Josephine Baker aka Princesse Tam-Tam Honored With a Stamp

Today the U.S. Postal Service will issue a stamp of chanteuse Josephine Baker, known as Princesse Tam-Tam from her role in a 1935 French film of the same name.  The stamp is a reproduction of one of the vintage posters from the film and part of a series of commemorative stamps honoring black theatre. 

Earlier this year, Baker’s son was involved in a controversy with the U.S. Postal Service when he attempted to mail fifteen thousand postcards featuring a 1926 watercolor by Henry Fournier to patrons of his restaurant Chez Josephine.  The watercolor showed his mother topless and the post office refused to mail them saying they were pornographic.  Baker took them to court and won the right to send them. 

The link to the full article is here:

Save Our African American Treasures – Los Angeles

Are you going to be in the Los Angeles area this weekend?  Then you might want to check out the Save Our African American Treasures event sponsored by the National Museum of African American History and Culture.  Information about the event is below.

Have you ever wondered about the best way to preserve your family photo albums, dolls, quilts, wedding dresses and other heirlooms sitting in your attic or basement so they will last for future generations to enjoy?

If you live in the Los Angeles area, please join the National Museum of African American History and Culture this Saturday for day full of hands-on workshops that will teach you how to protect your family history. The event is in collaboration with the Japanese American National Museum and the California African American Museum.

Save Our African American Treasures – Los Angeles

Saturday, July 12, 2008

10AM to 4:30PM

Japanese American National Museum

369 East First Street

Los Angeles, CA

There will even be an opportunity for you to bring your items to be specially reviewed by a professional. Space for the individual item review is limited though, so please RSVP today by emailing or calling 1-888-249-8033. Furniture, art, rugs/carpets, or objects larger than a shopping bag will not be reviewed.

For a full schedule of all the day’s events, visit our website.

We hope to see you there!

A note to our AAHGS California members — if you do attend this event, why not submit a review to the AAHGS News and tell us about it?  What did you like best?  least?  What was the most interesting to you?  Did you discover anything new about your family heirlooms or learn a new technique on preservation that you would like to share?  Send your thoughts to and let us know how it went. 

AAHGS News Deadline: July 5th

Just a reminder for those who wish to submit articles for consideration that the deadline for the July/August 2008 issue is July 5th.  Thank you to all of the people who take the time and energy to commit their thoughts to paper and share them willingly with our membership.  Without your contributions, the newsletter would cease to exist.  Editing the News has been an educational experience.  The depth and breadth of knowledge possessed by our members never fails to amaze me issue after issue.  The September/October issue will mark my one year anniversary as Editor.  I cannot wait to see what the next year brings. 

Forgotten Patriots

July Fourth is Independence Day in the United States.  A celebration of the freedom fought for and won by those escaping religious persecution in another country.  If you are like most people, July 4th brings forth images of Paul Revere, Minutemen, fifes, drums, and British in red uniforms.  It also brings forth thoughts of fireworks, barbecues, and family celebrations.  But what about those freedom fighters who were forcibly brought to this country and enslaved by the very people who professed freedom for all mankind?  What about those who fought for freedom in their own land alongside those who took it and slaughtered them in the name of colonization? 

This Fourth of July, I challenge you to remember these forgotten patriots.  If you think that they were few and far between, you would be wrong.  The National Society Daughters of the American Revolution has produced a prodigious work, 854 pages to be exact, listing names of those African Americans and Native Americans that fought in the War for Independence.  Entitled Forgotten Patriots African American and American Indian Patriots in the Revolutionary War, A Guide to Service, Sources and Studies, (ISBN 978-1-892237-10-1) this book is a wealth of information about those forgotten patriots who fought for freedom in this country. 

