First Lady Michelle Obama Graces The Cover Of ESSENCE’s August Issue.


By Jueseppi B. The Militant Negro.

By Jueseppi B. The Militant Negro.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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From  Essence Magazine:

 

First Lady Michelle Obama Graces The Cover Of ESSENCE’s August Issue.

 

First Lady Michelle Obama has always been vocal about her passion for higher learning, and this month she expounds on that in her candid conversation with ESSENCE Editor-in-Chief Vanessa K. Bush. A big part of the recipe for success has to do with nurturing reslience in our children, she says.

 

“I know I tell my kids all the time that they shouldn’t shy away from difficult things, because that is the point at which you are really growing. It’s not just about grades or test scores. Today our kids may shy away from applying to college if they think they don’t have the right grade or test score. But the truth is that the kids who succeed and go on to be successful professionals are the ones who know how to work hard,” says Mrs. Obama.

 

And in order to even get that far, she says, they have to see education as an opportunity and take advantage of that kind of foundation.

 

“We cannot waste the opportunity that we have here in America, especially as African-Americans. Our ancestors fought and bled and died so that we could go to school,” she says. “And I still think about that.”

 

It’s a message she’s drilled into her daughters. “We talk about responsibility and accountability, about making sure that they’re not wasting the opportunities they’re given. We make sure they know how lucky they are and that, because of that, they have an obligation to have their acts together and to take their education very seriously.”

 

 

 

Thank you Essence Magazine.

 

 

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The 369th Infantry Regiment, aka The Harlem Hellfighters, The Black Rattlers And The Men Of Bronze.


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369th Infantry Regiment (United States)

 

The 369th Infantry Regiment, formerly known as the 15th New York National Guard Regiment, was an infantry regiment of the United States Army that saw action in World War I and World War II. The Regiment consisted of African-Americans and African Puerto Ricans and was known for being the first African-American regiment to serve with the American Expeditionary Force during World War I. Before the 15th New York National Guard Regiment was formed, any African American that wanted to fight in the war either had to enlist in the French or Canadian armies. The regiment was nicknamed the Harlem Hellfighters, the Black Rattlers and the Men of Bronze, which was given to the regiment by the French. The nickname “Hell Fighters” was given to them by the Germans due to their toughness and that they never lost a man through capture, lost a trench or a foot of ground to the enemy. The “Harlem Hellfighters” were the first all black regiment that helped change the American public’s opinion on African American soldiers and helped pave the way for future African American soldiers.

 

 

 

369th Infantry Regiment
Harlem Hellfighters
369th InfantryCOA.jpeg

Coat of arms
Active 1913–1945
Branch New York Army National Guard
Type Infantry
Nickname Harlem Hellfighters
Motto “Don’t Tread On Me”
Engagements World War I

World War II

Commanders
Notable
commanders
Benjamin O. Davis, Sr.
Insignia
DUI

Distinctive unit insignia for 369th Regiment &...

Distinctive unit insignia for 369th Regiment & 369th Sustainment BDE (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

 

Who Were the Harlem Hellfighters?

 

by Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

 

Harlem Hellfighters Homecoming Parade

“Up the wide avenue they swung. Their smiles outshone the golden sunlight. In every line proud chests expanded beneath the medals valor had won. The impassioned cheering of the crowds massed along the way drowned the blaring cadence of their former jazz band. The old 15th was on parade and New York turned out to tender its dark-skinned heroes a New York welcome.”

 

So began the three-page spread the New York Tribune ran Feb. 18, 1919, a day after 3,000 veterans of the 369th Infantry (formerly the 15th New York (Colored) Regiment) paraded up from Fifth Avenue at 23rd Street to 145th and Lenox. One of the few black combat regiments in World War I, they’d earned the prestigious Croix de Guerre from the French army under which they’d served for six months of “brave and bitter fighting.” Their nickname they’d received from their German foes: “Hellfighters,” the Harlem Hellfighters.

 

In their ranks was one of the Great War’s greatest heroes, Pvt. Henry Johnson of Albany, N.Y., who, though riding in a car for the wounded, was so moved by the outpouring he stood up waving the bouquet of flowers he’d been handed. It would take another 77 years for Johnson to receive an official Purple Heart from his own government, but on this day, not even the steel plate in his foot could weigh him down.

 

It was, the newspapers noted, the first opportunity the City of New York had to greet a full regiment of returning doughboys, black or white. The Chicago Defender put the crowd at 2 million, the New York Tribune at 5 million, with even the New York Times conservatively estimating it at “hundreds of thousands.”

 

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“Never have white Americans accorded so heartfelt and hearty a reception to a contingent of their black country-men,” the Tribune continued. And “the ebony warriors” felt it, literally, beneath a hail of chocolate candy, cigarettes and coins raining down on them from open windows up and down the avenues. It would have been hard to miss them, at least according to the New York Times, to whom all the men appeared 7 feet tall.

 

Yet as rousing as those well-wishers were, the Tribune pointed out, “the greeting the regiment received along Fifth Avenue was to the tumult which greeted it in Harlem as the west wind to a tornado.” After all, 70 percent of the 369th called Harlem home, and their families, friends and neighbors had turned out in full force to thank and welcome those who’d made it back. Eight hundred hadn’t, an absence recalled in the number of handkerchiefs drying wet eyes.

 

That morning, it had taken four trains and two ferries to transport the black veterans and their white officers from Camp Upton on Long Island to Manhattan, and the parade, kicking off at 11:00 a.m.—an echo of the armistice that had halted the fighting three months before—stretched seven miles long. In his 1845 slave narrative, Frederick Douglass had likened his master to a snake; now a rattlesnake adorned the black veterans’ uniforms—their insignia. On hand to greet them was a host of dignitaries, including the African-American leader Emmett Scott, special adjutant to the secretary of war; William Randolph Hearst; and New York’s popular Irish Catholic governor, Al Smith, who reviewed his Hellfighters from a pair of stands on 60th and 133rd Streets.

