The Beauty of the Past Belongs to the Past

April is also Parkinson’s Disease Awareness Month. Parkinson’s Disease (PD) is a “neurodegenerative disorder that affects predominately dopamine-producing (“dopaminergic”) neurons in a specific area of the brain called substantia nigra.” Symptoms develop slowly and progress and different rates, depending on the person. Symptoms may include tremors, rigid limbs, and problems with gait and balance. The cause is still largely unknown, and while there is no cure, treatments such as medications and surgery are available. Parkinson’s is not fatal, but its complications can be, making it the 14th cause of death in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) rated complications from PD as the 14th cause of death in the United States.


The disease is named after the British Dr. James Parkinson, who recorded the first detailed description in his 1817 “An Essay on the Shaking Palsy.” April 11 is World Parkinson’s Day, in honor of Dr. Parkinson’s birthday.


Sir Roger Gilbert Bannister CH (Order of the Companions of Honour) CBE (Order of the British Empire) (23 March 1929 – 3 March 2018) was the first man to run a mile in less than four minutes.

Roger Gilbert Bannister was born on 23 March 1929 in Harrow, Middlesex. He studied medicine at Oxford before attending St. Mary’s Hospital Medical School. He took up athletics at Oxford, using his medical knowledge to develop a training regiment and study the mechanical aspects of running. However, his studies only allowed him thirty minutes of practice per day. At the time, athletics was not a lucrative position. Bannister believed that he would stop being an athlete as soon as he graduated. But, when he was running a mile in less than five minutes after only three sessions, be began to consider competing in the 1948 London Olympics.

He was selected for the British Olympic team for the Helsinki games. He finished fourth in the 1500m final, setting a new British record. While Bannister did not compete at Helsinki, he continued training for the Commonwealth Games.

At the Oxford’s Iffley Road track on May 6, 1954, Bannister set a world record by running a mile in 3:59.4. The New York Times, declared that Bannister had “reach[ed] one of man’s hitherto unattainable goals.” Australia’s John Landy broke his record forty-six days later when he ran a mile in 3:57.4 in Finland.

The two would meet months later at the August 1954 Vancouver Games. Bannister won gold when he finished at 3:58.8 and Landy came in second at 3:59.6. Bannister retired from running that December to concentrate on his medical career. His memoir, The Four-Minute Mile was published in 1955, re-issued fifty years later as The First Four Minutes.

Within ten years, Bannister was on his way to becoming a leading neurologist. He would eventually become the Master of Pembroke College, Oxford. In 1971, he became the first chairman of the Sports Council, leading the charge on drug-testing in athletics. He was knighted four years later and became a Companion of Honour in the 2017 New Year’s Honours.

He was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease in 2011 and died in 2018.

Bannister was the founding president of the British Milers’ Club (BMC). In 2004, on the 50th anniversary of Bannister’s accomplishment, the BMC held a special meeting where Craig Mottram of Australia won the men’s mile at 3:56.64 and Sonia O’Sullivan won the women’s mile in 4:27.79. The BMC had a new race in Bannister’s memory. The 2018 race offers £1000 for the series winner.


Margaret Bourke-White (June 14, 1904 – August 27, 1971) was an American photographer and documentary photographer, best known as being the first on several occasions on the international and war front.

Bourke-White was born in Bronx, New York to a Polish-Jewish father and a Catholic English-Irish mother. Her father worked with printing presses and the developing offset lithography and the rotary press and her mother worked in publishing. At Columbia University, she studied herpetology (the study of reptiles and amphibians), but switched to photography after taking a class taught by Clarence White. After her father died, she left soon and married Everett Chapman. They divorced a year later.

After graduating from Cornell in 1927, Bourke-White pursued photography as a profession, accepting an offer from Henry Luce, founder of Fortune magazine, as associate editor in 1929.

The following year, she went to Germany and the Soviet Union to photograph life there, becoming the first Western photographer allowed into the Soviet Union. After returning to the United States, she published Eyes on Russia. She returned in 1931 to college material for a New York Times series, then in 1932, took motion pictures of Russian industry, becoming the first person to be allowed to leave the country with film.

In 1936, Bourke-White joined Life magazine and became one of four photographers. She traveled around the world for various assignments over the next decades and published and published books of her photographs. The magazine’s first issue, published on November 23, 1936, featured her photograph of Fort Peck Dam. She and writer Erskine Caldwell spent the next few years traveling around the world and co-publishing what they saw, from the living conditions of the poor in South American, to the Sudatenland conflict and preparations for war in London, the fall after they married.

