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VIDEO: Princeton’s Former Woodrow Wilson Dorm to be Renamed After Black Woman, Mellody Hobson



Mellody Hobson1 - GettyImages-859915176-Cropped-1920x1080

Princeton alumnae Mellody Hobson speaks about a new dorm on campus that will bear her name

*The residential college at Princeton University formerly named after Woodrow Wilson will be rebuilt and renamed Hobson College. It will be the first building on campus to honor a Black woman.

Alumna Mellody Hobson’s name will grace the school’s newest dorm which houses freshmen students, the university announced.

“This extraordinary gift will be transformative for Princeton,” Princeton University President Christopher Eisgruber said. “It will enable us to improve the student experience at Princeton and to reimagine a central part of our campus, while also recognizing a remarkable woman who is a positive, powerful force for change in the world. Mellody Hobson is a wonderful role model for our students, and we are thrilled that her name will now grace our newest residential college.”

The newest residential college will be built on the site of First College, which previously bore the name of Princeton University’s former president, Wilson. The university plans to begin work on Hobson College in 2023 after two brand-new, currently under-construction dorms open. Hobson College is tentatively scheduled to open in Fall 2026, with the goal of welcoming students from the Class of 2030.

A 1991 graduate of the Ivy League school, Hobson serves as Co-CEO of a Chicago-based investments company called Ariel Investments.

“No one from my family had graduated from college when I arrived at Princeton from Chicago, and yet even as I looked up at buildings named after the likes of Rockefeller and Forbes, I felt at home,” said Hobson, whose husband is filmmaker George Lucas. “My hope is that my name will remind future generations of students — especially those who are Black and brown and the ‘firsts’ in their families — that they too belong. Renaming Wilson College is my very personal way of letting them know that our past does not have to be our future.”

Watch a video of her remarks below.

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Princeton also snatched Wilson’s name from its public policy school, and had renamed it School of Public and International Affairs.

Wilson served as Princeton’s 13th university president from 1902-1910 before being elected New Jersey’s 34th governor in 1911. Two years later, he became the 28th President of the United States and served two terms in the White House.

However, Wilson has received strong criticism for furthering racial segregation and white supremacy across the country. During his presidency, Wilson segregated the nation’s civil service after it had been integrated for decades.

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The Incredible Life of Daniel Smith, Living Son of a Slave



Daniel Smith1
Daniel Smith

Daniel Smith

*As one of the few living children of a slave, 88-year-old Daniel Smith has a unique perspective on race relations in America.

Smith’s father, Abram “A.B.” Smith, was born into slavery in 1863 and was 70 years old when he had Daniel, his sixth child, in 1932. Smith, who grew up hearing stories from his father about America’s most shameful period, would go on to build a remarkable life and witness momentous events in the ongoing struggle for racial equality.

Smith draws a direct comparison between the civil rights movement of the 1960s and the racial justice protests of today.

Daniel Smith, 87, poses for a portrait at his home in Washington, D.C. on September 29, 2020. (Randy Marso/Zenger)

“When the [Ku Klux Klan] bombed the church [in Birmingham, Alabama], that finally got the ministers and the clergy to join Martin Luther King,” he said. “They finally came. Today, Black Lives Matter — after George Floyd was killed, it galvanized everyone. Everyone watched someone die on TV.”

Smith was born and raised in Winsted, Connecticut, a small town with a population of 10,000 that included only about 20 African Americans at the time of his birth. Smith grew up with four older sisters and one older brother, and his family of eight made up nearly half of the town’s Black population.

Daniel Smith’s high school yearbook entry. (Courtesy: Daniel Smith)

Though Daniel Smith was just 6 years old when A.B. Smith died, he still has vivid memories of his father. “My father was a real gentleman. He was always a good provider on his salary of $16 a week. When he went to work, I was still in bed. When he came home, I was in bed,” Smith said. “We would have these big Sunday dinners —a step down from Thanksgiving dinner.”

Smith recalls hearing firsthand accounts of slavery during his youth, primarily from his father.

Daniel Smith, 87, poses for a portrait with photos of his parents at his home in Washington, D.C. on September 29, 2020. (Randy Marso/Zenger)

“I used to get out of bed, sneak into my parents’ room, and put my head at the bottom of the bed, listening to their conversations. My father used to tell stories about the whipping posts, the hanging tree,” he said. “On Sundays, we would go to church, and you would hear people talking about similar things, but they had worse stories.”

