Congress, 600 served in state legislatures, and hundreds more served in local offices during Reconstruction.  The Rebecca Crown Library has some articles, and access to other great resources if you’d like to learn more.

Image credit: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Hiram_Rhodes_Revels_-_Brady-Handy-(restored).png

Spelling Bee Ends in Tie Because Organizers Ran Out of Words

Congratulations to both winners!

NewsFeed

Two Missouri spelling bee contestants left judges spellbound over the weekend, powering through 66 rounds before organizers called a tie because they ran out of words, the Kansas City-Star reports.

While the pool started with 25 students, Sophia Hoffman, a fifth-grader at Highland Park Elementary School, and Kush Sharma, a seventh-grader at Frontier School of Innovation, were the last two standing after 19 rounds at the Jackson County Spelling Bee at the Kansas City Public Library’s Plaza Branch.

When they correctly spelled all of the words on the national bee’s list, twenty additional words were chosen from Merriam-Webster’s 11th Edition. The duo managed to make it through all of those words, too.

By contrast, the 2013 bee ended after 21 rounds.

The competition will resume Mar. 8, and the winner will go on to the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C.

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What is this I’m hearing about carp?

Over the last few months talk about Asian carp has increased exponentially in the Chicagoland area.  Why?  Asian carp is not indigenous to the Great Lakes region, and it is a very large fish.  So large that it quickly invades the local fisheries leaving little room for anything else.  They are known to jump out of the water forcefully enough to hit people in the face.   According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association invasive species can seriously alter with the indigenous resources and the human use of these resources.  The National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science research these invasive species.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has been asked by the White House and Congress to come up with a solution.  One of these solutions is blocking parts of Chicago’s canal systems so the fish cannot get into Lake Michigan.  However, this blocks commercial ships from normal business and could cost almost $18 billion.  One local man’s solution is to just eat and hunt the carp into extinction.   There is no perfect solution to this problem, so expect to hear a lot more about it.

Aaron Burr, Former Vice President, Arrested for Treason

On this day in 1807, former Vice President Aaron Burr was arrested for treason.  Yes, he is the same Aaron Burr who killed Alexander Hamilton on 1804.  Hamilton frequently expressed his contempt of Burr’s character; in retaliation Burr challenged Hamilton to a duel.  While it is still debated if Burr meant to kill Hamilton (please see the Pulitzer prize winning book Founding Brothers for more information), Burr fled Washington D.C. to escape the political fall out.

He spent his time in New Orleans and Virgina before contacting U.S. General James Wilkinson.  General Wilkinson was a Spanish agent, and the two concocted a plan.  Again, these details can be hazy.  Their plans range range from an independent republic in the American Southwest to a seizure of Spanish territory for the same purpose.  Either way, Burr led a group of well-armed colonists on a march towards New Orleans.  U.S. authorities started to investigate, and this is when General Wilkinson turned on his co-conspirator.

Burr was arrested on February 19th 1807.  While tried, Burr was not convicted.  According to the Constitution his acts were not “overt,” and therefore, technically, not treason.  After being acquitted he traveled to Europe for a few years before returning to New York City.  And we think modern politicians were bad…

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Happy Birthday, Toni Morrison!

Toni Morrison was born today in 1931.  She was born in Loraine, Ohio, before moving on to study humanities at Cornell and Howard universities.  She made her debut in 1970 with The Bluest Eye.  In 1993 she became the first African-American woman to win the Nobel Prize for Literature.  No American has won this prestigious prize since.  According to the Nobel committee, Morrison has “…epic power, [an] unerring ear for dialogue, and poetically charged and richly expressive depictions of Black America.”  1993 was a year with ups and downs for the author.  Her home burned down while she was writing a manuscript that would turn into her future novel Paradise.  Thankfully, the manuscript was located in her office at Princeton University.

Besides Morrison’s breadth of work, the Library Journal has some great reading recommendations for African-American history month.  As always, you can cross reference these titles with the Rebecca Crown Library’s catalog to find them.