In 1940, she left Life magazine to work for PM, and she and Caldwell travel the United States. In the spring of 1941, the couple traveled through across the Pacific, ending up in Russia. Bourke-White was the only US photographer there when the Germans attacked Moscow. She used the light of the German flairs to take photographs, which she sent to Life.

After she and Caldwell separated in 1942, she wrote Shooting the Russian War before becoming the first female war correspondent of the US Air Force. That summer, she was assigned to cover an Air Force B-18 crew, but on the way to North Africa in December, her convoy is torpedoed. The next month, she became the first woman to accompany a B-17 crew on a bombing mission. That fall, she is sent to cover the war in Cassino Valley and Naples, Italy. She returns home and writes Purple Heart Valley.

She returned to the war in the fall of 1944, assigned to Patton’s Third Army, crossing the German border. She became one of the first to see the Nazi concentration camps, and was present when Buchenwald was liberated, and took photographs of the prisoners. Her photographs were published in Life and in her book, Dear Fatherland, Rest Quietly about the war atrocities.

After the war, she moved to India to photograph the emerging class struggle. She met Ghandi, and took a picture with him, hours before he was assassinated. She wrote Halfway to Freedom between 1948 and 1949.

In 1949, Life sent her to South Africa. From 1952-3, she covered Japan and South Korea. In Korea, she began to feel the first effects of Parkinson’s Disease. Ten years later, Bourke-White published her final book, her autobiography, Portrait of Myself. She died in Connecticut in 1971.

Although she had taken her last photograph for Life in 1957, her name remained on the masthead until 1969.


Prince Claus of the Netherlands, Jonkheer van Amsberg (September 6, 1926 – October 6, 2002), was the husband of Queen Beatrix, and the Prince Consort of the Netherlands from 1980 until he died. He was born Klaus George Wilhelm Otto Friedrich von Amsberg, though he would later change the spelling of his first name to “Claus.”

van Amsberg was the only boy of his aristocratic parents’ seven children. He was born in Dotzingen, northern Germany, but his parents moved to Tazmania when he was two, to manage their sisal (plant native to Central America used to make rope, rugs, etc) plantation.

He returned to Germany in 1938, to attend boarding school, shortly after Hitler had appointed himself war minister. Like other young children, he joined the Hitler Youth. In 1944, he finished school and served in the German army in Denmark and in Italy, though he did not fight. A year later, at nineteen, he was captured near Merano Italy by US forces and sent to a POW camp. After being transferred to Britain, he worked as a driver and interpreter. After the war, the de-Nazification court cleared him and he went to Hamburg and got a law degree.

In 1961, van Amsberg joined the West German diplomatic corps and traveled around the world before joining the foreign ministry in Bonn. He met his future wife Dutch Crown Princess Beatrice in Switzerland in 1965. The romance was kept a secret for several months before a Dutch photographer exposed the relationship. Though her parents approved – her father was German-born – protests erupted in the Netherlands. An act of Parliament granted van Amsberg Dutch nationality.

That year, the Hague parliament reluctantly approved the couple’s engagement. 300,000 people signed a petition against the marriage and a smoke bomb exploded near the couple’s carriage during the wedding process nearly a year later. The house that Anne Frank lived in while in hiding was nearby. None of van Amsberg’s male family members attended the wedding, though his mother and six sisters were present. After the religious service, a royal degree named van Amsberg as prince of the Netherlands, changing the spelling of his given name to “Claus.”

Prince Claus worked to gain the Dutch people’s support. He denounced the Nazi regime, became fluent in Dutch, and involved in development work. He became especially interested in historical buildings, the environment and nature conservation, as well as the plight of Third World nations. After his wife became queen, she appointed him as a special adviser on development aid to the foreign ministry in view of his deep interest in the plight of the Third World nations. During his tenure, he came to believe that western aid to third world countries, such as cash and technology were a “concealed version of colonialism and imperialism.” He advocated for including culture within the policy encouraged countries to have self-respect and independence.

His most memorable moment came in 1998 awards reception for African fashion in the palace in Amsterdam. He declared admiration for Nelson Mandela’s casual dress and, after stripping off his tie, encourage the male audience members to do the same. This sparked a brief open-necked fashion craze, but the prince had to abide by royal decorum and resumed wearing ties.

One of his goals was to create an international platform for African creativity. The Prince Claus Fund was established on his 70th birthday in 1996, and has helped start an opera for the Sahel, a group of countries south of the Sahara Desert.

He was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 1991, and died of pneumonia. Prince Claus is survived by five sisters and his three sons, the eldest of whom is the first male heir to the Dutch throne in a century.

“The Must-Have Stories And The Ones That Are Often Overlooked”

Arab American Heritage Month

April is Arab American Heritage Month, established on April 8, 2017 so that “the contributions of Arab Americans throughout the country will be given the recognition and acclaim that they deserve.” which was Congress officially recognized on April 8, 2017.