 

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In Harlem, the Chicago Defender observed, Feb. 17, 1919, was an unofficial holiday, with black school children granted dismissal by the board of education. A similar greeting—on the same day, in fact—met the returning black veterans of the 370th Infantry (the old Eighth Illinois) in Chicago, Chad L. Williams writes in his 2010 book, Torchbearers of Democracy: African American Soldiers in the World War I Era. And in the coming months, there would be other celebrations, even in the Jim Crow South, most notably Savannah, Ga., the state that in 1917 and 1918 led the nation in lynchings, according to statistics published by the Tuskegee Institute. It was, to be sure, a singular season, a pause between the end of hostilities abroad and the resumption of hostilities at home in a nation still divided so starkly, so violently, by the color line.

 

Congress would not make Armistice Day an official U.S. holiday until 1938, and it would not be called Veterans Day until 1954. But the people of New York didn’t need Congress to tell them what to do when their black fighting men returned home, and so you might say, the first “veterans day parade” in New York associated with “Armistice Day” was held for black soldiers on Feb. 17, 1919, during the month that would eventually be set aside for black history.

 

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Blacks Debate the War Effort

Two years before, on April 2, 1917, President Woodrow Wilson asked Congress for a declaration of war in order to enter a conflict between European powers that had started over the assassination of an archduke in 1914. “The World must be made safe for democracy,” the president said. The nation’s allies: the British, French and Russians. Its enemies: Germany, Italy, Austria-Hungary, the so-called Central Powers.

 

For some African Americans, Wilson’s rhetoric smacked of hypocrisy. After all, he was the president who had screened Birth of a Nation (a film glorifying the Ku Klux Klan) at the White House and refused to support a federal anti-lynching bill, even though each year averaged more than one lynching a week, predominantly in former Confederate states that had effectively stripped black men of their voting rights. “Will some one tell us just how long Mr. Wilson has been a convert to TRUE DEMOCRACY?” the Baltimore Afro-American editorialized on April 28, 1917 (quoted in Williams). “Patriotism has no appeal for us; justice has,” the Messengera Socialist publication launched by editors Chandler Owen and A. Philip Randolph (of March on Washington fame), declared on Nov. 1, 1917—a sentiment that would land both men in jail under the Espionage Act in 1918 (quoted in Adriane Lentz-Smith’s 2009 book, Freedom Struggles: African Americans and World War I).

 

Many more blacks viewed the war as an opportunity for victory at home and abroad. W.E.B. Du Bois, a founder of the NAACP in 1909, urged his fellow African Americans to “Close Ranks” in a (now infamous) piece he wrote for the Crisis in July 1918, despite the persistent segregation of black officers at training camp. “Let us, while this war lasts, forget our special grievances and close our ranks shoulder to shoulder with our white fellow citizens and the allied nations that are fighting for democracy,” Du Bois advised—a stance, Williams notes, that would stir controversy when Du Bois was exposed for making simultaneous “efforts to secure a captaincy” for himself.

 

In all, Williams writes, “2.3 million blacks registered [for the draft]” during World War I.  Although the Marines would not accept them, and the Navy enlisted few and only in menial positions, large numbers served in the army. Some 375,000 blacks served overall, including “639 men [who] received commissions, a historical first,” Williams adds in his essay “African Americans and World War I.”

 

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Wartime Violence

The U.S. Army segregated its black troops into two combat divisions, the 92nd and the 93rd, because, as Williams explains, “War planners deemed racial segregation, just as in civilian life, the most logical and efficient way of managing the presence of African Americans in the army.”

 

But a different kind of violence soon spread—at home, most notably in East St. Louis, where, on July 2, 1917, the rumor that a black man had killed a white man resulted in the murder of nine whites and hundreds of blacks, not to mention half a million dollars in property damage. Things weren’t much better in the South. On August 23, 1917, black soldiers in the 24th Infantry garrisoned in Houston revolted when one of their comrades was beaten and arrested by two white police officers after he tried to stop them from arresting a black woman. Quickly, rumors flew that a white mob was approaching the camp, which, whether true or not, prompted the black troops to scour the camp for ammunition under the notion that the best defense is a good offense.

 

Marching through the rain to Houston, they killed 15 people, including four policemen and a member of the Illinois National Guard. Two of the black soldiers died in the fighting, one shooting himself in the head rather than risking capture. “Ten men probably ‘could not begin to tell the complete story of what took place that night,’ ” Lentz-Smith quotes “Army prosecutor Colonel Hull,” yet in the fallout, “[t]hey charged 63 members of the battalion with mutiny,” and hanged 13 in “their army khakis.”

 

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‘Over There!’

Of the 375,000 blacks who served in World War I, 200,000 shipped out overseas, but even in the theater of war, few saw combat. Most suffered through backbreaking labor in noncombat service units as part of the Services of Supply. Lentz-Smith puts the number of combat troops at 42,000, only 11 percent of all blacks in the army.

 

For the first of the two black combat divisions, the 92nd, the Great War was a nightmare.  Not only were they segregated, their leaders scapegoated them for the American Expeditionary Forces’ failure at Meuse-Argonne in 1918, even though troops from both races struggled during the campaign. In the aftermath, five black officers were court-martialed on trumped-up charges, with white Major J. N. Merrill of the 368th’s First Battalion writing his superior officer, “Without my presence or that of any other white officer right on the firing line I am absolutely positive that not a single colored officer would have advanced with his men. The cowardice showed by the men was abject” (quoted in Williams, Torchbearers). Even though Secretary of War Newton Baker eventually commuted the officers’ sentences, the damage was done: The 92nd was off the line.

 

Harlem Hellfighters from World War I

Harlem Hellfighters from World War I

 

Harlem Hellfighters: Henry Johnson and Needham Roberts

In contrast, Gen. John J. Pershing, the commander of American Expeditionary Forces in Europe, assigned the 93rd Combat Division to the French Army. The 93rd consisted of the 369th, 370th, 371st and 372nd infantry regiments. “With the French, the Harlem Hellfighters fought at Chateau-Thierry and Belleau Wood,” a resource for teachers states on the National Archives website. “All told they spent 191 days in combat, longer than any other American unit in the war.” They gave no ground to the enemy, and none of their men were captured—although, as we shall see, at least one came close.

 

The story lives in legend, and it is immortalized by Joel Rogers in his book’s Amazing Fact No. 90: “The first two Americans to be decorated by France in the first World War were Henry Johnson, and Needham Roberts, both Negroes. Johnson killed four Germans and wounded twenty-eight others single-handedly.” Turns out this Amazing Fact is a fact indeed (though the number of Germans wounded was lower).

