On August 9, 1869 Annie Minerva Turnbo was born in Metropolis, Minnesota to parents Robert and Isabella Turnbo. The tenth of eleven children of former slaves, she and her family lived on a farm until her parents died, she was then raised by an older sister in the nearby city of Peoria, Illinois. As a child Annie endured a lot of illnesses causing her to miss many days of school, as a result she did not complete high school. Despite her setbacks, Annie’s spirit was not broken; little did she know she was about to change the world one hair follicle at a time. She became interested in hair care while becoming the stylist for herself and he sisters. She learned that different people can have different textures of hair; particularly she became interested in the different textures of hair that African-American women possessed. She notices that African-American women at the time were interested in straightening their hair in a way that wouldn’t damage their hair. While living in Brooklyn, Illinois Annie used her knowledge of chemistry and natural herbs to create a straightening product for African-Americans that did not damage their hair and scalp. Before she created her product people used various harmful chemicals and animal fats to straighten their hair.
Melvin Tolson was born in Moberley, Missouri in 1898, to parents Reverend Alonzo Tolson and Lera Tolson. Lera Tolson was a seamstress and Reverend Tolson served at several Churches in the Missouri, Iowa and Kansas City areas; Tolson’s parent stressed the importance of education with their four children. In 1912 he published his first poem, “The Wreck of the Titanic,” in the Oskaloosa, Iowa newspaper. He also became the senior class poet at Lincoln High School. In 1918 Tolson graduated from Lincoln High School in Kansas City, Missouri, and then attended Fisk University before transferring to Lincoln University in Pennsylvania as a freshman. Tolson received his Bachelors of Arts with honors from Lincoln University in 1923. During his time at Lincoln University he met Ruth Southall; they married in 1922 and had four children. In 1924 after graduating from Lincoln University, Tolson became an instructor of English and Speech at Wiley College in Marshall, Texas. He not only taught at Wiley College, he coached the junior varsity football team, directed the theater club, co-founded the black intercollegiate Southern Association of Dramatic Speech and Arts, and organized the Wiley Forensic Society, which was the Wiley College debating club.
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He was dedicated to educating black people about their history and also promoted people researching for themselves. Woodson is noted as one of the first scholars to study slavery from the experiences of the slaves, he was able to capture the true horrors and terror African people faced on a daily bases. He was noted for publishing such works as The Negro Wage Earner, The Negro Professional Man and the Community, A Century of Negro Migration, A History of the Negro Church, The Negro in Our History, The Mis-Education of the Negro, and The African Background Outlined. Woodson would die 1950 in Washington D.C. being regarded as the “Father of Black History” because of his contributions to history of African people as well as being the champion behind Negro History Week, which eventually became Black History Month. If it were not for people like Carter G. Woodson and J.A. Rogers it would be even more difficult now for us to know our story.
On the Shoulders of Giants
The mission of On the Shoulders of Giants, Inc. is to provide an innovative and informative approach to educating middle school, high school, college age and young adults, about the history , culture, influence and impact of the heroes and culture of the African diaspora.