Danny Thomas

Danny Thomas (January 6, 1912 – February 6, 1991) was an American nightclub comedian, singer, actor, and producer whose career spanned five decades.

Thomas was born Amos Muzyad Yakhoob Kairouz to Lebanese immigrants on a horse farm in Deerfield, Michigan, but his parents later changed his name to Amos Jacobs. Jacobs made his debut in 1932 in The Happy Hour Club, an amateur radio show in Detroit. In 1940, he changed his name to Danny Thomas, after his younger and eldest brother respectively, so that he could work at the 5100 Club without his family knowing that he was working in saloons. He soon discovered his talent in comedy.

During the 1930s and 40s, before his career took off, Thomas had prayed to St. Jude Thaddeus, the patron saint of hopeless causes, vowing to build a shrine to the saint when he succeeded in show business. In 1944, Thomas got his own program on CBS radio, The Danny Thomas Show, which ran until 1949. During World War II, Thomas entertained troops in North Africa, Italy, and the Philippines, before going into the movies after the war, starring in several films such as I’ll See You In My Dreams through the mid-1950s. Then he starred in Make Room For Daddy (1953–1964), which made him a household name. Then he became a producer, working with Sheldon Leonard to produce The Andy Griffith Show, The Dick Van Dyke Show, and others.

In the early 1950s, Thomas began discussing his idea to fulfill his vow to St. Jude, which eventually became creating a children’s hospital in Memphis, Tennessee. In 1955, Thomas began working with a group of businessmen to create a research hospital “devoted to curing catastrophic diseases in children.”

By 1955, local business leaders had joined his fundraising efforts to build the hospital, but it was the Arab-American community that provided the money to fund the operation cost for the hospital. In 1957, 100 representatives of the Arab-American community formed the American Lebanese Syrian Associated Charities (ALSAC), to raise funds to support St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. ALSAC’s national headquarters in Memphis and its regional offices throughout the country have assumed responsibility for all of the fundraising efforts. The ALSAC is now the third largest healthcare charity in the country. Physicians and scientists at St. Jude have increased the survival rate for childhood cancers from less than 20 percent in 1962 when the hospital opened, to 80 percent today, and from 4% to 94% for leukemia patients.

Thomas received many awards for his efforts. For his philanthropy, Pope Paul VI named Thomas a Knight Commander of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre. Thomas also received a Congressional Gold Medal, presented from President Ronald Reagan for his service to the community, was inducted into the Television Hall of Fame in 1990, and received the Bob Hope Humanitarian Award, posthumously, in 2004.

Thomas died on February 6, 1991, two days after celebrating the hospital’s 29th anniversary.


Frank Vincent Zappa (December 21, 1940 – December 4, 1993) was an American musician, composer, activist and filmmaker whose career more than 30 years and over 80 albums.

According to Zappa, his mother was French and Italian and Greek-Arab father who was born in Patrinico, Sicily. Zappa grew up playing in school orchestra and bands, and taught himself how to play many instruments, though he focused on guitar. He listened to rock & roll, R&B, classical, country music and other genres.

During the 1960s, Zappa joined several bands, eventually creating his own. He began recording in 1960, writing scores for B movies. In 1964, he joined Ray Collins’s band the Soul Giants, before re-inventing the group. The group was re-named the Mothers, as it toured clubs in Los Angeles, but after signing a contract with Verve Records in 1966, it renamed itself, Mothers of Invention. The band did not do well, losing money for five years until it was disbanded in 1969. Zappa re-formed it with a new lineup in 1971. Eventually, Zappa established Zappa Records and re-named the band Zappa in 1979.

In addition to writing and performing music, Zappa starred in several television shows, beginning with The Steve Allen Show in 1963. He also composed classical chamber and orchestra pieces which were conducted by Pierre Boulez and Zubin Mehta, and the Lyons Opera Ballet in France commissioned choreographers to created dances to his music. However, he eventually gave up classical composition because he did not want to deal with symphony orchestras. His 1988 album “Jazz From Hell” won a Grammy for best rock instrumental performance.

In the 1980s, Zappa worked against censorship in popular music, testifying before a Senate subcommittee hearings on “porn rock” and opposed warning labels on albums.

Vaclav Havel, a Zappa fan became president of Czechoslovakia in 1989 and invited Zappa to advise him as it became a capitalist society. For the first few months of 1990, Zappa was represented Czechoslovakia to the West in trade, culture, and tourism.

In the late 1980s, Zappa began organizing and re-mastering his 1960s albums for CDs. In November 1991, a series of concerts in New York City, called “Frank Zappa’s Universe” played a selection of his music. The concerts were taped for release.