 

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Henry Lincoln Johnson was born in Alexandra, Va., in 1897, writes Tiffani Murray in her entry on Johnson in the African American National Biography Online. As a teenager, he moved to the North, eventually settling down with a job as a porter in Albany, N.Y. Johnson enlisted in the army on June 5, 1917. Needham Roberts hailed from Trenton, N.J. His father was a preacher and janitor. Roberts took odd jobs as a teenager, and first attempted to enlist in the Navy in 1916 but was turned down for being too young.

 

Both men landed in France with their regiment in early 1918. Their date with history came on the night of May 13-14. Roberts and Johnson were two men on a five-man observation team looking for signs of German advances. According to Christopher Capozzola, writing on Roberts in the African American National Biography Online, the “remote listening post [was] sixty yards into the no-man’s-land between the French and German forces that faced off along the banks of the Aisne River.”

 

In a dramatic letter to Johnson’s wife, the 369th’s white colonel, William Hayward, provided the details:

 

At the beginning of the attack the Germans fired a volley of bullets and grenades and both of the boys were wounded, your husband three times and Roberts twice, then the Germans rushed the post, expecting to make an easy capture. In spite of their wounds, the two boys waited cooly and courageously and when the Germans were within striking distance opened fire, your husband with his rifle and Private Roberts from his helpless position on the ground with hand grenades. But the German raiding party came on in spite of their wounded and in a few seconds our boys were at grips with the terrible foe in a desperate hand to hand encounter in which the enemy outnumbered them ten to one.

 

The boys inflicted great loss on the enemy, but Roberts was overpowered and about to be carried away when your husband, who had used up all of the cartridges in the magazine of his rifle and had knocked one German down with the butt end of it, drew his bolo from his belt. A bolo is a short heavy weapon carried by the American soldier, with the edge of a razor, the weight of a cleaver and the point of a butcher knife. He rushed to the rescue of his former comrade, and fighting desperately, opened with his bolo the head of the German who was throttling Roberts and turned to the boche who had Roberts by the feet, plunging the bolo into the German’s bowels …

 

Henry laid about him right and left with his heavy knife, and Roberts released from the grasp of the scoundrels, began again to throw hand grenades and exploded them in their midst, and the Germans, doubtless thinking it was a host instead of two brave Colored boys fighting like tigers at bay, picked up their dead and wounded and slunk away, leaving many weapons and part of their shot riddled clothing, and leaving a trail of blood, which we followed at dawn near to their lines … So it was in this way the Germans found the Black Americans. Both boys have received a citation of the French general commanding the splendid French division in which my regiment is now serving and will receive the croix de guerre cross of war. —The Chicago Defender, June 22, 1918

 

At the top of the American chain of command, Gen. Pershing remarked on Johnson’s and Roberts’ heroics in his communiqué of May 20, 1918: “Reports in hand show a notable instance of bravery and devotion shown by two soldiers of an American colored regiment operating in a French sector … They should be given credit for preventing, by their bravery, the capture of any of our men.” Today, Sen. Charles Schumer of New Yorkis using these letters to press the government to bestow on Johnson its highest award, a (posthumous) Medal of Honor. If you feel moved to show your support for Sen. Schumer’s effort, you can contact him here.

 

With his letter to Mrs. Johnson, Col. Hayward sent the equivalent of 50 francs, half of what the French general overseeing the 369th, Henri Gouraud, had earmarked for “the family of the first one of my soldiers wounded in a fight with the enemy under heroic circumstances.” The other half, Hayward told her, would go to Robert’s family. As valuable as that money was, perhaps the following sentiment he shared brought as much comfort: “I regret to say that he [Johnson] is in the hospital, seriously, but not dangerously wounded, the wounds having been received under such circumstances that every one of us in the regiment would be pleased and proud to trade places with him.” It was a far cry from what the black men of the 92nd Division had experienced and a level of sympathy and respect that stands out when we recall that Col. Hayward and Pvt. Johnson wouldn’t have been able to ride the same railroad car in the Jim Crow South.

 

Williams writes, “In Henry Johnson, African Americans had found their modern-day Crispus Attucks.” Summarizing his war record at the Harlem Veterans Day parade, Pvt. George Jackson riffed on the official report, joshing that Johnson had “killed [one German] with rifle shots,” one “with butt of rifle” and another he’d “scared to death,” while of those injured, two he’d simply “kicked and cussed out” (New York Tribune, Feb. 18, 1919). For their courage, the New York Times reported the day after the parade, “the [German] boches gave them the title of the ‘Blutdurstig schwarze manner,’ ” or “Blood thirsty black men,” which eventually translated to “Hellfighters.”

 

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Receiving Awards and Returning Home

The French conveyed a number of military decorations on black American soldiers in World War I, with Roberts and Johnson the first Americans of any race to receive the coveted Croix de Guerre. By war’s end, members of the 369th, 371st and 372nd regiments also received it. (In Amazing Fact No. 85 of his book, Rogers includes the 370th in the list, but in the 1974 book The Unknown Soldiers: Black Troops in World War I, Arthur E. Barbeau and Florette Henri write of the 370th, “Although the regiment as a unit was not awarded the Croix de Guerre, seventy-one individuals received it, and another twenty-one were decorated with the Distinguished Service Cross.” Rogers, however, correctly notes that the First Battalion of the 367th also received the unit Croix de Guerre.)

 

As mentioned at the top, many black veterans received a hero’s welcome when they returned to the United States, at least from their own communities. Leading the Harlem Hellfighters in the New York City parade was Lt. James “Jim” Reese Europe’s jazz band, which had crisscrossed Europe some 100,000 miles and drove Paris “jazz-mad,” the New York Times and Tribune reported. Even though no black regiment had been kept around long enough (perhaps not coincidentally) to participate in the first Armistice Day celebration in France on Nov. 11, 1918, Williams notes, in New York, the Tribune observed, “Racial lines were for the time displaced. The color of their [the 369th’s] skin had nothing to do with the occasion. The blood they had shed in France was as red as any other.”