Smith was the only African American at his high school, but he had a good experience there.

“I was very popular primarily because I was the only Black, and I was a novelty,” Smith said. “I had no problems with the girls, but they couldn’t publicly acknowledge any type of relationship with me.”

Daniel Smith, 87, poses for a portrait at his home in Washington, D.C. on September 29, 2020. (Randy Marso/Zenger)

After graduating from high school, Smith served in the U.S. military as an operating room technician and a scrub nurse in the Korean War. He was also sent for certification as a Red Cross water safety instructor and worked as a lifeguard at one of the three concrete swimming pools in Korea during the summers.

Daniel Smith poses in uniform at Camp Pickett in Nottoway County, Virginia, on an unknown date in 1952. (Courtesy: Daniel Smith)

When his military service ended, Smith came home to Winsted, which suffered a hurricane-induced flood in 1955. Smith remembers seeing water rushing down the main street, taking cars and houses with it, and humbly recalls saving a drowning man during the flood. Pulitzer Prize winner John Hersey documented the event for the New Yorker.

“They identified me as Danny Smith, the Negro hero of the town,” Smith said.

When Smith ran for student council president at Springfield College in Massachusetts, his winning campaign slogan was “Vote for Dan, the man with a tan.” He continued his pursuit of higher education at the Tuskegee Institute School of Veterinary Medicine. But after the Klan killed four young Black girls in the 1963 bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, Smith felt compelled to leave school and join the civil rights movement.

Soon Smith and a white friend, Barry Fritz, found themselves in a crowd at the March on Washington, where they saw Martin Luther King Jr. and John Lewis speak at close range.

“I was reluctant to go at first because I didn’t want to get beat up. I thought there was going to be a big rise. I’m not a coward, but I’m not a fool,” Smith said.

But, he added, the risk was worth it: “The march was just unbelievable, especially when Martin Luther King gave his ‘I Have a Dream’ speech. You couldn’t find a dry eye. I was crying.”

Later that summer, Smith moved to Hayneville, Alabama, where he experienced many of the kinds of injustices that he said made Alabama “a hotbed for the civil rights movement.”

In 1965, he accepted a position as executive director of the Lowndes Christian Movement for Human Rights organization and began directing a program to teach migrant seasonal farmworkers how to read and write. He could not get electricity or a telephone line set up in the church building he worked out of without a white sponsor. After a judge by the name of Judge Hammon helped him, 24 of Hammon’s Black Angus cows were poisoned. Smith said there is “no doubt in my mind” that this was a message from the Klan.

Daniel Smith, 87, examines plants in his garden at his home in Washington, D.C. on September 29, 2020. (Randy Marso/Zenger)

Smith’s anti-poverty program was not popular with the whites in Alabama or with then-Gov. George Wallace, a conservative who infamously supported “Segregation today, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever.” Smith recalls being confronted by an intimidating lieutenant of Wallace’s who told Smith that Wallace considered him “an outside agitator from Connecticut.”

Shortly after, Smith’s church building was burned down.

Smith was undaunted, however, and continued to run the program from a trailer on the charred property.


“Oddly enough, I had anticipated that there would be some destruction to my building,” he said. “I had carefully made a copy of all my records and kept them at home.”

One night after work, Smith was driving the 40-mile commute from Hayneville to Tuskegee on an unlit highway when a car of white men rear ended his car.

“They came around the side of my car and said, ‘Pull over, black coon!’ And I thought, ‘Not me, not me,’” Smith said. “I sped as fast as I could and made it to the gas station. That’s why I’m here today.”

Smith moved to Washington, D.C. in 1968, where he developed neighborhood health centers. He got hired to direct a $60 million program at the National Institutes of Health in 1972 but faced “all kinds of discrimination and battles with the government.”

After retiring in 1994, he began to volunteer at the Korean War Veterans Memorial and serve as head usher of the Washington National Cathedral. As head usher, Smith escorted sitting presidents for three decades, from Ronald Reagan to George W. Bush.

In his age of retirement, Smith has high hopes for the newest generation of activists.

