Paule marshall – Black History


Mourning Paule Marshall, the Foremother Who Didn’t Always Love Me Back

Born April 9, 1929

Rosamond S. King on the Contradictions of Literary Gratitude

By Rosamond S. King

On August 12, Paule Marshall died. It was exactly one week after another black woman author passed away—that author had won the Nobel Prize, and a major documentary about her is or was probably playing in a theatre near you. I was sad about Toni Morrison’s death and posted images of and quotes from her interviews. But when I heard about Paule Marshall’s passing, I had a deeper and wider range of feeling that surprised me—sadness that there wouldn’t be another novel, anger that I never got to meet her, to interview her, or just to ask questions I never got answers to. I’m a queer Caribbean writer and critic, and Marshall is the literary foremother I love who didn’t always love me back.

In 1959, the year of the Cuban Revolution, when Richard Nixon was vice president, when most literature, and certainly most Caribbean literature, was published by men, Paule Marshall, a brown-skinned, Brooklyn-born daughter of working-class Barbadian (or Bajan) immigrants, published her first book, Brown Girl, Brownstones. By the time of her death on August 12, Marshall had written nine critically acclaimed books, won a MacArthur Fellowship, a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Before Columbus Foundation’s American Book Award and numerous other accolades. Her work became a staple in college classrooms of both African-American and Caribbean literature.

Just shy of 40 years later, I, the brown-skinned daughter of immigrants from Africa and the Caribbean, began reading Marshall’s work while at college in upstate New York. Her fiction, groundbreaking because of its frank portrayals of black, working class families, and because her protagonists clearly see the good, the bad, and the hypocrisy in the communities they belong to and love, still feels relevant and urgent. These black women she wrote about—sometimes young, often middle-aged—struggle to come to terms with their personal and cultural histories and with figuring out where they belong (and for the older women, what and whom to embrace in the second half of their lives).

Her description of Caribbean-American experiences in Brown Girl, Brownstones resonates with immigrants of many backgrounds in the midst of today’s vocal anti-immigrant sentiments. And her portrayal of everyday black women—those she called “kitchen table poets”—who seek lives of great joy and fulfillment, including both an intellectual life and sexual pleasure, provides a model for resisting seduction by the anger and despair that surrounds us.



history… March10

0241 BC – The Roman fleet sank 50 Carthaginian ships in the Battle of Aegusa.

1496 – Christopher Columbus concluded his second visit to the Western Hemisphere when he left Hispaniola for Spain.

1629 – England’s King Charles I dissolved Parliament and did not call it back for 11 years.

1656 – In the American colony of Virginia, suffrage was extended to all free men regardless of their religion.

1785 – Thomas Jefferson was appointed minister to France. He succeeded Benjamin Franklin.

1792 – John Stone patented the pile driver.

1804 – The formal ceremonies transferring the Louisiana Purchase from France to the U.S. took place in St. Louis.

1806 – The Dutch in Cape Town, South Africa surrendered to the British.

1814 – In France, Napoleon Bonaparte was defeated by a combined Allied Army at the battle of Laon.

1848 – The U.S. Senate ratified the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, which ended the war with Mexico.

1849 – Abraham Lincoln applied for a patent for a device to lift vessels over shoals by means of inflated cylinders.

1864 – Ulysses S. Grant became commander of the Union armies in the U.S. Civil War.

1876 – Alexander Graham Bell made the first successful call with the telephone. He spoke the words “Mr. Watson, come here, I want to see you.”

1880 – The Salvation Army arrived in the U.S. from England.

1893 – New Mexico State University canceled its first graduation ceremony because the only graduate was robbed and killed the night before.

1894 – New York Gov. Roswell P. Flower signed the nation’s first dog-licensing law.

1902 – The Boers of South Africa scored their last victory over the British, when they captured British General Methuen and 200 men.

1902 – Tochangri, Turkey, was entirely wiped out by an earthquake.

1902 – U.S. Attorney General Philander Knox announced that a suit was being brought against Morgan and Harriman’s Northern Securities Company. The suit was enforcement of the Sherman Antitrust Act. Northern Securities loss in court was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court on March 14, 1904.

1903 – Harry C. Gammeter patented the multigraph duplicating machine.

1903 – In New York’s harbor, the disease-stricken ship Karmania was quarantined with six dead from cholera.

1906 – In France, 1,200 miners were buried in an explosion at Courrieres.

1909 – Britain extracted territorial concessions from Siam and Malaya.

1910 – Slavery was abolished in China.

1912 – China became a republic after the overthrow of the Manchu Ch’ing Dynasty.

1913 – William Knox rolled the first perfect 300 game in tournament competition.

1924 – The U.S. Supreme Court upheld a New York state law forbidding late-night work for women.

1927 – Prussia lifted its Nazi ban allowing Adolf Hitler to speak in public.

1933 – Nevada became the first U.S. state to regulate drugs.

1940 – W2XBS-TV in New York City aired the first televised opera as it presented scenes from “I Pagliacci”.

1941 – The Brooklyn Dodgers announced that their players would begin wearing batting helmets during the 1941 season.

1941 – Vichy France threatened to use its navy unless Britain allowed food to reach France.

1944 – The Irish refused to oust all Axis envoys and denied the accusation of spying on Allied troops.

1945 – American B-29 bombers attacked Tokyo, Japan, 100,000 were killed.

1947 – The Big Four met in Moscow to discuss the future of Germany.

1947 – Poland and Czechoslovakia signed a 20-year mutual aid pact.