Who were the forgotten patriots in your communities?  If you do not know, maybe it is about time you found out.  This Fourth of July, I will remember Cato Wood, a black man from what is now Arlington, Massachusetts, a man remembered by barely a one sentence notation in the history of that town.  I will also remember Cuff Dole.  I came across his name while researching colonial records in Essex County.  Again, one sentence mentioning a sluice he dug for an area mill and no mention of his service to this country.  And of course, I will remember Prince Estabrook.  Commemorated in a speech by AAHGS-NE member Charles Price a re-enactor who has portrayed Estabrook in the Lexington, Massachusetts Battle on Lexington Green for over 30 years, his dignified portrayal resulted in a monument being erected this year in memory of Estabrook’s service to this country – over 230 years after the fact. 

Regardless of their own situations, these men fought for the freedoms that we hold dear.  They fought for something bigger than themselves, for a dream that they had for the future – an American dream.  They had a dream that “…one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed:  “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.””  One hundred and eighty-seven years before Martin Luther King, Jr. gave that famous speech in Washington, D.C. in front of the Lincoln Memorial; these men were working towards a dream.  I think they deserve to be remembered, don’t you?


A Cemetery Rediscovered

I am always concerned about lost cemeteries.  Most people would imagine that once they bury their loved ones, that hallowed ground would remain forever so.  Unfortunately, I have seen too many cases where this was the exception rather than the rule.  One such case came to my attention this week from Cape Giradeau County, Missouri, in the News Leader newspaper. 

Shady Grove Cemetery in southeast Missouri near Dutchtown houses the remains of area residents from 1887 to 1972.  Several books have been written on the Shady Grove area, a rural black community whose residents came from surrounding towns and slave-holding estates.  Two noted in the article:  “Rural Schools and Communities in Cape Girardeau County” by Christabel Lacy and Bob White; and “Dark Woods and Periwinkle:  A Glance Back at Shady Grove” by Diana Steele-Bryant and Sharon Sanders.  In Dark Woods the authors noted that 245 burials in Shady Grove cemetery were documented utilizing mortuary records and obituaries from local newspapers.  Unfortunately, even this publicity has been unable to revive the cemetery which sits overgrown with poison ivy and weeds. 

For me, the article raised more questions than it answered including whether or not anyone was actively pursuing National Register of Historic Places paperwork mentioned, where one could find the names of the individuals buried within, and if there were plans in place for a cleanup effort. 

I have requested further information from contacts listed in the article.  I will report back when I hear.

Boston’s “Freedom’s Trial” Tour Focuses on 19th Century African American Community

I’m a little bit late reporting on this one due to a vacation absence but if you are going to be in Boston for the Fourth of July festivities, the African American National Historic Site [(617) 742-5415] is holding three 90 minute walking tours of significant black historical sites in Boston.  The tour begins at Faneuil Hall and through downtown Boston and Beacon Hill.  Topics include “…education, suffrage, and religious worship.  Stops include the site of abolitionist Prince Hall’s Freemason lodge for blacks and the spot where William Lloyd Garrison gave a resounding anti-slavery speech.” 

There are only two times remaining for this specialized tour (the third was June 30th):  July 2nd and July 4th.  Reservations are recommended and can be made by calling 617-742-5415.  Both tours start at 11a.m.  They are led by Horace Seldon who taught for 26 years at Boston College on the history of racism in the United States. 


Thomas I. Atkins, Boston Civil Rights Activist Dies

The Sunday Boston Globe reports that Thomas I. Atkins, lawyer, Boston’s first black at-large city councilor, NAACP leader and tireless Civil Rights activist known for his role in the 1970s school segregation cases involving busing in Boston has died at 69 of Lou Gherig’s disease. 

Born in Elkhart, Indiana, Mr. Atkins graduated from Harvard Law School and remained in the Boston area where he is credited with many things including minimizing the unrest in Boston after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.   While other cities were rioting, Atkins persuaded Mayor Kevin White to continue with plans to hold a James Brown concert at Boston Garden and have it televised live.  

The entire article can be found at by using their search function or at the below link:

Mr. Atkins leaves two sons, his former wife, siblings in Indiana, and three granddaughters and one great-granddaughter.  His daughter, Trena, predeceased him in 2006.  The family is planning a memorial service in lieu of a funeral.