 

Perhaps best summing up what the war had achieved for them personally, one black Hellfighter, spotting his old boss, Henry C. Frick (of steel and museum fame), along the parade route, exclaimed, “That’s one of the biggest men in New York. I used to shine his shoes. Now he’s almost falling out of a window to wave to me.”

 

“No American soldiers saw harder or more combat fighting than they, and none gave a better accounting of themselves,” district leader John Lyons read to the paraders from a memorial written by Columbia University President Nicholas Murray Butler. “We welcome them to the work of peace as we honor them for the work of war” (New York Tribune, Feb. 18, 1919). The only thing missing, Col. Hayward told the Tribune, were the French generals who had led the men to victory. They “set out to teach us how to fight. They fought us and they fought for us.”

 

The Sad Postscripts of Roberts and Johnson

Neither Henry Johnson nor Needham Roberts maintained their fame for long. Johnson, despite being trumpeted in advertisements by the military, was denied a disability claim, because his discharge papers did not properly record his injuries. He died in 1929 at the age of 32 and was buried in Arlington National Cemetery—a fact lost to history until his grave was rediscovered in 2002. Johnson received a posthumous Purple Heart in 1996 and a Distinguished Service Cross in 2003. He also has a statue and a street named in his honor in Albany.

In 1924, Roberts was arrested for wearing his uniform after he had been discharged, Capozzola writes. In 1928, he was arrested for a sex crime. He ran afoul of the law again in the late 1940s, when he was accused of molesting an 8-year-old girl. Roberts and his second wife hanged themselves on April 18, 1949.

 

 

We Return Fighting

Despite the pomp and circumstance of those first Veterans Day parades, the summer of 1919 would earn the nickname “Red Summer” from James Weldon Johnson, owing to the high number of race riots occurring across America’s cities, most notably Chicago, the site of one of those parades. A number of the victims were black veterans. “Every time a white man insults a negro, every time he conveys by his conduct and overweening sense of his race superiority to a negro, he contributes to the cause out of which these race riots have come,” former president William Howard Taft wrote in an op-ed in the Washington Post on Aug. 4, 1919. Yet “[n]o race responds so quickly to sympathetic aid as the negro,” Taft added in his paternalistic way.

 

But the war had already changed many of the nation’s black veterans, and Du Bois summed it up best in a piece he wrote for the Crisis in May 1919 titled “Returning Soldiers.” “It was right for us to fight. The faults of our country are our faults. Under similar circumstances, we would fight again. But by the God of Heaven, we are cowards and jackasses if now that that war is over, we do not marshal every ounce of our brain and brawn to fight a sterner, longer, more unbending battle against the forces of hell in our own land. We return. We return from fighting. We return fighting. Make way for Democracy! We saved it in France, and by the Great Jehovah, we will save it in the United States of America, or know the reason why.”

 

No black veterans of the Great War survive today, but may we keep them—and the more than 2 million living black veterans—in our thoughts today.

 

As always, you can find more “Amazing Facts About the Negro” on The Root, and check back each week as we count to 100.

 

Henry Louis Gates Jr. is the Alphonse Fletcher University Professor and founding director of the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research at Harvard University. He is also the editor-in-chief of The Root. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook.

 

Thank you      

Hellfighters

 

 

 

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Wartime poster of the 369th fighting German soldiers, with the figure of Abraham Lincoln above

Wartime poster of the 369th fighting German soldiers, with the figure of Abraham Lincoln above

Soldiers of the 369th (15th N.Y.) who won the Croix de Guerre for gallantry in action, 1919. Left to right. Front row: Pvt. Ed Williams, Herbert Taylor, Pvt. Leon Fraitor, Pvt. Ralph Hawkins. Back Row: Sgt. H. D. Prinas, Sgt. Dan Strorms, Pvt. Joe Williams, Pvt. Alfred Hanley, and Cpl. T. W. Taylor

Soldiers of the 369th (15th N.Y.) who won the Croix de Guerre for gallantry in action, 1919. Left to right. Front row: Pvt. Ed Williams, Herbert Taylor, Pvt. Leon Fraitor, Pvt. Ralph Hawkins. Back Row: Sgt. H. D. Prinas, Sgt. Dan Strorms, Pvt. Joe Williams, Pvt. Alfred Hanley, and Cpl. T. W. Taylor

Famous New York soldiers return home. (The) 369th Infantry (old 15th National Guard of New York City.

Famous New York soldiers return home. (The) 369th Infantry (old 15th National Guard of New York City.

 

Distinctive unit insignia

Harlem Hellfighter’s crest

A silver color metal and enamel device 1 14 inches (3.2 cm) in height overall consisting of a blue shield charged with a silver rattlesnake coiled and ready to strike.

 

 

Symbolism

The rattlesnake is a symbol used on some colonial flags and is associated with the thirteen original colonies. The silver rattlesnake on the blue shield was the distinctive regimental insignia of the 369th Infantry Regiment, ancestor of the unit, and alludes to the service of the organization during World War I.

 

 

Background

The distinctive unit insignia was originally approved for the 369th Infantry Regiment on 17 April 1923. It was redesignated for the 369th Coast Artillery Regiment on 3 December 1940. It was redesignated for the 369th Antiaircraft Artillery Gun Battalion on 7 January 1944. It was redesignated for the 569th Field Artillery Battalion on 14 August 1956. The insignia was redesignated for the 369th Artillery Regiment on 4 April 1962. p;l;=;=;It was amended to correct the wording of the description on 2 September 1964. It was redesignated for the 569th Transportation Battalion and amended to add a motto on 13 March 1969. The insignia was redesignated for the 369th Transportation Battalion and amended to delete the motto on 14 January 1975. It was redesignated for the 369th Support Battalion and amended to revise the description and symbolism on 2 November 1994. The insignia was redesignated for the 369th Sustainment Brigade and amended to revise the description and symbolism on 20 July 2007.

 

 

369th Veterans’ Association

The 369th Veterans’ Association is a group created to honor those who served in the 369th infantry. This veterans group has three distinct goals. According to the Legal Information institute of the Cornell Law Institute these include,”promoting the principles of friendship and good will among its members;engaging in social and civic activities that tend to enhance the welfare of its members and inculcate the true principles of good citizenship in its members; and memorializing, individually and collectively, the patriotic services of its members in the 369th antiaircraft artillery group and other units in the Armed Forces of the United States.”