Susan Deborah Chira (Born May 18, 1958) is an American journalist who has worked for over thirty years at the New York Times, who has won many Pulitzer Prizes for her coverage.

Chira was born in Manhattan and attended Harvard University where she received a BA in history and East Asian studies, graduating summa cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa in 1980. While at Harvard, she was a reporter and president of The Harvard Crimson. After graduating, she studied Japanese for eighteen months at the Inter-University Center for Japanese Language Studies in Tokyo and at Middlebury College in Vermont.

In 1981, Chira became a trainee on the metropolitan section of the New York Times and promoted to reporter in July 1982 in the Albany and Stanford bureaus and then as a reporter for the Business Day section. Since then, she has worked for a variety of sections at the New York Times, including national education and Tokyo correspondents, during the mid- to late 1980s. As Tokyo correspondent, Chira covered the South Korean summer Olympics in 1988. The following year, she wrote an obituary for Emperor Hirohito when he died in January.

After being a reporter for two decades, she became editorial director of book development in 2002. In 2004, she became foreign editor, a position she held until 2011. She became the deputy executive editor in 2014. In 2016, Chira one of the three deputy executive directors for the New York Times, as “the main masthead editor overseeing daily news” went to write gender issues for The Times. She covers gender for the Opinion section and the newsroom, and help assist the editor of the new unit focused on gender issues. In a 2017 article, “Why Women’ Aren’t C.E.O.s, According to Women Who Almost Were,” she explains several reasons why women are less likely to be CEOs: women aren’t as comfortable self-promoting, more likely to be criticized when they are in the limelight, and that men continue to be threatened by assertive women, how women “are not socialized to be unapologetically competitive,” and are also unduly penalized for mistakes, even if it is not their own. For example, Jan Fields, who went from a McDonald’s crew member to president of McDonald’s USA, the second highest position in the company. In 2012, after she pushed for higher prices, she was blamed for the first monthly drop in profits since 2003 and fired.

Chira has also discussed other issues, such as sexual harassment in the workplace

In 2009, when she was Assistant managing Editor of the Times, Chira was the victim of an anthrax hoax, when she received an envelope labeled “weaponized Anthrax” and bearing a swastika sticker with skull and bones, containing a white powder (that was later proven not to be anthrax).

In addition to reporting, Chira has written two books, Cautious Revolutionaries: Occupation Planners and Japan’s Post-War Land Reform published in 1982 and A Mother’s Place: Taking the Debate About Working Mothers Beyond Guilt and Blame, published in 1998.

Traveling and Traveling

In 1996, the Academy of American Poets, inspired by Black History Month and Women’s History Month, celebrated in February and March respectively, established April as National Poetry Month. President Clinton issued an official proclamation, declaring that National Poetry Month “offers us a welcome opportunity to celebrate not only the unsurpassed body of literature produced by our poets in the past, but also the vitality and diversity of voices reflected in the works of today’s American poetry.” National Poetry Month highlights the legacy and achievements of American poets, encourages reading, writing and publishing poetry.

The first poem was the “Epic of Gilgamesh,” a twelve tablet long epic that chronicles Gilgamesh’s search for immortality. The poem first started out as a series dating to around 2100 B.C., with the most complete version written by the Babylonians around 12th century B.C. The poem was lost around 600 B.C. until it was found in the mid-nineteenth century.

The first poems in the United States were songs used by Native Americans for various occasions such as initiations, healing ceremonies, or hunting rituals, as well as passing down tribal history and culture. The songs were chanted or sung rhythmically accompanied by drums or other instruments.

In 1912, Harriet Monroe founded the magazine Poetry in Chicago, the oldest monthly poetry magazine in the English-speaking world. Monroe established the magazine after seeing how the Art Institute and Orchestra Hall celebrated various art forms and wanted to do the same for poetry, and provide a way for poets to be paid for their work. Poetry was where T.S. Eliot, Ezra Pound, Carl Sandburg and others published their first poems.

Esther Belin

Esther Belin (Born: July 2, 1968) is a Diné (Navajo) multi-media artist and writer. Belin’s parents were part of the Special Navajo Five-Year Program, which operated from 1946-1961 at the Sherman Institute in Riverside California and were relocated in the 1950s from the Southwest to Los Angeles where Belin grew up. Her poems address the relocation and attempts to assimilate Native Americans into American culture, as well as issues of racism, alienation and substance abuse.

Belin graduated from the Institute of American Indian Arts and the University of California, Berkeley. Her first poetry collection, From the Belly of My Beauty (1999) won the American Book Award in 2000.