“They have done a tremendous job of putting the problems that America has in your face,” he said. “I support them with money and with voice.”

Daniel Smith and Loretta Fay Neumann pose at their wedding in an unknown location on an unknown date. (Courtesy: Daniel Smith)

Smith resides in D.C. with his wife, Loretta Neumann, and has two children from a previous marriage. He wed Neumann at the National Cathedral in 2006, under the same arches where he walked alongside presidents.

Smith is currently writing his life memoirs.

(Edited by Emily Crockett and Natalie Gross)

The post The Incredible Life of Daniel Smith, Living Son of a Slave appeared first on Zenger News.

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Duke University Librarian’s Simple Song & Stick-Figure Video About Curbside Pickup is a Bop (Watch)




Library Take Out

*All he was trying to do was come up with a creative way to promote Duke University library’s curbside pickup procedure throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

Duke librarian Jamie Keesecker crafted a simple-but-catchy synth-pop beat, wrote some light, punchy lyrics detailing the library’s checkout system and presented it with  crude, stick-figured, colored-penciled video. Nearly 700,000 views later, “Library Takeout” is now everybody’s jam. It’s also available on Spotify and Apple Music.

Keesecker, who earned a doctorate in music composition before taking a job at Duke’s Music Library, wrote the song and animated the video with help from his three-year-old daughter while working remotely. The whole vibe feels like Billie Eilish meets Prince’s “Annie Christian,” meets Aha’s “Take On Me” video – with some synth runs at the end reminiscent of Steve Miller Band’s “Fly Like an Eagle.”

“I decided I might as well try and see if I could put together a song,” Keesecker told Duke Today. “If it’s a total disaster, we don’t have to release it. But it could be just the thing we need to reach the people we’re trying to reach.”

Now, because of Keesecker, hundreds of thousands of people now know how to work Duke University’s contactless library checkout.

Watch below:

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The Sultana: Little-known, Little-told Civil War Tragedy




The Sultana

[Editor’s note: Here’s a little-known, little-told footnote about the Civil War that got little attention at the time of President Lincoln’s assassination, and the all-out pursuit of the assassin. Can you imagine being a prisoner of war in a hellish confederate prison in the south; freed and on your way home to loved ones only to meet another hellish fate? Author and Michigan historian, Larry B. Massie, tells this harrowing story in one of his volumes, “Voyages Into Michigan’s Past.”]

The Floating Inferno
The story of the ill-fated Sultana overloaded with troops
by Larry Massie

Faded blue uniforms hung loosely on their gaunt bodies. Weakened by months of starvation, disease and brutality in the infamous Confederate prison at Andersonville, Georgia and Cahaba, Alabama, many of the recently released soldiers that crowded the wharf at Vicksburg, Mississippi could hardly walk. Despite their condition, the men joked and bantered with each other. They were going home – back to loved ones in Indiana, Ohio and Michigan.

It was April 24th 1865. Lee had surrendered to Grant at Appomattox Court House on April 9th, and for all practical purposes, the war that had pitted brother against brother for four bloody years was over. Now the ex-prisoners waited anxiously at Vicksburg for transport up the Mississippi by river boat. The Sultana, a 1,719-ton side-wheeler built in 1863 for the lower Mississippi cotton trade, arrived from New Orleans that evening.

As the ship’s engineer supervised some apparently routine repairs to the boilers, the troops streamed up the gangplank. The Sultana had taken on at New Orleans 75 cabin passengers and a cargo of 100 hogsheads of sugar, 60 horses and mules, and one crated 10-ft “man eating” alligator. She carried a crew of 85 and legally could only transport 376 passengers in all. Nevertheless, when she slowly pulled away from the wharf at Vicksburg, between 1,800 and 2,000 ex-prisoners of war and two companies of soldiers under arms had clambered aboard. The troops, for which the ship owners received a set fee of $5 per head, covered every square foot of space from the hurricane deck to the pilot house. Of the approximately 2,300 people on board, more than 250 were from Michigan.