 

The 369th Infantry Regiment served 191 days under enemy fire in Europe. They returned home one of the most decorated American units of World War I.

 

“The French called them the ‘Men of Bronze’ out of respect, and the Germans called them the ‘Harlem Hellfighters’ out of fear,” explains Max Brooks, author of The Harlem Hellfighters, a new graphic novel about the first African-American infantry unit to fight in World War I.

 

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The syncopated stylings of their regimental band, led by James Reese Europe, introduced French listeners to American jazz. As soldiers, the Harlem Hellfighters left their mark in the trenches of France.

 

Col. Reginald Sanders, former commander of the 369th Sustainment Brigade, and The Harlem Hellfighters author Max Brooks tour the 369th Regiment Armory in New York City

Col. Reginald Sanders, former commander of the 369th Sustainment Brigade, and The Harlem Hellfighters author Max Brooks tour the 369th Regiment Armory in New York City

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Happy 115th Birthday Percy Lavon Julian.


 

By Jueseppi B.

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Percy Lavon Julian (April 11, 1899, Montgomery, Al. – April 19, 1975, Waukegan, Illinois) was a U.S. research chemist and a pioneer in the chemical synthesis of medicinal drugs from plants. He was the first to synthesize the natural product physostigmine, and a pioneer in the industrial large-scale chemical synthesis of the human hormones, steroidsprogesterone, and testosterone, from plant sterols such as stigmasterol and sitosterol. His work would lay the foundation for the steroid drug industry’s production of cortisone, other corticosteroids, and birth control pills.

He later started his own company to synthesize steroid intermediates from the Mexican wild yam. His work helped greatly reduce the cost of steroid intermediates to large multinational pharmaceutical companies, helping to significantly expand the use of several important drugs.

During his lifetime he received more than 130 chemical patents. Julian was one of the first African-Americans to receive a doctorate in chemistry. He was the first African-American chemist inducted into the National Academy of Sciences, and the second African-American scientist inducted from any field.

black history forgotten genius 2007

 

Published on May 2, 2013

The grandson of Alabama slaves, Percy Julian met with every possible barrier in a deeply segregated America. He was a man of genius, devotion, and determination. As a black man he was also an outsider, fighting to make a place for himself in a profession and country divided by bigotry – a man who would eventually find freedom in the laboratory. By the time of his death, Julian had risen to the highest levels of scientific and personal achievement, overcoming countless obstacles to become a world – class scientist, a self – millionaire, and a civil – rights pioneer………..please watch the whole damn video please and learn more about this good brother percy julian and teach your kids on black history please!

 

 

 

Percy Lavon Julian
Percy Lavon Julian.jpg
Julian circa 1940–1950

BornApril 11, 1899
Montgomery, AlabamaDiedApril 19, 1975 (aged 76)
Waukegan, IllinoisOccupationChemistSpouse(s)Anna Roselle JohnsonChildrenPercy Lavon Julian, Jr.
(1940–2008)
Faith Roselle Julian
(1944– )ParentsElizabeth Lena Adams
(1878–?)
James Sumner Julian
(1871–1951)

 

 

Early life and education

Percy Julian was born in Montgomery, Alabama as the first child of six born to James Sumner Julian and Elizabeth Lena Julian, née Adams. James, a graduate of what was to be Alabama State University (as was his wife), was employed as a clerk in the Railway Service of the United States Post Office, and his father had been a slave. Elizabeth worked as a school teacher. Percy Julian grew up in the time of the racist Jim Crow lawsculture in the United States. Among his childhood memories was finding a lynched man hanged from a tree while walking in the woods near his home. While it was generally unheard of for African-Americans at the time to pursue an education beyond the eighth grade, Julian’s parents steered all of their children toward higher education.

Julian attended DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana. The college accepted few African-American students. The segregated nature of the town forced social humiliations. Julian was not allowed to live in the college dormitories and first stayed in an off-campus boarding home, which refused to serve him meals. It took him days before Julian found an establishment where he could eat. He worked firing the furnace, as a waiter, and doing other odd jobs in a fraternity house. In return, he was allowed to sleep in the attic and eat at the house. Julian graduated from DePauw in 1920 Phi Beta Kappa and valedictorian. By 1930 Julian’s father had moved the entire family to Greencastle, Indiana so that all his children could attend college at DePauw. The father was still working as a railroad postal clerk.

Julian wanted to obtain his doctorate in chemistry, but learned it would be difficult for an African-American. After graduating from DePauw, Julian became a chemistry instructor at Fisk University. He then received an Austin Fellowship in Chemistry and went to Harvard University in 1923 for his M.S. Worried that European-American students would resent being taught by an African-American, Harvard withdrew Julian’s teaching assistantship. He was unable to complete his Ph.D. at Harvard.

In 1929, while an instructor at Howard University, Julian received a Rockefeller Foundation fellowship to continue his graduate work at the University of Vienna, where he earned his PhD in 1931. He studied under Ernst Späth and was considered an impressive student. In Europe, he found freedom from the racial prejudices that had nearly stifled him in the States. He freely participated in intellectual social gatherings, went to the opera and found greater acceptance among his peers. Julian was one of the first African-Americans to receive a PhD in chemistry, after St. Elmo Brady and Edward M. A. Chandler. During Julian’s lifetime he earned more than 138 chemical patents for his work. He was the first African-American chemist inducted into the National Academy of Sciences, and the second African-American scientist inducted from any field.

After returning from Vienna, Julian taught at Howard University for one year, where he met his future wife, Anna Roselle Johnson (PhD in Sociology, 1937, University of Pennsylvania). They married on December 24, 1935 and had two children: Percy Lavon Julian, Jr. (August 31, 1940 – February 24, 2008), who became a prestigious civil rights lawyer in Madison, Wisconsin; and Faith Roselle Julian (1944– ), who still resides in their Oak Park home and often makes moving speeches about her father and his contributions to science.