In an interview with the Studies in American Indian Literature (SAIL) that same year, Belin emphasized the connection between oral tradition and writing, explaining that she saw herself as “an interpreter of what happened in my parents’ generation,” and that she sees her books “as an anthropological text—telling what it’s like for Native people.” Her most recent publication was Of Cartography released in September 2017 from University of Arizona Press.


Anne Dudley Bradstreet (March 20, 1612–September 16, 1672) was the first female poet published in England and the American colonies.

Dudley was the daughter of Thomas Dudley, steward to the Earl of Lincoln in Sempringham from 1619 to 1630, and grew up on his estate where the library contained Virgil, Plutarch, Spenser, Sidney, Milton, Raleigh, and numerous other works.

Around 1628, Dudley married Simon Bradstreet, who assisted her father in managing the estate. In 1630, she, her husband and son Simon, as well as her father and the rest of her family sailed on the Arbella to the American colonies. They arrived in Salem, Massachusetts. The living conditions were primitive, a stark contrast to the luxury she had experienced in England. Over the next twenty years, Bradstreet had eight children and cared for her family as it moved around Massachusetts to improve their living conditions.

Her first poem, written when she was nineteen was, “Upon a Fit of Sickness, Anno. 1632,” and written in Newtown. It outlined traditional Puritan concerns about the brevity of life, certainty of death, and the hope for salvation. From 1635 to 1645, while living in Ipswich, Bradstreet wrote most of the poems that would be included in the first edition of The Tenth Muse Lately Sprung Up in America was published in London in 1650. Eight years later, William London listed it in his Catalog of the Most Vendible Books in England and George III reportedly had a copy in his library. The first American edition of her work, an expanded edition, re-titled Several Poems Compiled with Great Wit and Learning was published posthumously. Though her early work was “largely unremarkable,” her later work, a series of religious poems entitled Contemplation “won critical acceptance” when it was published in the middle of the twentieth century.


Lizette Woodworth Reese (1856–1935) was born in Huntington (now Waverly), Maryland to a father David Reese, who would fight in the Confederate army and become a prisoner of war during the Civil War, and a German mother, Louisa Gabler. After graduating from high school, she spent almost the next fifty years teaching English in Baltimore school. Her first poetry collection, A Branch of May was published in 1887 and received “wide recognition.” She went on to publish eight more volumes of poetry, two narrative poems, two memoirs, and an autobiography. Reese mixed colloquial speech and formal structure influenced others, such as Edna St. Vincent Millay and Louise Bogan.

Reese co-founded the Women’s Literary Club of Baltimore and acted as poetry chair from 1890 until she died. In 1931, she was named poet laureate of Maryland and granted an honorary doctorate from Goucher College. Reese was also a member of the Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore, acting as honorary president from 1922 until she died. She was awarded a degree of doctor of literature from Goucher College in 1931. In 1931, and won the Mary L. Keats Memorial Prize for contributions to literature.

After her mother died, Reese spent the last twenty years of her life living with her sister’s family. She died at the Church Home and Infirmary as Edgar Allan Poe had ninety years earlier. Reese was buried at St. John’s in the Village Church in Baltimore, Maryland. Her papers are collected at the Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore.

Uphill Climb All The Way

Today is one of the important days in National Deaf History Month, celebrated from March 13-April 15. Deaf History Month began as Deaf Awareness Week in December 1974, when Alice Lougee Hagemeyer, a Deaf librarian at the District of Columbia Public Library established Deaf Awareness Week, with talks by Deaf presenters. Five years later, she created The Red Notebook for Martin Luther King Memorial Library staff as a resource for information about the Deaf community.

In 1996, the National Association of the Deaf (NAD) suggested that the week be extended to a month, and a year later, the first National Deaf History Month was celebrated from March 13-April 15, to include several key dates in Deaf history.

On March 6, 1988, Gallaudet University’s Board of Trustees announced that Elisabeth A. Zinser, a hearing person had been selected as the seventh president. Students, supported by alumni, faculty, and staff shut down campus in protest. After a week, their demands were met and I. King Jordan became Gallaudet’s first Deaf president on March 13. The American School for the Deaf opened in Hartford Connecticut as the first permanent public school for the Deaf on April 15, 1817. Nearly fifty years later, President Lincoln signed Gallaudet University’s charter in Washington DC on April 8, 1864, establishing the first higher education institution for Deaf and hard-of-hearing students in the world.


Julia Brace (June 13, 1807-August 12, 1884) was the first deaf-blind person to be educated in the United States. Brace was born in what is now Newington, Hartford, Connecticut. By age five, she had been at school and could read, spell, and sew. However she contracted typhus fever which left her deaf and blind, and though she continued to speak for some time afterwards, she soon stopped. She received a rudimentary education in household skills and communicated with her family in home sign.