1949 – Nazi wartime broadcaster Mildred E. Gillars, also known as “Axis Sally,” was convicted in Washington, DC. Gillars was convicted of treason and served 12 years in prison.

1953 – North Korean gunners at Wonsan fired upon the USS Missouri. The ship responded by firing 998 rounds at the enemy position.

1955 – The last broadcast of “The Silver Eagle” was heard on radio.

1956 – Julie Andrews at the age of 23 made her TV debut in “High Tor” with Bing Crosby and Nancy Olson.

1959 – “Sweet Bird of Youth”, a play by Tennessee Williams, opened in New York City.

1965 – Walter Matthau and Art Carney opened in “The Odd Couple”. It later became a hit on television.

1966 – The North Vietnamese captured a Green Beret camp at Ashau Valley.

1966 – France withdrew from NATO’s military command to protest U.S. dominance of the alliance and asked NATO to move its headquarters from Paris.

1969 – James Earl Ray pled guilty in Memphis, TN, to the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. Ray later repudiated the guilty plea and maintained his innocence until his death in April of 1998.

1971 – The U.S. Senate approved an amendment to lower the voting age to 18.

1975 – The North Vietnamese Army attacked the South Vietnamese town of Ban Me Thout.

1980 – Iran’s leader, Ayatollah Khomeini, lent his support to the militants holding American hostages in Tehran.

1981 – The U.S. Postal Service announced an increase in first class postage from 15 to 18 cents.

1982 – The U.S. banned Libyan oil imports due to their continued support of terrorism.

1986 – The Wrigley Company, of Chicago, raised the price of its seven-stick pack of Wrigley’s chewing gum from a quarter to 30 cents.

1987 – The Vatican condemned surrogate parenting as well as test-tube and artificial insemination.

1990 – Haitian President Prosper Avril was ousted 18 months after seizing power in a coup.

1991 – “Phase Echo” began. It was the operation to withdraw 540,000 U.S. troops from the Persian Gulf region.

1994 – White House officials began testifying before a federal grand jury about the Whitewater controversy.

1995 – U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher told Yasser Arafat that he must do more to curb Palestinian terrorists.

1998 – U.S. troops in the Persian Gulf began receiving the first vaccinations against anthrax.

2002 – The Associated Press reported that the Pentagon informed the U.S. Congress in January that it was making contingency plans for the possible use of nuclear weapons against countries that threaten the U.S. with weapons of mass destruction, including Iraq and North Korea.

hidden figures – Dorothy J. Vaughan … wife, mom and NASA manager

Full Name: Dorothy Johnson Vaughan

 Birthdate: September 20, 1910
 Birthplace: Kansas City, MO
 Education: BA, Mathematics, Wilberforce University 1929
 Center: Langley Research Center

Work Dates: 1943 – 1971

Position(s): Computer; Section Head, West Area Computers; Mathematician, ACD

Group(s): West Computers; ACD

Specialties: Flight paths; Scout Project; FORTRAN programming


In an era when NASA is led by an African American man (Administrator Charles Bolden) and a woman (Deputy Administrator Dava Newman), when recent NASA Center Directors come from a variety of backgrounds, it’s easy to overlook the people who paved the way for the agency’s current robust and diverse workforce and leadership. Those who speak of NASA’s pioneers rarely mention the name Dorothy Vaughan, but as the head of the NACA’s segregated West Area Computing Unit, Vaughan was both a respected mathematician and NASA’s first African-American manager.

Dorothy Vaughan came to the Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory in 1943, during the height of World War II, leaving her position as the math teacher at Robert Russa Moton High School in Farmville, VA to take what she believed would be a temporary war job. Two years after President Roosevelt signed Executive Order 8802 into law, prohibiting racial, religious and ethnic discrimination in the country’s defense industry, the laboratory began hiring black women to meet the skyrocketing demand for processing aeronautical research data. Urgency and twenty-four hour shifts prevailed– as did Jim Crow laws which required newly-hired “colored” mathematicians to work separately from their white female counterparts. Dorothy Vaughan was assigned to the segregated “West Area Computing” unit, an all-black group of female mathematicians, who were originally required to use separate dining and bathroom facilities. Over time, both individually and as a group, the West Computers distinguished themselves with contributions to virtually every area of research at Langley.

The group’s original section heads (first Margery Hannah, then Blanche Sponsler) were white. In 1949, Dorothy Vaughan was promoted to lead the group, making her the NACA’s first black supervisor, and one of the NACA’s few female supervisors (see also Virginia Tucker). The Section Head title gave Dorothy rare centerwide visibility, and she collaborated with other well-known computers like Vera Huckel and Sara Bullock on projects such as compiling a handbook for algebraic methods for calculating machines. Vaughan was a steadfast advocate for the women of West Computing, and even intervened on behalf of white computers in other groups who deserved promotions or pay raises. Engineers valued her recommendations as to the best “girls” for a particular project, and for challenging assignments they often requested that she personally handle the work.

Dorothy Vaughan helmed West Computing for nearly a decade. In 1958, when the NACA made the transition to NASA, segregated facilities, including the West Computing office, were abolished. Dorothy Vaughan and many of the former West Computers joined the new Analysis and Computation Division (ACD), a racially and gender-integrated group on the frontier of electronic computing. Dorothy Vaughan became an expert FORTRAN programmer, and she also contributed to the Scout Launch Vehicle Program.

Dorothy Vaughan retired from NASA in 1971. She sought, but never received, another management position at Langley. Her legacy lives on in the successful careers of notable West Computing alumni, including Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson, Eunice Smith and Kathryn Peddrew, and the achievements of second-generation mathematicians and engineers such as Christine Darden.