At Howard, Julian got involved in university politics and set off an embarrassing chain of events. After he goaded, at the University President’s request, a white chemist named Jacob Shohan into resigning, Shohan retaliated by releasing to the local African-American newspaper the letters Julian had written to him from Vienna. The letters contained accounts of Julian’s sex life, and criticism of individual Howard faculty members. Julian’s laboratory assistant, Robert Thompson, also charged he had found his wife and Julian together in a sexual tryst.

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When Thompson was fired for filing a lawsuit against the University, he also gave the paper racy letters which Julian had written to him from Vienna. Through the summer of 1932, the Baltimore Afro-American published all of Julian’s letters. Eventually, the scandal, and its accompanying pressure, forced Julian to resign. He lost his position, and everything he had worked for.

After the scandal, Julian’s mentor, William Blanchard, threw him a much-needed lifeline at the lowest point in Julian’s career. Blanchard offered Julian a position to teach organic chemistry at DePauw University in 1932. Julian helped Josef Pikl, a fellow student at the University of Vienna, to come to the United States to work with him at DePauw. In 1935 Julian and Pikl completed the total synthesis of physostigmine, and confirmed the structural formula assigned to it. Robert Robinson of Oxford University in the U.K. was the first to publish a synthesis of physostigmine, but Julian noticed that the melting point of Robinson’s end product was wrong, indicating that he had not, in fact, created it. When Julian completed his synthesis, the melting point matched the correct one for natural physostigmine from the calabar bean.

Julian also extracted stigmasterol, which took its name from Physostigma venenosum, the west African calabar bean that he hoped could serve as raw material for synthesis of human steroidal hormones. At about this time in 1934, Butenandt, and Fernholz, in Germany, had shown that stigmasterol, isolated from soybean oil, could be converted to progesterone by synthetic organic chemistry.

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Private sector work: Glidden

After being denied a professorship at DePauw in 1936 for racial reasons, Julian applied for a job at the Institute of Paper Chemistry (IPC) in Wisconsin. However, the Wisconsin city of Appleton where the institute was located, was a sundown town, forbidding African-Americans from staying overnight, stating directly “No Negro should be bed or boarded overnight in Appleton”. DuPauw had offered a job to fellow chemist Josef Pikl, but declined to hire Julian, who had superlative qualifications as an organic chemist, apologizing that they were “unaware he was a Negro”.

Julian wrote to the Glidden Company, a supplier of soybean oil products, in part because his wife was suffering infertility, to request a five gallon sample of the oil to use as his starting point for the synthesis of human steroidal sex hormones. After receiving the request, W. J. O’Brien, a vice-president at Glidden made a telephone call to Julian, offering him the position of director of research at Glidden’s Soya Products Division in Chicago. He was very likely offered the job by O’Brien because he was fluent in German and Glidden had just purchased a modern continuous counter current solvent extraction plant from Germany for the extraction of vegetable oil from soybeans for paints and other uses.

Julian supervised the assembly of the plant at Glidden when he arrived in 1936. He then designed and supervised construction of the world’s first plant for the production of industrial-grade, isolated soy protein from oil-free soybean meal. Isolated soy protein could replace the more expensive milk casein in industrial applications such as coating and sizing of paper, glue for making Douglas fir plywood, and in the manufacture of water-based paints.

At the start of World War II Glidden sent a sample of Julian’s isolated soy protein to National Foam System Inc. (today a unit of Kidde Fire Fighting) of Philadelphia, PA which used it to develop Aer-O-Foam, the U.S. Navy’s beloved fire-fighting “bean soup”; and while it was not exactly Julian’s brainchild, it was his meticulous care in the preparation of the soy protein that made the fire fighting foam possible. When a hydrolyzate of isolated soy protein was fed into a water stream, the mixture was converted into a foam by means of an aerating nozzle. The soy protein foam was used to smother oil and gasoline fires aboard ships and was particularly useful on aircraft carriers. It saved the lives of thousands of sailors. Citing this, in 1947 the NAACP awarded him the Spingarn Medal, its highest honor.

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Steroids

Julian’s research at Glidden changed direction in 1940 when he began work on synthesizing progesteroneestrogen and testosterone from the plant sterolsstigmasterol and sitosterol, isolated from soybean oil by a foam technique he invented and patented. At that time clinicians were discovering many uses for the newly discovered hormones. However, only minute quantities could be produced from the extraction of hundreds of pounds of spinal cords.

In 1940 Julian was able to produce 100 lb of mixed soy sterols daily, which had a value of $10,000, in sex hormones. Julian was soon ozonizing 100 pounds daily of mixed sterol dibromides. The result was the female hormone progesterone which was put on the U.S. market in bulk for the first time.The soy stigmasterol was easily converted into commercial quantities of the female hormone, progesterone, and the first pound of progesterone he made, valued at $63,500 was shipped to the buyer in an armored car. Production of other sex hormones soon followed.

His work made possible the production of these hormones on a larger (kilogram) industrial scale, with the potential of reducing the cost of treating hormonal deficiencies. Julian and his co-workers obtained patents for Glidden on key processes for the preparation of progesterone and testosterone from soybean plant sterols. Product patents held by a former cartel of European pharmaceutical companies prevented a significant reduction in wholesale and retail prices for clinical use of these hormones in the 1940s.

On April 13, 1949, rheumatologist Philip Hench at the Mayo Clinic announced the dramatic effectiveness of cortisone in treating rheumatoid arthritis. The cortisone was produced by Merck at great expense using a complex 36-step synthesis developed by chemist Lewis Sarett. It started withdeoxycholic acid from cattle bile acids. On September 30, 1949, Julian announced an improvement in the process of producing cortisone. This eliminated the need to use osmium tetroxide, which was a rare and expensive chemical. By 1950, Glidden could begin producing closely related compounds which may have partial cortisone activity.

Julian also announced the synthesis, starting with the cheap and readily available pregnenolone synthesized from the soybean oil sterol, stigmasterol of the steroid cortexolone (also known as Reichstein’s Substance S), a molecule that differed from cortisone by a single missing oxygen atom; and possibly 17α-hydroxyprogesterone and pregnenetriolone, which he hoped might also be effective in treating rheumatoid arthritis, but unfortunately they were not.