Shortly before she turned eighteen in 1825, when she became a student at the Hartford Asylum for the Deaf and Dumb (now called the American School for the Deaf). It had been founded in 1817 by Revered Thomas H. Gallaudet, Dr. Mason Fitch Cogswell and others, to expand the French system of education for the deaf begun by Abbe Sicard.

Through the 1820s and 30s, there was little attempt to educate Brace in reading and writing beyond manipulating wooden letters and pins on a cushion to produce words and learning to associate words with objects. She did, however learn tactile signing.

But attitudes toward her change in 1828 after Lydia Sigourney, a Hartford poet and educator published Brace’s story and wrote about her in three poems in the 1830s. In 1837, Hartford Asylum principal Lewis Weld wrote at length about Brace in the annual report, which also published a former matron’s recollections of Brace’s time there.

Around that time, Dr. Samuel Gridley Howe, superintendent of the Perkins Institution and Massachusetts Asylum for the Blind, visited the Asylum and began to teach Brace. He left and returned in the autumn of 1841, with Laura Bridgman, who had been his student for four years since age seven. Bridgman had become deaf and blind after contracting scarlet fever at two. She and her family, like Brace’s, developed rudimentary sign language to communicate Dr. Howe brought her to the Perkins School for the Blind when she was seven. At the Institute, Howe taught her English and after she had mastered that, added many other classes, including geography, arithmetic, history, physiology, philosophy, and history.

Seeing Bridgman’s progress, Sigourney urged him to perform a similar experiment with Brace. How was pessimistic about the attempt as Brace was now nearly thirty-five. Despite his hesitations, Brace enrolled in the Perkins Institute in 1942 and began to learn to read. In his 1842 report, Howe that while Brace was willing and able to learn, and could construct simple sentences, her decades-long use of sign language proved to be far easier.

One year after enrolling at Perkins, Brace returned to the Asylum and lived there until 1860 when she left to live with a married sister in Connecticut. She died on 1884 and is buried in an unmarked grave.


Andrew Foster (June 27, 1925-) was the first deaf black person to receive a Bachelor’s Degree from Gallaudet College. He established thirty-one schools for the deaf across thirteen countries in Africa.

Foster was born in 1925 in Ensley, Alabama. When he was eleven, he and his brother contracted spinal meningitis and became deaf. Foster attended the segregated Alabama School for the Colored Deaf in Talladega before moving to Flint Michigan at seventeen to attend the Michigan School for the Deaf through eighth grade. In 1950, he received his diploma in accounting and business administration from the Detroit Institute of Commerce, and his high school diploma through a correspondence course in 1951.

With encouragement from actor, teacher, and playwright Eric Malzkuhn who graduated from Gallaudet in 1943, Foster applied to Gallaudet. Foster was rejected several times because he was black. Finally, in 1951, he was accepted with a full scholarship, becoming Gallaudet’s first black student. He became the first black student to earn a bachelor’s degree when he graduated with a degree in education in 1954. He earned two master’s degrees, one in education from Eastern Michigan University in 1955 and, and the other in Christian Mission from Seattle Pacific College in Washington State in 1956.

Foster became interested in being a missionary after meeting a Jamaican missionary as a teenager. With encouragement from Gallaudet president Leonard Elstad, Foster established the Christian Mission for Deaf Africans (today the Christian Mission for the Deaf) in Detroit in 1956. He went on speaking tours around the world, including twenty-five African countries to raise funds for schools for the Deaf in Africa.

The following year, Foster went to Africa where there were only twelve schools for the Deaf in the Maghreb region of North Africa and in apartheid South Africa. Foster established the first schools for the Deaf in Ghana, Nigeria, Liberia. Over the next decades, Foster established many schools across the continent, from Senegal, Zaire, Kenya, to Congo. He taught, trained teachers, educated the public, and advised government officials. In addition to schools, he – and later his German wife Berta – also established Deaf churches, Sunday schools, youth camps, and teacher training facilities. His efforts led Gallaudet to welcome the first students from Foster’s schools in the mid-1960s.

For his work, Foster received many awards, including the Man of the Year award from Alpha Sigma Pi in 1962, an honorary doctorate in Humane Letters from Gallaudet in 1970, the Edward Miner Gallaudet Award from Gallaudet College Alumni Association (GCAA) in 1975, and the Medallion Award from Seattle Pacific University in 1982.

Foster died in a plane crash in Rwanda in December 1987 while traveling to Kenya. The Christian Mission for the Deaf continues to crate more schools and other facilities for Deaf people in Africa. In 2004, Gallaudet University named an auditorium in honor of Foster, to recognize his role as “Father of Deaf Education in Africa,” and his work. The Gallaudet University Museum includes an exhibit about Foster.