To compound the situation, the Mississippi was in flood stage with an exceptionally strong current. The troops sprawled out on the sagging decks and cooked their own meals using hot water from the boilers as the Sultana slowly splashed upstream. Two days later, the vessel docked at Memphis. Some of the troops went ashore to stretch their legs and got so involved in sight seeing that they missed the boat. They little realized how lucky they were.
After additional repair work on one of the leaky boilers, the ship crossed the river to take on coal. A little after midnight on the 27th it left for Cairo, Illinois, where most of the soldiers were to disembark for rail travel home. About 2 a.m., as the overloaded vessel laboring against the strong current neared a cluster of islands known as the “Hen and Chickens,” it happened.


Artist’s depiction of the Sultana explosion

A tremendous explosion heard all the way back to Memphis, disintegrated half of the Sultana. The boilers, that had proved troublesome during the entire voyage, had blown up, hurling huge fragments of the superstructure skyward. Chunks of boiler plate whistled through the air like shrapnel. Jets of steam cooked man alive. Red-hot coals sizzled into the water or fell on the deck to start numerous fires. Hundreds of men were killed outright by the explosion or blown through the air into the swirling current. Seething masses of panic-stricken men grasped at anything to stay afloat and pulled each other under. The river was three miles wide at that point and in the pitch-black darkness it was almost impossible to see the shore. The turbulent stream, full of eddies and whirlpools, carried even the strongest swimmers under. The only hope for those in the water was too cling to a piece of the debris that littered the river.

Those not blasted into the stream by the explosion faced a worse fate. Many were trapped below deck and burned to death. Their screams filled the night air. Some jumped immediately into the river. Still others clung to the vessel until the fire reached them and they too dropped into the icy waters. The few lifeboats launched were soon swamped by the drowning hordes. Those still on the ship combed the wreckage for anything that would keep them afloat. The captain ripped off the cabin shutters and threw them to swimmers below. One soldier bayoneted the captive alligator and pushed himself overboard in the stout wooden cage. A passing boat rescued him miles downstream.

Meanwhile, the floating infernal that had once been the Sultana drifted out of control. When it lodged against a small island, some soldiers jumped ashore and secured the vessel with ropes. Another group of survivors fashioned a raft out of broken timbers and drifted loose just before the ship sunk with a great hiss and a cloud of steam.

Pvt. Chester Berry of the 20th Michigan infantry had been awakened at the time of the explosion by a flying piece of wood that fractured his skull. The man next to him was scalded to death. Berry grabbed a few pieces of door casing and jumped into the river. An excellent swimmer, he stroked toward what he thought was a small island. When he made no headway, he realized that he was trying to swim against the strong current. Exhausted, he floated with the help of his tiny raft of wood until he was able to grasp a tree top rising above the flooded river bank. Berry was eventually rescued by the gunboat Pocahontas that searched for survivors.

In 1892 Berry compiled a book containing the stories of as many fellow survivors as he could locate. Page after page of poignant testimony by Michigan, Indiana and Ohio men document miraculous escapes from the Sultana horror. A Pontiac man, J.E. Norton of the 5th Michigan Calvary, awoke after the explosion to find himself pinned down by a heavy object. After struggling free, he assisted in raising timbers off other trapped soldiers and then floated down the river supported by a wooden box. Another panic-stricken soldier wrestled the box away and nearly drowned him, but Norton made it to safety clinging to a bale of hay.

George F. Robinson of Charlotte was stunned by the explosion. The first thing he remembered was someone below him screaming “for God’s sake, cut the deck, I am burning to death.” His partner was laying across his legs, dead. Robinson survived by clinging to a dead mule. Others caught the tail of live mules, and a dozen men gripped one floundering horse. Ogilvie E. Hamlin, a veteran from Jackson County, had had an arm amputated by Confederate surgeons. Nevertheless, he managed to float to shore where he clung to a tree top with one arm until rescued. Many others who managed to make it to the shore died of exposure or of the effects of their burns.

There was no official verification of the exact number of Sultana victims, but the best estimate places the death list at 1,700. Michigan’s adjutant general, John Robertson, termed the Sultana explosion the greatest calamity of the Civil War. Strangely enough, newspapers of the time, preoccupied with the pursuit of Lincoln’s assassins and the end of the war, devoted little space to the tragedy. Yet the sinking of the Sultana remains one of history’s worst Naval disasters.

Author Larry B. Massie resides in Allegan, Michigan. Email: [email protected]


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