On April 5, 1952, biochemist Durey Peterson and microbiologist Herbert Murray at Upjohn published the first report of a fermentation process for the microbial 11α-oxygenation of steroids in a single step (by common molds of the order Mucorales). Their fermentation process could produce 11α-hydroxyprogesterone or 11α-hydroxycortisone from progesterone or Compound S, respectively, which could then by further chemical steps be converted to cortisone or 11β-hydroxycortisone (cortisol).

After two years, Glidden abandoned production of cortisone to concentrate on Substance S. Julian developed an excellent multistep process for conversion of pregnenolone, available in abundance from soybean oil sterols to cortexolone. In 1952, Glidden, which had been producing progesterone and other steroids from soybean oil, shut down its own production and began importing them from Mexico through an arrangement with Diosynth (a small Mexican company founded in 1947 by Russell Marker after leaving Syntex). Glidden’s cost of production of cortexolone was relatively high, so Upjohn decided to use progesterone, available in large quantity at low cost from Syntex, to produce cortisone and hydro cortisone.

In 1953, Glidden decided to leave the steroid business which had been relatively unprofitable over the years despite Julian’s innovative work. On December 1, 1953, Julian left Glidden after 18 years, giving up a salary of nearly $50,000 a year, to found his own company, Julian Laboratories, Inc., taking over the small, concrete-block building of Suburban Chemical Company in Franklin Park, Illinois.

On December 2, 1953, Pfizer acquired exclusive licenses of Glidden patents for the synthesis of Substance S. Pfizer had developed a fermentation process for microbial 11β-oxygenation of steroids in a single step that could convert Substance S directly to 11β-hydrocortisone (cortisol), with Syntex undertaking large-scale production of cortexolone at very low cost.

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Oak Park and Julian Laboratories

Around 1950 Julian moved his family from Chicago to the village of Oak Park, Illinois, where the Julians were the first African-American family. Although some residents welcomed them into the community, there was also opposition by some. Their home was fire-bombed on Thanksgiving Day, 1950, before they moved in. After the Julians had moved to Oak Park, the house was attacked with dynamite on June 12, 1951. The attacks galvanized the community and a community group was formed to support the Julians. Julian’s son later recounted that during these times, he and his father often kept watch over the family’s property by sitting in a tree with a shotgun.

In 1953, Julian founded his own research firm, Julian Laboratories, Inc. He brought many of his best chemists, including African-Americans and women, from Glidden to his own company. Julian won a contract to provide Upjohn with $2 million worth of progesterone. To compete against Syntex, he would have to use the same Mexican yam as his starting material. Julian used his own money and borrowed from friends to build a processing plant in Mexico, but he could not get a permit from the government to harvest the yams. Abraham Zlotnik, a former Jewish University of Vienna classmate whom Julian had helped escape from the Nazi European holocaust, led a search to find a new source of the yam in Guatemala for the company.

In July 1956, Julian and executives of two other American companies trying to enter the Mexican steroid intermediates market appeared before a U.S. Senate subcommittee. They testified that Syntex was using undue influence to monopolize access to the Mexican yam. The hearings resulted in Syntex signing a consent decree with the U.S. Justice Department. While it did not admit to restraining trade, it promised not to do so in the future. Within five years, large American multinational pharmaceutical companies had acquired all six producers of steroid intermediates in Mexico. Four of which were Mexican-owned.

Syntex reduced the cost of butts as an intermediate more than 250-fold over twelve years, from $80 per gram in 1943 to $0.31 per gram in 1955. Competition from Upjohn and General Mills, who had together made very substantial improvements in the production of progesterone from stigmasterol, forced the price of Mexican progesterone down to less than $0.15 per gram in 1957. The price continued to fall, bottoming out at $0.08 per gram in 1968.

In 1958, Upjohn purchased 6,900 kg of progesterone from Syntex at $0.135 per gram, 6,201 kg of progesterone from Searle (who had acquired Pesa) at $0.143 per gram, 5,150 kg of progesterone from Julian Laboratories at $0.14 per gram, and 1,925 kg of progesterone from General Mills (who had acquired Protex) at $0.142 per gram.

Despite continually falling bulk prices of steroid intermediates, an oligopoly of large American multinational pharmaceutical companies kept the wholesale prices of corticosteroid drugs fixed and unchanged into the 1960s. Cortisone was fixed at $5.48 per gram from 1954, hydrocortisone fixed at $7.99 per gram from 1954, and prednisone fixed at $35.80 per gram from 1956. Merck and Roussel Uclaf concentrated on improving the production of corticosteroids from cattle bile acids. In 1960 Roussel produced almost one-third of the world’s corticosteroids from bile acids.

One year Julian Laboratories chemists found a way to quadruple the yield on a product on which they were barely breaking even. Julian reduced their price for the product from $4,000 per kg down to $400 per kg He sold the company in 1961, for $2.3 million. The U.S. and Mexico facilities were purchased by Smith Kline and Julian’s chemical plant in Guatemala was purchased by Upjohn.

In 1964, Julian founded Julian Associates and Julian Research Institute, which he managed for the rest of his life.

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National Academy of Sciences

He was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1973 in recognition of his scientific achievements. He became the second African-American to be inducted, after David Blackwell.

Death

Julian died of liver cancer on April 19, 1975 in St. Theresa’s Hospital in Waukegan, Illinois and was buried in Elm Lawn Cemetery in Elmhurst, Illinois.

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Legacy and honors

 

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Nova documentary

Ruben Santiago-Hudson portrayed Percy Julian in the Public Broadcasting Service Nova documentary about his life, called Forgotten Genius. It was presented on the PBS network on February 6, 2007, with initial sponsorship by the Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation and further funding by theNational Endowment for the Humanities. Approximately sixty of Julian’s family members, friends, and work associates were interviewed for the docudrama.

Production on the biopic began at DePauw University‘s Greencastle campus in May 2002, and included video of Julian’s bust on display in the atrium of university’s Percy Lavon Julian Science and Mathematics Center. Completion and broadcasting of the documentary program was delayed in order for Nova to commission and publish a matching book on Julian’s life.

According to University of Illinois historian James Anderson in the film, “His story is a story of great accomplishment, of heroic efforts and overcoming tremendous odds… …a story about who we are and what we stand for, and the challenges that have been there, and the challenges that are still with us.”