Juliette Gordon Low (October 31, 1860-1927) was a deaf woman who established the Girl Scouts in the United States.

Juliette Magill Kinzie Gordon was born in Savannah Georgia and, after several ear injuries as a child and young adult, she began losing her hearing at seventeen, and became almost totally deaf as an adult. She married Englishman William Mackay Low, the brother of a friend from boarding school in 1886. The couple spent their time in Savannah and England. The marriage soon deteriorated and by 1905, the couple was in the process of divorcing, but William Low died before it was finalized.

In 1912, while in England, she met Sir Robert Baden-Powell, who had recently founded the Boy Scouts, and was interested in creating a the Girl Guides similar organization for girls. This inspired Low who returned to the United States and established the Girl Guides. The first meeting of eighteen girls, was diverse, including girls from many cultural, ethnic, and class backgrounds. When Low returned to England six months later, there were six troops in Savannah.

In 1913, membership expanded to other states and therefore had to create a National Headquarters in Washington DC, which moved to New York in 1916. The organization also changed its name to Girl Scouts and published the first handbook: How Girls Can Help Their Country, adapted from the British Girl Guides handbook, How Girls Can Help to Build Up the Empire, written by Agnes Baden-Powell, Baden-Powell’s sister.

While the Girl Scouts emphasized teaching girls the skills to be homemakers, including cooking, preserving food, take care of the sick, gardening and identifying edible foods, Low also taught career training, from typing, telegraphy, and farming. Girl Scouts also taught about citizenship, the Constitution, history, and geography. As World War I neared, semaphore and Morse code were added. In 1920, the Girl Scouts established Low’s birthday, October 31, as Girl Scouts’ Founder’s Day.

After Low died in 1927 from breast cancer, her friends established the Juliette Low World Friendship Fund, which finances Girl Scout projects worldwide. She is memorialized on a postage stamp, schools, and even an opera. In addition to being inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame, President Obama awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2012. Her birthplace was designated as a registered National Historic Landmark in 1965.

Link to our Past, Bridge to our Future

Scottish-American Heritage Month is one of the many month-long celebrations observed in April. It began as National Tartan Day celebrated on April 6 to honor Scottish-Americans’ contributions to American History, and the anniversary of the 1320 Declaration of Arbroath (Scottish Independence), a model for the Declaration of Independence.

On April 4, 2008, President George Bush proclaimed April 6 would be Tartan Day in the USA. Many states, such as Texas, Massachusetts, and Alaska honor Scottish-Americans, though there is yet to be a national Scottish-American Heritage Month declaration.


Catherine Wolfe Bruce (January 22, 1816, New York – March 13, 1900, New York) was a noted American philanthropist and patroness of astronomy. She became interested with astronomy as a child, and over her lifetime gave over $200,000 to institutions and causes related to astronomy.

In 1877, Bruce donated $50,000 for a library and books to establish the George Bruce Library in her father’s memory. It was completed in 1888 and located on 42nd St. When it was sold in 1913, proceeds went to creating the library located on 125th St.

She donated money to construct three telescopes, one for Harvard Observatory, completed in 1895, the second for the Heidelberg Observatory, completed in 1900, and the last for the Yerkes Observatory, completed in 1904. The Bruce photographic telescope at Harvard was used when Professor Pickering discovered Phoebe one of Saturn’s moons, on in August, 1898. On September 11, 1898, Max Wolf, special professor of astrophysics and at the University of Heidelberg and director of the Königsstruhl Observatory, the first astronomer to use photographs to find asteroids, discovered his first asteroid, which he named Brucia in her honor.

Bruce also established the Bruce Gold Medal, presented annually to an astronomer for his or her lifetime achievements.

In 1897, Bruce established a fund within the Astronomical Society of the Pacific to award a gold medal annually for distinguished achievements in astronomy. The Catherine Wolfe Bruce Gold Medal of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific is one of the most prestigious and well known awards in the astrophysics community. It has been awarded to scientists worldwide.


Ranald MacDonald (February 3, 1824 – August 24, 1894) was the first native English-speaker to teach the English in Japan. MacDonald was born in Fort George, the primary fur trading post for John Jacob Astor’s Pacific Fur Company (PFC). His father Archibald (who spelled his name McDonald, while his children kept the original Scots spelling MacDonald), was an officer in the Hudson Bay Company. His mother Koale’xoa was the youngest daughter of Concomly (Comcomly), a leader of the Clatsop Chinook who lived on the lower Columbia River. Koale’xoa died soon after MacDonald was born and his father married Jane Klyne, a German and Swiss woman within two years.