 

Patents

 

Publications

 

 

 

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Whats Wrong With AmeriKKKa, Whats Right With America….In Images.


 

By Jueseppi B.

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Whats wrong with AmeriKKKa……

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Family Research Council

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Citizen United

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Whats right with America……

 

Just the start? President Obama announces preliminary Affordable Care Act signups. (Nicholas Kamm / AFP/Getty Images / April 1, 2014)

Just the start? President Obama announces preliminary Affordable Care Act signups. (Nicholas Kamm / AFP/Getty Images / April 1, 2014)

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Vice President Joe Biden ceremonially swears in Small Business Administrator Maria Contreras-Sweet, with her husband Ray Sweet holding the bible, in the South Court Auditorium of the White House, April 7, 2014. (Official White House Photo by David Lienemann)

Vice President Joe Biden ceremonially swears in Small Business Administrator Maria Contreras-Sweet, with her husband Ray Sweet holding the bible, in the South Court Auditorium of the White House, April 7, 2014. (Official White House Photo by David Lienemann)

“The New Yorker” April 14, 2014 Magazine Cover

“The New Yorker” April 14, 2014 Magazine Cover

President Obama looks over a student’s work as he visits a classroom at Bladensburg High School, Md., April 7

President Obama looks over a student’s work as he visits a classroom at Bladensburg High School, Md., April 7

The Democratic-led U.S. Senate agreed by a voice vote to begin debate on a bipartisan bill to renew expired jobless benefits for 2.2 million Americans.

The Democratic-led U.S. Senate agreed by a voice vote to begin debate on a bipartisan bill to renew expired jobless benefits for 2.2 million Americans.

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President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama receive a Paralympic and Olympic flag signed by all the Olympians from Alpine Skier Jon Lujan and Ice Hockey forward Julie Chu

President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama receive a Paralympic and Olympic flag signed by all the Olympians from Alpine Skier Jon Lujan and Ice Hockey forward Julie Chu

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An Update On The President’s My Brother’s Keeper Initiative.


 

By Jueseppi B.

President Barack Obama delivers remarks at an event to highlight "My Brother's Keeper," an initiative to expand opportunity for young men and boys of color, in the East Room of the White House, Feb. 27, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

President Barack Obama delivers remarks at an event to highlight “My Brother’s Keeper,” an initiative to expand opportunity for young men and boys of color, in the East Room of the White House, Feb. 27, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

 

An Update on the President’s My Brother’s Keeper Initiative

 

 

“My administration’s policiesfrom early childhood education to job training, to minimum wagesare designed to give a hand up to everybody, every child, every American willing to work hard and take responsibility for their own success. That’s the larger agenda. 

 

 

President Obama Speaks on the My Brother’s Keeper Initiative

 

Published on Feb 27, 2014

President Obama launches a new effort aimed at empowering boys and young men of color, a segment of our society that too often faces disproportionate challenges and obstacles to success. February 27, 2014.

 

 

 

But the plain fact is there are some Americans who, in the aggregate, are consistently doing worse in our societygroups that have had the odds stacked against them in unique ways that require unique solutions; groups who’ve seen fewer opportunities that have spanned generations. And by almost every measure, the group that is facing some of the most severe challenges in the 21st century in this country are boys and young men of color.”

 

President Obama used these words to launch My Brother’s Keeper, his initiative to help ensure that boys and young men of color in America have the opportunity to reach their full potential.

 

Since then, the public response has been overwhelming. We’ve heard from private philanthropies and businesses, mayors, state and local leaders, faith organizations, community based non-profits, and thousands of  interested citizens, all who are committed to creating more pathways to success for these boys and young men. We will continue to engage and listen to these critical voices and those of the boys and young men this initiative focuses on, as we continue to learn from the efforts of the many stakeholders who have been committed to this cause for years. And we will do our best to live up to the optimism and incredible expectations this initiative has unleashed.

 

The first phase of the initiative has already begun in earnest and we want to provide an update on our progress to date and a sense of what to expect in the near future.

 

The Task Force has begun a 90-day process to develop the plans and infrastructure required to implement and sustain the initiative’s efforts. We are currently listening and engaging, working with stakeholders across the country to get their feedback on how we can all work together to make this initiative a success.

 

On the day of the launch in February, President Obama signed aPresidential Memorandum on “Creating and Expanding Ladders of Opportunity for Boys and Young Men of Color” which created a Federal Task Force to provide an assessment of and recommendations on how public and private actors can improve measurably expected educational and life outcomes and address persistent opportunity gaps. To inform that work, the President called for tools that will assess critical indicators of life outcomes for boys and young men of color and online engagement to lift up strategies, practices and programs with strong evidence of improving outcomes.

 

The Task Force’s work begins with identifying these critical indicators. We are focusing on five key moments that mark critical junctures on the path to healthy and productive adulthood: early learning and literacy, pathway to college and careers, ladders to jobs, mentors and support networks, and interactions with criminal justice and violent crime. Participating federal agencies are also now beginning to assess strategies, practices and programs to determine how they impact life outcomes for boys and young men of color. All of this work will inform a report by the Task Force on our progress and recommendations that we will submit to the President at the end of this 90-day listening and learning process.

 

At the same time, ten leading foundations have launched aprivate sector coalition that seeks to invest at least $200 million dollars over the next five years to find and rapidly spread solutions that have the highest potential for impact. This is on top of $150 million in current spending that these foundations have already committed toward this work. These foundations have announced they aim to put in place a strategy and infrastructure for coordination of their investments and additional commitments from a diverse array of actors from other sectors.

 

My Brother’s Keeper is focused on unlocking the full potential of boys and young men of colorsomething that will not only benefit them, but all of America. The Federal Task Force will pursue collaborative and multidisciplinary approaches to building ladders of opportunity. We are excited about the progress we are making and believe this effort has the potential to teach us a great deal about using evidence-based strategies to achieve the universal goals we have for all of our nation’s children.

 

Broderick Johnson is Assistant to the President and White House Cabinet Secretary, and the Chair of the My Brother’s Keeper Task Force. Jim Shelton is the Deputy Secretary of Education and Executive Director of the Task Force.

 

More information:

Related Topics: Urban Policy

 

 

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