Eva Emery Dye’s historical fiction and other stories created the myth that MacDonald met the three Japanese shipwrecked Japanese sailors, Iwakichi, Otokichi, and Kyūkichi, known as “the three kichis,” at Fort Vancouver in 1832. In reality, MacDonald spent the winter of 1833-4 there and left in March, around six weeks before the three sailors arrived.

At eighteen, he was apprenticed to Edward Ermatinger, a fur-trade banker, but soon decided to study Japanese. While he explained in his autobiography that he wanted to “instruct them of us,” it may have also been his belief that Japanese were the ancestors of Native Americans that compelled him. MacDonald left his bank job in 1945 and spent three years as a navigator and harpooner on a New England whaling vessel. In a prearranged plan with the captain of the whaler Plymouth, he left on a small boat and arrived on Rishiri Island, Hokkaido, in northern Japan. There the Ainu (the indigenous people of Japan) rescued him on July 1, 1848. He was eventually transported to a thousand miles to Nagasaki, the seat of the government.

In Nagasaki, MacDonald explained that he had been shipwrecked and that his intentions were peaceful, he was placed under house arrest instead of executed for entering the country illegally. For ten months, MacDonald taught English conversation and pronunciation to fourteen Japanese men who had been acting as interpreters between the Japanese and Dutch while they taught him Japanese. One of his students was Murayama Yeannoske (Einosuke Moriyama) who was a chief interpreter for the Japanese when Commodore Matthew C. Perry arrived in Japan to demand that the Shogunate open its door to America in 1854.

MacDonald was not the only American in Japan at the time. In June 1848, around the time MacDonald arrived in Hokkaido, thirteen seamen from the Lagoda had also arrived and had been arrested. All fourteen left Japan aboard the Preble.

For several years, MacDonald worked as a gold miner and rancher in Australia and Canada before returning to the United States. He wrote an account of his time in Japan: Japan: Story of Adventure of Ranald MacDonald, first teacher of English in Japan, A.D. 1848–49, published posthumously in 1923.

MacDonald died on August 24, 1894, and was buried in the Ranald MacDonald Cemetery in Ferry County, Washington. There are also monuments to him in Nagasaki (1964), Rishiri Island (1987), and Astoria (1988).


Alexander Murray Palmer Haley (August 11, 1921 – February 10, 1992) was an American writer and the author of the 1976 book Roots: The Saga of an American Family. ABC adapted the book as a television miniseries of the same name and aired it in 1977, which raised the public awareness of African American history and inspired a broad interest in genealogy and family history.

Haley was born in Ithaca, New York and enlisted in the US Coast Guard in 1939 where he became its first Chief Journalist. He won many awards, and was the first and only person to receive an honorary degree from the Coast Guard Academy. He retired in 1959 and became a magazine writer and interviewer.

His first book, The Autobiography of Malcolm X was published in 1965 and sold over six million copies by 1977. Time later named it one of the ten most important nonfiction books of the twentieth century.

After this success, Haley’s next project was to tell the story of his ancestors’ journey from Africa to America as slaves and their eventual freedom. Haley spent a decade researching across three continents, examining slave ship records in the United States, and England, and traveling to his ancestors’ home in Gambia, West Africa. His efforts culminated in Roots, loosely based on his family history published in 1976. It won the 1977 National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize and translated into thirty-seven languages. It was eventually adapted into a TV series.

After Roots, he began working on Queen: The Story of an American Family but died before it was finished. David Stevens completed the novel. Queen begins in 1841 and continues through the post-Civil War era, tracing the story of Haley’s ancestors. His grandmother, Queen Haley, was the daughter of Esther, a slave and James Jackson, Jr., the son of her master, who lived on a plantation in Florence, Alabama. Jackson planned to inherit his father’s plantation but has a crisis when he falls in love with Esther and conceives a child. Another ancestor’s story came down through the generations in family legend. In the 1840s, a Kentucky horse trader named Green Monroe Haley moved to Alabama and established a plantation in Marion County. Haley hired a man named William Baugh (pronounced “baff” in the Scottish dialect) who was a Scottish descent. Baugh had a son with a female slave named Viney, who was of Cherokee and African descent. Alec Baugh, born around 1850, took the Haley name and became Alec Haley, Alex Haley’s great-grandfather. After slavery was outlawed in 1865, Alec Haley moved to Tennessee where he married another former slave named Queen. Like Roots, Queen was also adapted into a TV miniseries, starring Hallie Berry.

Though Haley did not live to see it, in 2007, the family legend was confirmed. Haley’s nephew Chris Haley found that he was distantly related to a woman from south Wales who traced her lineage back to seventeenth-century Scotland.